Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2006



Marla Alupoaicei of Frisco, Texas for The Opening, Terre Haute, and How the Light Gets in

Paula Bohince of Greensburg, Pennsylvania for Good Morning, Heirloom, and After Chemotherapy

Allen Braden of Lakewood, Washington for Beyond There Be Dragons, Alone in the Wild Dark, and Inspiration

Gillian Wegener of Modesto, California for Postcard from Jane; Bugle Air; and The Soul, Feeling Expansive, Masquerades as a Butterfly


Pilar Gómez-Ibáñez of Ithaca, New York for Fox, Lake Erie Shoreline; For the Man who Marches down Spaight Street, Singing Hymns; and The Red Cedar

Dove Rengger-Thorpe of Lismore, New South Wales, Australia for The hatching, Blood plum, and A brief blaze


K. Ballantine of Dayton, Tennessee for Midsummer’s Eve

Danielle Cadena Deulen of Fairfax, Virginia for For My Sister in the River and For You

Robin Ekiss of San Francisco, California for Rosabelle, believe; and Pelagic

Tess Jolly of Brighton, England for Graffiti and Gift

Allison Joseph of Carbondale, Illinois for Cartography and Emergency Librarian

Eric Leigh of San Francisco, California for My Mother Reads Tobacco Road, Notes on Drowning, and For Those Who Cannot Make the Journey

Erin Murphy of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania for Inter—

Felicity Plunkett of Wooloowin, Queensland, Australia for October’s Road and Inside your Wardrobe

John Poch of Lubbock, Texas for Naming a Child, Lark Sparrow, and The Longer Half of the L


Kimberly Burwick of Ashfield, Massachusetts for Everything Lush I Know, Rich in the Eclipse of Home, and A Most Difficult Language

Xochiquetzal Candelaria of San Juan Bautista, California for The Irises

Chloe Green of Clagiraba, Queensland, Australia for Antarctica

Mihan Han of Richmond Hills, Ontario, Canada for On dirt roads, Autumn Evenings, and Destination

David Livewell of Woodbury, New Jersey for City Seeds and Weather-Wise

Christopher Locke of Milton, New Hampshire for Sunday, Mid-April; Listening to a Bard Owl the First Night at the New House; and Groupings

Lisa Ortiz of La Honda, California for Osifet

Rachel Richardson of Chapel Hill, North Carolina for The Horses

Emily Rosko of Columbia, Missouri for Sonancy

Jennifer Whitaker of Greensboro, North Carolina for The Woodcarver and On the Equinox


Kelli Russell Agodon of Kingston, Washington for Clothesline and Honeysuckle! And Now

Douglas Basford of Baltimore, Maryland for Thinking about Old St. Paul’s, Baltimore, Soon to Adopt Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary

Timothy Donnelly of Brooklyn, New York for No Bird, Team of Fake Deities Arranged on an Orange Plate, and The Last Vibrations

Vicki Goodfellow Duke of Calgary, Alberta, Canada for Words for a Boy, Sketching a Tortoise; What We Bear; and On Whistler’s “Nocturne”

Julie Dunlop of Albuquerque, New Mexico for When All Else Fails

Scott Gallaway of Bowling Green, Ohio for The Grace Given a Birdwatcher and Something in Silence

Heather Hartley of Paris, France for Rapunzel on an Ironing Board, Sweet Woodruff, and Change of Seasons in Charleston

Anne Keefe of Highland Park, New Jersey for Maternal Caress, Paper Ships, and The Emerald Isle

Jennifer Koiter of Laramie, Wyoming for Darling Clementines

Dawn Lonsinger of Ithaca, New York for How to Hold the Living, Where they Wander, and Delicate Grip

Tolu Ogunlesi of Ogun State, Nigeria for Visiting the Yellow River

Alexis Orgera of Santa Monica, California for Brunelleschi’s Servant

$100: Honorable Mention

Dilruba Ahmed of Mountain View, California for Arrival, Ghaza, and Fable

Sampurna Chattarji of Thane, Maharashtra, India for Windchimes, Blue Heron, and Yogurt and Cinnamon Dessert with Rose Geraniums and Peach

Chanda Feldman of San Francisco, California for River Jubilee

Beth Ann Fennelly of Oxford, Mississippi for The Welcoming: An Ars Poetica; Not Knowing What He’s Missing; and Restless Sonnet for a Son a Week Past His Due Date

Jules Gibbs of Madison, Wisconsin for Vera, Jewelweed, and Wood Song

Sam Kean of Washington DC for Still Life and Ode to the Belly

Brandon Mazur of Parlin, New Jersey for Living Fossils

Shabnam Nadiya of Dhaka, Bangladesh for Cityscape

Michelle Penn of London, England for Family Portrait II and Grandfather’s Needle

Allison Seay of Greensboro, North Carolina for Aisle

Melisa Cahnmann Taylor of Athens, Georgia for Pressing Kudzu Flowers

Tess Taylor of Cambridge, Massachusetts for Route 128, Georgetown, Maine; Big Granny; and Elk at Tomales Bay

Kristen Tracy of Kalamazoo, Michigan for To the Tender and Midwest Autumn Day

Julie Marie Wade of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for Mainland, Nostalgia, and Whidbey

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


Winning Poems

Marla Alupoaicei

The Opening

More punch than Kodachrome this day,

      frothy brouhaha of early spring.

Filmy white blossoms of Bradford pear—

     gossamer, ornamental — vault into the fountain

like suicidal brides. Magenta redbud. Kelly blade.

     Black grackle shrill with happiness.

It's okay if that's the only song you know.

Bearable lightness of sun.

     I pull a branch close to examine a bloom —

a five-petaled star, lace inside & out. In days

     eclipsed by leaves.

I'm here today. I hope it's enough.

Opposite the sky,

     is it much the same,

no fat cherubs strumming harps

     but clouds skittering by beneath,

moon & sun cavorting under your feet,

     stars scattered about like Scripture,

all those laws & cycles

     frantically carrying themselves out?

Outside of time, as life trundles about

     like a twisted tire swing unwinding,

do you look down

     amazed as I am,

this thing called spring,

     the way things live, saying,

yes, I must write this down


Terre Haute

In the beginning was the Word.

No wonder, then, that we love words,

the small "O" the mouth makes,

the half-moon the hand takes

against the blank page of un-being.

A thing has no power unless it demands something from us.

Words are,

solid, intentional,

kinetic as the swollen river in spring,

the revolving planets of our bodies,

the Eustachian shells of the conches,

the seeds burrowing down to bury their secrets

in pocketbooks of black soil,

the song of the earth like a mother's lullaby

I haven't heard in thirty years:

Sleep, little two eyes

Sleep, little daughter.

Home the still point of the pendulum swing.

home the remembering womb of the mother,

home the place the soldier returns with his last wish of breath.

There, on higher ground, I can't help but understand

my place in the order of things.

And that place is not large. No, not at all.

There, night focuses like a lens

as I sleep like a stone in my childhood bed.

Trains call out to each other like mourning doves

and it's the saddest sound I've ever heard —

the sound of many waters quenching love,

the tune of a mother's comfort just out of reach,

the familiar despair of my hometown at night.

How the Light Gets In

                A cool breeze blows in the shade of my spruces.

               I stand here and await my friend;

               I await him for a final farewell.

