Issue 9: Harbor, Home, Hard Love—Summary, Contents & Editor’s Note

by on Aug 29, 2016


Issue 9: Harbor, Home, Hard Love (Jul-Aug 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)


I Am April — Tiffany Grantom

Gossamer — Jeanie Tomasko

composing for voice & breath — Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Westbound PA Turnpike — James Esch

Acutance — Jack Bedell

prairie storm — Debbie Strange

Texas Life Story, Six Words — Lisa Bubert

and if you sketched the view from here minus
 — Jeanie Tomasko

The Meeting Ran Long — Marie Craven

Multilingual — Steve Klepetar

The Elephant in the Room — Juliet Wilson

After Ekphrasis — Marie Landau

Geography of the Dream — Joan Colby

Talking You to Sleep — Margaret Holley

Sea Song — PJ Wren

Daydream — Olivier Schopfer

Moon Kisses — Kelsey May

Super Moon— Cathryn Essigner

In a Dark Room — Steve Klepetar

Once Upon a Time — Consuelo Arredondo,
 Cristina Ortiz, Ferrie = differentieel,
 Johann Mynhardt & Luis Rojas

My Cross — Chinua Ezenwa-Ohaeto

Skins — Mary McCarthy

ECT — Mary McCarthy

Ominous Dreams — Bill Waters

Only the Lonely — Marie Craven

old footbridge — Pravat Kumar Padhy

tequila sunset — Christina Sng

riddle of renewing — j.lewis

from Orchards — Marilyn McCabe

 afternoon at the beach — Jeanie Tomasko

Editor’s Note

Back to school. That’s why this note and issue wrap-up is so late. Should I tell you the dog ate my work? It’s a great excuse since dogs will eat anything: paper, plastic, Legos, spatulas, curtains, coffee tables, trash. Why not the last page of this issue?

So I’m back to school and already I hear this from my students: “Writing is boring.”

My mind short circuits. This simply does not compute.

Lately, I’ve tried responding with, “Why are you writing boring things? Try writing something interesting.”

This stumps them sometimes, but I figure why not? Many of my kids act like they want me to entertain them, but maybe they should try to entertain me.

This year, I’ll tell them to try to think like writers: entertain me, inform me, persuade me. Show me your world as only you know it.

Now here we are starting the second week of school and a few at least seem willing to try. Maybe I can find a seat in the back of the classroom, sit down and learn from what they’ve got to say.

It’s what I like to do here at Gnarled Oak, and so, thank you as always for writing and reading, for sending your work and letting me publish some of it. For letting me sit in the back and learn so much. It’s always an honor, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this issue as much as I did.

And for those of you teachers, students, and parents of school and college-aged kids, best of luck to you in the new school year, and may all your dogs keep their teeth off your work.

With gratitude and thanks,

James Brush, editor
Aug 2016


Gnarled Oak — Issue 9: Harbor, Home, Hard Love: Read onlineRead the PDF (right-click/save-as to download)

Shorts-and-long-sleeved-shirt-kinda-perfect-Sunday afternoon at the beach

by on Aug 23, 2016

here where everything is broken
[i] fragment of

sand dollar, sea star, clam
[I think] this day didn’t

start well
whelk, wrack, knotted wrack

knotted yes, unable to
tide, ebb, endless, crash

[I think I]
burrow like a sand crab

run from
like the small gulls

in and out, pursuit of
oyster, whorl of inner ear

[I think I finally]
the first thing I said

I picked up this shell for you and
you placed a small stone

in my hand,
harbor, home, hard love

washed up, wrack line
how all this broken

[I think I finally get
it] inside


Jeanie Tomasko is the author of a few poetry books, most recently (Prologue), the recipient of an Editor’s Choice award from Concrete Wolf Chapbook Series, and Violet Hours (Taraxia Press), a collection of the antics of a unique little girl. She can be found on her website (, walking around somewhere near Lake Superior with her husband, Steve, or enjoying the antics of her cats at home, where she endeavors to always have a bottomless honey jar, garlic from the garden and bees in the front yard hyssop.

from Orchards

by on Aug 22, 2016

(Watch Marilyn McCabe’s video “from Orchards” on Vimeo)


