Poem of the Week: Forever By My Side

Anne Marie Vale, Ph. D., Sarasota Branch


My mom, Rita, was born in 1920.

Money was scarce and troubles were plenty.

But her faith was strong and her spirit was stoic.

In fact, I’d say she was heroic.


You’d be hard pressed to find

Someone who loved mankind

More than my beloved mother

Whose motto was “to love one another.”


She was generous and beneficent,

Yet reserved and somewhat reticent.

You’d sense she wanted to express a bit more,

But was rather hesitant to open the door.


The Depression Era left its mark.

Her youthful days were sometimes dark.

But in those days you’d never reveal

Pain or heartache- you learned to conceal.


Mom was very bright and witty

Extremely dignified and really pretty.

Yes, Rita stood so proud and tall,

Possessing a memory that stunned us all!


Around the age of eighty-five

Mom’s spirit was amazingly alive!

But her exceptional memory that was one-of-a-kind

Was showing some traces of lagging behind.


And yet there appeared a silver lining,

Defying description or even defining!

Suddenly, my reserved and often shy mother

Took on the ebullient nature of another!


Rita just lifted her protective mask

And it seemed to be an effortless task!

Her nature was no longer shy and coy.

It transformed overnight into boundless joy!


Though dementia can dissolve into sadness and tears,

And episodes, too, of stress and fear.

I choose to remember how out-going and free

My mom became- free to “be me!”


But Rita’s carefree state would end

When she lost her husband and very best friend.

Yes, George, my beloved dad, was the true love of her life,

And his passing last December caused deep grief and strife.


Mom’s eyes now closed – no facial expression.

The doctor called it a terminal depression.

Those once bright eyes might glimmer for a time,

But they now reflected no reason or rhyme.


For the next  nine weeks, Rita barely spoke a word.

Though her eyes were shut, I’m sure that she heard

The love I’d express and the music I’d play;

But that mask of grief stayed day after day.


Yes, Rita so wanted to be with her George

And I prayed that God would quickly forge

A happy reunion between Mom and Dad.

To see Mom like this was just too sad!


Finally, one dark February night

Mom apparently saw the light!

All of a sudden, her eyes opened wide

While I expressed to her all I felt inside.


The mask had vanished as did her sorrow.

She now anticipated her new tomorrow.

We looked into each other’s eyes ‘til morn.

Rita knew she would soon be reborn.


And sure enough at 3:15,

With eyes wide open and totally serene,

Rita peacefully entered eternity,

Joining George in blissful unity.


Mom and Dad are in the presence of the Lord

With the angels and saints in one accord.

No more earthly mask and nothing left to hide,

And though I miss seeing them, they’re forever by my side.


Poem of the Week: New Cut in the Woods

Martha Steger, Lifetime Member-at-Large, Richmond, Virginia


Imagine an unattended baby-seat strapped

to a tree for thrush-eggs’ nourishment but

sabotaged by cowbirds’ sinister deposits in

this tiny home held together by spiders’ webs

along the new cut in the woods. Surreal is

the circling brown-headed parasite in my

view on this path bulldozed for human

habitation, with cribs and swing-sets to

replace fledgling thrushes that are not to be,

as the dealer wins at the house table while

the song of life goes on like Darwin’s finches

and the wildly flapping albatross flailing across

marshlands looking to plummet but uncaring

as it takes off for heights unknown. How hard

the search for my true self in Calvin or Confucius’

blades of grass and bittersweet experience,

while monks must hear the flute-like songs and

see threads of ongoing rebuilding, silken flux.


Poem of the Week: After reading “After”


After reading “After” by Octavio Paz

Diane McDonough, Cape Cod Branch


After telling myself

no day after day,

the way mother did when asked if

I could do something …


after the nos stacked on top of one another

like bricks in a wall

that kept me safe —


I mean safe as defined by mother,

meaning out of the water, off the street,

away from germs, prepared for Holy Communion.


But after today,

longest day of light,

I want to chisel out the mortar,

remove the bricks that say no,


you can’t, you aren’t capable

or, isn’t it going to rain, snow, be too hot,

dark, bright….I want to kneel here


after the rain, in the mud, amidst the strewn

bricks and create a runway that leads

into a garden of wildflowers


and accidental blooming,

and then out

to one rowdy, unpredictable life.