                      Gustav Wagner, The Song of the Earth

The way you came home the same, but different,

the way the house felt smaller each time,

quaint, half-timbered against European sky,

the way evening came as a surprise every night,

the way my heart's cymbals crashed

when you opened the window from the outside

and peeked in, laughing,

the way your face glowed at that moment,

the way your exquisite artist's hands

could not hold water,

emptying somehow

though the fingers were not parted,

the way you gestured when you spoke,

just so —

the way you always sat in the same place

at the table,

the way it felt to remember with you,

the way you pried the shell open,

the way one grain of sand crept inside

and surrounded itself with pearl,

the way the flowers bloomed too late,

a riot of living and dying, all at once —

in the same way, the mélodie unfolds,

the Lieder cycle, written in the language of flowers,

poetry the master, music the servant

and then not —

thesis, antithesis: point, counterpoint

braiding themselves together and tiptoeing apart again.

that's the way our dance of forgetting began,


the way we emptied ourselves,

rinsing away the saccharine sweetness

like the granules of a bitter pill

we couldn't quite swallow.

this, then, must be

the untranslatable litost

the way small blossoming things

get trampled underfoot,

the way fragile things

break in the same place over and over.

there's a crack in everything:

that's how the light gets in..

morning wheels over us

in its heavy, bright arc of self-clarity.

even here, in the land of legends,

we can't hold onto the myth.

Paula Bohince

Good Morning

Before the lifeguards arrive, yawning

in sweatshirts, climbing into their rickety nests,

before babies in ruffled suits crawl toward sun-weary mothers

flanked by sippy cups and inflatable alligators,

before the man on the boardwalk shaves ice

from an endlessly belled basin, handing down frail

paper cones dripping cherry,

there is a moment when the ocean just is, without us:

speckled gulls spiraling over mussel shells,

peaches and cream crabs strewn

like jewelry,

the ecstatic cries of those birds over the breakers,

skimming the foam, snatching fish

for breakfast,

while the surf beats its drum of Good Morning, cleaning

the shore so all our names can be written.


Where will Grandmother's wisdom go?

How to iron the pleats of my starched school shirts?

How to bathe a baby in the kitchen sink?

I see her, bent to the tomato vines, twining them to stakes

the beefsteak nearly break.

It seems she whispers to them, then limps inside,

a setting sun in her grasp.

She cuts a slice that nearly fills my plate, spreads

homemade mayonnaise on white bread,

makes my favorite sandwich.

I look out to her garden, those vines that will not snap

even in the strongest wind. I study the seedlings

she urges toward growth on the sill. How to keep rabbits

away, how to predict when each blush is perfect

are secrets she's been planting all these years,

deep in the earth's memory,

After Chemotherapy

Senses regain the vividness

of childhood:

Shiraz unfolding seasons into a mouth

grateful for flavor; rosemary

rising as from an untended garden, that wild

splendor, from bread torn

roughly by hand.

Candles lit, new wicks flare like streetlamps

that usher in each evening,

their effort suddenly


The Bach fugue loved for years

graced with another movement: after the kiss

of needle to vinyl, before the first note,

are seconds of silence that sound

like breathing.

Allen Braden

Beyond There Be Dragons
          for Zach Green

How easy it must have been

to believe their great bones

solidified in the mountainside

unearthed the first couplets

of greed and legend, easy to see

why every invented dragon

must have harbored some weakness:

an obsession with riddles perhaps

or tender flesh between the scales

over a deep and venomous heart.

How easy today to translate a ceiling

luminous with the inscrutable

stars whose shapes foretell a miracle.

Listen, poetry comes down to this:

some say to hold water in your hands

is to lose it. How they must believe

in the well. Choose the water itself.

Anything everlasting.

Alone in the Wild Dark
          for Derek Sheffield

Locked outside

the cabin by the river,

with no starlight, no moon

tinseling ponderosa,

no tall wheatgrass

parting then sealing

each step taken,

still you can spot the blur

dropping down, clasping

some small wriggle.

Understand this is the last

gift. Fierce hunger honors

a life and lifts it now

over scrub pine, tree line,

snow pack, horizon.

Night after night,

season after season,

the shush of wings:

song of mole and snake,

spell of toad and mouse,

praise of shrew and sparrow.

Each time the claws strike

a blow, the beak welcomes,

one silence ingests another.

Loneliness? A short word.


Not far from where a coyote led me

over the sparsely timbered hillside,

I found a feather held in the sagebrush

flanking an abandoned logging road.

I knew the pattern, its bars of tan

almost the color of parchment

or more like that coyote's pelt actually.

The feather of a great barred owl.

You could say the darker, narrower

scribbles curving toward the quill

suggest rows of silhouettes in flight.

You could say a lesson might exist

in the wind's subtle dispersal of dust

trickling through Sheepskull Gap,

estranging that feather from its wing.

All you really need to tell anyone

is how a single feather was poised

so the tip of the quill wrote on thin air.

Gillian Wegener

Postcard from Jane

Beautiful is too small a word for Yosemite.

I haven't been here in years

and the girls,

contained in their soft, new lives,

have never seen anything like it.

The baby laughed at the tramping

of our feet on the gravel path.

Emma said the falls are like wild horses.

Her pockets are full of smooth, little stones.

I wish you could see the meadow —

how green is so many different colors.

We are coming home tonight.

The moon, our old friend, is almost full.

Bugle Air

Someone gives the kids a flea market bugle.

They push their breaths through hard.

Cheeks hurt. Veins throb in young necks.

The harsh pwaaahhhh is a tongue stuck out

then pulled back, again the polite child.

Oh joy and pain, oh petal tender night.

Plum faces darken with unabashed strain.

When one comes up gasping, the others

grab for the instrument with grubby hands,

Everyone wants to play, even if it hurts.

Everyone wants the air to tremble at their least bidding.

The Soul, Feeling Expansive, Masquerades as a Butterfly

Attaching the wings is the easy part.

A dab of glue here and here and stretch.

See how the light comes through, pinks the air,

drops a sudden pattern on the sidewalk.

Next the furred mask, the antennae like breathy threads,

and adjusting them just so in a mirror

made of puddle and sky.

The soul anticipates flight as if it were not imagining,

tastes the air, tests the wind, flutters

the veined wings, feels the small whir

in the center of itself, that engine of yen and excitement.

The daylight shifts and shifts back,

breath and magic and breath,

a world gone keen with glint and shine.

The air tastes like lemon and the secret

mouths of penstemon.

The soul scans the whole wide view,

lifts the costume wings and jumps,

both feet at once, into a horizon

as open as the beginning of a story.

Pilar Gómez-Ibáñez

Fox, Lake Erie Shoreline

He finds us in the last brush

of sunset, where we've wandered

down the beach path. The wind is up,

the lake alive, its shoosh

and boom tossing the old railroad ties

against the sea wall, the wind a reckless

spender, a shower of coins

in the cottonwoods.

We sit against the sandbank

with cups of tea, I am speaking

of something when you touch my hand

and he's there, paused

by the rustling stand

of cattails, alert and supple,

russet and fringed

in dusk, he is watching us

with his steady eye. One paw lifted,

then placed.

He leans so slightly, delicately

toward us as the air brings him

our ten thousand scents: soap

and cloth, scalp

and breath, the intricate, whirling

particles of desire. Over my shoulder

the last ray is a gold whisker

in the low clouds past Huron lighthouse.

How does he hold his wild ground

here on this lost strip of land

between the lake, new beachfront condos

and the glitter and whine of old Highway 6?

He takes a long last look at us, keen

and considered, pauses to piss

on the marsh grass and trots off

into the branched

darkness under willows.

In a minute, it comes:

fox on the wind, pungent

as skunk, sharp as a crushed

green buckeye. You laugh out loud

and set the half-spilled cup

in the cooled hollow of your heelprint,

and suddenly I want to lean

closer, into your dizzying

whiffs and dangers, I want

to spring and take off running

down the hard-packed sand along the waterline,

I want to say something to you so clear

it can only be said in the bright

swift language of the bark.

For the Man who Marches down Spaight Street, Singing Hymns

Three days running I have waked

to his deep bass, my dreams pealing

with the zeal of fifty organs

pedalling at once. He strides

in the dim five a.m. down Spaight,

belting them out: How Great

Thou Art, and in the wavering towers of his voice

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Above the trees

and drowse of houses, the light

turns evangelical.

