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At age five, Amy told her mother that the thought of swimming scared her. Not surprisingly, her mother poo-pooed the idea, and said that fear showed weakness and stupidity. From then on, Amy said she hated swimming and never admitted any fear to her mother again. I don’t just hate swimming, I hate you! Amy’s mother never hugged her, gave her encouragement or praise, or told Amy she loved her. Sometimes she smacked her around. Someday I’ll grow up and get away from you!

Amy attended a few of her swimming lessons, but most of the time she thought of a seemingly reasonable excuse to stay home. If her mother still forced her to go, Amy told the instructor that she was just supposed to watch this week. The instructor never bothered to check her story.

*

At eighteen, a brunette, green-eyed beauty Amy met handsome, blond, blue-eyed, nineteen-year- old Ian. They immediately connected. Amy felt attracted to Ian from the first time she met him. She tried to make sure he would like her too. Yes, she loved football. She mentally stuck her finger in her throat. Yes, she loved the beach and swimming — lie.  Yes, she loved Thai food — lie. Amy ‘loved’ pretty much everything that Ian did.

Ian’s family owned a little cabin at a quiet lake. Ian loved going there, so it became Amy’s favorite too. Not entirely a lie this time, as she enjoyed the cabin, sunbathing and lounging in a beach chair reading, digging her toes into the warm sand. She also liked splashing around in the shallow water. The little cabin sat at the top of the beach, just minutes from the shore. Few people came to that part of the lake. The privacy suited the young couple.

Amy and Ian enjoyed a sweet, passionate romance. Ian expressed his love for her often. It felt amazing to be loved and appreciated. Within a year they got engaged. Two years later they married. Her mother refused to attend the ceremony.

They visited the cabin often. Amy didn’t go into the lake deeper than her knees. I need to tell him the truth. She tried several times, but her embarrassment and shame stopped her.  He’ll know I’ve been lying all along. He’ll also know I am afraid of water. “Fear is a sign of weakness and stupidity”, her mother had said. Amy created a list of excuses to not swim: That time of the month, headache, wanted to sunbathe, felt sick, and on and on.

By the end of their first year of marriage, Amy and Ian decided to start a family. Months went by, however, without a pregnancy. Tests revealed fertility issues. They tried in vitro fertilization, with its daily shots, Amy’s emotional roller coaster from the hormones, and Ian’s stress from dealing with Amy’s volatility. Their hopes lifted then quickly plunged when the in vitro didn’t work. They tried again, unsuccessfully.

The third time they tried the news was good! The doctor confirmed Amy’s pregnancy. They waited impatiently for the nine months to pass. When the time came, the birth had been lengthy and painful. Ian stayed by Amy’s side. “I love you, my darling. I know this is hard, but soon our son will be here.” It wasn’t soon, but eventually Nathan Bryan entered the world, the most beautiful baby boy they’d ever seen.

Nathan couldn’t have been an easier baby. He rarely cried, learned to smile and laugh early, and loved cuddling. They knew Nathan would likely be their only child, but with his cheerful, loving nature, he more than fulfilled their parenting dreams.

As Nathan grew from a tiny baby to a chubby toddler, their trips to the cabin resumed. Nathan loved splashing in the water, digging his little fingers deep in the soft bottom. He’d giggle and clap his wet hands together. Amy sat in the shallow water with him, laughing at his antics.

When Nathan turned three, he took his first set of swimming lessons. Ian encouraged Amy to attend the classes. “It’s mostly moms there. You’d have fun.”

“Come swim, Mama,” Nathan added.

Amy made an excuse. She saw the flash of disappointment on Ian’s face, and looked away. I should tell him now, get it over with. She couldn’t bring herself to confess.

By four, Nathan had learned to float on his back and dog paddle. He’d become a water baby and loved spending time in the lake.

Ian finally voiced his frustration, “Why won’t you go swimming with me? When we first met you said you loved to swim.”

Here is the perfect opportunity to come clean. After a long moment, she replied, “I did. I’m sorry, love, I guess things change.” Fortunately, Ian let it pass.

One warm June afternoon, Amy relaxed at the beach in a lounge chair, reading a mystery novel. Ian played in the water with Nathan. “Deeper, Daddy, deeper!”

“Come out, Nate. I need to talk to mommy.” Ian and Nathan held hands, swinging their arms as they approached her chair.

“Honey, I have an awful headache. I need to lie down. Will you keep an eye on Nate? He wants to go in deeper now so you’ll need to watch him carefully.”

Amy hesitated. What if something goes wrong? “I think you should stay with Nathan, or we should all go to the cabin.”

