Come on In, Stay a Spell

by Rob Howell


Winter. Oh how I love winter. The feeling of the warm and cool fighting for dominance and me not caring who is victorious. Just watching the snow fall outside. Feeling the cold radiate from the glass. Seeing the frost on the window. Walking outside in the dead of night and feeling the freezing concrete on my bare feet. The smell of Winter Lodge burning in the air. The taste of the salty winter ham or the sweet pumpkin pie. The bright reflection of the sun’s light against the white ground. Cuddling the one you love and watching a film. The sound of the snow crunching under both of your feet as you take a stroll through the park. That is why I love winter.

To the Girl Who Lived

by Tyler Marberry


To the girl who lived,
Who taught lessons great
And who taught lessons small.
Whose fire burned bright,
her presence a squall.
May she know always to believe
in self, in dreams, in can and will be’s.
May her stance be a mountain
unbreaking and tall.
Her spirit ever rising
And may she never fall


by Amanda Pugh


My hands are

Average sized

Fingers slightly longer

Than usual; a piano player’s fingers

One might say

But I play clarinet

At least I did

Once upon a time

Coaxing some semblance of music

With these graceful fingers

From a long black tube

Covered in silver keys

That I haven’t played

In years now.

Now these fingers coax words

From a computer keyboard

Or a pen

Or a pencil

Whatever’s handy when the mood hits me

They create art.

What’s your superpower?

Untitled, by Erik Wilbanks

After Markus was kicked out by his mother, he started walking down the road. While walking, he heard barking coming from somebody’s yard and was about to run when he saw a small dog come out of the shadows. Markus was a tall skinny guy who was not afraid of anyone, but as a child he had had a bad experience with big dogs.

A few days later, just as he was trying to get to sleep, a family that was driving by saw Markus lying in a box and stopped their vehicle to talk to him. When the car pulled to the side of the road, Markus thought he was in trouble and started packing his things. Just as he was starting to walk away, the family got out of the car and one of them said, “Hey bud, what are you doing out here?”

Markus responded, “I’m just trying to sleep so I can wake up and try to find a job.”

Another family member said, “We have room at our house if you’d like to come stay and….”

But Markus interrupted: “Honestly, I would love to, but I can’t take advantage of your family after I just got kicked out.”

The father told his wife and his son to go sit in the car. Then he said to Markus, “Whatever happened to you that got you kicked out, that would get fixed in our household. We want to help you, but you have to want to help yourself first.”

Markus stood there, staring at the father with a small smirk. Then he said “First, thank you for that. Second, I’ll take your offer!”

After a few months with the family, Markus now has a job doing construction and is enrolled in school. As well, the family decided to adopt him — even though he is eighteen years old. Without the new family, Markus would have stayed on drugs and would have gone on to more hardcore drugs. If the family hadn’t stopped, Markus’s life would have gotten much, much worse.


by Kaylyn Weddle


My sun kissed Love

a smooth golden brown

whose radiant beams bring life and laughter


My Love, washed by the waves

Cleansed of the world’s contaminants,

revitalized youth with its invigorating waters


My Love, softened by the sand

Leaves behind the sweetest heart,

the wisest mind, and the dearest soul


by Sean Reid


Another one

Another one down, another one gone.

People tapping away, expressing what’s wrong.

Hashtag this and hashtag that.

A man was shot today, and guess what?! He was black.

“How long must we suffer?”

“Until we lose a father, a sister, or brother?”

“We must stomp our feet and protest!”

“Maybe then that narcissist will hear us from the Oval Office!”

“We’re going to…’hashtag#BlackLivesMatter’ ”

… And what exactly is the result after?

Another murderer set loose on the streets?

Which will then lead to one of us slaughtered in their backseat?”

“No, let’s post our thoughts and they’ll see how we’re really feeling!”

“That will certainly stop all this killing!”

“Nah that ain’t it.  We have a hero who’s kneeling!”

“That’s smart, peaceful, and appealing!”

Another one down, another one gone.

People still expressing what’s wrong.

In the middle of this catastrophe,

There’s been a cracked door to end this agony.