Editor’s note:  Octavio Paz won The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990

Flash Fiction “Non-musical anthem”

Non-musical Anthem

A proactive member of the human community, each day for me is testimony to renewal, commitment and recovery. As the fertile earth awaits new growth, my journey anticipates bright hours of hope and mindfulness.
My mission is open-ended. I will welcome new friends, cherishing the old. I will stimulate my spirit to fresh vistas and refresh my ongoing creativity, embracing my enduring values. In this changing world, I will nurture vitality and vitalize the lives I touch.
I will seek to thrive in peace and harmony and will my Self to Be all I have been and all I am.
Anna Di Bella
Past National President, NLAPW
All Cities Branch, NY

From Treanor Baring, Past Website Content Editor:

It has been my pleasure to work with many talented, competent and thoughtful women at NLAPW at the National Level. Thank you to all of the poets, writers, artists and members in music who have shared your talent with others through this blog. It has been a great honor to serve as the website editor for the NLAPW and to expand the audience for your work through the website and Pen Women Press.

I do expect that the new editors will continue to care as much about our mission and getting YOUR work out there as I have. I look forward to their contributions with the anticipation that they will maintain the quality, integrity and professionalism that we’ve initiated.



Poem of the Week–Cream


My mother stands in the kitchen
pouring cream over sliced bananas,
cream skimmed from the top of
a milk bottle delivered that morning,
her flowered housedress
hangs loose on her frame.

On holidays she hand-whips cream
laced with powdered sugar and
vanilla into white mounds— her apron
catches stray spatters. She scoops
thick clouds onto pumpkin pie,
as light splays silver on her hair.

Years later she chooses cream puffs
from a bakery. I see her sitting at
the table late afternoon with tea and
the newspaper, a wrinkled hand
lifting a fork to thin lips with a smile,
her glasses tipped on her nose.

Behind her, a window opens to farmland
where once the clink of glass bottles
left on the step could be heard and
cream always rose to the top.

Lorraine Walker Williams
SW Florida Branch

Flash Fiction–Paradox


On a day when divorce was distinctly possible, she threw up, went to work, then to her son’s baseball game. For one moment, breeze, sun, voices combined and something utterly inexplicable occurred: she felt purely and completely happy.

by Louise Kantro
Modesto Branch, CA

Flash Fiction–Too Fat to Fit

Too Fat to Fit

We drove 300 miles to the Iowa State Fair–Ian, Leo and me. Planned to stay with Sis, so we did. Next day we walked. Ate things on a stick. Grandsons kept walking as they ate –cotton candy, pork-chops, funnel cakes. Tried midway rides, some twice. Sun warmed farmer caps and strollers, as we listened to horse-drawn wagons and talent scouts.

Packing for home next day, Sis rushed super-mega toilet rolls to my back seat.
“Why we taking these to Wisconsin?” asked Leo.

“They’re too fat to fit,” Sis said, “my toilet holders.”

“Why not just stack them on the counter?” he said.

Linda Newman Woito
Iowa City Branch, IA

From the author:

I still am laughing out loud, to this day, when I think of Leo’s obviously ADULT rational response. I think Leo wins the day, and for me, the story is about him, not the sister.

Reader response?

And happy, belated Valentines day:


Oh you’re so pretty!
I think you’ll fit just fine!
I might have to hang you
and call you my Valentine!

Dianne Lynn Benanti
Palm Springs Branch, CA

Flash Fiction–The Ring

The Ring

Traffic whizzed by; she waited at the café table. Running her fingers through her gray hair, she recalled.
“You’re so beautiful,” Angelo had said, frowning. “Why do you look so young? You deceive me.”
It was one of those smack-in-your-face moments. She loved him. He loved her.
She shook her head. He’s not coming. Rising she crossed the street. In an instant, brakes squealed. She was on the ground – pain, blood. Someone picked up her head, cradled it in his lap. In that moment she looked up, a death smile on her lips.
It was Angelo, fingering a velvet ring box.

Christina Laurie
Cape Cod Branch, MA

Flash Fiction: Ester


My mother died when I was thirteen years old. Never mind that my father died the same day-he shot her twelve times and then turned the gun on himself. Ester, I loved her so much.

Years later I was in labor with my first child. I cried with heart pain not labor pain, wanting so much for my mother to be there. Hours passed and I was still in labor-couldn’t my body just let go and move on?

That’s when the new duty nurse came in and said, “Hi, I’m Ester. I’m here to help you have your baby.” Mom.

