Bio of Myron Stokes

Myron Stokes is a 9-year Air Force veteran, and a clinical psychotherapist who counsels combat veterans. He has been writing poetry and short stories for 15 years. His poem, "For My Ancestors," won first prize in the 2012 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse. A member of the Illinois State Poetry Society and Oak Park Writers Group, he has work published in MargieInternational Journal of American Poetry 2005, and the Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize 2007.

Buster Browns

Hated, hated, hated my Buster Brown shoes.
Thick heeled, horseshoe-toed and the color of a Hershey Bar.
Buster Browns on my first day of kindergarten,
for church, birthday parties, field trips, funerals, school pictures,
anytime I wore my brown, clip-on tie and brown corduroys.

I wore my Buster Browns stuffed with pages
of the Milwaukee Journal for a year.
“You’ll grow into them,” my parsimonious mother said.
“Stop complaining. Good shoes are expensive these days.”
A soupy coating of brown Kiwi Shoe Polish
every Saturday night kept my Buster Browns
looking like they did when in the Boy’s Shoe Department at Gimbels.
And did I mention that my father put taps on the heels?

After forty years, the house that put its loving, wooden arms
around a family of six, succumbed to ruin and decay.
Down the fifteen rachitic stairs to the wrecked basement,
dusty cobwebs hung in eerie strands, somber furniture relics,
naked, dismembered dolls with matted hair,
my rusted Radio Flyer, abandoned bikes
and outdated, mildewed clothes in boxes scattered here and there.

On the chipped, buckled tiles
behind the water-damaged encyclopedias,
between the forgotten wringer washer
that nearly crushed my right arm when I was six
and the hulking boiler that banged and hissed
during wintry, Milwaukee nights,
mangled, withered, laceless but still whole,
my size-eight Buster Brown shoes.

Bio of Gail Denham

As my poem indicates, I'm a fan of my husband, Dan, who can fix most everything, and if he stumbles, he reads the instructions. Huge contrast between us - he an Electrical Engineer, me, a right-brained writer. For 40 plus years, I wrote. Many short stories, news articles, poems and photographs were published nationally and internationally. In between, we raised four sons and helped with many grandchildren. As empty nesters, we now stay in touch with family -- I write and he still keeps the wood box full, among many other projects. And I'm thankful to God for Dan.


A mighty ship on course. A tortoise, he moves steady,
dives into projects few would tackle. Blessed with skills
to embarrass pony-tailed handymen: changing tires,
rewiring electrical misbehaviors, building sheds.

He exudes how-to, bookkeeper – holding budget wolves
at bay. Computer problems, banes to my existence,
sizzle his brain, a burbling coffeepot of ideas
and “try this” possibilities.

Steam pours out his ears. He attacks kinks, “won’t work”
apparatus – Ahab on the sea chasing monstrous white
whales of modern life. TV hook-ups, sink stoppage, toilet
parts disintegrating in mid-flush – putty in his grasp;

molding them, pliable dough in hands that seek solutions.
Life flows again, for a time, without spasmodic eruption.

And yet, when restless grandchild climbs on long-legged
Levi lap, together they pursue words connected with book
pictures, a find and capture chase.

Grandchild calms to lean against raggy-armed denim shirt,
a worn-out declaration of tractor repair, car valve replacements,
splitting seasoned wood; wood – that guardian against
temperatures dropping relentless cavalcades of cold
on our home, the freeze – wood fire repelled each morning.

Calm wonder, balm of Gilead to my soul. Silver-lined help.
Dozing, open mouthed in recliner each evening, brave protector
against mean winds that ever beat at windows, challenging
“aging” threats, forays of world pressure; bullet trains
of fear not stopping at our station this day.

Bio of Charlotte Digregorio

Charlotte Digregorio has authored six books including Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All. Libraries, corporate buildings, and hospitals host her haiku/art exhibit. Pushcart Prize nominee with 51 awards, and former radio poetry program host, she was honored by Gov. Bruce Rauner for 38 years of literary arts’ accomplishments.

Solitary Thoughts

A slow afternoon,
I walk past river pines
and bowing poplars,
crinkling leaves
on hard earth.

Sun touches cumulus clouds
glinting amber.
In and out of shadows,
I trail a schoolboy with
knapsack full of autumn.

My worn loafers veer off
the even path.
Buried in wildflowers,
I meditate in whirring wind,

Muffled cries of crows
traveling eastward
become silent.
I settle in distant woods
laden with winter.

This poem was originally published in East on Central, 2018-2019.

My Routine

I wake to loose threads
dangling in my head.
From the bay window,

barely visible limbs of
a solitary poplar fan the air.
A train rumbles through the blur.

In my prairie town,
coffee percolates
black and white moments.

I walk out into the chill
stumbling through twigs
and crusty leaves.

Through the maze of day,
I touch shoulders with tall shadows,
hear invisible robins.

With the maple leaves,
street lights change from
green to yellow to red.

Home at night,
I destroy pesky cobwebs
with my feather duster,

settle into my armchair.
Beating time in waning lamplight
to folk songs playing

in my childhood,
I drift into another dawn.

Published in After Hours Journal, Winter 2017

At The Museum of Contemporary Art

Seeking quietude on a foggy day,
I visit the Museum to drift and dream,
with watercolors, collages, montages, and tapestries.
I happen upon worn scraps of metal, wire,
bits of broken glass, and splintered plastic.
Perhaps they are castaways culled from a hidden dumpster
in a deserted Chicago alley.

I visualize a sculptor in his cramped studio with a large window.
Under skies donning infinite grayness,
he watches languishing birds in autumn’s breath.
Brittle poplar branches wave in whispering wind.
His eye glimpses fluttering scarlet and gold.
Inspired hands bend, chip, and polish refuse into delicate,
shining pieces, with soothing shades.

With agile fingers, his drab finds, a reflection of our gritty lives,
become graceful art, as if by metamorphosis.
He realizes sculptures of oddly-shaped people
and animals, almost unidentifiable,
yet bearing equilibrium and harmony.
In solitude, he finds lyricism
in trifles surrounding him.

Charlotte DiGregorio

This poem was awarded First Place in Poets & Patrons 54th Annual Chicagoland Poetry Contest, 2010. Category: “The City of Chicago.”

Later, it was a Pushcart Prize Nominee.


Summer Slips Into Fall

Burning leaves and crackle piles
for diving kids – a part of our past.
Now it’s black leaf bags with pumpkin
faces, lined up for trash collectors.

Still, a touch of autumn memories
remain. Aspen leaves clap rattled
songs. A forgotten drift of cast-off foliage
fills my desire to shuffle and crunch.

A different color paints the air,
lunch pails clank against small bodies,
school buses hold up traffic
and mothers do grateful dances.

Gail Denham


found poem
Dressed in oranges, red, light
and dark greens, pale cream, with warty
skins, squash stands in for pasta
and manicotti, with hazelnut mole.
Is it any wonder we grab corn ears
to celebrate the end of summer? Steam
corn, team it with a college-educated
cabbage or potato head; there’s a meal
real people can understand.
Not warty, pale, or smooth yellow
string squash that someone tossed
in your open car window on Sunday
while you sat patient in church.

Gail Denham