The Bluestone Review 2022


The Bluestone Review 29th Edition - Spring 2022

Editors: Faith Lamberth James Grayson

Copy Editors: Carrington Hawthorne Hayley A. Moore

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert Merritt

Layout and Design: Nathan LePere Axel Johansson

Thank you to everyone who has submitted work to or shown interest in The Bluestone Review . As always, we have enjoyed reading the submis- sions and hope to have inspired you all in your various future endeavors. Front Cover: “New River Gorge Bridge” by Emily Settle Back Cover: “End of the Track” by Nathan LePere

Table of Contents



Hannah Reeves


8 9

Margaret Rieger

Canine Catastrophe

Ivy Shelton

Sea Turtle Save


Creative Nonfiction Amy Dunford Funk When Teardrops Fall Gene Douglas Dunford

14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 25 25 26 26 27 27 28 28 24

The Water Boy of Ivanhoe, Virginia

Deanna Bradberry

A Wild Bunny

Cecile Dixon Nancy Davis

Nobody Asked Me

The Monster

Randall Gilmore Untitled Mykenzie Belcher Untitled

Art & Photography Alyssa Fernandez Flying Free

Lost Wonder

Grace Lamberth

Frenzied Furry Friends Bright Morning

April Kish

Missing Cows Frogland Little Panda

Nancy Davis

Windows of The Soul


Jess Wells

Untitled Untitled Untitled

29 29 30 30 31 31 32 32 33 33 34 34 35 35 36 36 38 38 39 40 40

Emily Settle

Sunday Prairie

Vivian Orea


Destiny Bowe Untitled Cecile Dixon


Jennie Farmer

A Determined Squirrel

Nathan LePere Icetips

Snow on the Mountain

Golden Mirror

Greg Clary

Service Station Madonna

Sydney Horton

Soft Memories

Morning Glow of Netanya

Tony Funk

The Rose Spidey

Poetry Charles Priest Walter Shroyer One Day Brian Tracey James Harris Peace


Children of the Cold War

Zane Grey

Requiem for the End


Ray Whitaker

Well Met

41 42 42 43 44 45 45 45 46 46 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 52 53 54 56 56 56

Lost in it Again We Believe

Evelyn Bales

Uncle Harry’s Song

Mimi Merritt

I Should Have Learned to Crochet Requiem for a Sedum

Linda Hoagland Old

Riding the Storm

Monty Gilmer

Puzzling Novel Tanka

Pastor Jim Simmons Marguerite Floyd Interstates CJ Farnsworth

No Longer Here

Anyone home?

Beautiful Icarus struggled to learn

Marc Harshman Soliloquy

Welcome Home Party Disappointment

Barbara Lyghtel Rohrer Something

Nancy M. Davis Beth Kate Madia

Violence is a Season

Teresa Kestner

Ueno Park

On the Death of my Father The Dormant Tree

Mary Ann Honaker Obituary


Cor Blevins

Regional and Ethnic Lit, or How M.Butterfly Saved My Life



Gabriella Nightingale Rose Garden Lenard D. Moore Grandeur

59 60 60 60 61 61 62 62 62 63 63 64 64 65 66 66 66 67 68 69 70 72 73

Gardening Double Entendre

Riley Campbell

“The Horse”

Marland Campbell

Mountain Laurel

Barry Pyne

The Coronation

The Tree

Linda Lawson

Imagination Fascination Realization

Dylan Mabe

Supreme Love Connie Jordan Green Kindness


Citizen of the Unseen

Violeta Orozco

Open Letter

Staley Lyle


Ed Fisher


Body of Prayer

Carrington J. Hawthorne I Am a Novel

Mary Jones

I Want to Write

Jessica Manack

In a Name

Carrie Rae Wiser

When Facts Fail (Truth)

Alysia Marie Townsley Cranberry

Parks Lanier

Deserted Filling Station


Donna Beal

Down In My Heart Faith Healer

73 74 75

Joe Jeremey

December 21st

Contributions from the Editors

76 76 77 78 88

James Grayson Live Faith Lamberth

The Moment Lilac Came to Her Senses

Tribute to Dr. Merritt Contributors’ Notes


Fiction Art by Grace Lamberth


Simulation By Hannah Reeves I was in the hospital on my deathbed. The family and friends that I had made surrounded me. I had my eyes closed. I couldn’t bear to look at them. They loved me just as much as I loved them. I was dying, and they knew it. I knew it. I never thought that this is the way I would go out, cancer in the liver, but sometimes life just isn’t fair to those that did their best. I did the best that I could. I made my parents proud of me, I made sure that I did everything they wanted of me. I had a hus- band and three beautiful children who I love to the ends of the earth and more. I could hear the heart monitor beside my bed beeping slower and slower. My time was coming to a close. I opened my eyes, took a glance at all the faces that surrounded me, recognized the person holding my hand tight, my husband, and saw my children’s faces puffy and red from crying. I see my parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins, school friends, work friends, and people I haven’t talked to in years. Funny how death brings people back together. My body hurt and I thought briefly how everything in my body must be failing. Then the heart monitor flatlined. A harsh light burned my eyes when I opened them. I saw some- thing being drawn away from my face and I saw people. So many people surrounded me. People in white lab coats and clipboards and monitors. Where was I? “How was the experience?” the person who took whatever it was off my face asked. Her voice was unnervingly high pitched. “The... Experience? What are you talking about? Where am I,?I’m supposed to be dead.” The doctor, I guess that’s what she was, smiled and nodded to one of her companions who began to scribble something down on a clipboard. “Carmen, you signed up two years ago to take part in an experiment that we called ‘Project Life’. We put you into a virtual reality system where it simulated life and your results were striking.” “Carmen? No, this can’t be real. I... My name is Kayla, I have three children, a husband, and friends. I had cancer and then I died. This is some afterlife.” The wires that were attached to my head and chest and arms felt tight and restraining. I tore them off and stood up only to collapse. My legs felt like jelly. “I need you to calm down ma’am, we knew that the risks in this operation were going to be challenging, but we never expected that the life you lived in the VR would have this effect on you. Kayla Daimez does not exist. Please,” she helped me get up and back into the chair. “Let us take care of you until you’re ready to reenter society. Your family will be thrilled to know that you are back.” The doctor motioned for the others to hook me back up, but I couldn’t let them touch me. I fought


