Category Archives: Poetry

J. T. Evans

I.
 
May.  The Moon When Ponies Shed Their Shaggy Hair. 
Horsemen against a red western sky ride through White River Valley. 
Warriors, women and children trail in the twilight dust, ghostlike,
pushing forward, reaching back to the bleeding horizon. 
Buffalo gone.  Freedom gone.  The sacred circle broken.  Huddled
by the fort at the foot of ancient cliffs, places of dreaming,
they chant the peace song.  Dog soldiers and Indian scouts
surround the horsemen:  Little Hawk, Big Road, He Dog, and their chief,
the man they call Strange One. 
 
In silence he roams among them, noticing none but the children. 
Solitary creature, like a hawk on the wing.  Small and slim, a single feather
at the back of his head.  Braids of brown fur-wrapped hair hanging long
over plain buckskin, a Winchester dangling at his knee.  His power,
a boyhood vision of the world behind this one.  Spirit home of all things living, 
where he and his horse dance queer like shadows floating,
giving him the name Tashunka-Uitco, Crazy Horse. 
 
Facing the Blue Coats, he stares down the darkness.  Ferocious eyes,
face of blazing rage.  The soldiers fear him above all others, fear his strong medicine,
his war club, his scalping knife.  They have heard the stories.  Or lived to tell their own. 
How he chewed dried eagle heart and wild aster flowers for power and protection
from the guns and bayonets, the bullets like hail around him.  How on the plains
and in the hills, charging into battle on a yellow pinto, eager and tireless
for the killing, he whipped them on the Powder, along the Yellowstone,
beside the Rosebud, at the Little Big Horn.
 
And after all that, this. The final insult.  Bringing the Lakotas to the Soldier Town,
trading skin tepees for canvas tents, bounty for hunger.  Surrendering weapons
and horses and vigor to the whites who swell like flood waters over the land,
following the smell of gold. Wishing for the evening wind waving
through tall grass, for the blazing fires of village centers where the people
dance and sing Hoka hey!  Hoka hey!  until night gives birth to morning sun
rising over the breaks of distant bluffs.  Longing for the old days, the Indian ways.
 
 
II.
 
Spotted eagle circling above me. 
Plunging at my feet.
Under its wing, iron knife stuck deep. 
Blood filling my moccasins. 
Drum beating in my head like horse hooves
on hollow ground.  Great Spirit, take me
to distant dark country where my anger can roam free,
far from white man’s chains and crooked tongues. 
Our ways and theirs, different
as sun from moon.  Hey-a-a-hey!  Have courage my people.
Only the earth endures. 
Behold!  In the clouds, a thunder being smoking healing herbs
in the holy pipe.  A rider with lightning limbs
on a white-faced bay facing east.  Behold!
All tribes, one nation.  Walking the black road home. 
Hou!  This day my heart is good.
It is a beautiful time to die.
 
 
III.
 
Messenger comes
with slow feet of bad news:
Betrayal and lies.
Promises broken.
Red steel, long knife
flashing in late sun.
Brave warrior
drops to the dust
by the soldiers’ iron house,
dark pools of blood
mirror sacred sky.
 
Ahh-h!  Curly, my son.
Strong, good and wise man!
A father’s heart heavy with loss.
A mother’s tears like rain
spilling over smooth stones.
The people’s vision blinded,
their voice silenced,
stars turning toward midnight.
No killing, no taking of scalps
can bring you back
or make the darkness fade.
But your spirit will rise,
and your bones will sleep
under grass facing blue sky
along a creek beneath cottonwoods
crowded by plum and chokeberry thickets;
where as a boy
you liked to run
and hunt and dream,
the earth, rain and four winds
your only companions.
This holy place
your father and mother alone
will know, and we will die
holding the secret in our breasts
with eternal love for you,
our son, our Strange One.

