Issue 3: Blue Vegetarian Lions—Summary, Contents & Editor’s Note

by on May 25, 2015


Issue 3: Blue Vegetarian Lions (Apr-May 2015) 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)


Love Is in the Air — Neil Ellman

crescent moon — Laurie Kolp

Column — Janet & Cheryl Snell

& in the dream — Marcia Arrieta

Everything but the Sky — Swoon

That Sinking Feeling — Joseph Farley

Solar Therapy — Michele S. Cornelius

To: That Bird So Small I Mistook You for a Floater — Barbara Young

The Trees in Buena — Seth Jani

He Realized the City Was the Abstraction — W. Jack Savage

Rendered — Richard King Perkins II

Mary at 30 Thinks about 60 — Kenneth Pobo

Mary at 60 Remembers 30 — Kenneth Pobo

Sisters — Shloka Shankar

Penelopiad — Jade Anouka

These Hands — Debbie Strange

Buddha & Co. — Howie Good

Wastage — Bill Waters

Poem Without Words — Dick Jones

Camberwell Old Cemetery — Jean Morris

waxing moon — Eric Burke

Omen — Sonja Johanson

The Episodic West — W. Jack Savage

Errant — Lawrence Elliott

Sakura Yama — Bobie (Yves Bommenel)

microwords — Herb Kauderer

Ode to a Writing Prompt — Yoni Hammer-Kossoy

Fish in Bowls Are Like Bears in a Circus — Trish Saunders

Holding the Moon — Laura M. Kaminski

On the Beauty of Nature — Dane Cervine

Ode to a Bee — Michele S. Cornelius

Hidden Flowers — Laura M. Kaminski

pick-your-own — Julie Bloss Kelsey

The Red Drum — Marie Craven

Editor’s Note

It was probably early November, back in ‘96, one of the best times of year here in Austin when the summer heat has broken and the first cold fronts start rolling in. I was in grad school at UT Austin at the time and one especially nice day my fellow students and I filed into the bare off-white room with the scuffed up walls and mismatched chairs somewhere in the bowels of the Communications Building where our weekly graduate screenwriting seminar met.

Our professor, Robert Foshko—Uncle Bob, after he and my aunt married a few years prior—usually started with some story from his years working as a writer and producer during the golden age of TV that would serve to illuminate and somehow tie together our weekly discussion. Or perhaps he would talk about some obscure film from which we could all learn something about writing, and then we would dive into our pages and the critique of the good, bad and ugly in all our writing. Bob wasn’t afraid to tell us where we’d gone wrong or to tell us what we had done well either, which for some teachers is the harder trick.

He was unyielding in his demand for our best work and always honest in his assessments yet kind at the same time. You always knew he was on your side even when your writing that week was lousy. Though I abandoned screenwriting for poetry and fiction, the lessons I learned in his class have continued to influence my writing and my teaching.

He was forever reminding us not to be afraid to leave things unsaid, to show and not tell. Our audiences are smart people, he’d tell us. They will figure things out and appreciate your letting them do so.

But on that particular November day, he stared at us with his inscrutable expression, took a deep breath as if about to gently tear into some especially egregious writing and then did the seemingly unthinkable. He said, “You know, it’s a beautiful day out there. And you people are young. Go outside and enjoy yourselves today.”

I didn’t go to the library to read for my other classes. I didn’t study or write. I hopped on my bike and rode all over Austin that sunny autumn afternoon. We made up for that day of course, nothing is free after all, but years later, I still think it was one of the best things I learned in grad school.

Bob died unexpectedly earlier this month. It’s a painful blow to the whole family and to the many of us who loved him, but I found some measure of solace in this issue of Gnarled Oak.

All of the amazing work contained in this issue was selected and the order (mostly) set before he died, but somehow the work that came in the weeks after Bob’s passing helped me. It’s a strange serendipity, I know, but it makes me all the more grateful to have the honor and privilege to publish this journal and be able to fill it with such fine work. So, as always, my sincerest thanks to all who submitted and contributed work, all those who read Gnarled Oak, comment and share it with friends and networks. I can’t thank you enough.

Now, go outside and enjoy yourselves today. See you in July.

With gratitude and thanks,

James Brush, editor
May 2015


Gnarled Oak — Issue 3: Blue Vegetarian Lions: Read online | Read the PDF (right-click/save-as to download)

The Red Drum

by on May 21, 2015

(Watch Marie Craven’s video of “The Red Drum” on Vimeo)

Editor’s note: the text of the Cristina Norcross poem “The Red Drum” and her bio can be read at The Poetry Storehouse.