back as hard as I could but in the end it wasn’t worth it. I was dead for all I cared. Even if they were telling the truth, that this life was real and Kayla and her family were not, I couldn’t bear it. “Kill me!” I screamed. “I don’t want to live this life. Kill me, please.” My scream led me into hysteria. I cried and cried and cried. It felt like ages that I sat in that chair while the doctors talked in hushed voices about what to do. Then, the one who told me that I wasn’t real, Kayla wasn’t real, every happy moment, time of trial, and sadness I went through wasn’t real. She knelt in front of me and whispered to me. Her voice was soothing, I sniffled. “Are you sure about this, Carmen?” She reached out one of her hands, perfectly manicured, for my ragged ones. “Kill me,” I sobbed. “Please.” She squeezed my hand and took a syringe from someone I couldn’t see. She stood up and brushed my hair aside to expose my neck. I sobbed harder, muttering. I felt the needle pierce my skin, a brief wave of pain, and then nothing. The doctor removed the needle and turned to her companions. “Project Life is a failure and is to be adjourned. Life cannot be simulated, life should be lived in the present.” Canine Catastrophe By Margaret Rieger This is an excerpt from a novel-in-progress about two house dogs on a mission to rescue their friends from a puppy mill. Chapter 1: Lucy So, let’s get one thing straight: I was here first, and I am the favorite dog. So when Grandma brought this thing home I was not too happy. I expressed my opinion by giving Grandma a good hard bite. This thing’s fur is so long, you’d think he’s a yak. Margaret says he is a genuine pure-blooded mutt, which is an oxymoron—oh the humanity! (I learned that in Mom’s grammar class; I’m so very smart. My name is LuluBelle Noelle Rieger (Lucy or Lulu for short). I’m very talented, pretty, and intelligent. Mommy loves me. I chase away the UPS guy and anyone else who passes by. And then there’s Buddy. Now I adore my Grandma, but what the HECK was she thinking when she brought this thing home? He’s smelly, dumb, and he gets his head stuck in the holes in the fence. Margaret thinks he’s smart, which is PROOF that she is CUCKOO! [At Lulu’s instigation, the dogs escape their kennel and go exploring in the neighborhood.]


Chapter 4: Buddy The shack was old. When we went inside it was full of food. “Mmmm,” I said. “Yummy, so much food.” It smelled wonderful! “You eat so much food,” Lulu remarked. “This is plain, ordinary dog food.” “Well this is amazing,” I replied. “Stop eating and come on,” she barked. “Okay,” I squeaked. In the next room, there was a pile of crates stacked onto one another. Inside them were dogs, lots of dogs! They barked and howled! “Where are we?” I asked. “Dunno,” she replied, “but it sure smells.” “Help me,” a squeaky puppy cried. “Come on, let’s help her,” I said. “Will it benefit me?” Lulu asked (sounding very annoyed). “Well let’s find out,” I responded. We ran to the crate. Then suddenly, I skidded to a stop; my mouth fell open. She was beautiful, and the most magnificent dog I’ve ever seen! “What are you standing around with your mouth open for?” said Lucy. “She’s perfect,” I whispered. “Just wonderful.” Lucy rolled her eyes. Her eyes were such a deep dark brown that it just looked like she had large pupils instead of a brown iris with the pupil. Her fur was a lovely golden ruby color, which shimmered in the sunlight peeking through the cracks in the walls; her jowls were long but not too long— short enough so you would not notice when she stood up, but they were long enough so that they puddled on the ground when she lay down. Her ears hung past her head, and she had a beautiful wave to her fur. “You’re still outside the crate,” Lulu pointed out.


“Oh!” I said. “Go on,” Lucy badgered. “You wanted to save her.”

“Oh yes, don’t worry, I practice ‘shake’ and ‘high five,’ which gives me a lot of coordination in my paws, so I can pick this lock with my nail.” “You’re very intelligent. I’m Elisabeth by the way, but you can call me Elisa,” she stated, words shooting out of her mouth sharply and simply. Oh! I was in love! “What is this!” Lucy barked. “I thought you liked me!” Chapter 5: Lucy I DON’T BELIEVE IT. He chose her over me. “You know, do you think after this we could explore together?” the Lady Dog gushed. “Yes, there’s a couple with a newborn that lives nearby,” Buddy oozed. Someone get a bark bag! “That means (gasp) nappies!” “Excuse me, but I still need your help,” the Lady Dog politely stated. “This place is called a puppy mill. Inside, they breed the dogs that go into pet stores. They’re very careless about the dogs they bread, and as you can see, the conditions are horrible.” “Ugh.” She blabbed on for what seemed like hours. “You’re a cav- a cava- a cavalier King Charles spaniel, aren’t you?” Buddy goofily flirted. “Ahem,” I announced. “We have a mission.” “How can we help?” Buddy asked. “It’s diapers you dope!” THWACK! I hit her. Buddy glared intensely at me but was quiet.


