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Sunday, December 31, 2023


by Lenore Weiss

Menachem Begin (Mark Reinstein/Getty Images)

Menachem Begin was Dodo’s first cousin.
She and my mother were best friends.
Dodo lived on the ground floor.
We lived on the other side of the apartment building.
Sometimes I babysat her dog Cocoa who pooped
on the living room rug before she returned home
from vacationing in Israel where she drank coffee
with her cousin, the same Menachem Begin.

Dodo’s mother was Mrs. Bagoon who lived
under the elevated near Southern Boulevard
and painted her veins purple with Gentian Violet
wearing support stockings that made her feet sweat.
Her brother was Menachem’s son
whose family came from Russia, and as far as I knew,
Israel was a collection basket for the poor and huddled masses
all yearning. Sharon, from third-grade, went to Israel
with her mother every summer to plant a tree
in her father’s memory, and Aunt Clara sent money
through her women’s organization.

I never remember my mother or father
sending money to Israel even though Menachem Begin
was Dodo’s first cousin, but they did send me
to a Zionist sleep-away camp
because that’s where Dodo sent her daughter
who really liked it. My father didn’t talk much
about Israel, at least not in English, or about the family
he’d lost in Hungary, but made it clear
he didn't think Zionism was the same winning ticket
others hoped for, not the same
new beginning for the Jewish people
even though Menachem’s
last name was spelled like that.

Lenore Weiss serves as the Associate Creative Nonfiction (CNF) Editor for the Mud Season Review and lives in Oakland, California with Zebra the Brave and Granola the Shy. Her environmental novel Pulp into Paper is forthcoming from Atmosphere Press as is a new poetry collection, Video Game Pointers from WordTech Communications.

Saturday, December 30, 2023


by Amy Shimshon-Santo

the year crawls toward an end 
sharp knife between its teeth
& bleeding tongue

a year of vowels
displaced from their consonants,
zipped together 

by a three letter word 
that is not good for children 
& other living things

I walk to the edge of language
thin stick between my hands 
holding a makeshift flag

colorless as the memory of water
scavenged from cotton 
clothing of the departed

it is time to place the year inside 
an urn, bury it in the Earth
lie down beside the unimaginable

hear the new year drumming
& dreaming itself into being, wanting
to be born

Dr. Amy Shimshon-Santo is a warm-blooded vertebrate with hair. She writes  poetry, essays, performs spoken word, improvisation, and choreography. Read or listen to her poetry collections: Catastrophic Molting (2020), Even the Milky Way is Undocumented (2020), and look for her forthcoming book Random Experiments in Bioluminescence (2024). Teaching and facilitating trans-local community arts projects have been central to her social practice for 30+ years. She is available as a guest artist, arts educator, coach, and editor. Dr. A has been nominated for an Emmy Award and three Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative non-fiction. She was a finalist for the Night Boat Poetry Prize, and earned a place in the U.S. Service Learning Hall of Fame. Connect with her at @shimshona / @amyshimshon

Friday, December 29, 2023


by D. Dina Friedman

“Rising Cairn” by Celeste Roberge

from grief, the prickled ball in my heart

The tank imprinting the sands in Gaza.

The baby on the kibbutz, snatched from its mother’s arms.

Grief as breath and breath as grief

pictures of the dead, the missing

slapped on our bland screens. We might know

this child, his laugh. This teen. She worked for peace.

Grief for the plume of smoke outside the window

of the hospital, for the doctor, searching her pockets

as if she might have stashed a pill she’d forgotten,

that could save the life of a patient, writhing, dying. 

Grief, the crevice in the land split by the river

where you think you might walk down and disappear. 

Grief, a drained lake, a parched throat, a bombed city, 

a soldier singing O Sole Mio in the desert at night

because, sometimes, there’s nothing else to do 

but raise your head to the moon 

and sing as if your life depended on it.

D. Dina Friedman has published in over a hundred literary journals and anthologies (including Rattle, The Sun, Calyx, Lilith, Negative Capability, Chautauqua Literary JournalThe Ekphrastic Review, and Rhino) and received four Pushcart Prize nominationsShe is the author of two young adult novels: Escaping Into the Night (Simon and Schuster) and Playing Dad’s Song (Farrar, Straus, Giroux), a short-story collection: Immigrants(Creators Press), and two  chapbooks: Wolf in the Suitcase (Finishing Line Press) and Here in Sanctuary—Whirling (Querencia Press). 