In the middle of the block he stops and stands,

clopping his gloves

in the dawn silence. Then bellows like a vendor

of some rare fruit: Wake up! Wake up

everybody! His faith greatly more

than enough for all of us, his winged conviction

bearing the whole city aloft,

floating us up from our beds of sloth

that we might rise bleary-eyed through the rosy light,

bobbing among saints and angels.

The Red Cedar

The sloped field, fallow, on the farm's west edge

where the cedar grows straight as a plumb line.

The wind over the field, riffling the dry swells

of grass. The cedar pinning the corner down.

The crow who raises her racket of objection, then

flaps off, leaving the branches ringing.

The bent knee, the sifted floor of needles, bristled

fragrance sunlight coaxes from the branches.

The sun tipped just west of noon. The hollow

center: four trunks humming out like a compass.

The peeling, rusty bark, sap running up

its narrow channels, wind quickening the topmost

branches so the shiver runs all the way down,

into dark. The roots pricking up

their tiny hairs. The back at rest, against the trunk.

The caw far off. The sun. The hollow center.

Dove Rengger-Thorpe

The hatching

Blue egg,


your thin shell is fragile;

it cracks in the hatching,

falls apart.

Small bird,

a whole world is destroyed

so you can stretch

your damp wings

and fly.

Blood plum

Blood plum,

you're redder and softer

than a bruised heart.

You burst on my lips;

flesh and juice slip

free of the skin.

You have been shipped

across an ocean,

picked and packed

by peasant hands.

You have seen hope

tossed like seed to the birds.

How do you turn

all that sorrow into sweetness?

Into flesh?

If I plant your stone heart

will you be able to grow again?

A brief blaze

A blaze of dahlias and zinnias

burst from the black stem of the vase

pink and crimson. Scarlet-skirted fireworks;

a brave show

put on to mock death

and gravity.

They won't go far.

Like all humanity, their bright fire's bound,

Contained by the dark

glass of the jar.

K. Ballantine

Midsummer's Eve

The firefly lights the wild hare's eye and to the north

the white door opens under bare Ben Bulben.

Darkness inks all corners of the sky, light scuttling

for cover, resurfacing with the pale round moon.

Hayricks burgeon in fields as rowans fade,

summer growth waning. Wind rustles the musky

night, and ribbons of fog stretch into vapor. Ashen

and ghostly, a barn owl blunders across the horizon.

Toads nudge from mud baked by the sun's rays and croak a bass

to the crickets' hum; Carolan's harp couldn't compose such a tune.

This is the night old dames gather herbs to store

for samhain, when frost hoars the hardening earth;

This is the night when girls on the cusp of womanhood long

for a chance to dance with the king of the faeries.

The moon fades as daybreak lavenders the sky; crickets and toads

grow quiet while a doe and her fawn stir the mist across the woodline.

Dawn shimmers and approaches, shadows tarry at the base

of Ben Bulben and the white door closes once more.

Danielle Cadena Deulen

For You

I once read a poem that compared

a pomegranate to a heart. And there

sparrows darting in and out

of the lines, violets throwing off

moonlight like old coats, and

a student raising her hand to say

I don't get it. Someone loved someone

else, though someone else didn't love

someone back, or someone else did

but there was an obstacle, maybe

the sparrows darted dangerously

near the pomegranate and pierced it

or the violets stole someone's letters,

kept them folded in their small blossoms

because they believed they deserved them

more than someone else. This poem

is based on that one. And also on

the time we took a scenic route through

aspens and you told me how they always

spread after a fire season because

when the pines burn down they leave

enough space for new trees to grow.

The poem was entitled, "For You."

And we kept driving and driving until

winter came, smoothing the roads white

with tiny combs of ice — your fingers

ready to sculpt my shape out of snow

so that you could ease into the hollow

chest and leave a pomegranate safe

from sparrows — the violets suddenly

confessing everything to the student

whose face opens like sunrise when

she says I understand now — I understand —

Robin Ekiss

Rosabelle, believe

Rosabelle, believe was the phrase

Houdini and his wife agreed in secret

he'd repeat at the séance

after his death, if there was life

and he could say so.

No one knows if Houdini said

Bull's Heart, Black Zebra,

or Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter,

when she asked

across the dinner table

what varietal of tomato he'd prefer,

or if they spoke to the other

divides of marriage: the shut mouth

and the closed door of sleep

into which they tucked each other,

accepting the long calm

like Edward Hopper, who painted

a woman (always his wife) in a silk slip

reclining on a bed, or standing

next to an open window

in the corner of an empty room.

The light streaming through

is white as a bird's eye —

and though we can't see it

on the canvas, birds sing all night

by that window, pollinating day.

No matter what we say to ourselves

in secret, I refuse to believe

the light that radiates from that page

or this one

Is anything less than

what it means to love

those moments of shared silence

and the empty room

waiting for us here.


While you sleep, the rain breathes in the eaves.

   It erases the sea, what we know

of living on open waters.

The glass-gilled porthole widows the horizon.

   It sleeps beside us,

a flat plane waved by ocean.

When I wake you, when I tiller your breathing

   with rain, or surface like fish

into thought, your gentlest navigation,

I become oceanic — not scull, skiff, and yaw.

   The lure of water is love.

The sleep of lovers is underwater sleep.

Twinned by night, we turn silent again

   in the deep of it,

promised to each other's shores.

Tess Jolly


But to create a material thing which could be used

to give voice to the decree, what word did you speak?

                             Saint Augustine's Confessions

Love. The word I said

was love. Say it to me now

where the cold October sun

frosts the pane and you

unleash your breath on the glass;

where exhaust fumes grime

the van's exterior, instead of

Please clean me, write love.

With a stick in the sand

beyond the tide's grip

a knife in the bark

of your favourite tree,

with Autumn leaves gathered

from wherever it is

you go these days

or by clearing a path

in the air between us

through the motes which cloud our eyes

instead of dust, spell love.


Through the trees we walk

into the gathering light.

A deer dips its hooves to the ground

then listens — startled by a sudden

shift in the air. Whiskers quivering

a rabbit noses the dew-spun grass,

all senses poised while in silence

we breathe the day in, blessed

by this moment that binds us in mystery,

soaks us in reasons for living.

Allison Joseph


I like the rough topography of you:

your stubborn toes, tough soles and bumpy heels,

enjoy the heavy way your muscles feel —

stout thickness of your calves, your legs askew

beneath the bed's blankets. No bold tattoos

disgrace your thighs or rear, just scars that peel

in their own time from scrapes that make you real,

that make you mine, for my exclusive view.

And I like where you're smooth, your broad pale back,

your shoulders — bare and waiting for my touch,

your belly, round like mine. I love that chest,

especially when you pull me in, body wracked,

my sobs from some odd grief. I love that clutch,

that span of arms that shows me where to rest.

Emergency Librarian

Does she speed up in an ambulance

or a bookmobile? Or does she dash

into neglected neighborhood classrooms,

clad in white coat, sensible shoes, yelling

get that boy a paperback stat!, snatching

video games out of sweaty clutches

with a single grab? Teachers call her

when no ordinary bookwrangler will do,

confident she'll make readers of the most

illiterate, the most belligerent, the bored

and sullen. With her, the story hour never

ends, and her stories send a child around

the world and back, a fluid fluency

of dialect and custom, alphabets

and hieroglyphs. Instead of a stethoscope,

she wields a cart laden with books,

literary miracle worker, woman who gets

the most hostile child to love reading,

eager to teach what he's learned to another

new reader, the shyest girl reaching

for the brightest picture book, moving

from easy readers to eighth-grade level

in a single afternoon. She can never

feed them enough language, enough

characters, for they are always

wanting more from this sorceress,

this priestess, a conjure woman of words

in bifocals and turtleneck sweater.

