Spring 2020

Portland Metrozine
Spring 2020

Intrepid | Insightful | Innovative

Sonorous Waves

By Mehreen Ahmed
Flash Fiction
Perhaps the universe is bound by strict cosmic parameters that no one, not even God, can change.


By Shavaun Scott
Late into the night, under moonlight but hidden in shadow, artifacts of regret and irony might be recovered.

The Executioner’s Wife

By Mark Kodama
Historical Fiction
U.S. political interference in Guatemala vastly changes the lives of three individuals living in this magical land of high mountains, great volcanoes, and Mayan ruins.

Suite of Poems

By Michael Lee Johnson
Poetic visions across changing landscapes of place and time and culture incite truths about living and dying.

Big Red

By Andréa Montoya
Short Fiction
An unusual young girl makes a bright and delightful discovery at the beach that leads to growth in unexpected ways.

Three Poems

By Angie Ebba
Intricately interwoven perspectives of a mother and child are conveyed through sense memories and unanswerable questions.

Gallery Walk

By Fabrice Poussin
Photography like poetry, is a language.

Blood and Bones

By Dawn Tyree
Personal Essay
After years of craving revenge and punishment for the perpetrators of abuse in her life, an unusual turn of events lead a woman to consider other possibilities.

Quartet of Poetic Forms

By Mary Ellen Gambutti
A grouping of poetic forms – a Haibun, a prose poem, a Zuihitsu, and a Sedoka – intimately bound to each other, explore some unexpected complexities of mother-daughter bonds.

Beyond the Suburb & Loggerhead

By Kenneth Pobo
Flash Fiction
In these two fast stories, mother-child enmeshments may stifle self-expression, but they excite the imagination with the promise of freedom.

Slice of Life

By Prisoner #
A young man rejoices in his capacity to experience moments of freedom in the midst of incarceration and constant surveillance.

Spotlight On:  Refracting My Equity Lens

By Basha Krasnoff
Grappling with the challenge of refracting her “equity lens,” Krasnoff embarks on a literary journey through differing perceptions of what is real and true in the world.


We share our gratitude for the loving and inspiring mothers who blessed our lives through their everyday words and deeds.


Blossoms falling


Flash Fiction

Sonorous Waves

By Mehreen Ahmed

Two helicopters flew over our heads, like a duo dragonfly in the autumn sky. This afternoon, my sister and I sat under an old, oak tree in our garden by the River Bhairab. Those were the days, when we chatted silly, and talked about every nonsense that entered our heads, giggling over nothing.

“You always live in your head,” my sister declared.

“Let me guess, you don’t like that. This life of the mind kind o’ thing,” I laughed.

“You know how it is, thinking, dreaming.” I laughed first, then she laughed with me.

I hadn’t actually realised it until now that she mentioned it. Yes, I was the more reflective one; she, the extroverted. But that was all the difference we had; we both stood on a common ground of compassion. Well-bonded in togetherness.

When we were growing up, much of the political discussions in our house centred around the partition of India. Discussions which shaped our world views, so much so that it made us opinionated. We always heard about these eternal qualms between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Hindus suffered in the hands of Muslims at partition, and now it was the Muslims' turn to suffer in the hands of the Hindus. The power shifts, after the British had left. The crooked history never left us at peace, not today, not ever; if any, it made us even more crooked, hating everyone, in our loveless lives. These clockwise and anti-clock motions of emotions ran hot and cold, politics played and churned out generations of despicable events.

Dramas that we saw around our kitchen table bore that testament. Our parents endlessly bickered over what should have been the right course. Disagreements, led to high levels of anger, at times, shouts grew louder, arguments deepened. We listened and left the table when we couldn’t endure anymore. We started living in a distorted reality of ideas.

I looked up at the sky, such a serene afternoon, today. At the far end of the garden, our Gardener, weeding nettled locks from a thorny rose tree. He looked at us and nodded a greeting with a smile. We smiled back. The garden looked deliciously luxuriant or decadent, this time of the year. It burst into all sorts of nature’s vibrancy, as the colours of spring changed to warm scarlet, deep magenta, sea turtle emerald and saffron pouring onto our lawn. Impeccable, was the word that summed it up. However, the Gardener’s intrepid work at cleaning the fallen, decrepit leaves, could not be ignored. It was his job to bring the garden to a full bloom every spring, of roses, and white jasmine, and pink daisies, and his job as well to clean it all up throughout autumn. Yes, pink daisies, the most prolific of all, the Nordic goddess, Freya’s sacred colour, symbolising, love, beauty and fertility.

The Gardener couldn’t do much to change the seasons’ natural laws. In autumn and in winter, the colours faded anyway. However, it all became replenished and resplendent, the next monsoon, when all the colours returned. He cared for the garden. It showed, how tirelessly, he kept at it, sprucing it up from fertilising every priceless tree to watering them diligently. He never slept or ate. He lived over by the river, in this hut, with a leaky roof, through which rainwater dropped. But he seemed to enjoy this drip and didn’t bother to fix it.

“It is beautiful, wouldn’t you agree?” I asked my sister.

She looked at the garden, then at the Gardener, and then his broken hut by the river. And nodded in agreement.

“Do you think, he is in love?” she asked.

“Maybe, we never really speak to him, do we?” I said.

“Hmm. I wonder sometimes.”

“We do speculate a lot,” I laughed.

She laughed with me. The Gardener overheard. The tinkle and the words carried over by the autumnal air.

“Should we ask him?” asked my feisty sister.

“About what? If he is in love?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yes, if he can create this lush place of such breathing, blooming flowers, he must have a heart, too; sensitive enough to love and to kiss.” The Gardener, in my thoughts, swam in the deep river, and then suddenly, he kissed a girl there, in the river’s depth, a secret he harboured. He summersaulted in the water and swam away.

I looked at her puzzled, “You do realise, our parents would kill us if they heard us speak of the Gardner’s love life.”

“Yes, I do realise. Do you think, life would be any less miserable with the Gardner than it is right now? To the contrary, life may actually flourish.”

We both looked at his hut. And thought how the rainwater never affected him. Then there was a cry. It came from the Gardner. We rushed towards him. He had cut off his index finger, and then tried to re-attach it. Red blood oozed out on the manicured lawn. A snake had bitten him, a brown, poisonous viper. It slithered away right before us.

“Oh! No!” We screamed. “You must go to the surgery at once.

“It’s okay. I’ll go to my hut and rest. I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

“But you’ve lost so much blood.”

We couldn ’t tell, if he heard us. He dropped the finger and walked away. My sister began to run, but towards the kitchen to ask the chef if he could make some broth for the Gardener. While I hung around the garden and saw how the soil soaked all his blood, the blue finger lay inert. She returned with the broth. We went to the hut; the hut was bare as bones.

We heard the sonorous river convey,

Roof’s torn portal led to spacetime above;
Earthlings seen copious, but tiny pebbles on the top;
Gardener’s elusive, ubiquitous apparition, to summon;
Hollered life’s tales of bittersweet paradox.





By Shavaun Scott

It’s 3 am and the world is holding its breath
as it waits for the sun to rise again,

I sit alone in moonlight and shadow
exploring the deep caverns and ancient architecture
found on pathways I descend in the dark

storing artifacts of regret out of reach,
I examine infinite ironies under microscopes.

a night bird pauses in its hunt
as a shadow passes over the moon

the stealthy black cat prowls in the yard below
and silences a cricket forever

darkness covers dried bones, but don’t worry
I still know where the bodies are buried,

the breeze carries sandalwood and night jasmine
a cool breath on my face through the cracked window

clouds cross the moonscape
in the shape of Pegasus, a jaguar,
Medusa ~

the stars are a distant campfire
ghosts ride pale horses across the milky way,
everything pretending to be something else
everything is always something else.

it’s not what you think it is, it never is,

I cry out in another tongue
words I have forgotten to remember

It’s 3 am and the world is holding its breath
as I wait for the sun to rise again.



Historical Fiction

By Mark Kodama


I. Yesenia

At a conference on human rights at the Hague, I met an activist, a quiet unassuming middle-aged European-looking woman who spoke English with a barely noticeable Spanish accent. She was a clean, thin, well-mannered woman, almost timid. Her perfume was understated. But when she spoke her eyes became lit with fire and she spoke with power. Her name was Yesenia. This is her story.

“When you hear about Central American dictatorships, kidnappings, tortures and murders, I know they are true,” Yesenia said. “I was the executioner’s wife. I can still see the ghosts of the disappeared. Their faces haunt me still.”

“I come from the land of the trees. It is a magical land with high mountains, great volcanoes, Mayan ruins and all kinds of plants and animals. We have two great oceans. Some say the land is so fertile because of the volcanoes. Others say it has been watered by the blood of martyrs. We have coffee, bananas, cotton, sugar cane, avocados and the world’s largest carrots. We have great Mayan ruins, great Spanish colonial cities, painted in the most colorful pastels, old Spanish cathedrals and churches and one of the new world’s first universities. We have three UNESCO sites.

