Ed Ahern Debuts with a Tanka and a Shadorma



They found her

Formal dressed and coiffed



No one knew who her friends were

Or who should be called



Loss of Power


Layers of comfort

torn away like gift wrapping

on an unwanted present.

that’s cold, dark and imageless.

A painfully simple life.


Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had a hundred ninety poems and stories published so far, and three books. His collected fairy and folk tales, The Witch Made Me Do It, a novella The Witches’ Bane, and his collected fantasy stories, Capricious Visions.  He works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of five review editors.



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Harris Tobias


When the giant panda took sick and died, I grieved with the princess every day. I dug the grave and carved its name on the marker with my own hands. I even spoke kind words over the poor beast at the funeral. I believe I was a great comfort to the princess at a time when she needed comforting. We grew close and before too long she took me to her bed. I am not proud of that, that’s just the way things turned out.

She loves me now and that is good for me and my future at court. I’m not sorry about the panda, it suffered terribly but it all turned out well in the end. Now the princess will be my champion at court and nominate me for a loftier position than that of zookeeper. It is only a matter of time before the king knows my name.

In the meantime, I must lie low and keep the princess happy. I have to be careful that she never suspects what I have done. The panda cost the king a thousand ducats and I was entrusted with its care. The princess loved it from the first and did not care for anyone or anything else at the zoo. Losing it could have been very bad for me. As it was I endured my share of royal suspicion. It was only the princess’s spirited defense of me that saved me from the dungeon.

I don’t know how much you know about pandas but they are demanding, filthy beasts. Very finicky about their bamboo, their water and the cleanliness of their cage. Insufferable buggers. The slightest unkindness puts them off their feed for weeks. I could see we weren’t going to get along right from the first minute. But the princess loved it and came to the zoo every day to visit it, stroke it and generally make a fuss over it. Then it was zookeeper this and zookeeper that. She made me feel like the panda’s servant. It was enough to make a man choke.

The good thing was that the princess and I got to know each other. I always made sure that I was there to greet her. I could tell that she thought that I was doing my job well. After several months of daily visits the princess began visiting the zoo less frequently. I felt that she was growing bored. I became desperate to keep our contact alive.

When I sent word that the beast was ill, she began coming again. She was very troubled by the panda’s decline, even sending the court physician to look at him. I was afraid the physician might suspect me. I needn’t have worried as the old fool was too drunk to know what was going on.

The princess was distraught and this made the king himself take an interest. He came to visit. It was awful. The zoo looked terrible, the cages stank and the animals neglected. I was summoned to the king’s presence and knelt at his feet. I expected the worst and begged his forgiveness. “I have been spending all my time nursing the panda,” I claimed. He asked if I needed anything. I humbly declined. A day later I was given an assistant and a purse full of silver. The note was in the king’s own hand. It said, ”for the panda.”

My assistant was a young peasant lad with no experience with any beasts other than cats and cattle. At first I saw him as a hindrance and assigned him to mucking out the cages and feeding the exotics. Later I realized how useful an assistant could be. It gave me more time to devote to the princess whose daily visits had resumed. My assistant proved to have a way with animals and they all appeared to thrive under his care. Even the panda showed signs of improvement. The zoo was never cleaner nor the animals happier. Even the princess noticed. I graciously gave the credit to the king’s generosity.

As the panda’s condition improved, I saw the inevitable end to my royal connection. It was time to make a bold move. That evening I gave the panda a larger than usual dose of its “medicine” and, soon after, it died writhing in its cage. I noticed my assistant watching. When he asked me about the medicine I was using, I knew what I had to do. That night, I throttled the lad in his sleep and fed his parts to the lions and the bears. The next day, when the princess found the panda dead, it was all I could do to console her. I held her in my arms and kissed away her tears. Together we gave the panda a good Christian burial.

