Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2007



Kelli Russell Agodon of Kingston, Washington for Mirror Beetle; Ode to Snow in April; Early Morning.

Srinjay Chakravarti of New Delhi, India for Ikebana of the Blind.

Danielle Cadena Deulen of Madison, Wisconsin for How to Pray; Speak X.

Jeannine Hall Gailey of Redmond, Washington for Dogwood; Turning Back; He Makes Dinner.

K.A Hays of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for Marta in Miasino.

Dove Rengger-Thorpe of Coffee Camp, New South Wales, Australia for Thelonius Monk; Hollow; Green Hope.

Rachel Richardson of Greensboro, North Carolina for Light; Spring; Mississippi.

Avery Slater of Seattle, Washington for Butterfly; Train Between Cities; That near.

Gillian Wegener of Modesto, California for Letter to My Husband Far Away; Madame Curie at Work; Confession.


Craig Arnold of Laramie, Wyoming for Consider with Plato how; A Ubiquity of Sparrows.

Nicole Beauchamp of Wales, Wisconsin for Phillip; Lucia; Africa's Children.

Robin Ekiss of San Francisco, California for Still Life: Girl with Vase and Flowers; Looking at (and Beyond) Monet's Water Lilies; Anniversary Poem.

Miriam Bird Greenberg of Austin, Texas for West of Rovaniemi, North of Alta; Indian Summer; Translation.

Mihan Han of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada for All that Remains; Spring in the tundra.

Rebecca Lindenberg of Salt Lake City, Utah for The Imminent Sweetness of His Return; An Appetite for Rain; In Circles.

Tod Marshall of Spokane, Washington for Whan that Aprill with its Shoures soote; Conversion; Marrow.

Sara Michas-Martin of San Francisco, California for Sunset in the Desert; Encounter; Stalling in Maine.

Nancy K. Pearson of Provincetown, Massachusetts for How the Heart, Too; Elsewhere; String Theory.

Elizabeth Percer of Redwood City, California for Einstein's Bath; Miracle; Eve.

Felicity Plunkett of Wooloowin, Queensland, Australia for Articulate; Stitching the Night; Learning the Bones.

Eleanor Stanford of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Parsnips; Invention for Cavaquinho and Pedal Steel; The Mangrove.

Melissa Stein of San Francisco, California for Hinges; Trout.

Sridala Swami of Hyderabad, India for How Do You; After Twenty Years.

Rhett Iseman Trull of Greensboro, North Carolina for Heart by Heart the House; Sonogram on the Way to Earth; Human Resources.

Amanda Turner of Portland, Oregon for The Nest; In the End; Of Nectar.


Marla Alupoaicei of Frisco, Texas for Ode to the Theory of Everything; Prodigal the Prodigal; The Cutting.

Timothy Bradford of Paris, France for Sea Voyage Instructions; Ophelia's Dream; At the Window; Before We Knew.

Temple Cone of Annapolis, Maryland for Starlings; Salve; When I Picture the Beginning of Time.

Keith Ekiss of San Francisco, California for Above Muir Beach; The Cemetery at Hall; Thunder, Range, Lightning.

Ari Finkelstein of Astoria, New York for After the Fall; The Pivotal Moment; Triolet.

Tess Jolly of Hove, East Sussex, England for Sewing Machine; Overdose; Labour.

Jennifer Key of Dallas, Texas for The Sick Dog ; West Virginia; Autumns.

Karen Llagas of San Francisco, California for Archipelago Dust; Open; Manananggal.

Idra Novey of New York, New York for About a Field; Seated Nude X; The Sonatas.


K.B. Ballentine of Dayton, Tennessee for Countdown; The Gloaming.

Susan Briante of Dallas, Texas for Peachtree; Windows Wood Roof; And Suddenly it's the First of the Month.

Chad Davidson of Carrollton, Georgia for Anthem; Take Care; Astronomy.

Katy Didden of Columbia, Missouri for On Hearing of the Trend for Sexy Chamber Music Trios; Ode to the Ear; Planetarium(s).

Brieghan Gardner of Nottingham, New Hampshire for Studies in Yellow and Blue; Clutch.

Henrietta Goodman of Missoula, Montana for Solution; This Is How You Can Tell; Thermodynamic Elegy.

Alisa Gordaneer of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada for cicada; acolyte; saving summer.

Heather Hartley of Paris, France for To My One Love's Letter; Une Voix Céleste - at an Organ Concert; Epithalamium.

Kristen Henderson of Red Hook, New York for Poems Everywhere.

Catherine Hope of Mt. Waverley, Victoria, Australia for Autumn, Winter ... and Spring.

Nina Lindsay of Oakland, California for Fortune; Mondays are like this.

Jenna Martin of Austin, Texas for The Origin of the Swallow; I've; Friends.

Valerie B. McKee of New Haven, Connecticut for Grappling ; Last Will and Testament; What Stays.

Michelle McLean of New Brunswick, Canada for Sunflowers; Gardening Notes; Degrees of Separation.

Alexis Orgera of Santa Monica, California for From the Field of Disquiet; The Elderly Mohave Finally Speaks Her Mind.

Lisa Ortiz of San Francisco, California for Astronaut; To be Happy; Why You Can't Sleep.

Joshua Rivkin of San Francisco, California for Psalm; The Snap; Winter House, Galveston Island.

Emily Rosko of Columbia, Missouri for Vehicle; (How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love) Central Pennsylvania; Legends from a Dead-End Street in West Virginia.

$250: Honorable Mention

Allen Braden of Lakewood, Washington for Anniversary Card; Postcard Beginning with a Line from Dafydd Ap Gwilym; Birthday Card from an Escalator.

Joshua Edwards of Brooklyn, New York for Walking the Road to Cuajimoloyas; Adversus solemn neloquitor; Sonnet for Summer Winds.

Chloe Green of Clagiraba, Queensland, Australia for A meow in the morning.

Jennifer Grotz of Greensboro, North Carolina for The Sidewalk; Rescue; The Umbrella.

Gwenda Hague of Nundle, Australia for Secrets.

Matthew Ladd of Columbus, Ohio for For My Sister on Her Birthday; Two Trees.

Christopher Locke of Miami, Florida for No Siesta; Open; End of American Magic.

Joan T. Miles of Eupora, Mississippi for Anticipating Twilight.

Beverly Monestier of San Antonio, Texas for A Czech Woman Hears a 1721 Stradivarius in Dvorak's "American"; Who Owns These Words; Journey.

Kristi Lynn Moos of San Francisco, California for A Hat for Natalie.

Vivian Nguyen of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia for Eulogy for Vincent Van Gogh; The Expedition; Classroom walls.

Steve Norwood of Lewisville, Texas for the effort; resurrect; vein and cleft.

Allison Seay of Greensboro, North Carolina for Concerning the Incident at the Busstop, 1985; Dear Sleepwaker; Letter to the Artist: Mother and Daughter.

Alison Stine of New York, New York for The Magician's Wife; Our Three; Observation Unbelieving.

Kristen Tracy of Kalamazoo, Michigan for Tree Turning Red; Awake.

Shoshanna Wingate of St. John's, NL, Canada for Neighbors (Chapel Hill, North Carolina).

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


Winning Poems

Kelli Russell Agodon

Mirror Beetle

               If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of this creation
               it would appear that God has a special fondness for stars and beetles.

                               -J.B.S. Haldane, British geneticist 1892-1964

Because I tried to reflect

on what was, a mirror beetle

appeared in my garden.

I opened my hand and the beetle

flew my palm, a miracle

beneath wing-coverings.

As I passed the bamboo,

I discovered a universe

in a web, a red spider nebula,

a Beehive Cluster circling above.

Sometimes I looked to Scarabaeus,

the beetle made from stars,

because it seemed easier to trust

a constellation.

Insects disappeared, came and went

with the seasons, but stars circled

a dependable dance on the ceiling.

I'm learning how life's created

from a galaxy of surprise

occasions - wind chimes playing a concerto for moths,

a damselfly sewing

the last stitch of summer

to August's fallen hem.

And when the mirror beetle arrived,

I felt the cocoon I was wearing

begin to unravel while Betelgeuse

brightened Orion's shoulder.

And here on earth,

I trusted chance a little more

and the glow mirrored in my hand.

Ode to Snow in April

                        -for Peggy Shumaker

I offer praise for dirt,

for snowflakes, for fingernails

digging deeper, holey

garden gloves, holy

tulips surviving a surprise

snowfall in spring.

This is not life

according to Western Garden,

unexpected weather,

weathered blooms on a cold cold day.

I told you once I'd make choices

from compassion

and I became the Golden Artist,

the Mona Lisa, a Blushing Lady

with roots weaving

beneath the hyacinths.

Our rice-paper gardens,

where a pagoda of snow

can cover a Concerto, a Sunset Carpet.

I broke through a fence

of icicles to walk the melting path

below, I found evidence

of belonging - two pairs of footsteps

remaining in the last patch of snow.

Note: Golden Artist, Mona Lisa, Blushing Lady, Concerto and Sunset Carpet are names of different types of tulip varieties.

Early Morning

While others drift through dreams,

I taste juneberries still cool

     from the night air.

This new world, blooming

with high rises of evergreens,

     an eagle's penthouse view,

I move like a traveler

from berry to perfect berry.

     As the sunrise begins,

the sky suggests that time may be

the color of peaches.

     This neighborhood rising,

children wake, eat breakfasts

of figs and toast.

     The farmer has opened

the barn doors, tossed hay

to the horses out in the fields.

     What do we need except this

morning where waxwings

appear like blessings?

     How can we forget

that even morning glory

can be beautiful

     as it wraps itself

around our fences to hide

what separates you from me,

      my house from yours.

Srinjay Chakravarti

Ikebana of the Blind

He picks up vowels and consonants,

shape and form as the subject

of his fingers: dexterous

and facile, exploring

the impossible fragrances

of jasmine or lily.

He starts with the white nouns,

the basic folds in his alphabet;

then come the verbs

rustling in blue pleats,

and the adjectives forming

themselves into pink creases.

Working with his second

sight of crisp movements,

the grammar of touch and feel

harmonizes textures into rhythm

with his color schemes of thoughts,

perfumed with imagination's pollen.

Stretching a point too far -

on a flat sheet, he crinkles

compound curves out of its locus;

spiral gerundives of yellow,

vertexes twisted gently

into cutting edges, visualized

in the blackness of permanent night

into cascades of flowers: buds and blooms

of rose, lotus, gladiolus.

In his hands blossom the ritual

petals of inflexions and hyperboles:

curving branches, scattered leaves,

patterning an illusion of foliage.

Wildflowers, captured manifold

in squeeze and press, squash and push -

Saburo Kase's nostrils

still tingle with the blossoms

he had smelt as a child

on the mountains near his home,

when vision was not yet lost.

Now it is origami's paper magic

that parses down his constructions,

that eternizes them into immortelles

in his fingers' vernacular.

Living in the moment, still

center of the now, an old man

always in the dark,

but never without light;

his hands always redolent

                        of beauty.

           Saburo Kase (b. 1926): one of the world's greatest origami artists.

Danielle Cadena Deulen

How To Pray

Almond branches, wilting over the girl, look as if

they are bowing, and the line of her neck follows -

or perhaps - it might be too much to say - they follow.

She's only a girl, after all, walking without permission

beneath a dangerously dim sky, in a grove large enough

to lose a girl in - a girl's body in - the roadside fruit stands

shut up and emptied by now. Only a few cars heading home.

It's 1964 in southern California and my mother's run away.

She's packed two pears, her new white dress, and a bible

in the basket at the head of her bike, ridden until the lots

stretched so vast they couldn't be contained by fences,

the sidewalks sprawling into gravel alongside the highway,

She's gone looking for Canaan, or someplace closer

to promise than Orange County, a dirt backyard enclosed

by cyclone fences, her tanned brothers brooding

on the back porch, their large, dark eyes already done.

She wants an angel to arrive. She wants sleep without

the dream of a distant house on fire, across a narrow valley,

smoke rising so quickly it blackens the sky. She can't yet

read the gathering clouds, the fever of consummation.

In the almond orchard, her head bowed, wilted

blossoms scent her long, dark hair, her damp skin.

My mother doesn't know how to pray for what she wants,

only to imitate the wind in her breath. Irrigation ditches

draw long, dry sighs. The blooms threaten to catch fire.

Between rows, dirt is mapped with tiny tributaries - not

the lines that lead to Canaan and its burdens - not water,

but a promise of water. Where water will run when it rains.

