“Peeling an Orange” by Suzanne Burns

“Storie di Pietra” by Lisa Boardwine, 12 x 12, Oil/Cold Wax on Panel.

You sit cross-legged on your bed
like nothing ever happened the day
Your roommate, back in town,
hands me money to buy beer at the store
when he hears I am going shopping.

I buy blueberries you will never eat,
salmon you will place in your freezer and forget,
organic peanut butter, a bag of Mandarin oranges.

Mandarin oranges, we both know, will not cure you,
the nurses and doctors letting you go
once the alcohol is gone, knowing
it will find its way back to you in a month or two
of being left alone while I go back
to my husband and watch him drink,

the pendulum I will swing on for months
before leaving, many fights, many drinks,
guilt, bargaining, apologies,

but this afternoon we pretend
you are healed and everything
will be like it is in an Afterschool Special
we both grew up watching,

the handsome, troubled boy
sitting on the edge of the bed peeling
an orange the neighbor girl brought him.

Look, they marvel, it is so juicy.
Look, they exclaim, like it’s the single most important revelation,
there aren’t even any seeds.


Suzanne Burns writes both poetry and prose. This poem is from her full-length collection, Look At All the Colors Hidden Here.

“There is No Point” by John Riley

“Frammenti” by Lisa Boardwine, Oil/Cold Wax on Panel, 12 x 12.

for Liz

You’re dead today I learned before the meeting at noon
where I watched a white spider travel from the room to the hall
spitting and stringing a new home the janitor
will tear down when he returns from lunch
for it’s a clean church that does much good
and will always slaughter the spiders and they will still come.
My seat—it was a pew—was soft and provided
me a place to watch the spider work away.
I swear he never stopped to take a sip
from the shiny, clean fountain waiting below,
was never tempted to turn from learning to sew
and try to escape a relentless, soundless fear.
His head will never be seized by the despair
that could make a slight girl fall into my old arms
as we stood in the middle of a similar big room.
I had learned not long before that day
there was no talking any of us from wanting to dive
off the highest point, much higher than the spider worked,
and you slowly stopped crying and thanked me, smiling nervously.
Over the few months left you would poke my ample belly
and tell me I should lose that gut
because you wanted me to stick around
for the next time you needed an old guy to hold you up.
I’d like you to know I stayed, gone child, though some days
I too want to turn and walk into the dark
toward that tower but I know it’s an illusion,
there is no point so high we forget we are alive.

John Riley has published poetry in Mojave River Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Dead Mule, Better Than Starbucks and many other journals and anthologies. He works in educational publishing part-time and is a full-time nanny to his beautiful granddaughter Byl.

Homepage Spring 2019

“Winter Into Spring” by Lisa Boardwine, Oil/Cold Wax on Panel, 12 x 12.

Welcome to our April issue with the theme of “PEELING.” I considered this theme for a long time before settling on it, mostly wondering if it would be “right” for this (or any) issue. Then I discovered the beautiful and evocative abstract paintings of Lisa Boardwine. When I approached Lisa about the possibility of using her work to illustrate this issue, she said that much of her work involves peeling away the surfaces to reveal the hidden colors and textures beneath. And isn’t that a perfect metaphor for life? Aren’t we all accreting layers and subsequently peeling them away to reveal our truer, more beautiful selves? Once Lisa was on board, I knew we had found our perfect theme, so PEELING it is.

We have several new and emerging writers in this issue–a fact that always makes me proud to do this work. Also a wonderful Shorts On Survival piece in a collective voice. We even have several authors with multiple short pieces in this issue.

My sincere hope is that the fine writing and beautiful artwork in this issue offers you some light in the darkness, a measure of healing laughter, and/or the gift of cathartic tears. As always, thank you for reading.

Yours in Recovery,

Mary Akers