“More than sixteen million people from all over the world live in our country, the most populous in Central America. But the majority of people are Indianos, descendents of the ancient Mayans. Many still dress in hand woven colorful clothes of their ancestors – black, lavender, blue, red, pink, y verde. In Guatemala, you can meet someone and they will be your friend the same day. Truly the people love their neighbors and God with all their hearts.

“And the food? Muy delicioso. Chocolate, coffee, tacos, fish, chicken, beef, guacamole, corn soup, fruit drinks and chuchitos. Ever had fresh goat’s milk? They sell it on the street of Guatemala City.

“I grew up on my father’s estate outside the city of Antigua, one of three UNESCO sites in my country. I attended an all-girls private Catholic school and church on Sunday.

“My favorite teacher was Sister Maria. She taught religion and philosophy and literature. One day, the boys’ team was practicing penalty kicks on the football field. Sister Maria asked the boys if she could try to shoot a goal. She removed her shoes. From the time she picked up the ball, turned it and then placed it on the ground, you knew she knew. She appeared to kick the ball to the right of the goalie only to change directions and let loose a rocket to the goalie’s left. After class that day I asked Sister Maria if women really came from a man’s rib. She smiled and said ‘Someday, child you must decide this question for yourself.’

“One day, a Mayan girl joined our school. All the girls but me made fun of her dress, lack of sophistication, and imperfect Spanish. Sister Maria, furious, castigated us. ‘Who do you think you are,’ she asked us, her brown eyes bearing down upon us. After she finished, we were silent. She looked at me and said ‘Evil flourishes when good people do nothing.’

“My father was a military man – a general. We were from a landowning family. He was an ardent anti-communist. As the patriarch of our family, his word was law.

“My husband Juan Carlos was from a civilian family, the son of the owner of a trucking company. He was a dashing young intelligence officer with great promise.

“My father was European, a Spaniard, the descendent of a Hidalgo family, who had come to Mexico. Juan Carlos was a Mestizo. He was a quick and decisive man. He was medium height but built like a bull. He was tough. My father loved him - I think more than me.

“It was a grand wedding. Sister Maria wished me the best of luck. My father was so proud. My mother wept.

“I was young and beautiful then,” Yesenia said. She paused and said, “Now, look at me.” She laughed in a sad way. The waiter brought in a glass of ice water. She thanked him. She showed me a black and white picture of herself when she was twenty. She was beautiful.

“I taught Sunday school and religion for Sister Maria at the school. We often hiked in the surrounding hills with the students. Sister Maria led the way with her hand-carved walking stick.

“Meantime, Juan Carlos rose through the ranks. Col. Armas led his military force and brought down the Arbenz government. My father repeatedly warned President Arbenz he was moving too fast and it was folly to challenge the United Fruit Company and the Americans. President Arbenz said he was only buying uncultivated land for the people at the value declared by United Fruit.

“Afterwards, followers of Arbenz and suspected communists and dissidents were rounded up, imprisoned and killed. But rather than end the unrest, it only seemed to accelerate the divisions in our society. During this period, Juan Carlos became busy, receiving several promotions.

“Then a curious thing happened. We went to a party. Everyone feared us. Friends of mine asked me to ask my husband the whereabouts of their loved ones.

II. Commander Zero

“One day after Sunday school, Sister Maria asked me to help the poor people in the mountains. She told me armed rebels roamed the mountains.

“We left early in the morning with our driver Pablo, driving through the narrow cobblestone streets of Antigua and on the highway to the mountains. I know I am prejudiced but I think my country is blessed with the most beautiful mountains in todo al mundo.

“We were soon on a dirt road with green jungle on either side of us. We soon came to an abandoned village. We parked the truck and carried food and milk in backpacks into the mountains. We soon came to caves the entrances enclosed with mud brick walls.

“Little hands reached out from the caves. ‘Milk, please, milk. We are hungry,’ called these little voices. Sister Maria took off her backpack and smiled. She reached in and gave bottles of milk to the little outstretched hands.

“We’d often visit people living in the mountains and in the jungle, delivering food to starving children. Meantime, the violence continued. The newspapers reported that rebels attacked government forces and civilians.

“Sometimes, Sister Maria led us into the mountains. Other times, I led groups into the mountains. It was during a trip I led that we first encountered the guerillas.

“Pablo was driving the church pick-up truck down a narrow dirt road through the jungle when we came to a meadow. Five rebels in uniform armed with Soviet-made rifles stopped us. The commander, wearing a black beret and chewing a cigar butt, approached Pablo. He was a young man in his mid 20s. He had a scruffy beard and wild uncombed hair. His army shirt hung outside his pants. He motioned us to stop and then told us to get out of the truck.

“Who is in charge here?’ he asked.”

“I am,” I said.
“Why thank you for bringing supplies to us,” he said in an overly polite way. He motioned to two other rebels to unload our truck.

“No, stop,” I said. “These are not for you.”

He looked surprised. Then he said coldly: “Yes, but they are now.”

“These are for the children,” I said. He then pointed his gun at me.

“Stop,” I said again. “We don’t want trouble. We just want to help the children.”

He lowered his gun. “Who sent you here?” he asked.

“The church,” I said.

“He nodded. He then told his men to stop unloading the truck. He and two of his men then climbed into the bed of the truck.

“He then smiled and said: 'Well, what are we waiting for. Let’s go.' He banged the roof of the cab with the flat of his hand and pointed forward with his gun.

“When we arrived at the village, everyone seemed to know the commander. He and the second man then helped us unload the truck. He was average height but strong. The children followed him with quince wood rod sticks they used as rifles and small sticks in their mouths, their cigar butts. He saluted the children. They saluted back.

“After he unloaded the truck, he thanked us and then he and his men slung their rifles over their shoulders and disappeared into the jungle.

“’Who was that?’ I asked the mayor of the village.”

“’That was Commander Zero,’ he said.”

“About a week later, I read in the paper that a government patrol had been ambushed in the mountains by Commander Zero.

“Whenever, we delivered food in that part of the country, we often encountered Commander Zero who escorted us to our destination and then helped us unload our truck.

“One time, I asked Commander Zero why he attacked and killed soldiers who were only trying to protect our country.

“Commander Zero looked at me with a glint in his eye and said: ‘Senora, I am like Robin Hood. I borrow from the rich and then give to the poor.’ He then laughed.

“’We only fight the soldiers and police who oppress the people,’ he said.”

“Then why do you bomb the people?” I asked.

“’That is a lie,' he said. 'We only fight the soldiers and police. We give no quarter and expect no quarter. We do not harm the people. And if we capture soldiers, they are treated as prisoners. We represent and fight for the people. For this cause, we are prepared to give everything, including our lives.'

He then looked at me earnestly and asked: ‘Do you really want to know why we are fighting the government?’

“I said: ‘Yes.’

“‘Then are you prepared to hear true stories not reported in the newspaper?’ he asked.

“Yes, if they are true,” I said.

“‘Then come with me,’ he said.

“He took us blindfolded to his mountain camp. He introduced us to one young woman guerilla named Hilda. He asked her why she joined the rebels.

“‘The Army came late at night,’ she began. ‘After they climbed over our front wall, they broke into our house. They shot my father and then tortured my mother in front of us. They pulled out her finger nails with pliers. They put a sack over her head and took her away in a car. We never saw her again.’

“He then introduced us to a thin man in his 50s.

“‘The Army arrived at our farming village at 5 a.m.,’ the man said. ‘They took all the men and boys of the village to the church. A hooded man picked out certain men and boys. The soldiers took them to the school.

“’The soldiers then marched us to the cemetery and ordered us to dig a large pit. As we dug, shots rang out. As we finished digging, they brought the bodies of twelve of our neighbors and threw them into the pit. They ordered us to bury them, some were still moving.’”

III. Juan Carlos

“That night, I asked my husband Juan Carlos what he really did for the military.

“’I fight Communistas and terroristas,’ he told me. I felt a chill sweep through me. His eyes became dark like a wolf. After that I could no longer sleep with him. It was fine with him for he had a young mistress and child he kept in Guatemala City.

“Meantime, more of my friends asked me to ask Juan Carlos to intercede for them or provide information as to some loved one. Juan Carlos just nodded. He began to drink heavily.

“He was afterward promoted to colonel.

“One day, the priest asked me to inquire about Sister Maria and Pablo. They vanished delivering supplies to the town of Quetzel. Juan Carlos said he would look into it.

“That night Juan Carlos said they were kidnapped by rebels a week ago but did not know what happened to them.”

“The next time I saw Commander Zero, I asked him if he knew their whereabouts. Commander Zero said they were taken by the soldiers.

“You are a liar,” I told him.

