Summer Solstice 2022 Collection

Our second collection of human stories features creative non-fiction, poetry, and a photo essay, which explore core aspects of our shared humanity: life and loss; aging and youth; abuse, trauma, and healing; relationships, family, love, gratitude; and even dinner with the in-laws. Our contributors include: practicing and retired educators, poets, playwrights, award-winning writers, government advisors, artists and photographers, students, creative spirits (young and old), and emerging writers. There is a sense of intimacy, trust, and respect that we feel with the human beings behind each of these pieces, these personal human stories. It has been an honor and privilege to be able to share in these experiences, reflections, and emotions, through each of these written works, and through all the stories that are submitted. To know that people believe in our mission, cultivating compassion and connection through the sharing of human stories, is encouraging. When we read these stories we are reminded of this very mission for ourselves. We are reminded to walk the world with an open heart, for we never know what someone’s story is.

With gratitude,
The COALESCE Community Team

Cover Design by Kate Sowinski
Cover Art by Erich Keyser

Creative Nonfiction

Eating with Another Family by Joshua Thusat

When I’m eating, my head moves down to meet the utensil with my mouth. This simple act seems animal compared to my in-laws who—I’ve noticed—remain professionally postured, lifting even dangerously swishy soups with their spoons, bite after bite, to their faces.

Art: Kate Sowinski

Bub by Danya Kaufmann

I hit send at 19:44. It was a Friday night in February, about a year after Eve and I had our “talk.” I was crying on my boyfriend’s bed, soaking his pillow, while he was in the living room, unaware. Eve was hardly a part of my life anymore, but I still felt that our friendship was salvageable, if only I sent the right text.

Art: Kate Sowinski

Death by Pen by Allison Carroll

More vividly than anything else, I remember the taste. Mostly, wood. Bland, but strangely very strong and hard to get out of my mouth. Then a tiny bite of metal. The taste of rubber, like used gum. Salt from my tears. The sliminess of mucus. And even a little bit of metallic blood from the cracking of my stretching lips. 

Art: Kate Sowinski

Grief’s Watermark by Katy Goforth

For the longest time, I couldn’t even say his name. The smell of pine trees would send me into the weird, dry parts of my brain where nothing of value could flourish. The stain of the day—the incident—spread throughout me and eventually began to fade. Edges of grief so faint others couldn’t even detect.

Art: Kate Sowinski

This I Find Beautiful by Virginia Elizabeth Hayes

“Well there,” my mother said as I opened her door, “look at that.”
Unable to draw a full breath, I moved sideways into her house, holding an empty shoebox under my left arm. I clung to a red attaché case and scuttled crablike, so nothing would bump against my latest surgical wound.

Art: Kate Sowinski


The In-Between by Jane Palmer

When you are young
you are taught
that blue and yellow
make green.
You are taught
girls cannot be boys cannot be girls
nor somewhere in between.

Art: Kate Sowinski

Outstanding Payments by Maggie Bowyer

It’s an honor to know Tuesday
Is more of a Monday for you;
To know you’ll be home on time
And to talk on all of your breaks.
You’ve been working so hard
To cover the medical bills in the corner;

Art: Kate Sowinski

Elegy for Everything by Jessica Barksdale

I’m still thinking about my sister’s
earring, the one I lost on the gay bar
dance floor, back when a gay
bar in the suburbs was subversive

Art: Kate Sowinski

Catching by Christina Manubag

a fork caught in a grinder–
a fork/a scrape in the womb–
the blade of a sleigh shovel flush against pavement–
a varnish/plaster chipping–
the curl, the calm before–
a sort of un-healing.

Art: Kate Sowinski

Entrails & Into the Storm by George Freek

A sickle moon cuts into my dream
like a knife slices through water.
In the bathroom mirror
I see an ugly face.

Outside the window,
trees are bent like old men,

Art: Kate Sowinski

Schmuck by Andy Betz

Right now:
I asked her again.
This time, she gave my words a thought, maybe even more than a thought.  
It was all she gave that day.
I saw her turn and walk away down the corridor.

This time, forever.

Art: Kate Sowinski

Photo Essay

The White Room by Christopher Woods

My family was never formal. We were what we were. But in spite of this, my parents bought a house with a den, and a living room. The den was life. The living room was the room in which very little living transpired. Oh, maybe on Christmas we would gather there. Sometimes a guest would sit there with us. But as I said, we were not formal. 

Art: Christopher Woods

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