Speak X

She taught me how to say hello and goodbye in Khmer -

sounds I no longer remember the feel of in my mouth,

like the broth she once poured over my tongue, something

of salt, spice, heat, or the incense she burned each night

before a small brass god whose many arms gestured toward

many exits, or points of arrival, the places I'd never been:

Here, she said, dropping her finger on a globe to a country

of blue and green, its hills warming beneath her hesitation

before - all the way to here - sliding over mountains, oceans,

memory, to the classroom we shared for hours each day,

waiting for bells to ring us home. In Cambodia, January

is a dry season , she once said of our birthday month,

and in summer monsoons make floods . I imagined blue sky

soaking up green fields, the sun an orange fingerprint

blotted in the air, like the small, round scars on her belly

that she saw me see when we undressed to dress for bed.

Cigarette burns , she admitted, once we turned out the light and

our four arms rested beneath her thick blankets, but I was small ,

my Mother says nothing to ... but she finished the sentence in Khmer,

a language, and also a word meaning speak x and I love you ,

depending on how your tongue hits the consonants and where

the vowels are placed: above, below, in front of, after.

In English, her last name was Oak, spelled like the tree.

Her first name, the memory of flight.

Jeannine Hall Gailey


I grew up with the uneven petals

of dogwood.

Spring for me was not the pink faces

of cherry blossoms,

not the wide white faces of magnolia,

not skunk cabbages or plum.

The tough and twisted branches

grafted last winter on the dogwood

lifted me up.

And you wonder

how I grew this knotty,

beauty burned at the edges,

blooming before my leaves

even caught the light.

Turning Back

You can't go home again,

because the house you grew up in has been razed,

along with the rose garden and oak trees and fossil rocks.

You keep touching the place like a scar,

trying to figure out what was lost. You try rebuilding,

stone upon stone, a little ghost in the window and a cat on the lawn.

What were you looking for? Here, the mountains don't have any trees,

and that sound you hear is the ocean.

One by one you take out the chairs, the books, the bats from your hair.

Artifacts you remember your life by.

So many pages with worn-out handwriting,

and a phone number of someone you've forgotten.

You turn around and it's burning outside;

maybe it's the moon, blood-red over the city lights, or the angry maple leaves,

or a fire made of leaves and the severed limbs of trees and roots,

or just the mist around a ship that's gone astray on the harbor.

Honeymoon, a circle of vessels to keep your spirit in. Those bird calls a map,

that last broken branch a totem, a path to guide you home.

He Makes Dinner

The thick knife gleams

under your sinewed hands,

slicing carrot, onion, garlic, pepper,

scattering slivers into the air,

staining your fingers

with their gold juices.

You chop so quickly the definite line

between "hand" and "knife"

dissolves. You strew pine nuts

into the skillet, listen for the right sting

and sizzle of oil and wine,

waiting to feed me the work

of your hands, your broken finger,

the tiny cuts and burns

that lace and scar your surfaces.


For Marta in Miasino

Outside of Miasino, the cows mingle

with the flies and the Miasino churchbells fold

into the cowbells' clangs, the music having given way

to sound, the street to weed and broken stone.

Like rain in tin buckets, the bells keep panging dully

from the necks of cows. They say, for the cows,

Still here.

And Marta, it is a fight: even the fresco

on the roadside shrine is bleached, rubbing out

the people painted there, saints maybe,

whom someone hoped to make immortal.

Still here, they once said, you can be sure.

Even the flies hum it as they fly.

Marta, in Miasino this morning, you were yelling

and holding out your arms, running ahead

of your mother, who called,

Piano, Marta, piano!

Look at the grass, how it puckers, flips up,

bends down, and is soon threshed for hay.

Marta, you will hear piano always.

The churchbells, cracking, hear it,

and the cows that lie down in the meadow.

A room will say it, and the night, and the body,

aging. Even, at times, the mind.

I am telling you, Marta: you must be as ornery

as the flies, as stubborn as the bells,

calling over the shrines, over the whited-out saints,

over even your lovely mother when she goes -

when the sky has gone green.

When the day lifts a hand over you,

ready to swat , to come down,

Marta, run ahead. Still here.

Hold out your arms.

Dove Rengger-Thorpe

Thelonius Monk

Jazz oozes from the stereo

and mingles with a cicada's percussion

on a late night in early autumn.

Thelonius Monk in a mellow light,

the piano, the saxophone, the trumpet

move slowly,    one,    two,    three.

The lamp's yellow glow lights the rug,

the wooden floor gleams and

all is easy on the couch.

The shaker and cymbals collide

softly with the keys, while gentle fingers

of brass probe the air, leaving me tender,

barely breathing after a long trickle of notes

tickles my ear and then dies away.

The cicada remains, its midnight music

suddenly centre-stage.



comes back to me


with the sound of loss.

The way a shell

mourns the ocean

you mourn

for me.

Green Hope

The small patch of green hope has dried up

leaving withered stalks

shuffling sere, dry scraping on the wind.

Deep below the worms turn and spin, swallowing

and shitting dirt,

churning the past into the future.

I am faithless. Heart worn.

The worms know

the grass will grow again.

Rachel Richardson


The light touches everything.

No, my daughter sees:

the light touches anything

that sticks out its hand to be touched.

Here, on the jutting corner of wall

in her bedroom, it pleats in rectangles,

making moving, overlapping chunks

from the hard edge of window,

bending around corners

as if they weren't there, as if it could

reach everything.

Here, on the top dresser drawer,

half open with socks

and nightgowns, white

pushed around in drifts of fabric,

it smears worn and soft, following

the wood's grain, working its way

into her bedclothes.

On the sill, it gathers and sparks,

bounces off her little glass creatures,

glinting, reflecting from their backs

as if they're sunning: a tiger

lounging, outstretched; an elephant

marching in the heat.

From her bed, she watches it slip closer.

Here, she holds out her hands. Land here .


Water hasn't been this high in years. New ponds swamp

the roads; pines sink in mud. Crawfish burrow

in ditches, crawling out to the street, one after another smashed.

I know the way water ruins - I've mourned

the tall emaciated stalks and sculpted cypress stumps

that stud our lakes. But I can't banish the rain -

it fills the yard, puddles in low places, pings

into a bucket left out. I'll wait for what I know

is coming: the purple sky blazing, cracked

straight through, and another day ravaged. Green.


                      I'm going to tell it like this:

the river's brushed

           silk, its boats cradled, cattle calm on

           banks, a synchronicity

                      of water wheels. I'm a child and

you're one too, and

           cotton fields are opening before

           us. This wailing unwailed,

                      a photographic trick - sorrow's

no museum.

           Unhinged bones rest safe inside coffins.

           On the banks, rattling cane,

                      a cropduster's dive, the small-town

statued saint.

           A pilot corrects the error in

           a compass, they say; I'll

                      trace the river backward , to where

antiqued portraits

           pose families on roofs. They're lovely,

           since they're gone. No river

                      on fire, no gas lines snapped - none of it

today, unreach-

           able for weeks. This is what I should

           have said before: towns built

                      on mud, we love you. Bring back

the drought year blues,

           old Pontchartrain bridge. Cover the dead

           with lace. Here's a story

                      to send us off to sleep: let's say

the levees held,

           say bread and sugar graced each table ...

Avery Slater


I stooped to the wings like roosting kites

to watch the pause in flight sip dust and shade

but found crushed innards dried and stuck

to gravel's schist and quartz. I took

its edge of wing by fingers, tip to tip.

Its amethyst, its blue and red, its furred face like a tiger:

what flower dreamed this camouflage

to eyelash-legs, neat lack of scent?

My fingerprint, left glistening with feldspar-talc:

a bruise-remaindered cosmos.

This hinge of what would seem too thin

for sides, in glyphs like clover leaves,

describes a labyrinth of stain;

the other side - beside its eye - grisaille.

Its penciled abdomen

was ghost already of a staircased

worm. Its death: less afterthought

than daring, in these cupping hands

haphazard gusts of air's applause

and all left-rushing wind to pick its lock.

Train between Cities

Past the glass, the stationary green

of April blurs. We patiently head towards

our separate addresses, caught between

the drop of evening and our window seats.

Moving at a clip that stifles words,

we've brought ourselves to leave the sure

hospitables for this pane-shaking speed.

Life pools, renews, shore-held as any sea.

For every exit, entrance...but before:

spines ease into slump. We prop up feet.

Hearts leap through long goodbyes and corridors

where footsteps fade or near. Mean-times we lean

heads emptied by departure, having boarded.

There is the hope all ends will be afforded.

That Near

        -the Etruscan tomb painted for "The Hunter"; Tarquinia.

Celebrating death has ended.

Parties of the mourners leave,

brave with shouts and narrowing music...

          through the sapling-staked pavilion.

Trout-like, darkened lanterns nod

with wind-blown, rattling fabric.

Thinner than a laurel's bark,

than frost along a laurel branch -

paused mid-step, drawn by their exit -

one deer steps across

earth's tamped surface, and survives

as sketch, as painted shade. No moon

so tissue-fine: her pelt of light,

her hesitant, gloved bone.

She is the last alive. She hangs

her brow to dust, as brushed into

this final scene, a tempered hue.

Below the baking fields of grasses,

walls a bulb illuminates

are vivid, still. Through lightless acres

roots reach, unaware,

to thinnest edge:

          she is that near...

She is the threshold where she waits,

dividing earth's long siege from air.

Missing bones; the hunter, taken.

Banners writhe and figure wind.

Depth, attending, crouches; holds

where one bright-painted gap in darkness

keeps the deer...

                    she is that touch,

                    that brushing near.

Gillian Wegener

Letter to My Husband Far Away

The house is not empty without you.

It thrums and bumps, the walls relax and sigh.

The water heater dutifully comes on, rumbles

with heat, waiting for your shower to start.

How many times today have I heard

your truck in the driveway, the floor creak

with your step, felt your breath against

the back of my neck. At least that often,

I've turned to tell you something,

or hand you a piece of cheese or plum,

but it is two more days until you return.

It is just me in this room, with this plum,

with this good fortune, and the far flung love.

Madame Curie at Work

The ink runs across the cramped pages.

Paper can never hold every thought.

Light spills in around the door sill. What time

is it, she calls, is it morning?

She carries radium in her pocket sometimes,

malleable, vaguely warm, a whole world burning.

Words are nearly meaningless. Even formulas,

sprawling across the page like the dance-paths of bees,

cannot contain this newborn meaning.

Pierre brings the tea. They bend together over the work.

The tea gathers the chill of the murmuring room.

Pierre carries the stuff in his waistcoat, shows it to friends

for amusement. Marie keeps a few grains of radium at her bedside.

It makes a soft light, a private light, almost like the moon.

Pitchblende, radium, polonium -

the word radioactivity is hers.

She never realizes - the notebooks are dangerous,

ink glowing on each bright and terrible page.


I never know how to start a poem,

so I scan the first lines of other people's work,

a poetic peeping tom, wanting to see how

they find a way in. I climb in the window

after them to see how they do it, how they

become so intimate with words, how they

finger them and pick them up and put them

down and feint and fall and finally taste them,

first gingerly, then with the whole yearning body.

I mean no harm. And I don't stay long.

Just long enough to see their thrill

and then I'm back out the window,

dawn's poking at the horizon,

I'm heading down the sidewalk,

pencil in hand and a morning's work ahead.

Craig Arnold

Consider with Plato how

the mind might be a cage

of birds     would it be busy

a basket of caught starlings

jack-jacking away

or quiet     a canary

under a velvet cozy

a parrot     shabby gray

who has heard the same words

called out so many times

he is tired of answering

would it grow into its prison

as a half-pair of lovebirds

who headbutts his reflection

in the bell-jangled mirror

who after awhile alone

forgets how to sing

maybe a bird who needs

no cage     who is his own

cage     an owl in sunshine

a swan with a clipped wing

for Harvey

A ubiquity of sparrows

A certain traveler who knew many continents was asked what he found most remarkable of all.