The rest, as they say, is history. The princess fell in love with me and she has used her good offices to put my name before the high council. I don’t expect to be a zookeeper much longer. I suspect I owe a debt of gratitude to the panda but, to tell the truth, I don’t believe in debts nor do I put much stock in gratitude. A man makes his own way in the world. Some men are just better at it than others. We are all given the tools we need to flourish, we only need the wit to recognize them for what they are—tools. Whether pandas, peasants or princesses, we use them to get what we want. Sometimes people get hurt. I didn’t write the rules.

Some stories


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Harris Tobias


How quickly we become our fathers

The strange old man in the corner

The scratchy beard and the funny smell

Our children tolerate us but do not think

They will become us

They are busy messing up their own lives

While we snooze on the porch

Dreaming of our days of immortality

We try to convince ourselves

That there are still good times ahead

But our golden coins are spent

And the fountain that was our youth

Is all but dry

As far as nature is concerned

We spread our seeds then die

If there’s a good time between

Now and then it is a bonus

The world doesn’t owe us a laugh.



Getting Old 

It’s kind of sad getting old.

Do you think you could have

played your hand any better?

How could you know?

All those small decisions

that loom so large now,

how casually they were made.

We all lived like our youths were just

a dry run for real life.

And then they became real life

and then they were behind us

and we were grown.

Funny how grown and groan sound the same.

Groan, my hip hurts.

Why is it that we zip through life

until it’s time to apply the brakes

and then the damn things don’t work anymore.

All that time spent,

wasted so much of it.

I doubt we’d have used it any better

even if we could do it all again.

It’s a hell of a system we are part of.

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Frank Adams Returns

Father’s 100th Birthday

I think of you today

on what would have been

your hundredth birthday.

It seems only yesterday

you were here. In your absence

I wonder what would have happened

if life had given us more time.

Would we have learned to speak

with each other, to find common ground,

to have worked things out?  Or, would distance

always stand between us?  I ask myself

because fathers and sons talk in books,

in movies and on TV.  But, we never learned

to talk.  For you I was always an embarrassment

your queer crazy son in endless therapy, 

unable to fit in, to make his own way –

an abomination before God and the neighbors.

And to me, you were always a stranger,

unyielding, cold, silent as the grave.


Frank Adams is a Lambda Fellow in Poetry.  His poems have appeared in Cavalcade of Stars, Down-go Sun, Q Review, Chelsea Station, Glitterwolf, and Vox Poetica.  He is the author of Mother Speaks Her Name and Love Remembered, both published by Wild Ocean Press, San Francisco, California.

Sincerely yours,

Frank Adams


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Bobbie Troy

Old Ladies Who Sit on Benches

By Bobbie Troy

old ladies

who sit on benches

keep their sanity

by slowly breathing in

some fresh air

to enjoy

with fond memories

old ladies

who sit on benches

rest to gain strength

to face tomorrow

strength that did not need

to be summoned in youth

because it was constantly there

I know these things now

because I am one of them

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Laura Zucca-Scott

Sunset in Florence  

When the sun hides

And paints quiet lights

Across the Ponte Vecchio

Even the city traffic

Slows down for a moment


The world seems a little gentler

The air a little purer

And walking a little easier


Yet, your smiles are missing

From today’s sunset

And talks of a summer night

Will never come back


Florence never forgets

Your footsteps

Still sound in the streets

The heat of the day

On the ancient stones

An unforgettable echo

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Ashley Cooke Debuts 

Ashley Cooke Debuts 


As he packed his bags

and left them by the door

she wished she could crawl inside

and interweave herself in his shirt

so he can wear her again

and she could finally see what he was like

all the times he didn’t want to be with her

or maybe it was better to be his jeans

those are the only things he didn’t change

how she wished she could be

as close to him as those denim jeans.

Ashley Cooke is a creative writing major attending Long Beach City College. She is from Long Beach, CA. She is currently working on her first poetry collection entitled “Like Pulling Teeth”. She works at a hospital and at a music venue.

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