Fragile – Memoir and Poetry by Jude Brigley

To What We Lost – Jude Brigley

Jude Brigley writes a wonderful tribute to her mother about the hard days of losing her. What I truly appreciate in reading this kind of piece is the honoring of her own experience without sugar coating or stylizing, but allowing the beauty and sorrow piece itself together in its natural course.


My mother is talking to ghosts of her past. She says she has just heard the news that her uncle has died. She calls me to come quickly and I stumble from the couch in the next room, worried out of half-sleep, to find her stark upright in the reclining chair that she refuses to recline in. 

  ‘Uncle Arthur is dead,’ she says baldly, her eyes wide with shock and grief. I say nothing but nod in concern.  I am concerned, but not about Uncle Arthur. His dust has been scattered on winds for fifty years. 

  ‘Auntie Nell was here,’ she continues, distraught. ‘We need to let Christine and…..’ she pauses, ‘the other maid…’ She does not mean domestic servants. Being locked up with her, door barred to the virus, I know her mind. When she cannot think of a word, her brain darts around the blockage and finds another way.

  ‘Claire,’ I suggest.

 ‘Maid’ a quaint word for a young woman. Straight out of the Georgette Heyer or Jeffrey Farnol novels she loved as a girl.

  ‘Yes,’ she says with relief. ‘how can we let them know?’

  ‘Leave it to me,’ I say. She relies on me for practical tasks, so this soothes her mind.

  ‘And sadly, his sister has died on the same day. How can it be managed?’ This thought makes her distraught.

  ‘We will find a way.’ I say calmly. ‘Now, are you in pain?’

  ‘I am always in pain,’ she says snappily as if I should know better.

  ‘Shall I get you a tablet?’

  ‘What’s the use?’ she asserts. ‘You always want to give me a tablet.’

  ‘It’s to help the pain.’

She tuts. Tablet taking has become a chore. She no longer wants to take them and has been known to spit them out or to sit staring at her closed fist, only to open her hand in surprise and let a blue or a white tablet tumble into the folds of a blanket or roll into dark recesses under furniture.  I have been known to cajole, to plead, to hector over such moments, knowing that to suck a slow-release tablet is to overdose. To not know the dosage is to court spikes of pain. 

  ‘No need to be nasty,‘ she says 

  ‘I will have to tell the nurse you are not taking them.’ I tell her in exasperation.

  ‘Do you know me?’ she asks challengingly. 

I wonder if this is some kind of trick. ‘Of course,’ I say, ‘You are my lovely mother.’

She snorts at this. ‘Then you know that no nurse is going to tell me what to do,’ she says with a mental stamp of her foot. A literal one would be too painful.

 I laugh out loud and hug her. ‘You are my mother,’ I say in a kind of relief at her spirit.

 ‘I don’t know why you are laughing, she says, ‘I mean it.’ But I can’t help it. Her determination is so familiar. She has faced cancer three times with practical and stoical calm. But, her festering leg is becoming more than she can stand. She flicks the tablets on the night table away in a gesture of defiance and disdain. And perhaps, she needs to do this. This. These are her last acts of assertion. 

  ‘I think my mother should know about Arthur,’ she says.  ‘Is she upstairs?’

I pause. I do not want to lie to my mother, but I do not want to upset her either. It is as if the pain has made her retreat into a time in her life when she was happy and safe. 

   ‘It’s late.’ I say. ‘She is sleeping. We can tell her tomorrow.‘  Then, trying to be business-like, I add, ‘You need to settle down and go to sleep. It is three o clock.’

 ‘In the afternoon?’

 ‘No, in the night.’

 ‘Oh dammo, I am keeping you up again.’

 ‘No matter. But, you need to settle down.’

 ‘I need the commode. And I want a cup of tea,’

I know these are reasonable requests, but my heart sinks a little as I think of my pillow and blanket in the other room.   

      There was a time when my mother would not undress in front of us. Even on the beach. Everyone had to hold up towels for her to change into bathing suits. ‘Turn the other way,’ she used to admonish us. Now, like a child she raises her arms to be changed. She has no qualms about sitting on the commode. One day I go in and she is sitting naked having folded her nightdress in a neat square. These are signposts to her illness and her thresholds of pain, crossed many times into the recesses of her mind. 