Yet and still, we’re not going to change our mentality.

A man once said, “If you want to hide something from a black man…put it in a book.”

Unfortunately this is true because that’s the one place we do not want to look.

If we choose the path of self improvement,

Then our peers will look at us in confusion.

Because we’re selecting the path that’s the best solution.

We left slavery, but slavery hasn’t left us.

Viewing someone as better will weigh heavy on our conscious.

Another one down, another one gone.

Nothing’s going to change if we keep singing the same old song.



by Naomi Duron


You carried the weight of the world on your shoulders

Your back is heavily scarred, and deeply wounded.

With your burdens you easily held my world.

And from your wounds grew precious impervious flora.

and over time your spine grew crooked, after carrying each burden.

Despite the trauma the world and your burdens gave you, you graciously carried my world anyway.


by Andrea McKinnie

Claudia Monroe was walking down the corridor of one of the finest hospitals in the country. Healing Hands Medical Center accepted only the best of the best to be a part of their team. Claudia recalled the day that she received her letter in the mail. She had just come in from clinicals. The wind was howling and the rain was coming down like arrows. The thunder had been so loud that at times she caught herself ducking. As she thought about this now she chuckled, but that day it hadn’t been so funny. Outside of the monstrous thunderstorm, there had not been anything else unusual about that day. Actually, it was kind of ironic when she considered the twist of events. Her entire nursing class had been in an ill mood all day long due to the weather. Then when she arrived home and retrieved the mail, she literally leaped for joy. She stood outside for at least ten minutes repetitively reading her acceptance letter over and over. In fact she still had it memorized.

Dear Miss Monroe:

            We are pleased to inform you that your application for hire has been approved. However,            we do require that you come in and meet with our board. You will be interviewed and            based on your answers, you will be placed in the department of our choosing.

            Looking forward to working with you,

            The Board of Healing Hands

            President, Gloria Freeman, MD

She spent half the night trying to dry the letter out from the soaking it took from her disengagement of reality. When she finally realized that she had been standing in the rain reading the letter, she ran inside like a cat being chased by a dog. Yes, that day still brought excitement to her. It was a beautiful ending to a stormy day.

Now she was walking down the corridor taking in every tiny detail. She saw a plump, middle aged nurse holding the hand of a little boy. The boy could not have been more than five years old. The nurse had pepper colored hair and  ringlet curls with silver streaks. She was dressed in the most crisp red pair of scrubs. Claudia was sure that that lady got them professionally cleaned. The nurse was telling the little boy that his father would be out to take him back to see his mother in about five minutes. The nurse was so tender with the little boy. She had now sat down on the floor with him and they were coloring some lonely looking flower on a piece of white paper. That’s why Claudia loved this place. Healing Hands Medical Center had a reputation for being loving and caring. There genuine love could be felt and seen by anyone who walked through the doors. It was like no other hospital she’d ever known. It was not very big and it did not pay a lot of money, but the atmosphere was peaceful, soothing, and filled with love. Here at this hospital the staff met before each shift and took a small moment to pray before beginning their day. They spent time with their patients. They didn’t push their duties off onto other people. They each took responsibility for their share of the work. They worked together as a team. They showed love and compassion. That’s the type of place that Claudia wanted to be.

Claudia gave herself one more look over. She had chosen to wear a navy blue suit with a turquoise broach. She thought the hint of color would show that she could be adventurous. She had decided to wear her hair down that day, but now she was reconsidering the idea. Her long black, wavy tresses flowed beautifully, but she didn’t want them to be distracting. Maybe I should put them up she thought to herself. However, when she had reached into her purse for a couple of bobby pins she had this intense popping sound that occurred in the left side of her head. She couldn’t really describe it, but it was enough to disturb her. She looked at her watch: 12:17 p.m. I don’t have much time. I guess my hair will have to stay down.

She gathered her things together and continued to walk down the corridor. Then the popping happened again. The popping was loud, but not painful. Actually she couldn’t feel it at all. It was enough to make her feel like something was wrong though. She immediately whispered a prayer. Dear Lord: Whatever is wrong, please help the situation. If someone is considering suicide then stop them. If someone is threatening a stroke, then heal them. Please Lord, send help. In Jesus name, Amen.