“No!” Nathan stated. “I wanna swim!”

“Come on, Amy. I need to lie down.”

Tell him now! “Okay, love, I’ll watch him.” Ian left for the cabin.

“Let’s go swim mommy,” Nathan pulled at her hand.

Amy followed him into the water. “Please stay in the shallow water, okay? Mommy can’t swim today.”

Nathan pouted for a moment, then he skipped around in the water, splashing and giggling. I’ll keep a good eye on him, and everything will be fine. They played for a long time. Amy didn’t notice the weather change until rain splattered them. She realized that the wind had picked up. The waves had grown angry, crashing onto the shore. “Come on Nate honey. We have to go in.”

Nathan scowled, “No! I want to go deeper.” Amy reached to grab hold of him, but his wet hand slipped through hers. He rebelliously lunged deeper and a strong wave pushed him out even further. The rough waves tossed him as he struggled to tread water. “Mommy help me!”

“I’ll get Daddy!” Amy made it to the cabin in less than three minutes. She shook Ian awake. “Come with me. Nathan’s in too deep.”

“Why didn’t you swim out to get him?”

“Just come!” She shrieked, sprinting toward the beach, Ian at her heels. Please, please, let Nathan be okay.

“Where is he?” She pointed towards her last sighting of him and Ian dove into the waves. Please, God, let Ian find Nathan, and bring them both back to me safely.

Amy sprinted to the nearby payphone and called the police, then hurried back to the beach. Ian eventually reappeared —alone, exhausted, and shaking. Within minutes of his return, rescue boats were on the stormy lake searching for Nathan. Amy and Ian sank to their knees on the sand, crying in each other’s arms.

*

Fishermen found Nathan’s four-year-old body two days later. After he died, everything became a blur. The tears, the people, the funeral, the heart-crushing little-boy casket.

Nathan’s final words ran through Amy’s mind in an endless loop, “Mommy help me!” She didn’t tell Ian about it. 

Days became weeks and weeks became months. Ian and Amy began to pick up the remnants of their lives and move forward. They were sad, lost without Nathan’s cheerful presence, but at least they had each other.

Then, one rainy day, Ian finally asked the inevitable question. “Honey, why didn’t you try to save Nathan?”

Amy sighed, her eyes stinging with tears. It’s time. Ian deserves to know. “The truth is, dear, I almost drowned as a child, and ever since I’ve been afraid so I never learned to swim. I said I loved swimming when we were dating so you’d like me. The longer I waited to tell you the truth, the harder it got to admit. Then it was too late.”

“Too late?” Ian’s voice boomed. Amy flinched. “No! Any moment until Nathan drowned wouldn’t have been too late.” Tears streaked down his cheeks. “Now it’s too late, Amy, now! You knew you couldn’t swim. Why did you agree to watch him?”

“I thought it would be fine, but then the weather suddenly changed and the waves pushed him too far out. I am so, so sorry.”

“With everything we went through to finally conceive Nathan – the only child we can ever have — your lie cost our beautiful little boy his precious life!”

“You’re hurting and furious, Ian, and I don’t blame you, but this is also my loss. I loved Nathan too.” She sobbed, “I don’t know how to go on without him.”

Ian glared at her. “Then maybe you shouldn’t!”  He responded to the stricken look on Amy’s face and immediately recanted. “I didn’t mean that.”

He looked sombrely at her. “I do blame you. Your lies. You had endless opportunities to tell me the truth, but rather than facing reality you chose to lie. What else is a lie? Is our whole relationship a lie?”

“No. But I’ve told other lies — too many to count or even remember. Most were harmless. It’s a horrible habit, I know. Early on I learned from my mother that fear equals weakness, so I couldn’t be truthful without being weak. I thought you wouldn’t love me if you saw my weaknesses. My love for you and Nathan was never a lie.”

“I appreciate your explanation, if it’s true.” He shook his head, “I can’t even think right now. I’m going to call my brother Cameron to see if I can stay with him.”

“You’re leaving?” Amy’s voice trembled.

“For a few days. I thought we were beginning to heal from Nathan’s death. Now I don’t know what I think or feel. I’ll keep in touch with you.” He hugged her, then left.

Amy remained isolated in the house with the drapes drawn for three days. She spent much of her time in Nathan’s room, sitting on his little bed, her arms wrapped around her body, rocking for hours. The tape continued relentlessly: “Mommy help me! Mommy help me!” A river of tears fell as she whispered “I’m so sorry baby,” over and over in response.

Her phone rang several times. Twice someone came to the door. She heard the ping of messages on her tablet. She didn’t respond. 