______________________________________________________________________________

J. T. Evans is a writer living in Richmond, Va.

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Joanie DiMartino

“Still, when we take into consideration the Glory 
attached to a whaleman’s life, one perhaps ought to be happy.”
from Whale Hunt, by Nelson Cole Haley
Harpooner on the Charles W. Morgan, 1849-1853

Sometimes on the cuttin stage
to leviate the back break
of work I let my mind wander 
to New Bedford, but it’s always autumn,
when those leaves were sun-baked
to the color of pumpkin pie,
and I remember that Eve
of All Hallows when I found
my daughter by the fireside
telling fortunes with her friends.
See, they was paring apples,
turnin the fruit over and over
in their hands, tryin to keep
the peel in one piece 
to learn in the future if their husbands
will be rich or not.
Well, I hollered at them, 
said they were no better’n them girls
from Salem, those villagers
callin folks witches,
while I threw the apple peels
in the fire. Now I stand 
here in the hot sun
over beggar sharks as we strip
blubber from this whale, 
rotate the beast until peeled 
clean in one long piece,
longin to smell those burning
apple peels instead,
and I don’t need no crystal ball
or a clear sea to foretell
that those girls’ll marry whalers,
every last one of ‘em, 
and there’s no use 
in none of us wishin on 
wealth from a paltry 
lay of whale oil.

______________________________________________________________________________

Joanie DiMartino has work published in many literary journals and anthologies, including Modern Haiku, Alimentum, Calyx, and Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women.  She is a past winner of the Betty Gabehart Award for Poetry. DiMartino is the author of two collections of poetry, Licking the Spoon and Strange Girls, and is completing her third manuscript, “Wood to Skin,” about the 19th-century whaling industry, for which she was a 38th Voyager on the Charles W. Morgan.  Joanie also is a historian and museum professional; she currently serves as the curator and site superintendent of the Prudence Crandall Museum, a National Historic Landmark. Her poetry often addresses historical topics. Visit her website at www.joaniedimartino.com.

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Marceline White

Sewing machines line up in tidy rows like schoolgirls at dismissal.
Girlish laughter, a babble of Yiddish, Italian, and English floats
Through the air, cutting the loud thrum of the machines as the girls \
and machine becoming one instrument, an alchemy
Of sorts. No fairytale this. Rather than spin hay to gold, 
the y sew pieces of cloth to shirts, for which
Receive green not gold. Nothing gold can stay. 

Fabric eddies around their feet, white whorls, bits of white cotton
Fly through the air like snow. It is cold and the factory feels chilly
Despte the press of bodies. Outside in Washington Square Park,
Gentlemen and ladies stroll through the park in shirtwaists & skirts,
Fine suits, hats and parasols to protect their skin from the sun. 

The wealthy, their lives made out of whole cloth, the finest materials, walk through
Washington Square Park, oblivious that young women, their lives pieced together 
From fragments, watch them from large picture windows, ten stories closer to the clouds.

Late afternoon. Fabric and shirtwaists stacked in neat piles. Marbled monuments
To youth, energy, work. An ember catches, smoke rises from below. Flames dance
Along the walls, leap from one wall to another. A terrible beauty.
It becomes clear that there is nowhere to go, no way to leave alive. 

A young woman steps up to the window frame,
flings her hat into the air, opens her purse, 
Rains money down to the crowd below, who watch in horror.
She jumps. A young man holds out his hand, helps a young woman onto the windowsill
In another life, he would be helping her into a carriage. 
He holds her away from the building, lets her drop. In another life, 
he would be waltzing her in a ballroom. He does the same for a second and third woman. 
A fourth woman steps up, his love. They embrace, kiss. He holds her out into space 
Drops her. He follows, jumps with his hat on, wearing brown socks and black shoes.
Pas de deux. 
 
