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I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.

 

But this was worse than death. Our family lawyer called me to attend a meeting at the retirement Centre where the Chairman wanted to expel my parents for bad behavior.

 

“I am finished!” I said to my best friend Marilyn who fetched me from the airport and was driving me to the Centre. “I don’t know if it's a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce.”

 

Josh and I had checked out the place before we and the kids had left. I had the sole responsibility for the care of my parents since the death of my twin sister. I was filled with anxiety for their health and guilt for abandoning them. I just wanted them to be safe, happy and together.

 

Instead of being an Old Age Home, it was called A New Age Centre. There were well- designed apartments and fantastic communal facilities. In addition to the three B’s, Bridge, Bowls and Bible studies, they had beautiful grounds and swimming pools. It was like the Garden of Eden – with a Frail Care Wing.

 

During our visit, we saw a lecture in progress in the auditorium. We were soothed by the sea of heads in a hundred shades of grey and blue. After the lecture, I spoke to a resident, probably an octogenarian who was accompanied by a younger man.

 

“This is my boyfriend, Solly,” she said, “We both love it here.”

 

When I asked her age, she replied, “That number has been discontinued. Age is not a number but a state of mind. “

 

I later discovered that she was 93.

 

The place was perfect for my parents who had both retired. My father Barney was almost 75. He had run his own Pharmacy dispensing medicines and humour with equal facility.

My mother Judith was 72 and had been an Art teacher at the Technical College. I explained the New Age concept to them, but they refused to move to an old age home – whatever it was called.

 

Barney needed a knee op but didn’t want to have it. He was becoming irritable and immobile.

 

My mother said, “Becky, you may as well order a wheelchair for your father because not much is working from the waist down anyway.”

 

He retaliated, “Not much of you is working anymore either, especially from the neck up.”

 

Unfortunately, this was true. Judith was becoming forgetful, depressed, and refusing to eat. She had not only lost weight but also her sense of purpose.

 

But after visiting the Centre they agreed to leave their rambling, old house. What appealed to them was the motto – Life begins at 70. I cashed in one of my dad’s policies and chose a garden apartment in the New Age Centre.

 

I was helping them to pack and it was painful.

 

My mother sighed and said, “I love these shoes, but the heels are very high. If I wore them now, I would probably break my neck.”

 

“Couldn’t you wear them just once more?” my father asked, deadpan.

 

My mother looked tearful, but I had to laugh. My father still had a wicked sense of humour.

 

At the Reception desk, a group of women were ogling my father. Although he was leaning on his cane, he still looked good, tall, elegantly grey with a prominent nose, and a small beard hiding a double chin.

 

Their interest waned when my mother arrived and held his arm possessively. They had a close relationship despite the few skirmishes.

 

“Another Darby and Joan,” one of the women muttered to her friend as they moved off.

 

My mother looked disconsolate in flat shoes and in a dress which was now much too large. It was upsetting to me because she had always looked smart when she taught at the Tech. We had the same build so before I emigrated, I gave her a suitcase of my good clothes. I encouraged her to cut and dye her hair. Her face was unwrinkled and her good features could be drastically improved if she got rid of the sulky, downturned mouth and the lackluster expression in her green eyes.

 

My parents refused to get cell phones or learn to use a computer. They did not want to become 'Skype Grandparents'. In addition to the occasional phone calls, my dad sent me a monthly postcard. January was Eat, meet and excrete. February was Forgive and forgetmostly forget. In March he wrote What was was. They were settling down and they were adjusting to the situation.

 

Then everything changed. In April, he decided to have the knee operation.

 

It was July, a delicious crisp Granny-Smith day in Johannesburg, when I arrived at the Centre. Lawrence, our lawyer was waiting for me outside the Boardroom.

 

When I saw my parents, it was a flashback from a movie. They both looked fantastic. My mother was wearing her break-neck high heels and the purple suit I had worn for my son’s bar mitzvah. Her hair had an auburn tinge and was stylishly short. My father rushed to hug me no longer using a cane. I realized how much I had missed him as the mascara streaked down my cheeks. I had always been his special little girl.

 

The reunion was cut short by the arrival of the Chairman of the Board with three Board members. They sat under the Motto, Life begins at 70, and called their star witness, the

Matron of the rehab centre. She was plump, in her 50’s with years of experience observing human foibles. She had total recall and gave her evidence with gusto.

