Dan Overgaard: “Lift”





I hear some geese
way high above the house,
and take it as a signal I should
give the weeds a break,
straightening up to watch
their raucous progress
stitching across the sky.

It’s May and they’re heading north,
but their noisy vee seems like
the shake-down run of a new team—
exuberant and slightly ragged,
happily, loudly, running drills,
all that rah-rah energy of a new season.

The lead goose looks back over
his or her wing as if to yell
at the kids on the bus, and veers a little,
doing this. Her wobble’s copied precisely
all the way out the right side of the vee—
and last goose whipsaws, like the last kid
in a game of Crack the Whip.

According to the Scientific American,
scientists still do not agree on how to describe
the basic principles of lift, what keeps
planes in the air. If I spoke Goose I could help
them investigate, but I can see from here
it takes a lot of practice.



About the Author: Dan Overgaard was born and raised in Thailand. He attended Westmont College, dropped out, moved to Seattle, became a transit operator, then managed transit technology projects and programs. He’s now retired and catching up on reading. His poems have appeared in Santa Clara Review, Sparks of Calliope, Across The Margin, The Galway Review, Shark Reef, Willawaw Journal, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Canary Lit Mag, Allegro Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review and other journals. Read more at: danovergaard.com.


More by Dan Overgaard:

Drifting Off



Image Credit: Digitally enhanced image from The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands:. London :printed for C. Marsh [etc.]1754. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Ronnie Sirmans: “Cygnus”






    Homo homini lupus.
    (A man is a wolf to another man.)
                – Latin proverb

We think we are wolves.
I often don’t see the lupine
although I know most of us
can live quite carnivorously.
But the ravenous I admire
comes from the Latin cygnus.
A man is a swan to another man.

Wolves can pull like vicious tides,
while swans push wakes of silence.
Canine hairs scatter like fallen leaves,
while feathers are a welcome snow.
Swans carry a grace of awareness.
Whether ivory or ebony or other hues,
their bodies can iridescently blind us.

A swan is a man is a wolf too.
A man drowned when a swan
protecting his mate overturned
the thin kayak and kept the man
from swimming safely ashore.
Old wives’ tales (and old husbands)
say male swans who are defending
a mate, a nest, or their supposed honor
can break a man’s arm—or his heart.
Swans will hiss. Swans can bite.
You say: but they have no teeth.
Let me tell you, they do, they do.


About the Author: Ronnie Sirmans is an Atlanta print newspaper digital editor whose poems have appeared in Tar River Poetry, Deep South Magazine, Atlanta Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Fathom, and elsewhere.


More by Ronnie Sirmans:

Sloughing Words

The Word with the Schwa that’s Really a Short U

Remembering the Great Flood in the Frozen Food Aisle


Image Credit: Digitally enhanced image from A natural history of birds London :Printed for the author, at the College of Physicians in Warwick-Lane,MDCCXLIII-MDCCLI [1743-1751, i.e. 1750-1776?] Public Domain. Image courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Melody Wang: “When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow”




When I Die, Liken Me to the Sparrow

Tread lightly near the clearing in fading
light; there is no telling which plants
contain pure poison nestled in
waxy-smooth petals and stems

Pretend not to notice striated pink-purple flowers
strewn about the forest floor — unsuspecting
creatures pulled from their nesting
place and tossed aside as an afterthought

Seek and find near a clump of irises: the cold
sparrow, cramped on its side, lurid flesh showing
more than it had in life, features oddly twisted and
sleep-softened eyes closed eternally

Revel in the sacred realization that it belongs
to the earth now, requiring neither proper burial
nor the slightest acknowledgment of the fact
that it is no longer among the living



About the Author: Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She is a reader for Sledgehammer Lit and can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.


More by Melody Wang:

All that My Mother Cultivates


Image Credit: Illustration from “Coloured illustrations of British birds, and their eggs” London :G.W. Nickisson,1842-1850. Public Domain. Image courtesy of The Biodiversity Heritage Library

Kerry Trautman: “Context”





“Different musics respond to knocked-on silences”  –Sarah Gridley

Outside air becomes glass when
Spring’s first red-wing

blackbird shudders its voice
into the chilled void—

the song to be lost
come July with its

humid white-noise
of crickets, honeybees

and cardinals.
My toddler’s

cry of no-no ping-pongs
off midnight bedroom

walls in small eruptions
of panicked confusion,

and just as I wake
enough to step from quilts,

I know already
nothing is there.



About the Author, Kerry Trautman: I am a poetry editor for Red Fez, and my work has appeared in various anthologies and in journals, including The Fourth River, Gasconade Review, Midwestern Gothic, Paper & Ink, Third Wednesday, and Think Journal. My poetry books are, Things That Come in Boxes (Kingcraft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To Be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.)


Image Credit: Digital remixing of an illustration from A History of North American Birds. Boston :Little, Brown,1905. biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12887556. Creative Commons License 2.0.

Samuel Prestridge: “Feeder”




Scrabbling colors–birds rioting seed,
a broadcast punctuated
by squirrels
                         as I hand feeders
from limbs, rails, poles, to my short wife.
She fills them, hands them back,
a Saturday task done
for luck, for variegated finches;
dull republican sparrows; blue jays,
braying fundamentalists; and,
this morning, one bald cardinal—
alopecia or a mate’s black
                     The morning rhymes
with dirt-roads, years arranging
rearrange the evenings’ crows’
F’koff! F’koff! or hearing one night, two cold
stanzas into a poem that gave me only
two, a fluttering, then silence quilting
the beat before the rasping, bitter
call of the existentialist bird,
pure pique drawn naked
over a cheese grater. 
                                         It cried once,
flew away, never returned,
or at least, I never heard it.
But there’s a resonance, even now,
something in me saying Yes . . . yes, you’re right.  