Laws were passed. Everyone agreed “Never again”. 
101 years later, 112 young women in bright shalwar kameez
Enter the Tazreen factory, never to emerge.
_________________________________________________________________________

Marceline White is a Baltimore-based writer. She writes policy, prose, poems, essays, and plays. An artist and activist, Marceline’s poetry has appeared in The Free State Review, The Loch Raven Review, The Shattered Wig Review, anthologies including Ancient Party: Collaborations in Baltimore, 2000-2010; and Life in Me Like Grass on Fire.  Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in Woman’s Day, Baltimore Fishbowl, Baltimore Sun, and Mother Jones

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Yusuf Tahir

The armies of the Great Khan,
swiftly as hawks,
surrounded the ancient city of Bamyan.
Destruction blackened the brow of the Khan
because the city was slow to fall,
and he was impatient for glory in lands far.
 
But the way was found to the City,
through the heart of the fair princess of Bamyan,
who fell for a bold Tartar
when she saw him.
And she told the secret way to the city,
which was beneath the mountains, over the streams.
So, in the blind heat of her love
she did betray, unknowingly,
the well-guarded secret
of countless generations gone by,
and the lover pressed her to his breast,
promising to make her queen over vast domains.
 
The strong city fell through treachery;
The enraged conqueror spilled blood freely.
Then he ordered the deaths of many,
including the Princess; she betrayed her fathers!
The arm that had embraced her so tenderly,
was raised to kill her, with a single sharp blow!
Thus ended her young, un-bloomed love,
under the hoofs of conquering horses.

____________________________________________________________________________

Yusuf Tahir has written numerous poems on diverse topics, his favorites being nature, the human condition, destiny, and desires. His poetry collection was published in 2003 by Pearls Book’em Publishers Atlanta under the title Just like a blooming rose

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Rosalind Adam

All Grandmas spoke Yiddish
when I was five. I now understand
she came from far away
bringing her feather bed
for winter night snuggling
and her candlesticks
for Friday evening prayers.
 
She never spoke of the journey,
of being third class cargo
forced to disembark at Tilbury,
down-wind of discerning Londoners,
scrutinised by Health Inspectors,
defleed, deloused,
dehumanised.
 
She never spoke of the warnings
from Government officials,
from Times letter writers,
even from London Rabbis;
no room, no jobs, don’t come.
She came anyway.
There was no choice.
 
She sought work
sweat-shop-stitching,
cutting, machining,
becoming part of an East End shtetl
with Jewish neighbours, kosher shops,
a Synagogue on every other corner.
She almost forgot to be afraid.

______________________________________________________________________

Rosalind Adam lives in Leicester, UK. She is the author of several children’s history booksincluding The Children’s Book of Richard III. Her poetry has been published in anthologies and online sites. In 2018, she won the G. S. Fraser poetry prize and was awarded a distinction for her Masters in Creative Writing at The University of Leicester.

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Beatriz F. Fernandez

Father Abelard, they call me—father, 
who shall never be one again.
Even this reminder cannot break me,
though my love for you was torn
from my breast as violently
as my manhood from my flesh.

When I met you, you were but a girl,
yet in your mind what worlds burned!
Your eyes—my incandescent girl, your eyes
glowed with mysteries I could not fathom—
even now you remain opaque
to me, who knew you best of all men.
As your teacher, I fanned those flames
into a bonfire—as your lover,
I was consumed by it.

Together, you and I, we defied them—
we survived. Summer dragonflies
bereft of wings, we will not fly again—
the tidal waves that stormed between us
seem but surface swells to me now.

The dry husk my soul represents
consoles itself with the promise
of redemption in another realm.
I entreat you, Heloise, to embrace
likewise this redoubled peace,
though in your words I read a spirit
unresigned to this new life.

Never doubt that I remember you—never—
you rule forever an enclosed parcel
of my mind, as a queen
over a once fertile land
that now lies fallow.

________________________________________________________________________

Beatriz F. Fernandez is the author of The Ocean Between Us (Backbone Press, 2017) and Shining from a Different Firmament (Finishing Line Press, 2015) which she presented at the Miami Book Fair International. She has read her poetry on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR news station and was the grand prize winner of the 2nd annual Writer’s Digest Poetry Award. Her poems have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Falling Star Magazine, Label Me Latina/o, Thirty West Publishing House, Words Dance, and Writer’s Digest, among others. Beatriz has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes as well as Best of the Net.  Twitter: @nebula61.  

