Judith Skillman – Umbel



Framework of wild carrot, cluster of stars,
obsolete sunshade, diminutive of autumn

harbor us now as we wander into darkness– far from the sun, its ray and disc.

Inside out umbrella, keep us in this winter
and from straying

toward those others where the snow berried grandmother
feathers a nest
for the mole.




Judith Skillman’s new collections are Broken Lines—The Art & Craft of Poetry (Lummox Press, 2013), and The Phoenix—New and Selected Poems 2007 – 2013 (Dream Horse Press). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, The Midwest Quarterly, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, A Cadence of Hooves, and other journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of grants from the Academy of American Poets, the Washington State Arts Commission, the Centrum Foundation, and the King County Arts Commission. She teaches for Yellow Wood Academy. See judithskillman.com


Sassafras Literary Magazine issue 4




Gloria Garfunkel - Thunderstorms in South Dakota 
Matthew Laffrade - Choked City 


Gary Beck - Night Thought, Remote Father 
Tina Egnoski - Electroconvulsive Therapy;Dinner Guests at the Country House,
Apolitical Apothegm

Bruce Hinrichs - What seems now, well, only too ordinary
Seth Howard - Stepping Through The Door 
Kathie Jacobson - NEWTOWN

Don Kingfisher Campbell – Brothers 
Maureen Kingston – Threshold Dream, Dementia Aspic 
Steve Klepetar - A Silence, Laughing at the Leaves 
Justin Million - Convent, The Fourth Act 

Gaetan Sgro -Every Night We talk About The Same Thing, 
Afternoon, June 
The Coast
John Sibley Williams - Beirut,
                                I'm Reading Sunday’s Headlines That Call for Things Like Justice 

Jeremiah Walton - Road Trips Seen Thru Motel Rooms 
Jeffrey Zable - Natural Born Killer, Dear Editor/s 
Thomas Zimmerman - Forget to Die
Ali Znaidi – Counter Replica, Australian Horoscope 


Rebecca Andem - Fumes
Terry Barr - “Andy, It's Therapetic”


Ece Zeber: Self-Portrait, Scene 1 - 6, untitled

Sassafras issue 4 - PDF

Ali Znaidi – Counter Replica, Australian Horoscope

Counter Replica

Inside a page
there is always
a phage replicating
itself & when it is
dreams, &
antiphons to a lingering
restless want for flying




Australian Horoscope

The Magpie, March 21-April 20

The sun will return and engulf your realm with sublime lights.
You have to seize the opportunity and capture the cherry blossom
before the return of the owl. The sun will make you amaze people
with enigma and light.

The Kookaburras, April 21-May 21

The leaves of the tree woman begin to fall. That is a bad omen.
But if you are brave enough, you can bring luck through chasing
the sunrise in Antarctica.

The Bowerbird, May 22-June 21

You can’t imagine how mysterious your life would be
if you dwell in the cave for a period of time just to ponder.
And if you like to cast a spell on the opposite sex, just forget
about decorating your bower because simplicity has its enigma, too.

The Rainbow Lorikeet, June 22-July 22

Just keep looking at the horizons because your luck
is buried in a little cloud that is hiding behind the rainbow.
The day you will shoot that cloud with your arrow,
the rain will fall and fill in your empty buckets with water of luck.

The Kangaroo, July 23-August 23

Your heart is telling you to stand just in the middle and watch.
But your fate is going to be hit by a beefy brawny buffalo if you don’t move.
If you find it difficult to move, just begin with trivial things.
Try to change your pillow. Maybe, a new pillow can make your life start afresh.

The Rabbit, August 24-September 22

Don’t drink water all day not just to experience thirst,
but also to remember that your life is inundated with water.
So if you like your life to be always fertile just don’t deny the water
and grow a rose in the desert to poison any daring snake.