“’Senora, I tell you the truth,’ he said. ‘It happened here in this village. If you do not believe me ask friends here you trust. They like you. If you ask them discretely, they will tell you.’” I did. “The people said the soldiers took them. The mayor gave me Sister Maria’s walking stick.

“I did not mean to fall in love with Commander Zero. It just happened.

“Commander Zero was not Guatemalan. He was from a good Argentinean family. He was well read and studied architecture like Che Guevara who was his idol. Commander Zero was an intellectual and a man of action. He spoke of liberating the poor of Latin America from the Yankee capitalists and the dictators that they supported. Our leaders and military do not support the people but the Americans and themselves and their own selfish interests.

“’We must win the support of the people,’” he said. “‘Without the support of the people we are not revolutionaries but mere bandits.

“’Revolution must start in the rural areas,’ he preached. ‘The government is too strong in the cities. But we in the countryside we have the advantage: knowledge of the terrain and support of the locals.’”

“One time, he took me to one of his ambushes. We waited until night fell. He divided his forces into two. When the government came through the pass, his men began shooting the soldiers in front, dropping the two lead soldiers. Commander Zero was everywhere: leading the attack and then covering the retreat, seemingly oblivious to the enemy gunfire. As the soldiers began to attack, the second force opened fire from the left side. Three more soldiers fell. The rebels then all retreated into the jungle. No one was injured.

“We soon became lovers. One night when we were together, army helicopters descended upon the village. A great shootout followed and a half-dozen died on both sides. Commander Zero and his men fled into the jungle. I prayed I would see him one more time. I came to regret that prayer.

“Afterward, there was a great manhunt for the rebels. The newspapers reported several battles with dozens of dead on both sides.

“One afternoon, Juan Carlos asked me to come to see him at the police station. He was in an interrogation room. He asked everyone to leave. He was sitting in an old dark wood chair at a long wood interrogation table. A hat box sat on the table in front of him.

“When he opened the hatbox, the head of Commander Zero stared at me.”




Suite of Poems

By Michael Lee Johnson

Dance of Tears, Chief Nobody (v5) By Michael Lee Johnson

I’m old Indian chief story
plastered on white scattered sheets,
Caucasian paper blowing in yesterday’s winds.

I feel white man’s presence
in my blindness−
cross over my ego my borders
urinates over my pride, my boundaries-
I cooperated with him until
death, my blindness.

I’m Blackfoot proud, mountain Chief.

I roam southern Alberta,
toenails stretch to Montana,
born on Old Man River−
prairie horse’s leftover
buffalo meat in my dreams.
Eighty-seven I lived in a cardboard shack.
My native dress lost, autistic babbling.
I pile up worthless treaties, paper burn white man.

Now 94, I prepare myself an ancient pilgrimage,
back to papoose, landscapes turned over.

I walk through this death baby steps,
no rush, no fire, nor wind, hair tangled−
earth possessions strapped to my back rawhide−
sun going down, moon going up,
witch hour moonlight.

I’m old man slow dying, Chief Nobody.

An empty bottle of fire-water whiskey
lies on homespun rug,
cut excess from life,
partially smoked homemade cigar-
barely burning,
that dance of tears.


Missing Feeding of the Birds (v3) By Michael Lee Johnson

Keeping my daily journal diary short
these sweet bird sounds lost-
reviews January through March.
Joy a dig deep snow on top of my sorrows.
Skinny naked bones sparrows these doves
beneath my balcony window,
lie lifeless without tweet
no melody lost their sounds.

These few survivors huddle in scruffy bushes.
Gone that plastic outdoor kitchen bowl that held the seeds.

I drink dated milk, distraught rehearse nightmares of childhood.
Sip Mogen David Concord Wine with diet 7Up.
Down sweet molasses and pancake butter.
I miss the feeding of the birds, these condominiums regulations,
callous neighbors below me, Polish complaints.
Their parties, foul language, Polish songs late at night,
these Vodka mornings-no one likes my feeding of birds.

I feel weak and Jesus poor, starving, I can’t feed the birds.
I dry thoughts merge day with night, ZzzQuil, seldom sleep.

Guilt I cover my thoughts of empty shell spotted snow
these fragments, bone parts and my prayers-
Jesus dwelling in my brain cells, dead birds outside.
I miss feeding of the birds.


Open Eyes Laid Back By Michael Lee Johnson

Open eyes, black-eyed peas,
laid back busy lives,
consuming our hours,
handheld devices
grocery store
“which can Jolly Green Giant peas,
darling, to bring home tonight-
these aisles of decisions.”
Mind gap:
“Before long apps
will be wiping our butts
and we, others, our children
will not notice.”
No worries, outer space,
an app for horoscope, astrology
a co-pilot to keep our cold feet
tucked in.


Tequila (v5) By Michael Lee Johnson

Single life is Tequila with a slice of lime,
Shots offered my traveling strangers.
Play them all deal them jacks, some diamonds
then spades, hold back aces play hardball,
mock the jokers.
Paraplegic aging tumblers toss rocks,
Their dice go for the one-night stand.
Poltergeist fluid define another frame.
Female dancers in the corner
Crooked smiles in shadows.
Single ladies don’t eat that tequila worm
dangle down the real story beneath their belts.
Men bashful, yet loud on sounds, but right times soft spoken.
Ladies men lack caring verbs, traitors to your skin.
Ladies if you really want the worm, Mescal,
don’t be confused after midnight.



Short Fiction

Big Red

By Andréa Montoya

Valerie found her little crustacean while walking on the flat part of the beach. Its shell all painted in bright red stood out against the pale sands. She walked up to the moving clown-nose-looking-thing and it stopped every time her shadow covered the sun in its path. They continued like this for several minutes. Valerie revealed the sun to urge the little hermit crab to move forward. She would shield it again and it would come to a complete halt hiding its small pincher claws and delicately translucent legs inside the cavity of its fire-alarm shell.

When she first picked it up it reached out and pinched her and she tossed it. It quickly rolled down towards the ocean shore. Frantic, she ran to retrieve it.

Finally, after a short amount of training it became accustomed to her warm palm and walked upon her fingers. She liked the feel of its little legs scratching the grooves of her fingertips. It was a quick little thing, true to its race car red. She had to be careful not to let it fall over the ledges of her hands and to catch its fall with the opposite hand.

Any loud sound and it would bunker away. Valerie liked this. It reminded her of when she plugged her ears when she heard loud noises. Like when the big fire trucks drove by her house, their siren blaring as loud as their color. She wished she had a big red shell she could ball up into, too. Only hers would have glitter. Lots of it.

She brought the little guy over to show her mother, who grabbed it from her hands. “Strange, someone must have freed this little guy from the souvenir shop. How cute.” and then placed it back in the sand. Valerie rushed over to grab just in time before it began to burrow itself out of sight and placed it between her crossed legs so it would not go far.

“Friend”, she tapped on this word on her tablet. It was hard to see the screen with the glare of the sun. The red plastic case with raised cuts and dents became hot with the sun burned into her hands. After years of using this portable voice her fingers were familiar with the placement of all the buttons. The screen was covered with big yellow buttons with pictures of the words she used the most like toilet, hello, big, small, I want…, please, and her favorite color of all, red.

“I want,” she said, her eyes gazing at the little red crustacean. She had never seen something so great. “I want,” she tapped again. The speaker released a voice she had come to know as her own, holding words she could never say. She pressed, while deeply focusing her eyes on the side of her mother’s face and hoped for a yes.

She never got the yes. And as they packed up her mother insisted on watching Valerie let the little beacon of hope go back into the sand. They released it together watching it burrow quickly, cooling itself from the hot rays.

As her mother packed up Valerie began digging to where she had last seen her little friend. Her breath picking up speed with each scoop of sand her small hands managed to move out of the way. Finally, she saw its shell, picked it up from its back, hid it in her fist and slipped it slowly it into her shorts pocket.

When they got home, Big Red, as she had started to call it, was fully situated. She hid him in a small shoe box in her bedroom and when it was time for her bath she hid him by wrapping him up in a towel and set him free into the open waters of her bath when her mother stepped out to check on dinner that smelled like it was burning.

She loved the crackled red on its shell. It was like the firetrucks that she watched videos of during school. She loved those trucks. But she had never seen one with legs! She swerved and dipped Big Red in and out of the water and pretended he was on his way to stop a fire.

She couldn’t wait to take him to school the next day. The kids would go nuts. Of course, Jimmy might try to eat him, just like he did with every show-and-tell. Once when Valerie brought her favorite Lego, it was pretty and blue with eight bumps on it, Jimmy put it up his nose. It took two teachers to pry it out and he kept trying to bite and punch them the whole time. Valerie let him keep it. She was sure that at least if Jimmy put Big Red anywhere in his face that Big Red would fight back with those big claws of his. Then Jimmy would learn!