  ‘You are not doing anything,’ I say as she just sits on the commode complaining of her leg’s agony. ‘You need to drink more.’ I offer her painkiller which this time she drinks greedily.

I feel her impatience at being told what to do. ‘I am staying here until I am finished.’

I leave her and make tea. Going back, she is half asleep. 

  ‘You need to get back to the chair,’ I say. ‘Are you ready?’

   ‘Are your sisters all dead?’ she asks me tentatively, as if not really wanting to know. I have no sisters, and my brother, although he visits every day, is not allowed in, as my mother is sheltered from the virus. 

       I realise that she thinks I am her mother. And why not? Everyone says I am like her in my appearance and my ways. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘sadly, they are.’

She scrutinises my face. ‘No,’ she says. ‘That is not right. Why did I ask that? I am losing my mind. It is not fair to lose my mind. I would rather lose my leg.’

  ‘You are all right.’ I say. ‘You are safe.’

  ‘I am going over the surgery to speak to that doctor,’ she asserts. She has got up and is limping to the door. 

  ‘No, Mama.’ I bar the door. ‘It’s the middle of the night, and doctors won’t let you in anyway.’

  ‘I won’t forgive you for stopping me,’ she says angrily.

I gather myself into a tight ball of string. I am the elastic bands she weaves into round shapes in the long afternoons. ‘Yes, you will,’ I say, ‘yes you will.’

She sits as if defeated. I cannot take her suffering from her or shelter her from what she must go through. 

  ‘Let me help you to your chair,’ I say. She allows herself to be aided and as we go she says, ‘Thank you little girl. I don’t know your name but thank you.’

  ‘Where is my husband?’ she adds, ‘Why does he not come to see me?’ 

She has asked this before. The first time I told her he had died. She cries like it was fresh news. The second time, I say he is at work. That placates her. She asks my brother unexpectedly the same question, as he leaves the groceries at the door, and taken aback he tells her the truth. Later, my mother accuses me of lying to her. Now, I must play my hand with care. ‘He is over the library,’ I say.

  ‘Has my mother gone with him?’

  ‘Yes.’ I say hesitantly. I expect her to say that the library is shut but she seems comforted and ready to settle down. ‘It’s five o clock,’ I say. ‘We should be sleeping.’

I bend across her to pull the blanket up and she opens her eyes wide. They are very blue oceans. Then, she looks at me in delighted recognition. She kisses my cheek and says my name. 


In her last days, I would lift my mother’s head in my hands,
placing her cranium on the pillow, as painstakingly
as a priest or a sculptor, feeling her bones
rest in the feathers, like a small boulder,
as my hands slipped away, and her with no voice
to acknowledge my awkward progress .

I was the child who tripped over chalk lines,
dropped my coins in the grating, slopped
my tea cup on the Sunday-best cloth.

As the nurse stooped to bandage her legs,
raw and crusted as a war hero’s,
my mother’s eyes observed without reproach,
as I let the bowl’s soapy water lap
to the floor, staining the carpet.


Jude Brigley

Advent – Poetry by Adrian Slonaker

To What We Lost – Adrian Slonaker

Adrian Slonaker’s poem Advent sums up the end of the year sentiment impeccably. His words are the honest expression of the struggle with the heaviness I think we’ve all carried through these months and are looking to relieve.

Artist Statement: I’ve interpreted the sense of loss as the loss of light (and warmth), of patience and of time (the year slipping away) that comes with the season of Advent/the end-of-year holidays. It was inspired by my general uneasiness about December; the expectations to “do stuff” (parties, gatherings, decorating, baking, family, shopping/gifts) and be “jolly” while still working and studying as normal despite the stresses, the anxieties, etc. as we’re aware of the loss of daylight and the impending loss of one year (with the uncertainty of what comes next). 