The Koala, September 23-October 23

The crow is coming again cawing to encumber your weary soul.
So just follow that flock of sparrows and listen to their songs—
a panacea for all your aches. Music will fill your termite-infested room with fresh air.
The Emu, October 24- November 22

Never lock your horse in the stable. Just saddle it and start out
trying to surpass the howling wind. When rekindled, your innate power
can grow olive trees in the North Pole.
The Crocodile, November 23-December 21

If you start eating a pizza, just finish it all.
Nothing can infest your life but those crocodile tears.
Don’t play the role of the victim.
You shall overcome all obstacles, if you don’t throw
half of your pizza in the dustbin.

The Turtle, December 22-January 20

Some people with prosthetic limbs did cage the dragon.
So just uncage fear from your heart,
and don’t forget that Venus is watching over you
on top of your shell.

The Eucalyptus, January 21-February 18

Welcome to the wilderness!
Finally, you are going to learn how to sleep
without blankets next to thousands of scorpions.

The Redback Spider, February 19-March 20

If you don’t know the goat’s monologues in the
haunted cave, you are missing out like a crazy.
What you need is some strangeness to spice up
the emptiness of your life.






(Australian Horoscope was first published in Phantom Kangaroo on 13/04/2012)

Ali Znaidi (b.1977) lives in Redeyef, Tunisia where he teaches English. His work has appeared in The Rusty Nail, The Tower Journal, Mad Swirl, Stride Magazine, Red Fez, & other ezines. His debut poetry chapbook Experimental Ruminations was published in September 2012 by Fowlpox Press (Canada). From time to time he blogs at aliznaidi.blogspot.com.

John Brantingham – Graham Greene Saved Me That Year

Graham Greene Saved Me That Year


The first year of teaching is hard. If you do it right, every year of teaching is hard, but the first is the most difficult. I was a year out of an MFA and part-time teaching all over Los Angeles. Part-time teaching is badly named. When people start teaching at the college level, they teach part-time at three or four colleges or universities. I was teaching eight classes that semester, twice as many as full-timers were supposed to teach, and I was a bit burned out.

So I picked up Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair during finals week. We’d read a lot of Greene in grad school of course. I’d admired his work without ever loving it, but this one hit me in just the right direction at just the right time.

Good books can do that to you. They don’t always do that, but they certainly can. I started reading the night before finals started. I had a stack of research papers to return to students, and I used the novel as my break, snatching six or ten pages between the volumes the students had poured themselves into. I wasn’t used to the heartbreak that students go through or the triumph either. I wasn’t used to seeing college from this side of the chalkboard.

It had been a year of firsts.

And in that year of firsts, I had decided to stop being a writer without knowing I had. I was in love with teaching. I still am. And that love for watching students adapting to the college lifestyle had pushed too many things out of my life. I’d lost friends. I’d stopped going to family functions. I had stopped writing and worse, stopped reading for pleasure.

The End of the Affair brought me back.

It’s probably not Greene’s best book, but it’s up there. A narcissistic writer makes claims like “Anyone who loves is jealous” and “I hate you, God. I hate you as though you actually exist.” By the end, we see our hero’s slow conversion to Catholicism, see that he’s a bad person, but that we like him. We admire and hate him. It’s a fantastically complex book in writing and idea as all Greene’s work is, as Greene was complex himself.

So I read it during lunch and dinner and to my wife, and I read it after they filed out of the finals, and I realized that yes, I was a teacher, but I was a reader too, and that I still truly did still want to be a writer.

And when I finished his novel, I still had papers to grade, but between them and during meals and whenever I could, I started to put together a poem that had occurred to me while reading The End of the Affair.


This blog post was published on September 16th, 2013 at johnbrantingham.se


John Brantingham have been featured in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and have had hundreds of poems published in magazines in the United States and England. His books include the short story collection, Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods and the crime novel Mann of War.

