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Birch Trees Circling a Clearing

In Issue 73 by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

I’m hiking with a friend on a trail next to a reservoir. On one side of us blue water, on the other, several white birch, striking amidst the dense foliage. I stop to take photos, the white streaks like long strokes of paint in a landscape of darker hues. I walk up to one, the scabbed bark so much more apparent on a closer view.

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Chasing Blue Butterflies

In Issue 73 by Marianne Dalton

With his arms outstretched toward the open window, Dad chuckles like a little boy. I released another one! I clap my hands in support just as a thin ray of golden light shines into my eyes. As I walk over to the shimmering window and peer out through the bronzed dreamy sunlight, I see the front yard of my childhood home.

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Daughter of the Hibernian Isle

In Issue 72 by David Kennedy

Among the well-bred and refined ladies of San Francisco, the prevailing opinion was that there could be no better sport than the breach of contract suit filed by Sarah Althea Sharon, née Hill, against Senator William Sharon. Let the men have their boxing-matches, the boys their football games — why, this was entertainment of the highest order, a clash in the greatest rivalry of all, that between the sexes.

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In the Fourth Quarter

In Issue 72 by Linda Schifino

I was sitting at my kitchen counter munching on leftover pizza when my phone pinged with a text. A dear friend was offering condolences on the death of another friend. My pizza dropped from my hand, and my breath caught in my chest. I had been away recently, distracted for a few weeks with travel plans, exhausted after returning home. Just the day before I thought about emailing my friend but didn’t get around to it. Now, she’s gone.

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Pa Bliye Haiti

In Issue 71 by Christopher Parent

In the summer of 2010, my wife, Melissa, and I set off for Jacmel, Haiti, a port city of around 137,000 people that sits on the country’s Southern coast and about 40 kilometers from Port-au-Prince. It was seven months after an earthquake had made a desperate nation look apocalyptic and ravaged an already fragile infrastructure. Jacmel was damaged but serene in comparison to Port-au-Prince, where the streets were blocked by debris and traffic medians were filled with displaced residents sleeping in USAID tents.

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The Strange Case of the Love Contract

In Issue 71 by David Kennedy

It took everything in Justice Stephen Field’s power to restrain himself from laughing.
“In the City and County of San Francisco, State of California,” the document stated, “on the 25th day of August, A.D. 1880, I Sarah Althea Hill, of the City and County of San Francisco, State of California, age 27 years, do here in the presence of Almighty God, take Senator William Sharon, of the State of Nevada, to be my lawful and wedded husband, and do here acknowledge and declare myself to be the wife of Senator William Sharon of the State of Nevada.

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Kintsukuroi

In Issue 71 by Trina Chapman

The rush over, the news relayed, decisions pending, I peered over at the sack hanging on the side of the bed that held the blood leaking from my son’s kidney and felt helpless. I looked down at his body on the hospital bed, the size of a man now. As a teenager, he hadn’t really wanted me near him for a couple of years, but there lay his hand, so small to me now, though an adult size.

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Sparks of Hope

In Issue 70 by Michael McQuillan

Mind discerns God’s glory in sublime dawn’s slanting sun. Stiff legs spring toward fleeting sight. Arrival evokes awe, till tears at fading light. Glass pane frames what I perceive, renews what I believe, what Hebrew Prophets fervently conceived, as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount decreed: God’s work on Earth is ours.

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The Irishman

In Issue 70 by Anna West

I never knew your name. I don’t need to know it to remember, your wild heart branded my soul. The first time I saw you, my family and nine other souls working on the construction of a large water catchment project in Kenya were riding in an old armored van given to us by the British Army. We were crossing the Rift Valley on our way back from Nairobi, travelling toward the Aberdare Ranges where we lived.

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All Roads Lead To Istanbul

In Issue 70 by John RC Potter

In the early 1990s on a frosty winter’s weekend, I attended an international school job fair at Queen’s University. I had only been teaching in Canada for a few years, but there had been a freeze on salary for teachers in the Province of Ontario.

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Goodnight Children

In Issue 69 by Krista Schumacher

At twenty-three, I packed my car with an air mattress and bedding, a pot and pan, a few dishes, knives, forks and spoons, two small lamps, all the clothes I could fit into a large suitcase, a new pair of hiking boots, and my black lab mix. My sister and brother-in-law pulled their coats tight against the brisk March wind while I finished loading Ziggy. We hugged goodbye in the parking lot of an Oklahoma City IHOP, Kim wiping away tears and Bill smiling warmly. “Good luck,” he said as I closed the driver’s side door.