 

“After the knee operation, we fetched Barney from the hospital. Judith had a surprise for him and was going to meet him in the lounge but she was delayed. A group of women crowded around Barney in his wheelchair, wishing him a speedy recovery. He enjoyed being the centre of attention. He did not notice that Judith had arrived wearing a tight knitted dress and a bright red tint.

 

"'Welcome home, Barney,' she said, kissing him on the cheek.

 

“He was momentarily at a loss for words. Speechless, he did not comment on her appearance.

 

"She had gone to a lot of trouble and felt hurt at his lack of response.’Sorry I am late but the hairdresser kept me for two hours.'

 

"He looked at her and said, 'Anyone who spends two hours at the hairdresser ought to have her head red.'

 

“His audience loved that comment but Judith was annoyed. When I wheeled Barney to the rehab centre, Judith walked off with her new friend, Seymour, an artist whose son had been a student of Judith’s at the Tech,” Matron said.

 

“When Barney returned to their apartment three weeks later, Judith was a new person. She and Seymour had set up an arts and crafts class for the residents. When she was busy teaching, Barney would tell jokes in the lounge. He couldn’t remember anyone’s names so he would call the women the first name that popped into his head like 'Citronella' or 'Margarita'. He called a woman with a pale complexion 'Human Frailty' and a Russian woman with a post-nasal drip 'Miss Putin'. As soon as he could run again, Barney started running after and flirting with every available woman.”

 

I was shocked. I was sitting between my parents, like a tennis net at Wimbledon. They had always been partners, on the same side but now they were opponents. They always had protected me but now I was feeling the sharp sting of their animosity. My father gave me a sheepish grin, which reeked of old goat.

 

But Matron was just getting warmed up. “What’s more Barney was encouraging the older inmates to revert to their second childhood. He taught them 'Hide and Seek' and 'Doctor Doctor'. He made friends with the Pharmacist and kept up a steady order of Viagra running up a huge bill at the Pharmacy. He offered gifts of Viagra to all who wanted it. He told them to relive their teenage years without fear of pregnancy or parental disapproval.

 

“Barney had a bit too much wine at dinner one night and threw a plate of spaghetti at Seymour who poured a bowl of soup into Barney’s lap. Food, crockery, and cutlery started flying and one of the waiters was hit in the leg.

 

“The resident gossip told the story to a journalist and the news hit the front pages of the Northern Gazette.”

 

Matron’s evidence was disturbed by a scuffle at the doorway.

 

Two security guards had forcibly removed a large package from a young-looking resident, who turned out to be the protesting Seymour. His face was red as he gestured to my mother.

 

The Chairman took the package and played his trump card by unveiling a large oil painting.

 

It was a nude in the style of Manet’s Olympia. Seymour had eliminated the maid and the cat but the confrontational stare of the nude was most disconcerting. My eyes scanned the piece from the high-heeled shoes to the pair of sparkling green eyes. It was my mother.

 

I felt my father’s anger and saw his face go purple with rage. My mother’s eyes were large pools of green above her bright pink cheeks.

 

Our attorney covered the painting when he saw how much it upset us all.

 

He took the floor. “We agree to settle the Pharmacy Bill and to pay for any damage caused in the dining room,” he conceded. “But I have studied the contract carefully and there are absolutely no grounds to expel my clients. In fact, they should be commended for upholding the Motto of the Centre. Moreover, the New Age Centre has not suffered damage. On the contrary, I have ascertained that the applications for admission to Centre have spiked since the publication of the article.”

 

After consultation with the other Board members, the Chairman was forced to accept the offer.

 

My parents excitedly tried to justify their actions to me.

 

Pleading exhaustion and jet lag, I tried to make my escape. I was stopped by our lawyer, who faced me with apprehension and apology.

 

Ungrateful for his help I attacked him. “Why did you have to drag me all the way from Australia to hear all this dirt?”

 

“I wanted you to hear firsthand what had happened. How else could I explain that your parents want a divorce?”

 

 


Author Bio: Gallerist—Founder of Natalie Knight Gallery, Hyde Park, South Africa www.knightgalleries.net 

Feature writer, playwright, art curator, editor, researcher and cultural historian. 

There’s no Sugar Left  - Play produced in 1981 

Publications include

Ndebele Images (1983)

Dungamanzi; Stirring Waters. 2007 -Tsonga/Shangaan culture 

The Big Picture- an Art-o-biography 2017 

Married, with children and great-grandchildren


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New Age Centre

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I had been in Oz for a few months when I received an emergency call to come back to South Africa. Every émigré who leaves elderly parents dreads this call.

