Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2005



Vicki Goodfellow Duke of Calgary, Alberta, Canada for Little Psalm,
Praise Concerto, and Garment


Angie DeCola of Greensboro NC for The Plains (for Agnes Martin)

William Dowd of Braintree MA for The Tornado and Zoetrope

Mary Kennedy Eastham of San Jose CA for Points of Love

Scott Gallaway of Bowling Green OH for We have a Way of Thinking about Light and

The Containment and the Return

Jules Gibbs of Madison WI for Ravage and Opossum

Alisa Gordaneer of Victoria BC, Canada for red petals

Megan Gravendyk of Kirkland WA for The Force of Crocuses

Kristen Henderson of Red Hook NY for End Rhyme, New Flower and Unison

Jen Karetnick of Miami Shores FL for Farm Share

Jessica Kruse of Las Vegas NV for Limbo, Love with Another Poet, and The Sound of their Bodies

Dawn Lonsinger of Ithaca NY for Nueva Vida in Nicaragua and The Unveiling Nucleus

Michelle Penn of London, UK for Convalescence

Dove Rengger-Thorpe of Lismore NSW, Australia for The Egg and Blackbean

David Roderick of San Francisco CA for The Poem and Notes on the Riverbank

Brian Spears of Fort Lauderdale FL for Up South

Paul Joseph Venzo of Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia for Splinterwords, White Horses, and Montara

Benjamin Vogt of Lincoln NE for Retirement and A Geologist’s Love

Jennifer Whitaker of Greensboro NC for What to Wear to a Father’s Funeral


Melisa Cahnmann of Athens GA for What to Bring and While Cutting Canteloupe

Jehanne Dubrow of Lincoln NE for Making Piroshke

Meg Pedersen of Silver Spring MD for to the metro and

Sestina: On Seeing CK Williams Read His Own Poetry

Jendi Reiter of Northampton MA for Sedona


Jennifer Elmore of Boston MA for Countering Sylvia

Mihan Han of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada for Nocturne

Ingrid Moody of Carbondale IL for Breakfast Psalm, Beets,

and Newfound Lake, Bristol, NH

Idra Novey of New York NY for Maddox Road

Dorine Preston of Athens GA for Possible Song

Abbey Winant of Boston MA for Psalm for Spring

$100: Honorable Mention

Clare Adam for Lilacs

Kelli Russell Agodon for Of Light, Skyward, and

Picking God’s Eye Cherries with my Daughter

Lori Kay Allen for Eternally

Shaindel Beers for Because You Are In It and I Give You Words

Adam Benic for Yellow Bat, White Ball

Karen Benke for Still Life With Gratitude

Joanne L.Bentley for Dancing Man

Heather Bradford for Sparrow and Alive

Malia Carlos for My Daughter’s Poem and Dead Squirrel

Nicole Cooley for The House is a Synapse

Keith Ekiss for Alone in Bed, Tucson and In Bed, September

Robin Ekiss for Heartwood

Melanie Faith for Namesake

Gwenda Hague for Isla by Moonlight

Wallis Hendon for A Photograph of My Mother

Rachel Hillmer for Mundane Epiphany, When the embers fade, and Color me Ecstasy

Catherine Hope for Laney

Allison Joseph for Hospice Tableau: Husband and Wife

Dawn Leas for Open-ended Question, Departure, and Late Last Winter

Katherine Manning for Observations from a Bench at Mission Beach

Lisa Megraw for Night Rush

Julia Meurice for Nature’s Relativity

Sara Michas-Martin for The Lake Swim and Dear Husband

Fawn Mokulis for chicken liittle and the break-up

Robin Mullery for A Chelmer’s Dream

Dave Pigeon for Faces

Stephen Pridham for The Carpeted Wilderness

Bede Roselli for when i get home from work

Laura Schleifman for Alaska in Italia

Bruce Snider for Superman Speaks at the Oscars: Christopher Reeve 1952-2004

Lynn Parrish Sutton for Spring Foal and Time Horses

Our thanks to everyone who entered and
congratulations to our winners!


Winning Poems

Vicki Goodfellow Duke

Little Psalm

On days when there is nothing

But a dark hollow, on bruised flesh,

do not curse the apple tree,

roots tangled in damp earth,

branches snapped

by a swift wind’s knife,

nor question the tenor

of red-cheeked fruit, firm

and sparse between codlings.

Stoop and hold

the blemished one

in your palm.

Remember, somewhere,

a pip has fallen,

flowered into orchard,

rooted in earth or stars,

and it will follow you

from home to home, in summer

gowned in purity blossoms.

Let the brown skim of ego slip

like peel,

and gather the spoiled, with the firm,

scat pulp to pomace,

shroud and press.

Thank the sun

for gloss and maturity,

cider, sour and sweet,

marvel at your own proximity

to the ground, core intact,

in every season of rain.

Praise Concerto

The mute children stare

at the maestro’s baton,

lips loose on dumb breath,

limbs deaf to the beat.

They sit in rigor,

face the man in black

with dancing hands,

tilt their heads

at the whisk of his elbow,

the slow unfurling

of his arm.