Eric Leigh

My Mother Reads Tobacco Road

Only thirteen and already a star

pupil in the school of hard knocks,

she cracks open the book to the day's

last lesson: someone else's misery

can quiet your own. Extra credit: a heart

has no avenues, just a puzzle

of dirt roads that snake for no reason.

She reads until the flashlight dies.

Tomorrow, another day of putting on

and taking off her mother's apron,

of gathering dandelion greens

and making a meal out of bitterness

to feed children who never get full

and always take her for the one who bore them

into this world, where each of them

will one day play the part

of that young girl Pearl — wedded too soon

to sorrow, hunger, a no-good man.

Not her. Not ever. She tells herself

and sleeps. Years later, her marriage shot,

the house sold, she pulls down the book

just to throw it away. Some roads

don't need to be braved twice, a decision

born of fear, respect, or a little of both.

Notes on Drowning

Another day of this, waiting for the pills to find you here and lift.

    I see myself in the collapse of your body: age seven, a final exam

in Swimming One, the twenty-foot deep end. How the instructor gave

    a shove and I went into the pool. I was supposed to let nature take me up.

Instead, I settled to the bottom where I found a counter sky —

    one that I could touch. The smooth of tile felt right against my chest

and calmed me; my mouth full open to the chlorinated rush.

    When the metal pole appeared to fish me out, I wanted only to be left;

but my hands took hold, and I was hauled back into this lighted world.

    The first thing you say today is that part of you is dying. Let it.

There will be many drownings, and for each you leave something

    at the bottom. And for each you learn a new way to breathe.

For Those Who Cannot Make the Journey

A woman is dying, a matter of days.

And what can neighbors do

but bring her small indulgences?

Plates of veal, of lamb

dressed in mint and rosemary. "Lovely,"

she says and, "Pass the wine."

We talk weather, she talks probate

and how much you tip the gardener

until the only thing left to do is dishes.

We try our best, but nothing can keep

her from the sink, now that every odd job

is another goodbye.

Instead, she wants us to be her eyes,

to help her see the city from the rooftop,

because she cannot brave the flights.

"It's up to you," she says, "to climb the stairs

and call it down to me." We don't want to

leave her, but can't refuse.

So we give in, ascend. And in voices

Not quite our own, we call down the halos of fog

round the bridge lights, call the scent of smoke

from the chimney next-door, call the steam

of our breath, call the shiver of wind,

call down the full, buff moon.

Erin Murphy

Inter —

Inter-: between, as in my first newspaper interview,

the one with the man who'd come to art late in life,

whose bronze and granite sculptures craned impossibly

from pedestals as if trying to unearth ancient crumbs.

We talked about the lost wax process, the quarry

where he cut his own stones. When I asked about

his wife, he paused, then stepped back half a century

to the night when they were post-war newlyweds

staying in a mid-town Manhattan high-rise hotel.

Let's say it was the 10th floor, three stories above

the fire truck ladder at its tallest. This resourceful soldier

knotted bed sheets, grabbed his bride and climbed

down one level, one and a half, two, and then...

and then, in smoky haze between stories, he lost

his grip on her and she fell —

Interrupt, interpret, interstitial. Say it: interstitial,

interstitial — feel the way it shushes between your teeth

and tongue. Or inter, the word journalists use for bury.

As I left, he lifted a wooden base to reveal the secret

counter-weight that let him defy physics. In his dreams

he wasn't the hero poised to catch her on the sidewalk

below. No, sleep gave him the chance to forget

her birthday, to scoff when she took too long

choosing shoes for church, to practice the art

of taking her for granted, letting love slip slowly

between his indifferent fingers.

Felicity Plunkett

October's Road

We slid down October's road to find the first days of spring.

In Newcastle you and I stayed at the hotel that gazes at the beach.

You toddled, shrieked, pulled towards the sea,

shook shells to unrattle their secrets.

Something about your small sandals in my hand

caught childhood for me: I was a child again.

Slow late afternoon rays raked stripes on the coldening sand:

grey, gold, grey: like lines drawn by giant fingers.

All day the thought came back, moving in my mind the way a sleeper turns:

something is ending.

Yet there I was with you, still a miracle to me. And with me, too,

your unborn sister who would wake to a morning fresh with death.

My father was to meet us at the freeway's end

as he had a year ago, and in the years before.

He liked to share the driving, to make the gesture of meeting us.

But now this generosity was too heavy: trains' roar, traffic, speed:

the trip's jolts would be unbearable.

Every journey now, he had eyes' coins cold in his palm, ready.

That last short segment of road was straight with loneliness.

It spelt the start of driving without a compass, of being at the front.

And giant fingers were at play here too:

clumsily arranging cars on the road, as though through blurred eyes,

unveiling the certainty of death in glimpses,

real and unreal like the face of an unborn child,

making all the lines of a neat life wavy, strange, grainy.

Inside Your Wardrobe

Lines of frocks: Sunday, special day, everyday frocks.

In an era of frocks each of yours knew its place.

When you kneeled over the green shoots

in the evening of your garden;

when you poured cups of tea for the patients who waited

on your veranda, for your husband, the doctor;

when you walked the three miles into town

to give someone warm scones, a bunch of silver beet

or a piece of your mind;

or stooped in the waning light

writing to your grandchildren, all girls:

your frock always said what it needed to, no more.

Now I run my hands through mended cotton, starched linen

stiff skirts, blouses that remember the body they have held

and my touch awakens mothball and mint, lavender unravelling

its dusty flowers, its ghostly scent.

Which one did you dazzle in, a young bride brought

to this small town by your new husband:

passionate, scholarly, mercurial, carrying joy and grief

in his pockets for you, as if you were a child, and these his gifts?

Which did you wear when you came home from hospital

leaving behind your baby who had died,

wearing the stares of the people who would say nothing?

Which for the days when your three plump babies

made and remade you a mother, proud, loyal and soft?

Or when you set out alone, a widow, travelling into a new life

leaving behind a marriage always carefully mended,

hand-washed with a kind of frugal pleasure

darned to outlast the summers that faded it?

John Poch

Naming a Child

A dozen scaled quail weave their worried patter

through the sage brush to our back porch.

I cluck and the lookout mother

on the bush perks up, the chicks scatter.

An orange wasp mauls passionately the spearmint flowers.

An old story, the birds and bees come to summer.

Waking just an hour ago,

I watched you shift within

your mother's belly in the morning sun

like someone kneading dough

from the inside out, awkwardly comic

but sacramentally sure in your work,

your play. On the stage of the wet desert dust,

this humble mud, did the blood-bright sun wake you

and, with last night's brief rain, make you

something new like an adobe church

whose rounded buttresses breathe, shine,

and shadow in the first long light?

How can I write of ghost towns and mining

when there are clouds that look like fat horses

leaping from the mountains?

I know the hands of old men have trembled

when whole gold nugget buddhas

like tiny babies tumbled

from the quartz veins in these mountains,

but the blonde tufts of those quail

and the hunger of the wasp shine now.

Little actor, play within a play,

body at the center of a body,

historic lover of the mine

and heaven and the birds between,

I am your audience applauding.

My prayer: turn toward the light the same

as you will turn toward your name.

Lark Sparrow

Let me be drawn to you

and not the elusive Yellow-billed cuckoo.

Rather than the colorful dozens feeding

in the understory of the broad-leafed trees,

specifically the villainous red-eyed vireo,

I prefer your symmetrical beak

navigating the side-oats, your chestnut cheek and brow,

the white around your slick black eye.

Yours is a Clark Kent cheer, or a purer sorrow.

