The Teenager Who Became My Mother

by on Jan 19, 2017

The teenager who became my mother had a way of feeling, seeing and hoping.
It was hope in particular rafted her through the war.
She was not one-eyed either were her hairs curly,
She had a body of one colour: black.
I remember when I asked her if she has ever seen anyone die.
She moved her head up and down: A kind of Yes.
She said she saw five and twenty and more;
That most of them drowned inside of her.

I looked her in the eyes after she had exhausted her dying tales before me.
I saw the teenager who became my mother
and was a graveyard for those drowned inside of her
to see us crawl through the war.


Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto is a Nigerian who likes reading and writing.

The Past Is Not Where I Left It

by on Jan 18, 2017

Last time I saw it, it was shivering in blackness
wrapped tight in layers of shame
squeezed small with no room to breathe
locked up as he never would be.

I searched that space, that hole, that valley.
And in its place, the compressed past
formed diamonds so hard and bright
I placed them in my eyes and faced forward.


Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK  who believes in the therapeutic value of short creative works. She has published flash fiction, short stories and poetry online and in print. In 2016 she was shortlisted for the Brighton Prize for flash fiction. She can be found at

Natural Outlaws

by on Jan 17, 2017

I. Hubble’s Law

The Universe’s overriding impulse is to back away. The further that galaxies are from each other, the faster they move to increase that separation. For almost fourteen billion years, the Universe has been accelerating away from connection, away from communion. This makes me immeasurably sad: what could be lonelier than a Universe full of galaxies whose first principle is to recede from one another at an ever increasing speed?

II. Length contraction

If you make a long bus go fast enough, you can enclose it in a short barn. You need to be snappy with the doors, though. By this logic, you can fit a metre rule in a thimble if your sleight of hand moves likes lightning. You can even stick a length of swiftly moving truth in the fine cracks across your beliefs.

III. Illumination

Seeing is subtraction. Leaves are green only because of all the colours of light, green is the only hue the leaf refuses to embrace. It happily absorbs enlightenment from red to violet, gaining heat and energy whilst hopscotching over the middle ground of green. And so it is that a black hole accepts all, absorbs all, embraces every colour, every wavelength of light.  Likewise, white results from complete indifference, lack of engagement at any frequency, deflecting away every encounter with the light.


Melissa Fu grew up in Northern New Mexico and now lives Cambridgeshire, UK. Skeletons in her closet include a couple of physics degrees and many valiant but disastrous attempts at classroom teaching. Learn more at or

Issue 11 Call for Submissions

by on Nov 30, 2016

This is the Official Call for Submissions for Issue 11 of Gnarled Oak, which will start in January and be an unthemed issue.

Gnarled Oak accepts poetry, prose, videos and artwork. I don’t impose rules on what is and isn’t acceptable (other than the no hate speech, no pornography one), but as a general guideline, I tend to favor shorter works, which for our purposes means poems of less than 20 lines, prose less than 1000 words, and videos less than 7 minutes long. Regarding form and style, I’m open to almost anything. Check out previous issues to get a sense of things.

I’ll be reading for Issue 11 through December 31 and plan on starting the issue the week of January 9 January 16. Please visit the Submissions page for more in-depth guidelines. I look forward to seeing what comes this way, and I hope you’ll send something and help spread the word. Thank you.

2016 Pushcart Nominations

by on Nov 29, 2016

Here are Gnarled Oak’s six Pushcart nominees for 2016 in order of appearance. I hope you’ll go back and reread them:

Ghosts of Home by Kim Mannix (from Issue 6: Cosmology)

Cosmology by Laura M. Kaminsky (from Issue 6: Cosmology)

Sister Speed Racer and the Silent Brides of Christ by Michael Whiteman-Jones (from Issue 6: Cosmology)

Worried Man Blues by Harold Whit Williams (from Issue 8: The Somnambulist’s Notebook)

Gossamer by Jeanie Tomasko (from Issue 9: Harbor, Home, Hard Love)

The Animals Are Gone by Steve Klepetar (from Issue 10: Dark Water)

Congratulations to these authors and my sincerest thanks to them and everyone who allows me the honor of publishing their work at Gnarled Oak.