Tom Sheehan – Searching for Mushrooms and Trolleycars

Searching for Mushrooms and Trolley Cars

(Amanita Colyptraderma and Electric Street Cars)


They came out of West Lynn or East Saugus years ago, dark mushroom seekers, with their long-pieced poles, their own language whose word for amanita, to the initiate, would tell where their roots began, whether they were Florentine, Roman, or islander, Piana di Cartania. They might say Cocoli, Coconi or Coccori, the delicacies growing thirty or forty feet up on the great elms in the circled green of Cliftondale Square, those huge sky-reaching elms that fell to the hurricanes of ’38, or Carol in the ‘50s, finally to the toll of traffic demanding the green circle be cut down to size.

Once, in a thick fog, on my third floor porch, the mist yet memorable, I remember thinking the elms were Gardens in the Clouds.  I felt a bloom rise in me, a taste fill my mouth. They don’t come for amanita anymore because the elms have all gone, those lofty gardens, those mighty furrowed limbs; now shrubs and bushes stand in their place you can almost see over. Nor do the street cars come anymore from Lynn into Cliftondale Square. They say the old yellow and orange ones,  high black-banded ones, red-roofed ones,  real noisy ones, ones long-electric-armed at each end, the ones off the Lynn-Saugus run, are in Brazil or Argentina or the street car museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, quiet now forever as far as we are concerned, those clanging, rollicking machines that flattened pennies on the tracks so that good Old Abe became a complete mystery, or the Indian Chief, him and his background, became as flat and as charmless as his reservation.

From my porch high on the square, I’d watch thin long poles extending men’s arms, needles of poles they’d fit together, as they reached for the white-gray knobs growing in cloudy limbs. They wore red or blue kerchiefs around thick necks, like Saturday’s movie cowboys if you could believe it, as if any moment they could slip them over their faces and hide out in such bright disguises. They’d cut or tap loose the amanita, see it fall slowly end over end, like a field goal or a touchdown’s point-after, down out of the upper limbs, cutting a slowest curve and halved orbit, and they’d swish butterfly nets to catch the aerial amanita, or Cocoli, as it might be; or their women, in kerchiefs and drawn in and almost hidden away, faces almost invisible, with an upward sweep of gay aprons would catch the somersaulting fungi, the amanita colyptraderma, or being from Piana di Cartania, calling out its name Coconi or Coccori,

Oh, Mediterranean’s rich song airing itself across the green grass of Cliftondale Square, Brahminville being braced, uplifted. I was never privy to know their roots, their harsh voyages, to know where they landed and why, and now their sounds are lost forever, their voices across the square, the gay and high-pitched yells setting a brazen mist on Cliftondale, their glee as a soft white clump of fungi went loose from its roost, coming down to net, swung apron, or quick hat as if a magician worked on stage in the square, heading for Russula Delica, Cocoli Trippati, Veal Scaloppine, Mushroom Trifolati, Risotto Milanaise or plain old Brodo dei Funghi. All these years later I know the heavens of their kitchens, the sweet blast front hallways could loose, how sauce pots fired up your nose, how hunger could begin on a full stomach when Mrs. Forti cooked or Mrs.Tedeschi or Mrs.Tura way over there at the foot of Vinegar Hill feeding her gang of seven and their guests.

And I grasp for the clang-clang of the trolley cars, the all-metallic timpani of their short existence, the clash of rods and bars stretching to the nth degree, of iron wheel on iron rail echoing to where we ear-waited up the line with fire crackers’ or torpedoes’ quick explosions, and the whole jangling car shaking like a vital Liberty Ship I’d come to know intimately years later on a dreadful change of tide. How comfortable now would be those hard wooden seats whose thick enamel paint peeled off by a fingernail as I left her initials and mine on the back of a seat, wondering if today someone in Buenos Aires or Brasilia rubs an index finger across the pair of us that has not been together for more than sixty years.