Marilyn McCabe’s new book of poems, Glass Factory, was published by The Word Works in Spring 2016. Her poem “On Hearing the Call to Prayer Over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning” was awarded A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize. Her book of poetry Perpetual Motion was published by The Word Works in 2012 as the winner of the Hilary Tham Capitol Collection contest. She blogs about writing and reading at

riddle of renewing

by on Aug 19, 2016

evergreen should always mean
a tree that doesn’t lose its leaves
not deciduous, nor bare in winter

but then there comes this riddle—
where does the forest floor
find its deep carpet of needles
tapestry of life unwinding
in tans and browns and grays
on their way to humus
providing life for the next
generation of giants

here is the wisdom of the question—
that which would continue green
must daily release anything
everything no longer needed
forget yesterday’s yearnings
focus on feeding the present
so tomorrow will not want

i would be an evergreen—
past deeds scattered on the wind
forgotten in favor of nurturing now
quietly letting the good i have done
become nutrient soil to my soul
and to those sheltered seedlings
sprung from me


j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. When he is not otherwise occupied, he is often on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in California.

old footbridge–

by on Aug 17, 2016


old footbridge–
the school kids busy counting
cherry blossoms


Pravat Kumar Padhy, a poet-scientist, did his Masters and Ph.D from IIT-Dhanbad, India. Work referred in Spectrum History of Indian Literature in English, Alienation in Contemporary Indian English Poetry etc. His Japanese short form poetry has appeared in many international journals. His poetry has won the Editors’ Choice Award at Asia-American Poetry, Poetbay, USA; Writers’ Guild of India; the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, Canada; UNESCO International Year of Water Co-operation; and the Kloštar Ivanić International Haiku Commendation award. Songs of Love: A Celebration, published by Writers Workshop, Calcutta is his latest collection of poetry.

Only the Lonely

by on Aug 16, 2016

(Watch Marie Craven’s video “Only the Lonely” on Vimeo)

Editor’s note: the text of the Neil Flatman poem “Only the Lonely” and his bio can be read at The Poetry Storehouse. Full credits at Vimeo.


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:

Ominous Dreams

by on Aug 15, 2016

Blood Moon
His stroll in the park is a shot in the dark. She sits on a bench under a light waiting for something to happen. Dramas such as this are enacted in parks everywhere. A full moon can seem like an omen, and a blood moon can feel like a curse. With the moon at my back I approach them — two people inexorably drawn together for a purpose that is still unclear.

The Curtain Rises
They toss the silent frisbee back and forth on this still summer evening. The gunman in the window views it as a moving target not unlike a clay pigeon. The purpose of an object is ultimately made clear only in how it is used. A quiet street is like a stage in an open-air theater. I like theater and wonder how this play will end.

Storm Warning
They surge past the guards and form a crowd in front of the embassy building. You step out onto the balcony and prepare to address them. Scenes such as this are always more dramatic in a movie or a 1930s newsreel. Some say a car backfiring sounds like a gunshot. I drive out of the picture as my car, half-stalling, backfires again and again.


Bill Waters, a lifelong poet and writer, lives in Pennington, New Jersey, U.S.A., with his wonderful wife and their three amazing cats. You can find more of his writing at Bill Waters ~~ Haiku and Bill Waters ~~ NOT Haiku.


by on Aug 12, 2016

After their treatments
I woke empty and blind
as an egg, so fragile
I had to be careful
not to break anything
that didn’t belong to me.
I forgot my own name
but no one else’s.
Nothing would stay with me.
All my old associations
were bled out
reduced to strangers
I’d swear I never met.
What good was this cruel robbery
supposed to do?
Make me more careful
to stay inside the lines
and stop complaining
before you can come up
with another cure
worse than this.


Mary C McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work included in many online and print journals, including Expound, Third Wednesday, Earth’s Daughters, The Evening Street Review, and Caketrain.


by on Aug 11, 2016

You wore me down
like sandpaper
reducing all my knots
and splintered edges
to a surface so bland
and smooth
no one would suspect
it had ever been anything
but innocuous.
Still I remember
that old skin
rough and graceless
marked by scars
and strange tattoos
like the autographs
of inquisitors
eager for confession.
Now I am domesticated
beyond suspicion
and I get no second glances
moving easily
among the wolves
perfect in this harmless


Mary C McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had work included in many online and print journals, including Expound, Third Wednesday, Earth’s Daughters, The Evening Street Review, and Caketrain.