Marie Craven is a media maker and musician from the Gold Coast, Australia. She has been engaged in online collaboration since 2007 and has contributed to works with artists in many different parts of the world. Website:

Hidden Flowers

by on May 19, 2015


as children we would
hide, remove our headscarves
in the shade of the mimosa
we picked vibrant pink blossoms,
threaded them into our braids


Laura M. Kaminski grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing; more about her poetry can be found at The Ark of Identity.

On the Nature of Beauty

by on May 15, 2015

Linda and I by the woodpile
entranced by a beautiful dragonfly—
green head and speckled body
caught in a spider web,
wings wrapped in sticky silver,
dangling in air from the shed roof.

As we begin to unwrap the dead jewel
it springs suddenly to life,
one wing freed, fluttering madly,
the other still ensnared.

As the dragonfly in a single movement
twists and is free, our cat Sara,
lurking nearby in the purple sage,
leaps an impossible distance

and inches from our startled faces
catches the dragonfly in her teeth,
runs into the yard as though
she were the most beautiful god
in the world.


Dane Cervine was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Poetry Prize, won the 2013 Atlanta Review Poetry Prize, and the 2013 Morton Marcus Poetry 2nd Prize. His new book is entitled How Therapists Dance, from Plain View Press (2013), which also published his previous book The Jeweled Net of Indra.  His poems have been chosen by Adrienne Rich and Tony Hoagland for awards, and appeared in a wide variety of journals including The Hudson Review, The SUN Magazine, Sycamore Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, Red Wheelbarrow, numerous anthologies, newspapers, video & animation. Look for his essays at TriQuarterly, CONTRARY, and The Turning Wheel. Visit his website at Dane Cervine Writes

Holding the Moon

by on May 14, 2015

The child with a jar
is an emperor
in the eyes of other children
on a night filled with fireflies.

Fireflies are resilient
and even nature
is forgiving
when faced with a small boy holding
the moon in the palm of his hand.


Laura M. Kaminski grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing; more about her poetry can be found at The Ark of Identity.

Fish in Bowls Are Like Bears in a Circus

by on May 13, 2015

Children, it’s been many summers
since I took you sailing across
Kaneohe Bay.

The glass bottom boat frightened,
then enthralled you,
when schools of yellow tang

rose beneath your feet
you pleaded for a net, a pole, but,

“fish in bowls are like bears in a circus,”
intoned the captain and I agreed.
You hated us a little for that.

Children, can I help you recapture your innocence?
I would reverse the boat,
trail a bowl through the deep cold blue.

You remember being bored only,
life jackets tied too tightly
across narrow chests.

You wanted to hold liquid sun
in your hands for a moment,
that’s all.


Trish Saunders began writing poetry after working as a journalist, technical writer, and caregiver for her aged parents. She has poems published or forthcoming in Silver Birch Press, Blast Furnace Press, Off The Coast, and Carcinogenic Poetry.

Ode to a Writing Prompt

by on May 12, 2015

it was red week
at nursery school
and my daughter
brought home
a red folder full
of red lions
painted in that
irony-free red
on flip chart paper
I asked her what
about apples
and fire trucks
or shirts or maybe
a crimson sunset
over a ruby island
in a coral sea
and she said no
just lions because
they are the best
and red is
her best color
she was beamingly
proud of her lion
family even the baby
and mommy lions
are red she said
showing their
long red hair
and fancy bows
and when I asked her
if there are any
blue lions she said
yes but actually
they also turn red
from the blood
they eat for dinner
and even the blue
vegetarian lions
could play
in the forest
and didn’t need
to be afraid
of the red lions


Originally born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Yoni Hammer-Kossoy has been living in Israel for the last 16 years with his wife and three kids. Poems by Yoni have recently appeared in The Harpoon Review, The Jewish Literary Journal, Stoneboat Journal and Bones Haiku. Yoni also writes on Twitter as @whichofawind where he experiments recreationally (but responsibly) with various short poetic forms.


by on May 11, 2015

I long to write little poems
for the interstitial spaces
of atomic structure

small & unfamiliar places
where I can sculpt words unrecognized
and free from censorship

I’m ready to create a new vocabulary

a language written in orbits
& charms & charges

but the censors are one step
ahead of me again
and the guards

outside the particle accelerator
know my face
& they have orders
to shoot to kill


Herb Kauderer is a retired Teamster who grew up to be an associate professor of English at Hilbert College. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and has published a lot.