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Avra Margariti

Stuttgart, 1942
 
The baker, the butcher, the florist—
they all call him my brother.
But no common blood
runs between our veins.
We didn’t grow up together,
Ansel and I.
We just wish to grow old side by side.
Old as bristlecone pines.
Old as monoliths.
But with war spreading septic through the world
and more and more people carted off to the camps,
that’s beginning to look like a pipe dream.
 
#
 
Entire generations of Ansel’s family
have owned Schwarz & Sohns,
the funeral parlor situated under our apartment.
Business has never been better,
and I guess we have this war to thank,
this father that eats his children.
Ansel builds the coffins,
no longer glossy, silk-lined hardwood caskets,
but rough, bare boxes made of planks of wood
nailed haphazardly together.
It’s better than being tossed into mass graves
or left to rot in the street, he says.
I let him handle the black-clad mourners,
the hollow-eyed orphans thin as stick insects,
the wailing, thrashing widows.
I’m better with bodies than I am with people.
I set their features, embalm, groom, dress them,
good as new.
I’m better with quiet.
Sometimes I think how Ansel’s father
prepared my mother’s body,
back when Ansel and I were unlucky thirteen.
How my boy, his father’s apprentice,
built her a final bed to rest.
And it’s a good thing my mother is dead
because the war,
it would have broken her heart.
 
#
 
“Good morning,” I tell Ansel
when I enter the parlor’s kitchenette.
He hands me a cup of coffee and leans in for a kiss,
forgetting the screws and nails peeking out of his mouth
like rays from a sun.
The dark circles around his eyes are the colors of dusk.
“Busy day?” I ask, sipping the precious coffee, tar-black—
cream and sugar elusive birds.
“Several bodies came in today. A suicide pact, I think.
I’ll be in my workshop if you need me.”
He returns to his frantic coffin-making,
and I to the embalming room
where the bodies await,
the smell of formalin and decomposition clinging to me,
a second skin.
I look out the window as I work,
a new nervous tic,
always waiting to hear the tell-tale stomping
of heavy boots on cracked cobblestone,
inhale the stink of hate.
I search for signs the Gestapo is here to take us away,
stuff us into striped uniforms with inverted triangle badges,
pink as the insides of the bodies
laid out on my embalming carts.
 
#
 
Sometimes, when I can no longer stand
to look out the window and brace myself for the worst,
I wander through the rows of makeshift coffins
in Ansel’s workshop.
I see the holes in the coffins,
though I turn a blind eye:
little pinpricks studded through, only visible
to me, who knows Ansel’s handiwork,
the workings of his brain.
I see the people entering the funeral parlor,
how Ansel rushes them all the way back to his workshop,
to talk in clandestine whispers for hours on end.
He’s putting us in danger,
and we’re already under a lot of scrutiny,
being two lads and all, two unwed
so-called brothers who look nothing alike,
living under the same roof.
I thank heavens every day
we haven’t been conscripted and sent to battle
(yet, a little slithery voice inside me hisses),
but now a new danger looms,
and my heart feels tight as a kite string.
“You know you can tell me anything,”
I tell Ansel in bed at night.
Just when I think he’s asleep, I hear him cry,
soft wheezes like the wind through the cracks in the woodwork.
I hold him, as I did after my mother’s funeral,
back when she was buried in the casket he made for her.
Oh, how we cried together in the deserted cemetery afterward,
the stone angels our only witnesses.
Ansel whispers, “I couldn’t bear it anymore.
Doing nothing. Being afraid. I’ve been helping
some Jewish and Romani folks escape, hiding them
in the coffins long enough to be transferred to a safe house.
You can hate me for my secrets, Gilbert,
but I tried to keep you safe.”
I kiss his tears away, ignore the fear coiled in my gut, and tell him,
“I’ve never loved you more than I do now.”
 