By Mary E. Edgerton
Bayou City Branch, TX

Visit our bookstore to order our beautiful new art calendar, books of poetry and powerful stories of healing for graduation gifts for the seniors in your life

A conversation with two collaborators

Why be a Pen Woman? This conversation with two Iowa Pen Women who wrote Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink together, says it all!
mary & me cover

The length of the friendship never brought astonishment. After all, the majority of Baby Boomers could likely claim a long-standing friendship in their lives. No, it was always the letters: the-pen-on-paper, inside-a-stamped-envelope, mailed-in-a-mailbox letter that was awe-inspiring. “You’ve been writing a letter every week for almost thirty years?” The question always evokes disbelief, particularly since the dawn of the Internet and email…
…This book explores a friendship that began in June 1986 and will most likely not end until “death do us part.” The fact that one of the women in this relationship had never really had other female friends outside of her sisters, while the other woman had too many to count, is all part of the story.”

—-Excerpted from the introduction of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, co-written by Iowa City Branch Pen Women Mary Potter Kenyon (Letters 2014) and Mary Jedlicka Humston (Letters 2007). Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Familius Publishing. (http://www.familius.com/mary-me)

The following article “A Q & A Conversation with Two Collaborators” details how these two Pen Women coauthored a book and what they learned in the process.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about collaborating with another Pen Woman?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: I admit to being a control freak, and so there was that to overcome when working with someone else on a project. While Mary and I had been friends for years and were used to critiquing each other’s writing, I had the most experience working with a publisher. There were occasions when I felt a little bossy, nixing her ideas. When we decided to work with each of our strengths, it was easier. I’d sold three other books through book proposals and had been teaching community college classes in proposal writing, so it made sense for me to write that. Mary was the better editor, so I relinquished a lot of that to her.
A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Distance. Living 90 miles apart required extensive planning for face-to-face visits. Busy schedules as well as snow, ice, and blizzards occasionally hindered our work sessions. When the weather cooperated, we accomplished amazing results. Frequent emails and phone calls became crucial.

Q: What was the thing that surprised you the most?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: Because I shared the work with a coauthor, and other women’s essays were also included in the book, I was surprised how little of the manuscript was solely up to me. I’d just completed three non-fiction books in the previous three years, with two taking more than a year to finish. With Mary writing half of each chapter, and essays filling in pages between each topic, we were able to complete the book in a few months.
I was also surprised to discover many similarities between Mary and me that hadn’t been fully revealed through all those years of letter-writing.

A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Two things. I knew that communication would be crucial, but I didn’t realize its true importance. Communication created an environment of openness which allowed us to be creative and provided a great working relationship.
Bellevue event
The other thing? Writing Mary & Me deepened our already strong friendship. I thought I knew a lot about Mary, but I learned even more about her in our collaboration.

Q: What are the differences in the way the two of you work? Do you have different styles?
A: Mary Potter Kenyon: Mary revises much more than I do. I relied on her to be the one to repeatedly go over everything with a fine-toothed comb, but there were times when it was a little frustrating for me when a single word or phrase would bother Mary to no end. I don’t rely on other beta-readers as much as Mary does, perhaps to my own detriment, but it works for me when I have to meet a deadline. Now that I’m a newspaper reporter I believe it is a saving grace. No one sees anything I write until it ends up on the editor’s desk. For our coauthoring project, however, it was Mary’s endless revising that caught several serious errors.

A: Mary Jedlicka Humston: Mary wrote chapters in order. I did not. I am an editing fiend and have a hard time letting a piece go. She helped me know when “enough was enough.”

When we arrived at the speaking stage of our book journey, we realized we had totally different styles. Mary has an outline and can speak from it with ease and comfort. I like to have everything written out, so I don’t forget key points. I practice voraciously so my delivery appears natural and not stilted.

Our bios:
Mary Potter Kenyon graduated from the University of Northern Iowa and lives in Manchester, Iowa. She is a reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and author of five books, including the award-winning “Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace.” She is widely published in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers and teaches writing courses for community colleges. She is a popular speaker on the topics of grief and writing. E-mail: marypotterkenyon@gmail.com

Mary Jedlicka Humston, a former high school teacher, graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in English education. Her poetry and essays have been widely published, both nationally and locally. She has presented programs on cancer, dealing with chronic illness, prayer, writing and the Little Free Library movement. She resides in Iowa City, Iowa. E-mail: maryjedhum@gmail.com