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Long-Distance Learning

In Issue 69 by Frank Light

That old-time feel of can in hand loosens tongues as much as the contents do—our first beer and really our first chance to kick back since the two-day drive from Kabul last month. This is September 1971, Farah province on the border with Iran. Keynote honors go to the eldest: your humble servant. Sitting on the landing outside Werner’s room, I begin by saying Afghanistan was a big mistake.

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Blind Soil

In Issue 69 by Millie Ford

An apartment dweller for forty years, I learned to navigate labyrinth hallways, steep staircases balancing bags of groceries, elevator caverns without eye contact. Every door the same, spread out like beads on a necklace, never a precious gem to hold. Then, I bought a townhouse.

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Dismantling Rollo Bay

In Issue 68 by Karin Doucette

Here, in a wallpapered room under a dark mansard roof, the voice of the wind outside lifts and twirls memories in me of the humble farmhouse that I once called home. Still my heart’s home.
It’s in Rollo Bay, only thirty miles down the road. But a lifetime away. Tomorrow I will go there.

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Baseball and Ballet

In Issue 68 by Andrew Sarewitz

Parents want the best for their children, unless they’re psychopaths (the adults, I mean). But sometimes what a parent wants is what they believe is best, without recognizing where a child’s head and heart really are.

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Paradigm Shift

In Issue 67 by Michael McQuillan

Holy light fills window’s tree at dawn. Autumn leaves as angels embrace our white-haired God. There is peace as people sleep. I pray. May heart’s compassion bridge mental walls to unite and not divide. The youthful idealism mourned in my bones with Gandhi’s maxim to “be the change you wish to see in the world” mandates clarity: what values dear to me must I enact to infuse good where I can?

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My Whole Heart

In Issue 67 by Krista Lee Hanson

My son’s kindergarten teacher was a big, bearded man, generous with hugs and laughter. His old-school version of early education focused on teaching kids how to love each other and share, how to be kind to each other and silly together. He taught them to run and fetch a seat for a visitor and to pay compliments to everyone.

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You Are Your Only Competition

In Issue 67 by Swetha Amit

During my initial days of running, I’d look at the runners on the road and wonder why I was not as fast as them. Bitten by the competitive bug, I’d try and match up to their speed and experience a temporary high of overtaking them until all the air was sucked out of my lungs. The pain of watching them run past me was nothing compared to the injuries and niggles I faced later.

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Redemption

In Issue 66 by Emil Rem

It was almost six in the evening as he stared out of the large bay window of his sons’ 34th-floor suite in Essex House. Central Park sprawled beneath him.

As the sun set on the park, it too was setting on the penultimate day of their Christmas sojourn in Manhattan. The trees turned copper under the fading sun.

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Life in the Liminal

In Issue 66 by Clint Martin

I’m on my back. Lazing between sleep and awake, dream and reality. It’s morning’s blurry edge, so comforter reaches cheeks, just below closed eyes. Right leg stretches uncovered, cool in our hotel room’s conditioned air. Left side warmed by wife’s breathing body. Florida’s proud light spills into the room, so behind shut lids, it’s not dark. It’s red.

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My Supposed Amish Life

In Issue 66 by Marianne Dalton

I stood like a marble statue, reverential and composed when that Amish horse and buggy came within inches of me. The driver, passengers, and even the horse glided past me unfazed, as if floating on air. Now, moments later, and alone on this rural road, there’s an even greater serenity in me. My mood mirrors the tranquil violet-blue sky darkening overhead.

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Blue Sky and Britches

In Issue 65 by Ned Weidner

Whenever it rained, my grandma always used to say, “If there is enough blue in the sky to stitch a pair of britches, it is going to get sunny again.” As a child I didn’t know what that meant.
I looked up into the sky and cried. How much blue is needed to make britches, I asked myself. Heck…I wasn’t even sure what britches were. They are pants right? Jeans? Or do those old school cotton pants count too? In any case, I didn’t understand. How was I to know when the good times were going to roll again, if I didn’t know how to stitch?

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What Does It Take to Swim Around Manhattan?

In Issue 64 by Julie Labuszewski

August 19, 1989 in the East River
My breathing to the right. My breathing to the left. My breathing to the right. My breathing to the left. My escort boat on my right with the official race observer, the boat captain, Coach Foster, and my dad. My dad concerned about his twenty-seven-year-old daughter in a 28 ½-mile, non-stop race around Manhattan Island. My coach reassuring my dad.

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Lucky Number 57

In Issue 64 by Kimberly Horg

Nowadays, it might be hard to imagine food tasting so terrible that you must cover the taste to eat it. Sad but true. Many people lived with dirty water and tainted food in the 1800s. It was a leading cause of death. Much of society drank alcohol daily because they had no other choice; clean drinking water was not an option, and soda and sparkling water were yet to be invented.