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Jennifer Randall Hotz



Online, I find a picture of your ship

crossing the Strait of Gibraltar,

the rising sun a golden grimace

sailors lined up at the edge,

peering off into the distance—

the first solid land you’ve seen after

days at sea.


I keep enlarging the picture,

straining to see a certain tilt of the head,

maybe a telltale hand gesture—

anything I might recognize—


but everyone looks the same,

like Lego people placed there by

a boy playing at patriotism,

like one of those military ads

that makes war seem Instagrammable—

the successes unbloody,

the backgrounds unsullied,

the loved ones back home—

certain they’ll see you again.


Pink Slip


After the last child pulls away

from the family home in a moving van,

she realizes she’s been laid off:


After years of faithful service,

we regret to inform you:

your services are no longer needed.


No one else seems to see the loss.

She’s watched paid workers receive

sympathy after being let go,

but she keeps being told

how nice it must be

that she is now free.

She dreams she’ll write

the Great American Novel,

land a spot on Good Morning America,

explain to the audience that

Yes, she’d felt down after the layoff—

who wouldn’t?—but she’d harnessed that energy

to create this multimillion dollar success

and if she can do it, you can do it, too!


Instead, she lingers in

the kids’ bedrooms, now

stripped of argument and laughter,

mourns that neither one will watch

the leaves of the Norway maple golden,

laments that not one person remains

who likes Saturday morning pancakes.

For longer than she imagines possible, she

stands mute before this cavern of loss,

nurses the fear that she might never emerge.


Eventually, she starts to write:

words break through,

transfigure the pain,

allow her memories to lilt,

flutter far afield,

figure eight with all that she’s become,

beckon her back to possibility.


Jennifer Randall Hotz is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in Burningword Literary Journal, Naugatuck River Review, and Connecticut River Review, among other publications. She won 1st place in poetry for the Virginia Writers Club 2023 Golden Nib Awards and has been nominated for a 2024 Pushcart Prize. Find her at:


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