Botfly – by Katherine Anderson Howell


I obsess about the botfly.
Catching mosquitos to carry
her eggs, which hatch
on warm skin, enter
via the holes left by proboscises.
The larva will chew its way out,
a head out of an ankle
like a train from a mountain tunnel.

More accurate: I am phobic
of the botfly. I know little
of its habitat but think of it
when some flying thing brushes
my leg, when my son complains
of bees, ants, or moths.

I have never seen a botfly larva.
I cannot bring myself to look.
I already know it well, the desire
to crawl inside someone else
and gnaw my way out.
What good would it do me
to see my own worm face?

My son picks at his bug bites,
his sanctity scratched until
bloody. He excoriates his skin,
wounds his own nose, scalp.
Splits open his toe, scratches
hangnails until rawness sides his fingers.

He can never know about botflies.
How can I tell him it is possible
for something besides himself
to live in his skin?




Katherine Anderson Howell writes and parents in Washington, D.C. A recovering academic, she has published in academic journals and presses. Her work in non-academic genres can be found in Women in Higher Education, The Rumpus, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Arts and Healing.

Soldier Boy – by Karen Greenbaum-Maya


Who’s this? says my grandson
poking the Ché Guevara refrigerator magnet
we’d picked up at a tourist shop in Paris,
such a bougie thing to have El Ché’s image.
He was a soldier, I offer, swamped by Batista,
by Motorcycle Diaries’ humanity,
the medical student saving life,
he was killed in his war.
We’d heard a lean girl in a seaside resto tell her friend
I saw that movie. I almost felt guilty.

My five-year-old grandson snorts, delicately.
Soldiers don’t die, he proclaims,
they know how to protect themselves.
Star Wars and careful parents
have taught him near-guarantees.
Sometimes the war is too big,
they can’t protect themselves enough,
I reply, then wonder
why I need to convince him
the world will be too big for him,
the world will be more than he can bear.




Karen Greenbaum-Maya, retired clinical psychologist, German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer, no longer lives for Art but still thinks about it a lot. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song and Eggs Satori. Kelsay Books publishes her book-length collection, The Book of Knots and their Untying.



The Man Who Fell in Sartre’s Grave – by Clint Margrave


On the day they buried Jean-Paul Sartre,
a young man fell
shortly before they lowered the coffin.

20,000 people stood watching
in Montparnasse cemetery,
where close-by Baudelaire
lay next to his hated stepfather.

No one ever said what happened after.
If someone in the massive crowd
of mourners offered a hand.
If Simone herself stood up from
the chair they’d placed at the foot
of the plot and reached in.

I like to imagine him somewhere now
briefly removing the pipe from his mouth
to relay this story yet again
to his adult kids,
or his philosophy class,
or his latest mistress.

A topic of conversation
at parties among intellectuals
and friends. A point of
introduction. This is Guillaume
or Jean-Luc or Christophe.
“He fell in Sartre’s grave.”

I like to imagine he learned something
from the man he almost replaced,
and pulled himself up
by his own free will.




Clint Margrave is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, as well as in New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Verse Daily, The American Journal of Poetry, Word Riot, and Ambit (UK), among others. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Ice Queen – by Stuart Pickford


He drives her to Lake Simcoe. At the jetty,
fishermen are heading out to the huts.
She’s imagining live bait and hooks
when he swings the wheel, swerves onto the ice.

Earlier, she’d run her measured route,
pushed a personal best with her GPS.
After her shower, she’d wound the towel
into a turban, dressed with her back turned.

Now, she doesn’t look at him to say,
Idiot. He answers by hitting the gas,
speeds towards Georgina, the Ojibwa island.
The Chevy lurches. Swearing, they tip

into the crevasse that’s opened under pressure.
He checks the wedged front tyres, tells her
to sit tight in the back with the heating on,
the engine ticking over. He slams the door.

Light weakens. Trekking back he finds
the car’s silent—so far across the floes
to the island. He couldn’t make them understand.
Breaking in, his torch cuts up the darkness.

There she is, upright; her body wrapped
in white insulation ripped from the ceiling;
her cheeks made up with glitter, frost
in her hair; queen of the coldest stars.




Stuart Pickford works in a comprehensive school in Harrogate. He is married with three children.

Frederica von Stade Sings Dvořák – by Margaret Holley


Like dark red velvet,
burgundy wine, or the smoky
fleece of clouds rolling over
a flaming sunset, like a large
soft body enfolding yours
in the sanctuary of ample flesh,

this is the voice that saved your life,
though you could not hear it
back then, its power
and tenderness. Still, some
seedling down below the ground
of thought was all ears.

She sings in Prague for Dvořák,
dead for a century, sings
of the netherworld you visit when
your heart goes out for a lost one
as far as the far horizon
and no farther,

but then farther beyond all
our limiting landscapes,
valley of cypress and palms,
the winking gems of the city,
the moon rising – an eyelid
slowly opening in the horizon.

You enter the opera for one aria
to learn at last what it is
you are hearing:
the god you lost your faith in
has left you one of his angels,
and here she is.



Margaret Holley’s most recent book of poems is Walking Through the Horizon (University of Arkansas Press, Newer poems have appeared in online at Bluepepper, Eclectica, Gnarled Oak, The Tower Journal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She serves as a docent at Winterthur Museum in Delaware.


End of an Era

Regretfully, all good things come to an end and Algebra of Owls is closing its doors. No more submissions will be accepted and the final batch of poems to be published will appear on the site throughout February 2018.

A huge thank you to all our contributors who have trusted us with their work and made the site what it is.

We wish you all well with your writing.


Paul, Hannah & Nick