Poem of the Week–Sisters Together

Sisters Forever

My sister Joan was the first one to
laugh and make wisecracks.
She drank too much.
Appearances are often deceiving.
Joan was not a social drinker.
She became an alcoholic
after her baby girl died of SID:
“sudden infant death.”
The doctors assured her that
she could not have prevented
such an unknown and
dreadful tragedy…
but I knew in my heart
she suffered from guilt.
Joan’s therapy consisted of
using liquor to escape
from her own inner demons.
Life has taught me a valuable
lesson about human weakness:
People who have a drinking
problem deserve compassion
and not contempt.
Joan’s life was a story
with an unresolved ending —
I always understood.

Marlene Klotz
Boca Raton Branch, FL

Poem of the Week–Bargaining with Karma

Bargaining with Karma

Dear Karma, you can have my Girl Scout badges
if I can take back shunning Ann Sanders next door

Giggles at Catcher in the Rye
for savoring Valley of the Dolls

I’ll give back almost anything except time with my dogs
for things I did in college (you know what I’m saying)

I could also give up working at Petite Shoppe
for asking a woman if she was pregnant when she wasn’t

The King & I revival on Broadway?—
not worth throwing up in the theatre lobby

Yes, I enjoyed Amanda’s dinner party once I got there
but not driving off with my peach pie on the car’s roof

Please take back that carat ring my husband gave me
and return his mother’s small gold necklace I lost

And here is whatever pleasure I had shopping
the day I picked up my daughter late on her birthday

Thanks for stuff that seemed dreadful but really wasn’t:
      seeing my parents drive away from Camp Fair Winds
      my first wedding cancelled after I got the dress
      two lay-offs from big, “important” jobs
      even my fall from a deck eight feet up

In fact, why mess with the dominoes—
their pockmarked, yet magnificent faces?

Karen Paul Holmes
Atlanta Branch, GA

First published in Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press 2014) by Karen Paul Holmes

Editor’s note: Flash Fiction Fall will resume at the beginning of next week, and the Poem of the Week will return to its regular Thursday spot! Keep connecting!

Poem of the Week–Doubt #28

Doubt No. 28:
Meditation in a Roundhouse

Cats struggle to stay clean, dogs circle
in perpetuity until one spot is known,
some certainty you and I may wonder
how they know this singular realm.
But that may have to be an end of it
until tomorrow’s train pulls in.

Linda Newman Woito
Iowa City, Iowa Branch

A reminder to all NLAPW members (you do not have to be a Letters member to participate): October is flash fiction month on the www.nlapw.org blog. Please send in your mini-masterpieces! For complete guidelines, click here.

Poem of the Week–Differences


Don’t divide the people, we insist…
There is a way, to peacefully coexist.
But still I see two sides concerning this.
What is power up to will they tell?

As mountain peaks await the sunset bell
and darkness captures either side of dawn
the sun appears alternatively gone;
night and day change sides and disappear
for us to follow, in our wake of fear.

Sophie Barnes
Connecticut Pioneer Branch, CT

Poem of the Week–Atlas


The first one I actually saw was
In bronze standing in front of Rockefeller Center
The others are pictures in books – flat and one dimensional
Of course, they are all men
Brawny, muscle bound men
Usually holding the world on their backs or shoulders
Usually looking down, weary
Ready to be done with their burden
Ready to drop us
At any minute
But I believe
Is a woman
Who stands tall and lithe
With balanced baskets of fruit or produce
kindling or water for her family
As she walks home from the marketplace, field or well
Proudly with grace
Eyes looking straight ahead as she takes each confident step
Into the future.
With the world truly on her head.

Susan Bassler Pickford
Member-at-large, ME

Call for submissions

For more writing submission call, including for nonmembers, click here.

October is flash fiction month on the www.nlapw.org website.

Like our Poem of the Week feature, I will post flash fiction –a short story of 100 words or fewer — by NLAPW members during the month of October 2015.

So let’s get writing, keeping it pithy, and submit one entry per Pen woman for consideration to


with your name and branch (or Member at large) info below your mini-masterpiece on a word file. New work is preferred!

To help me stay organized, please put flash fiction month as your email subject line.

–website content editor, Treanor Baring”

Poem of the Week–Joshua Tree


Ageless rocks stand like desert monuments,
Trees with spiky arms reach toward the sky.
Roads snake into endless wilderness
Distant views bemuse the eye.

Sandy trails slice through unyielding brush
Where shy inhabitants slither, crawl and run,
Bold wildflowers in radiant colors
Lift their heads to the relentless sun.

Vast and wild, the park calls to adventurers
Who roar along its roads in fearless quest.
While those who come to look for sanctuary
Soon discover gifts of beauty, peace and rest.

Some say this place is where the spirits dwell
And who’s to know who has not felt its spell?

