Issue No. 1, Vol. 2, Spring 2020

Image courtesy of the artist: Sylvia Sassen. Some rights reserved.

Welcome back! The spring issue of fws is an experiment in “evolutionary-lit,” a term I have just coined. It’ll be like a Renga, with poets collaborating, in a sense, as

each poet writes a new [poem] that leaps from the [poem or] stanza preceding it. This leap advances both the thematic movement as well as maintaining the linking component.

For this issue, the theme is “tenderness/loving/care/& hope.”

Unlike a formal Renga, however, in which poets write only a few lines to add to previous lines/stanzas, which then, all together, become the whole poem, we will be writing an entire issue of whole poems together, so it is an improvisational collection becoming!

Submitting poets, then, must have read and be responsive to the evolving work. In other words, something you have already written, may well fit, but more likely, you will want to write something new that blends perfectly within the evolution!

For our part, we will be posting/updating the work daily or each time a new work is selected for the collection.

Following are two seed poems by Corey Ruzicano. Read. Appreciate. Write. Submit. Read again. This will be fun!

Let’s make something beautiful together!


Ciao! Bellisimos!


~frame after frame~

Corey Ruzicano

what words there weren’t
a buzzing
every word
every whisper
a world i had not chosen
a life gone by
and it frightened me
it heavied me like lead
the spinning
of a beached bicycle
a whirring reminder
of how soon things are lost
                        this is what i have of yours
                        of you
                        everything i can remember
                        it’s funny what it adds up to
                        the paper doll you
                        instead of the you that breathes and laughs and grinds your teeth while you sleep
                        what i do and do not know
                        this is what i have left
warm wood underfoot
an old sad song
roofs and rain falling on them
lightning bugs
the smell of the air in your home town
magic pieces of the world that
no matter how many times they’re named
can never
need never
fully be explained
                        i realize
                        as i try to describe my mother
                        that i would never have enough words for it
                        that every writer
                        since the first
                        had been trying to put into something that would stand
                        how it feels to love someone so much
                        there will never be enough words for it
                        that this life
                                    so infinitely filled with two sided coins
                        would never have enough stories or pictures or music enough to make someone                             understand how terribly, how entirely, how much bigger and truer and more real                           than any binding law or physical compound, i loved my mother.
                        and the tears of that love,
                        the salt of all of it would dry
                        unseen on this paper and the only sliver of silver in all this is the thought that                                 someday someone might read this and know that they too love their mother
                        in some implacable way
                        different and the same
                        no more or less true than the way i love mine.

south orange to penn station
the sky burning persimmon
over a grey jersey goodbye
flying kites against the world turning
faster than we could see it
i had made myself a liar again
and try to catch The Truth in my shaking hands
never able to hold the solid stone i imagine it to be
you cannot convince someone to love you
i trace the letters over my palm
i know it
have known it and somehow still need the reminding
i have only ever wanted to, once before
have only ever ached like this once
            but it lasted eleven years
            so you do the math
                        and here i was lying again
                        all this just once in my life nonsense
                        i had never wanted anything ever just once in my life
                        i had wanted over and over
                        overlapping wanting and
                             and recoiling
                    and wanting more
            and again
    and anyway
so long as i didn’t have to admit it
you cannot fix anything for anyone
but how could that be when it was all i’d ever done
                        aside from the wanting
and was that what my love meant
when i tried it on as a verb
he was a hurt i still couldn’t solve
a puzzle still jagged and scattered over the table
splintered across the floor
in the shards of light that shuddered
through the bare branches above
he was everywhere
the space around everything
but he himself
never there
it’s too late for that he says
because why i fall open laughing
                        that sort of safe mocking masquerade laughter we’d gone pro at
because you already hate me?
                        giggling against that grey december and all my choking fear
because i could never hate you, now
the first decade
of the new millennia is closing
and i am up
with the ghosts
in the hours that are theirs
my head in my grandfather’s hands
holding them
frame after frame
as he sleeps into nothing
slipping quietly from life into death
the hand i know well now
the hand whose severed fingers
i have twice picked from the sawdust of our garage
and watched the doctor sew back on
the hand
with a split down one thumb
from that same saw
the same sew
the same seam
the same hand
with a workman’s grasp caked in
every crease worn down
every scar finally soft
at the end
i was surprised
to find his hands
still holding onto mine
or rather
holding still onto mine
mine which were
for once
seam to seam
in the eye of the storm
at ease
in the heart of chaos
he was not a man i had spent much of this life loving
quiet and distant
but even now
i can’t help but feel
that his life
however small
and creased
and not known
deserved some redemption
            or perhaps just hope
            in vain
            that all lives do
i watch the boys around me
trying on every day what it is to be a man
trying to be both Good and Man at once
trying to become
which so often felt punctuated and propelled by
the legacy of leaving
when any of us will understand what strong really is
or rather
what really is strong
what the measure of metal is
what metal miracles take
[all] i[’ve ever] want[ed was] to close the wound
my arms are open
but that means they are also empty
and so i am taking up with ghosts
and liars
this great grief
the one we all had
just from living
that felt so personal
and specific
and awake
and was
in fact
the most universal
and mundane,
the most every day
we were all all bad
and all all good
and all all innocent of what was to come
we were all still packing our backpacks
and running away from home
we were all afraid of who we really were
we were all staring at the sun
            blinding ourselves over and over
            just to survive
            just to keep beginning in this world of endings
we were all peaches
               all dying as we ripened
we were all
we were all
and there was nothing for it.
just the hands
and creased
and empty
and open
and there.