Advent occupies the
calendar’s flyover country, the
beige backwater between
Black Friday and
Christmas Eve when
radiators rumble against the creeping cold
and overdoses of darkness
while we fidget
through a four-week wait
for frenzied family fracases and
busted bank balances and
torturous travel trajectories and
reducing regimens repulsed by a
parade of pastries and pigs in blankets
against a soundtrack of tinkling Yuletide
tunes as irritating
as an icicle through the
iris of the eye.

And beneath the burden of
the loss of daylight,
of patience and
of a yawning year about to be
euthanized by Father Time, students must
still cram for exams as
grown-ups grind and groan through
a schedule that continues to spew
the weariness of workdays.


Language boffin and lifelong Halloween fan Adrian Slonaker hangs out among the drizzly streets and autumn leaves of downtown Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Adrian’s work, which has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, has appeared in WINK: Writers in the Know, The Be Zine, Gnashing Teeth, The Pangolin Review and others. 

Who Could Have Known? & Other Poetry by Ann Christine Tabaka

To What We Lost – Ann Christine Tabaka

Ann Chrstine Tabaka takes us through lost relationships, lost love, lost time. Capturing the heaviness and weight of these, she helps the world feel seen in these relatable predicaments that life brings us to.

Who Could Have Known?

Who could have known – a house so small
could be so large and empty?

Cold, a hungry wolf – rips through my rib cage.
Chilling emotions – ice that will not melt.

Together/alone we make our beds – each on separate paths.
No look or touch can penetrate through
a life that has turned to salt.

The vastness of the space around you grows
with every breath you take.

Trees topple at the sound of your voice,
so filled with grief.

Where did we go wrong? Where did we venture off?
Lost within the weariness of time and neglect,
we never noticed the parting of rivers.

Once a spark/love so vibrant – now withered.
The emptiness grows with each passing day …
who could have known?

Old Woman – Staring Back

Old woman –
she sits alone.
Stares out a dingy window,
watching children play.
She wonders if –
she is “living in a shoe.”

Glass reflection –
reveals an image staring back.
She sees a face – she does not recognize.
Leathered skin, pocked with age,
marking a harsh life.

There is no hope, when hope has fled.
Time cannot be recaptured.
Sorrow lives –
where joy once abound.

Gone – is it gone?
Where did it go?
Things that bestow the greatest bliss
bring the deepest sorry.
A bird that flies her nest,
a song that ends too soon,
a child that goes astray.

Days are all the same now –
counting moments of the past.
I am that old woman.
staring back – at myself.

Sinking into Night

Sun setting behind trees.
Branches swallow grief.
You were never there for me –
for yourself.
Brown rules over green,
as gray paints the dusk.

Marbled sky slowly descending,
floating in a pool of tears.
Cathedral bells – a death rattle
to Ophelia’s dream
sinking into night.

Seeking Lost Love

We seek –
looking past each other
with barren eyes.

Clouds drift across the moon.
We stand in darkness – hiding
from ourselves.

Dulcet voices once spoke of love,
now vitriol oozes a vast wasteland.

Windswept leaves gather at the doorway
to my life, never open, always latched.

Footsteps –
trample a broken heart.
Crumbled existence, lost desire.

Telltale love, and other such stories follow us.
We read, yet do not heed.

Heads hang, hands held, we go about our lives,
never knowing what could have been.

Emptiness devours sins of the past –
we continue on our way.

Lonely/lost/forgotten, yet together,
and as far apart as we can be.
We seek for what cannot be found.

A Country Western Song

You left me waiting there
like some country western song,
not knowing what to do.
So much love/effort/time went into my part.
Now I wonder if there is
any space left for me.

Standing in the shadows – looking for a sign,
The music takes me home again.
Patching together a quilted sky,
of blue and purple lies –
with threads of blood and sorrow.

I can feel the movement of the highway,
as I travel far from this place.
Riding in the monster’s belly,
searching for love once more.

Singing along with the radio,
I find my rhythm.
The words are far too familiar,
“you left me waiting there.”


Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is the winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year, Her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020,” published by Sweetycat Press. Chris has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. Her work has been translated into Sequoyah-Cherokee Syllabics, and into Spanish. She is the author of 12 poetry books. She has recently been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications.  Christine lives in Delaware, USA.  She loves gardening and cooking.  Chris lives with her husband and four cats. Her most recent credits are: The American Writers Review; The Phoenix; Burningword Literary Journal; Muddy River Poetry Review; The Write Connection; The Scribe, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore.