The swallows with their shining superhero-purple heads

ride their invisible roller coasters, ridiculous all day,

and the wrens ascend and descend like nervous angels

their ubiquitous ladders, while along the river

the supercilious kingfishers complain.

But you, my nearly plain one, you shun the coasts

and line the cup of your well-made nest

with grass and one sun-bleached straw wrapper.

You sing on your low perch when you are satisfied.

Enslaved to your plain behavior,

how could I forget you choose to share

the field with me? You choose to hop the earth.

Let the earth be dust beneath our feet

and each occasional flight.

The Longer Half of the L

May your loneliness leave

only lovely long lawns after.

May this green's light leaves

Lift to rafters laughter.

Kimberley Burwick

Everything Lush I Know

I do not know the names of things,

but I have lived on figs and grapes,

smell of dirt under moon

and moon under threat of rain,

everything lush I know

an orchard becoming all orchards

flowers here and here

every earth I have left,

every brief home-making,

the lot of God blooming vines

right now, then, and always.

Rich in the Eclipse of Home

Leave the rabbitbrush and low larkspur,

the harebell and northern sweetvetch,

fireweed in the burn

blooming in blunt uproar

as if the world's wings were red

but light as the song being made

by the sagethrasher.

How unfair that romance

means only idealized remoteness

when the wild blue flax

flames through rimrock snow,

sweet hunger, threshold, full-grown berries.

I overhear myself

singing back and staggering

to find the sun.

A Most Difficult Language

Truth is, the marshes

are not filled with blackness only.

Absence does not whiten the grass.

Death will take each of us separately,

and the finer threads of sweet flag

which grow on hazel and rise above

the surface will keep the other here,

where earth graduates to perfection

and moves on. What is it

but the specificity of the bloom,

red maple keys, land

that fruits and fruits again.

What harvest offers before the harvest.

It's a long way

to hide the dead bird

inside your heart.

Xochiquetzal Candelaria

The Irises

Their green sepals begin like mouths, forming the word

okay, turning over at the tips to say

yes, then oh yes.

Three deep purple petals smoldering give way

to three more giving way.

Fire breaks through as a seam in the center.

These are messengers remembering that to speak

one should bloom and to bloom

is to sing and sing and sing.

Chloe Green


Inhabiting the insides

of a steel bird

its rotating feet


through the water

its breastbone


ice paper sheets

folding them

like origami

to awaken

early in the morning

and sip

the fresh air

the soup

that fills the lungs

with a clean crispness

so foreign

that I am convinced

I have never breathed

before that moment

that would be Antarctica


Mihan Han

On dirt roads

I took my first steps

on dirt roads. After the rain

my feet burrowed into softened earth, leaving

crescent moons

         grinning at the sky.

But who will know (now

         that they've paved these old roads

         with concrete)

that I walked here once, and left

impressions on the land?

Autumn Evenings

autumn evenings

always remind me of

a burst melon

falling from branches

to feast on sunset



I will remember the moments

in your passenger seat (even when

vision begins to fail and

images of you then blur) like

the landmarks we sped past,

when rain echoed

our two hearts dancing (to radio

songs I've already forgotten) and

two hands touching held

more meaning than these words.

My mind will forget

skyscrapers, monuments,

flashing signs, and billboards.

Rivers, bridges,

scenic lookouts, and

things I'd meant to say and show.

(all the landmarks of our journeys

even your face).

But my hands will still hold your shape

in the thinning air

and my slowing heart will still keep time

with yours, counting the moments until

we arrive at our destination

always too soon.

David Livewell

City Seeds

In Jersey woods they float from sycamores,

Blend with the duff. No curbside clusterings.

No sequined clouds that parachuted Spring's

Debris and clung to screens of row house doors

In Philadelphia. On my old street,

They scudded asphalt, roved for soil, their stalks

Snagged on the pitch-smeared roofs and creviced walks

Like dark horizons hatched with feathered wheat.

While marble saints were purple-draped in church,

They gilded ladies' veils at altars bare

For Lent. They shimmered on the students' hair

As if no culvert mouth could end their search.

But here New Jersey's shattered buttonballs

Blow through the growth, achenes that mix and whir.

It's a young breath, all buoyancy and stir,

That charts a course. It's memory that stalls,

On a cramped street, a boyhood galaxy

Dead for a million years, whose light has just

Reached an observatory locked in dust,

A fertile lens that waits inside of me.

         An Epithalamium

In paints and patches, festive Autumn takes

Its vows with you, its pair of Summer fugitives,

And weather-wise the season flickers, folds

Saffron on crimson, gold on brighter gold

Around a love proclaimed, a quest that holds

A converse with the trees, a pageantry

That stays the winter's dark assault. Today,

With constancy and faith, you harvest time.

A young boy photographed the moon and held

Its brilliance in the landscape of his mind.

Now, in his lover's qualities, the moon

Tonight will lacquer vaulted limbs and silver

Vermont's mosaic hills: the yellow birch,

The aspen, sugar maple, ash, and beech.

So, too, the mind's October rummages the heart

When Autumn's gone to earth and errant winds

Conspire. Such inner weather time has told.

May all your seasons catch with flame and intertwine

Our love with yours — vibrant, ringed with gold.

Christopher Locke

Sunday, Mid-April

He sets the fly and casts,

thin arc unfurling

over water, running a length

of mirrored sky — clouds

ripple. Silence rolls

its tongue against the long

buzz of waiting as more line

unspools. In the pines,

a jay snags his voice

on spindled branches.

The man blinks, feels a tug.

Spring hooks its weight

beneath his fingers and

the ache he knows

as joy soon lies gasping

on the bank, freer

than the vagrant hearts

living in us all.

Listening to a Bard Owl the First Night at the New House

He doesn't really care who

cooks for you, or anyone else

for that matter. He's not

interested in the glass

of chardonnay pinpricked

with moisture beside me

as I write this in bed, or

that fatted roll of skin

I casually peeled away

from the buttery salmon

earlier. And he cares much

less if I made dinner myself

or paid someone to do it.

The truth is, all he wants

is to pong his question up

to that white talon of moon

piercing the clouds, and then

back down to me, my window

open to a heat wave since

vanished, cool dark air

rolling over a sill that needs

its final coat of paint.


                       Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

High in the early morning

trees, when the sky's still gray

and soporific, howler monkeys

unleash their resonating yawps,

pulling us from sleep. We lift

slightly from our hammocks, satisfied,

knowing they are only announcing

their splendidness. But the first day

was different, convinced something

horrible was coming, B-movie visions

of blood streaked fur and wild,

soulless eyes. We now settle back,

putting off that eight mile hike

for another hour, as above us,

one raises his mouth to the clouds

like a ram's horn. It reminds me

of when I was a child shrieking

through a playground — that joy,

that innocent belief you will never die.

Lisa Ortiz


My daughter asks

if I want to talk about osifets.

An animal I ask?

No, she says, like the osifet of happy

is sad

or the osifet of big is little;

what is the osifet of now?

Later? I guess. No, she says

the osifet of now is remember.

And I think for some reason of synchronized diving

the Olympics I saw on a very small television,

pairs and pairs of male bodies

jetting off two boards

and it must be slow motion for them

the delicious spin and flip downwards

gravity, the old patriarch, pushing on their backs

then the smooth way they enter shoulder to shoulder

the water, the speed of falling

the opposite of languish, remember

the opposite of tumble, remember.


my daughter asks

when I was a baby? I do, I say.

Tell me what you remember she says

and I tell her. I wrap

her in my arms and cover her

in all I can remember

and all this while

we are diving, our bodies stretched

our heads tucked

against the approaching blue.

Rachel Richardson

The Horses

Under the live oak. and out along the stretch

where the moon lights the gravel white —

they're blinking, flanks brilliant,

they're turning their heads. See them

not going anywhere particular, just standing now

outside the gate because the gate is open again

and the road what's beyond.