Issue 10: Dark Water—Summary, Contents & Editor’s Note

by on Nov 28, 2016


Issue 10: Dark Water (Oct-Nov 2016) is an unthemed issue featuring poetry, prose, videos, and artwork from writers and artists around the world.

Read online | Read the PDF (click to read online, right-click & save-as to download)


Inkchester — Jo Waterworth

‘A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday’
 — Howie Good

Ocean Watch — Mary McCarthy

Crossing — Alan Perry

Dark Water — Martha Magenta

There Is a Season #2 — Steve Tomasko

Shaky Hands — Cheyenne Bilderback

still not yet done — Adjei Agyei-Baah

Jake Forgets It — Todd Mercer

on that bench — Debbie Strange

Night of the Dead — Annie Prevost

Two Years Ceased — Ann Howells

What If a Tree — Richard Weaver

One Dream Opening into Many — Marie Craven

We Sat Outside — Jean Morris

With the County — Robert Joe Stout

Inside Job — Steve Tomasko

Purple Angel Bottom — Howie Good

Warm #115 — Darren C. Demaree

@ The Limekiln State Park II — Samantha Tetangco

monsoon — Goran Gatalica

Your Shadow — Jean Morris

Shorty, the Crow — Tricia Knoll

License — Larry D. Thacker

The Animals Are Gone — Steve Klepetar

in your old backyard — Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco

a new silk scarf — Mary Kendall

love note — Christina Sng

Positive Vibration — John L. Stanizzi

Taking Off — Olivier Schopfer

Editor’s Note

I am a bit surprised that Gnarled Oak has made it to ten issues. When I launched it two years ago, I had no idea if I would even get any submissions let alone enough to publish even one issue. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that we’ve made it this far, and during this post-Thanksgiving season here in the US, let me just say how thankful I am for everyone who entrusts Gnarled Oak with their work and all who read and share this journal. My sincerest thanks.

In addition to post-Thanksgiving, it’s also post-election season here in the US. It’s been an ugly one for sure and it seems the internet has exploded with vitriol, fake news, propaganda, and poorly fact-checked memes. Fortunately, Gnarled Oak has helped keep me sane and hopefully you as well. It seems we’re navigating some dark waters indeed, something I wasn’t thinking of when I selected the title for this issue, but it seems apt on many levels.

When I started this project I wanted to add a bit of light and beauty to this little backroads corner the internet. And so we’ll continue with that project amid the ugliness around. Now more than ever. Thank you all for being a part of this.

With gratitude and thanks,

James Brush, editor
Nov 2016


Gnarled Oak — Issue 10: Dark Water: Read onlineRead the PDF (right-click/save-as to download)

Taking Off

by on Nov 25, 2016



Olivier Schopfer lives in Geneva, Switzerland, the city with the huge lake water fountain. He likes capturing the moment in haiku and photography. His work has appeared in The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2014 as well as in numerous online and print journals. He also writes articles in French about etymology and everyday expressions at Olivier Schopfer raconte les mots.

Positive Vibration

by on Nov 24, 2016

             East Hartford, Connecticut

I threw bricks at the windows of the school,
and I stole a plastic skeleton from
the Prospect Drug just before Halloween.
I started smoking Kents when I was 12,
and when the Scout leaders had trusted me
to sort the uniforms in the basement
I thought it would be a good idea to
dress up like a Girl Scout and make Greg laugh.
Of course I got caught in my skirt and blouse
by Father Shanley, who called me a snake.
They finally tossed me out in the eighth grade.
The vibrations of the Beach Boys were good,
but years would pass before I really knew
what the positive ones were all about.


John L. Stanizzi is the author of Ecstasy Among Ghosts, SleepwalkingDance Against the WallAfter the Bell, and Hallelujah Time!  His poems have appeared in American Life In Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Rust + Moth, The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and others.  He teaches literature at Manchester Community College.  Find him online at

a new silk scarf

by on Nov 22, 2016



Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and her dog. Mary is a retired teacher. Her poetry has appeared in many online and print journals and she is the author of Erasing the Doubt, published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. Mary is co-author of A Giving Garden published in 2009. Her poetry blog is A POET IN TIME.