Dawn Huntley Spitz
Cape Cod Branch, MA

Poem of the Week–Mere Things, & Helen Holt service

Memorial Service for Helen Holt
Sat, August 15, 11am – 2pm
The National Presbyterian Church, 4101 Nebraska Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20016

Mere Things

Mere things don’t matter,
or so we’d like to think;

but on the brink
of forgetting,

of letting

some mere thing
turns us

to remembering.

by Cathmar Shaw Prange
Iowa City Branch, IA

Poem of the Week–Sassafras and Roaming

Sassafras and Roaming

Behind overgrown yews, in that wreck
of a cottage the color of old bones,
there lived my other mother.
Under oaken timbers her tea steeped
in chipped earthenware mugs
and her spinning wheel twisted
flax into owl feathers
and uncommon paths.

After the hearth embers cooled,
she left footprints in the ashes,
rowed me down river,
each dip of oar stirring marsh grass,
spider webs, orange-tip butterflies.

In the shallows, egrets waded.
Here I paddled
round and round.
In the whirling, she sang
as she wove dandelions into river reeds
and crowned me queen.

Diane McDonough
Cape Cod Branch, MA

Art of the Week–Mystical Pond and Poem of the Week–Nocturne

Art of the Week

Click on the image to see it larger.

Mystical Pond at High Lane  Mary Lou Griffin Diamond State Branch, DE Pastel

Mystical Pond at High Lane
Mary Lou Griffin
Diamond State Branch, DE

Poem of the Week


I dip my feet and slowly enter the quiet pool of the river,
breaking its mirror- like face.
Soon algae and leaves come to attach themselves to my skin;
they conspire to camouflage me.
I think of my New York apartment’s bathtub
and my attempt at turning it into a spa.
One cup of epsom salts and five drops of lavender oil poured into it.
Here I am one with nature, part of earth,
like going back to being dust,
but while alive.
There’s a concert of muted murmurs and a harmony of subtle scents.
My arms sway, sending ripples to the weathered stone edge,
and my cupped hands try to scoop up slices of the white moon.
A bull frog pulls its long tongue out.
Is it considering I maybe be something to nibble at?
The river, including all of us in it, is a big eye staring at the sky.

Liliana Luppi Dossola
Alexandria Branch, VA

Editor’s Note:
I have just returned from an all too short spiritual retreat in the hill country of Texas where I swam in natural springs to beat the heat–less than 24 hours after I wintered in the Southern Hemisphere. This poem by Liliana Dossola was waiting in my inbox. Kismet! The pastel by Mary Lou Griffin appeared in a previous website art gallery.

Speaking of travel, if you are in need of restoration and great get-aways (sorry for the cheesy segue), the NLAPW has two incredible travel opportunities coming up: click here to see our News and Events page for details about our “Garden Tour and Pen Arts Stay” and “NLAPW in Italy.”
–Treanor Baring, NLAPW Website Content Editor

Art of the Week (At Repose with Mitsy) and Poem of the Week (Cuba)

Art of the Week

Click on the image to see it larger.

At Repose with Mitsy E. Marie Francis Vero Beach Branch, FL Acrylic

At Repose with Mitsy
E. Marie Francis
Vero Beach Branch, FL

Poem of the Week


Amalia, but we called her Molly
The first and only Cuban I have known
She was orphaned when
Her parents died in a train wreck
She and her brother were raised by the nuns and brothers
The children were not permitted to see each other for a year
Thinking that would allow their unspeakable loss to heal
Like an unpicked scab
Her family name, unknown to me, had stature but no money, she said
Molly married a US navy man and left the island by twenty
Castro’s revolution was on its way
In the United States the soap operas taught her English
An economics course taught her capitalism
Amalia transformed herself into Molly
We met when teachers at a Catholic School
She taught Spanish; I taught English
I was a twenty-seven year old ex-nun fresh from the convent
Molly was a thirty-seven year old with a master’s degree in psychology
She became my counselor ex-officio
Molly transformed me.
She was outgoing and fun
She gave me permission to shake off the habits of my old life
And embrace my new life with gusto
Just as she had done for herself.
We partied with faculty and attended weddings together
We went for dinner and drinks often
One night she let down her guard
Her brother was waiting for his son’s release
He’d been imprisoned for handing out anti-Castro pamphlets on a street corner
They’d cross the Straits when the boat of opportunity sailed
As soon as her words dropped from her lips
Panic set in
Now, she had to trust me with her secret
I never spoke a word; not even to ask the outcome
Molly divorced and I married; our friendship suffered
I moved hundreds of miles away, we lost touch
But thirty years later, I wanted to mend the rift
The internet quickly gave up Amalia’s address
A letter came back
My opportunity had sailed a year too late
In 2003 Molly had died.

Descansa en paz, Amalia. Descansa en paz.

by Susan Bassler Pickford
Member at large