Some tilt their snouts up to the branches

to nibble at clusters of mistletoe; one shakes

her mane free of flies. Someone left the gate open

so they've walked from the dewy field;

see them gathered, scattered all over the road

under the stars, directionless, blowing warm air

from their nostrils. They have no debt to anyone.

Who knows how long they've stood

there, askew in the night, shuffling and

huffing steam. By morning the rancher will find them

under the low trees by the river

or in someone's flowerbeds in town. Not because

they are parched or starving. They walk

because night stretches out, and there is a road,

and someone has opened the gate.

Emily Rosko


It's been proven — the universe hums.

         Each vertebrate, each critter goes forward

   perpetually to a larger prairie; each distinct

quark jostles, strangely buoyant, in its tension/anti-

         tension hold. The quiver a flexed note

   on the atomic scale: first a hiss, then a wail

saturating the muck, the matter. All

         together the void an operatic 'O,' steadily

   declining into an insect's thrum. Wingbeat,

tendril, network — a leaf-like imprint

         on the neuron's pulse. So it's been said

   to instruct: the refrain, the song's patterned

phrase resparks the brain. Ocean-deep

         currents, the canyon wren's cascades, the first flute

   fashioned from the femur of a bear. Rattles

and drums to stir the organs. The cow

         that goes moo, the sheep that goes baa — all of it

   a yip and a yawp. Each sound color-charted,

a prismatic wash in the canal. Vowel and key.

         The brass-glazed tone the sun

   casts onto glass, onto the meadow's particular

fineness, each stalk and blade, makes

         one bend to hear. The sky's a listening

   booth, a cathedral in each ear.

Jennifer Whitaker

The Woodcarver

I carve a baby from the walnut block —

chip out arms and fingernails and knees,

smooth his cheeks with sandpaper,

finally thumb his small face free

from wood chips and dust.

Then to the coast my walnut child and I go,

to the slush of boots on wet-shelled sand,

to the plumes of smoke rising from lobsterboats.

He grows and grows daily, until one night

I hear his hard footsteps down the stairs,

and the front door shuts quietly as

I sit on the porch swing,

rocking to the beat of some faint

far-off heart.

On the Equinox

She makes spiced black tea

and drinks it from bowls,

carries the souls of the dead in pumpkins,

smooth and burnt. The candle's flame

licks the dry yellow meat of the fruit.

Her father always wanted his ashes

scattered over High Knob, scattered

by wind that ropes through trees and stones.

She waited until the day and night stretched

evenly to pour his ashes into a hollowed gourd

and travel the long drive to Norton. When she found v

that thrust of rock jutting from the earth

like arrow from a wound, she also found his desire

to sweep across the spreads of air, his desire

to hook past hickory trees and brambles

on the way down to the rushing fish-filled water.

Kelli Russell Agodon


In the pockets of shirts, in the open mouths

of washing machines —

carry today. In the suds of oceans,

in waves from sea to shore, in baskets

full of towels and unmatched

ladybugs, flittering from washcloth to wet

washcloth. In ghosts of fathers billowing

like clouds, bright sheets of morning.

In voluptuous angels drifting over grass

and hollyhocks, blue jeans

like flags of familiar countries. So many ways

to walk away, so many reasons

to stay and watch the sparrows. Carry today

in the dresses on the white line,

in the silky skirt of a mother, a child,

in silhouettes pinned to the sky.

Honeysuckle! And Now

faith buzzes

   with a bouquet of bees

       and you listen. In blossoms,

   nectar collects like prayers.

There are no words for wildflowers,

   no name for the melody

       in the bell-shaped blooms.

   So you listen. Listen to the tune

of crickets sheltered by vines,

   listen to the small songs

       of a garden trying to tell you

   how much you have, how little

you need to own.

Douglas Basford

Thinking about Old St. Paul's, Baltimore, Soon to Adopt Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary

You uneducate what comes to you,

much like an opal does to light.

All olives come with dolphin skin.

You heard that inner-city kids

can't pick out lace from a pile

of assorted fabric. You felt alone

the moment you knew you'd return

that bag of new potatoes, russet

in name only, the mold-dust, almost

opaline, more nearly gunmetal-like.

And it's tonight, of all nights,

you have to discover these things.

If it could just wait until morning,

your new neighbors likely won't mind,

will even curry caution that you

get it right the first time. You set out

a second dish for the discarded pits,

trivets, napkin-rings, under trained eyes.

Timothy Donnelly

No Bird

They all begin by commanding you to praise

things like sea thistle, pinecones, a crate of tangerines

stacked into a ziggurat like one you envision

ticking under overgrowth, ancient and counting

down deep in the tropics until at last a certain

heavenly alignment triggers the doomsday, what then?

To think nothing might feel good for a time, the way

walking can, just moving around, turning

right whenever you happen to, heading along

toward nowhere in particular, getting there almost

without really trying or memory of where

you started out from, much less how you'll ever get back.

I don't want to have to. I don't want to have to

locate divinity in a loaf of bread, in a sparkler,

or in the rain-like sound the wind makes through

mulberry trees, not tonight. Listen to them carry on

about gentleness when it's inconceivable

that any kind or amount of it will ever be able to

balance the scales. I have been held down

by the throat and terrified, numb enough to know.

The temperature at which no bird can thrive

a childhood feeling that I feel now, remembering

down the highway half-hypnotized in the

backseat feeling what I feel now, and moderate

happiness has nothing to do with it: I want to press

my face against the cold black window until

there is a deity whose only purpose is to stop this.

Team of Fake Deities Arranged on an Orange Plate

Maybe indolence is a form of conflict between oneself

and everything else in the room, and turning

inward and away is a step toward peace, or into it.

Or maybe peace would be more like turning

toward with hands outstretched, an open look

through measured breathing. Either way, I like it.

I know I do. I like the way it sounds when I sing.

I like to see amber light from the pages

of a book I'm not reading. I like the clock's unstoppable

escapement and the cornstalks wrung with blue

convolvulus, a treacherous vine whose flowers

look like drunken trumpets. Look at that look on the face

of the hardworking woman staying home from work..

She deserves it. Look at that Indian elephant

decimating peppermints. I like it. I like what I see

and I am not indolent. I like a nonexistent Deity

and a team of fake deities arranged on an orange plate.

I like what I've done though I know it won't last.

And even if there is a Deity, I still like the idea

of a team of little fakes, and if we turn their invention

into a contest, you can bet your ass I'm winning.

The Last Vibrations

Meanwhile we wanted the sentence to continue

fading as we thought another would begin

only after the first had finished and the last

vibrations seemed not to extend from the sentence

anymore but the fact that we had heard it

fading there together. The air off the river

remembered our being someplace else, or a time

behind us waiting to return, and the chill

presented a case for returning, knowing what

happened next must somehow depend

on dismantling much of what happened before.

Therefore we tried to prolong the sentence

to give ourselves time to decide by repeating it.

Time to decide. We knew that we couldn't

determine what happened down to the detail

but felt we might determine how the mind

should turn to meet it, the mind having often

believed itself to be struggling to continue

or thought itself that struggle to begin with.

With time to put that thinking aside, we thought

yellow leaves had torn through the blue

partitioned into day, but it was nowhere

apparent that they had. Down a channel of houses

framed in river air, we thought we could see

a portion of the water, but what we took for water

had foiled itself into a field of yellow light.

We knew that we might go on like that forever

without progression because the thought

of moving forward kept holding us back, the way

the thought of keeping still made us want to

throw ourselves like light on the river, unburdened

of that thinking we imagined might extend

endlessly thereafter, the way we thought we wanted.

Light, river, air. Through the time that we made

we felt what happened dismantle into yellow

leaves thought prolonged into trembling sentences.