Sea Turtle Save By Ivy Shelton

I was at the beach with my friends Mallory and Brooklyn. The three of us traveled here for a last adventure together before we split up for college. We had less than a month. I was the first one awake. I got out of bed, got dressed, and pulled my hair back. I decided to go down- stairs and to get a strawberry Poptart and apple juice from the vending machines. I brought my breakfast back to the hotel room balcony. We lucked up and found a nice hotel right on the beach. I thought surely this was Heaven on earth. The sky was the bluest I’ve ever seen, the sun was shining down on the sand perfectly, and the ocean waves were doing their rhythmic dance. I felt the fresh breeze on my face. It ran down my neck and untangled hair. I couldn’t tell if it felt as though I had forgotten I was alive or if I felt the most alive that I’ve ever been. After I finished eating, I went back inside. Only 8am. The others would likely not be awake for another hour or so at least. There’s no way I was going to waste away such an impossibly perfect morning. I tiptoed through the room and rummaged for my book and blanket. I scribbled a note on a napkin from last night’s takeout, “I’ll be on the beach when you bums wake up.” The beach was practically empty. It was just me and a teenage couple sitting together, but divided by their phone screens. I found a perfect spot near the water and with just the right amount of shade from the unmanned lifeguard tower above. I laid down and opened my book. I managed to make it through a couple chapters before a splash of cool breeze broke the trance. Suddenly, I remembered my grandpa’s stories of his great seashell finds on this very beach. So, I stood up and walked down to the shore in search of my own. I walked along the shore for a few minutes and found a couple. None too impressive. Then, I caught a glimpse of bright color shining under the thin water a few steps away. I stepped into the water and I bent over to grab the shell. I lost my balance and fell into the water! I tried to stand up, but there was salt water in my eyes and everything was slippery. I felt a great wave pushing me further out into the water. I fought by digging my feet into the sand, but it was hard. The waves were stronger than I thought and I’ve never been the world’s best swimmer. The waves kept tugging and pulling at me. Eventually, my feet wouldn’t touch the bottom and I started to panic. I kept kicking, but it wasn’t doing anything. I was struggling just to keep my head above the water. My body felt tired and weak. I heard my preacher’s voice. It was his sermon from the Sunday before we left. He said, “Why do we always try so hard to take care of ourselves? God created every part of us. Yet, we always worry about caring for ourselves instead of letting our Creator take care of us.”


I knew then what my only choice was. I closed my eyes and prayed. “Lord, these waves are strong and I’m not. If I fight this on my own, I will lose. Please help me!” Within seconds of this prayer, I felt something grab my ankle which scared me. The water had cleared from my eyes and it looked like I was being pulled back to shore! By who? By what? I didn’t know. I didn’t care! I was saved! I tried to calm down a little. I knew if I wasn’t careful, I would kick whatever this was off and I definitely didn’t want to do that. I made it back to the beach and regained my footing. I was shocked when I turned to get a glimpse of my rescuer and all that was there was a sea turtle letting go of my ankle. It came up and nudged my hand. I gently put my hand on its head. “Well, thank you for that!” I said when I had enough air. It only stayed a minute or two before heading back to the water. It took a last glance at me before diving in. I laid there for a few minutes trying to catch my breath. After a few minutes, I was okay and stood up. God will always protect us. His ways may seem strange, like having a turtle yank you by the ankle, but He cares for us. Don’t fight your battles on your own. Let God fight for you!


Creative Nonfiction Photo by Tony Funk


When Teardrops Fall By Amy Dunford Funk I was driving home after midnight on October 13th, and I had a gallon of apple cider in the floor of my car. As I rounded a curve, the ci - der turned over. I was fairly certain that the lid was on tight, but I pulled over on top of Church Hill to check. I unbuckled my seat belt and pulled the jug upright. A couple of large raindrops hit my windshield. Slight - ly startled, I quickly buckled my seat belt and drove off. As I drove, I noticed that the full moon was shining brightly. The night was as light as day. The next morning when I talked to my dad on the phone, I told him about the raindrops. Dad was silent as if he were studying some - thing, then he asked me to meet him at the cemetery on Church Hill that afternoon. Daddy loved to walk in old cemeteries. He enjoyed reading the epithets. He knew of everyone buried in Ivanhoe; he shared a story about most of the names found. I met my dad, and he walked toward the far end of the cemetery. He paused at the grave of Alfred Dunford. I had never heard the name, but I figured a Dunford, he must be kin. Alfred Dunford

October 13, 1900 October 13, 1918 Loving husband. Beside it was a smaller stone. Baby Dunford 1919

As I stood studying Alfred’s headstone, the date hit me. October 13th. This young man had died on his birthday one hundred and one years ago. A chill ran across my spine. My dad looked me in the eyes and nodded. I saw why he had brought me there. Daddy pointed to a more

modern stone in the plot. Josephine Collins Dunford February 21, 1902 August 15, 1982 Rest in peace.

I remembered seeing Ms. Josephine as a child. She gave me can - dy at church. She was always so sweet to the children, and we loved her.