On the third day, she listened to her phone messages and the messages and emails on her tablet. There were several from concerned friends and two from Ian. Her mother left one telephone message: “You let Nathan drown. You killed my Grandson! Everyone will know how worthless you are, I’ll make sure of it.” Amy’s body shook after she heard the message. On impulse, she phoned Ian.

“Amy! I’ve been so worried about you.”

“Could you come over for a while?”

“Of course,” Amy heard the kindness in his voice, and it made her want to cry again. “I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”

When Ian arrived his face looked haggard and thin. They hugged for a long time, then sat silently on the couch.

Finally Amy spoke. “My mother left me a phone message. I don’t know how she found out. She said she will make sure everyone knows about Nathan and how worthless I am.” Amy looked at Ian, tears brimming in her eyes, her voice flat. “She’ll tell everyone. My family, my friends. How can I face them?”

“Honey, this is a tangled mess right now, but things will improve. You may lose some people over this, but the ones who truly love you will stand by you. We know you loved Nathan. Give it time.”

“I appreciate your kindness and support, but I don’t think I can handle it.”

“Amy, I know this whole situation is awful, but please don’t do anything rash.”

“Like killing myself? You said I should.”

He pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. “I said that in a moment of pain. I didn’t mean it. Please honey, promise me you won’t hurt yourself. We’ll get through this.”

Amy took his hands in hers. “I promise.” She smiled, “Enough of this talk. I’ll make coffee.”

Later, when Ian left to go back to his brother’s house, Amy considered her options. When she finally figured it out, she felt relieved and slept soundly.

*

The next morning Amy drove down the scenic road to the cabin. She walked to the beach, shivering in the October cold. The weather reminded her of the night Nathan died – rolling waves pounding against the shore.

It felt odd wading into the frigid water with her shoes on and fully clothed. Her body began trembling. Amy halted when the water reached her knees. Much further in and I won’t be able to save myself, just like I couldn’t save Nathan. She’d promised Ian she wouldn’t commit suicide, but he didn’t understand. I need to be with Nathan. Besides, Ian knows I lie, so why would he believe my promise?

Amy pushed into the deeper water, feeling panic, but also a sense of peace she hadn’t felt since Nathan died. Here I am, lake. I’m not afraid of you anymore! She took her last breath, then breathed out, out, out. Cold waves washed over her, filling her lungs. It felt painful, freezing, scary and freeing. As her body unsuccessfully tried to save itself, she heard, “Mommy help me!”

Mommy’s coming Nathan. I’m coming!  


Author Bio: Leslie lives in Saskatchewan, Canada. She has wanted to be a writer since she learned to read and write. During her earlier years, she focussed on poetry. Now her interest is primarily in fiction. Leslie has edited several newsletters as well as writing articles to contribute to them. She is currently working towards her Creative Writing Certificate. 


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Seinfeld Moment

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Wedding Portrait – Life Portrait

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Salvation

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Beckett – you asked for this

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Road Trip

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Why I’m Failing My Innovative Fiction Course

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This is from an assignment in the Innovative Fiction Course taught by Karen

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Dear Don...

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Todd’s Miracle

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Mad Hatter Town Planners

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Dinner at Grandma's

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Mommy’s Little Secret

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Leslie

At age five, Amy told her mother that the thought of swimming scared her. Not surprisingly, her mother poo-pooed the idea, and said that fear showed weakness and stupidity. From then on, Amy said she hated swimming and never admitted any fear to her mother again. I don’t...

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New Age Centre

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Of Heroes and Holiness

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Angela Hess

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George Bailey is a hero.

 

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George Bailey gave up his dreams to care for his family and community.

 

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A Red Squirrel's Narrative

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Talk-Back, Dear Lia, on FnF

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Joy Manné

This essay is part of a Talk-Back series – I owe that title to Karen. A Talk-Back is my response to a chapter in a WVU textbook, my communication with its author.

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Reunion

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Lina Sophia Rossi

“Why the F--- Do I want to see a F—ing alligator jump up to eat a F—ing chicken hanging on a clothesline?”

 

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A Fear of Broken Things

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Angela Hess

“Does he look at you?”

 

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Wild Roses Growing in the Ditch

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Louise E. Sawyer


It is a joy to hold a lovely scene, a delightful moment, in memory.
~Marjolein Bastin

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Hazardous Happenings

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Albert Orjuela

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Dealing with Rejection

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Carolann Malley


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Backyard Neighbors

by

Brigitte Whiting


I took an hour to walk outdoors in my yard, first to clip dead honeysuckle branches, pluck dandelions, and then to fill the birdbaths and feeders. And to ponder what to write about one of my backyard neighbors, the gray squirrel, Sciurus Carolineses. Its name is derived from the...