The Black Cave – Poetry by Stephen House

Adorably Horror Series – Stephen House

Today is the day! I hope your day is full of costumes and fun, all while keeping safe and healthy! I have one last artist for the Adorably Horror Series, Stephen House. Today also just so happens to be his birthday! So, go ahead and join me in enjoying his work as well as wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Happy Halloween, Ponderbots!

the black cave

the black cave is at its darkest
it’s maddest and meanest
as one would expect it to be just before dawn
when the need of those who seek is at its most agonizing

the prince’s eyes scan the room
and i close off my mind and dance
here in a cave of forever i dance
with stranger’s eyes and solitary souls
a ghoul in a corner and a howling friend
i dance with you and him and them and her
i dance with spirits and demons of always
in the cave below caves i dance and dance
even when no one else does i dance

and i have spent a thousand lost years in the caves
of underground cities in the universe of searching lost
like we are here locked together in want and hope

the prince saunters to a pack of other blood royals
and i decide i will stay above tonight
not descend into that hole below
where the prince will soon go

there is no time in the black cave
no night or day
no rules in disappeared wonder-world
no restrictions or limitations
no dream or death impossible
our exist in night is not all forlorn

i am sure now i am again seeking life
i know this anxious state
like rising from the grave
waking on the floor of the sea
or floating to another century and wondering why
am i seeking living flesh i call to all in song
the prince laughs back as he kisses a fancy wandering dream
and then gravitates towards some other blood royals
not unlike himself

because i have my blue bird with me now
i know i must be needing
it’s usually a clear indication when it’s always on my arm
shining agape beak and wings flapping wide in rhythmic beat
it was a lion before this
i say to a ghost next to me who doesn’t blink
doesn’t even seem to move
the best you can get on planet earth that i rode here
from nowhere to be in somewhere else

the prince comes back and tells me to stop telling everyone my fable
to keep the blue birds blaring down
remember why we are really here he whispers above the rattle
as he glances towards the misty hole below

i don’t need to go down to that dungeon tonight anyway
for a look or a turn with those locked up to fill our void
i know that chasm down there and i can smell the stench from here
i’ve paced those corridors of lonely gait and seen the lines of lusting seekers
i can hear the groans and pants of starving needy
twisting together from behind chained vibrating doors
i can smell the wasted bodies they devour to play dark games in void
i know exactly what’s going on in that putrid chasm right now
i’ve had hundreds of life-times peppered with it
and i don’t need to be another one on that high pitch desperate shuffle
not now in here.
i’ve got self-esteem tonight

the ghost next to me stands and materializes
floats above the ground and then drops back down
as he shakes his gleaming face from side to side
and flies to the stairs to descend into the bottomless hole of himself
i watch others come upstairs from the dungeon
and i know every single one of them

the prince is down there longer than usual
but he comes up eventually
and he hovers low next to me
leans across and brushes my neck with his freezing scarlet lips
trails his long nail down my cheek
and says that he has had his required fill below
and as the sun is about to glimpse
he will fly back the family castle
and wait for my return in whatever year i come

the blue bird shrieks the moment’s cry and i join in
as the royal prince
disappears from the black cave
with a laugh and wave of hand


Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild) , Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.

Nurse Hatchet – Poetry by Carl “Papa” Palmer

Adorably Horror Series – Carl “Papa” Palmer

Nurse Hatchet

The Florence Nightingale costume
red splattered with face paint blood
from Halloween makeup tubes
arranged on the bathroom sink.

Mom transforms the clear skin
of her lovely daughter into
the ghastly green complexion
of the dreaded Nurse Hatchet.

The pre-teen soft voice altered by
the concealed electronic box
issues Darth Vader’s whispering rasp
bringing unease to each household adult
cautiously filling her request and quickly
closing the door.

As she turns to leave, fellow ghosts and
goblins open a wide path for the nurse’s
departure, Hatchet feeling her power
to frighten all neighbors on this night.