 

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Lessons In Plot: From Setup To Payoff

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By Joy Manné (the student) with Help and Encouragement from Karen Barr (the teacher)



From ‘The Road from Setup to Payoff’ by Karen Barr, (Writers Village University, MFA 250-261 Story Focus series based on the book by Lisa Cron)

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Meatloaf and Mashed Taters

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Art Subklew


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Found: A $20 Bill

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Brigitte Whiting


Brigitte lives in Maine and often uses settings and experiences from her yard in her writing. She earned Fiction Writing Certificates from Gotham Writers Workshop and UCLA-Ext and is working on her WVU-MFA Certificate. In addition to facilitating WVU classes, she meets weekly with two local writers' groups

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Jesus is Lord

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Eviano George



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The Bus Station

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Joyce Hertzoff


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He Looked Like Quiet

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Kathryn Pollard


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The Curious Case of Solomon Gbajabiamila

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Eviano George

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Portrait of the Artist at a Hideous Moment

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Frank Richards

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Zephyr

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Linda Murray

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The Five-Hundred-Foot Ladder

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“Come on, Dad,” Savannah said. “Whatever happened to relaxing in your golden years? Sipping mint juleps on the porch, listening to U2, or whatever you old folk like?”

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Jeffrey M. Keenan

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The Fisherman

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Brigitte Whiting

I shuffle down the path from our house to the dock. I've been on the water for so long, my wife Molly tells me, that I've gotten permanent sea legs. I step down into my seine-net fishing boat, the one I bought from my father forty years ago, slide my...

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Angela Hess

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An Apology

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Brigitte Whiting

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Baby Precious

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Louise E. Sawyer

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Downsizing

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M Clare Paris

 
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Absent But Present

by

Louise E. Sawyer


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Gathering: A Contemplative Essay

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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.

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Seasons in a Wild Turkey Hen's Life

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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

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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

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Harry C. Hobbs

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Ylva the Úlfr

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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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Stargazer

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Lina Sophia Rossi

 A Poem in Free Verse

Stargazer, Rhode Island Red

So much like me,

Always...

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Eagles in Winter Storm "Stella"

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Brigitte Whiting

A poem in free verse

Before the nor'easter "Stella" arrives here—

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Heads I Win

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Joy Manné

A Chant in Free Verse

Bathed and blessed, in fine white cotton clad,

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Do you wear shoes? Do they make a sound?

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Gerardine Baugh

I looked up and saw it.  I would have missed it if I hadn’t looked up when I...

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Wakeful Nights

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Catherine McArdle

A Sonnet

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Dragons

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Judy Beaston

A Cinquain poem

 

 dragons

dance on night walls

swift runners, fire breathers

...

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Disquiet - Winner of our April 2018 Poetry Contest!

by

Judy Beaston

   

 A Poem in Free Verse

 

Waves crash, tumble, rumble

upon...

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Shellina, Part 2 ~ A Fairy Tale

by

Louise E. Sawyer

It’s winter morning at Bullrush Cove 

Where dawn paints with pink.
Shellina opens up her eyes. Last night
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Rest In Peace My Canine Daughter

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

 

I don't want a zombie dog,

No pet to rise from the dead,

Up from...

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Ode To A Pair Of Faithful Boots

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

                                        ...

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Sins of Forefathers

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

Sinners

Blood stained hands

Must wash hands

Of my sins and sins of our forefathers.

...

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Conversation At The Checkout

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Gerardine Baugh

 

“I love black cats with golden-green eyes”

She said, moving the cat treats over the scanner


...

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Night is a Swim

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Gerardine Baugh

Night is a swim of soundless scribbles, clicking keys

A thrum, thrum, thrumming of deep sensations

...

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Dark And Stormy Month   

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

 

Over cast skies,

  Darkened unrested raccoon eyes,

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Days of Fall

by

Brigitte Whiting

 

In these first days of fall, I water

my wildflowers. A shadow flutters

past my hat. ...

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Whiskey Half-Barrel

by

Brigitte Whiting

 

 

Through my back window overlooking the yard

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Mid Seasons

by

Brigitte Whiting

 

I've left the last brown-eyed Susans,

their yellow petals drooped around

dark brown seed-filled cones,

...

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Fruit of Betrayal

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Katelyn Thomas

 

I am disturbed by the inconsistency of yellow apples -

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Roadkill

by

Katelyn Thomas

 

Asphalt sprouts wings -

all that remains.

Unfortunate crow.


Katelyn Thomas is...

