A Poem by Joan Leotta

Languid Lusciousness with Lemon


Languid luscious
lines the tables at the peach vendor
table in the farmer’s market.
Rich with sweetness,
Peaches are waiting
on the sideboard
to be sliced
and impart
with each bite.
Yet, my cook’s instinct
notes those slices will need
a squeeze of lemon
to retain their color
when I fan them out
on the dessert plate.
Life’s sweetness stands out,
is oft best preserved
when accented with tart.



First published Silver Birch, October 2015 for its Sweet Word Series

The title poem in Joan’s 2017 FLP Chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon.

Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since her childhood in Pittsburgh, PA. Her first work published in a national magazine came at age 14—a poem in the Horn Book Magazine. Since then she has followed several career paths, turning to a dual career win writing and story performance as a stay-at-home Mom in the 1980s.
As a writer, Joan is a journalist, novelist, essayist, poet and playwright. Over the years, she has written on parenting, storytelling, and food among other topics, for local newspapers and local and national magazines wherever she has lived. Since moving to North Carolina twelve years ago, she shifted her focus to fiction and poetry. Joan’s Italian heritage is evident in the poems in this book and in most of her other writing. Her four historical novels from Desert Breeze publishing, The Legacy of Honor series, feature strong Italian-American women, food and family, during times of war.
Joan’s poems and picture books also celebrate food and family. Her poetry and essays appear in or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oak, Red Wolf, A Quiet Courage, the A-3 Review, Hobart Literary Review, Silver Birch, Postcard Poems and Prose among others. She has always considered writing for children as a high calling and in the past two years, THEAQLLC has published four of her picture books: Whoosh!, Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa’sShell.
Joan performs folk tales in schools, museums and festivals for children and adults. Her love for history comes out in performance of two different one-woman shows, one that depicts a strong woman in the Civil War era and another that shows life on the home front during the American Revolution.
Her tagline, “encouraging words through pen and performance” expresses a challenge to herself in her writing and stage work meaning that she wants to inspire the creativity of others with her work. To this end, she often gives classes to help others learn to tap into their creativity to express their thoughts on page and or stage.
When she is not chained to her computer, writing, you can find Joan walking on the beach, in the kitchen working on new recipes, or traveling with her husband, Joe, and daughter, Jennie.
You can reach her with comments, or to request a class or performance, though her blog site at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com and Joan Leotta, Author and Story Performer on Facebook.

Languid Lusciousness with Lemon is available from amazon:

A Poem by Dee Stribling



John Short comes back to me in dreams.

His big, rough hands stoked coal fires
for moonshine days and drunken nights.

He used to say, “Sweet pea, them crows
sure are talking this morning.”

Sleek black feather-backs catching the sun.
Sharing words spoken in croaks and whistles;
They perch, four of them, talking away.
They might as well have spectacles and cigars.
Something moves at a distance—perhaps a hawk?
Four piercing stares as wind sends sweet gum
balls to the ground. They turn on their branches
and watch the sky, stopping conversation for just
this moment. Then, with great fluffing of feathers,
they resume their visit and crow stories.

Small pleasures for hard times.

John and I would watch together.
His suspenders frayed, collarless shirt
stained with rivulets of tobacco juice.
Broken down boots still standing.



This poem first appeared in the chapbook Just Down the Road (Finishing Line Press.)

Dee Stribling is a writer of prose and poetry. A Sundress Academy for the Arts poetry winner her work has appeared in 200 New Mexico Poems and other collections. Additional poetry chapbooks include Appalachian Picture Book (Finishing Line Press) and Down East Picture Book (Horse & Buggy Press). Work in-progress includes a childhood memoir and more poetry. Her documentary about “The Why Nots” softball team (with Minnow Media) is slated for release soon. You can visit her online at www.facebook.com/PoetDStribling.

Just Down the Road by Dee Stribling is available at: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/just-down-the-road-by-dee-stribling/

A Poem by Shana Ritter



It is not always easy to divide a whole,
take the heart, its shape doesn’t allow
for it to be evenly cut in two.

My right hand is not a mirror of my left
the brain is tied by twisting chords to each
differently swirling fingertip.

Prime means one thing to Einstein another to Picasso
yet each disassembled the universe only to reassemble it
amidst cubes and circles, reasons and lines.

We are relative only to each other
my fingers to your hand, my eyes to your chin
the bend of my knees to the back of the chair.

Where is the pause where collision makes sense
the respite when nothing is divided by anything else
the moment we are made whole by the parts of ourselves.