While checking her stash of goodies,
finding herself alone past the corner
before the cul-de-sac of unlit houses,
she hears a low moan and looks back.

Her knees lose strength, frozen with fear,
too frightened to scream,
as the tall masked monk approaches
and calls out her name
in Daddy’s laughing voice.


Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer.

Carl is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Micro Award nominee.

PAPA’s MOTTO: Long Weekends Forever!

Monster #1 – Video by Joas Nebe

Adorably Horror Series – Joas Nebe


(4k/HD single channel video, color, 1m23s excerpt)

Monsters are haunting us. (The more the better, the more the more contemporary).
Monsters have faces like us.
Monsters are behaving like humans.
Monsters are everywhere, monsters are us without soul.
Monsters make us move and continue.
Monsters are progress.
Monsters are economical progress.
Because monsters are haunting us into the future.
Without monsters we are nothing.
Without monsters and demons we should stop trying anything.


Gaming into Mindfulness  

Interview with Joas Nebe by Rebecca Schoensee (excerpt) 

“It’s a never-ending game of disintegration. I challenge the viewer  by not living up to his or her expectations. I am denying the  satisfaction of solving the riddle, hidden within the depth of my  artwork.” By turning his filmic cabinet of curiosity into an  intriguing jigsaw puzzle of hybrid geometric patterns, Joas Nebe  teases the viewer into accessing his game. He believes: “Riddle  games of this kind spark creativity and pass on the role of the  artist to the viewer.” 

Taking the Reason Prisoner 

To Nebe, “fantasy and creative intelligence are important survival  skills today.” So is chess, an analogy he keeps referring to: “Chess  exemplifies my game with the viewer. In a world of shortening  attention spans, it’s an ideal concentration-practice. One always  has to think a few steps in advance.” By screening the insanity of  our daily chase towards evolutionary bankruptcy, Nebe in a clever  move takes the reason prisoner, only to appoint reason to be the  king of his game of chess. He calls for a close review of the  encyclopedia of our philosophical and cultural foundations. In his  opinion reason has the potential to direct a path away from the  horror vacui he is depicting: “The model of enlightenment has  increasingly been discredited, wrongfully I believe. Today survival  and coexistence are only possible if governed by the faculty of  reason. Labeling and connoting intellectual categories help to bring  new relations into sight and to gain unexpected terms of knowledge.” 

The interview essay “Gaming Into Mindfulness” has been published in  Humanize Magazine, issue 11, p. 20-31. 


Joas Nebe, who holds degrees in psychology and literature, is a self  taught artist, born in Hamburg but now located in South Germany.  After a few years in Berlin he decided three years ago to move south  close to the French and Swiss border. Important exhibits include the  artist´s “Climate Change Cartoons“ on display on exhibition  “Letters from the Sky” which accompanied the Durban UN conference on  Climate Change 2011 in South Africa and “Machine Fair”- a film about  the mechanical site of a metropolis- shown at Museum of Modern Art,  Moscow as part of “Now&After” screening in 2012. Other film works 

has been shown at 25th Festival Les Instants Video (Biblioteca  Alexandrina, Cairo), Videoformes Festival 2014 and 2015, Sustain Our  Africa, Madatac 3, 4, 5, 6 Competitive Official International  Selection (Madrid), Papy Gyros Nights 2016 Hong Kong/ ART_TECTURE,  In 24hours: Future Visions (SHIFT:ibpcpa) 2020, just to name a few.  

Solo shows are “Intrude Art and Life” at the Museum of Modern Art,  Shanghai in 2008, where Santiago Capriccio, a short epilogue to the  Philosophical Cartoon cycle was chosen to be one out of 100 non Chinese artists to be displayed on public video screens in Shanghai  for one day, 2016 “Encyclopedic”, a one night solo show at The  Greenhouse, Berlin, 2016, “You Did A Bad Thing For A Good Reason”,  solo show at Berlin´s Cormac Weiss Gallery, curated by Marinus Jo  Dimitrov IFEA (International Curatorial Award 2016) supported by  Christopher Grape Fund; 2017 “On Nature” at 16:9 Gallery, UTCL, USA  curated by Manzi Yang, 2020 The Palace Project, Online Fine Arts  Museum, Argentine. 