They alone can see

ribbons and streams of satin

in cornflower blue,

looping wide arcs,

the dim and daub

of fair-haired moons

flung wide to rafters, lifting

to raise their tiny bodies

in perfect elevation

and hold them,

like petals,

in open air.

There is more

than one way to sing,

they know,

more than one way

to see in the dark.


Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself …

                                                Alan Lightman

The gown

is fairy-pleated

in damask silk,

bodice formed

to the waist’s curve,

firm in the long groove

of your back.

See how the chiffon falls

over the contour of hips,

fluted sleeves

grazing the wrist.

Note the well-placed pearl,

each hand-culled bead.

Turn once, and look

through this gossamer veil

back to the bend

in the circle.

See the circumference

of your life,

the way the hours curl

in a ring from then to now

and begin over,

each wound as hook and eye,

binding the fabric of days.

How in going round

you would not alter

one scar, embroidered


the glossed brilliance

of completion.

Angie DeCola

The Plains
(for Agnes Martin)

Unfortunate, how often we forget

about our minds, how capable they are

of expanding beyond the crusted edges

of the world, the unknown limits of space and time.

In the mind resides a perfect circle.

It is one our hands will never duplicate.

In fact, the Greeks sought out perfection,

found it, tried recreating it, failed, again

tried, continued failing and trying.

In truth, we don’t like circles after all.

Lines, grids are less impossible and more,

offer nearer perfection. Was it true, Agnes,

your mother was much like your grandfather?

Did they lead you by perfect example?

Here, now, the perfect square shouts out

its great authority, the rectangle contradicts it,

and the circle, the circle has nothing at all to say.

You knew, Agnes, that human beings are herd animals.

We make heartbreaking attempts to live

deep within the herd, buried there. Sometimes

we make sheep sounds. Sometimes,

coming down from great heights – mountaintops,

sky-scraping peaks – we look out and discover

the plains. A most agreeable flatness.

A stillness cut up with lines, grids,

shapes that remind us we are not perfect.

Sometimes, coming down from the mountain,

we look out across the plains and feel as if

we are flying over them, flying

over a dream of perfect grids and rows,

a perfect breeze suspends us there,

above the lines and squares. No more authority.

No more contradiction. We climb mountains

to get out of this world and into another.

And then we climb back down.

William Dowd

The Tornado

Having swallowed itself whole

in an asthmatic gulp over the river,

the tornado left a grounded halo

of wet, wind-fried leaves under

all the trees in La Plata. Rising from

the earth, the La Platians found

their houses shorn and unwalled.

One could imagine the beginning,

the sound of bells starting to lose

focus, a dollhouse trembling

on its tabletop, its tiny ottomans

and plastic sofas rattling and ejected

onto a bedroom floor – 

then a sudden sparkling darkness

and the scrape of air gnawing

on nails and shingles, looting bits

of structure, the weather suddenly

everywhere like red ants.

The citizens gathered up and discarded

the spear-splinters of wreckage,

the mingled shards of windows

and picture frames and crock-pot tops.

They tamed the lashing live wires

and raked up the greasy leaves –

slowly sifting the damage,

reclaiming the landscape.

Only later did the La Platians look up

and notice clumps of insulation snared

in the trees, blooming there

like muscular flowers,

the lean boughs made incarnadine

by the stolen flesh of the houses.


Entire harems of horses are found collapsed

around oak trees, grass still clumped

in their mouths, whiskers burning

away like sparklers, purple carvings

on their thighs where lightning stretched

from the wet topsoil to grope them.

The wounded are stunned by madness,

their heads dangle lopsidedly, corneas

white and swishing, they stamp defiantly,

trying to recover the sequence of what they are,

how they moved toward the glint

of a mineral lick, how they stopped snorting

and sprinting when they meant to sleep.

We invented stop-motion photography

to prove that a horse, at some stage in its gait,

raises all its four hooves off the ground –

something lucid in any horse that appears 

untouched after a thunderstorm,

having eluded the ground currents

of lightning in its moments of full galloping

extension, and now leisurely decelerates

to a stolid trot among the hawthorn

and lava rocks, its hooves brought back to earth

by the soft suction of new mud. 

Mary Kennedy Eastham

Points of Love

The storm was unexpected

New Yorkers swept inside by snow.

In 4B a woman bathes her lover

careful not to wet his broken hand.

The Egyptian newlyweds

living in the building’s only studio

give their dreamchildren names

underneath a tent of bedsheets.

Twin sisters, designers, in Versace mules

play spin-the-bottle

on their penthouse terrace

with models from Milan.

Alone in her garden apartment

a Venezuelan widow

listens to vinyl records

she once danced to

with her husband.

And outside, on the street,

as the snow unfurls around them

like a ream of white velvet

let loose,

a girl in a scarf

the color of blood red calla lilies

says ‘yes’

to a proposal of marriage

while riding on the turned up handlebars

of her lover’s rusty Schwinn.

Scott Gallaway

We Have a Way of Thinking about Light

Lights begin to pock the darker darkness

Across the water – holes in the black paint

Of a mirror. The light says look beyond us,

But without looking, I know

There is always darkness beyond light

Just as there is always land behind water.