He replied: the ubiquity of sparrows.    - Adam Zagejewski

Sparrow who drags a footlong crust of bread behind him

across the floor of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal

Sparrow your speckled breast and the black beads of your eyes

your blue-gray cap and the sudden explosion of your wings

Sparrows dashing to any spot where sparrows are gathered

Sparrow whose head is pecked bald from so many quarrels

Sparrow hopping across the patio     toes together

waiting for you to turn your back     to plunder the table

Sparrow who cocks her head to one side     as if doubtful

Sparrow beating her winds to haul off a half strawberry

Sparrow bandito with black mask and bandanna who robs her

Sparrow the poet's lover keeps close in her lap

to make him jealous     nipping her finger hard     harder

Sparrow who follows every flick of your hands moving

Sparrow chasing a papery butterfly     flapping and snapping

the butterfly each time impossibly escaping

the sparrow savage     the sparrow persistent     is there no mercy

Sparrow who spies from far off the flag of a shaken tablecloth

Sparrow chick dropped on a lawn     on a windowsill

hunched in its feathers      not knowing enough to move

Sparrow roasted over a piece of bread to catch the entrails

Sparrow whose feet barely sway the twig of a willow

who leaps into the air with the smallest of leaf-shivers

Sparrow the color of dust and mud and dry grass-stems

Sparrows kept on the wing by farmers banging saucepans

kept flying until they drop     a soft heap of bodies

Where are the sparrows when next spring comes in a cloud of locusts

Sparrow who says cheap     sparrow who says Philip Philip

Sparrow who keeps the secrets of wistful men and women

Sparrow shot by a boy with a pellet gun     brought down

but not quite killed     sparrow under a boy's bootsole

crackles like brown October leaves     a wing trembles

Sparrow whose fall from the sky is noticed by what god

Sparrow who squats in the bluebird nest     in the martin houses

who moves in with a gang of thugs and there goes the neighborhood

Sparrow who shot Cock Robin and later was hanged like a thief

Sparrow astray in the airport     tracked by the one-eyed guns

Sparrow said to have brought the English unto belief

Sparrow who flew through the king's hall as he sat to table

in winter     a little life who fluttered out of the snowstorm

warm     rambunctious     scuffling under the high-pitched rafters

Sparrow who stumbled in one door and out of another

between two blind and endless corridors of nothing

the one forever before     the one forever after

Nicole Beauchamp


Car rusting in the Namibian bush,


like him

to numbing waves of sniffed glue,

swirling into a stupor in the stifling dark.

Police came with food

when they remembered the boy

left to live in the car.

They came only sometimes

because so many children live

in places like cars.

But by then he'd been there many years and


his name and age,

dying because there wasn't much else to do.

How does God bear these things,

14 million times over?

Each morning now Phillip rolls off his mat on the tiles

and prepares the younger children

a mass of gray mahangu porridge,

which they eat with their fingers

in the cool slants of light.

He comes home from school

in a coarse blue uniform,

wipes the steaming dust off his shoes before lunch.

We ask him about his examinations,

friends and rugby matches,

and call him fourteen years old.

Sometimes Phillip has visions

of Jesus collecting grapes

gently into airy pockets,

storing them safely

like tears.


Dead unnamable things

live in her head and stomach.

All these words are only bruising

sound to a shaking girl, robbed

of all good things.

Speak into her.

Speak car

and red triangle and eiers ,

pencil and baaikostuum and music ,

lunch, seven eight nine,

do you want to go for a walk?

So loved the world.

Speak kaas and biltong and the sky is blue ,

speak throaty Afrikans and stunted English,

Let her mimic your holy words.

Speak healing through clay letters

rainbowed on a plastic tabletop

to spell out L-U-C-I-A and N-I-C-O-L-E.

Speak a Father who won't hurt


sweet dreams, Lucia

let's go home.

Speak to her, tenderly enough

to raise the dead.

Africa's Children

We are many

calling for redemption

for family and sweet

crowing mornings of light.

We dance in sharp movements

of our hips, we smile wide.

We swell the continent

with life, much of it

happening in streets of dust.

We fight for a blanket

for food and life

for our little sister, who we'd carry

on our backs through the lonely bush

if she needed it. And she has.

We know Death.

It is a sluggish thief

grasping our mother piece by piece

as we smooth her hot skin

and try to keep the floor clean.

It wakes us up screaming


But give us a voice,

and from our stomachs we'll sing

Hope, who is often

the only one remembering

our names.

We know how the ball of ginger sun

hangs in the arid stillness

of the melting day.

We sleep in the dust

under bold stars.

Robin Ekiss

Still Life: Girl with Vase and Flowers

The girl holds the empty vase,

but out the window

its emptiness is erased:

on the hillside, the grass bends

away from the wind

but does not break.

In the winter, it's green

buried beneath brown -

still there in the ground, though.

The world is amazing and amazed:

the gillyflower and the green almond

on its spare wrist of stem,

the sparrows circling

in the thin, high air,

and life there -

embarrassment of coins

at the bottom of a well.

What makes the water shine?

What fills her mind with such hope

not even birds can tell,

who sing their halo to the lamplight,

under which she waits

for Spring to break

this interminable hush,

to deliver something

as forgiving as a few petals

into her hands.

Looking At (and Beyond) Monet's Water Lilies

It's not about the water

or the flowers,

but the sky reflected in them,

only you must choose

to see the expanse of light

at the bottom of the lake

that makes the flat world

take its shape. On the surface,

one illuminates the other:

before there was day, night;

before water, light -

the pale peace of morning

in cloud cover, the promise

of one day stretched out

beside another. Beside me,

what washes over you

is river silt, returned to our bed.

In that mauve hour,

before the sun breaches sleep

and breaks the surface

of imagination, there's a joy

as hidden as the face of a fish

beneath a fern. Impermanent as words,

foreign-sounding as rain,

it is joy, after all - not a trick

of the eye, but the hard art

of looking away

from the darkness

that separates us

from each other.

Anniversary Poem

Married to imagination:

you are the bright pole

I navigate toward

on wind-washed seas.

My trip-to-the-moon,

my immunity;

what is love, if not

terrific responsibility?

Beside you, I'm the bare root

of a flowering tree.

There's nowhere in the world

I'd rather be.

Miriam Bird Greenberg

West of Rovaniemi,
                   North of Alta

What does it mean to move north, cant your whole body

                           toward the sea and burning , an entire matchbook

            set aflame at once? Here, taiga grown wild

with rosehips, rock wall and traces of salt

on the sea stones at shoreline.

                                     Map drawn across the body of a woman,

eighteenth century beauty

                           crinolined, leaning into some inner ocean

            with her right hand raised: here, fields of rocks, the wind,

then liquor stores, fireworks, an unmanned crossing. Cross.

Hitching, a woman stops for us, rolling cigarettes one-handed; later

       a carpenter; then a Sami radio journalist

    turned math teacher. We drink the water here, icy, with our

cupped hands from the rivers.

                            The day luminesces; long past ten we are paused

on the roadside, waiting. The firth is cut with cragged

stones, small Sami houses shut up for the summer

            and the branch A-frames for drying fishing nets empty.

                            Two degrees from a horizon on the Arctic ocean

I roll cigarettes one-handed, watch the spires of small boats

                                     rise out of the ashlight at nightfall:

                            low-masted and white. What edge of land

have we come to, winter reindeer

            foraging in the streets, low green hillocks birthed

    spectral from the inlet? I squat, gutting fish with an antler-

handled knife, cut

            so every bone , over the fire, pulls easily away. Even stopped,

I am moving: what I have been searching for,

                            if there is something,

    has left. On the walls of our tent the moon through pines

                            is tracing a nest or cocoon in the shadows,

            the wind - listen, hushing - is calling, in dark's early chill,

a name: but whose? Not mine.

Indian Summer

Imagine this land gone back to green. A girl stands

ankle-deep in the dried grass, the tiny white stars of crocus

are mouths opening up around her through the thatch

of the yard, point six directions at the sky,

at the bellies of dogs, streets away, tangling and knotted

in weedy alleys. Shut up houses shift east down the slope

of streets toward silty ditches separating fields

of sorghum from cows facing into the wind. Clouds turn murky

under night, heat lightening low on a horizon of rooftops. The girl

opens her mouth, in the heavy air she sings a veil of gray

silk pluming like smoke in the wild traffic of starlings'

shrill cries, low voices of the fighting, teeth bared, of dogs

or men, or their ghosts. Here, night prizes every lock

and crevice. Here, she shifts in the wind, has stepped

through split window frames onto the porch dense

with wicker, wringer washing machines, the rot

and mold of old clothes. Then into the grass, she sings. Here,

dust devils whirl in the streets, flatter and rattle

the rusted hinges of mailboxes, break suddenly in the bramble

of yards gone to bloodweed. There in the grass, a girl sings.

           North of Irkutsk, Siberia

"The meaning of a word is its use in the language." -Wittgenstein

In the third week of October, let the fresh prints of a fox on snow

remind you of a procession under willow trees

to the creek's edge. Let fabric scraps tied on the cedars beg

forgiveness for trespass beyond the yellow dust of the roads.

Let the low orange moon and its rabbit's body come to mean mortality,

yours and mine, a brief distraction. The scarved women

selling berries here walked miles in woolen stockings

through this forest, and double that last decade; the men selling old radios,

rusted mechanics' equipment and stray electrical wiring,

are gathered at this roadside to rid themselves of this unwilling gift

of the past.

This fading thread on the purple-papered branches,

let it serve as thanks for the orange moon, the slow forgetting

of these oxidized tools, these torn-out wires.

Mihan Han

All that remains

There is a photograph

on the mantle above my fireplace.

My mother is standing slightly off

center on an egg-white smear of beach.

In the background there is a blur, sepia-toned:

an island with steep limestone cliffs.

Her expression is faded, unreadable.

I prefer to imagine her smiling though

she may well be grimacing (time is a thumb

smudging out the details).

One hand is on her hip, the other holding

my (impossibly small) hand.

Although you cannot see it

(the crux of our joined hands

obscures it) hidden in her pocket

there are pebbles.

This is all that remains:

                      a ghost on a beach behind glass and silver frame (lingering

                      on the mantle above my fireplace),

pebbles covered with dust like parchments of ancient skin.

How precise and knobbed as the small bones in her hand,

How scattered and unintentional as love.

Spring in the Tundra

How can hardened permafrost know

that life is germinating within

when frozen landscapes are white and

starched as the hospital linens before

she descended, abruptly as

spring in the tundra?

When melting snow perfuses

the swelling hills and creased valleys,

sprouting capillaries around glacial

till embedded like fibroids

in a womb,

when the blue people descend

from their distant mountains, hoisting the sun

to illuminate

crimson fields blossoming

between her legs,

the north wind is a newborn crying,

at last!

in my mother's arms.

Rebecca Lindenberg

The Imminent Sweetness of His Return

"But I cannot express the uneasiness caused in me by this intrusion of mystery and beauty ..." Marcel Proust, Swann's Way.

Glass, he said, is like

hardened water. I replied, without

looking at him, Don't you mean ice?

He stared and answered,

Not at all. He was

governed by correspondences

I didn't understand -

The flight of water down stairs

had nothing to do with spoiled carpeting.

He stood ankle-deep in a flood of ruin,


I remember, he told me once, the first time

I remembered you. Only he

could make that make sense.

That's how I knew I would come

to love you. He loved me.

Among other things.

An Appetite for Rain

We were in L'Aquila and it was raining

like it's raining now, only that rain

battered the pavement in whatever Italian is

for battered the pavement.

Some grace-note consonant combination

spa or sfu or gli, or it should be -

something that means both the sound

of rain ruining itself upon the ground

and the gleam of reflected half-light

in pools, trembling like a soul.

We went to see the fortress and the art

guarded therein, but I couldn't

bring myself to make room for those

in my mind. Instead, I let myself be

distracted by the luminescent green

grass around the fortress,

lining the moat like emerald felt.

The rain brought it forth, the rain

that soaked us, that pooled

in the corners of memory, seeped

into that deep aquifer so the grass,

when I go there, is eternally vivid.

We stood on the lawn, your son

hurling pinecones into the deep moat.

We stood side-by-side in the rain,

the green, the what is, the what ever is.

In Circles

"la diritta via era smarrita"

Days, these days, are just

coffee breaks between

sleep and sleep -

daylight anemic compared

with the vivid wholeness

of dreams. I have been sorry

to open my eyes, to open

my windows and let in

the smell of wet leaves,

of another

world misting away,

and of forgetting.

I don't want to forget

a long bridge,

a wide churning river,

faces rising up into its surface,

what we feel in dreams

that life gives no occasion for.

In my dreams, I am guilty

of a thousand crimes. For lying,

I am sentenced to walk

in a circle until I die. I plead

with my sister to buy back my body,

not to let them throw me away.

An adulterous thought made

flesh bends over me, a seduction

amid curtains, curtains blown

open and only then do I recall

that I am married. Only then

do I wake with the smell of hyacinth

still burning in my nose.

I wish I had a voice

big enough for this much feeling -

panic let down like a veil

over the reasoning mind,

and suddenly I am floating in space

where is my insulin?

what is my blood sugar?

why is the moon so close?

Falling, falling

through a river full of monsters,

through exacted penance,

through a would-be lover's

protective embrace and back

into this world, shivering,

covers thrown off, aware

of skin laid bare, so much

I would never now unknow.

Tod Marshall

Whan that Aprill with its Shoures soote

When the flute music arose from the back of the bus,

the man next to me fitfully slept,

thin snore drizzling from the corner of his mouth

to hang in air, shadow of a black bird, rocky caw

of lost hours and days, then gone.