Claudia didn’t know what was wrong and she doesn’t even really know why she felt like she needed to pray, but it was better than doing nothing at all. When she finally found the receptionist’s desk, she heard a loud wailing sound. She saw nurses and doctors running towards the end of the hall that she had just come from. One nurse had grabbed the crash cart. Doctors and nurses both were barking orders at someone about everything. Claudia heard someone yell, “Clear, all Clear!”, and just like that it was over. Heads were bowed and a few people kneeled with their heads bowed. Claudia had gotten close enough to realize what had happened. Right there in the same place that she had seen him earlier, lay the little boy. His little body was limp and now turning colors. He looked peaceful, but he was so young. She asked the nurse who she had seen sitting with him earlier what had happened. The nurse, whose name tag read Elnor Shaw, RN, told her that the little boy had started complaining about his head. The nurse told her that it was about 12:17 p.m. She said that she remembered the time because she had looked down at her watch in order to keep up with his complaints. The nurse told her that it all happened so suddenly. She said she remembered him saying, “Nurse Shaw, my head’s still hurting, but it’s okay, this nice man said that he would take care of me. He said that he was sent to take me home.” Then Joshua closed his eyes.

The nurse was now crying full, uncontrollable sobs. Claudia herself had noted that her face was now wet. She doesn’t even know when the tears began to flow. Then Claudia stopped breathing for about 5 seconds.

Claudia exclaimed, “Oh no! Did you say 12:17 p.m.”

The nurse looked puzzled and replied, “Yes dear. It was that time exactly when his complaint began. Now…if you will excuse me, I must go find his father. He will be heartbroken. His wife is here on hospice care, but he had to leave unexpectedly to pick up their little girl. Normally, Joshua would have gone with him, but today he wanted to stay here with me.”

The nurse let out another sob and walked away. Claudia’s stomach had now began to hurt. Surely, the times were a coincidence. She did not even know the little boy. She had heard about other people having these type of encounters, but she had never experienced anything like this for herself.

Claudia staggered back towards the receptionist desk when she realized that she had lost track of time. She looked at her watch and noticed that it was now 1:07 p.m. “Oh no!” Claudia exclaimed. She was now thirty-seven minutes late for her interview. Surely, the board would understand. She immediately made herself speed up. She didn’t have time to check her make-up. She realized that she probably looked horrible. A tear-stained face and the queasiness of her stomach didn’t allow her to use her best smile, but she was trying her best. She reached the receptionist’s desk and gave her name. She apologized for her tardiness and made sure that the receptionist knew that she wasn’t in habit of being tardy. The receptionist gave her a bright smile and explained that her tardiness was not a problem today. She informed Claudia that she had seen her when she arrived earlier and also when she went down to see what had happened. She also told her that Dr. Gloria had been one of the people down there in the midst of the commotion. Claudia gasped in surprise. She hadn’t even considered that to be a possibility. The receptionist gave Claudia the option to reschedule or she could wait for Dr. Gloria to return. “She should be back in about one hour if you would like to wait. However, if you leave, it won’t be counted against you. We understand the effect this could have on you on the day of your interview.”

Claudia agreed to wait. She didn’t want to put this off and besides the hour would give her a chance to fix her make-up. She left the receptionist and went into the bathroom across the hall. The bathroom smelled of eucalyptus and peppermint. What an odd smell for a bathroom, but it seemed to make her senses more alert. She grabbed some paper towels, wet them and began to wipe her face. She took off as much of the make-up as she could. Then she reapplied it. I definitely need to invest in waterproof make-up she thought. She had never purchased any before because it was so expensive and she only wore make-up when the occasion called for it. Today was a day that she thought called for it, but she really didn’t feel like putting it on.

She couldn’t get the little boy out of her head. Seeing him holding the nurse’s hand. Seeing them both color that lonely flower. Then hearing about the story that the little boy had told the nurse right before he passed away. It was all too much to think about. Claudia now found herself crying uncontrollably. Claudia tried to regain control over her emotions.