The secret spectrum of light is reduced to white

On the tips of waves. The truth of water

Is that it’s harder to maintain than change:

The striped obsidian of moon water,

The rainbowed glint of noon water, the white

Flash of a wave. Water is mirror and night.

When light and water mend, we always think

The water remains unchanged, just there. We think

The light enters the water, but as the world

Edges around, it is, in fact, the water entering

The light. And it is the light entering the water.

The Containment and the Return

Catching a softball with your father

On the shore of your first ocean trip,

There was a moment after the arm cocked

Back with the catch that you paused

And looked, containing waves of potential

For error and accuracy, but you knew

The necessity of letting go, without thought,

Like breathing while drinking your milk.

Even in the boundary of glass, the milk

Rippled to the edge, and back.

The glass itself urged back to sand.

And the stones of sand rushed the shore,

And returned, paused only enough

To form beaches, and castles.

Jules Gibbs


They build cottony tents in trees, multiplied, inched

through our lives, taking over streets and houses, every surface

moving with the caterpillar march. Pale bristles

circumscribed wormy bodies like

so many misshapen halos.

Around tree trunks, men painted poison

rings. Government planes sprayed a fine

mist; I tasted something acrid

in the dirt. Still they popped under tires,

asphalt stained, gut-green, yellow, red, until

the sun cooked out the color.

Sometimes, I’d notice one pause, lift

his small, painted face to the sky, and I thought I understood.

August nights, streetlights flickered violet

outside my window. Katydids quieted

in breathless pause. I lie in bed listening to their soft

shredding, miniscule mouths chewing jagged tracks

through the canopy. I remember an insatiable hunger

welling up, so much like the expectation

of joy, but not joy – something unnamed, something

my teeth clenched fist to contain, and I wanted

to eat my hand, eat my life – swallow it whole.


Under the porch, an opossum multiplies, babies

the size of honeybees, blind, cling to her teats.

Each night the space she occupies comes alive;

she stirs, scratches in dirt, while I,

lugubrious, consider infants sleeping in empty rooms

upstairs, star mouths sucking air, soft fists

clenching. She’s got it all over me – a penchant

for reproduction and falling down dead, drooling

through her toothy grin. I get online, try to find

ways to rid my house of them; I realize

the task is more than I can bear. I learn her shoulder bones

are square, and the oldest part of the sun is the black eye.

Alisa Gordaneer

red petals 

remember the groceries: children have complained.

even the crows outside are hungry for something.

buy coffee. it will be a long night

of making lists. you’ll need lots of paper. 

fuel yourself with the scent of hyacinths, the

sight of daffodils about to bloom.

bring home the memory

of woodsmoke at camp, the feeling

of rain after a hot day. 

arrange your space according to principles

of ancient spice and breezes, good energy

in the shape of bells.

honour the directions. north has been feeling neglected

and south wants to know when you plan to move on.

discover sounds in words you never use:

ululate, roundel, lubricious. speak them as they fall

like red petals. let your children hold out their hands

to catch.

list everything you ever wanted

all the things you still don’t know.

Megan Gravendyk

The Force of Crocuses

It is the way she bends low to gather their petals,

A wilted white sock,

A soft red scarf,

A waxy yellow coat.

It is the way they reach high into the limbs of her arms

And the way they wrap around her ankles and shins,

Anchoring her to the ground like roots.

You can see it here in the pictures

Covering her refrigerator, like ivy

Until no white shows through.

This wasn’t the garden she imagined –

this tangled vine and wildflower – she saw box-hedges 

She planned brick pathways between trimmed rows of lavender.

What a sweet surprise it has been

To see the poppy among the primroses,

The force of crocuses shooting up through the mossy garden path.

Kristen Henderson

End Rhyme

I have prayed to rhyme happily

ever after, and I think it’s coming true –

every word that comes together

spins off the great weight of sound

in terms of belonging, perfection –

whether hated or understood,

it is no longer necessary to prove

the uncanny, the secret

agreement inside the

offbeat and the beat,

the unbelievable coordination

of brooding vowels and foolish

consonants it took to get here,

so many years later.

This is the hidden syllable, stripped

all the way down

to the underworld meadow

in which I found

a grave stone set beside a flower –

and not the other way around.

New Flower

Every day you are born

in the open hand

of the calla lily,

stunned to silence by the deep thread

of the orange

ranuncula, the sex of the iris

taken at night, the quirk of the bird

of paradise, its tender spikes

that cut like the globe

thistle’s whole heart.

If I could build a flower

in your name, Anya,

I would take the flame

of the marigold and press it into

the heart of an old rose

to show how you are a child

in wisdom’s clothes. I would graft the stem, though,

of seed and glass, the leaves of breeze

and twilight, its roots,

those of the weeping


Every day the petals would change

color, first sunrise

then rust, silver from the cusp of a crescent

moon, the bronze of ancient atmospheres,

the clear white of each perfect star,

the Archer’s garden in bloom. Your scent

would be a collision

of eucalyptus and honey,

liquorice and soil soaked

by sugar cane and sun.

And then, when I am done, the windflower

you have become

would lean into the world

as bold as you are

shy, and share its singular,

stunning light.