He rode from Wenatchee to meet a sweetheart

in Seattle he'd emailed for months - a picture in his pocket,

crease right through her forehead

as if to announce everything divides into what was

and what could be. Earlier, the woman in front of us

juggled two babies in diapers,

and their beautiful energy wore her beautiful energy

to snappy exhaustion. I smiled at the oldest child's

white bloom of a tooth, played peak-a-boo

over the seat, and fell toward my own sleep

where dreams became a shudder awake

to lumbering bus noises

and that ever-present question, who am I?

No different from anyone: another pilgrim heading for home. And then

that first note rose

tingling in the air, catching crystals of frost on the windows,

hushing the hydraulic hiss of bus gears,

the shuffle of people

fidgeting in too-small seats,

salty smell of sweat

soaked into, through and beyond

the habit of fabric to take it all in: if I said

that these scraps of desire - the quiet torture of dreams

announced by the quiver of a slumping head, the faulty

twitch of shoulders clunking into another, the mouthy smack-smack

of jaws chewing some new hope for tomorrow - changed

into a misty shimmer the passengers wore

as they slowly rose to morning,

if I said that we awoke, some without eyes to see, some without ears

to hear, some without a single buck

or a clean change of clothes, no hope in the world

except to get off a cramped and musty bus,

would that be enough for you to hear the clear music of a flute?

I never saw the musician -

high school girl shuttling between parents, a young man

trying to remember a professor's lesson, shivering angel from Ellensberg only lonely for home -

but someone played those tender notes,

and the bus did what buses do,

climbed the pass, crested the pass, and descended, chased by dawn

into the mystical plunder of a new day.


Always the sunflowers open

toward light, smaller ones first,

and later, larger blossoms,

food that will feed sparrows

for weeks. In the back yard,

compost heats from the core,

banana peel, egg shells, and onion

skin mulched to mush. Rotten

tomatoes on the heap, shriveled

celery stalks. Coffee grounds

are fuel, a friend says. Some-

one else wonders about snakes

and rats. Raccoons. At night,

skunks pick through the pile.

Easy to scare away. Dutiful

steward with a shovel and rake,

sunburn on my neck and shoulders,

I hunch toward dirt and shadows

bind my body with birdsong

and bright yellow,

human bones only slowly

turning to meet the sun.


Swim in the lake,

seven hundred feet of glaciated cliffs

surrounding the shore.

Dry each other

slowly with pack towels

and slumber through the afternoon.

Stir first to catch cutthroat.

Skewer them with alder sticks,

rub oil and red pepper

in the gutted bellies

and roast the fish - even eat

crisp tails with sliced apples

and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Burn heads and bones in the coals,

glowing skeletons that summon stars

to sleep in the water

near smoke and pines,

replaced in the sky

by your sparks, new constellations

that rise and drift into night.

Sara Michas-Martin

Sunset in the Desert

No birds have to lift from swaying palms,

sail through or touch down

in this poem.

Under the sky's

ripening pink sash, the city

doesn't need to be beautiful.

The night unfurls its cape

and the sweet music of cicadas

may or may not swell the silence.

When the moon, a polished ivory tusk

rises gently in our window

it need not ensnare our gaze -

          with you, dear love

I'm happy

sipping tap water, opening our mail.


At the end of the show hundreds of lighters pierce the dark,

the crowd illuminates its self and I see someone I know -

his beard longer, his head blonder, waving a flicker of light

but I can't place him, only the image of lightning bugs swirling

when I was a kid in the car with my sister

and she tapped on the side of a jam jar full of them

to make them blink, and when they didn't blink

she unscrewed the top and shook them over my head.

This is how memory works sometimes, opening

at random all over you as you stare dizzy almost

at someone familiar and they stare back, and the tongue, frantic

hunts his name, not Mark, not Matt, and how

could I forget - our race up Mt. Cadillac to watch the sun

replace the moon, to watch it ease up from the Atlantic

waiting there at the top, in our soaked parkas, frozen

and finally, it comes, his name - out loud, I say it ... Ben?

Stalling in Maine

After the toothbrush and the long johns -

the jammed zipper, a soft scarf

for the face, I blink out of a body

unwilling to move, The bathroom

is out behind the root tangle

and the chilled length of midnight;

the bucket, the other's answer

to inconvenience, is in the corner

behind curled book covers

and a bottle of soap called rain.

All day I drank water drawn

from the lake's insides. There were

four days under my nails

when I dug into the leather

of an orange peel. Remember

to order the glue and generic tea.

Remember Kate's letter, and

the ceiling drips in the pump house.

There are loons here, their sad pitch

skates on water and the moose

story - first thaw, Davis in a wet suit

lowered into a septic field

to rescue the animal half lodged

in ice. Look how my breath

flowers against the flashlight beam

and look at my small things:

pens, stained cups, a raincoat

on a hook What holds me to this bed

is made of gasoline, plastic food,

a checkbook that inspires

electricity - it's just a bucket. My sister

after thirty hours gave birth

to a quiet child named

Grace. I'll pray for her

to find a day emptied of clocks. A river.

Sticks to shape like boats. I'm going

to the bucket now, everywhere

dirt and needles I've loosened

from the ground. Under me

this thin rise of steam, this

little thunder. I am learning

again to be mortal.

There is just this.

Nancy K. Pearson

How the Heart, Too

How he dragged himself across a two lane interstate,

through the tussle of marsh, past a coyote den littered

with fifty or so cat collars and laid himself under a gigantic clowning

hydrangea bush, how the wind unplugged the sand dunes, grain by grain

all day, how even the ponds lifted a little, un-anchoring

from the pink cords of lilies, the tacked down pods of rain, everything

rose up to meet him, I was crossing the street in a hurry late

for bussing tables, green bracts floated from a stem, I did not hear

his small mew darting up, a heart minnowing forward, how both hip bones closed

toward the center where a wheel crushed earlier that morning,

wings folded around a stomach, a song bird without hinges,

how he could not stand, how could he

and yet, later, how I found him on the bed curled beside the shivering dog.


That winter the wrapper leaves fell off every head of lettuce.

The cutters and packers worked all day, stooping

between the frozen rows, rising creaked and creased

in the gray sunlight, whole families bent at the waist,

           broken midrib and pink-veined,       the lettuce,

the slick lemon and orange trees smoking,

diesel smudge pots burning all night, steamed-up vans patrolling

the cities for homeless dogs or men, the benches

were empty, the blankets ran out, trains derailed

           on Chickamauga lake, my brother drove his new Toyota in circles,

Holiday Bowl closed early, trees pulled open shingles, seeds scooted,

in the bathroom my mother stood over me squirting Nice n' Easy

in a line across my darkening part, her eyeliner wet, the yellow gone from everything now,

sons and daughters bent low in the crunchy loam,

flood lights rowing over the bald heads of lettuce,

over and over, together knife through root, the cold unlucky

miles of heavy lemons dropping elsewhere.

String Theory

Tying leaves on a stick, all day

the fields rising yellow with sugar

the trees turning their unbound pages,

geese skimming wet chapters, crossing miles

over the midnight pixel, electric doo-dad highway

a son is driving, is saying, heavenly God, is saying,

heavenly God I cannot reach her from here, eight hundred miles away

his mother loses her eyebrows, her nose hair,

bobby pins un-open on a table, all night the unwieldy strings

of morphine vibrate, piano keys gather dust, crab grass dissects a bed

of roses, the moon orphans all the stars, somewhere

the red kilns glow, wet towels from the bedside exhale

on a hinge of sun, a namesake is lost, harvesters loop rough twine

around tobacco leaves, a life depends on gathering,

on pulling, one breath threading with another, can you hear it?

the assembly workers, a hand pushing a trowel, someone driving all night,

a cough, a gasp, all life's inhalations - miles away, the sea

weeding its million acres with only a sound.

Elizabeth Percer

Einstein's Bath

What was it to him to remove his clothes,

To stand on a cold floor, lift one foot,

Ease himself into the water?

It has been said he was a poet -

Round shoulders, hands in the pockets,

The wrinkles of apology appearing in his face early on.

When he lowered himself into a standing bath,

He would have displaced a mere twenty gallons.

Did he bathe with consideration?

A dried cake of soap or the oils

Some woman had left on the porcelain's edge?

Pierre Bonnard spent a corresponding adulthood

Painting his wife, his nemesis,

The cruel, bird-like Marthe in her bath.

The images of bath and wife together

Remind some of the coffin, some of the womb.

But Bonnard's was an artistic brilliance, if that.

Surely the bath of the well-loved physicist

Should be seen in oppositional terms:

As a place where there is never rest,

Or a place from which there is no emergence,

Where life is indefinitely open, always fading.

Did the metaphors for space and time

Arrive as he passed a washcloth over his chest,

As humility gives way to brilliance,

Softening the channels?

And when did he consider himself dirty -

Daily? Weekly? After love?

Einstein's lovers are a complicated subject,

A tangle of questionable relevancy

Bearing an odd heaviness, as if in thinking of them

We must ourselves admit that occasionally

The notion of love itself might be irrelevant.

Perhaps it is no surprise that a man

Whose mind could not surpass color

Would become fixated on the mood

Of a woman's skin. The early, gay,

Yellow lover. The poor, pink Marthe

Villainized for hypertension -

Had she not made her husband so perfectly miserable,

Could he have dreamt of such soft, prismatic loveliness?

Mileva and Elsa seem inconsequential in comparison,

As if Einstein may very well have thought

Of everything physical and universal without them.

Yet when he was alone

Engaged in the act of cleaning,

It is tempting to imagine how in turning,

He might have floated for a moment,

How in coming to a stop

He might have run his hand idly through the bathwater,

How that hand might have been sometimes

Held and released, how we all somehow fail.


And so you persist,

Despite the balloons of fear, the wilting blooms

Of resistance. Here you come, up the walk,

Unseen, unheard.

How did you find your way here,

Your life not even in your hands?

Who can deny that a baby is a miracle

Especially in its presence, the awe of inhuman

Perfection, the magnificent need.

But who can see a miracle as keenly as it appears,

Welcome it as if it can be swallowed,

All star and bursting corners and confirmation?

Yet still you come, making your way

Through some fresh, muddy pond

As if awaking to such possibility

Is only a matter of the arrival

Of what we never thought

We could believe in and still be.


I find her before light,

before apples and Adam.

I haven't been there for long

before the weather begins to change

from black to gray, dry to wet.

It looks like she will dance.

I try to catch the rhythms,

though I can't make out the music,

She doesn't speak. I think it's before language.

My babies are sleeping in the next room,

their quick nostrils like gills.

Have I only imagined this privilege?

Babies will do that, make us feel omnipotent

after having them, though doing so

breaks us in two, like porcelain knocked,

the spiders in its side running along and flowering it.

Here we are, the first woman and one other.

Soon we will tire from this dream

and dancing. Soon we will sleep

and the winds will bring light.

Felicity Plunkett


An elephant's face emerged between his palms

its whimsical felt ears soon fell off

but driftwood bodied forth seven articulated vertebrae

whose limbs moved in ripples, until they were voiced with age

and careened towards oil in the rhythm of their soughing.

Wood-skin baked grey-dry after drowning:

burnished at four rolling haunches,

remembers the smoothing of his corrugated hands.

He must have sanded and sanded, alone in the summer dark

a line of bogong moths settling under the oil lamp,

the scrap of a cigarette forgotten at the side of his smile,

until each curve invited and repaid stroking;

Your wandering poet father

the teacher who came late and humble to love

from the wastelands of his philandering

from the continent of habitual pleasure

when your mother's fine cheekbones

and her flinching resolve

were softened by pain she could not hide,

when the long curls he had never woven through his fingers

clung to him, his fire flared and singed his netted fingers.

He made this one toy the way he made you

the son who survived it all

from nothing more than hope

from whatever, in the end, was to hand

when he looked to the receding coast

from the small conjugal vessel he had fashioned

and set afloat on these late gilded joists, his radial creation.

Stitching the Night

Night stitches black along the sky's burnt hem,

dissolve into a slow drip of morning birdsong

that picks at your veins, accelerates and is complex

as the fingers of a seamstress,

the intricate gestures of a conductor's wrists.

You close your eyes and trace

harmonies of point and counterpoint

into the gordian school of mourning

where you have enrolled; chosen

death as your special subject, your major

arcana: radial, bridal, electrifying.

Morphine's steady eye regards you

as you find and relinquish these last generosities:

the gold pocket watch of the dandy

to gild a grandson,

the wooden elephant your father crafted

for the unborn child, the evasive face

whose burgeoning you celebrate

though its prolepsis shows you

vitality's amnesia, its infidelity.

Still, now, you find in mobility

something that opens in your face like some mythical gate

a poise before your graduation, delighting

in the onward sewing, in what can be made

from a fabric in its afterlife.