Thursday, December 28, 2023


by Frederick Wilbur

Dear Justice Roberts, honorable by name,

here is a friendly note from the public-

at-large though the message is but one:

if you have even a whereas of shame

it would be wise, indeed, politic,

to share some with colleagues who have none.

Frederick Wilbur is a writer and architectural woodcarver living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. His poetry collections are As Pus Floats the Splinter Out and Conjugation of Perhaps. He was awarded the Midwest Quarterly’s Stephen Meats Poetry Prize. He is poetry co-editor and blogger for Streetlight Magazine.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023


by Roxanne Doty

These are the poets and writers who have been killed in Gaza. —Literary Hub, December 21, 2023

Before they were bombed from the sky 

warheads raining on their crucified city

littered with the bones of winter

and blood of children

they were a poet and a teacher

a mother and father who understood 

the hope of words, the way they slipped 

through walls and checkpoints

couldn’t be stopped by soldiers 

or guns, how they empowered

defied the laws of physics

and occupation and oppression


To the secretaries of war who murdered the poet

words were sterile instruments, tools

like wrenches and screwdrivers, hammers

from the hardware store, like bunker buster bombs 

and hellfire missiles from a rich country

with democracy and security on its lips

and complicity on its hands, to these priests

of destruction, the poet was a calculation

the result of collateral damage equations

estimates of death rankings of acceptable levels 

of slaughter


The poet was killed in their home 

and in a school and a hospital and a UN shelter

and a refugee camp and on a war-torn street

and waving a white flag

before they died the poet had asked

When shall this pass?


The poet understood that words are fragile

even with their power could crumble and die

they need an audience to listen

to absorb to act and the poet knew 

that all the children of Gaza 

are poets too

Roxanne Doty lives in Tempe, Arizona. Her debut novel Out Stealing Water was published by Regal House Press, August 30. 2022.  Her first poetry collection will be published by Kelsay Books in the spring of 2024. Her short story “Turbulence” (Ocotillo Review) was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart prize for short fiction. Other stories and poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, Quibble LitSuperstition Review, Forge, I70 Review, Soundings Review, Four Chambers Literary Magazine, Lascaux Review, Lunaris Review, Journal of Microliterature, The New Verse News, Saranac Review,Gateway Review and Reunion-The Dallas Review.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023


by Matthew King

So now, I tell my cat, we talk with whales.
He yawns in pointed answer: it’s beneath
his dignity to suffer such tall tales.
His rough tongue flashes out across his teeth.
I ask him, well, should we use cats instead
to study alien communication?
Look, he says, you say what’s in my head
without the need for my participation.
You’re doing it right now! I haven’t said
a word, it’s all you, even this frustration!
Good luck, whales and Martians! Me, I’m fed
up with one-sided human conversation.
Oh, I tease him, don’t trust my translation?
Wait until you hear me speak cetacean.

Author's note: Some scientists believe they have successfully conducted a conversation with a humpback whale, and that this is good practice for communicating with aliens. My cat is skeptical.

Matthew King used to teach philosophy at York University in Toronto, Canada; he now lives in what Al Purdy called "the country north of Belleville" where he tries to grow things, counts birds, takes pictures of flowers with bugs on them, and walks a rope bridge between the neighbouring mountaintops of philosophy and poetry. His photos and links to his poems can be found at

Monday, December 25, 2023


by Sally Zakariya

The Rev. Munther Isaac in front of the Nativity scene at Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Using broken cement and paving stones, the Congregation placed the baby Jesus in the center of a pile of debris from a collapsed home, inspired by television images of children being pulled from the rubble, Issac says. Photo: Ayman Oghanna for NPR.

The poinsettia sits on the bookcase

in front of an old Japanese print—

a battle scene that features

the rising sun flag


The circle of blood-red petals

echoes the bursting rays

of the sun


Something’s going on here

that isn’t much like 



In Bethlehem they’re observing

the day, not celebrating it—

not while thousands are dying

in Gaza with no cease fire 

in sight


A silent night with no bombs

would be a blessing but 

the bombs rain down

and the children cry


Let us hope for a happier

peaceful New Year


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 100 publications and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her publications include All Alive Together, Something Like a Life, Muslim Wife, The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, and When You Escape. She edited and designed a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table, and blogs at

Sunday, December 24, 2023


by Karen Warinsky

Inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church is typically packed with visitors each December. But now, it's nearly empty. Photo: Ayman Oghanna for NPR.