#
 
Love is no shield.
I don’t know why I keep forgetting that.
I’m still in my mortician clothes
when Ansel bursts into my domain.
“The police,” he says, paler than the cadavers around us,
“they know.”
“How?” I stammer, breath thick through my respirator.
Ansel claws at his scalp. “Someone turned me in.
My people don’t know who, exactly.”
I think about the baker, the butcher, the florist—
all those in the street who did nothing when our neighbors
were taken away.
I did nothing, too, playing it safe,
playing pretend with myself.
Not anymore.
Ansel keeps talking, frantic words strangling each other.
“They only know about me—my coffins.
My family business, Gil. I can keep them away from you if I—”
“No,” I utter with vehemence. “You’re not sacrificing yourself.”
“Then what do you propose?”
He leans weary against my silver tool table.
Deflated.
Defeated.
Right now, I’m not thinking about
the barbed wire noose wrapped around my heart,
or how I’m more comfortable around bodies than people,
or even how I might never see my mother’s grave again.
My voice is as steady as my hand is with a scalpel when I say,
“Bring me in contact with your people. I have a plan.”
 
#
 
The coach lumbers down uneven roads.
It rattles, a relic, branches slapping its sides,
the horses neighing, agitated.
And I—in the back of the windowless wagon,
surrounded by coffins—pray to childhood angel statues.
I don’t believe we’re in Stuttgart anymore.
Ansel’s people thought it best I don’t know where we’re going.
Where their safe house is.
I have my mortician’s license at hand in case someone stops us,
my fingers crossed the way my mother taught me
to call luck to our side.
My hand drifts toward the closest coffin,
rubbing against the gritty wood.
I close my eyes and picture Ansel’s fingers
on the other side, pressed against mine,
flowers turned toward the far-off sun.
My breathing turns shallow in response,
as if I’m the one trapped inside the cramped space,
dark as a womb.
Hold on, I think. Just a little while longer.
The coach comes to a screeching halt.
The driver opens the wagon doors, a halo of light blinding me.
His chin juts toward me.
“You’re on foot from here on. Your man,
he knows the way to the safe house.”
I rush to Ansel’s coffin,
grabbing the hammer from my pack,
bloodying my fingers in my haste to get the coffin open.
I pull the lid back and draw Ansel up
by the lapel of his coat.
I kiss him on the lips as if I’m waking Sleeping Beauty.
He kisses me back, taking greedy gulps of air and
freedom.

________________________________________________________________________

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, The Forge Literary, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, The Arcanist, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

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Aurora M. Lewis

I had my own ways, spirts and chants to see me through
 
Until them girls, both named Sarah wanted to learn what I do
 
I showed ‘em how to dance by the light of the moon, my conjuring

and hexing, watched them bloom, folks said I was beguiling
 
the Sarahs and other girls, a slave, bringing Satan to their
 
Christian world, their Bible say they shall not suffer a witch
 
to live, our lives we would surly have to give
 
 
The Sarahs and me was put on trial, accusing others to save
 
my hide, told of black dogs, birds, hogs, even a broom stick

I’d ride, said one of them Sarahs had a demon creature
 
of her own, head of a woman, two legs and wings, turning
 
folks to stone, all this I said not to seal my fate and be hung
 
 
I told them it was the Sarahs who made me do evil things
 
Seeing as I was a slave with no power of my own that it brings
 
They hung the Sarahs, sent me to jail, then one day let me out
 
sold to another cause my master wouldn’t pay my jailhouse fee
 
I died a slave and the witch was me

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Aurora M. Lewis s a woman of color in  late sixties, retired from the Banking Industry.  In her fifties, she received a Certificate in Creative Writing General Studies with Honors from UCLA.  Her poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by Gemini Magazine, The Literary Hatchet, Jerry Jazz Musician, Persimmon Tree Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Lucent Dreams, The Blue Nib, Trembling in Fear, and others.  Aurora has been nominate for two Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Web.  