What if there was an uncanny moment

when all the birds were grounded

from Cape Town to Juneau, and everywhere between –

all feathers frozen in a universal stutter, so quick

as to make a snail of light, and even Stephen

Hawking would miss it? And what if there was

that one note no musician has ever found, not Mozart

in his fever, nor any Diva at the height

of song, not in all their hours of practice,

not in their weeping? In another poem,

some drunk will happen upon a ukulele,

pluck the note, quite by accident,

and pass out, never knowing he was

someone all along. But here, it is God’s

best kept secret, unsealed only at our dying,

when every bird from crow to lark, in homage

to our dive into the earth, stops their flying,

and waits for our wings

to join them.

Jen Karetnick

Farm Share

“I remember breaking beans,”

says Theresa, come to collect

her portion of organically raised

agriculture – Chinese kale this week,

and Japanese shiitake mushrooms.

Ruth recalls peeling apples

as she tucks away her just-laid eggs;

Anne-Britte cracked nuts

in her native Sweden; Colleen

hulled strawberries and picked mint.

For myself it was corn, silky

strands from Jersey ears falling

like hair from the collie on the driveway,

husks (and later, cobs) leftover

for the raccoons to discover in

the too-easily dumped garbage bins.

And I ask them, aren’t all

Saturday afternoons supposed to be

like this: friends and neighbors

retrieving mamey sapote and Bee Heaven

honey, the sun one chime away

from down, perched on the coral steps

of Mango House shelling last week’s

delivery of English peas with my daughter,

who unzips the pods and combs

the seeds as if they were pearls

pinging into the metal bowl

we share between us, the keepers

of curiosity at our fingertips,

casings of tradition at our feet.

Jessica Kruse


The year during my childhood when we had a blizzard

in May: it hadn’t snowed

for almost two months, then suddenly a storm

the same day as my grandfather’s funeral.

My cousin and I, too young to know

we were expected to mourn death,

chose instead to mourn the snow day

we missed out on,

already taken from school for the wake.

All during the church service

we glanced toward the windows, stained

glass taunting us with its colored frost.

I imagined what we were missing,

strained to hear the happy shrieks which signaled

the start of a snowball fight, the laughter

sneaking in during the silences between

the liturgy and music.

There was no burial that day,

the frozen ground too stubborn to give of itself,

killing everything

already risen from the earth that spring.

So we had the service, and we had the meal that followed,

and then my cousin and I, finally set free,

spent the rest of the afternoon with our friends,

building forts and burying each other

in the snow banks, our tiny bodies

kept warm within our tombs,

voices growing muffled as the snow piled on.

A test of wills to see how long

each of us could withstand

the removal, the deafening silence,

the feeling of floating somewhere in between,

not below the ground, but not quite above it either.

The Sound of Their Bodies

My mother laughs as she tells me about that first trip

to the Smokies. The bears outside the cabin window,

the mice that raced all night on open rafters

above their heads. She didn’t sleep

the entire weekend, fearing the mice would fall

down on the bed. But the sunrise that first morning,

you should have seen it! How the color

rose through the mist, dividing the mountains

and bringing them together at the same time.

She remembers this when I (sixteen and stars in my eyes)

ask about romance. That he stay awake with her,

whispering into her hair. The sound of their bodies

entwined with the melody of the forest,

enveloping the darkness in a symphony,

worshiping all things nocturnal.

Love with Another Poet

We made love like an airplane, a porch swing,

a topographical map, an earthworm. Like a really good book

when we spoke we wanted every word to have the meaning

of an entire page. So we read each other slowly,

took too long, became more critical of the subtext than we should have.

Love became a school of fish, a cat’s meow, and suddenly,

a tomb. Like thieves or gluttons, like wives of ancient pharaohs,

we buried each other alive with the dead, tried to smuggle into our next world

things which should have stayed behind: your name became

more than the letters it contained, more than a former lover.

Became my first trip to Italy, a letter from a close friend, a cold

wet day in the Mojave Desert. Became the perfect poem we read

yesterday: even when we saw the end coming, we didn’t want it to happen.

Dawn Lonsinger

Nueva Vida in Nicaragua
(a post-hurricane resettlement camp)

Bienvenidos – the sun summons

these people, covers them with warmth,

and they answer by rising again

despite circumstances that break

their backs against the horizon.

If they move, the dry land will chase them.

but they move, and the dirt on their faces

never smudges the glow of the sun.

By the time we arrive,

the only vehicle in view,

they are outside – living.

Clouds of dust follow us in,

running niños follow us in,

gringos están trabajando.

Beauty is so basic in these faces,

parting seas of smiles with our every wave,

Hola, Adió, Quieres una foto? – their eyes swimming.

Sunlight breaks through the beams not completely covered

by black tarps, and highlights the everyday objects of a new life.

A bowl of clumped rice rests on a bare ledge.

Small metal bars touch each other, rust blooming.

Inches of string keep a rooster remaining in the light like an angel.

A small mirror hangs itself with all the images

of its neighbors, or captures the sun,

depending which angle you look at it.

Under someone’s techo are the tools to build.

Under someone’s skin are the tools to build.

