Prayer for Gratitude

Let me remember that the universe has given me second chances, saving me from seemingly inescapable misfortune. Let me be strong in knowing that nature blesses us, and our hearts can only break once over anything under the sun.

Right now, I have breath in my lungs, blood in my veins, and though I have felt pain, it cannot compare to unfathomable things being endured by those braver than me. In the patience of others, we are taught that we need not fear anything, even death, and that death is just a culmination, our magnum opus as we flower into infinity. So, let me remember to think of that kind of bravery before I ever utter “poor me.”

Let me not lose gratitude and remember that if there was no disappointment, then there would be no joy. Out of all the possibilities, the universe picked me to live and to experience yearning, beauty, and pain, so let me remember to be grateful every day.

Solid Ground

I had to choose between you
slowly becoming the world
or the wide world beyond you.

Then, you jumped off that bridge
with me begging you not to.
I couldn’t force you to choose solid
ground and cared too much to watch you drown.
I returned to the world before
there was nothing left in it for me
and waited with the certainty that
we will meet again on safer shore.

Lost in the Carnival

I look for you, lost in the carnival. Children run over popcorn-covered dirt floor and swing sticky, cotton candy hands as adult bodies push down and disregard. The carousel spins. Painted horses and unicorns move, cream, red, and white with no end in sight. A throng of clowns try to engage and elicit laughs before they move on. The carnival crowd, all of them, always the same.

Sometimes, you’re part of that crowd but radiant when you come into your own. I miss the adjoining, expansive field and shining constellation sky, searching endlessly for your smile.

I find you on the outskirts, standing in front of a porch and see a stranger kissing you and holding you as if everything about you is already known. Did you like the kiss? If so, you’re both lost and found.

Now, I face a fun-house mirror. Half of me also looks lost, the other half distorted. Unable to recognize myself, I’m forced to leave without explaining how hard it was to find you.

Demolition in the Tropics by Rogan Kelly: A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

Rogan Kelly’s Demolition in the Tropics is a magnificent read – Within the book’s pages, one finds a world of love, gratitude, and beauty. Kelly observes subjects closely and with care. Rich in unique associations and original descriptions, Kelly’s prose poems show us the beauty in the everyday. Whether he describes stopping in at a diner for breakfast or completing his tasks for a job, the poet successfully encapsulates worlds within paragraphs. Though he is good at describing everyday events, Kelly’s work is anything but mundane. His poems are complex and evocative, and a superficial read will not be sufficient to understand the depth of the work. Upon close examination, the reader understands that although Kelly may be describing what appears to be ordinary, he understands that everyday moments simultaneously contain a multitude of possibility as well as nothingness. While being fully immersed in the text, the reader learns to appreciate the beauty in Kelly’s poems, but with poignant turns, Kelly cautions against trying to possess what is ephemeral. 

Whether it is the wonder of a far away city like Alexandria, Egypt or the perfection of another person, Kelly examines the  subject matter in his poems with a reverence that often eludes contemporary art, reminding the reader of greats like Dante or Petrach. Reading Demolition in the Tropics teaches us that wonder, love, and beauty surround us at all times if we only take the time to observe. At the same time, we are reminded that change is the only constant, which is why we must appreciate every moment. As a poet and reader, I highly recommend Demolition in the Tropics. It is a great study in writing, poetry, as well as the specific form of prose poetry. Demolition in the Tropics is available now through Seven Kitchen’s Press.

“Violent Game” by Ayesha F. Hamid

Cursed earth, always at war,
a field for violence and pain.
The poor, dead and buried
in shrouds the same
as what was worn
for nights and days
with no choice for change.
No one for these deaths
ashamed, except the powerless
always expected to have shame.

The earth trembles for so many lives
that the heavens can’t partake,
yet humanity stands with its
unflinching gaze
as lives extinguish
coming to ground,
bodies black, white, and brown
all reddening the ground as they fall.