Dad explained to me that Alfred was Josephine’s husband. He worked in the Ivanhoe mines. Down in the mines the air was cold and damp. In 1918, the influenza ran rampant in Ivanhoe. Numerous mark - ers bore the names of lives cut short. Alfred and Josephine were just newlyweds when the fever took Alfred. After Alfred’s death, Josephine found out that she was going to have a baby. Although she was a widow, Josephine thanked God that she would have a baby to bear witness to love that she and Alfred shared. When the baby was born, though, he was sickly from the start. His first cries were barely a whimper, and then he was gone. Josephine’s heart was broken. Josephine got a job in Price’s store, but she never remarried. She was faithful to her church. She played the piano at the Baptist church on the hill. At night, Josephine could be seen walking through the cemetery as she visited with her husband and child. Daddy took my hand and said, “Amy, last night those were not rain drops on your windshield. Those were Josephine’s tears. On October 13, she returns to remind Alfred that she loves him.” The Water Boy of Ivanhoe, Virginia By Gene Douglas Dunford Seventy years have passed since I became the town’s first wa - terboy. Ivanhoe was a mining town. A couple of years after the mines opened, the people’s wells went dry. When they drilled the mines, they hit water pockets. This caused the water to sink below ground level. It dried up wells and springs in Ivanhoe. My grandmother saw this as an opportunity. She bought me a red Radio Flyer wagon and two large cans. I went around town and hauled water to the people whose wells had dried up. I charged twenty-five cents a day. Mrs. Jerry Sisk paid me one dollar because I hauled her wash wa - ter, too. I tried to always keep my customers satisfied. I am almost eighty-one years old now. I still think about that little boy. I can still see him pulling that wagon of water through town.


AWild Bunny By Deanna Bradberry A wild bunny sucks air, pink lips, slightly puckered, a tiny o. Someone laid him in a corner of a refrigerator box that was cut in half, jagged edges left, as if that person were in a hurry. No rabbit mother there to provide teat. The kitchen is in the Route 52 house; some of my family said “root” some, “rowt.” I was seven years old. A shellacked pine box, wearing inlaid letters, “BILLS,” the size of a number 11 clasp envelope, hangs near an avocado green stove and matching refrigerator - Frigidaire. Envelopes protrude from the top, torn open, Appalachian Power Company, the Town of Wytheville, Leggetts’ department store, a grocery store insert from the Southwest Virginia Enterprise- Mick-or- Mack-where Mom and Granny exchange green stamps. Milk -70 cents a gallon. I have ½ of a Pepsi in a green glass bottle, the kind you could re- turn to Yonce’s Service Center for one nickel. It is so sweet. Comforting. Cold sweat beads drip down its center. Nervously sipping, I am cautious. My brother is allowed the other half. I think he always took a little more, if he drank first. Mom is on the beige rotary dial phone; she nervously twists the long cord that my dad installed so she could walk between the hallway and kitchen comfortably and see the downstairs den where we played. My brother and I. Mom softly walked back and forth on the shag-mossed green carpet. Mom is beautiful, not too thin, size 14. Her hair is “frost - ed” with white tips running from the base of her natural brown scalp. I stare at her often. I do not look like her at all. Her eyes are worried and warm brown, mine bright blue and curious. My hair is stringy and dirty blonde, my teeth gapped; hers are perfect and bright white. I tug at the selvage of her shirt. She swats at me. “Where is his mother,” I ask, interrupting. “Were there sister and brother bunnies?” My brother, two years older, laughs at me, announces that they were all killed by the neighbor’s tractor. I shudder at the image. Mom talks to my best friend’s mother. “Who would rescue the baby bunny?” I continue. My friend’s mother thought that she could. She had a rescued groundhog living in their home, stretching his cocoa fur onto the window seat basking in morning suns, I recall. I hoped the bun - ny’s sucking could be made real at her house with a medicine dropper filled with baby formula and ground oatmeal.


Two days later - the same phone rang on the kitchen wall. From my bedroom, covered in purple and pink, the fabrics of a young girl, I heard my mom’s familiar sigh. “That’s too bad. Thank you for trying.” I overheard the news and softly cried into my pillow so my brother wouldn’t hear me. I learned later that he had rescued the bunny and placed it in the box. Nobody Asked Me By Cecile Dixon I liked making out. It felt good. He was older and had a lot of experience. So he said. Then one night, it changed. I tried to stop him, but I wasn’t strong enough. When it was over, I cried. He said, “Hush. You wanted it as much as I did.” Nobody asked me, I screamed inside my head. But I didn’t say anything. It was too late for that. It didn’t surprise anyone (least of all me) when in a few months I became pregnant. Everyone assumed I’d have the baby. Nobody asked me. “When y’all get married,” my mama said. Nobody asked me. We just got married. I was fourteen, pregnant, and married. The years rushed by like muddy flood water. Got divorced. Then, for the first time I was doing what I wanted, reading books and going to school. I was learning to be somebody. I noticed that child of mine. That daughter, walking around with her head hanging down. I saw the cause of her trouble. Her belly began to swell. She was seventeen. I hoped somebody had asked her. She had the baby, another little girl, born into this world. One day, when this baby, my granddaughter, was around four months old, my daughter said, “I’m going to the store. I’ll be back in a minute.” She didn’t ask me. I didn’t see her again for eight months. She’d call from time to time, her speech all dope-slurred. I just took care of that baby girl. Nobody asked me.