It became clear that Big Red was really good at playing fire truck. She paced him in front of the tablet, as if he had his own iMAX screen, and watched her favorite video of the fire trucks driving fast. She loved the sirens. They sounded so cool in her headphones. She clapped wildly and screamed as they took the big truck down small streets. They turned left and right. She could practically feel the speed. It felt good. It went so fast, she couldn't believe it. She swears she even saw Big Red clap too. She brought him up to her cheek and gave him a big squishy hug.

There were times when her mother wouldn’t like her clapping so much. She would hold Valerie's hands apart when she would start up. Then Valerie realized she could release all that pent-up energy by screaming as high as she could. It felt so good. Her mother didn’t stop her from clapping after that. Now that she learned to scream, most times she ended up doing both.

She didn’t clap or scream all the time, just like she didn’t cover her ears all the time. It was a behavior most strangers would adjust to in an hour or so of being around her. But on a really bad day, even her mother, with her infinite patience, and her smiles that shined through her pain, couldn’t support it. For her mother, it wasn’t about what made her stand out, as much as it was about what made her stay behind. She remembers seeing her mother cry in the classroom when her teacher told her that the rest of her classmates began to point out colors and count numbers. And the only thing the teachers could do was give her blocks to play with in the corner.

She was five years old when she changed rooms in her school and put into the room where all the teachers wore the same baby blue T-shirts and gave them little snacks every time she did something good, clapping was not one of the good things. Here she realized there were a lot of kids that screamed and clapped just like her. Some even had the funniest stories, she never got tired of them. Kent could say every line to every movie even when he wasn’t watching it. He had a big brain. He was amazing.

Sometimes though, with all those kids and all that noise, she needed to stand aside and sit by herself. Humming helped her calm down. She made up little songs.

That night, their first night together in her room, she and Big Red sat together while she hummed for him. He crawled up and down her leg tickling her. It felt crazy! She yipped and clapped and flapped the bed sheets uncontrollably with glee. The smile on her face wiped clean when she couldn’t find Big Red anywhere. Where had he gone?

What started as a casual search became a frantic upheaval of the entire room. The bed frame lifted and crashed down, lamps knocked down on the ground, all her toys spewed out on the floor. She shimmied under her bed to look for Big Red.

“Big Red Hello” She clicked on her tablet. “Hello Big Red.”

Her mother found her under hidden under the bed, as she had many nights before, pressing the same button over and over. The glow of the screen illuminating her distraught face. She was fetal, the tablet in her lap and her head in her knees. Unsure what her daughter was on about this time, she tried to get Valerie out from under the bed. The normal tricks to promise snacks, candy and television didn’t work. At their ends, she and her husband lifted the mattress and pulled Valerie out from under the bed frame like they were delivering her by C-section all over again.

She didn’t think her daughter would ever be this way. It taught her a new level of patience, of frustration, of shame that she had never been familiar with. With every positive step forward Valerie seemed to be taking three steps back. She was not a normal fourteen-year-old. She had come to accept that. She loved her daughter, unconditionally, she had left her resentment in the past. But her daughter’s shortcomings reminded her of a promised life left unclaimed.

She so desperately wished Valerie could be friends with other kids her age. She was the oldest at the center by three years- though you would never guess it with her small stature and her four-word vocabulary of “nooo,” “stahp,” “yash” and “me”.

Her room still covered in ponies and pink bows. She showed no desire to fall into the traditional teen years. Her mother worried that she would be stuck in a time-capsule forever, the world moving past while her daughter remained completely unchanged forever.

She brought Valerie to their bedroom and placed her on her side of the bed. Her body limp and exhausted from her outburst. Still tapping her screen that had since then gone black.

“Somebody must have given her that cinnamon gum today at the center.” Her husband said to her.

“We need to tell them that’s not okay. They have to follow her diet. That’s our only rule. Our only rule!” She burrowed her face into her sleeves and cried.

The morning came and Valerie awoke drenched in sweat wrapped in a weighted blanket and her flannel pajamas. She rolled off the bed like a marble, hair disheveled and matted from her always turbulent sleep. As she walked out of the room, she took a look at her mother who lay on the couch in the living room. Her father had probably already head out to work, there was no trace of him except his sneakers by the door.

She walked into the bathroom and remembered to flush and wipe just like the signs on the walls reminded her to do. Although she wasn’t sure if she did them in the right order. Then she grabbed a towel, put some soap on it and wiped down her hands. She didn’t like how cleaning her hands made them sticky so she ran to her room to grab her tablet so she could ask her mom for a shower.

“BIGUH REYD!” the words lurched out of her body in sheer excitement. There on the vinyl wood floor was her little red dot. Her heart shot down into her stomach and her body jumped up with sheer elation. She couldn't stop screaming and clapping in a hysterical outburst. She fell to the floor.

“Valerie!” Her mother was there in an instant staring at her daughter who was now rocking on the floor with a big smile on her face.

“Biguh Reyd,” she said. Her mother standing at the door her mouth open “wh-wha- say that again?!”

“Biguh Reyd” she whispered between screams while quickly passing the little red thing between her fingers. She lifted it up for her mother to see.

With tears streaming down her cheeks her mother laughed, “Big Red is that little hermit crab?” “You took him from the beach after all, sneaky girl.”

Valerie’s face lit up, she was not in trouble. Her mother was happy to have this new addition to the family. She couldn’t wait to show her all the Big Red could do. She pinched his shell with two fingers and made unintelligible whispers into his shell to coo him out.

“Reyyyd” she whispered, butting the shell up to her ear. "Hul-o"

Her mother cried out in sheer joy and clapped her hands too. “Valerie! You are just a chatterbox today!”

Valerie looked back up with her hair hanging forward and a huge smile that ate up her whole face. She looked back at Big Red, noticing his little legs were further in his shell than normal. She poked her finger in the hole to get him moving. She waited. She poked a second time to really remind him to get going and shook him a little like she was shaking a maraca in her ear.

“Careful, honey.” Her mother said. She shook and poked a third time out of frustration. This time there was a crack and a wet liquid came out of the paint peeled shell. Her mother’s smile pulled back as she took Big Red from Valerie’s hands. “Let me see that, sweetie.”

Valerie couldn't tell what her mother was thinking but she knew that something wasn’t right. Why wasn’t Big Red ready to show off? He must have been trying to get to her all night. And there he was just waiting for when she came back. So loyal.

She got up and grabbed Big Red out of her mother's hands and yelled into his shell. Was he still sleeping? No amount of yelling his name seemed to wake him. She shook some more. When that failed, she stomped her feet. She put him near her tablet, her words no longer wanting to unfold, and called for him. Nothing seemed to work.

She doesn't know when the tears started but she saw them drop down on the tablet screen and collect in a pool that made letters on the screen go hazy.

She slapped away her mother’s attempts to comfort her. And sat there in silence with the corpse of the most special little fire truck she had ever found.




Three Poems

By Angie Ebba


Fireweed By Angie Ebba

The name "fireweed" stems from its ability to colonize areas burned by fire rapidly. Fireweed quickly colonized burned ground after the bombing of London in World War II, and it was one of the first plants to appear after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. - adapted from US Forest Service

1980. Saint Helens exhales a breath she’s been holding too long. My mother wakes from dreams
painted with pinks and pastel blues to a landscape sketched in charcoal. Her belly is stretched
and marked with hopes she will never see fulfilled. She walks outside, forgets her shoes. I
turn inside her, wanting to feel ground. She runs fingers over ash. I turn inside her, water spirit
reaching for fire. I sing to myself inside her; she doesn’t hear, doesn’t listen. If she was inclined
to believe such things, maybe she would have heard Saint Helens’ prophetic whisper, maybe she
would have placed ash on her tongue or knelt to the Earth praying for healing and rebirth. Instead
she turns her back, heads back inside, goes about her day.

purple fireweed,
bursting forth from charred, parched land,
i root, bloom beauty


Two Truths and a Lie (and I’ve Never Been So Good at Lying) By Angie Ebba

When I was a child the lights
would flicker and I swore Jesus
lived in mine, because Jesus
loved the little children, because the Bible
told me so, because sometimes
I’d lie on my back and stare at the ceiling
and say prayers to the halos I saw
hoping they were angels.

When I was a child I wanted to go
to heaven because the lights wouldn’t
have halos, because I wouldn’t
need glasses, because I wouldn’t
grasp in the dark for my glasses so I could see
the monsters, because there wouldn’t
be monsters, because I wouldn’t
be scared of the dark, because I wouldn’t
be scared of loud noises, because I wouldn’t
be scared of barely there noises in the dark, because I wouldn’t
be scared.

Truth has always been a trickster, playing
with light switches, hiding in the
dark whispering, a firecracker
holding out a match, and you always
took the match, didn’t you? and you know
(because you know)
I’m scared
of loud noises, and I’m scared
of surprises, and I’m scared
of this game of playing with Truth because
what if I guess wrong, because
what if I guess right, because
what if everything I thought I knew
was just a lie and I’m left
hands over ears, unseeing,
hiding in the dark, and I’m left
praying to monsters I thought were angels.