Thought, leaves, houses; the last vibrations

faded to be remembered, in a place we would never

finish imagining, and it was there we began.

Vicki Goodfellow Duke

Words for a Boy, Sketching a Tortoise

Begin by looking at a desert dune,

the undulating ripples.

A crystal of salt, one snowflake,

the curlicue of a plump grape tendril.

Bring the order of the stars

to the page, and he will be

a creature of pattern

and beauty.

Build him a carapace, hard enough

for bounds, sufficiently soft

for bonds, with a high dome

and an ocean of silence

for sanctuary.

Do not apologize that he cannot swim.

Give him four short legs.

Hold your breath while he loiters

an afternoon on the grass.

Tell him the fable over and over.

Add one or two tears,

for all things worthy are born

of struggle.

Remember a little chore, well done,

and whisper to him that greatness

may have small hands,

that girth is neither perimeter

around ability to give it love

nor to receive it.

What We Bear

At first, a colossal trunk.

We strain under the bulk,

depth and width,

the weight of what lies inside.

Endure by dividing

its mass, share

edges and corners,

manage the heft

among arms.

Leaning in concert,

we join

to raise it off the ground,

toil to carry it through

and through. Later,

when vast walls yield

we see

how gravity fails to pull down

the heart, the force

that moves us.

The other hands,

what hold us together.

On Whistler's "Nocturne"

A rocket falls

and night becomes heaps

of gilded darkness

tempered and crackling,

We mourn the broken edges,

smear of smoke and coal

smudged across a navy canvas

of sky,

let our gaze determine depth

of a river, the sunken warhead

hidden by water's blur.

We measure the distance

between diminish

and rise, and we choose to go on

like the river, with surge

and swell,

pulsing, undeterred,

sailing our small fleet of lights

a flight away

from ascension.

Julie Dunlop

When All Else Fails


When all else fails, drink water.

Feel the cool pour of the liquid

travel the open space of your throat.

Keep drinking. Imprints of pearls

and abalone pulse in your swallow.

The deep well of renew

is within you now.

Reach into what is there:

the power to grow gold blooms

from the dull shell of seed.


When all else fails, count your toes.

Notice the smooth arc of their symmetry,

the clear faces they lift up to the world.

They are small flocks leading you forward,

as committed to their role as the sun.


When all else fails, peel an orange.

All that bright color falling away.

The brief song of orange globes, enough.

Now, the slice of your nail carves

The no-longer-needed from the needed.

Smell the sweet spray of the fruit’s joy.

The peel is no less beautiful for being thrown away.


When all else fails, clean the stove.

Scrubbing away particles of dried food

clears the chance for smooth shine.

Memories of previous meals will feed you

as you remove tiny specks lingering

like the one comment, more delicious than the food.


When all else fails, fold paper.

Feel the sharp crease, watch how ends meet.

Shapes emerge! Look at the bird

born from your patient folds.

Scott Gallaway

The Grace Given a Birdwatcher

I watch for the balance, the rest

On the wind, the perfect lightness,

Like a small speck of light in the eye

After pressing the eye, taloned love.

And when they land on sand or water,

Especially then do they have style,

Imperfection forcing adjustment,

Decision, a personal grace.

But mostly, they fly without thought.

When my wife catches me gazing

Out the window, I vaguely explain

How birds are vehicle and tenor,

Words that sound so apt, they must

Be true. The pleasure of smoothness

And things working right,

Like a good pen, or the side

Of a breast, we also know

Without thinking. The places in between,

Where a bird might dance

With his reflection in a hubcap,

And where grace resides. Ultimately

I lose my way in explication to her –

Proof of my humanness, my tripping

Along, bumbling absurd, and she

Only smiles, showing the same slick light

As feathers in the complexity of air

And spirit, a twitch and a swiftness.

Something in Silence

The pause of clock

Repeated won’t allow

Rest. I pick it out,lift

It from the other

Hundred silences in a night

Devoted to the hours

Turning, a nightmare

Of continuity. The dogs

Down the street howl

In response to a sound

Only they can hear.

I turn on my pillow,

My old comrade in the war

Against listening.

I try to move forward

With filled thoughts

Seeping into each other.

A bat flits by my window

On greased leather,

Its ears tuned to self

But turned to the world.

When I once threw a pebble,

A bat dived, hungry,

And crashed into my house,

Ignoring an essential aspect

Of self. Between the howls

I hold my ear like a shell,

Hear nothing but the inner

Tick of bone and blood,

Sounds I must choose to hear.

Heather Hartley

Rapunzel on an Ironing Board
            - for Carol Jean and Mary Jean

My mother and grandmother stand over the porcelain sink

with its long silver snout where water too hot or cold

streams out and onto my aching scalp.

The three of us are in the kitchen: red Formica, white sink, metal ironing board.

Dark clouds of copper pots hover above my head.

Flat out on the board, my feet reach halfway to the end.

I take tight hold and grit my teeth and count:

one, two, three, four, knots, nails, snarls, ouch –

yes it’s almost over yes it will end yes it will stop and not begin again

and then they’ll wrap my damp hair in a big blue towel

and I’ll be the queen of Sheba in my robe for an hour.

And they will smooth my hair over my shoulders

and braid little secrets into dark meshes

and I will have three guesses to guess their wishes.

And now, touching the crown of my head

or pulling back black loose strands

in the thick of my roots I still feel

the faint, leftover sting of their hands.

Sweet Woodruff

Slowly it grew back, that gift of sweet

Woodruff. Thank god – thought I’d killed it off – almost

Everything last month seemed to wither in the heat –

Even me – roots choked in baked earth. Yet the most

Terrifying thing: how indifferent I

Was. That Indian summer gift singed, no wood

Or sweet left, just burnt bark, November dry,

Overlooked, underfed. Then he said I could

Do it: cut out the dead parts … perhaps … I cut down to

Roots, almost unbelieving. See, I’ve killed all

Of my plants. It’s a bad habit I have,

Unintentional, yet quite revealing; a true

Green thumb. But your sweet woodruff proved this Fall

How roots survive, even as leaves starve.

Change of Seasons in Charleston

We walk at high noon in mid-October

Down roads that lead to and from home: Lindy, Abney, Ravinia.

In West Virginia, fall is russet and maroon – sepia tones,

with some yellow and red and green,

but you have to look, she says, and every day is different.

A red bird in a birch. A cardinal in a maple. Blue birds across the street –

as we walk past, their shadows trace the limbs of trees

and darken the sky with beating wings – blue against blue.

The way words almost say what they mean.

We walk at high noon and shadows drop down to our knees.

The weather is mild; her hand curls around mine.

A dogwood tree looses its blooms.

All this time, her cancer coils and swells inside. Now there is nothing left to hide.

We walk as if nothing else matters toward the bend in the road

and nothing else matters and people pass and know

and do not know. I am once again five years old.

I never write about the sun, the importance of happiness –

but now seems to be the time. You see, life is not what it was:

cracks in the pavement, blades of grass, the iron gate where clematis grows.

Every day is different now: a fading newspaper in a clear plastic bag,

a white picket fence, that saltbox house, mounds of leaves –

I’ve never seen so much in so few streets.

Jennifer Koiter

Darling Clementines

Grandmother had never eaten

      clementines, never felt

how easily the flesh of the fruit

      unzips from its skin.

So she picked at the first

      like a difficult orange,

chips of peel piling up

      like unthrown confetti on her plate.

I boasted of undressing

      my clementine in one long peel,

and Grandmother’s clementine peels grew longer, she ate

      clementine after clementine, until she set one long whole peel

– Ha! – down hard next to mine

      as if she’d got away with something, as if

she hadn’t known what could be

      as easy as this.