My daughter came and went. I raised the granddaughter. Got her in school. Began to find time for myself again. Met a good man. We dated and had fun. I was thirty-eight years old and living the best I ever had. When Aunt Flo didn’t visit for a few months, I figured it was menopause. We were careful. My breasts became tender, and I couldn’t deny the little butterfly movement in my belly. I told the man. He was overjoyed. “A baby. A baby at my age,” he said. Nobody asked me. The Monster By Nancy Davis The monster is at the door. Slowly, he’s creeping inside. He slips He leaves his tracks in the kitchen and in the living room. He comes up the steps and is there inside the bedroom while I’m sleeping. He has come to get me, but not yet. He has taken my diamonds and hidden them, just for fun. I think I will find them sooner or later because he has done this before. He doesn’t really intend to pawn them. It is just to torment me. When I go out for groceries, he hides my grocery list, and I don’t find it until I’ve done my shopping and gone home, and there it is, put back in the kitchen. He hides the knife I need to peel potatoes; he takes my glasses from the bedside table, and it takes me days to find them. He moves the book I’m reading to an unknown place. Sometimes it reappears. Some - times it doesn’t. He likes to steal my car keys so that I must spend hours looking for them. I must carry two sets now because he follows me when I go out and takes things from my purse when I’m not looking. He takes my appointment cards from the back of my checkbook. When I look for them, they are never there. He has caused me to miss appointments that were very important. in, then leaves for a while, but he always comes back.


He leaves strange messages for me on notepads throughout the house…names of people I don’t know and telephone numbers I cannot relate to and have never heard of…times like 4:30 and dates like June 11th that have no connection to me. I’m always looking for the things he takes just to irritate me. When I know they are downstairs, I find them upstairs. But when they should be upstairs, they are always downstairs. He makes me go up and down a lot of steps. I must drive slower than I used to because he causes me to be distracted, and I know he has somehow slipped into the car with me. You just can’t see him. I meet old friends I have known all my life. It is so good to see them, but the monster casts a spell, and I cannot call them by name. I had lunch with a friend yesterday. I think it was yesterday- no, it was the day before. Well, I’m not sure. Slowly, the monster is removing more and more little things that matter to me. Did my red rock come from the buttes of Montana or was it from the Black Hills of the Dakotas? I can’t recall, and anyway, the rock has disappeared now. He may put it back, but he may not. The monster waits. He is very patient. He has all the time in the world because he knows he will win in the end. There is so much to do and so little time left. People I won’t recognize will come for me, I know, and take me away to a strange place I have never been before. I will not be alone. There will be others there who do not know me any more than I know them. We will look at each other without recognition, and for the first time we will see his face, the invisible face of the monster who has stalked us for so long. His name is senile dementia.


Untitled By Randall Gilmore

In the angst-filled COVID world of 2020-2022, fierce arguments

erupted, and continue to erupt, over the efficacy of masks.

For some, masks are part of a conscientious approach to help limit the lethal spread of the contagion; for others, mandating masks is a personal affront to individual liberties. In the halcyon days of my childhood, however, masks were not so controversial; they were used simply to hide the identities of my favorite super heroes, Batman and Robin! The television series Batman! debuted in 1966 when I was three years old and continued until 1968. The show is the first that I remem - ber, with colorful and memorable characters like “The Joker;’’ “The Penguin;’’ and “The Riddler,’’ among others. And while surely everyone knew who the Dynamic Duo was since their masks hardly covered any of their faces, nevertheless their anonymity remained intact, despite numer- ous attempts to unveil their secret lives. Over the years, I donned several masks myself, usually at Hal- loween, where I put on the visage of a skeleton, the face of a celebrity, or some other representative of pop culture. I tried on a catcher’s mask once, but one baseball practice was enough to convince me that the “tools of ignorance’’ were not for me. Recently , though, as I reflect on my life, it came to my attention that I have worn other unseen masks, as well as those that were visible to all. I have put on the mask of deception and oft-pretended to be someone I was not. I have hidden behind a persona of humility, when pride secretly lurked. The veil of disguised ambition, anger, laziness, greed-pick a vice-has cloaked this man from facing his own demons. But in 2022, as I witness vitriol from the halls of Congress to incendiary social media platforms, I have grown weary of wearing a mask; not of the cloth or N95 variety, but of the secret sort of covering that hides transparency, accountability, gentleness, and honesty.


If the truth be known, I think I might not be the only one who is ready to discard the mask. I believe people around the nation and the world long for kindness, love, light, and reconciliation. They groan for authenticity, not acting; for goodness, not guile. The problem is that hiding behind the mask is often easier than showing people who we really are. Even for Batman, Bruce Wayne was not quite willing to give up his playboy lifestyle as a handsome million- aire to be publicly known. As long as he remained hidden behind his mask as “The Caped Crusader,’’ he enjoyed the best of both worlds. Yet I am not a superhero. I have no special powers, no cape, no ability to confront the vast array of villains who destroy others with heinous acts. But this I have. I have the opportunity to speak out for truth; to be vulnerable; to serve others, unconditionally. It is long past time for me to rip off my mask and demonstrate to everyone around me who I really am. That mask never really protected me, anyway. Untitled By Mykenzie Belcher “One more time.” This motto never had a meaning in the life I had once lived. It wasn’t until a person whom I loved very much was on his deathbed, that this motto struck a chord in me and helped me find the purpose everyone longs for in life. There were moments when my moth - er begged me to take the trash out in the dark one more time. It had no effect, but I did it. When my older brothers asked me to play basketball with them one more time, there was no effect, but I did it. When my fa - ther wanted me to watch “The Masked Singer” with him one more time, there was no effect, but I did it. Although, once upon a time, these words had an effect. The windows were open, winter air whirled in and seeped into my covers that occupied my boyfriend and I, but the bed, it wasn’t an ordinary bed that housed our bodies. It was the very bed he died in two hours later. The comfort I found in his embrace in his last moments was the worst, but the best minutes of my life. The life I once coveted to end. That was until the silence that surrounded us and suffocated my tears was


