Coming of Age

editor's note

Farewell by Joseph Murphy
It is time for me to retire from being a poetry editor for Halfway Down the Stairs, after eight years. It has been a great run!


Full Court Press by Sarah Murphy-Kangas
In that moment, when your son
makes a basket for the other team,
you can’t decide if you want the game
to go on forever so he can redeem himself
or if you want the court
to open up and swallow you
A Woman on the Verge of Menopause Looks Back on a Too-Skinny Girl Also on the Verge by Nancy Flynn
We knotted the rubber
bands in a circle,
called the game
Chinese jump rope—
who knows why.
The Wisdom is Hindsight by Nancy Flynn
Settle into a chair,
reclining, poised.
Find the cradle,
the thrown-away river,
fear & crabgrass stitched from
a swimming-pool lawn.
Periphery, at twelve by Sharon Lask Munson
Woodhull Lake at dawn—
gunmetal gray, smooth and still.
Wooden cottages dot the shoreline.
Red Egrets gather on the raft.
Rowboats mark time.
INITIATION FEE by Paula Rudnick
The older daughter of a family friend
taught me how to do the Twist
the summer I was on the cusp
of Candyland and Kotex pads.  
The milkman by Ellen Stone
and I rode
the blue hills before dawn,

     barns, sprinkled building blocks
along the grey roadway,

                tanker hugging the curves.
Soft-core Cold War by Joe Cottonwood
Pulpy paperbacks. Lurid covers. Cheap.
My father bought them. Read them
with a serious frown. Every evening
he’d bring home more. Threw nothing away.
Making Sweet by Rose M. Smith
Oil from the rind sticks, bitter
on your fingertips, tacky reminder
you worked that yellow fruit
down to broken pulp,


The Middle Man by Ember Verma
The stone was covered in red clay when James grabbed it and slung it at me. Shards of red spiraled and flew as it sailed towards me, small but brilliant in the waning light.
Cathedral of Sand by Janet Ross
It started with crossing an invisible line — a demarcation of sun and dark, heat and dankness. By the end, I sank into a black abyss of lost faith. It had been my first time exploring caves that lined the Mississippi River bank — and my last.
A Tree Falls in the Forest by Paul Lamb
If there was any sting in Curt’s barbs, David wasn’t letting it show. The boy was, in some ways, growing up too fast. Still slight like his mother, just skin and bones and bottomless stomach, but with a mind that sometimes left David staggering.
Dearies by Adina Davis
Mrs. Maple had no children of her own, no husband or partner of any kind, not that we ever saw. We didn’t even know her first name. Maybe it’s Mrs., we joked. Each summer a different collection of girls came to her. That summer we were the chosen ones. She welcomed us like returning birds.
Critters Don't Knock by Alexa Tondreau Dahl
I counted on these things never changing – I liked it that way - and for years my days were mostly the same. But then, shortly after my 10th birthday, I saw a frog resting on the branch of a plum tree. No bigger than a quarter. The frog wasn’t real, I discovered, but carved of wood and painted bright green.
Kyle Mayhue, My Virginity, and Other Losses by April Vázquez
On the day I’ve chosen I skip school. I wake him up at one o’clock, knocking softly, then louder, on the door of the trailer. I spent the morning at Don’s Pancake House, having a leisurely breakfast, then at the city park with a book. Kyle comes to the door bleary-eyed, with a slight flush to his skin. He’s wearing only pajama bottoms, emblazoned with the Duff’s Beer logo.
9-13 by Graeme Tolson
My real dad would never have forced me to get a summer job. When he was around, we’d have fun together—playing catch or watching sports on TV. Jack didn’t like sports. He liked to read. He’d sit in his chair for hours, hair sticking out of his head like pieces of half-cooked spaghetti, wearing the same wrinkled clothes and the same slippers.