New poem recently added –  Feckless Desire  by Allison Cusato.

Voices of Valley Women 2016

Voices of Valley Women, writing by and about women living in the Shenandoah Valley.  The Voices of Valley Women is a forum for women to share their writing with each other; a place where each unique voice can be heard.  This can be in the form of a poem, a letter, a haiku, a story or your thoughts on any topic. A long term goal is to gather enough material to make a book featuring the voices of local women.   Email submissions to or send to FRWRC, PO Box 1748 in Front Royal.

Feckless Desire

by Allison Cusato

The peculiarity of your existence

Lies in my persistence

To calm your need with varied touch

And caress the quest, this is a must


There is a balance I struggle to find

Of singularity, one sublime

I have awakened to inner peace

Of mind, of body, of soaking sheets


Could it be forward, to the way it was

Before the meeting, the coffee buzz

Before the heat, before the flight

Before the confusion that made us fight


When did it twist and take my tongue

Replace my presence with a mug

To be so lost to grasp for nothing

And cling to it with hopes for something


This life, this life, it spreads like mold

It rings my neck and leaves me cold

It hides the nourishment I require

And teases me with feckless desire

For My Father

by JoEllen McNeal


This aging body complains so.

The hinges creak like a rusty

cattle gate lamenting in the wind.

Too soon it seems the territory

is being abandoned.

But the wind sings its own song.

It brings smells of sage,

damp earth, the coming spring,

and the sky above is

vast beyond reckoning.

Through the gate, only this

fragrant shining radiance.


To Spencer

By Carol Toba

March 29, 2016


Today is your birthday

for five days we claimed the same age

I sent a card

you called me twin

‘till I became your big sister

once again

now the card stays unmailed

beside the quiet phone

while I remember

today is your birthday.


 Idly By – A Bedtime Story

By Allison Cusato

February 16, 2016

Meditation falls in powder

Its stillness fills my mind

I beg it to leave, a needed reprieve

But silence stops it blind

Painted in markings sharp and cool

A simple curving line

A steel, a glimpse, of a wandering tool

The need for extra time

This crisp gift begets a madness

With idle hands I fall

Creativity spare me the sadness

One moment of them all

Luxury, a breathless empty

The glass is halfway full

A shovel, a sweep, exhaust me to sleep

To dream a mental pull

The hue crosses from pale to red

So warm, it rushes in

We coax them gently, each fluid vessel

To travel deep within

Following release with tension

Images crossing by

A breath, mumble, I begin to stumble

Soft aches belli the fly

There is this mistress looking out

Forewarned, avert your gaze

She feeds your mind whole, then steals your soul

Leaving you in a daze


The Flight

By Mary Ellen South

Lewes, DE


I watched her run around the pond

Colored streamers trailing her

Flowing beautifully -she ran so fast

Keep going -my mind coached-keep going.


Suddenly she stopped -the kite fell.

The flight was over

Little legs tired

Colored streamers touching the ground.


Get up, run again.

I want to see the beauty aloft

I want to see your success

Keep going.


So it is with life

Find beauty, keep running

Fall down -get up

Victory won on a beautiful day.

This Winter

By Carol Toba
-February, 2016

This winter forsythia bloomed at Christmas.
Viewed from the mountain
the valley disappeared beneath a
roiling sea of clouds that sent tendrils
winding into the hollows.

Untimely Spring,
an armistice before cold rain.
With havoc to the west, we exhaled relief
for our brief lived respite
knowing weather mimics life,
its bumps and potholes, curves and hills
rarely straight and smooth.

In February icy ground crackled underfoot
while new green nestled beneath dry leaves.
Abundant snow, heralding joy and misery,
filling aquifers and floods,
remained in patches like white hair
defying a colored head.
Green and white, brown and dry,
a symbiotic co-existence
of Spring and Winter, youth and old age.

Weather, with so much to occupy
our minds and time,
thoughts of you intrude like a vulture
circling overhead, bearing
snowflakes and sunbeams,
always present, always there.