Sometimes, it’s just like that.     

Not for what we offer, birds come,
not because not offering would keep them
here or away. 
                             Small charities suggest,
suggest, suggest, suggest, each repetition
feting the air thicker, stubbing any move
against an ignorant amazement
that isn’t anything but a lack 
of anything else. 

Once, Fort Worth, I saw Deke Birds fall
from St. Patrick’s cathedral.  Conical lumps
sprouted wings, veered upward inches from smash,
worked air to gabled roof peak
for yet another hurling.
                                                 They didn’t feed as they fell,
weren’t gaudy about it, weren’t attracting mates.
The plunge was itself, the rushing down,
wings clamped to succor a plummet
so intense it seemed a longing,
a sidewalk smack avoided
by a feather’s breadth. 
they sang, their cry, a large tear
drawn upward through a slide whistle.

I don’t know all the birds outside
our window, don’t want to know,
don’t know why, but we feed them,
not for what’s done, but that they’ve come,
that they’re here, and we know as much. 

                It’s not so much a hoping
as a way of living in lieu of.  We do; 
they come.  They’d come, anyway,
but in our doing, we welcome
the scrabbling wings, the hunger
toward which we raise our hands.



About Samuel Prestridge: I live and work in Athens, Georgia.  I have published articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, and The Southern Humanities Review.  


Image Credit: Illustration from A popular handbook of the birds of the United States and Canada,. Boston,Little, Brown,1903. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Geoffrey Heptonstall: “One for Sorrow, Two for Sorrow”




The bird that sings a stolen song 
leaves echoes of another sound 
from a tongue bereft of voice.
‘Pica, pica,’ the magpie cries, 
naming its nature in air.
Joytaker, heartbreaker, 
what it sees it steals 
in glistening desire, 
feathered with wildness 
to plunder the beauty of things.
The joker in a pack of lies, 
it lives on sorrow alone.


About the Author: Geoffrey Heptonstall is the author of a novel, Heaven’s Invention [revised paperback edition Black Wolf, 2017] and a collection of poetry, The Rites of Paradise [Cyberwit 2020].


Image Credit: Australian Magpie courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Tony Pena: “Birds of a Feather”



Birds of a Feather

The black birds caw
as I hobble to my Honda
CRV noir like Mister
no meniscus on the lam
from hard boiled critics
who put Clarice Starling
on my case for killing
so many of my darlings.
In my standard literary
issue of charcoal satin
shirt and dungarees,
I ask of the evening
in iambic slang,
if the crows consider
me an accomplice
to their murder
or just another
Edgar Allan wannabe.



About the Author: Tony Pena was formerly 2017-2018 Poet Laureate for the city of Beacon, New York.  His work has appeared in several publications over the years. Recently, poems have appeared in 1870, Museum of Poetry, and the Rye Whiskey Review. A volume of poetry and flash fiction, “Blood and Beats and Rock n Roll,” is available at Amazon.  A chapbook of poetry, “Opening night in Gehenna,” is available from author. Colorful compositions and caterwauling with a couple of chords can be seen at:

Image Credit: illustration from A synopsis of the birds of Australia, and the adjacent Islands. London: John Gould, 1837. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Jonathan K. Rice: “Seagull”





Seagull perches 
on a chaise lounge


overlooking ducks,
a lone coot on a small lake.

I’ve heard they’re
intelligent and long-living,

that they’ll eat 
almost anything.

They can drink saltwater,
excrete the salt

through their nostrils,
shake it from their bill.

I think of Chekhov, 
Richard Bach, Hitchcock.

Years ago I read about 
a girl who was stranded 

on a small island
with no food or fresh water.

She survived on seagulls.
Wrung their necks,

ate them raw,
drank their blood.

This seagull preens,
mournfully squawks.

Gray and white plumage
rustles in the breeze

as it gauges distance, 
spots its mate, takes off 

beyond restaurants,
dumpsters and parking lots,

flying further inland
looking for another shore.



About the Author: Jonathan K. Rice edited Iodine Poetry Journal for seventeen years. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Killing Time (2015), Ukulele and Other Poems (2006) and a chapbook, Shooting Pool with a Cellist (2003), all published by Main Street Rag Publishing. He is also a visual artist. His poetry and art have appeared in numerous publications, including Cold Mountain Review, Comstock Review, Diaphanous, Empty Mirror, Gargoyle, Inflectionist Review, Levure Litteraire, The Main Street Rag, Wild Goose Poetry Review and the anthologies, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina.


More by Jonathan K. Rice

“Springmaid Pier”


“Stravinsky in the Shower”


Image Credit: Chase Dimock “The Seagull Who Stole My Taco” (2020)

Sheila Saunders: “April Visitor”



April visitor 

High water but now calm.
A gentle Irish Sea pushes in 
halted by jumbled rocks of alien limestone
holding long dead  sea-lilies and shelled creatures
marooned  here.

And  now – the first wheatear
sharp-suited in black, white
and the purest of greys

flaunting his visibility and etched lines 
just a momentary breeze 
lifting  peach breast feathers.

Rested, after flight of oceans and continents
leaving,  swift as his coming
for inland moors

to startle with ‘whee-chak’ from drystone walls,
tail flicking, never still.    


About the Author, Sheila Saunders: An Oxford graduate in English Language and Literature, Sheila worked on local newspapers and after marriage to fellow reporter Peter, while bringing up their three children, turned to feature and freelance writing. She has always been involved in community activities, and addicted to novels, music, art and theatre. Her poetry is especially inspired by her love of natural history, and life on the Wirral coast in Hoylake.


Image Credit: Page from Naturgeschichte der Vögel Mitteleuropas, courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library