Summer hiatus – Sassafras is back in August

Sassafras will be on hiatus during the month of July – no submissions notices or emails until the first week of August. Please send your submissions – in 3-4 weeks – if you don’t wish to wait a few weeks more. I will reply within 3 days to everyone who has submitted up until today – July 1st. My apologies for the wait.

Thank you all kind, generous, patient and friendly writers for reaching out and submitting your work to be considered for publication in Sassafras. I often feel grateful, humbled, and sometimes overwhelmed.

What I’m trying to say is – you people amaze and inspire me on a daily basis.

Cake or death? (Eddie Izzard)



Giant poppy.


Giant poppy – very out of focus (yes, iPhone).






Seaside walk.



A few highlights from Sassafras issue 7

I’ve highlighted some great lines from the current issue of Sassafras – # 7 is huge (in no particular order):


You fold this sweater the way a moth
builds halls from the darkness it needs
to go on living

Simon Perchik – Untitled

The struggle to take root, to look up
as I do, in awe of the elder, pray they will be able
to avoid boot, bird and belligerent weather

A.J. Huffman – From Forest’s Path


Possible side effects include sticky-slick crayon
sketches on paper tablecloths and your mother, smiling, her hand
on her soap-bubble belly. 

Allison Hymas – Warning


A woman had come in, hesitantly as if I might hit her with the broom I brandished. She wore a long red jacket and a black hat
that looked too expensive for this town and asked for books on alcoholics anonymous — she wasn’t the alcoholic, she assured me.
After fifteen minutes of her trying to catch the bird in her jacket while I chased it with the broom, I knew it was getting
ridiculous. And then, the bird vanished.

M.C. Kelly – Beware of Bird


You pat the mound with the shovel again. She was right. It turned out to be good practice. You cough, harder this time. Dry breath hits your knuckles. Inside, a light comes on. 

Bennett Durkan – Good Practice


My son roared right back at them,

                        arms overhead—

                        Eyes full of wonder,

                                                I watched him instead.

Joe Wahlman – Autumn Waves


I didn’t know her, yet dedicated all my activities to her, let her borrow my senses, feel her muscles through my exercise,
fill her lungs through my breaths, see art at the museum through my eyes, taste wonderful food at an Italian Christmas through my taste buds.

Bahar Anooshahr – In her Body


We notice things: the steady speed of dust
Accumulating at our spines, your glances

Kevin Murphy – Shelf Life

The neighbor, she likes to grow vegetables in the warm,
leaving my headaches and my heart on the front porch.
I must insert each in the proper cavity.
Sun widens over in a massive thaw.
All land obeys like a shackled chain gang.

Amanda Tummirano – The Approach of Spring


Before he left, he turned,
and to all of us and to none of us
gave a slight, seemly bow,
as if to say,
Sleep well. I am here.

                       Bric Barker – 1281 Train to Andong


You roll over into a darkness that eases
upon your shoulder.  Within
a manageable light, your two faces
discuss themselves: hammer or nail—
nurse or patient?

Britt Melewski – In Patient


Where we would walk
with shadows ignoring the coarseness
beneath our feet like barefoot nomads
yours, one step ahead of mine, so carefully
avoiding this unbearable existence of following.

Carol Lynn Grellas – Before the Pink House


Eyes.  Ebi
Shinjo starry
Friends to whom I belong.  Friends who I will wrong.

Lynn Xu – Our Love is Pure (first in Octupus Magazine)


“This is a game isn’t it? You’re testing me somehow.”

“Interesting you would think that. How do you feel about tests?”

“I don’t care one way or the other,” I say.

“Suppose I pulled a gun from my pocket and said I was going to shoot you?”

“I’d have to think about that. Shoot me where exactly?”

“For starters, let’s say the leg.”

Allen Hope – Not The First Time


Beside the refrigerator is where Mom sits, in the dark. Even though it is only afternoon, the house does not let much light in. The leg holes of the underwear she wears on her head open up to pink curlers with pressed black hair wrapped around them; they poke through like antennas. The nightgown she wears is sheer. I can see the outline of her long breasts under it. They sit on top of her tummy; these are the biggest things on her five-foot frame.

“This is my house,” she says.

Melissa Valentine – Evidence of Him

Later that evening, before retiring, Mr. P. was cleaning his teeth in his bathroom. Midway he paused,  and looking in the mirror with a mouthful of froth, he mouthed softly, “Wow, awesome!” and then, a little louder — “MAGIC!!”