Dawn Lonsinger

How to Hold the Living
                     For Atlas Elijah on the day of his open heart


Dim the lights for the fragile

finches. Drape the wings in cloth.

Fill the vase. You are performing a transplant –

carry the root ball as if it is the sole dream of

giraffes, the only answer to the desert. When

you water, drench. The skull bones haven’t

yet grown together, but eventually will meet

and fuse like tender continents. Attend

the performance of trees – the glass threads

of nests cradled inside the solarium, the thin shells

of eggs & vision intact. How the earth cups its oceans,

the oceans swaddle the land, the veins immigrate

to the heart, wrap it like a gift. How the hollow shafts

of feathers float. Let the fancy guppies out of

the sandwich bag slowly, the aquarium uncanny

as the delivery, then operating room.


At five months, he appears a messenger

vessel against the white sheet music of hospitals.

The doctor enters the amphitheater of light,

coat billowing like the milk that built

up his still small body, his mouth molded

to his mother’s breast like petals pursed around

a pool of pollen. Lean against the blue-tinted

glass. He has your eyes, but a swiss cheese heart,

platelets that don’t gather like a net over the wound.

He bleeds longer, the sun staining the fields with seeds.


Remember – his heart, unlike ours, has emerged

in light. Hold him close like cut and dripping flowers.

He has been flown in from the Porcelain Island,

the Fields of Indefatigable, has a name full of submersion

and direction. You plant silver chords and orchids

in his solar plexus, and he hears your hands

close – litany of spoons, the cherish of humming.

Place his small body on the piano while you play,

the acoustic dream-swell flooding his bird heart.

Where they Wander

Wandering in the green extraño stitching of the sun,

two little girls trail us, look up as if into a cloud.

The ocean – dream of hydration & flight – folds

over their figures, wets their skin with salt & abandon.

It is a playground of persistent invention.

Dust coats the clapboards, but does not screen the brilliant

paint – turquoise, cherry, sea green – shimmering where they wander,

small feet flat against the physical world, or pressing into the pedals

of bikes three times too big, chains rusted, but set in motion by

the electricity swarming inside them like manta rays. They hive and giggle,

pull green mangoes from their pockets, and without hesitation, grip

our hands, tiny life lines surging like rivers through mountains.

Stilted one room houses, giant spheres bursting into coconuts at night,

frigatebirds pirating the air, a shower of jugs, school with no paper,

anatomy of horses cantering along a shoreline, symbol of gun & coffee

bean, solitary lake front & barren trees rippling with gist, the rub of a rope,

breeze of plastic, dirty dresses and a melody of arms rotating around

the cold stone lips of the latrine, the road roadless.

Water our surrogate language, agua por favor, a cup of ocean

for a mouthful of bottled water, the buckets everywhere waiting

for the tears of gods. The water renovates everything, the plastic bag

no longer of commerce, but a form folding to light and touch,

the fingerless everywhere of the envoy, eyes shining like blue morphos

iridescent with rain, their hair damply dark as dreams, llenado de promesas.

Let us begin each day with an Ode to the delicate palms slipping

in and out of our hands – Maritza, Ramon – the same palms that initiate

the flower and evaporate tangents – Angelica, Hector – tend to the architecture

in their eyes–Juan Carlos, Virginia–as they fully attend this haphazard choir,

toss rocks over clotheslines, leap for the bulbs of cashew trees, lean against

the wood planks and laugh.

Delicate Grip

We dip our feet into the river and the earth swallows

our scars like stars misplaced and hurled into another cooling

cosmos of vast light and small wrists turning gently the pitcher

of grapefruit juice, the camera, the steering wheel, the volume

of songs – gossamer of thirst. How the red petals press

warm as breath against my palm. Yes, this custodian

of grass – the wires that truly transmit – glues buildings

neglected and bombed together with roots, remnants renovated

with the damp recital of moss, polished with the sun’s milk,

a declaration of interdependence – for everyone warmth

and illumination, for everyone starlings diving down.

Here we learn to love delicacy, how the bones barely touch

yet hold everything together, how the suspension bridge

suspends distance – synapses clasping the chorus. We pull

as we are pulled by tides & gravity & the tiny tough fibers

of the heart, and when we look up we see only water

and birds cascading into our future, our lawns transformed into

an auditorium of wings, glistening wet things, the moon married

to our mailboxes. A place of no partitions but the palms

we cup and offer, the highways we drive through in the dark.

Leaves pooling in the margins, sun scalloping the frames.

If we put the guns down for a week the earth will drink them

down into her pit of fire, rust & algae blooming.

She already blows sand across the sharpshooter’s face,

forces him to close his eyes.

Tolu Ogunlesi

Visiting the Yellow River

How can you (without a pang of conscience) my host

And guide, say that you have suddenly fallen short

Of enthusiasm? What will happen to my dreams

Of seeing the Olumo Rock; and to the beating heart

Trapped in my feet, waiting to drown

Itself in the muddy waters of the Yellow River?

From far, far away, beyond the eye of the river

Have I come, possessed with the spirit of one held host-

Age, that I might in oceans of chivalry plunge and drown;

Knowing how blest it is to be short

On fear and long on the courage that steels the heart.

For what is fear if not a song trapped eternally in a cage of bad dreams?

Perhaps you have never numbered your dreams

Nor marvelled at the joys that spring like a river

Therefrom. The overall effect is like an upgrade of the heart

Or like sanctifying yourself with the host

That proceeds from the blessed hand of a priest. Cut short

At once your song of fear. You can learn to drown

Your doubts, just as the wine that fills your cellar learns to drown

Your sorrows. It is a shame when a man has no living dreams

Left to fatten. We shall cut his silken hair short

And leave him to gnash his teeth by the rivers

Of Babylon. Do you want us to sing for you, beloved host,

That the pillars of your manhood are weak of heart?

And it is no use pleading with me to take heart,

And to give you another chance, another time. I’d rather drown

In the lake of fire than pass up this chance to join the Heavenly host

(The roll call of souls who have chosen to die dreaming big dreams).

And don’t even think of warning me that the Yellow River

Is haunted by spirits. To accept anything short

Of a pilgrimage in the Yellow River will be to short

Change myself. I will not relent. Even if my heart

Ceases to beat, my blood will continue to be a river

That never grows silent, never ceasing to drown

Cowardice. For what could be worse than a dream

Visited by slumber, but too spent to play the sprightly host?

The heart beat of the gods still animates the Yellow River

Which is why my favourite dream is of me learning to drown.

Alas, I have a host who is a bad talisman, and my time is now very short …

Alexis Orgera

Brunelleschi’s Servant

In a locked cathedral they warmed the marble floors

with their bodies.

She diagrammed a love offering for Filippo:

her homeland in perfect geometrics

beginning with Mohammed’s own indestructible house,

its gardens and arcades, the ribbed domes of mosques at Mecca,

centuries-old ledges of herringboned brick

and carved stucco, the impossible dimensions

of ancient vaults and cupolas.

By dawn he’d seen every inch of her body,

Royal Mosque rising out of a desert of sketches.

He folded her drawings into his pocket, took her hand

to his mouth.

                   Forty years they traveled together like this:

servant following master

in and out of Santa Maria’s cathedral shadow

as he conceived the dizzying spirals that would fasten

a dome to the sky in a fixture of faith.

In those years the craftsmen of Florence

grew lungs thick as sandstone

carting bags of lime onto wickerwork platforms.

Swinging from baskets high above the city

workers drank wine midday.

Sparrows fell dead from rooftops

blackened by open-mouthed furnaces.

A great dome grew hopeful above the skyline

year after year, its massive octagonal bell shading the piazza.

Their secret kept them looking up

on a path worn by optimism. They grew old,

spines rounding into perpetual bows.

When they faced each other late at night

their bodies worshipped the cupola’s genius curve.