How can you be a nurse if you can’t accept the inevitable she thought, but this situation had been so much more different.

She looked at her make-up and decided to just go without it. She cleaned her face and applied some lotion. Her eyes were now puffy and red. Her nose was red and she felt so horrible. She immediately thought of the little boy’s father. How will he feel when he finds out that his little boy is gone. She fell to her knees and began to cry out to God for the man to be comforted. She even prayed for the little’s boy sister and mother. The nurse had said that she was on hospice, but she didn’t say what was wrong or if she was conscious.

            Dear Lord,

            I know that you are working out something on the behalf of this family. They have lost a   young one today. They have lost a sweet innocent little boy. Help them to receive your            comfort. Help them to receive your peace. I know they will cry, mourn, and ask why, but l ead them into your peace that passes all understanding. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Claudia got up off the floor and once again gathered her wits. She looked at her watch and realized that she had thirty minutes to spare. She found the cafeteria and got a cup of coffee. The cafeteria smelled like mountain fresh coffee mixed with cinnamon. There were long green plants mixed with deep red flowers of some sort hanging over each table. It was absolutely wonderful. The walls of the cafeteria were pure glass and the brightness of the sun hitting her face gave her a quick boost of energy. She looked around and noticed that there weren’t a lot of people in the cafeteria. However, she looked up and sitting at a small round table was Nurse Shaw. She was holding a brown mug with both hands. The steam was rising from the cup and going directly into the nurses face. Claudia wondered if she should go and check on the lady or if she should just leave her alone. Nurse Shaw turned around just at that moment as if she could hear Claudias’ thoughts. She gave Claudia a weak smile and nodded her head in a way to let Claudia know that she could come over.


by Brianna Mason


Somewhere someone’s uncle is telling another terrible joke

And everyone is pretending it’s the first time they’ve heard it.

Grandma’s in the kitchen turning potatoes into everything

making sure everyone stays away from the kitchen.

All the adults are arguing over a game of monopoly.

The kids are running around in bathing suits without shoes.

There are at least eight dogs playing in the house

and someone forgot to bring the sunblock.

There’s Disney theme music playing in the background

And everyone’s smile is so big it could fit yesterday inside

And still have enough room for today and tomorrow.

There’s laughter so loud that the neighbors are angry

And wonder why they weren’t invited to the party.

Today there is no crying. No bloodshed in the streets.

No news headlines, bills, or road rage in traffic

Today there are no broken doors or counter pieces

chipped off from one too many arguments over nothing.

Today cancer doesn’t exist and there are no late fees.

Speeding tickets are just reminders of how fast life fly’s.

And there is enough food for everyone and then some.

The lights stay on all day because the bills are paid.

You can feel the last eighty years of struggle in the room.

The last eighty years of yelling and crying and swearing.

But you can also hear the last eighty years of laughter.

The last eighty years of Christmas lights and cookouts.

Today there is potato salad, grilled corn, and fried okra.

The only tear shed today is when everyone goes home.


by Tony Rafalowski


The remnants of a hurricane blew through my yard

Late one September afternoon. You would think

West Tennessee and its cotton fields far enough away

From the tropical storm warnings of the gulf coast.


Not so much, as evidenced by the two juvenile squirrels

Tossed from the security of the large old sugar gum tree

Beside the driveway, abandoned by their parents, I guess,

Who heeded the forecast and found other shelter.


One died on the concrete and had to be carried away

By my son in law, laid to rest at the bottom of the creek

That runs behind our property, swollen in the morning light

With the run off from rains that flooded south Texas.


One survived, the stronger sibling, Cain or Romulus,

Crawled down the driveway and into the garage

Under the Toyota where we found him the next day,

Crying for justice in the dark light of the dawn.


Using garden gloves we laid him in a box

Pillowed on an old towel ragged but soft,

Stroked his gray fur with our fingertips,

Sought to pray away the hurts, his and our own.


We gave him to a friend who had done this

Before, nursed an injured squirrel back to life.

He died in the late afternoon, but not without

Love, the soft comfort of having mattered.


The rest of us could be so lucky.