broken with the sound of his warm voice. “One more time,” he said. He asked me to give this world another try, just one more time. That was all he asked of me before he left. This, now this, had quite the effect. It is now a little over a year later; I’m in a much brighter place, and the thank you rightfully belongs to him. Everytime I put myself down on anything big or small, I tell myself to try one more time. Every little occasion where I felt overly stressed or generally overwhelmed, “One more time,” I’d say. There will be, and there are times in my life where I’d wonder if trying ever really paid off for me to reach my goal in life. That goal is to live my life to the greatest extent imaginable, big or small. However, I can’t help but wonder if I already have because I’ve had plenty of accomplishments, at least to me. Whereas, I keep myself on the edge of my seat, forcing myself to just believe there is more out there for me to experience than to fantasize about leaving this humble abode. Before him, that’s all I could ever do, to think about letting all of this go. Now, after this effect, all I can do is to find myself fighting to keep holding onto this. Even if it takes a lifetime for me to find this purpose, an adventure, an epic journey like Beowulf stumbled upon, or the meaning to life Chris McCandless found in the wild. I need something that I can proudly call mine. Maybe it could be the path I’ll take to meet the career of my dreams, or maybe not. I’d like to think that’s where this leads me. My late boyfriend’s love and depar - ture was the turning point I needed to see all of the brighter sites and possibilities in life, even if that’s all it’ll ever be, a possibility. Conversely, a wise young man taught me that I need to take leaps to know that there is a fall. It’s the trust in the fall that will allow me to feel as if I’m soaring through space, to allow the thrill of life vibrate through my bones, and to forget whatever is going on in my life and just fly. All it will take is one more time, one leap of faith. I need to remind myself of this feeling I crave time after time because that is the effect. The effect is the turning point one must take to fly, to conquer what I can now comfortably call home. Then, on one spectacular day, I will be able to say for the first time that there was an effect, and I did it. All it took was one more time.


Art & Photography Photo by Emily Settle


“Flying Free” Alyssa Fernandez

“Lost Wonder” Alyssa Fernandez


“Frenzied Furry Friends”

Grace Lamberth

“Bright Morning”

Grace Lamberth


“Missing Cows”

April Kish


April Kish


“Little Panda”

April Kish

“Windows of The Soul”

Nancy Davis


Untitled Jess Wells

Untitled Jess Wells


Untitled Jess Wells

“Sunday Prairie”

Emily Settle


Untitled Vivian Orea


Destiny Bowe



Cecile Dixon

“A Determined Squirrel”

Jennie Farmer



Nathan LePere

“Snow on the Mountain”

Nathan LePere


“Golden Mirror”

Nathan LePere

“Service Station Madonna”

Greg Clary


“Soft Memories”

Sydney Horton

“Morning Glow of Netanya”

Sydney Horton


“The Rose”

Tony Funk

“Spidey” Tony Funk


Poetry Photo by Sydney Horton


Children of the Cold War By Charles Priest Verse 1 - Took a piece of granny’s thread Tied it to a June bug’s leg Everybody played outside Fireflies in the evening light Every evening all across the land The TV in the corner said you can’t trust that other man. Chorus -

We were children of the cold war Waiting on the end of the world Bombers in the air from over there One for every boy and girl Numbers on the radio Sending out a secret code Not a memory of a life before We were children of the cold war Verse 2 - Granny fried her apple pies

While she sang “Sweet By and By” We pledged allegiance every day Flags waived in July parades I remember laying down at night Scared to death that war might come before the morning light.

One Day By Walter Shroyer

Horror erupts, the destruction begins, A mother is lost, A baby cries out, A father lies shattered. Gasping horses, fearful bulls, broken swords, ghostlike screams. Buildings turned to rubble, Lights extinguished, Vulcan has arrived. Time elapses, but time not forgotten, as the vultures circle above.

Rows of sunflowers, awakened by twilight, calling for warm sustenance. A glorious morning, smell the dew, see the glow, hear the distant hum. As bombs fly,

the doves take flight, dodging metal wings, noises never heard.


Zane Grey By Brian Tracey What was it like, what was it like, Reading Zane Grey by a kerosene light? A red watermelon, in a clear spring, A cool summer treat soon to bring. A cast iron stove, burning black coal, A revival meeting to save your soul. What was it like, what was it like, Reading Zane Grey by a kerosene light? Now Roosevelt said, help’s on the way, With the CCC and the WPA. What was it like, what was it like, Reading Zane Grey by a kerosene light? Bull Tail School, grades one through eight, One room, one teacher, sealed your fate. Strum a guitar in a wildflower field, The pain of being poor a short while healed. First job, farm labor, a dollar a day, For a boy from the mountain, not a bad day’s pay. We’ll sell moonshine and homebrew while we wait, Cause, damn, that government train sure seems late. Age seventeen, took his place in the mill, So Zane and the boy went west, to return they never will.