But somehow, in the gray air today, in a vault of lost music carrying itself from the other end of town, that pairing continues, and the amanita, with its dark song-rich gardeners, though I taste it rarely these days, and the shaky ride the streetcars, for all of a nickel on an often-early evening, softest yet in late May, give away the iron cries and, oh, that rich Italiana. Once a sheer edge of moonlight, a reflection hung in my mind of a whole night’s vision, the smell and the sound of it all, the touch of things as they were.



(bio from Press 53)

TOM SHEEHAN is the author of Brief Cases, Short Spans (Press 53, 2008) and Epic Cures (Press 53, 2005). He has been nominated for the illustrious Million Writers Award twice and the Pushcart Prize twelve times. He has received a Silver Rose Award from American Renaissance for the Twenty-First Century (ART) and the Georges Simenon Award for Excellence in Fiction. His first short story collection, Epic Cures (Press 53), received a 2006 IPPY Award Honorable Mention. Sheehan served in the 31st Infantry Regiment in Korea in 1951, an experience that forever changed his life and serves to inform his writing. In addition to short story collections, Tom Sheehan has published three novels, five books of poetry, and three books of memoir and nonfiction. He lives in Saugus, MA.

Sara Flemington – my palm

my palm

is more pallid when wet, while hovering over the surface of a river,
when circulation slows to a crawl – bare feet, glass skin, numb mauve toes and levitating minnows
circling my ankles. show me the symmetry in the blue of their schools and my single stalk of shin.
show me how the tide can lift these oval breasts, weighted, graying like rocks; how this wind
can re-alight them, tint them champagne again beneath an unconditional moon.
for death is a moment of time passing along with others, a moment
where a body is no more than silt, at best. Miss Edna, Miss V.,
what became of you could become of me, otters swinging beneath a deluged torso
from which beavers may salvage limbs, fingers, toes.
on the beach lies a trail of papers i wish to reinvent themselves as trees. may the ink sweeten to sap,
my paroxysms burst into peculiar red leaves,
so when I join you, finally, amongst the Ouse, the sea, the current coursing perpetually
beneath a single glowing stone, my words will fall from their pin-thin branches
to lie on the groove of the green waters, stuck
in a reflection of the heavens forever.



Sara Flemington completed her Honors BA in English and Creative Writing from York University, where she received the Sorbara Award for Creative Writing, the Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Prize for Poetry, and an honorable mention for the President’s Prize for Short Fiction. She has featured at numerous reading series around Toronto, including CIUT Radio, and her work is forthcoming in Paper Darts. Sara lives in Toronto.

Proudly presenting the first issue of Sassafras – thank you!

Thank you, all writers!

Just a brief note to tell you all how happy I am with the first issue of Sassafras, and what a thrill it is to see all this inspiring writing come together in this first collection.

The outcome of this very first issue of Sassafras is organic, and very diverse, in themes, voices and writers backgrounds, as well as rich in cultural influences and languages.

I’m very impressed by all the great submissions I have received, well beyond my expectations, and I hope to publish a lot more in the issues to come.


[edit: Sassafras is now on Facebook: link  https://www.facebook.com/sassafrasmag]

PS. The very first submission to Sassafras Literary Magazine arrived via old school postal service (it never happens!) in a large, bright orange envelope. To my surprise it contained a nice written piece and some references to online material, and that is how I came across the artwork for the first issue. I find it  amazing that a submission has been transferred from the all analogue to the digital, hopefully, to be available to many.

PS.II  Please open the PDF file of the magazine with a single page view, it does open that way from the desktop, (not when opened directly from WordPress). The 2-page spread view doesn’t seem to be possible to change, once in WordPress. Let me know if you know the trick!

Thanks to the writers who contributed to the first issue:

Amy Attas
Guy R. Beining

Carly Breault
Tessa J Brown
Wayne Burke
Alyssa Cooper

Will Fawley
Miguel Gardel
John Grey
Linda Hegland
Desirée Jung

Victoria Martinez
rob mclennan
Corey Mesler
Dora Mushka
Linda Nguyen
Kenneth Pobo