Everything is make-shift, but we shift dirt in and out of holes,

the small grains of Nicaragua underpinning. Yes, our hearts together beat

open the earth, and a mutual lava pours like light through our veins.

The Unveiling Nucleus (an Epithalamion)

Now is not the moment of your marriage –

Already in the deepest caverns of consciousness

you’ve poured your glitches & kindling into the vault

of each other’s eyes: tender goblets, microphones of the mind.

You have not fallen, as is so often said of love,

but chosen, from every endless possibility, this –

You two, locked like an island by arithmetic and flux,

and in you – the forest floor spreading,

         fruit the size of small fists, sweet glissando.

Plumes of butterflies click their diaphanous wings

like scissors in your chamber where our doll eyes flick open

as mouths, each combination a garret of curtains, the tablature pursed.

We can hear the wind whistling, all the windows of

your souls suddenly thrown open, how you fall for the clamorous.

When time & space cross, pearls of stars form in the grit,

and when you & you cross, a whole world yet unseen

opens like an orange poppy, inside of which is

a little infinity of orange poppies.

Your love is as obvious as rocks, as subtle as sound,

         as mystifying as marshmallows in fire.

The mist lifts – with one veil, a hundred veils are lifted:

In pours the melodious light –

         the sun, like cake – let’s eat it.

The moons in your mouth blink full, unlace

each other’s solitude, and the whole ocean curtseys –

starfish, jellyfish, seahorses, anemone billow this: 

         It is not that you complete one another,

         but that you turn up the volume on

         each other’s hearts.

Michelle Penn


Five in the afternoon, almost to the minute, as though

some factory whistle

has dismissed them from the day’s drudgery

their fins slice the surface.

In twos and threes, they spiral

toward the sky.

Yet again, the woman plods

to the balcony in the sweat-stained

nightgown she has worn for the last month, leans

into the railing, waits for the show

wondering what prompts them to do it.

Are they trying to breathe? That’s what people say

although it seems counter-

intuitive, fish taking flight, wanting

the outside world’s dry blessing.

Perhaps they’re escaping a hunter

some sharp, violent eye. Only their arcs

trace not desperation but daring

joy. From beside skiffs

from mangrove shadows, mullet

reach toward the last of the light

tails fluttering like wings

bodies slapping the water, applause

for their defiant leaps against death.

Dove Rengger-Thorpe

The Egg

When dawn breaks

It is with the gentle sound

Of an egg


Against a sky-blue bowl.

The yolk slides over

The rim of the world.

Life begins.

The birds start to

Sing in the trees.

Then they take flight,

Their wings stirring

The early-morning air.


Inside I am

Small and black and

Glossy, and contain

Whole other worlds,

If only you

Could split me open.

You don’t notice me,

And walk on by,

Just nudging the pod

Of my possibility

With your foot.

David Roderick

The Poem

is a row of paper lanterns

strung over the garden,

illuminating cowslips,

lily tongues, the dull weeds

ranging against order.

It is a glimpse of fingers

through the small panes

of the tool shed: rake,

child’s face, blue moth

caught in a broken web.

Offering a type of light

that sways in the breeze,

it hints at dim shapes

huddled in the grass,

the ones with slender ears

that feed on windfall apples

scattered over the earth.

Notes on the Riverbank

Light opens the mind of the forest.

What took me so long to find it?

Jingle-flies on the compost pile,

a punched-in face of a pumpkin.

At a casting hole,

where the ground is worn

by rain, I smell local dawn,

a yeasty smell, vinegar the son

of wine. Near my feet a rifle

shell placed on a stump, newborn

spiders breaking from

a cracked pod. Sun stirs out

from the river. In its bed

I see pulverized rock, the gray-

and-white shape of a pickerel.

The marks along its sides

are like spots on an old man’s lung.

I watch this fish, its stillness,

these toads emerging from camouflage

because I need another language 

to live in, where leftover light

finds my blood, and tree bark

is the color of dark bread rising.

Brian Spears

Up South

Amy stands on the edge of the sand,

tastes breezes through lips once chapped

by Oklahoma dust, looks away from the neon,

the faux-frontal nudity of Lauderdale.

She is home here, this place of mahi

and yellowfin and shark that flash

through reef and surf, that call her

to rejoin them as though she had once

sprung whole from the sea. Her land,

her peninsula, once separated from

civilization by malarial swamp

that still threatens to reconquer.

She calls my home “up-south.”

New Orleans, clichéd home of swooners,

of goateed gamblers debarking

from riverboats, of Storyville quadroons

named by Shakespeare. Not my city.

Mine is the patois of immigrants, faded

by assimilation, but still attendant

in chere and Hey la-bas and mais yeah,

in Ti-Jean and Nookie and Mawmaw June,

in roux dark and sweet and so brown;

in daily August rain not cooling,

falling just enough to steam the streets

and send me running for a nearby bar,

windows painted: Cold Beer, Colder A/C.

She is pollo and Cameron, jerk and salsa

and reggae and old Jewish women

mopping their foreheads. I am bourré

and etouffee, low down papas with

the blues and a city ever on the brink

of washing into the Gulf of Mexico.

I am where no one is a stranger,

just misplaced family returned home.

She is where no one is a stranger;

everyone is from somewhere else. 