Shana Ritter writes poetry and prose and pieces in between. Her chapbook, Stairs of Separation, is available from Finishing Line Press and her poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous magazines. Shana just received a grant from the Indiana Arts Council to support work on her novel about the Jewish diaspora from Spain in 1492. Her blog, Word by Word can be found at shanaritter.wordpress.com

Stairs of Separation is available from Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/stairs-of-separation-by-shana-ritter/

A Poem by Bruce W. Niedt

Mickey Mantle 1965

          (after “The Dance” by William Carlos Williams)


In John Dominis’ photo, “Mickey Mantle 1965”,
the great slugger, who has been struggling,
slouches slack-jawed toward the dugout,
another strikeout behind him, and his limp right wrist
has just flung his helmet, which hangs in the air
like a lopsided Frisbee, while the blond hairs
on his right forearm catch the afternoon light,
and maybe bad knees or the bottle have taken their toll,
but there is still something defiant about him,
as Clete Boyer waits on deck with two bats,
and the crowd is silent in the early summer haze,
in John Dominis’ photo, “Mickey Mantle 1965”.



This poem is from the chapbook Hits and Sacrifices, published by Finishing Line Press.

Bruce W. Niedt is a retired civil servant whose poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest, Rattle, Tiferet, the Lyric, Spitball, US 1 Worksheets, and the anthologies Best of the Barefoot Muse and Poem Your Heart Out. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. His latest chapbook, Hits and Sacrifices, is his second for Finshing Line Press.



Hits and Sacrifices is available from Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/hits-and-sacrifices-by-bruce-niedt-2/

Spend some time with Bruce Niedt’s baseball poems. Get to know ’em, pick out your favorites. They’ll become as familiar and comforting as the players in that big league lineup from your youth that still shows up in your dreams.

Mike Shannon, Editor, Spitball Magazine


As the first poem in this collection observes, every spring brings with it another receding hairline of snow beckoning us to take our seats in the bleachers. Bruce Niedt fields his team with a cast of characters that encompasses everyone from the steely-eyed closer to the guy hawking ice cream in the stands. Niedt is adept at adapting poetic forms to crystallize every aspect of the game, from the home team slump to the pitch that killed. He weaves the lore, superstitions, and drama of baseball into a big win for those who love the game.

Tammy Paolino, Poet and Journalist


Bruce W. Niedt’s new poetry collection, Hits and Sacrifices, is the next best thing to a live ballgame. As the signal between a pitcher and catcher transmutes to the glance between a guy and girl on the subway home; as an interned Japanese-American boy almost hits “a homer over the barbed wire fence”; as the August moon hangs like “a giant fly ball moving/on an imperceptible upward arc into the evening”- Niedt shows us that to know baseball is to know America. With humor, tenderness, and vivid imagery, Niedt brings us home to the diamond that democratizes us, all – from his groundskeeper, vendors, and fans to Mickey Mantle and Walt Whitman. His legends – of magic mud, the ball that never comes down, the bird clipped midair by a fastball – will surprise, touch, and enchant baseball fans, poetry lovers, and the newly initiated, alike. To borrow Bruce Niedt’s words about a hibernating ballpark: “Everything here echoes.”

Susanna Rich, Emmy-nominated poet for Craig Lindvahl’s Cobb Field: A Day at the Ballpark

A poem by Julene Tripp Weaver

The Sarcoma Scourge


There were whispers, “Mediterranean,

​​rare​ regional

​only old men get it.”


Karposi Sarcoma made marks

on gay men’s skin

tagged their torsos, branded their legs

made their face a target like wearing a

pink triangle

​a damn holocaust inside our bodies


disco getting a bad rap

poppers feared


my friend freaked when she heard

a lesbian got the virus.


Conspiracy theories leaked

from party balloons after hours


night clubs dying

friends calling in a panic

each new rash or bump


end of life predictions

angels came out from closets to

Act Up meetings, our new

Community, we had to have a say.


Keith Herring, known for his art,

died. It was 1990 with so many

losses, AZT equaled death


and our government officials

refused to say AIDS.

This filibuster infection activated us


to make noise, create buyers clubs.

We drank blood from organic liver

in an alley from a cooler


anything, to save our lives.





This poem first appeared in Truth Be Bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS (Finishing Line Press.)


Julene Tripp Weaver is a psychotherapist and a writer; she worked in AIDS services for over 21 years. Her third poetry book, Truth Be Bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, was published this spring by Finishing Line Press. Two prior books are No Father Can Save Her, and Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues. She is widely published in journals and anthologies. Her poems can be found online at: Anti-Heroin Chic, Riverbabble, River & South Review, The Seattle Review of Books, HIV Here & Now, and a creative nonfiction piece is published by Yellow Chair Press, In The Words of Women International 2016 Anthology. Find more of her writing at http://www.julenetrippweaver.com.

Out this spring from Finishing Line Press:  truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS
No Father Can Save Her, Plain View Press
Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues, Finishing Line Press
Available on Amazon.