Five Stages of a Grieving Mother—Blame By Angie Ebba

Research shows
mothers who experience trauma while pregnant
birth babies trained to watch the world
with uncertainty,
a propensity for stress already ingrained in small brains.
Sometimes I watch your hand tremble
lifting fork to mouth.
When you ask for more potatoes your words trip
over themselves
coming out in gasps and stutters.

I wonder - if I hadn’t stayed, would
classmates still tease you?
Would you still need small spaces
and heavy blankets?
Would I still find you sometimes in the night
with soaked sheets
and eyes filled with memories of monsters
we both wish had only lived in nightmares?



Metrozine Gallery

Gallery Walk

By Fabrice Poussin

Lost in the Wild | Poussin
Pair of Jokers | Poussin
Questions | Poussin





Personal Essay

Blood and Bones

By Dawn Tyree

We sit in the dark musky foyer of the courthouse waiting for our turn, just a few cases from the top. The 45 minutes pass like a slow-motion movie. The Plaintiff's mother, whose nose is buried in her phone, has long fingernails, pale white skin, and jet-black hair styled like Velma Dinkley, the character in Scooby-Doo whose hair matches her black, thick-framed glasses. Dressed nice—she always dressed nicely. To her right sits her mother-in-law, Jane, a woman I used to pray with when we were Prayer Warriors.

We've all known each other since 1999. We take quick glances at each other; I feel stoic but the looks I receive are not. Each of us lifts our head from an electronic device as Defendants exit the courtroom. We sit staggered on benches with such big buttons, they seem like large Lego pieces. I feel the pit in my stomach as I think about him sitting on the floor with Legos scattered around him only six years before. Never have I wanted more to turn back time. I sit with my partner as he gently strokes my hand, offering little bits of comfort - his efforts don't go unnoticed. Two o’clock is approaching.  

I think about how long it has been since I last sat next to my ex-husband. He is sitting slightly out of my view. It seems rather odd how fast we came back together out of love and fear for our son, given that our divorce had been as bitter as the green almonds I picked and ate as a kid. The stalking. Phone fights. Hate texting. Accusations of infidelity. Withholding of support during the month of December. Fighting through the lawyers over Christmas ornaments. The uncomfortable parenting handoffs in the dark IKEA parking lot. The stone-cold silences when I got out of the car to get our son's overnight bag out of the trunk. I felt like a ghost floating around him, unseen. His anger pierced my heart, our son’s heart. Such hate that my stepchildren couldn't escape.

Life is different now. We sit together in the Hall of the Justice Center eight years later, with our now 19-year-old son, Joe. Before walking into the courthouse, we’d all had lunch together. Joe was craving Thai food and I suspect that not one of us was certain he'd have that choice again after 2 p.m. today. We'd been living in fear for seven months.  

Joe and his girlfriend sat snuggly close together on one of the Lego benches. I occasionally walked over to them. I would look into my son's soft, concerned eyes and do my best to silently comfort his worries. The weight of this impending date was slowly crushing the life out of us. Joe's girlfriend being of steadfast support expressed a love so profound it was unbreakable. I noticed she had a bit of a tummy and felt terrified at the thought of them being pregnant. I tell Joe he should not have anything in his pockets, just in case they take him into custody.

In the nervous minutes before we are called, I reflect on my own story. Of all the sexual predators in my life - all of them. The first one showed up when I was eight years old. My father's friend and roommate. I remember all the secrets and promises I made to my father's friends, to my stepbrother, my stepmother’s friend. I grew weepy and exhausted by the thought of all the violence.  

But, the accusations against my son can't assert violence - they were kids. I think that he was maybe 11 years old when this “sexual abuse” allegedly happened. How in the fuck can a child be charged with child sexual abuse? Molestation. How could it be that he is looking at prison time for something that was said to have happened when he was a kid? When they were both kids.

I_wanted to tell you what a wonderful human being my son is. I wanted to tell you that he started volunteering to clean up our state beaches when he was 11 and that he decided to study world religion before he was 12 years old so that he could find his own way. I wanted to make sure you knew that he is a good person, but at the same time I think to myself, it wouldn’t matter what you think.  So, I sat with my greatest fear: a lengthy prison sentence. Because that is what "she said, he said" looked like for us.

I was 13 years old when I became pregnant by a family friend. When my parents learned of my pregnancy, they decided that I would marry my rapist. I was taken out of school to become the wife of the 32-year-old man who had been raping me. That's what child molestation looked like to me.

I grew up wanting justice for myself. I needed to know that I was worth saving. That one day, just one of the perpetrators in my life would go to prison for their crimes against me.  

I got out of that marriage with two toddlers when I was 16 years old. After the separation, my life was spent in a constant battle over my children. Sometimes he had two lawyers. Me? I had none. I was too young to contract a lawyer’s services.

I went back to school and completed high school. Then, I went on to study law. It became my life's mission to help others and to ultimately send bad guys to jail. I needed to save the world from predators. I craved that justice, even if it wasn't for any one of my perpetrators.  I was able to help a few survivors and watched some bad guys go away.

But, in my early 30s I began to experience a shift in my consciousness from a prosecutor type of mentality to more of a defense type of mentality. Over time, I had grown weary of the work and decided to let it go. I came to believe more in recovery and less in mass incarceration.

I thought about how when I was young, not one person wanted to hear my story about how I was first victimized by my father’s roommate, then the 14-year-old female identifying babysitter, or how my stepbrother had raped me. How I was shamed and told that I must have wanted it. How their responses quickly turned into “shut up, nothing happened!”. Each day it was something different coming from my stepmother's mouth. Until one day, she silenced me forever. She made it clear that her son was more important than I was. I will never forget how minimized I felt.

But it was my son who was now accused. I had never had the chance to publicly shout my accusations at the person who denied my experience and called me a liar. As Joe’s mother, I wanted to be angry at this girl who accused him. I wanted to blame her and tell her she caused it. I wanted to tell her that I knew she was curious – that I too was once that age – only in my situations it was grown men who hurt me. Would it have been more acceptable and perhaps even more forgivable if I had been sexually curious about a boy or girl close to my age?

Joe’s court case dragged on from 2016-2019right smack in the middle of the #MeToo movement, when sexual assault victims began speaking out in number. How could I possibly be both an accuser and a defender of the accused? I found myself juggling speaking out and writing about child sexual assault and taking a feminist position on these issues in tandem with attending hearing after hearing that considered evidence against my son. There was a constant stream of Investigators, Child Protective Services, Lawyers, and Public Defenders. I got drunk. I sobered up. I smoked. I stopped smoking. When my body shut down, and without much choice, I fasted for 40 days. But mostly, I struggled to stay alive each day. I was more broken than I had ever been in my entire life.

I needed to find purpose and meaning but I couldn't see the possibilities. I was sick and depressed. I sometimes stayed in bed for two or three days at a time. I floundered around like a fish out of water. I tried joining online support groups but was disappointed when I found that most of the groups focused on spiritual paths that did not align with my own.  

Having an incarcerated loved one is one of the most difficult things I have ever lived through. The stigma and pain are isolating. For four years I have done nothing but cycle through the five stages of grief that my son is serving a prison sentence for a sex crime that allegedly happened when he was 11 years old. Under Measure 11, minors charged with sex crimes, violent or not, are tried as adults.

I face each day anew. I wake up and fine-tune my thoughts and fears. I honor the pain by acknowledging it and sitting with it. I work through the mental puzzle of what it takes to delicately balance my two truths. I carry them both close to my heart - not separate, not divided but whole and complete. I have come to accept that we are dynamic creatures and in the depths of the universe, don't always find answers.  

My truth is that my son began his sentence at age 19. He will be released just after his 30th  birthday.

I'm learning how to navigate this new normal. Some days the reality is too scary. He'll come out a registered sex offender for life. It's heavy. Most days though, he and I talk about writing, we talk about dreams, we talk about blissful times with loved ones and memories of growing up. We talk about everyday life. We talk about what he can do when he gets home. We talk about the separate living space that is waiting for him and how it needs his touch of décor. And always, we talk about how he has a safe, loving and supportive environment to come home to.  

Joe and I also talk about how this reality has impacted me and my journey. We talk about the really tough stuff. He listens. I listen. We cry together. We do the work with honesty, integrity, courage and grace. We turn the soil in hopes of enriching a greater life. He inspires me with his insight and wisdom. We grow stronger with each day.  

I've recently joined the committee that is working on the reform of Measure 11. I don't do this work to save my son from his sentence, I do this work to save other mothers from the pain. I do this work to prevent other minors from being punished as adults and being robbed of their lives. Science has shown that the brain is not fully developed until around 27 years old. With that information, I simply cannot digest that young adults are being punished when we know that they are not intellectually capable of seeing the consequences of their choices. When I see other young adults, tweens and early teens, I am struck with fear for them —one wrong choice can put them behind bars for years.