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Betrayal

by

Angela Hess


My four-year-old son has a friend over. I overhear my son’s friend tell my two-year-old daughter, “Gracie, you can’t come in here.” Then my son’s voice: “It’s okay, she can play with us. Here, Gracie,” he says, presumably handing her one of the toys they are playing with. My mama...

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The Weight of Emotions

by

Angela Hess

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An Apology

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Brigitte Whiting

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Baby Precious

by

Louise E. Sawyer

It was Christmas Day 1950 and my sixth birthday. Under the tree was an unusually long, large box with my name on it. I was excited to open it. I couldn’t wait. When I finally did, I was amazed to look upon the most gorgeous doll I’d...

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Downsizing

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M Clare Paris

 
I think about death quite a bit. Not morbidly, nor do I worry about what happens when one dies. Although I enjoy a spiritual life, I am also philosophical about the end of my life. If there is something else, it will be darned interesting. If there isn’t, ...

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Absent But Present

by

Louise E. Sawyer


My father, Thomas George Sawyer, was absent at my birth and absent the first seven months of my life.

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Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

by

Brigitte Whiting

I'm always looking for ideas to use in writing: for that prompt at which I first gulp and then slowly retrieve some thread of an idea, for the poem I need for the Monday morning poetry group, for an essay that's due in two days.

I've heeded...

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Seasons in a Wild Turkey Hen's Life

by

Brigitte Whiting

Last spring, a wild turkey hen incubated her eggs for twenty-eight days. When they hatched, she scrambled to keep up with them. Poults to scientific literature. Babies to her. She didn't need to teach them to scratch for bugs—they came with that instinct. Nighttimes during their first four weeks, ...

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Lesson in Subtext

by

Joy Manné and Karen Barr

Roles

Teacher – Karen Barr

Student – Joy Manné

Teacher

WELCOME TO WEEK 8 OF SUBTEXT.

There is no word count, but the challenge is to get all ten types of subtext in as few words as possible. Here they are:

Show don’t...

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Teenage Escape Plan

by

Danielle Dayney

I woke to warm, gooey air smothering me even though the ceiling fan was spinning on high. Dangling lightpulls smacked and banged the glass globe with each rotation of the blades. The base of the fan swayed and groaned, ready to jump from its screws in the drywall any second.

...

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Miracle Baby

by

Harry C. Hobbs

The mother and father watched as the sun rose on a cold morning in February 1945, wondering if their four-month-old son had lived through the night. Could miracles really happen? Perhaps this child they had wanted so badly wanted wasn’t meant to survive. His mother was a month past her...

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Ylva the Úlfr

by

Cynthia Reed

When I flew to California in September, the golden archipelago summer, verdant below and mazarine above, still held sway. Twenty-three days and eleven thousand two hundred and forty miles later, if you’d sat here with me on the back deck this afternoon--you’d know, too--autumn now envelopes Sweden in...

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Boardwalk Stroll – A Prose Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

My morning stroll leads me to the east end of Flinty’s Boardwalk by Del’s Cairn. A replica of ...

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Adventuring — An Unrhymed Heroic Couplet

by

Brigitte Whiting




I've been where no red squirr'l has gone before,
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Ode To A Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

you start as a blank screen
or a sheet of pristine paper,
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The People’s Princess ~An Elegy

by

Louise Sawyer

There was a day never forgotten
When the world, including me, watched from afar
the fairytale wedding of...

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Crystalized Fog ~a Pastoral Poem

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

Of cold air hitting a warmer ground
Yesterday ended in a rising fog
Or was it the other...

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Elegy for Judy

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh


I try to hear her voice; its sound has faded.
I see her hair, shining dark, brushing her...

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Becoming a Writer ~ Prose Poem

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

How does a person achieve success as a writer? The answer is fairly simple. One should work in...

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Elegy for Dad

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

Easter, 1996

that year we began to plan a tea
for Dad's ninetieth birthday,
insteadhe landed...

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Sestina

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs (Glennis Hobbs)

my passion in life is to write
perhaps I should start with a poem
to rhyme or not...

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To RBW: An Elegy

by

Brigitte Whiting

You've been gone for a long time now,
and I think of you, reminded beneath
the autumn skies...

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Last Cigarette

by

Belinda Moutray

Under the shaky match’s sulfurous flame, the last Marlboro’s tip blazes brightly, dims and flares.

Broken, quivering...

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Writer's Prayer

by

Margaret Fieland

Bless my paper, bless my pen,
bless my keyboard, Lord. And then,
please keep track of all those...