Learning the Bones

As a young country teacher, your hobby was Latin.

Its symmetry dazzled you, its skeleton was loved:

lines of nouns like the bones in a hand radius, ulna, carpal

and verbs like lamps illuminating sentences.

You sat patiently with the poets, working through the Aeneid,

your annotations penciled into sharp relief.

Years later, a student of Latin, I scanned pages for anarchy:

craving an ancient voice, my translations of Catullus were approximate,

I heard the whisperthrill of conflict in the dark: odi et amo.

I opened myself to the multivalent, rereading what I loved.

Now, slow in my appreciation for order, I still prefer the ragged, the soft:

the dative: to, for.

                                   In Latin

you repeated a last phrase, approaching death, watching its steady advent.

Had you followed the crumbs of syllables back to the words of the Latin mass,

or accepted death's poor offering

of poetry's eucharistic paper

the wafer of someone else's words in your mouth?

I had a vision of you crying out with formal passion: confiteor

your fleshless hands open, stretching out to touch what fled.

One doctor at the hospice knew the language,

but he was not on shift, so what you said was lost.

The loneliness of death declaimed itself.

When I thought of you, reciting Latin, or deep in composition

abandonment, finality wrung itself into a knot

I could not untangle. The syntax of my feelings made no sense.

My hands writhed, alive - a tangle of nervous verbs,

untranslatable, escaping both catechism and parsing

until a hand stopped a hand, and they were still.

Eleanor Stanford


Late sown, they grow

thrifty; in this narrow

rowhouse kitchen,

we set their two-pronged

hearts in jars of water

on the window sill.

We have little sun,

less earth, and yet

I want my sons to know

that what feeds them

grows from light.

Invention for Cavaquinho and Pedal Steel

October's glint is mordent, already long in the tooth. Ornamental kale

all that's left in the garden. Study is useless. For forty years

my father's fingers have stumbled over the same notes on the piano.

          Wednesday nights we take up our instruments. Jew's harp,

lyre, pedal steel. The gourds that swelled all summer and dried up.

Ezra, awake past bedtime in his houndstooth suit,

strums his small guitar and sings. We play from memory.

At twelve I ran through the woods

in racing flats, memorizing momentum, how it took me

down the hills and then back up, mud-splattered grace notes

on my calves.

At twenty, I sat on a flat cement roof, the hill a sharp

mile above the sea, shelling peas. The parched earth, steep ravines,

clouds passing below us. Girl whetting a machete. Man knocking out a beat

on a Fanta bottle's ribs. And the bones visible through my skin,

elbow's tuning peg, clavicle's awkward ornament.

Memory practices on us: mortar, pestle, fire kindled

in the wrist's stone cup. Celestial storehouse, where the boxes

of yellowed photos pile up -

          The years of lessons, practice sheets filled in, initialed.

My flute in its black case, banging against my knees.

I learned to mime the stops: sleeves of my white shirt raised,

close together, the way a moth lands, with its wings closed.

I was such a serious child.

Whatever hour the school bus left us at the corner, late fall,

dark falling, we found my mother on her knees,

spade in hand, turning the soil. The white fence posts

glowed. Spirit burial ground, where under leaf cover, the worms

move like silent tongues, compost's shadow notes,


The Mangrove

I sit down on a wooden bench to nurse the baby

and the mosquitoes descend on their lithe legs.

His word for food is the same name

he calls me by: A-ma. A-ma.

The sharks circle in their small tank.

The blind drivers are guiding their Lexuses

down A1A and Spanish River.

My grandmother, who remembers little, recalls

telling the story of Passover to a preschool class.

Now we are free, she said, and one girl retorted,

No we are not. We are free and a half.

I can't sleep here, in this mutinous state, this brackish peninsula.

Dawn, dusk, the old people are out walking their small dogs

around the driveways of the complex. Beyond,

animals shelter in the mangal:

Peregrine falcon, American coot, rattlesnake.

Tangled footweb of the intertidal zone. The baby's need

a drift net, cast wide and indiscriminate: tug of hunger

that catches at my breast.

Sea star. Propagule.

Black bee on a mangrove blossom.

When my grandmother woke

from the twilight sleep of giving birth, she saw

the nurses trying on her nightgowns, giggling.

The mangroves lift a lacy hem

of sea foam, their roots impenetrable.

Not two, not three.

We are free and a half. And each

elliptical leaf illuminated.

Melissa Stein


You opened this door. Forced it back

on its hinges, drove in the thin wedge, saying

"I may need to enter at a moment's notice."

But don't you know that metal has memory, alive

the way rising dough resists a probing finger,

or trodden grass springs up against the foot's imprint.

Even flesh that retains the rare bloom of a bruise

soon lets it go. You keep these iron plates apart

so long they rust apart, flaking

into the slightest breeze, and still,

they remember what it means to rest

against each other, folded like wings.


Two fish - nearly washed up, in the warmer shallows,

tiger trout, mouths gaping, gills going, strung together

on a chain. I stroke the taut skin, mottled like a snake's,

stroke the firm length of their bodies, heavy

and real. The chain's hanging off a rowboat

plowed into the sand, half in half out, dragging

that beauty with it, those bodies shining out of the water,

out of meaning, shining -

                                  Cold and clear: wading in,

I can see straight down to my white toes, and I'm wondering

about the bodies of fish, their flicker and slide, whether

they prefer warm currents or cold, and what their naugahyde

skins look like from under the water, those darting slashes

from above, those exclamation points -

                                                      It's another life, this place

where fishermen troll the lakes in rubber floats, flippered

feet as rudders, legs shrouded in neoprene, looping

their fishing lines left and right in lazy figure 8s

that are anything but lazy: graceful arcs like flight

paths of insects, translucent, white -


I say to see how it feels in my mouth, because I want to,

because I've hiked my skirt around my thighs as high

as I can get away with and I'm up past my knees

in the chill, wading in deep as I dare, sending out ripples

toward the center of the lake, such thin legs

but such wide ripples, and I begin to understand

the impact of small actions -

                                       Light strikes the corner of my eye,

someone's caught a fish away across the lake, and I watch

the clumsy capture, what I can see of it: the fisherman

working furiously and the fish swinging madly

in what almost looks like joy, a wider arc that uses

the full weight of his body, the power in his tail -

Sridala Swami

How Do You

An Encyclopedia of Unanswerables

                                        Shuffling the Pack

Wipe the guilt from his face

When you've caught him hanging up

On a call he shouldn't have made

As easily as he has wiped

That smile from your lips?

                                                                        Conduct a lunchtime conversation

                                                                                      With a table full of men

                                                                                    Without them finding out

                                                               They've each one of them been with you

                                                                                        All without waking up?

                                     Laying Out The Death-Mat

Tell a man who can no longer hear

Through all the tubes and tapes

And beeping monitors

Whose eyes cannot even speak

Of the horrors behind his lids

With a straight face

That life is worth living?

                                                                                        Welcome a man back

                                                                                  with as much nonchalance

                                                                                                 as he displayed

                                                                                       When he surfed on top

                                                                 of the biggest wave the world has seen

                                                                     and disembarked in the hotel lobby?

                                                    Taking Sides

When she sees you with her one-time lover

Imagine it will be possible

To explain twice over

That it's not how it looks

When your one-time silence

Booted you into a camp

And war erupted around you.

                                                        Refrain from answering questions intelligently

                                                                  From a position of strength and choice

                                                                                  Unwavering and consistent

                                                                                When you've spent your life

                                                                                  Sitting firmly on the fence.

After Twenty Years

After twenty years even the colours are different here.

Time has saturated them and turned them into hard

vivid squares of light, that collide and cohere

around the faded indistinct pictures my mind had made.

How else can it be that I who have not seen you in so long

remember you so exactly, whose edges I had thought

would have been smudged with age - but that, along

some ancient paths two images merged and wrought

some alchemy of light so that two became one.

Somehow, it doesn't take us long to catch

up with the years - we hold them in our hands, a mystical orb.

Twenty years have simmered and become rich

with essences that we have all the time to taste and absorb.

And now we reach the moment when something new has begun.

Rhett Iseman Trull

Heart by Heart the House

          will empty, thread by thread all hems

unstitch. Not even the twin oaks

                    will last, though their roots insist themselves,

                    buckling the limestone

                              drive. Tonight you fly,

          above your head, our arthritic cat who has lived too long

to protest, who will probably be the next to go. I am trying

          not to cling. I am trying

                    to remember the look

          flooding your father's face that

          morning he discovered tomatoes destroyed

                    despite his careful fencing. What could he do

but plant again in the furnace of a new day's heat, thinking

          of your mother cooking, that very minute, corn

                              gleaned yesterday from his garden? Maybe

          we'll bring into this world five children and ruin

every one, regardless of inoculations, safety belts, Tot-Finder

                    decals silver in their windows - that may serve no purpose

                    but to remind them to be afraid of fire, my own

          childhood fear - flames raking the irreplaceable - with me still

                                        but disappearing. Sometimes - even

                    as cell by cell we're breaking, even

          as my mind, more sieve than cup, lets go of you, lets go - I

                    am overtaken by a moment's calm, relieved

                              not to know what's coming. Do I want us

          to die at the same time and turn

          into trees or start over

as ourselves: our first

          encounter, kiss, our great mistakes


Sonogram on the Way to Earth

One of only two unpregnant women at the baby shower, I offer

my chair to a globe-bellied one, fetch water

for another who has just begun to show.

I'll be in charge of the trash , I volunteer, collecting pastel

wrappings and ribbons, keeping busy, keeping quiet

about the fact that Jeff and I, for the better

part of a year, have been trying to start

a life inside me, too. I quell an image

of my reproductive system as an engine refusing

to crank. Think positively, I remind myself, and listen

to the symptom talk, labor jitters, the word sonogram,

which sounds to me like a character in a science

fiction novel, an alien on its way

across the galaxy, earthbound, his ship another blip

among the static of the stars; an alien

whose home awaits him as he marvels

at how opposite of void space is,

even the light years between planets riddled

with small wonders; asteroid belts

and the occasional drifting debris

from ships that didn't make it. His eyes bounce back

from the stratosphere to the map of Earth

he's pinned to the oxygen tank. He's expectant,

like me, though my belly's as flat as the ancients misconceived

the world to be, not knowing that on one lucky morning

breeze one of their bravest

would meet the horizon and fail to drop

off. One of the shower moms gasps, surprised

by her baby's kick, his strongest yet, as if he's anxious

to get moving. And me, the not-yet-Mom

holding the garbage bag, I smile wider

than all the rest as I picture my Sonogram

practicing for the moment his vessel arrives, the kick

that will open its hatch.

Human Resources

At the end of the day he's someone to come home to, a voice

in the hallway, stopping the clocks. My mixed-up morning

doesn't matter anymore: smog, time cards, deadlines, ink,

Eloise crying again in her cubicle. I leave it all

behind: angry whir of the fax machine, requests for ergonomic chairs,

and the afternoon's robotic conversations: eligible for benefits

in thirty days; sign here, Ms. Montgomery; sign here, Mr.Grey.

Home at last, I empty the blues from my pockets,

I tell him I love him and think I mean it. And that's close enough

to happiness, his keys retired on the hook next to mine, scent

of cologne in my den. He pours the wine and I've got a reason

to wear that new red dress. The bed will be warm

on both sides tonight. The stars, like wolves,

will herd their light into packs that look less lonely.

Amanda Turner

The Nest

On the day of your wedding, your mother found

a hummingbird's nest, fallen yet still attached

to a single branch with seven brittle leaves.

She placed it in the bathroom, beneath a mirror,

so that when we excused ourselves from the intoxicating grip

of Lady Day and Etta James, when we swayed pleasurably

from the showering jacaranda and whirling piñatas,

we might recognize this soft, sanguine effort

while checking our own reflection in the mirror.

We might recognize that the incidental

is rarely peripheral. And that the center of any story,

no matter how disastrous, might be so close,

so astonishingly gentle, we could hold it as a nest in our hands.

In the End

We are taken by beauty and repose. Mountains black

against an indigo sky leave us this shadow life.

In Japanese folklore the pine tree represents

the unchanging. And as my hand moves from your chest

to my face, I can still smell the scent of winter,

           of pine smoke,

we must have carried with us from that other life.

Of Nectar

Earth is the region of the fleeting moment.

It is also thus in the place where in some way one lives?

                                          Acoyuan (Aztec poet, 1490)

All summer she held them in her mind: two shards

from broken vessels she'd seen in the antiquarian bookseller's window.

She didn't know what they meant, only that they mattered somehow,

maybe distantly like ice plant or the moss that collects

on the oak trees in Olema in the winter, and that they mattered together.