I am learning to find grace through this. For me, sending my perpetrators to prison would not have brought me to the place I am today. It is the internal work I have done that has brought me healing.  

Through the pain and fog I have come to terms with something: A mother’s love does not get to choose. This love is carried through the lifeline of the umbilical cord. Nothing changes that depth of cell sharing, the exchanging of blood from my heart to his heart and his to mine. Our DNA is bonded, I carry his cells in my blood and bones. He is me.  

I do not have to support the behavior to love.  

Today, I choose love. Love over hate. Love for the sake of healing. Love for recovery. And, I choose hope because without it, we have nothing.




Quartet of Poetic Forms


She Couldn't Say Haibun By Mary Ellen Gambutti

"Remember, she couldn't answer your questions without revealing everything. If you hadn't searched for her she would have taken all her secrets to the grave."

Your words stung. Our only chance the year before she vanishedin and out of our lives. Could I be grateful for all that came of it? The rarity of our meeting? Mute about my father--maybe she strained to rememberthe truth ever elusive. Her life of neglect and desperation well known to you; abandoned as a toddler to her own poor parents’ shack. And Ilonging for my own truthflew to you both. Sister, you suspected there were others, but she couldn't say.

worn wooden bench
pink crepe myrtle
bright above her sadness


Happenstance Prose Poem By Mary Ellen Gambutti

Was there intention in Virgo? Carolina’s cloud-masked stars glimmered weakly on my origins. September birthdays brought sweaters and school-time, parties postponed by a typhoon’s tempest and Texas hurricane. Storms and swoons of uncertainty. The profanity of accident. Prophecy of place and time. Meant to be--raison d’etre--the designated date, my unjoyful occurrence. Unloved Leila, left alone. Always lonely. Abandoned—first she, then I. Could she, on rising from her birthing bed, consider beyond surrender, that facts would be muddled, muddied? That papers given my fosterers would be fabricated, a flimsy truth? That in a mystery hour, no tiny feet impressed?

Schoolmates knew their truths. I burned to tell some uncertain story, and had only abstractions. Only, it happened! My birth happened. This is my story, I told them: “Not this mother, but another mother.” I couldn’t tell them what he told me. “She died,” he said, “in a car,” with others, maybe girls and boys, maybe a man who would be my father. A family died. He must have lied; adopted dad. “They’re gone,” he said. He must have meant to console: “You have us.”

I tell them on the playground, “I’m adopted.” That’s good, we all decide. Because I have parents. People take care of me. I’m different; a mystery. Mystified. I learn a story that came from out of the blue, blue like a September sky, like this sapphire birthstone worn on my seventh birthday, soon lost.


Remembering Agnes Remembering Zuihitsu By Mary Ellen Gambutti

Agnes, my mother, turned ninety-six this August. The elder of her two adopted daughters, it’s fallen to me to keep connected with her and the nursing home staff in Pennsylvania. I’m fine with this obligation to the only mother I’ve ever known.

Mom's cousin Janet taped Mom on her ninety-fourth birthday:
Tape clip 1. “Dad’s family had a dairy farm in Saltillo, Pa. I remember a cave in the hillside where they stored milk and jarred goods. A stream ran through the cave.”

I remember Agnes
1. sat on the floor and played picture card games with me - Rustler, Old Maid, Go Fish
2. sewed my clothes and my dolls’ clothes
3. was a child at heart. She loved nature’s creatures--insects, animals, especially dogs.  When we lived in Tokyo, she put jam and bread out for a rhinoceros beetle, which it  seemed to enjoy.  

Tape clip 2.  “Mom, Dad, my brother, Vincent and I lived in Orbisonia. Vincent was afraid of Dad's horse. Vince had a nightmare the horse was down in the yard eating the dog. Once, Dad brought the horse into the house as a joke. It scared Vince to death...My mom canned fruit in Orbisonia. We lived in the country until I finished first grade. I remember riding to school in a horse- drawn sleigh.”

I remember Agnes
4. gave up her nursing career to be an Air Force officer's wife and to adopt me
5. ice-skated with me when we lived in New Jersey
6. used a fly-swatter on me when she was furious. She had a cruel streak

Tape clip 3. “We moved to New York City on West Broadway in the Village, when the coal mines closed in 1928. I went to school near Washington Square Park. I jumped roped in the street, played on the roof of Dad’s auto repair shop across the street. We moved to W.58th Street, across from Roosevelt Hospital, when I started high school. It was nice to live so close to Central Park."

I remember Agnes
7. was lonely when Dad was away on duty
8. played popular music on the radio and laughed out loud at T.V. comedy

Tape clip 4. “My diary is falling apart. Kept it from 1939-1941 when I was sweet on Al and when we were courting. Not easy to love a seminarian. He left the Paulist Brothers in Baltimore to marry me. His mother pushed him to be a priest. You have no idea what a vamp I was! I went down to DC to visit Cousin Elsie and Aunt Katherine, and we took him out to dinner. But I never kept him from doing what he wanted to do. We married after the war, then he enlisted in the Air Force.”

I remember Agnes  
9. inflicted wounds. She told me she’d never understand me, was rarely affectionate
10. had a great laugh, was witty; sometimes biting
11. her mother, my Nana, was her best friend. Like Mom, she knitted, sewed, quilted

I’m sipping a diet chocolate shake I just blended down here in Florida. Wonder what she had for lunch in Pennsylvania. In two weeks I’ll visit Mom for two weeks. My childhood wasn’t easy. So many moves and transitions in an Air Force family. 

I learned I was adopted at age six. Wondered who my “real” family was until I searched and found my birth mother when I was 40. She died a year later. Last year I learned by DNA testing and determined who my father was. Now I have connected with two maternal half-sisters and three paternal half-sisters and half-brother.

My parents, Nana, and my younger sister left our New Jersey home for California in 1976, when my daughter was four, for my father’s second career with the C.I.A., and a deaconship in Los Angeles diocese. Mom and I kept intermittent contact until Dad died, when I packed her up, sold her home of twenty-seven years, and brought her and my ninety-seven year old Nana back to Pa where I’d lived since 1983. I might have kept her with me after Nana died, but she wanted her independence. My brain hemorrhage at age fifty-seven made it impossible for me to care for her as her needs increased. We all do what we can.


a role model for impatience
Mom dreaded cooking and gardening
so, I learned both from her mother

never a good listener,
Mom wears
hearing aids now

"Don’t forget to call me!”
but she rarely
picks up the phone




Flash Fiction

By Kenneth Pobo

I first watched it when I was a high school sophomore, home with the flu, feeling better but still weak. Mom put a silver pail down by the couch “in case you need to puke, use this.” I did need to puke when I got up, but that was hours before. She grabbed the pail and flushed the puke. She sat in the dining room in her usual chair under the cuckoo clock with the annoying red bird that popped out, and read her Devotions. She tried taking me to church many times, but it didn’t take.

The film was called Beyond the Forest from 1949. I hadn’t come out myself yet. I got together with Tom Konwitz for what he called “fun.” It was fun. I looked forward to those times. He said, “It’s just something to do.”

Bette Davis, wearing a strange black fright wig, was Rosa Moline: “a twelve o’clock girl in a nine o’clock town.” Drab as a fence post husband Joseph Cotton, oh so very good, oh so unappreciated—in a town no one wants to visit. Bette plotted to escape. Maybe a rich Chicago dude would make her rich, offer her the gift of excitement. Other than my romps with Tom, not much got exciting in Gradyville. Philadelphia was fairly nearby, but I didn’t take the train in much. My dad said, “You’re such a scatterbrain, you’ll lose your wallet, and I’ll have to come get you, and you know I won’t be happy about that.”

That dullard friend of her achingly good Cotton, Moose, who she, oops, kills, said, “You’re one for the birds, Rosa, one for the birds.” I, too, was for the birds. I waited for bluebirds to return in spring, hung a picture of a snowy owl on my bedroom wall. It looked like Peggy Lee.

Of course, I got better and high school roped me back in and covered me in geometry. I had gotten beyond the suburb. I didn’t want a saccharine doctor to house me or a small town or suburb to keep me in one form of high school after another. I knew I’d leave. Mom’s cuckoo clock bird kept returning to the clock’s innards. Maybe it would be a city. Maybe not. My time to fly kept getting closer.


Flash Fiction


By Kenneth Pobo

Raylene sees her mother as a parking meter taking quarters but providing no time. They fight and don’t talk for days. Her mother watches sitcoms because by 8:25 p.m. everyone hugs. Raylene prefers detective shows: the crime like a joke, she tries to guess the punchline.

She wishes that she and her mother could share a sniff of a Tropicana rose by the back door. The bush won’t survive a bad winter.