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Unmutable

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

She’s unmutable beauty in life and death.
Endearing spirit, smile warm as sunshine and everlasting.
From birth’s first...

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Spiders Are My Friends

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

From the breeze, I saw the glistening web.
The big, cozy spider stared out at me.
I wonder...

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Serial Killer

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

Hide behind an actor’s mask and prybar;
Some humans are born with souls as dark as night.
Abduct, ...

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Resembled His First Love

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

All victims resembled his x -first love, Stephanie Brooks,
Long middle parted brunettes with small framed feminine good...

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Phrasical Subordination

by

Margaret Fieland

The main clause of the sentence names the thing you mainly do
but it can have subordinates and...

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Passing Through

by

Margaret Fieland

Morning sun shimmers through gray clouds,
etches shadows on cracked sidewalk.
Empty beer cans surround broken fire hydrant.
...

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Library Book Group

by

Brigitte Whiting

I don't believe in Dracula,
don't even know his story,
Count Vlad the Impaler of Romania, circa 1400s...

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If I Set A Clown On My Lawn

by

Gerardine Baugh

I doubt I am noticed, behind trees, that line of pond, in my front yard.
I turn...

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Falling in Love

by

Margaret Fieland

My mother
sank into cold lake water
bit by slow bit,
first up to her ankles,
then her...

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Ever Wonder About Ted Bundy?

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

I wonder how many others are like Ted Bundy.
He bludgeoned his victims so they couldn’t make a...

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Dreamscape

by

Margaret Fieland

Dreams and nightmares roll around,
fantasies I weave at night,
land of dreams I cannot share,
panoramas to...

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Blueberry Jelly

by

Gerardine Gail Baugh

Blueberry jelly
Splattered across the table,
Ingrained in the rug
Flowing patterns spattered on the wall
Sitting in...

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Dandelions

by

Brigitte Whiting


We discussed dandelions in my poetry group. Some grow so tightly their stalkless stems have to be dug up with...

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TAN RENGA and NÎGUIN: : Japanese poetic forms for two or more writers

by

Carol Neillon Malley, Cynthia Reed and Sharon Ammerman

INTRODUCTION
During the recent MFA314 Japanese Poetic Forms class, WVU students had an opportunity to explore six forms...

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Dump The Core!

by

Gerardine Baugh

A Prose Poem

It is just after ten at night. Michael changes the channel so Captain...

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The Guinea Pig’s Obsession

by

Louise E. Sawyer


I watch Joy munching on her cat grass, head down she gobbles without stopping. Down one row and up the...

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Tomcat Under Nine Antennas

by

Gerardine Baugh

I stretch out over the back of the couch, lounging soft, boneless skin, soft fur stretched so far...

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Words Done Gone

by

F. Michael LaRosa


F. Michael LaRosa wrote this piece for MFA376. He tells us, it is a blues song in prose that laments...

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A Dream: Must Have Been Something I Ate

by

Gerardine Baugh

A pickle meets the side of the barn. Ignoring the rats. With arms like tendrils, it sneaks its way...

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Stormy Weather

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Thunder rumbles, stops and starts again when lightning jags across charcoal coloured skies and splitsinto forks. Raindrops dance...

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Frenzy

by

Glenda Walker-Hobbs


Norva hosts an open mic musical fundraiser two days after Christmas so that people who are home for Christmas can...

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Wearing a Coating of Ice

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Long Way 'Til Spring

by

Brigitte Whiting

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Late Bloomer

by

Brigitte Whiting

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Kenji Snuggling

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Santa Joy

by

Louise Sawyer

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Joy and Neuron

by

Louise Sawyer

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Bullfrog and Black Butterfly Koi

by

Gevera Bert Piedmont

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Animal Paw Prints

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Milky Way Bonaire

by

Miranda Mulders

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A Dark Welcome

by

Albert Orjuela

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The Big Rock Candy Mountain

by

RJ Hembree

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Fog in the Adirondacks

by

Albert Orjuela

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Smew

by

RJ Hembree

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Roadside Attractions

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Rock Formations at Point Lobos

by

RJ Hembree

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Hot Air in the Hudson Valley

by

Albert Orjuela

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Rock and Roll

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

by

RJ Hembree

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Got Coffee?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Tracking a Tractor

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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One More for the Road

by

RJ Hembree

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Bella in High Key

by

Albert Orjuela

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Chickory

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Patterns in Nature

by

RJ Hembree

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Blowing Away

by

Albert Orjuela

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Morning Shot Great Blue Heron

by

RJ Hembree

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Close Up

by

RJ Hembree

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