Two Poems by Joan Hanna

I Was Born Blue


pushing through a membrane

of ether slithering

through my blood by way

of a clamped and cut

umbilical connection, leaving me

gasping until my lungs

expanded on their own.

When I caught my first breath,

I had already, finally,

broken from her. But every new

inhalation was a false start.

I cannot extract her from myself

with mere breath as this

unrepentant bloodline

leads me only to my mother dying

with so much left undone.

With each breath, I cut

unsigned agreements but her

disapproval sutures my guilt

to the bloodline oozing

from my pores. My life has become

a fractured mirror dance

turning me again and again

to her face, sullen like mine. Her hands,

swollen like mine. Her eyes: mine.




They said dragonflies

sew up little girl’s

mouths if they talk

too much.

I pressed

my teeth into my lips

until I could feel

blood pumping

like a stubborn


They laughed

saying, you’re so stupid

I understood what they

really meant, but

wouldn’t open my mouth

until it flew away.


was the first stitch.




Joan Hanna
has published poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, book reviews and essays in various online and print journals. Hanna’s first poetry chapbook, Threads, was named a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Both Threads and her second chapbook, The Miracle of Mercury, are available through Finishing Line Press. Hanna has previously served as Assistant Managing Editor for River Teeth, Assistant Editor, Nonfiction/Poetry for rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal, Managing Editor for Poets’ Quarterly and Senior Editor at Glassworks. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Ashland University in Ohio and teaches creative writing at Rowan University in New Jersey. You can follow her personal blog at Writing Through Quicksand: http://www.writingthroughquicksand.blogspot.com

The Miracle of Mercury is available at amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/MIRACLE-MERCURY-Joan-Hanna/dp/1944251375

Joan Hanna’s fidelity to the subjects of her poems—her ability to portray, in high resolution and with evocative power, the people and places that make up a passionate and compassionate life—is matched only by her talent for spinning lines and sentences that are always surprising, always sparkling with feeling and wit. Braiding the woof of personal experience to the warp of American public life, Hanna’s Threads offers a vivacious and enduring weave.

Peter Campion is Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota and author of Other People and The Lions.

Joan Hanna’s Threads weaves a tapestry of the everyday world and its rites of passages that each of us must pass through. But hers is a tapestry of deception, each thread made up of vivid images that resonate with Pound’s “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time,” and belie the ordinary with the perceptive and the careful heart.

Kathryn Winograd is the author of Air into Breath and Stepping Sideways Into Poetry.

is available at:   https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/threads-by-joan-hanna/

 A Poem by J. D. Smith



As if it weren’t enough to be itself,

A boneless fist evolved—condemned—to clench,

To pump some billion times or so between

The first translucent flutter in the womb

And a sudden stop or stuttering toward death,

The heart is faced with pressure from all sides.

Parts north and south would crown their colleague king

And cause of all their willing and their want.


The heart brooks none of this—it has a job

And isn’t looking for another one.

And democratic flattery will fail,

As somewhere in the heart a voice is heard

To say, “If nominated, I will not run

And, if I am elected, will not serve.”

For reasons of its own, the heart insists

With every pulse, “Not me. Not me. Not me.”


From The Killing Tree (Finishing Line Press)

J.D. Smith has published three previous collections, Labor Day at Venice Beach (2012), Settling for Beauty (2005), and The Hypothetical Landscape (1999). His books in other genres include the humor collection Notes of a Tourist on Planet Earth (2013), the essay collection Dowsing and Science (2011), and the children’s picture book The Best Mariachi in the World (2008). Awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, he has also been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His individual poems have appeared in The Able Muse, American Arts Quarterly, Dogwood, Light and Nimrod, as well as numerous other publications, and his prose has appeared in Boulevard, Chelsea, The Laurel Review and The Los Angeles Times. Born in Aurora, Illinois and educated at American University, the University of Chicago, Carleton University and the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, he works as an editor and writer in Washington, DC, where he lives with his wife Paula Van Lare and their rescue animals.


J. D. Smith’s poems are full of wit and doughty faith. As he says in “Upon a Birth,” we enter this world without, as far as we can tell, having any say in the matter; and the nature of things and our own limitations thwart our attempts to achieve fullnesss of being. Yet he also movingly observes that we persist in seeking goodness, truth, and beauty—narrowing in the process “the distance from the real to the ideal.” The Killing Tree is a triumph of life and art.