Creative Nonfiction Vignette

Slice of Life: Freedom in the Moment

By Prisoner #


I pull on my beanie and walking backwards, push my way out the door. The frigid air kisses my cheeks as I send a little cloud of vapor whisking away to join its brothers in blocking out the sky. Snow falls like confetti on a late New York night as I make my way to “yard”. Pulling on a pair of gloves my mind begins to wander at the steady click and shuck of my boot heels on the frozen concrete.

Suddenly, to think that I may actually be here seems completely insane. In moments like this it feels like I am living the life of " Andy Dufresne” or "Ellis ‘Red’ Redding", not my own. In this moment I think of the stark contrast of my life before compared to the life I live now. What would I be doing now? I wonder. I glance at my watch. Eight thirty-seven on a Sunday morning. Well I'd be in sweatpants getting coffee, I think with certainty, sweatpants, coffee, and heading to the beach on this undoubtedly shitty, wonderful day there.

My thoughts drift again as I step on the track. This is part one of my New Year’s resolution. Part two is no sweets and no more freaking ramen. I chuckle as I put on headphones and turn on my radio. I get two steps before it shuts off. I press the power button. Two feet. Off. Lifting the radio up I can see the screen flashing " LOW BATTERY" in an aggressive, wasteful way that could probably be used to listen to music. "Fuhck," I mumble, "Typical."

Shoving the radio in my pocket, I leave my headphones on to ward off anyone who might want to talk to me. The brisk air is pleasantly refreshing and with a bit of child-like amusement I drag and kick my feet through the thin layer of snow that covers the ground. One mile, two miles, three. Tuning out from the world, I give it rapt attention. The rising sun slowly burns away cloud cover to reveal a wintery pale blue sky, the contrasts of sun and snow is both blinding and beautiful.

Looking past razor wired fences at the row of squat, snowcapped mountains lining the horizon, I think longingly about how just a piece of gum would be pretty fine about now. Four miles, five miles, six. Then, the sound of someone deep throating the microphone to the PA system. A sound I recognize as "yard in".

▀ ▀ ▀


From the Editor's Desk

Spotlight On: Refracting My Equity Lens

Many of us would agree that personal economic, social, and political outcomes should not be predetermined by an individual’s race or gender or economic status or sexual orientation or physical ability. We agree that the qualities of justness, fairness, impartiality and even-handedness are the goals of equity. Whereas equality is all about equal sharing and exact division, equity levels the playing field to ensure that any person’s starting line does not automatically determine where that individual finishes.

What I have grappled with and have not quite grasped, however, is the notion that I can apply an “equity lens” in my approach to life and somehow see the world outside the confines of my own racial/ethnic/gender/sexual orientation/physical ability perspective. In this “brave new world,” I find myself consistently confronted with “blatant injustices,” "alternative facts," and “fake news.” To make sense of it all, I analyze the impact of my own internal and external processes. I examine my foundational assumptions and interpersonal engagements. And, I do all this self-examination in an effort to understand how my own behaviors affect those in our communities who are marginalized and under-served.

What I fail to understand is how I can possibly process human behavior or social condition through a lens that is anything other than distinctly my own. I consistently come up against the realization that my lens is completely egocentric. So how would I undertake an equity lens refraction – an examination of how experiences passing through my uniquely ground lens project distorted images? Especially since I depend on my own unique lens to refract my experiences to draw conclusions and make judgements every day.

Puzzling over this dilemma, I remembered an encounter with Howard Zinn that challenged me to entertain “differing versions of reality." In his book, The People’s History of the United States, Zinn argued that American history is to a large extent the exploitation of the majority by an elite minority. This American historian and political scientist relied on a large sample of first-person narratives to present alternate interpretations of the commonly taught version of United States history.

Discovering that the Arkansas legislature planned to ban Zinn’s books from its public schools, I realized that I had to understand the unique lens Arkansas legislators used to make that decision before I could understand why they made it. Such an investigation did not imply sympathy to the cause or a tacit agreement with its assertions.

Based on this exercise, the epicenter of my conceptual journey became to seek out an entire range of "alternative realities" expressed through the poetry, short stories, novels, and first-person historical accounts of people who resemble me in no other way than being human. My quest has been to expose myself to as many "differing versions of reality" as possible, which has proved to be both powerful and deeply moving and I am experiencing ongoing shifts in my perceptional framework.

While I have been expanding the perceptual field of what I recognize to be real and true in the world, I cannot deceive myself into thinking that I am standing on some absolute value about things outside myself. I have yet to stumble upon a pure equity lens that exists in some ideal world separate from my real conceptual world. I wonder how close I can get to viewing the world without distortion. And, if each of us continues to refract the world through our individual lenses, I wonder if we can ever come to agree on what a perfectly equitable world looks like.

So, in the past 11 months, I have looked through many lenses and have come to appreciate the many different worlds I have glimpsed through the eyes of others. Given the realities of our time, though, the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” has taken on new meaning. I now can understand how some citizens might gaze upon the Emperor's flamboyant finery with admiration, while others look upon the procession in confusion and horror that the Emperer isn't really clothed at all.

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Remembering Margaret Milburn

Hands in Joy Forever By Joseph Corrado

Her hands have been in many bubbles
Floating amid gray scum troubles.
Over dishes piled like war-zone rubbles,
Gentle hands move like white foamy shovels.

Liquids and powders and sprays, they say,
Will slay all the grimes of our modern day.
Pink labels pretend that her hands won't pay
With redness and soreness from the suds' rough play.

In buckets and bathtubs and basins and bowls,
Her hands plunged after unseen trolls —
Which, but for her, would have taken their tolls
Trapping us in beast caves and other disease holes.

Now here's a tribute: "A Detergent Award"
To this valiant woman and her bravery which poured
Drainward trillions of villains slain by her sword
Of surfactants, phosphates, and love that ever soared.


Remembering Anna Kessler

My Mother’s Love By Basha Krasnoff

When I think of my Mother, I have visceral memories of her holding me, soothing me, and comforting me. I can still remember looking into her eyes and seeing the deep love and appreciation she felt for me. I can still feel her smooth beautiful cheek against mine and hear her comforting voice as she held me close.

The pain of missing her remains a subtle ache that ebbs and flows as I notice things that draw my mind back to her. Like the sadness I feel looking out the window into the garden, knowing that these were the last glimpses of the world outside that she ever had. Sometimes, when I look at my son, her only grandchild, I feel as if I can actually see him through her eyes, and for those brief moments she can be present with me, seeing what we each love.

When my heart is aching for my Mother, I think about what she always gave me in my moments of need. As a child, I saw in her eyes a reflection of who I am. I understood the truth of who she thought me to be. And, although I came to know myself through her eyes, I realize that it was not until her death that I came to stand on my own and become my own person. Thus, the bittersweet irony of motherhood.



Spring 2020


Mehreen Ahmed
is an award-winning, internationally published and critically acclaimed author. She has written Novels, Novella, Short Stories, Creative Nonfiction, Flash Fiction, Academic, Prose Poetry, Memoirs, Essays and Journalistic Write-Ups. Her works have been podcast, anthologized and translated in German, Greek and Bengali. She has MA degrees in English Literature and Linguistics. She was born and raised in Bangladesh. At the moment, Mehreen lives in Australia. Mehreen’s work is found in the following publications: Routledge, Cambridge University Press, (Cambridge Core), University of Hawaii University Press, Michigan State University Press, ISTE, Callej.org. Journal, University of Kent, Canterbury Press, The Sheaf, University of Sackachewan Press. The Bombay Review, Breaking Rules Publishing: The Scribe Magazine, FlashBack Fiction, Scars Publications: Down in the Dirt Magazine and cc& d magazine, Portland Metrozine, Ellipsis Zine, Ginosko Literary Journal, The Cabinet of Heed, Straylight Magazine, Creativity Webzine, Mojave Heart Review, The Piker Press, Kitaab International, Nthanda Review, CommuterLit.Com, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review. The World of Myth Magazine, Jumbelbooks, Literary Yard, Fear and Trembling Magazine, Terror House Magazine, Connotation Press, The Punch Magazine, Re:Action Review, Furtive Dalliance Literary Review, Flash Fiction North, Velvet Illusion Literary Magazine, Storyland Literary Review, Spillwords Press, CafeLit Magazine, Story Institute, Cosmic Teapot Publishing, The Sheaf: Campus newspaper for the University of Saskachewan, Clarendon House Publication, Dastaan World Magazine, Books On Demand, Germany, Your Nightmares: Nyctophilia. gr Magazine, Best Poetry: Contemporary poetry online. See more at: https://www.amazon.com/Mehreen-Ahmed/e/B005L6HMHM

Beth Cartino
is a teller of tales, a diviner of images, and a listener of stories. Her creative expression manifests in stories, poems, and paintings. While she has been writing in one form or another for many years, she considers herself a relative newcomer to painting. Not quite ready to call herself a “visual” artist, she prefers to call what she does with paint, “process play.” This is the first time her painted work has been featured by a publication. She is thrilled to have it appear on the cover of Portland Metrozine, where a suite of her poetry appeared in the Winter 2020 issue. Beth’s writing has also been featured in The Manifest-Station and Nailed. Beth writes and throws paint in Portland, Oregon.