2017 Joas Nebe received a M 5 ARTS stipend for his video work “The  Dictionary serial” (USA). 2017 he has been awarded with the  Residency by Correspondence from The Arts Territory Exchange  Program, 2018 with the Social Media Residency by Peripheral Forms,  the Online Residency by Coldbench (all UK), the Social Media  Residency by Open Call Artists by @boykeats/ Lu Gallagher (2020) and  ECUMENE Residence (2020). 

Joas Nebe ́s curatorial works have been shown in different European  countries. He developed three projects to which international video  artists contributed. “The Encyclopedic Cartoons Video Project” had  it ́s premiere in Berlin and has been shown since in many European  countries. His second curatorial work “the Proverb Picture Project”  again with participating artist from different continents and  countries had it´ s premiere on VisualContainer TV in 2014. 2017  Joas Nebe developed a project about democracy, scrabble and  wordlists, called “The Democracy Scrabble Project”, had it´s  premiere again on VisualContainer TV and (.BOX) Video Project Room,  Milan in 2018. 


Amma & Other Poems by Larry D. Giles

The Heroines Among Us

Follow along with Larry D. Giles as he explores women from his book, Father Tree Water! They are a wonderful addition to your Saturday dose of artistry!


I may have thought God was strange

when she climbed up—

the hammer jiggling

from the wet belt

she stole from her brother—

he had no nerve for heights

forever twiddled in a box.

She straddled eaves—


like one peel of a banana

hoped for though not yet eaten.

It was almost dark, a bird

had also left its wing. She cussed it down—

then pounded like the devil

for the nerve of rain—

that old man drowning

in a corner brown jar.

Hungry at the table,

I imagined air solid and soulful around her blue T-shirt.

Hearing that stunted nail,

I swear down below

a muscle grew from a hole

in my pocket—

rose from

the dull

wet ground

to the dry,



Girl with a Match

(after Alicia Keys)

This girl

pretty in pigtails

and afraid of matches,

who sucks her thumb

and rocks pink dolls in cradles,

bakes black mud pies

in little white stoves

along the shaded edge

of the field,

on the porch

scowls at kites,

dips just one toe in the river—

the one

I thought for years

was just my sister—

like a sun-struck pilot

today jumped

over the house

and then set

the woods

on fire.

The Woman Down

I would imagine the sink

to pull her down,

down with the ceiling

and leftover spaghetti,

my brothers and sisters

to peer in after shock,

waiting for her to spew out.

Down beneath the heavy day

of hamburger grease

and scabbed paint,

down with the bent forks

and gray-water spoons,

sucked like the head

of a chalk-soaked mop

from my wooden fingers,

scraping against powder-wet

porcelain and fear.

Till I thought for once

she would not pull back.

For once, she would not

wring out the darkness

and rank, rank dust,

though plastered there

above the lonely depths—

I could still hear Otis crooning,

still feel Martin’s moaning,

“We shall certainly overcome,”

my ghost-white siblings

wrestling in the wreckage

and crying for their daddy

to bring home

the wrench.

I thought for sure

she would be demolished,

completely choked

by that vacuous murkiness

the night he called

for the very last time,

she then twisted into a knot

of noodled flesh

so tight it would burst

into a thousand fibers.                               

But that night, too,

she was a plunger,

a great liquid voice

sticking to the walls

of that hideous hole in hell,

and each night she was

a plumber and a carpenter,

above all, the in-tact mother

who pushed up from drains,

looked out from sinks

and handed us tomorrow’s spoons

and saucers and plates,

that, though old and cracked,

still managed to glimmer,

beneath dim, dusty florescent

tubes and a squashed, yellow

ceiling that, like the sink,

somehow imagined it could keep

the woman down.