Timothy Steele
In his collection The Killing Tree, J. D. Smith deploys a vast array of poetic forms—including the kyrielle, sonnet, rondeau, rhymed couplets and quatrains, ghazal, ballade, triolet, monorhyme, villanelle, blank verse, and free verse—in investigations of personal crises and relationships, and musings on daily routines and failures of idealism, justice, and government. The poetic forms themselves exert their subtle pressure, condensing the carbon of experience to a gemlike polish that is by turns lyrical, musical, cynical, satiric, or moving. The wry humor of comparing a feeding frenzy at a koi pond to the trade show the speaker has just left (“Botanical Garden”) or of presenting the flip side of Dana Gioia’s “Pity the Beautiful” in a celebration of the ignored and undervalued (“Envy the Dutiful”) contrasts with the restrained grief of a sonnet on the loss of a child (“Elegy”) or a scathing portrait of scholars who smugly frame policy debates, but “step around the beggars stretched outside” (“Consultative”). From the personal to the political to the philosophical, there are poems here to suit a wide range of readers.

Susan McLean


The poems in J.D. Smith’s latest collection, The Killing Tree, exhibit an ear fine-tuned to the musicality inherent in a wide variety of received forms, including the sonnet, villanelle, ballade, rondeau, heroic couplet and triolet, as well as a keen eye for detail with which he depicts the many aspects of our common humanity.The exquisitely heart-rending sonnets, “Elegy” and “Drunkard Watched from an Upper Floor”, the humorous and self-deprecating ballade, “The Cool of ’94”, the incisive “Fragment from Zeno” and the trenchant “Missing a Vigil” are but a few examples of Smith’s excellent delineations of the broad themes of life, death, despair, time and social injustice. “At a Bistro”, a tour de force of wit and craftsmanship, itself is worth the price of admission. Part 3, where the title poem appears, is Smith’s scathing indictment of the status quo (“Century of Ideas”), and, in a series of pieces culminating in “Along the Potomac”, he excoriates the rampant political corruption of Washington, D.C. The repeated item on Smith’s prologue poem, “Agenda” is his desire “To be a string played by the wind”, that is, to act as an Aeolian harp, essentially acting as an instrument capturing the chaos of the wind’s vortices and translating them into song. The Killing Tree has done just that.

Catherine Chandler


A review by Barbara Egel in the Summer 2016 issue of Light:

The herb rue, while bitter on the tongue, has medicinal qualities, and in some cuisines adds flavor to dishes. Rue, meaning regret or sorrow, is—Merriam-Webster tells us—etymologically unrelated to the herb. J.D. Smith’s The Killing Tree is flavored with the sorrowful, second sort of rue, but like the first kind, it has soothing properties and a flavor one easily begins to savor. How does this book belong in a review of light verse? For one thing, the noun that most easily comes to mind accompanying the adjective “rueful” is “smile,” which is the expression I surely wore while reading his book. For another, Smith’s excellent formal control is used in service of illuminating the absurd, pricking the pompous, and pouring sugar in the engine of the daily grind. Smith offers in his latest work a perspective that fearlessly explicates the world’s sorrows and shames while also loving it—and making us love it—for its imperfections.

First of all, read this book simply for the lovely, if often sad, poems in it. I won’t go into great detail on these except to say that in the general sense of lightness, Smith’s touch is just that, even when the topics are heavy. “Upkeep,” which compares a couple’s financial precariousness with the beehive that’s attached itself to their window, showing its productive insides, is a rare poem that captures the chronic wear of hardship but without bathos or pity, just with facts. Smith just might be the laureate of the dashed-dreamed cubicle-dweller who is still surprised by ordinary beauty.

There are some truly—though still ruefully—funny poems in The Killing Tree. “Spinoza at Lenscrafters,” for instance, disorients the philosopher (who was himself a lens grinder, and, according to the internet, likely killed by a related lung condition) in a shopping mall. The idea of a painstaking life’s work being reduced to a mechanical hour’s wait among the Sbarros is almost as light as this book gets. But Smith is also, quietly, a fantastic parodist. His “Envy the Dutiful” considers the kids who were likely picked on by those in Dana Gioia’s “Pity the Beautiful,” and Smith decides (rightly, I think) who wins in the end. “The Cool of ‘94″ establishes the unlikely but probably-would-have-liked-each-other pairing of Villon and Cobain and shows the shallowness of our current world’s nostalgia for a time so recent I still have T-shirts from it.

A Washington D.C resident, Smith does not fail to skewer his city’s main industry. For example, “Citizen Vain” is a poem about a yuuuuuge personality very much in the news whom Smith drops neatly into Charles Foster Kane’s psyche. Smith has all sorts of subtle fun with the sexual psychopathologies both tycoons share, including giving feminine end rhymes to lines about virility: “His name writ large on thrusting towers,” and “Fresh wives imported like cut flowers.”

The Killing Tree offers a unique voice, one in which the poety ego is almost completely blocked from coming through. Instead, that random business traveler in the airport bar has his moment, as when contemplating “Monday in Las Vegas”:


Housekeeping finds stray bits of

What happens and stays here:

Pawn tickets and a red chip,

Three shoes and one brassiere.


Rating: ***** [5 of 5 Stars!]

The Killing Tree by J.D. Smith

#poetry #IndieAuthors