Angie Ebba
is a queer, disabled poet and essayist, educator, and performance artist. She strongly believes in the power of words to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, to build connections and community, and to make personal and social change. Trained and credentialed in English, Teaching, and Transformative Language Arts, she teaches writing workshops and classes. She has performed her work across the United States and some of her performances and instructional videos are available on YouTube. Her 10-week course, “Speaking Your Truth: Creative Writing in Political Times,” is offered online. Her work has been published in the Queering Sexual Violence Anthology, several literary magazines, Folks Magazine, Healthline.com, and various other online publications. Angie writes and teaches in Portland, Oregon.

Mary Ellen Gambutti
is a writer of the Japanese poetic forms of Haibun, Haiga, Haiku, Sedoka, and Zuihitzu, lyrical poetry and creative nonfiction in the forms of memoir, slice of life, flash, and vignette. She is a retired horticulturalist and landscape gardener, an adult adoptee in reunion, Air Force daughter, and a hemorrhagic stroke survivor. Her book Permanent Home: A Memoir was published in December 2018 and is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Permanent-Home-Mary-Ellen-Gambutti/dp/1941066321. Her work has appeared in Portland Metrozine (Spring, Summer, and Fall 2019). She lives in Sarasota, Florida. “A Zuihitzu: Remembering Agnes Remembering” was first published in Atlas Poetica: A Journal of World Tanka, Number 36, 2019 .

Michael Lee Johnson
is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner. He has been published in more than 1072 new publications; his poems have appeared in 38 countries; he edits and/or publishes 10 poetry sites. Johnson has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015; 1 Best of the Net 2016; 2 Best of the Net 2017; 2 Best of the Net 2018. Michael lived for 10 years in Canada as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam era and holds dual citizenship in the United States and Canada. Today he lives in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. Music Video Credit: Native American Indian Music — Sunset Ceremony-Earth Drums 02: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtdYWcoYKWo. His publications include: 199 poetry videos on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos . Editor-in-chief of poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze, available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762 . Editor-in-chief of poetry anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses, available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089 . Editor-in-chief of poetry anthology, Warriors with Wings: The Best in Contemporary Poetry, available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1722130717. Chief Editor/Publisher/Poet, Michael Lee Johnson, Coeditor Ken Allan Dronsfield (https://www.createspace.com/6126977).

Mark Kodama
is a trial attorney and former newspaper reporter.  He is currently working on “Las Vegas Tales,” a work of philosophy, sugar-coated with meter and rhyme and told through stories.  More than 150 of his short stories, poems and essays have been published in anthologies, including those published by Black Hare Press, Clarendon Publishing House, Eerie River Publishing, Escaped Ink Press and Devil’s Party Press. Mark lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and two sons.

Basha Krasnoff
is the Editor of the Portland Metrozine. She is an accomplished creative writer of poetry, short stories, and nonfiction. Basha's professional career spans academic, expository, journalistic, narrative, research, and technical writing. She has written museum and gallery catalogues for visual artists and liner notes for musician albums. She has been the editor of six publications including the original print version of this literary journal. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

Andréa Montoya
is a writer who explores the nuances of modern life and relationships through her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction writing. She has self-published a collection of poetry, I Found Life, now available on Amazon and is currently working on her second collection, New Findings, and a collection of flash non-fiction about dating culture and experiences. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

Kenneth Pobo
has a collection of micro-fiction published by Deadly Chaps called Tiny Torn Maps. His new book of poems is Dindi Expecting Snow published by Duck Lake Books. Kenneth lives in Middletown in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Fabrice Poussin
is a photographer and the author of novels and poetry. His writing and photography have been published in Kestrel, Symposium, La Pensee Universelle, Paris, and other art and literature magazines in the United States and abroad. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications . Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University and is the advisor for The Chimes, the Shorter University award winning poetry and arts publication. He lives and works in Rome, Georgia.

Prisoner #
is a pseudonym for a young writer who is currently incarcerated. While serving his sentence, he shares insights into his everyday life as a prisoner refracted through his lens of intelligence, talent, and love. For these purposes, and because he is blessed with an indominable spirit, he identifies himself with this sequence of his lucky numbers. He is confined in Oregon.

Shavaun Scott
is a writer of creative non-fiction who has interwoven a first-person narrative within the context of professional knowledge and insight. She has been a psychotherapist for 30 years and has contributed her writing most often to clinical journals about the process of psychotherapy. Her braided essay, “Tapestry of Fortune,” appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Portland Metrozine. Her book Game Addiction: The Experience and the Effects was published in 2009. She lives and practices in Portland, Oregon where she enjoys exploring unconventional paths and unorthodox bravery.

Dawn Tyree
is a writer, an activist, and a founding member of The National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the U.S. The story of her experience as a child forced into marriage has been published in The New York Times, Reuters, and translated into more than 12 different languages. She was featured in a two-hour documentary on child marriage in the U.S. as part of the A & E Network docuseries, “I Was a Child Bride: The Untold Story” with Elizabeth Vargas that aired April 2019. A personal essay, “I Turned my Child Marriage Trauma in Activism” was published January 2020 in YES! Magazine. Her poem, “The Forest Dweller,” appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of Portland Metrozine; and her essay “Spotlight On: Child Marriage” was published in the Summer 2019 issue. Dawn lives in the Pacific Northwest Coastal Range and enjoys hiking, boxing, reading, painting, and is exploring a new-found interest in Japanese earthing.

Also see Kudos Gallery.


Spring 2020

We Welcome Submissions!
We welcome submissions from creative writers, artists, activists, and deep-thinkers around the world. The Portland Metrozine community encourages the avant-garde, the experimental, and the arcane in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. We also welcome submissions of visual artwork, including drawings, photographs, and facsimiles of paintings. We especially appreciate manuscripts and poems that are accompanied by thematic images.

Buoyed by the thriving literary community of Portland, Oregon, we reach out to the global community to inspire, encourage and broadcast creative expression. Wherever you are on planet Earth, we welcome you to share your vision, your voice, and your point of view!

The Portland Metrozine is published quarterly (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter), but submissions are accepted at any time. We accept simultaneous submissions but please let us know if your work is accepted elsewhere. We will consider previously published work with a citation for the original publisher and date. You can learn more about our community via Facebook and Duotrope.

Submission Guidelines

Send an email message to the Editor at:


1. In the body of your email, please include:

■ Title of your submission
■ A brief description of your work
■ Genre (for example: fiction, non-fiction, etc.)
■ Attribution for all images submitted
■ A brief biographical sketch of yourself (be sure to mention where you live)

2. For document files, use MS Word (.doc, or .docx), or ASCII text (.txt). Attach your document and/or image file(s) according to these guidelines:

  • Fiction: 1 story per submission (max: 4K words) ■ double-spaced manuscript ■ one-inch margins ■ paginated

Creative Non-fiction: 1 essay per submission (max: 4K words) ■ double-spaced manuscript ■ one-inch margins ■ paginated
Flash Fiction / Flash Non-fiction: 1-4 pieces per submission (max: 1K words each) ■ double-spaced manuscript ■ one-inch margins ■ paginated
Poetry: 1-5 poems per submission (max: 50 single-spaced lines each). Use Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file for fixed poetry layouts.
Images: 1-6 images per submission (max width: 1200 pixels each) Use .jpg , .gif, .png, or .mic file formats.

Selection Process

We strive for excellence. The Editor reads all submissions that follow our guidelines. Selected authors for each issue are notified about two weeks before publication when they can preview their work as it is intended to be published. We do not charge reading or submission fees.

Currently, the Portland Metrozine is published quarterly, The large number of submissions makes our process very competitive. Sometimes, we must pass on high-quality work that simply won’t fit our current issue. Always keep writing or creating artwork and keep sharing your work—always with passion!.

Terms of Publication

By accepting publication, the author grants Portland Metrozine one-time publishing rights at the portlandmetrozine.com website. The author retains copyright and may publish the submission elsewhere after it appears in Portland Metrozine.

The author gives Portland Metrozine the right to publish the work at portlandmetrozine.com, to archive it indefinitely as part of the issue in which it appeared, and to include it in future anthologized print or electronic editions of Portland Metrozine (re-featured, archived work does not constitute a new publication).

If you submit work to another publisher after it is published in the Portland Metrozine, we ask that you give a “First published in Portland Metrozine, <issue date>” credit, which we honor with other publications. 


KUDOS Gallery
Spring 2020