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John W. Steele

War Elephant —after Akbar Viewing a Wild Elephant Captured near Malwa in 1564

Hind legs bound and tied to tree, you stand
there poised, ears back, trunk coiled. Captive,
yet you stand with such fierce dignity,
stamping the earth with your tremendous foot.
You tower high above the emperor, 
seated there upon his prancing horse,
spear held aloft, as if to fend you off.
A horde of captors stands there holding spears. 
How dare they do this to you, noble beast?
You gaze at them with such deep, steady eyes. 
Do they not know you mean no harm?   
Two other elephants walk by, subdued,
content to let mahouts ride on their backs.

Descendant of the ten-tusked Airavata, 
who sucks up water from the underworld, 
sprays it into clouds, and rides upon
the skies with Thunderous-Indra on his back,
you will lead the charge of Akbar’s troops 
with iron-spiked tusks, ears splayed wide, 
whip-like trunk adorned with chains and balls.

Remember Alexander’s soldiers trembling 
at the sight of Persian elephants? They saw 
a war machine like none they’d seen before.
They didn’t know how gentle and compassionate 
you can be. Their solemn sacrifice 
before the God of Fear the night before 
the battle may have helped them win, but your 
outstanding show of force led Alexander 
to enlist you in his army. Remember 
when the Nanda Empire deployed six thousand
of your kind? That’s why Alexander
halted his advance to India, and stationed 
hundreds of elephants to guard his palace. 
Remember how you helped King Pyrrhus rout
the Romans, then helped the Romans conquer Britain? 
How many of your kind died crossing the Alps 
with Hannibal? When he got you drunk
and whipped you to a frenzy, remember those
iron-clad Roman soldiers, how they fled? 

When Yemeni Christian soldiers marched on Mecca, 
is it true the noble elephant, Mahmud, 
who led the team of elephants, refused 
to enter the city, thus saving the holy Ka’bah?

When you face extinction at the hands
of those you died for, will you not fight back?
Why not call on Lightning-Wielding Indra 
to descend on Ten-Tusked Airavata’s back,
thunderbolt the poachers’ helicopters 
and bring them crashing blood-stained to the ground?

__________________________________________________________________________

John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Ernest Hilbert and David Rothman. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Boulder Weekly, Blue Unicorn, IthacaLit, The Lyric, Mountains Talking, The Orchards, Society of Classical Poets, Urthona Journal of Buddhism and the Arts, and Verse-Virtual. He was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart prize, won The Lyric’s 2017 Fall Quarterly Award, and was awarded Special Recognition in the 2019 Helen Schaible International Sonnet Contest. His book reviews have appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Raintown Review.

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bg Thurston

The Lost Boy—

            Winfield Scott Weeks (1847-1856)

watches from the front window,
murmurs as he strokes the ears
of his smooth collie, who thumps
her long tail, hoping for a walk.

The rooms are empty, the hearth
cold and quiet, but he remembers
his mother singing as she stirred
the iron kettle and kneaded bread.

He had held his father’s last hope
along with his mother’s heart.
But when he died, his family
took their grief and moved away.

He never met his younger brother,
Frederick, orphaned at five years,
who grew to work in the wool trade
then started his own shoddy mill.

His sisters assumed other names,
married, had their own children.
Now they lie next to husbands
in graves far from this old farm.

Across the road, the sky glows
reddish orange as the sun sets
past the hayfield where Jersey cows
are lined up at the milk barn gate.

He hears his mother’s distant calls
but he is not ready to join her.
Some souls stay tethered to a place—
for him, this home is heaven enough.

______________________________________________________________________________

After a career in high-tech, bg Thurston now lives on a sheep farm in Warwick, Massachusetts. In 2002, she received an MFA in Poetry from Vermont College. She has taught poetry at Lasalle College, online at Vermont College, and currently teaches poetry workshops.

Her first book, Saving the Lamb, by Finishing Line Press was a Massachusetts Book Awards highly recommended reading choice. Her second book, Nightwalking, was released in 2011 by Haleys. This year, she has finished the manuscript for her third book about the history of her 1770’s farmhouse titled From Cathouse Farm.

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