Kay Perry – Terri and Tonka

We sleep, clinging to the elbows
of spring, shackled to the warmth
of doors.  Safety is any number
greater than one

Quinn Rennerfeldt – Low Bones

In July, chemo ended:
Wendy’s napkins
folded the same–
but I’d been rearranged

Carol Smallwood – Lunch at Wendy’s (first in vox poetica)



You are a stone chained behind my teeth, biting my tongue
until it is slashed into ribbons.
Does your throat swallow
broken glass when a shadow reminds you of me?

Carolyn D. Elias – Mother



I have felt the night quiver with heron’s wing
over the swamps, over wild pigs in a blackberry patch,
their snouts bloody & alive in the moonlight,
& I have walked on, dirty, alone, kicking to the grasses
the swollen bodies of possum, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, bobcat,
giving them no prayer, no peace-filled silence.

Joshua Poteat – Hitchhiking in the Dying South

the best way is to have these conversations
with your backs to one another
trembling from what you may hear next

Roger Bernard Smith – said

if we could hold still
long enough in the sheen
of morning light.

Carol Tyx – Tomatoes on Windowsill

“I’ll be wantin’ decaf too, sweetheart. Make sure it’s hot,” he wheezes. His eyes, level with my throat, are disturbingly blue, but one struggles to stay open. As I turn to assist The Golden Girls, who are making eyes at the pot in my hand, his snowy hand clutches my wrist.

“Ya know, I have a fetish for ponytails,” he says, licking each word. Oh my God. I am suddenly too aware of the end of my ponytail tickling the back of my neck. I breathe in the mixture of scrambled eggs and last night’s Old Spice.

Kelsey Damrad – Breakfast at the Ranch


Issue 6




Emily Strauss (photos) - Covering Fog,
Hills and Barn, River Morning


Jon Bennett - AHM#2
Michael Boccardo - What No One Told Me About Autumn,
Fable For Boys Who Chase Tornadoes

Beth Boylan - The List
Micah Chatterton: Self - Hypnosis
Nancy Correro - Pursuit of the other side,
New Life in the 21st Century

Megan Kaminski - Dear Sister
Mercedes Lawry - Trends, The Observer
Jeremy Nathan Marks - The Conversation,
The Moon

Dawn Schout - Scablands,At The Royal Palace
Emily Strauss - After a While Dumbness Strikes, Night Music


Michael Brasier - Like Nothing Ever Happened
Ron Morita - Flight
Sherri H Levine - Footbridge
Ashleigh Rajala - Coal Dust


Riona Judge McCormack - Theme in A Minor
Kelly Seiz - Pluck

(Sassafras issue 6 as a PDF)

Kelly Seiz – Pluck



A fire, a separation, and a new house atop a New York mountain occur in that order over the next four years. Kelly is now seven years old.
The eyelashes have grown back. She’s constantly engaged by the new surrounding forest and there, she plays, instead of hiding beneath tables like a trapped animal chewing its leg off.

Life is good on the mountain. Kelly hasn’t seen a psychologist in two years and feels comfortable, if not beautiful.

The divorce is finalized and her mother wins primary custody. Kelly turns ten and they move off of her beloved mountain and down into the village. Soon after, the edges of Kelly’s eyelids grow bare. By now, she’s strategized that if she only plucks gradually, the main body of lashes will be enough to keep her secret hidden.

Middle school proves horrendous with her pudgy body and creepy eyes. The other children are starting to become opinionated, but remain unstructured enough to ask inappropriate questions and draw insensitive conclusions.

“Why do you only have some eyelashes?” Kelsey asks in the bathroom, her gaggle of mini-bitches eagerly waiting a response.

“I’ve always been like this,” Kelly responds flatly.
“But in elementary school you had eyelashes,” she asks undeterred. Their curiosity radiates like heat. Kelly’s cheeks grow hot.

“I know. I don’t know,” she answers lamely. She stands downcast and silent until one by one, they flock off.

Anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder are commonly diagnosed in trichotillomaniacs. Kelly is diagnosed with all three by a new doctor that she drops in a week. Her mother tells her it’s a waste of money, that only she can stop plucking.

She swears to herself that she’ll get her eyelashes back. By the end of eighth grade, she does.

She stars on the modified soccer team. She wins third in the state with her All-Star softball team. The weight floats away and she’s suddenly in the elite.

Still, she doesn’t look anyone in the eye despite the mascara she painstakingly brushes on her brittle lashes.







Kelly Seiz is a freelance writer and journalism student at SUNY New Paltz. She has previously written hard news stories for the Legislative Gazette and this is her first published creative nonfiction piece. She lives in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. with her family and a bunch of misfits.