Photo credit: The Essex County Museum and 

Larry D. Giles 

Born in Richmond, Virginia, Larry D. Giles grew up on a farm just outside of Battery, a small rural community several miles from the Rappahannock River. Educated at Livingstone College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Virginia, the writer has taught English and writing at his high school alma mater in Essex County and for the city of Richmond. While at Richmond, he received teacher of the year, the prestigious REB Award for Teaching Excellence, and an educational leadership fellowship. A Luard Morse nominee, he is co-author of Journey Home, with playwright Jacqui Singleton, a work produced in Richmond theatre. Larry has been published in The River City Poets Anthology 2019Better than Starbucks Magazine, The Bhubaneswar Review, and in other media. Available at http// and released in 2019,  Father Tree Water: Collected Poems and Photographs of the Rappahannock Mind Body Spirit is the writer’s first published collection of poetry.

Larry’s poetry and creative nonfiction often center on family, rural Virginia life along the Rappahannock, and personal resilience and strength, with sometimes mystical multicultural interweavings.  His poems often ring with personal conviction and revelation, his prose nostalgic reverence, pathos and beauty.  Nominated twice by Better than Starbucks Magazine for Best of the Net for his Hoover Boys series, Larry currently resides in Richmond where he continues to write, paint, enjoy photography, and lead several online history and community education archives.


The Teacher – Rhea’s Story ~ Poetry by Thomas Davison

The Heroines Among Us

A sweet and heartfelt writing, Thomas Davison’s tells the story of the woman who helped him learn to teach incarcerated students. He gives recognition to the heroine acts of Rhea Edmunds!

From the author: This poem is dedicated to Rhea Edmunds – who has taught in all-male prisons for 20 years with no recognition, support, and for very poor pay. Rhea, who is a woman of color – took me, a 63 year old white guy – under her wings four years ago when I started. Everything I know about teaching incarcerated students I learned from her. With deepest respect and love – Rhea this is for you. 

The Teacher – Rhea’s Story

She quietly enters the classroom
And finds thirty all-male
Blue clad inmates sitting
Patiently – waiting
Waiting for her arrival.
They all greet her respectfully
With great deference
Some even reverently.
She is a tall woman
Six feet one inch
With a lean muscled frame
Just beginning to soften
With thinning wisps of graying brown hair
Obviously past retirement age.
She holds herself erect
Her demeanor and temperament
Shout out to the world,
This was once – a very strong – proud women
Always in control
She wonders to herself – not for the first time
“Do I deserve all this praise and adulation?”

Today is green-book day
The last day of class
Of this sixteen week learning journey.
Bitter-sweet day – green-book day
Where each student must stand before the Teacher.
Speak to classmates
Speak with no restrictions
Speak with no boundaries.
Speak of knowledge
Learning – life – dreams – takeaways
About the real world outside.
Some speak well – polished – professional
Others stutter hem and haw
But all speak.

All have something to say
Many read straight from the green covered
Small paper journals.
Journals they received from the Teacher
On the first day of class
Just for this day.
Speakers – direct personal comments to the Teacher
Words of thanks – of praise.
Most recite the Teacher’s – First Day Words
Words such as honor – respect – integrity.
Some scorned – the Teacher’s First Day Words
Branded them – insincere – platitudes.
Now they preach the First Day Words by rote
As only true believers can articulate them.
All have changed because of the Words
Some have changed drastically
But all have changed.

After today – they will return to the daily routine
The broken long arm of the law
The Prison.
For most – the Teacher is the first true role model of their lives
A surrogate mother-figure.
After each has spoken
The Teacher delivers her Final Words
Much like the First Day Words.
She speaks of pride – duty – love of family and friends
She speaks of becoming a dependable person.
Her voice is melodic – soothing
Yet it rings with strength and power
That bely her aged body.
The students sit mesmerized
Listening like sponges
Soaking up the doctrine
The life lessons.
All inhabitants of this prison
Recognize she is a woman of honor
All know
She is The Teacher.
Incarcerated felons and prison staff – all
Appreciate and respect this quiet woman of learning.
The Teacher dismisses the class
But – no one leaves
All arrange in a line by her desk.
They remain for their turn
A personalized farewell
A firm handshake for each eager student.
The Teacher is finally alone
The last student has departed to his bunkhouse.
She collapses exhausted
Audibly dropping her tired old frame – into her chair
With a loud sigh.
She speaks aloud – “One glorious week off – to rest and recover”
Another expressive sigh.
Then it all starts over again – at the beginning
Thirty new felons – the First Day Words,
The sixteen week journey
The growth – development – transformation
The Final Words.
Craving – longing – almost overpowering need
From these men
The search for what exactly?
To locate – a person to teach and mentor them
Confirm by example
How to be – a good person.
She stands wearily and begins packing the tools of her trade
Perhaps it is time to truly retire?
Is it worth it?
She wonders – not for the first time
Little pay – less support – no recognition.