Paul Joseph Venzo


The words will out

like splinters

rejected from the flesh

and smudge the skin with blood

drip to the page with iron scent

where even flesh is in the word

that wracks your organs blithely

the smoke

that chokes

within your throat

is poetry unspoken

and here

and now

it signs itself

tattooed upon your lips

and hisses out

upon your breath and

cracks the heart right open.

White horses

Let all the white horses, the dappled and grey

That graze in the high country

Gallop away

The hours of loving, the scent of the hay

In our hair

Let all the young fillies, the chestnut and black

That neigh in the half-light

Gallop us back

To childhood knowing, the promise of snow

In the air

Let all the fine stallions, the piebald, the brown

Their manes tossed in sunlight

Gallop us down

Down through the blue-gums, down through the years

As sharp as the bit in the teeth of the mare

Let all the white horses, the dappled and grey

That graze in the high country

Gallop away

The hours of loving

The hours of light

The scent of the hay

The fears of the night

With Pegasus dreaming us

Into the flight

Of white horses dancing


The tiny grapes left on the vine

Are frosted black-blue-grey

And sweeten deeply on this autumn day

Muscatels that make late-harvest wine

From the glass rise memories

Scent of a smoke-filled room

Where two men couch in evening gloom

And pick at cherries

Benjamin Vogt


A shoreline. A couple. Older, probably

late sixties. Her hat, larger than the crane’s

shadow that’s caught in its blurred flight,

looks like a cargo ship against the cloud line.

Their heads are almost perfectly adrift

from their bodies, severed by the calm horizon.

His leg, the left, is naked to the knee,

his right is soaking wet up past his waist.

In the foreground: sand that’s flat and hard,

compressed by tides that close upon themselves.

Threads of seaweed line a crab who’s white

and eagle spread against the earth like stone.

The waves roll in smooth like new bed sheets.

No matter the hour it seems clouds will burn

away before their lunch. It might be noon.

It could just as well be evening and the man

and woman set out to beat the rain, enjoy

the beach they’d come to settle toward, They’ve put

their dark shades on. They’re wearing hats. She’s in

a dress that shows her muscular calves.

But it’s cold. It’s fall. There’s no one else nearby,

no ships across the water, and somewhere in front,

forty feet, a stranger stitches them against

horizons – ocean, sky and land – the world

their bodies cross, but cannot navigate.

A Geologist’s Love

There’s no heat in her hands. No solace in her embrace.

       She presses herself into another so hard, she hopes

       the pressure fuses a center brighter than the sun.

       She says she wants to be mined like coal.

The cold metal scraping at her insides, methodical, each

       valley seismographed and core sampled, researched

       and then unearthed. She wants to be on display.

       She wants her inside breath to know the April rain.

Her heart to pump the clouds and rivers like her blood,

       to cleanse the storms and nightfall and mud

       until she can see through them toward the beginning.

       But the beginning, she’s seen in books, was dust

and ash, sparkle radiation, plasma pools and sharp rock.

       Fragments of ice. Fog and daggers of creation.

       She says her bones are stalagmites

       sharpened beneath a dense ocean that drips onto her.

Irony, she says, is the morphous water sharpening the minerals,

       evaporating the cold smooth and leaving the element.

       She says she can offer nothing more than distilled parts

       constantly melting beneath the mantle of her skin. 

Jennifer Whitaker

What to Wear to a Father’s Funeral

Wear a chain around your neck of fingernail moons

to rend and scatter about the grave.

Regrets like stitches along your hem.

A little tin bird slipped in your pocket.

Wear as a sash the river where he washed

your clothes, the silt of its dark bed. In your hair,

the frozen bat he stepped on one winter night.

The pop of bacon grease smudged

around your eyes. The rough firewood

that you helped chop, the spark and smoke.

Wear a hat stuffed with his whispered prayers

in the dark, and two handfuls of sand to throw on top.

Wear as a brooch the O of your keening mother’s mouth.

Wear anger as a handkerchief at your waist –

tucked in deep, so that only the smallest corner shows. 

Melisa Cahnmann

What to Bring


Towel, toothbrush,

sack lunch, silence,

flashlight, fruit salad,

a change of underwear.

Dancing shoes,

prayer shawl, and

water-resistant questions.

Lip balm, canned

goods, broken

hearts and beer.

Come with highlighted

passages, a blue

ink pen, with rubber gloves

or a talisman.

In any sandal,

at any time:

compass, money, a map.

Be prepared.

Check the weather.

You may need matches,

God, a hat.


While Cutting Canteloupe


I prepare myself

as if for a trip to Europe.

I prepare to ask you

what I haven’t dared to ask

my bad, irreparable self:

to show your dark spots

and bruises, the sweet

inside. I have prepared

to keep shoulders from lifting.

I have trained hips to open

like halves of melon, learned

to notice when the jaw

is lonely, sore. I want shame

scooped out, and desire

a harvest on the kitchen counter.

I want you to enter me

this way: knife, spoon, ripe melon

swallowed whole.

Jehanne Dubrow 

Making Piroshke
         for Mommy


There is an instinct in her touch I try

to imitate – I let one hand follow

the other into the flesh of the dough,

like a baby kneading in its mother’s side

before it curves into a dream of milk.