Look, she'd say, the fisherman's arm is an extension of the line he's cast,

the sea. A family of deer in sleep makes a circle

of its dreaming bodies. Then -

Are we always crossing over, passing

               either way?

At Point Reyes she's made a bridge in the sand

out of a small perfectly formed stick. Waiting to see

what crosses over, she pops a lemon drop into her mouth.

He's begun his own game and scrolls vigorously

in the sand. As soon as he begins, his message

is washed away. She thinks of Cavafy dying,

drawing a circle and placing a period

in the center. Then, she thinks of a hummingbird,

of nectar. A plate of Bonnard's fruit near an open window.

The scent of cider. How lovingly these thoughts swarm together!

Here at the seashore, she begins collecting items, remnants -

Again, this corralling: exoskeleton of crab, dried seaweed, driftwood,

a white feather. She thinks of the Swedish artist Lenke Rothman,

how her mother had tied a red thread around her wrist (it must have been

before she was sent to Auschwitz). Then she imagines herself discovering

a nest constructed entirely of red thread. Imagines a white feather inside.

Everything at nightfall seems privileged: fuselage of dream.

Green shadows shift beneath as she crosses a wooden

board fashioned into a bridge over the creek bed.

On the other side, she's waist high in blackberry vines.

She laughs because of the hugeness of joy, the sudden

unnameable abundances. She remembers M.

running after seagulls, open armed (as all children do).

Running through joy toward -

And if he got too close and the birds didn't lift,

He'd stop, suddenly unsure of his wish.

It's been a difficult summer, twilight interfering

with reason. Yet the family of deer holds its circle deep

               in dream

and the fisherman continues his part as the sea.

Marla Alupoaicei

Ode to the Theory of Everything

                                        Our task is to say a holy yes

                                        to the real things of our life as they exist.

                                              Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Praise be the compassed universe

and its cerulean north,

its charm bracelet of hymned planets

resolving like chords.

Enter the pathos of the black hole

greedily gathering matter unto itself,

ruching the fabric of time and space.

Cursed be the relativity

that would presume upon these Argentine songbirds

outside my door, the ones

that have rebuilt their nest three times.

O forgive those of little faith

who keep tearing it down.

O consider the manifold worlds that converge

within a single shattered egg.

For each thing lost, find something new

gleaming on your life's event horizon.

Accept the task of becoming infinite.

Let there be increasing degrees of freedom -

an escape velocity

greater than the speed of light.

Seek what is broken,

not brittle. Bless those objects

that can be remade.

Don't begrudge anything its singular orbit:

glory to the nest

of mud and glitter.

Holy the exquisite bones.

Power to the blue-black wings.

Even now, behold -

                                           the amen of flight,

                          its simple,

                          articulate proof.

Prodigal the Prodigal

                         This son of mine was dead and has come to life again:

                         he was lost and has been found.

                                       -Luke 15:24

In reverse order: The father explains.

The eldest complains.

Celebration. Music and dancing. Dining on the fatted calf.

Bring out the best robe, a ring, sandals.

Repentance. A father runs, remarkably.

A Jewish father. Vigil.

A defeated son limps down a familiar road.

Starving. Longing for the pods he fed to pigs.

Lucre squandered. Extravagance.

A son escapes from home.

A son demands his inheritance:

Father, I wish you were dead.

Now a lifeless coyote rests by the roadside.

Pristine. As if sleeping.

I am startled as I run past.

Every day more: settling. Hollowing.

Nature forms a verdant oval

to swallow him back to herself.

A garden of weeds roots itself tenderly

in and around his body. Tendrils.

As if he had never left. As if saying,

bring your bruised body home.

As if the time that had passed

were only a paragraph in a book.

And someone's

been waiting by the window all along

to welcome him back to life.

The Cutting

                     Promise me you will not forget Portofino...

                     And when the roofs darken, when the stars drift

                     until they shatter on the sea's finish,

                     you will know what I told you is true...

                                          -Spencer Reece, "Portofino"

The yellow roses have blossomed widest -

lush, meline, hovering like canaries above the others.

White blooms, full moons in orbit.

Red throb, blossom-fisted hearts.

Oranges flare their flamenco skirts

out over the vase lip. I pour out the water,

grasp twelve thick stems by the thorns.

The scent transports me to Portofino,

its zest of salt and seawater, a bay ordered with boats,

the gone, gone, gone of the gulls

like the cry of mermaids drowning in azure.

Seventeen meters under, Christ of the abyss reaches skyward.

Yellows warm the soul

like bread left to rise in the Italian sun,

the light slanting soft against red tile roofs

and row houses, afternoon's hummingbird lull

and the limoncello tarty sweetness

of the two of us one and whole.

I run cold water, chop off the tough stem ends.

This continuum that spans a life:

the truth seasoned with thorns and grace,

or the not-quite truth

that's willing to pluck the fading petals

and turn the prettiest parts toward the light.

I cut to let more life in,

the most vivid life before death.

We kill things because they're beautiful.

We kill things because we want them to last.

Timothy Bradford

Sea Voyage Instructions for Newlyweds

If this marriage were a boat about to set sail,

what would I say, having sailed some?

No doubt you'll be riding full and by for the first

hundred leagues or so, at night the constellations

out and wheeling across the sky just for you

as the wind hauls the boat through the pellucid

water welling up on the bow like a heart overfull.

The days and way clear, open ocean before

the promised archipelago. And then, a squall,

reefs with jellyfish-like diapers, differing

senses of direction, the barnacles of health

insurance to scrape from the hull. All of which

you'll come to recognize as integral to the voyage.

I'd say, Wear durable clothes that unbutton

easily, dry quickly. Take provisions of wine,

bread, and each other's open, trusting eyes.

Know the ocean you enter as a palatial place

to test yourself and your knots of love,

which you will tie and untie, and tie again,

a thousand times for each other, practical little

knots of tea, of laundry, of clean sheets on the bed,

of touch and kiss as the vessel you enter today

finds its way clear across an ocean and back

over the ever changing tides of love.

Ophelia's Dream

Late at night, our feet rhyme

like buttons on a shirt.

First, the tops of mine

cupped in your arches, supine.

Then, your arches, prostrate,

over the tops of mine. Points

of contact change with position,

rhythm, but always the firm

metatarsi, the warm, taut

skin over the flex of the tendons,

and the delicate hairs on the toes,

brushed and brushing.

At the Window, Before We Knew

My eyes are opened by your animal poise

as you return from the barn, near nude, horses

fed, and you stop in your boots, alone, the noise

of birds feeding you. Fresh light, trees, the sources

of a dawn-white start, and your large eyes absent

while everything fills you as cold springs water

dark animals. Hand to belly - you meant

to feed the cat, but were lost in dream's fodder -

the elephant and her calf who swam so near

but obeyed your command. You stand, half in

shadow, half in sun, and sense the pulse of their

clean strokes churning through that dream lake, the calf

in time with its mother, whose trunk, with care,

gives you a white lotus, to hold, to bear.

Temple Cone


Late rain over the mountains. I run the long road

Past the whitewashed church near my house, the grounds

An acre of man-high corn, a crop uncropped

All summer, gold paling to straw. A shriek of starlings

Curls above the field, the way water closes after

A stone. Hundreds. A thousand. From the ground

The starlings resemble the swallows that flew south months ago.

But the starlings are not swallows. They swarm empty trees

At night, leaves culled out of darkness, and their song

Fills the roads like the ring of guns in winter,

An angry report of metal in the cold which drops off, quiet.

Even crows fear them. A swallow's wings are velvet, not silk,

And catch the rough fingers that smooth them.

I shot a swallow once, when I was a boy, then cupped its body

In my hands. Now, while starlings wheel overhead,

Twilight soft sifts to the ground, curling around me

The way the shadowy starlings canopy the trees.

The crown of the swallow is blue. Not the blue

Of rain-capped mountains, nor of gunmetal in full light.

The swallow's crown is sapphire, deep as empty sky.

Quickening now, I pass an oak summer squalls tore down.

Its leaves have turned color with the other trees,

As if they didn't care about the storm, and covered the oak

In a quilt of red and brown, the color of dried blood,

Of rust, of the down of the swallow's throat. O child,

What did you think the shadows would say?

The rains will still fall. The starlings will still come

At night, and sing beneath your window.

Child, there are words written on the heart

Of things that never come to mastery, words indelible

As the call of birds in winter. And it is the heart

That stutters these words. The heart stutters to speak them.


The burned man dreams tears

Of lanolin run down the wind-

And fire-swept steppes of his face,

Purple gentian, puffed morel.

These tears swallow the tears

Of pus his body weeps for itself,

Staining sheets with memories

Of rafters snapping like matchsticks,

The molten roof pouring in,

Then the distant stars of hands

Hoisting him, from out a womb

Or burning coffin, he couldn't say.

The nurse assures him, regular

As a rosary, he saved the girl,

She's back with her mother, his wife

Or somebody's wife, he's beyond

That now, resting in a hammock

Strung between silvery aspens.

There's wind, and a dog guzzling

Water from a bowl, who salves his face

With the moist rose of her tongue.

When I Picture the Beginning of Time

Birds chime throughout the day: matins, lauds, nones, vespers.

The Greeks believed the hours were feathered. Secretly

We long to hear the owls, who will stay awake with us.

A universe waits in a bleached snail shell brimming with dew.

The wind that stirs rusty oak leaves from the grass

Blew in from the Alps, and after this place, will carry on.

The soul is shaped like an almond, the almond like an eye,

The eye like a tear. So the tree of death waits in the garden of life.

The almond's a fruit, though we don't eat its flesh, but its seed.

When the heron marks his slow path through the marsh,

I wonder how it will affect the price of gold in London.

When I hear the price of gold, I don't worry about the heron.

God is the streambed and the stream. We're what He carries,

The storm-felled tree that thinks too much of itself, drifting along.

We need only look at the beaver's dam to reclaim humility.

A teacup steaming by the windowsill is mercy. One hand

Passing it to another is charity. When I picture the word love,

I see a little girl throwing clouds of millet seed to mourning doves.

Keith Ekiss

Above Muir Beach

On the long hike down, coastal scrub,

English plantain, thoroughly unnative.

We took the shortcut through the monastery,

acolytes in tennis shoes tending cabbage,

and stopped to eat our trespassing lunch

beside a shrine: three buddhas, one barely

shaped from its rock, another with a look

of such serenity it made sense - peacefulness

of stone, and the third, angry, the buddha

who said: Back to work, prayers at 3 a.m.

One apple in the backpack brought to share

under a tree, the bark so polished it seemed

worked by hand, more like a gazelle's antler

than wood. If I describe the world exactly

that doesn't stop it from changing. Slightly lost,

I tried to bother a resident for directions,

he was cleaning out his car, where I expected

chants over meditation mats, running a vacuum,

trying to suck up all the dust and probably finding

you never get it all. I almost began to shout,

so he could hear me over all that modern noise.

Cemetery at Hall

-        in memoriam, Evelyn Brooks

There's too much light.

The smell, less of pine, more of earth.

Dry in summer. Clear cut: most stumps

dug up - there's one, still buried,

the roots won't let go. Tree

reduced to statuary, all torso. Hauled off,

planed to board and pulp, a tradition

my family worked the grain of, years ago,

north of Indian Lake, New York. Adirondack

villages like Speculator and Skaneateles -

plank towns such as the one Evelyn Brooks

remembers, and when she thinks of it now,

she speaks of the novelty of ice cream.

On the shelf of shellacked oak, thick spines -

biographies, the face of Reagan, Family portraits:

seven Waldo brothers dressed like hanging judges,

Uncle Ernie, cigar in hand, a raffish slouch

who lost his life in the lake by drowning,

crossing to save a strand of burning trees,

where Evelyn said she'd never swim again,

Slack jaw, she's finally

dying, controlling her ceremony. She doesn't

want anyone to fuss. Still gossips - watches

the ladies vanpooling (haircuts, doctor's visits).

She retains a 19th century love of schism,

parades her skepticism and distaste - hearing

the rumor of the new Baptist minister at Hall,

a crossroads town she hasn't prayed in for years,

the little church, squat beside our family plots.

Always she newspapered straggling pansies

on summer trips to attend the dead.

Thunder, Range, Lightning

-        Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

There's a rhythm to late summer, days begin cloudless

      and blue; then, when you're not looking,

storms assemble over the horizon, bringing rain somewhere,

      if not here. I walk out, open to mirage and sweat,

open to sun. Despite the heat, still deadness of afternoon,

      summer's show of thunder, October is coming,

the light slants and angles against the hills, more uncertain

      than true summer's light. Mornings are forgiving,

cool winds benefit my cabin. It's only a slight chill,

      bringing to mind the first reminder of fall.

Fewer tourists, kids in new schools, one year older, a boy

      returns home to tell his mother they just aren't

making textbooks any easier. Mothers and fathers trying

      not to think how long until the next vacation.