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When Did You Last See Her?

by

Katelyn Thomas

 

 

The visitor pours out the moon,

watches the top crater,

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Serenity Prayer, Long Beach, 1956...a #MeToo recollection

by

Cynthia Reed

 

‘Whiskey,’ said my Nana, ‘too much whiskey in that man.’

he was big and his...

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Recipe for Writing a Poem

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

After reading How to Write a Poem by Billy Collins

Gather the ingredients:

1 bushel of...

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Queen Elizabeth Gardens - Haiban

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

The Queen Elizabeth Gardens, hidden in the geographic centre of Vancouver, British Columbia,

come as a complete...

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Bees

by

Gerardine Baugh


Gerardine Gail Baugh is a native Chicagoan who moved into the Northwest burbs of Illinois. Where she...

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9/11 – A Kyrielle

by

Glennis Walker Hobbs

They were days of desperation

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planes hijacked, Bin Laden’s command,

and winds of...

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Farm Field

by

Gerardine Baugh

black dirt in hot sun
pieces of the past calling
seeds sown in straight rows

Sprouting green soft...

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Change Is

by

Albert Orjuela

Change is a boundless mechanism. It is not subject to time,and never seems to have a particular sense of...

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Ragdoll

by

Gerardine Baugh

Ragdoll flopping

Up and running fur flying

Walls, ceilings- my coffee


Gerardine Gail...

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To the Bottle Blonde in the White Car

by

Katelyn Thomas

I thought it was snowing in August until
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There Isn't Any Narcan In My Purse

by

Katelyn Thomas

She is
another
woman's
daughter.
She gives
her body,
would give
her soul -
funds
for one
more
hit.
...

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Losing You

by

Brigitte Whiting

They said there'd be a new normal
to which others nodded in agreement.
A cliché that implies losses are...

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Twilight

by

Brigitte Whiting

The last hour of dusk, while pine shadows
stretch and lengthen along the rocky shoreline,
and water laps and flows...

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Writing Excuses

by

Brigitte Whiting

I listen to the excuses, all of them finely honed.

He says, I'm reaching for a package of hamburger,
...

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First and Third Person

by

Andrew Dabar

She entered through one door
As he by another
Did cross a crowded floor
Strangers to each other

...

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Halloween Costume

by

Andrew Dabar

Another wolf in disguise
A pair of glowing eyes
Oh, cute little boy
Small as a toy
Let go...

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Why Poetry?

by

Luann Lewis

To capture a moment.
The moment a cool breeze lifts your hair.
The moment the scent of lilacs delights your...

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Why Flash?

by

Luann Lewis

Each story is like stepping through a door to an alternate dimension where time is out of proportion. Intellectually, I...

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Autumn Wind

by

Andrew Dabar

Late autumn wind
Whispering friend
You speak to my heart
Again and again
At times with the strongest of...

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Shellina ~ a Fairy Tale

by

Louise Saywer

Part I Bullrush Cove

The Bullrush Cove is a seaside nook,
Asleep in fairyland.
This summer eve...

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Knitting on the Corner in Winslow Arizona

by

Joyce Hertzoff

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Who Me?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Do They Make a Sound?

by

Gerardine Baugh

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Do you see what I see?

by

Albert Orjuela

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Frosty Morning

by

Gerardine Baugh

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Evening at the Beach

by

Kathryn Pollard

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March Nor'Easter #2

by

Brigitte Whiting

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First Morning Light

by

Albert Orjuela

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A View For All Faiths

by

Luann Lewis

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Feed Me

by

Gerardine Baugh

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A Mid-Winter's Summer Dream

by

Albert Orjuela

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Hitchcock Presbyterian Church at Night

by

Albert Orjuela

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Bodie Lighthouse at Sunset

by

RJ Hembree

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Croton Dam Waterfall

by

Albert Orjuela

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Itching for Your Love

by

Karen Barr

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Winter Tree

by

Hugo Janke

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Not So Fast...

by

Donna Sundblad

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First Encounters

by

Karen Barr

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Time To Shovel

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Natural Thoughts

by

Ann Butts

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Super Moon

by

Lina Sophia Rossi

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Get Your Own Flower

by

Albert Orjuela

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Frozen Puddle

by

Gerardine (Gail) Baugh

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Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

by

Cynthia Reed

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In Flight

by

Karen Barr

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This Guy Cracks Me Up

by

Albert Orjuela

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Cardinal in the Snow

by

RJ Hembree

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White Tailed Deer

by

Bert Piedmont

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Truck in a Field

by

RJ Hembree

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The Nose that Knows

by

Albert Orjuela

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All Roads Lead to Autumn

by

Albert Orjuela

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