She rolls the dough more flexible than cloth,

as if it’s not our dinner but something soft

to hug against the skin, a piece of silk

that’s slept beneath. Then she holds a water glass,

presses its mouth into the countertop,

pale flourings of O’s. She always stops

to cradle each within her palm, a last

moment (open, unfilled) before she spoons

the meat inside and seals the crescent moon.



Meg Pedersen

to the metro


i am always late, five minutes sometimes,

usually about twenty, but no matter how

uncomfortably i straddle time you are there!

often i dash into a station tripslipping on heels or

where someone spilled a soda,

only to be chastised for my tardiness by your chant of

“doors closing,” but you always come back, come back.

i know i can depend on you,

but not like the way a girl depends on her deadbeat dad

never to come back. more like how she depends on chocolate,

that savory stoptime moment where things go smoothly

paralleling the milky brown thickness.

your trains sidle up to the station so warmly.

at first i thought you were rather brash 

with your winking lights and lack of words,

just an unspoken invitation of spreading open your doors.

now you are a mug of hot coffee lifted to my

lips for me, in the midst of a dirty city, motion that carries me “home.”

i can globetrot and your persistent permanence amazes me,

how I can wander paris or new york and you change

your name a little, but your maps still hang on your walls

for me to read. there is comfort in these diagrams of place,

in the way you race crazily, throbbingly, through urban tunnels

underneath concrete jungles with skins of skyscrapers,

and you provide the pulse.


Sestina: On Seeing CK Williams Read His Own Poetry


Downtown: sundrops fizzle like mercury on the metal roofs of taxis, coming and go-

ing from the metro. I march, stilettos and all, but no words,

jumping in the spaces where the heat disappears. Devils, not

angels, inhabit this city of neutrals where art

has become a trial, a parade, a walk through rain

to a marble-wood box steeped in age.


The theatre is quiet yet, the few actors in the audience exercises in age.

I settle into the flow of my body against wood as my eyes go

to a dame at my side. Her Grace Kelly curls cling, damp from the rain,

and she wears too much lipstick, but just the right amount to give flair to her words.

When she turns the other way I lean in close, like to a piece of art,

and sniff her perfume. It drifts through my nostrils, not


unlike cocaine to my sinuses. Then CK, clutching his own drug of poetry, not

perfume for him but a vial in manuscript, ambushes the stage

with his clutter, his blessing, his grace. He offers the promise of art

to us and I hear the lady’s breath go

in her chest, smothered by pearls, she holds it away from the words

which grace us, like she is afraid of the rain


of emotion barreling toward us. Rain,

though, cleanses and he afterward is not

ominous but a rapture. She slips her feet out of those navy pumps as his words

diffuse into her perfume. Even her journal is crinkled, with age

clutching it like caked makeup, but the years stop mattering as the poet lets go

his verbs and slips into a new kind of art


where rhythm reigns and cadence is its crown, each syllable art

in itself. It seems the staccato is mesmerizing the rain:

it has stopped. Adjacent but apart my lady and I go

into self-contained writhing glories, discrete knots

of nerves tarnished from the ink on my fingers, the wrinkles of age

on hers. Furious in our affectation we both rightleft scribble down words.


I become aware of her solidness when her foot trembles against mine and I know his words

are tangible too, he feels them on his tongue and like darts

of eloquence they pierce us. I wonder how she takes it, at her age,

the excitement, the tightness, the pummeling of this literate rain,

yet she clings to grace like a young lover to forget-me-nots.

There is a certain kind of rhythm in letting go.


The crescendo fades, goes out like a candle. I glance at the woman at my side for whom age

has stopped and see the words she scrawled in her journal are the same ones I have. Not

knowing this, she slips her shoes back on and stands. Leaving is an art, and outside, the Capitol is on fire with the rain.


Jendi Reiter



That indifference still surprises –

that the sheer scrub-haunted cliffs

pile slab on ferrous slab, dinosauric

in ancient sun, hot before there was August.

Before there was.

                       That cactus grips 

the yellowed hillsides, profuse as locusts.

That anything mindless could still need teeth.


That the cold water stings like advice.

You dip your feet again in the same stream.

The pain is still there for the asking,

same as rocks jeweling the streambed.


Nothing visible moves

down the mountain, even the cooling sun now

diffuses gray light through a whale-bellied cloud.

You descend the root-crossed path

slowly, as slowly as rocks

would slide, if shaken loose.


That the cactus, even dead, raises

its arms to the sky:

neither grotesque nor wise.


Where you have no reason to be,

you lay your blanket over stones.

The pine does not descend to the desert,

nor the lizard seek the snow.

You make your camp on the mountain.


That the stars are old grandmothers

who have forgotten their names.

Beneath the mountain’s dark apron

the flat town glitters and blinks,

a hive of intentions.

                             And you, suspended

clean as wind, between craving and unminding,

drunk on the thin air of angels,

remember which world is yours

and rise, taking not a morsel

of memento rock, lest you hope to change the mountain

by burdening yourself with one more stone.


Jennifer Elmore

Countering Sylvia


Into The Colossus, I pass her

pasty fountain, her  rose droppings.