She appears her age now
Face lined with a lifetime of experiences
Protesting – fighting – causes – prisons.
Her tired eyes rest upon the heap of green-books
Slowly the internal fire returns to her eyes.
She straightens her back – her jacket – her scarf
And she straightens her mind.
She opens the classroom door
Exits into the dirty dimly lit hallway
Back into her persona.
She is the Teacher again
She embraces the ramrod – no-nonsense look
She breathes in the role.

She is greeted enthusiastically by staffers and former students
As she strides down the long hall of the education building
In the prisons center
It’s heart.
Her manner is complete calmness
She seems impervious to the dangers surrounding her.
She whispers aloud – not for the first time
“Who needs better – pay – support – recognition?”
She glances down at this semester’s stack of green-books she is carrying
Impressive – full – bulging.
Each book represents a life – a potential salvage
A victory over the system – a win.
Books she will add to the hundreds of others saved
Through her years teaching – in the prisons.
She smiles softly to herself
And mutters – not for the first time
“It is enough.”

“The justice system is broken –
I can never be powerful enough to change the system!”
She recognizes the system is too big – too powerful –
She would lose that fight.
She chuckles
“I can beat the system – one reformed inmate at-a-time.”
She considers the numerous green-books collected at her home
For the first time today – she smiles fully.
She understands – she can win
Make a difference
Help these young men to change course.
She walks boldly onto the prison Yard
She nods – in recognition – to former students.
Greeting each by their surname
Mr. Brown – a nod
Mr. Jackson – another salute-like nod.

A rookie felon – fresh to the prison
Is walking the prison Yard
With an older companion.
He observes the tall woman hauling a clear – see through plastic bag
Stuffed with something green.
He stops amazed
To observe the ritualistic greetings
The display of mutual respect.
The rookie – inquires of his walking companion (a lifer)
“Who is that woman?”
The lifer responds
“Her – you don’t know who she is?”
“Why son – she is theeee one and only!
“She is the Teacher.”

~ Previously published – Third Estate Art, Quaranzine, Volume 2, August 9, 2020


Thomas Davison obtained his doctorate as a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Davison has been teaching entrepreneur-focused business coursework at two prison facilities in Marion, Ohio. He has been deeply moved by his personal observations and interactions with his incarcerated students and has been motivated to create poems and short stories about the day-to-day lives and experiences of his felon-students. Thomas has recently created a not-for-profit (NFP) business, Entrepreneur Services for Felons (ESF). Thomas has dedicated 100% of his writing profits to this NFP, which provides free, one-on-one support services for felons and ex-felons. 

The Heroines Among Us – September Series

The Heroines Among Us

Happy September, Ponderbots!

August had us filling our psyches with little things to keep us going and boy oh boy did the artists deliver on some amazing work! Thank you to each artist for bringing us such great things to appreciate.

For this month, I wanted to take some time to celebrate women! Everywhere we look there are women in the background who may not even realize how inspirational they are. Women tend to take on many roles and wear multiple hats. They are both strong and fierce while also being tender and open. This combination is a powerful force. Both real and fictional, young and old, women have a special way of bringing hope and inspiration.

To the encouragers, protectors, and challengers, this series is full of artists’ expressions in dedication to the heroines who influence us to greatness. Stay tuned for upcoming art!

Mia Savant

Summer & Other Paintings by Nina Budgadze

It’s the Little Things

Nina Budgadze paintings are filled to the brim with pleasing images and color combinations! She pulls you into the simple moments and makes you want to jump into the scene and be nowhere else but there.

The Meeting
The House of Cats
The Lovers
Place for Secret Meetings
The Road


Nina Budgadze