It's a good time for sagebrush to bloom. A good time

      for lightning to stitch the earth, original fire

sparking the brush, burning down the end of summer.

Ari Finkelstein

After the Fall

After the fall of afternoon rain,

the sky unwrapped itself.

After the fall of sun-white limbs

into the grass, and after the fall

of his head to her lap, like a hairy fruit,

she went after the fall of sweet tree drops

with her tongue, and heard the parting of leaves

that comes after the fall of a fruit or a bird.

After the fall of that heart-shaped gift

to a patch of thistle, she fingered his ribs.

After the fall of her teeth in the fruit

and his teeth in the fruit, and after the fall

of his hands to her thighs, and then much later,

after the fall of their dewy eyelids

a cold wind slithered in, and there was the fall

of a star in broad day, like a flaming sword.

The Pivotal Moment

The pivotal moment slipped away

While I was talking, but that's alright.

I could always try again some day.

Or maybe it was in our smoke-dimmed café,

Or after that play, when I drank all night.

Like ash, or a word, the moment slipped away.

Spilled milk under the bridge, you used to say,

Laughing, with your head tilted to the right.

Better to try, try again some other day.

Should I blame your eyes? They never failed to take

My wits and breath; I suffered that delight

While the pivotal moment slipped further away

Each successive silent Saturday,

I would falter in moon or candle light,

But I would also try again some day

If you would let me, if you would stay

For half a second, I'd make things right.

The pivotal moment slipped away,

But I could always try again some day.


My love is much too cumbersome,

So take instead this triolet.

No matter how sweetly I strum

Your cheek, my love's too cumbersome.

You'll have your books; I'll have my rum.

A poem is easy to forget.

My love is much too cumbersome,

So take instead this triolet.

Tess Jolly

Sewing Machine

My mother spoke through threads,

stitched her voice into lines of colour

which ravelled out across her page.

Soothed by the low, familiar hum murmuring

through embroidery silks, the shirr and the shiver

as the wheel turned, I loved the glorious

pop as the needle broke the fabric, its tiny eye

finding the space between warp and weft,

little rows of teeth chattering in and out, in and out,

fast-forwarded into strings of words

as she guided the fabric over the metal heel

and the line was stitched.

The table was laid with trays of colour, beads

kept in honey pots, buttons mixed in one large jar

and she would smile as I touched

those precious things, knowing I was safe

knowing she was there, listening together

to the rhythm of her sewing machine -

as if it were a prayer.


In the monsoon heat that clings to our skin,

turns our hair brittle and dry,

fills our mouths and our throats with the sticky-sweet

fumes of the unfamiliar

that pour through Bangkok rain

your body craved can after can

of redbull and coke, energy drinks, hot tea

with its thick layer of sweetened milk

cloying to your cells. I'm dying for a drink, you'd say.

Thinking it would make you well

I brought them to you, each one taking you closer

to a no-man's land

where you lingered undecided.

You told me later you'd heard voices,

seen colours flash on the backs of your eyes,

said you remembered waking somewhere

then nothing

until the face of an angel watching over you,

shining with the life she had just saved.


You pretend it isn't happening.

I am desperate to be positive -

platitudes falling from me like dead leaves

wrapping you in your loss

which you repeatedly, bitterly, name.

I do not know what it was to wake and see yourself

mirrored and blurred, drip to each wrist,

oxygen tubes in your nose,

to hear voices calling the ebb and flow of your life

to marry, settle, return - but darling

I watched as you slept, I carried you dying

over an angry, whelming sea

and I will not look at what you have lost

but name only this:

the life still yours to name.


Twilight brings a dream of water overflowing -

lyrics without music, blood.

Last night's stars are hidden

in the heavy, rain-swollen July sky

and the sun is poised below the horizon.

Willing pain I surrender

as you begin your slow journey towards

survival, this moment when your perfect head

crowns, knocking on heaven's door.

Jennifer Key

The Sick Dog

Sweet pagan heart, Diana of the hunt,

we keep you tethered close to us, slow of

foot, mortal, earthbound, golden girl who once,

a copper bolt, plucked a duck from the blue

sailcloth of sky to feel that emerald throat

pulsing within your own, at whose approach

tall grasses part, where in summer fields sleek

creatures lived and died according to your

quicker unblinking eye, though the bright blood

on your tongue these days is oftener your own

as you erase the trace of everywhere

you've been and bled throughout the house - such dull

quarry for a dog like you. Shaved and stitched

where once sunlight did fasten to your fur,

a sticky burr not even night pulled clean -

your coat of flame the chattering class of birds

embroiders into nests, entwining fur

as if the world were able to rescind

each hard-fought loss and make good use of us,

as if whatever's lost could be retrieved

again. It can't. Listen, if we are saved

at all it will only be by bird beak

and black wing, wren and starling, junk birds that

scavenge the yards at dawn while you watch on

in silence and suffer us our science

as well as our mild God, in whom you can't

believe as you already know how this

will end. Futile the blessing of the priest's

pale hands upon your muzzle when a bone

would be better and more honest at least

for such a wise, all-knowing augurer

of wind and architect of lesser fates

we do not mourn: ruffed grouse or groundhog's neck

in that unholy vise of your grey jaw -

so it comes to all, if not violent then

violated. Rolled over, your stomach's

a map of cancer, cutting, and metastasis.

Where you rest a dark stain seeps. High priestess

of brindled woods, where late you read the runes

of horn and hoof, leaf-litter and twig-snap,

where shadows spill, black hieroglyphics written

by the trees, that you alone were born to translate;

love and grief, two sides of the same green leaf.

Here, lace your step through rushes where geese roost,

past oak roots knuckled deep into the banks

of silver lakes returning now to us

as mirrors of their own making. At dusk,

the little lights that lick across the lake

come on whether we're here or not. For now

we are. Be glad. Travel until the day

pulls in her sail, sails on. Beautiful girl,

wherever you're going, I'm going there too.

West Virginia

In a bathtub in Hiko, West Virginia,

my figure inverts in the faucet's gleam,

fabricating the lie that the body is a thing

that's just as likely to show up here

as anywhere. Consciousness tempers a bit

with water like this plastic cup of bourbon

and ginger translucent with melted ice.

The trance of silence from the hotel hall

whirs in the ventilation fan.

I'd like to leave it all behind

in the unmade bed as though this happened

a long time ago and I'd have to look hard

to find it again. Instead I water myself down

with some new trick or other

and see the horizon as a brick heel of a house

where a lawnmower hums out back.

What can any of us know about ourselves

except that we're good for filling out

the sleeves of our shirts?

Still today at a pumpkin fair in southern Ohio

I saw a man lift a meanly glowing beauty

by his teeth.


I return to the drowned creek

of memory where two currents wash,

saline and fresh, the past and this year's.

When the hillside sparks a tinder

of electric filaments sheer to the Potomac,

I walk the deer paths in the roan-colored woods.

Gone now the undertow of creeper and sumac,

gone, too, the lost loves I thought would break

my heart in two. A hundred fires flame up golden

among the branches and wait

to be extinguished. Rain will come -

the small pine-cones unlock their careful cages

and unfold. Soon the thumbprint of ice

will quiet Black Pond, and I think

I might always be content

to name the beautiful things of this world

with the word loss.

Who else would be so foolish

to welcome her own undoing every year?

"Listen," the flickering leaves cackle and call

as they toss down their heavy burdens,

"Will you never be happy?

All summer, you have been loved

and it still was not enough."

Karen Llagas

Archipelago Dust

Einstein did nothing in class but smile,

         his mind already building cities

                  in grid, at sixteen. It seemed important

to learn the rules of logic and efficiency, all

         those years I posed as a student engineer.

                  How Numbers were always clean,

like the boys who smelled of soap, who solved

         my math problems, while I closed my eyes

                  in class for minutes or hours. Subservient circle,

the parallelogram, unhinged. At the end of lines

         to infinity are towns lit with lost coins.

                  Daydreams, I remember, while professors

gave abstractions shape. The windows were always closed:

         Manila smog tapping, the jitney's din. What a dusty

                  archipelago it was. The tropical heat was the greatest ally

of the Spanish friars, kept my ancestors half-asleep.

         I only believe in stories , a friend says while

                  San Francisco gets rinsed by fog. It's almost dawn,

that time when you know that everything beautiful

         about a place has nothing to do with you, and it okay.

                  Somewhere north, because they're not afraid to be thirsty

all the time, the redwoods are one breath farther from where

         they began. My friend and I eat cold fries, in our mouths

                  the taste of salt and lard, the heat of drunkenness wearing off,

I tell him that in one story of belief, there's a planet

         so small a child brooms it clean in seven steps.


After her last child, my mother's womb remained open,

innocent again as the last room in the ark when it opened.

When a star collapses while we sleep we feel a lightness

in our chest, by morning a window surprises us, left open.

The rain has been stubborn for weeks, the city catching

small hard fists on pavement, insisting, earth, open .

Your love like cinnamon on the tongue, like sweet smoke,

how the honeyed door of the bees, for the thief, opens.

The radio host demands the desert borders be closed

but the ocean this morning loses its walls, stays open.

My grandfather said an act nourishes or kills depending on

its speed: the bread and the bomb can both be broken open.

A black-out, a Christmas, our friend testing positive-the city,

from your eyes brimming with methamphetamine, opens.

A child says, This is what it looks like, where God lives , a church

empty of its parish, a space only what once was can open.


Where I grew up what scared us

         was deep and female.

Violet lips, hair transparent

         in moonlight.

Her name means to remove

         and she did, her spoonlike

tongue scraping wet wombs,

         eyes of mongrels,

hearts of husbands simplified by desire.

         In the hours she stalked,

the mosquitoes rose

         and my mother's breathing

told me she forgot someone was still

         watching while we lay

in a circle of salt.

         "Look at the acacia tree,"

I said to no one-

         a mute, bloodied angel there,

trying to grow wings.

         Always in our house, there was one

room where sleep didn't visit.

         It was where the spirits

and the mangoes were kept to ripen,

         until their sweetness became myth.

O to be cradled by tasks: winnow

         the rice grains from the pebbles,

unclip the shirts from the clothesline.

         Where I grew up what fed us

was deep and female.

         Garlic fried with rice,

pagan cloves of garlic

         around our necks, amulets

against what we couldn't see.

         No one drowned in the town's river,

infants thrown learned how to swim

         immediately, and when they grew

their dreams became enormous teeth.

Idra Novey

About a Field

After the last house, the land extends like a hand

before the mouth of a horse. You come to it all year,

in high drifts of snow, in stands of new grass

and Joe Pye Weed.

                                           You walk through five foot asters,

and understand momentary . You understand beauty .

You turn seven. Your family is a button and it unfastens.

In the world beyond, a war begins.

                                                  You pay attention,

recognize now some of the dimensions of loss.

You want to offer up something, but to whom, to what?

You move and move. Take on another hemisphere,

try to grasp what happens between one country

and another. End up married.

                                        You understand become.

                                        You understand compromise.

You turn quieter. A salty coastal wind carries pollen

from a cluster of asters into your open hand.

For a second, you are everywhere you have ever been.

Seated Nude X

A cream tide

combs over the feet,

two breasts tilt

in their uneven way:

a faceless body

made still life, geography -

as she showed shadefall

on jimsonweed, a pelvis

the desert swept

from the heavier bones,

and a calico rose

in the socket

of a cow's skull

remembering a brown eye.

She took a life stilled

and made it shifting.

Getsures of flesh

set aside -

except for these few nudes

one X at a time

against a far rise,

a certain distance, calling.

The Sonatas

In certain valleys of Appalachia, a translucent blue-veined berry grows,

rumored to flood the body with a feeling like music. None of us

admit to having picked them, though the low-hanging clusters

disappear every summer from their trees - plucked clean,

between late evening and dawn.

When all together, at block parties

and bonfires, someone always makes a joke about the berries

and their heady fragrance becomes more difficult to ignore -

the strange blend of burnt sugar and slept-in sheets, of sweetness

and misdemeanors. Later, in the shadows of the trees,

we lick at our fingers.

K.B Ballentine


A spear of light scratches

the dark clouds overhead and time stands

still - movement arrested

by a well of pain.

Sutures of a life re-stitched

over broken

memories have burst open

like a robin's egg smashing to ground.

Carnations bought for your bedside

will now decorate your new home -

dark and earthy.


once again

ticks toward oblivion,

but I concentrate

on the carrots I will cook tonight:

they were your favorite.

The Gloaming

Holy well and faerie tree

stand silent in the lengthening


The stones of this sacred place

suffered sinners knelt in penance

witnessed prayers of saints muffled

through the leafy grotto

begging forgiveness

or, at least, forgetfulness.