The good earth screams,
beware this treading over sacred lines
and of this doing with no shame,
leading to an irreversible idling of being
and the return to the
primitive part of the brain
which revels in violent games.

T. Nicole Cirone’s Nine Nails: A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

How much pressure can a spouse’s loyalty and fidelity withstand? How seriously do individuals take their vows of marriage? How many times can someone help another human being who is clearly lost and has no compass? The answer to these are explored in T. Nicole Cirone’s beautifully written novel, Nine Nails.

In the beginning of the book, things are going great for Nicole – she has a rewarding career as a teacher and has loving and close relationships with her family, including with her twelve-year old daughter. Her parents live right next door. Nicole finds love in a charming, handsome, and successful man who was once a childhood friend. The couple marries, and everything is perfect.

Though not obvious at first, a troubling pattern emerges. Nicole’s husband has episodes where depressing and destructive feelings overwhelm him. Sometimes, he locks himself in his room. He spends a lot of time at bars. He becomes abusive and calls his wife names. According to him, Nicole is the cause of his unexpected behavior, and she cannot do anything right. On the other hand, he can’t do anything wrong. Though another woman may have already ended the relationship by this point, Nicole continues to keep her marriage vows in the forefront of her mind, trying to help her spouse through addiction and turmoil. Her love for her husband abides through every imaginable test and speaks to something that is difficult to find, a fixed heart that continues to be able to withstand anything and everything to preserve the possibility of what could be. Will Nicole’s husband be able to change and keep Nicole’s love, or is the marriage doomed to fail?

Nine Nails is gripping and the author’s skilled use of pacing will keep the reader turning pages to find out what happens next. Cirone places us perfectly in scene with vivid descriptions of time and place. Her use of language is equally masterful as word choices are both meaningful and exquisite. The combination of language and craft details are sure to make Nine Nails a favorite book for readers as well as writers. Nine Nails rises to the level of great literature, transcending time and person and focusing on universal themes regarding human love and loss. It is also a cautionary tale from which much can be learned. Nine Nails is definitely a must-read.

Nine Nails is published by Serving House Books and is available on

Tori Bond’s Familyism: A Review by Ayesha F. Hamid

Family means different things to different people, and Tori Bond explores what family means in her debut, flash-fiction collection, Familyism. Whether her stories consist of children spending time in nature and performing plays or townspeople, sitting in a bar and dreaming of a way out, Bond is able to create entire worlds with a sparsity of words. Bond captures the essence of the mundane as well as the extraordinary; she immerses us in the surreal and magical but keeps us rooted through her skillful exploration of human emotion. The author has the unique ability to make the reader feel deeply; her stories are crafted with care and are guaranteed to fill the reader with wonder. The powerful endings of each story will leave readers mesmerized.

Bond uses her ability to make the reader laugh, but Familyism goes beyond simply being funny; Familyism is equally sad and profound and joyful. While reading, I found the veins of isolation, loneliness, and the yearning for escape crashing over me like a wave. Characters experience the loneliness of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the settings of the stories don’t offer characters an escape. Again, the reader is drawn into a world of powerful emotion. Regardless of the intensity of feeling Familyism elicits, Bond masterfully balances emotion through her well-timed use of narration and humor. 

I highly recommend Familyism; It is not just a book, it is an experience! The book is a quick read, and the stories flow easily. You will ponder, question, and reminisce. This book could make you laugh out loud, so I don’t recommend reading it in public.

“Saved from Summer” by Ayesha F. Hamid

She welcomed the end of summer’s oppression,
the pressure under, over, everywhere
having cooked her from within.

In summer, the sun weighed down
disheartening dreams,
while the wandering, distracted mind meandered
wished to be someplace else,
wished to be free
somewhere else
where she was listened to, was esteemed,
someplace else where she never had to fear
being suspect for being something less than ideal
a place she wanted to welcome on hot skin
like a perfectly cool breeze.