What was it like, what was it like, Reading Zane Grey by a kerosene light?


Peace By James Harris

The storm comes when we feel weak, The lion strikes when his prey mourns. Peace is desired, Solace is need, Sometimes it’s never given, the need is forgotten. The fight for silence in a war of noise, The promise for a better day is overlooked. An unbroken dream is seen, But the dreamer is shattered like glass. Always in hope for a moment of dead silence, Comes those who make noise and cause strife. Unknowing of their doings, they feel they’re right. But In a grand scheme come very much wrong. The best storms leave a home untouched, The greatest battles are fought with no casualties. But the storm I endured left me with a great casualty. And a greater damage to my home.

Requiem for the End By James Harris (Dedicated to my late Father) Still, the air is still, motionless. Faint, the sound around me is faint. Broken, in an instant my heart is in pieces. Meaningless, it feels most of all I do now has no more use without inspi - ration. Dark, is all I see when I sleep after what I’ve heard. Comfort, I hope to feel comfort in knowing there will be no more pain. Peace, I feel peace after the storm has passed and the tears like rivers have flowed away. Owari, the end. No, not the end, but a beginning to new perspective and a new chapter. Let’s read.


Well Met By Ray Whitaker Where did you come from I saw you over there while I was mending some tears warm in the light of the sun figured we might have fun. Where did you come from gettin’ me to a better place in its beautiful carved wooden case the energy feeling so strong knowing we could last so long… Where did you come from I felt you standin’ there and I didn’t know quite where to trust my heart right from this possible new start. Where did you come from steppin’ into my life not carryin’ any strife when we stand together could we last thru the weather? Where might we go what seeds might be sown

I felt [you did too, I think] the feeling owned the mighty hickory does many green leaves grow spreading wide, high and low. Where might places lead in the traveling towards, not farther hands entwined we ask -for each other that the soft pulse of Love will shine bright in this, our eyes are fixed on that sight


Lost in it Again By Ray Whitaker The explorers are in the deep jungle someplace like northern Brazil or even in, perhaps, a place like the Congo the verdant jungle almost swallowing their very breath, silencing their footfalls. Boots on, high up the calf necessary this protection from snakes and aggressive vegetation with cutting edges finally a natural clearing ahead… there a partially covered tall stone shrine a woman and a man carved into its wide panel entangled with each other legs spread, and together arms with hands held tightly consenting smiles, the eyes of both having stared at the other for maybe a thousand years their love act forever emboldened for all to see, again and again. I am the explorer, having chanced on this shrine felt lucky to have done so, yet asking why would I want to ever again (as if there was a choice!) give my heart away anon on the chance occurrence (of such anguish) or the exquisite pain of loss (or rejection) then remembering that profound occurrence of consummate joy. We Believe By Ray Whitaker

Holding a book of dream interpretations evoking awakening often with questions it has promises to reveal all the answers from my sleep state, unconscious tho it may be. Like the unstoppable river

flowing into the sea without resistance the dreams continue. We don’t know them


like recognizing a glass of wine, or a line from Whitman or noticing the scenery while sitting in the back seat of a car. There is a third of our lives spent off away in those lost lands science says we can spend 80 minutes daily, dreaming and if one lives to reach 80, that’s 4.4 years of dreaming there. Sometimes startling, awakening to horror’s cold sweat Now and again, a summer’s day dream-waking occurs, yet where are the intricate details? Having fled? Gone back to whence they came? Yet we feel determined that we can’t be wrong about the particular dream that wakes us up. Those clouds are moving across the distant horizon. The tracks in the snow disappear into our intimate cave.

Uncle Harry’s Song By Evelyn Bales

Aunt Ginny’s funeral was almost over when Uncle Harry rose from the pew. The Lord has laid it on my heart to… his voice trailed away. Then he began to sing in pure, sweet tenor one last song for his sister. There will be a happy meeting in Heaven, I know, When we see the many loved ones we’ve known here below. Gathered on that blessed hilltop with hearts all aglow.

Oh, That will be a glad reunion day. His kin sat first in stunned silence, but soon the chapel was filled with quiet sobbing as our shy, soft-spoken uncle sang, a cappella, the four verses written on his heart. As he sang the veil between this world and the next parted, and we were joined in spirit with all those who had gone before and all who would ever come after.


I Should Have Learned to Crochet By Mimi Merritt Snowflakes cake my windowpanes as the afghan she made so long ago warms my knees despite snagged holes in the ancient granny squares that I can’t mend, I never learned, the work of crochet hooks a mystery. I hear her say as if still here that her older sisters did all the housework, her mama called her lazy. She had thought that I, her youngest granddaughter, should wash dishes, should make my bed, should sweep floors, though she never said it, she only wove it into stories that she talked around, not through, while I watched swollen knuckles, jutting up like rock cliffs from blue-veined hands that trembled as bent fingers persisted in pushing and pulling yarn into perfect squares, the voice, thin with age, weak as her hands, busy as her hands, packing quiet spaces with sentences that meandered without periods through stories of childhood, small truths, hard to hold on to much more than the bits and the pieces some people weave together, some people can’t. She never said she became a widow too young, one baby buried, four more to raise while she worked two jobs, her children sweeping shavings for pennies at a coffin factory, jumping the ditch out back to hide in the woods when the whistle warned of inspectors, but she would say her sisters took a train all the way north to Philadel- phia to learn to be teachers, and that’s when her mama said people would notice the housework not getting done, it was her turn now. Just bits and pieces she told like the black squares of her afghan and their centers of blue, green and purple, just skeins of wool until she wove them together to look as grand as a stained-glass window, as her mama had taught her, knowing how to mend the holes.