Michael Boccardo – What No One Told Me About Autumn, Fable For Boys Who Chase Tornadoes

What No One Told Me About Autumn


__Why it boils over without apology. Why
lawns lining every home erupt

__in the night, fevered by some unnamable sorrow.
Why the sky hides so often, a blister

__I’ve fingered since childhood.
When it uses words like mercy

__and regret, I lose myself in the backyard
the way a match loses its grip on the dark.

__Here, between two pines, I might hear
what was once the gossip of sheets

__my mother snapped against a line,
father’s shirts pinned shoulder

__to shoulder, collars flared, buttons with nothing
to clutch. I think of the crickets who will later spark

__the air with their duplicitous refrain,
how I will follow them, barefoot,

__moss dusting my heels. And for what?
Tell me that if I look back now,

__I won’t see how each grief solders us
to the next: a house clapped shut,

__gagged, leaning into its hollowed bones.
Leaves, battered by wind, seized

__between the tines of an abandoned rake.
Their ceaseless falling. How they wait

__and wait to become tinder, then smoke,
then ash. How I cannot change it.


Fable For Boys Who Chase Tornadoes


Even from birth, it is said that sky bonds
_______with a certain kind of child. For instance, this one:
___his eyes like cellar doors sprung, each iris

a spiraling dervish. Bundled, his hair is the shade
of hysteria beneath a blanket’s scalloped hem — erratic, always escaping.
Think ash. Think vellum, or wool

raveling its dense skeins down his collar, curls
_______that will drag shoulders broadened
___by the eve of his thirteenth birthday.

Alone, he’ll cross lands flat as patchwork, drifting
_______east, the sun a spill of whiskey scorching his shadow
___against the earth. Over the years he will begin

to forget his mother, father, the debris
_______of their smiles as they waved goodbye,
___both arms buckled around the others’ waist.

He is left only to guess at the siblings
_______who may fill his place—a sister, all elbows
___and scraped knees locked around the siren

of a rusted gate, or twins, brothers
_______dirt-streaked and thundering through thickets
___of wisteria. In ritual, he still exists. Charms

strung at their throat, wrist.
_______For protection: clover bunched above windows,
___the splintered lip of a vacant door. Nights,

one small voice reaches for the others,
_______a leaf wavering across the room, Will the sky ever return
___him home? Can he find us on the map of his hand?

They fear the days blotted by clouds,
_______but know without a photograph this is all
___they have of him. Swab of cheek, shadow thick.

Lips a rippled cumulus splitting the horizon.
_______They hold hands, knuckles steepled, and recite hymns
___that tug at their throats like birds wrenching worms

free from an arid and unyielding
_______world. A world that trades prayers for magic,
___logic for spells.They have yet to know

that nothing is holier than the body, the atlas
_______of its undoing: skin, breath, bone. All of it dust
___blown into the pocket of a God they cannot touch.



(* What No One.. and Fable For.. was first published at the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund among the winning submissions of 2012. The pieces are included in Sassafras via a request from the editor.)

Edit:  “What No One Told Me About Autumn” is also slated to appear in Best New Poets 2013 (winter).


Michael Boccardo’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Kestrel, Border Crossing, Weave, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Nimrod, as well as other journals.  He is a multiple recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and a three-time Pushcart nominee.  Also, he serves as editorial assistant for Cave Wall.  He resides in High Point, NC, with his partner and three tuxedo cats.

Megan Kaminski – Dear Sister

Dear Sister



This shouldn’t be so difficult — your side
of the ocean no colder than mine and
coasts are often rocky and lined with stinking
fish and seaweed. I read your letter again
last night when the colder air rolled over hills.
Each line a new complaint about collapsing cupboards
and sulky cats. The neighbor is painting his house; white
boards sopped of gray and each morning

a different man on a ladder smiling down to sidewalk.
The trees are still today and everything is quieter.
Voices do not carry through closed windows and only
rumbles from old cars remind me that I am not alone

here in the brick house far from the road. The tea
warms me a bit too much and the tray for letters
on the desk still empty, waiting for you to get out
of bed and compose a reply.









(*Dear Sister was first published in Two Serious Ladies, and is included in Sassafras via a request from the editor.)

Megan Kaminski is the author of one book of poetry, Desiring Map (Coconut Books, 2012), and six chapbooks of poetry, most recently This Place (Dusie, 2013) and Gemology (LRL Textile Series, 2012). She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Kansas and curates the Taproom Poetry Series in downtown Lawrence. You can visit her at:


Jon Bennett – AHM#2

AHM #2


If I’m going

to be a prisoner

and I am

let me build

my prison

on the ivory plain

of your stomach

in view

of the forest

of your long



Jon Bennett is a musician and Pushcart Award nominated writer living in San Francisco’s Chinatown. His first novel, “The Unfat,” a speculative sci-fi story about autism, is due to be published through Chupa Cabra House in March of 2014. You can see more of his poetry by visiting him on Facebook at