Memorial Day*

by Cathy Wolniewicz


April 15, 2013


On Memorial Day we’d go to Franny’s house on Foxhurst Road

and sit in the front yard waiting for the parade.

We always had a good spot right there on the grassy hill

overlooking the street just across from the duck pond.


It seemed like a long time before a noise would begin to rise.

But then they’d appear. Drums and horns and flags, and flags.

Batons twirling in the air. Pearly girls in mini skirts. Uniformed old men in open cars

stiff jawed, looking grim. Parading by slow, and deliberate.


My sister and I would busy ourselves with four leaf clovers in the blanket of grass.

While mommy sat under the crooked maple, alone, swatting at her thoughts.

Dad would stand in the walkway near the giant pine staring just beyond the procession
at the Vietnam memorial, sucking on a Marlboro, leaning on his one good leg.


Finally Franny would come out with a tray of cookies she called crackers.

Big and sweet with too much sugar on top. When there wasn’t a parade going on,

a wedding party might drive by, honking  their horns in merriment On those occasions Franny would open the kitchen window and in a sing song voice shout, “you’ll be sorry!”


*Front Royal Voices  awarded Cathy Wolniewicz the prize of Second Runner-Up for her poem “Memorial Day”.


The Visit*

by JoEllen McNeal/2016

I  had imagined this so well –

the rolls of thunder, the  heavy beat

of rain falling outside the window,

the narrow bed, the simple peace of it .


This remembered room with its

slanted ceiling, the teddy bear

with the sad rubber face, the books

straight-backed on the shelves


read and now forgotten. The

high school trophy draped

with graduation tassel,  the picture

of the blue ballerina in the plastic frame.


In this room I once reached for my

new husband, moved to desire by his

polished shoes waiting to be worn

to my mother’s funeral.


Now years later the same wallpaper,

white, dotted with yellow flowers,

and the rain.   The thick heat of the day

spiraling upward,  pushed by the cooling air.


In this last night of my visit I remember my

girlhood when the dreaming of something

was enough to make it real.  When there was no

distance between myself and what was beyond


and the ballerina in the blue tutu was my life

twirling into a shining future.


*Front Royal Voices  awarded JoEllen McNeal the prize of First Runner-Up for her poem “The Visit”.

Below is an example of a “Where I’m From” poem. The Front Royal Voices Poetry contest is accepting poems related to the loose theme “Where I’m From” until March 31, 2016. Email poems to .

Where I’m From

by Heather Davis

I’m from onion grass, custard stands, and Aquanet.

I’m from a giving tree in Jersey and grimy forts in Hershey,
from seven star-lit, full-to-bursting homes, places that tasted
like bitter mint, smelled of caramel and burning cloves.

I’m from rolling hills in a five-mile radioactive swathe,
from flea markets selling centuries, crackle glass, and dust.

I’m from the late-night ladies’ story swap and bunions of death,
from Emma & Bill, Betty & Floyd. I’m from crazy can’t stop cleaning
despite the nervous breakdown hurtling my way.

I’m from factories and fields, from
this is my kitchen let me feed you.

I’m from blessed be the peacemakers and I’m gonna
tan your hide. From no dancing, no swearing, no card game
Baptists (but Bunko’s okay).

I’m from follow Jesus’ lead even if you don’t believe.

I’m from Delaware, Wales, Ireland, Germany, and France.
I’m from the invisible white privilege handed to me at birth.

I’m from wide-footed, broad-hipped women
wielding hammers, stethoscopes, and mops,
from poets, artists, and engineers, from Pop-Pop hot
in the boxing ring, hitching rides on wild trains,
from Mom-Mom’s cosmic arms.

I’m from let’s have another baby and
another and another and another and another.

I’m from chaos and cacophony, from soft, from tough,
from a thousand and one ways to make something infinite
out of ordinary sweat. I’m from stay curious and keep on

breathing bleeding breeding, never ever stop.

Voices 2016
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