Lynne Handy, “Girl Talk”

Retired librarian Lynne Handy devotes her time to writing poetry, flash fiction, and novels. She co-founded Open Sky Poets, a collaboration of poets in the western suburbs of Chicago, and her work has been published in several journals, including Clementine Unbound. She lives in a river town in northern Illinois with her two rescue dogs, Schatzi and BoPeep.

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Girl Talk

This girl is telling me her story, blue eyes
sparkling, half of her hair dyed bright red,
this petite grandchild of mine. No makeup,
totally unlike her Facebook page
where she lines her eyes and rakes
mascara on her lashes, where she makes guppy lips
like Angelina Jolie.
Now, no makeup, she wants me to hear her, and
I listen as she talks for hours—
I feel her energy in my old bones—
she’s saying, this is the real me.
No parent translating.
I fear the world, she says. I live in an area
where guns go off. I won’t go outside unless my brother
or stepfather goes with me—my stepfather who cradles me in his arms
when my mother yells, “Joe, Lacey’s got her heart broken again.”

The future is scary, she says. She’ll soon finish high school
and she could have applied for a scholarship to some college,
but she tells herself, okay what if I do that
and find out that I don’t want to go to college—
what I really want to be is a cosmetologist.
I want to make women beautiful.
I’m proud that I’m a woman.
I’m bisexual, Grandmother. Does that bother you?
I am utterly swept up in her story: She could tell me she was a giraffe
and I would say, “Wonderful—it’s good you know who you are!”

Denise Segal Umans, “The Mistral”

Denise Segal Umans grew up in South Africa and now lives in the Boston area. As a speech-language therapist and linguist, she has worked for over 30 years in language and literacy development and as a teacher of English as a second language. Her poems have been published in Clementine Poetry Journal, Clementine Unbound, Poetry Quarterly, and Indiana Voice Journal.

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The Mistral

“There’s something about the light in Provence. Forever, the area
has drawn artists and easels…” (Bella English, Boston Globe, 2017)

The wind changes
everything. Ambling turns to rush:
a couple slant into each other, as they hurry
through the square, blue sky now ashen,
darkening over a woman who drags
her dog, leash taut, past
the ancient aqueduct. Store owners
pull their wares indoors—
cloths, skirts, rugs—away from us,
tourists, who hover uncertain

of the change in pace
of the day. The tone
picks up strength, from quiet
kindness, to harsh tenor, urgent
like the wind. Go home!
they call out. We stare back, still
as the statues around the plaza.
The seller shouts, The Mistral!
nudging us from behind
like a squall at our backs,

blowing the dust
away, along with its chill,
and cleansing the air. The light,
beyond brightness, overtakes us
like a shooting star across
a blackened sky, illuminating
every olive tree, every blade
of grass in its path. The sun
sets with a golden aura
over the hills, yellowing

rice paddies and grapevines
as if painted with pollen
from Van Gogh’s sunflowers
in the local fields.

Bethany Lettington, “The Guinea Pig Pen”

Bethany Lettington is a graduate of the University of St. Andrews’ MLitt Creative Writing program. She currently lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she works as a copywriter. She was recently shortlisted for the Poetry Wales Pamphlet Prize.

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The Guinea Pig Pen

You, owning double my years
and relishing the power that gave,
said it was a game
when you took me to the garden
and picked up the cage.
It strikes me now how trusting minds are at eight
and how frail a body is, tucked under wire,
but at the time there were no bricks
pinning the frame, just the weight of that childish desire
to be liked

So I waited.
Hidden beneath the blanket you had draped
with the last dregs of light dripping between fibers,

I remember how the sun set red,
and evening swallowed me whole, and nobody came.