I’d like to give back

the sour cadavers, page 5,

and the swill of science boys

in white smocks.


I won’t let my heart

marinate in formaldehyde.

Today, I reject

the dissection and sad jar.


I drive my tumor to the beach,

where I wallow

in hurricane season

and fierce water.


Where I breathe with force,

unbroken on the sand.



Mihan Han



The night has cast its nets o’er city streets

And caught for me no dreams nor even sleep,

But stars that teem like fish in sable seas

And boughs – the weaving corals of the deep.

For me a zephyr croons a lullaby

And parts the branches of the poplar tree,

Unveiling clouds that sweep like windblown tides,

Through moonlight etching verse and poetry.

A sparrow song! The siren notes descend

Through trembling leaves; a forlorn melody

Lulls me from sleep to ponder without end:

Is it a nocturne or an elegy?

     Drawn by birdsong I looked outward tonight

     And saw an ocean churning in the sky.

Ingrid Moody 

Breakfast Psalm


This morning, as I chewed my toast,

I wondered if the season had tipped

gently into fall, if the house

had sunk a breath’s width into the loam

beneath the street – something had turned.

And then on my toast I noticed the haze

of white along the crust, the inarticulate

beginnings of a fuzz, still mostly idea,

that I knew would blister if left alone –

an affront to my glossy kitchen.

The strawberries, too – gray

and juicing in their bowl – carried

the whispered intimation of death.

And yet the morning gleamed

as I searched the encyclopedia

for words to call those turnings by,

and found their names and spoke them,

delicate and ornate and blooming

on the tongue, lavish as the mold itself:

Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria alternata. 





Last night, a thick steam lifted

from the stove


and descended on the kitchen.


On my cutting board, the beets

lolled in their chapped brown skins.


I dropped them whole into the pot

to boil, cracked as the soil


they came from,

still wearing a film of dust,


having come from the darkness

of decaying earth


to arrive in my kitchen,

where I stood blinking

and bewildered on the cold tile floor


having forgotten the part of the story

when spring returns.


I fished them out with a slotted spoon

and began to peel their matted skins away,


and found the deepest red beneath –

the tight hearts, pulsing with brightness.



Newfound Lake, Bristol, NH


Silent and invisible, we sprawl on the lawn

as the fireworks burst upon the dark like split fruit –

kiwi, tomato, pomegranate, fig –

heavenly projections of the small and earthly.

Their seedscapes spill out amongst the stars

and flicker there before unraveling

as if to say all of us here, destined to rot and stink,

are worth a constellation, however brief.


Idra Novey 

Maddox Road


Shucking corn on the veranda, my sister said

she didn’t care that her father had come by, or

that I’d finally met him, though later, after the dark


started to rake in, I found her outside again,

staring at the sweep of fallow fields and shadows

around our mother’s rented house, the curious row


of weathered tobacco shacks along one edge, saddled

with their years of emptiness and disuse, and she said

this had all been plantation land, that her father’s family


had worked here. He’d told her so, once, coming down

this road, and she had a feeling if she stayed here

long enough, something of meaning, of consolation,


might make itself clear. And because we’re not close,

I asked if I could sit with her, and we listened

to the pickups shudder past, invisible after nightfall,


and between them, the diligent hoo of an owl, listening

for the rustle, perhaps, of what it trusted

must lie near, though obscured and impossible


to predict. Gradually a wind bore the clumps

of corn silk we’d neglected into the unseen, its thickening

woods that press upon the heart and field.



Dorine Preston

Possible Song


Song of the wine between bottle and glass,

song of the gate, unlatched.

Song of the winding stair. Song of the mist

over any mountain pass, song of the opening bars.


The first skipped beat. Song of the spider’s

turn around the copper clock tower, greening.

Song of the dough’s warm lofts

where the lathe hums to the loom.


Song of swallows flung from a pine,

song of the pine needle’s balm.

Song of the sea urchin’s urgent repose.

Song on one wing, flexed.


Song of the bow-wave, the lookout’s cry.

Song of the purpling fig.

Song of the welder’s arc,

arcing. Song of the rising mask.


Song of the open mouth between breaths,

song of your mouth on my breast.

Song of the bouquet slung over the bull’s horns.

Song of the bee’s plumping thighs.


Song of the margin, the widening iris,

song of the wax toward words.


Abbey Winant

Psalm for Spring


Sometimes I think I see

gospel everywhere: hands splitting open

the yellow-white sky, parting banks

of backlit clouds. Here in February’s

perpetual suspension of immiscibles:

baking soda, chlorophyll,

bacon fat, coffee grinds, ashes

of unknown origin, light briefly floods

Earth’s  frayed edges, and Tuesday is made

less acidic. Thoughtless clouds spill out

grace like maple syrup, the warm thick

light poured into the fissured cold

cracks in the cement, drizzled

onto rooftops and trees –

How can I explain love

so bright and specific that I am

exposed, and still choose to open

as a flower toward the first hint of sun?

God, let me see you clearly. Reveal to me

something genuine, some clean thirst,

or the gift of exhaustion, sharp and pure

as rubbing alcohol, the short work

of this comprehensible world.