A quiet night, a holy night,

(aren’t they all holy?)

a time to settle




Many will pray this Christmas,

pray harder than before

for War’s children everywhere

especially for the people of Palestine

children of the desert,

their ancient history recorded, retold,

the most famous story

reenacted around the world for centuries;

generations of angels, donkeys, shepherds and stars

standing in chancels and sanctuaries

as a narrator recited:

“Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, 

I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.’”


There is no joy in Palestine

no celebration allowed through this ruptured wound

as the people run from bombs,

search for food, water, shelter,

so many holy families

trying to hear the angel sing.

Karen Warinsky is the author of three volumes of poetry (Gold in Autumn, Sunrise Ruby and Dining with War) and is widely published in lit mags and anthologies. She runs Poets at Large who perform at venues in MA and CT.

Saturday, December 23, 2023


by Jocelyn Ajami

Credit...Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via The New York Times, November 13, 2023.

In the competition 

over who is more 

the victim

who is more humane

no child votes.

No child, bruised 

and maimed

battered and beaten

claims membership 

to an aristocracy 

of woes.

In the competition over

who is more 


no child, body

peppered with bullets 


No child whose lungs and 

larynx collapse under 

the weight of boulders

vindicates the winner

raising his mutilated 

limbs in pride. 

In the competition 

over who is more 


no child condemns 

or commends


underneath the flaming 

rubble, abandoned

and unclaimed 

in playgrounds 

of slaughter.

Blood void of bias 

splatters on stone

calligraphy of carnage 

to which no child


a single stroke. 

Jocelyn Ajami is an award winning painter, filmmaker and poet. Jocelyn has received several awards for her films, Oasis of Peace, Gypsy Heart and Queen of the Gypsies. She turned to writing poetry in 2014 as a way of connecting more intimately with issues of social conscience and cultural awareness. She has been published in several anthologies of prize winning poems. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, she speaks five languages and lives in Chicago, Illinois.


by Bonnie Naradzay

Around noon today, December 16, 2023 a sniper of the IDF murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war…. Seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside the church compound. No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents. Earlier in the morning, a rocket fired from an IDF tank targeted the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa (Missionaries of Charity). The Convent is home to over 54 disabled persons and is part of the church compound, which was signaled as a place of worship since the beginning of the war. The building’s generator (the only source of electricity) and the fuel resources were destroyed. The house was damaged by the resulting explosion and massive fire. Two more rockets, fired by an IDF tank, targeted the same Convent and rendered the home uninhabitable. The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive. —Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, December 16, 2023

The US vetoed a ceasefire in Gaza.  

                        Rushed more weapons.  

We are not allowed to use the word “genocide.”  

            In Bethlehem the nativity scene is piled 

with rocks and debris. More than 20,000 killed.  Biden is angry

about poll numbers.  Paul asked me to bring poems next time that rhyme.  

The newspaper yesterday said, “More Americans own stocks.” 

Homeowners are installing heat pumps this winter.

The US advised Israel to be more surgical.   Hospitals and schools

were targeted with precision.  Two churches, damaged.  Doctors were arrested.

An Israeli official said “There are no churches, no Christians in Gaza.”

People were sheltering in the church.  Hospitals and schools,  targeted. 

Anything that moves.  The US vetoed.  In Bethlehem. 

poems that rhyme.    not allowed.     Poll numbers.  demolished

more surgical next time.   Rocks and debris. 

The US vetoed a ceasefire in Gaza


Bonnie Naradzay's manuscript will be published by Slant Books next year.  She leads weekly poetry sessions at day shelters for homeless people and at a retirement center, all in Washington DC.  Three times nominated for a Pushcart, her poems have appeared in AGNI, New Letters, RHINO, Kenyon Review, Tampa Review, EPOCH, Split This Rock, Dappled Things, and other sites. In 2010 she won the University of New Orleans Poetry Prize—a month’s stay in the South Tyrol castle of Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary; there, she had tea with Mary, hiked the Dolomites, and read Pound’s early poems.