Donna Faulkner nee Miller
And in his final moments
He drifts back to
happier days of summers past .
Of sandcastles and top heavy ice creams dripping with melting momentum
and undies itchy with hitchhiking sand .
The laughter and squeals
Of us all frolicking and splashing one another
in the shallows and jumping rolling waves together .
Those same old hands
hardened from
And crafting away a lifetime .
Sculpting himself into
the image of the man expected.
Those hands holding
onto his little kin today instead .
Gifted the briefest respite
by a breeze heavy with the promise
of vinegar and chips teasing our appetites.
A liberating summer's breeze
stealing away the weight of his worries. .
( those unspoken burdens that strangle a man's spirit and  bend his back crooked  by the time of old age )
He forgets himself and the relentless roles he plays
And his deep frown lifts
making space for a rare and toothy smile .
And we saw him -
Really saw him .
For the very first time .
He shone brightly with us that day.
His hands work rough were used instead
for swinging squealing children
Jumping waves .
Holding dripping ice cream
with sticky fingers he licked clean -
and laughed .
He knew on that brief summers day buried deep within his memories
The joy of being a human -unencumbered .
It’s recollection
Encouraging his transition.
Contented .
He slipped away .
leaving his weathered body
His smile sealed upon his face
Kissed by the timely departure of his
final breath.
d. ellis phelps
& she made space
unencumbered by recollection
what once was sticky      licked
clean--     life-giving tongue
she was      open
nothing small
nothing distant
but close
close as breathing
how long she hovered
at this opening
how many times
she turned back
but now
her lungs filled
her body overflowed
& she knew
this is how
the tracks are laid:
unbending will
& wanting
Sandi Stromberg
[blood of her blood]
& she knew
when she went 
into the heart
of chaos   
This is how
the tracks are laid

blood of her blood
a buzzing       spinning
how it feels to love him so much
his laughter   
a knock-knock world
of words       there are never
when love is a verb
he wrote a poem     in her tracks
multiple phrases
 yes, butyes, but… 
innocently caught
in Decartes’s universe
he thinks
therefore      he is
he is her giggling peach    
at seven
loving life’s absurdities
she     planting memories     
to blossom      some future day
Chella Courington
Shrouded in Mist
the father
tall & tan
in drawstring trunks
her rise
from the waves
two pieces of blue
cinched waist
span of his hands
the daughter
furiously free
looks to see
if he sees        
her striding
toward him
washing away
m. f. nagel
In the morning
When the stars gather to sing
Look to the sky
And see
A chariot winged
A chariot
Soaring star walkers
Star walkers
Fire spitting
3.        2.      1.
Beyond the edge of dreams
The edge of dreams
Where we have lived
So long
So long
In the morning when the stars
Gather to sing
Look to the sky and see
Our place
Our place
In new worlds
And new eternities
Charlotte Hamrick
I look to the sky
See the thumbnail ghost
Of a day moon cushioned in  azure
A tiny thing cradled in the expanse
Of the sky, the way I imagine you
Cradled me, although I don’t remember,
For all the years we were separated
There was still a pull, as the moon
Pulls the tides, the unbreakable bond
Merril Smith
New eternities--
the stars sing, folding harmonies
into folded worlds,
and we slip into the creases,
in the in-between
where dreams
of what was
of what might be merge.
And from there, your ghost voice calls—
an anchor or a balloon?
The moon hums in the night,
warning of perils,
soothing with hope.
Our souls join--
daughter becomes mother becomes daughter,
reborn with the sun.