Requiem for a Sedum By Mimi Merritt In another fall I would not have cried when workmen backed a truck over my sedum. It would have been time by then to cut back the spent stalks before the assault of frost and snowflakes. But in that October’s drought as black clouds teased but barely spit tears on sun-scorched earth grasses, the russet of the old-growth succulent had offered autumn color barely seen in nearby oaks. I remember hearing an unfamiliar sound as I harvested broken stems, a skittering like squirrel claws overhead in rotting eaves as a hot breeze scratched brittle brown leaves across the sidewalk, leaves that in other falls spiraled downward to blanket damp lawns in gold and crimson. We hadn’t mowed our grass since July that year, waiting for winter’s dark sleep to come and be done with it while the hollow-stalked sedum skeletons I gathered persisted in a dust-smothered flowerpot on our porch until one day, among purple crocuses popping through an early spring’s snow, the first green shoots of sedum appeared where tire tracks once had been. Old By Linda Hoagland Riding the Storm By Linda Hoagland The Storm of pestilence

Spring arrives with sunshine Don’t care Family doesn’t check mom She’s old Alone and dead for two weeks

called COVID Many friends all gone riding COVID Wait patiently for vaccine to survive Tomorrow is not known for all


Puzzling By Monty Gilmer A lonely widow, Drowning in Sorrow, considers Crosswords her Lifesaver.

Novel Tanka By Monty Gilmer

Nineteenth-century Farmhouse for sale. The seller Disclosed, “Honeybees In walls.” Hundreds of thousands Of bees living in the walls!

No Longer Here by Pastor Jim Simmons Every day my loved one walks into the room And once again I say goodbye. Their body is here, but their mind Has slipped away as though it has died. I try to remember better days. The stress of the moment steals those memories away. No one comes to visit. No one comes to stay. I slowly slip into darkness, alone every day. The conversations that once filled our lives no longer exist. They have disappeared to the great by & by. The person I loved and shared life with Has said goodbye with one last soft touching kiss. I wait for the day when from this death my love will awaken And from me will never again be taken.


Interstates By Marguerite Floyd

Soon, my father told me, you’ll be able to go anywhere on the new interstates. Chicago in hours instead of days. He pointed out how standardized exit ramps would work, and explained spaghetti junctions. It was the late fifties, the world still awash with possibilities. A full moon hesitated on the horizon, huge and yellow. We were in his red pickup truck on a state road, and his hand swept across the dashboard, as if showing me the way to my future without him. My elementary teachers threatened to fail me if he took me out of school one more day to go traveling through the state on the old roads, talking politics to farmers beside tall crops of green tobacco while I measured the white stripes shimmering on the road with my small sandaled feet, heel to toe, astonished at how long the stripes were, up close. He bought land right off interstates newly laid, sure we’d make our for - tune with gas stations and truck stop leases. Always anywhere but where we were. When the madness began decades later he lived in a city entangled with interstates, overtaken with wasted promise and beliefs betrayed, neon lights flickering like one more lie.

I was gone by then, estranged and without hope. When he died I buried him next to his father in southern Kentucky, closest to the nearest interstate. Later, I took the old roads back home, dangerous with their unbanked curves and sheer edges.

The interstates are everywhere now, just as he had said, and as familiar to me as the memory of the long white stripes I once measured heel to toe. And I go everywhere.


Anyone home? By CJ Farnsworth What has me confused is I’m not sure whether my son is here. Here is home. Where I am always wondering where I am, but this confusion isn’t about me. It’s about the tee-shirts folded and stacked on the bed. It’s about chewing gum and the smell of watermelon and the way I’ve agreed to unbrace from the existence of bloated and floating fish in the tank, especially the one that exploded leaving his dark peel, like a small windsock rippling against the pull of the filter. This confusion is not about spitting out seeds of purpose, the purpose of life, of creating life, of losing it, that confusion—the rendering and distillation of purpose confusion—is water in the den despite rerouting the gutters, field mice finding their way in. It’s more about the untuned

guitar standing in the living room dragging its beautiful graffiti strap and that song about even when I’m thin I’m fat, but I am not confusing confusion with fret. My husband grows like moss in the kitchen, so dense sleep is born on his cheek. I keep my nose close to him, so marvelously green, but his blanketing comfort is confusing too. My confusion should offer you something—a slice of sweet, nutty bread, a flower to picture in a bud vase on old shelf screwed


inside your head because I brought my confusion to you. Because I rode over on my hollow horse with my uncertainty about whether my son is home. I do not see him. Though, I still feel his hot magnetic heart.

Beautiful Icarus struggled to learn By CJ Farnsworth

and his father wasn’t prepared for that—it’s certainly not what we took away. We did take something away from the scorching and melting and falling—we walked away with a favor, a memento tied with red ribbon, affixed with a hand-wrought label, a little something for the windowsill, something for next to the salt to talk about during mealtimes because mealtime is the time to chew through the labyrinth of living If a sunny-side-up egg isn’t proof of that I am lost to interpretation. My son did not roll over. More recently I stand against casseroles. Collectively, we’ve moved on to spreading foods out to separating foods to individual shapes and colors and flavors —to boards. I am on board.

I am open concept. I am myth-making. I hold each myth precious. I hold each strawberry by its stem, tear open


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