Worn course around the white-thorn

bears witness

to generations of pilgrims grasping

for miracles

through a cobweb of requests covering

branches bound

with ribbon and cloth - knots of hope

and regret.

Progress alienates this place -

ancient worshippers fostered

the faeries, assembled the stone.

Priests later blessed this tree,

this water with a saintly name.

Now even sanctuaries empty,

Sundays squandered sleeping -

                                           a genocide of faith.

Holy well and faerie tree.

Memories whisper

through white blossoms,

wrinkle the water's surface

as it gathers up the last

glimmer of day.

Susan Briante


My dog bounds through the kitchen, dining room     a blue rubber ball

in his mouth,     he buckles, dives

as if to protect his prey     from my advances.

Cars take the corner in their rust shawls.

The ball is a globe of the world; the dog is named Moon

the Aztecs could make something more of thisI flail

about half-heartedly, while the dog jumps.     Today I am tired

of being American.     I am done     with advancing.

In the utilitarian insistence of the Midwest, beautiful maps     show heat

and intensity of storms     red and greengold blossoms cross prairies

on my television screen.

Along the interstates, wildflowers red and blue and purple and lilac and so on

planted by the former first lady

            Was this to make-up for the Tet offensive?

My dog does not know fetch, does not share.

I get moody, new wood, Rachel tells me, in spring

new leaves push to the surface. So much harder this green

than the soughing

off of fall.

Tell that to the tree.

Planes rearrange a low ceiling of cloud; all over my neighborhood,

single-family bungalows fall to townhouses.

Great cycles of weather and community, storms of capital flight, slum clearance,

football stadiums bring Mexican construction workers to Dallas, New Orleans,

            to raze and raze

remapping in subtle ways, a culture, querida, corridos

from the skeletons of condominiums-

            a kind of serpent on the back of the altar piece.

My dog rolls his ball under his paw,     bites at its side.

The peachtree on my neighbor's lawn is in fruit,

from blocks around people come, pick what they wish.

Laura Bush, what will you plant for us?

If I could stand on the roof of my duplex, I could map a circuit

of the peach tree's commerce

            draw lines from my neighbor's birthplace in Zacatecas to those of friends

pulling fruit from her tree (Sinaloa, San Salvador, Lima).

            Those lines might make their own flower.

In the evening storms blossom through the neighborhood

bruising fruit, leaving hail and the sockets where hail fell.

Car alarms cry down the street.

My dog whines out the window         to his empty backyard

I could say he is answering car alarm, peach pollen, wildflower seed, demolition dust,

love songs from Zacatecas carried on a violent breeze

-but he probably just needs to pee.


I tell the wind. Hurry.

Windows Wood Roof

                                                     Newark, NJ

Ailanthus grows on the rim of a parking lot above the train tracks in a pile

of trash between concrete and chain-link fence.

From this train, you regard places you'll never reach,

storage containers, Quonset huts, bricks in fields,

warehouses the size of a cathedral,

web of wires, porcelain floaters.

"Detox the ghetto," a billboard reads.

We do not need to care for one another.

The years chainsaw, they gasoline first

windows      wood      roof

the face-even the beloved face-when wood pulls from wood,

a space between root and rotten leaf, tracks and trees,

so close so often I cannot see you.

Through a backyard: surveyors' equipment, cars stopped at a traffic light.

And the mind does not pause      takes the most familiar exit.

Ghetto with an international airport, ghetto with a Roman Catholic basilica,

         six tracks across

The years offer rot, openings, redevelopment,


a billboard above the abandoned factory,

sunlight where never before.

And Suddenly it's the First of the Month

you mail the rent check,

watch jasmine blossoms fall from the bush

magnolias open like saucers from fine porcelain place settings.

How much longer will we decide to love one another?

An ex once told me if I ever fell in love with another man

he would wish us the best, then take everything

in our mother-fucking house

                                       - and torch it.

Take this view of the rose of Sharon at the far end of the porch

Take this crumpled paper napkin, this cork.

How much can any of us carry?

And when I sift through the last few days

I think of the blue heron alighting on the cottonwood at the end of Jim's yard,

right near Boggy Creek, right in the middle of our memorial day barbecue.

And all of us-even the children-turned from the fire for a moment

to look at it.

Chad Davidson


The last stand of Japanese Maple trees

peppers the cemetery path in crimson.

In the distance, two retrievers dart

between the fence's thin pickets.

Their loose pelts glide as they themselves glide,

as leaves scurry by the lakeside, headlong

into a tremendous and certain future.

Last night, preparing hens, you lifted their skin,

rubbed curry and olive oil. We let the blind

eye of the television undress the room

as you undressed the hens.

Turbaned men and boys with rifles,

all in a veneer of sweat and linen,

sat in a circle, eating. You said,

I used my hands for the first time.

Outside, the neighbor hangs an American flag

next to a plastic skeleton.

Shelter must have waited for those retrievers.

When I stopped one, it was nameless,

as is the smell in the kitchen this morning.

I say dark, burnt nutmeg.

Nameless too, the scent

of turmeric sifting into night clothes,

haunting them as churches

haunt their cemeteries.

What is the loneliness of flags?

Take Care

If you find yourself lost in the terrible

Mediterraneanness of exile, shall you sit

under the awning of an outdoor café,

somewhere not quite Naples yet adequately

midday, with a Jack Russell Terrier

named Damocles, and order the tart.

And shall you admire the rain's signature

on the pavement pocked with histories of travel,

like the rain outside Pienza after we stopped,

though broke, at the B&B to check the rooms.

And shall we stay there some time,

after the terrible Mediterraneanness of your exile,

though it must be built up by now (they do that,

carve out a pool, plop an outside pizza oven down

and, wham-o, everything's shiny). And shall you

wear the green blouse you bought in Perugia

in a street market, from a man with his van door

open and all those blouses (there must have been

hundreds), and his kid, or whoever's kid that was,

on top of it all like a little despot with the tire iron,

and we of very little money, starved, eating cheap pasta

(you the boar ragù,and I this sublime - I don't even know

what they called it - farmer's pasta , or some silly

bucolic thing like that), and it was the zucchini, we thought,

like nothing we could ever find here, nothing we were

used to, which left those little green smudges

we took turns with bread sopping up

(doing the little shoe, as they say in Italian).

And shall the wine be cheap and good

in the terrible Mediterraneanness of your exile.

And shall it be ruby and come in fat-bottomed

dark green bottles, the same ones

my mother bought lemon juice in.

And shall the waiter at the outdoor café

say you are beautiful, though you won't know

(you'll be conveniently amid sunflowers).

Beautiful , he'll say, in his starched, cultural distance,

and it's not like it will be a nice place or anything,

and the guy probably just wants the hell out, wants

to uncover some lover in a green blouse,

and here you stumble in hungry. And shall he not

actually say any of this or the equivalent in Italian,

but instead look at me off camera-yes, I'm there-

with the kind of look that says, Take care of her, yes .

I have taken care that you should not be exiled,

though you must help me with my irrational fears

of the terrible Mediterranean, or work,

as you are so damn good at doing, slowly,

to work my mind off the idea of such terrible

Mediterraneanness. And you'll have to be committed,

regular as sprinklers, or smudge pots in the lemon

groves near where I grew up, sit me down

with a glass of okay red wine, nothing too fancy,

and say, simply, let's watch bad TV .

And since I hate whodunits, the idea

of losing you may just fade into history,

like the Middle Ages and their fear of the fork,

which was, remember we read, invented for pasta.

How could something so Art Deco, so bone-

necessary, so cornerstone, so type O,

ever almost be wiped off the face

of this planet spinning so quickly

it all seems so still, so perfect and still

a leaf only jitters under the weight of a moth?


Millenia from their names, the Pleiades

reveal the quiet of sisters buried in the day,

and I was fifteen when Sandy Schatz betrayed

the better part of nights instructing me

on how to impose order on the cosmos.

Betelgeuse-rounding out Orion-

means "shoulder of the giant"

in Arabic, she said, and I imagined desert

stasis the night a few men, cloaked,

shivering, discovered a pinpoint

burning in the hunter's deltoid.

Or in her staunchly Catholic parents' closet,

away from the prosaic light of day,

we listened to her little sisters rumble

up the stairs, thrilled at last to catch

a glimpse of our naked bodies. We prayed

the feel of flesh on flesh grew from speaking of it.

When I talk about her now, long vanished,

I am told I do so with strained nostalgia.

I see her this way: in the aftermath

of sex, guilty for not feeling guilty,

the instant before we unlock, embarrassed

for no reason. The universe is expanding:

all the names we had for it, the old

misgivings and the new, as are we, wanting finally

to notice the unspeakable change in our blood

and planets, with those who have grown beyond us.

Katy Didden

On Hearing of the Trend for Sexy Chamber Music Trios

Lean your body

into mine

  as I lean back

against the hills

of Nelahozeves.

  You the hollow body,

me the bow

across your back.

  Inside you, me,

inside me

sound, as a bell

  at the pull

of a hand

or the fill

  of the wind.

Arc in when I

arc back,

  bind my arms

with arms

and hum

  your song

inside my ear.

Let river in,

  let leaves

on air be over us,

snug to the hollows

  of you, let me.

No longer one,

we're three

  as three encircle

all ways one -

inside, around,

  between, among -

let melody untwine,

go split,

  let what was me

be three

but mute:

  one under waves, one

held in chains, and one

who plies the glim

  supine, the glinting

spine of you,

split too,

  in tune, inrooted

wingless on the green

under and above

  the leaves, bent back

on the hill

under waves

  in the sway

of the words

in the lines

  and the light

on your spine

till we're gone

  in the song -

come back, love,

here, love,

  in-hum, come.

Ode to the Ear

Which came first:

  word, or ear?

    If word, then all the world's

an ear. Into darkness

  the poured word


What was (the body)

  hollowed into form

    against which

word could ring.

  The galaxy

    (the limit of the seen's)

a star-pinned chord,

  the earth

    its low, low E,

spinning from when

  our sun

    was sung,

our turning towards

  a tuning.

    If we begin

in rhythm,

  won't that be

    the way we end?

Not stilled along

  an infinite descent,

    but the ear we are

spoken open,

  breaking in the shape

    that allness



    new syllable.


-         The Natural History Museum, NYC.

Spun steel apes the stars -

museum astray in metal.

Clare runs up the ramp,

laps the sun on the slant

rim of Saturn. She spirals

near the rail, animates the plan

that what seems, is - map of time,

God's atelier, he who strum-

tunes the spheres in the ether-

stream, unsettles the pall

when winter tints the sunlit panes

to pale. In our ears, the aria

of Mars, a trumpet, a minaret,

tears the seams of minutes,

stills the spheres. Clare tires.

Tears mar her star-rapt aura;

her steps sputter in the near-inert

measure of terrapins. Earth turns,

time inters us, simple materials all,

still reaping time-lent elements

for rare allures (palettes of pearl,

the sea's innate salts) as the sun

in raiments of mist serrates seen

with unseen. Let the mute umpire,

who nips our stint, relent -

snap the starlit tarp, unstun the air

in sleet. In lapis pleats, as she sleeps,

let Clare - who illuminates

rooms - assume the eternal.

Unnail the plane for the aerial.

Let elation be netless, elliptical.

Brieghan Gardner

Studies in Yellow and Blue

Late in the afternoon, sunlight lands in window shapes

on the living room and kitchen walls. Shadow patterns of maple leaves

flicker on the white wall behind the sofa. The silhouette of a birch

appears in its block of light by the refrigerator. On windless days

you can trace them, tape heavy paper over the walls and

paint down the quivering shapes of leaves and branches

with a soft brush and watercolors.

Following the outlines, filling in the dark splotches,

you can pin the shadows of the trees to the walls for later.

As the summer progresses and the light changes, slowly

swinging southward, you can cover the walls

with a migration of tree shadows.

But why do this?

The canary in the coal mine

remembers the yellow kitchen and the bright window,

the white lace curtains that shivered on the breeze. She remembers the cat

who watched with one eye, one pricked ear, from the plump, blue chair in the corner.

She remembers the morning, the songs of the birds of the earth's surface.

She used to sing them too.

Now, she hangs in her cage in the dark

cavern, listens to the splitting and shattering of rock, the

grinding of metal on metal, and on stone. The only light

she sees is from the headlamps of the men who labor there,

all indecipherable night and day.

The canary doesn't sing anymore, exactly, but

ventures an occasional, inquisitive chirp. One of the men

speaks to her when he passes, says "Hey, Bird. Hey, Birdie-bird," or

whistles, himself, clucks and chirps as he walks by her cage,

then down one of the impossibly dark hallways.


Six weeks after the stroke, my father

still lies in the hospital in Boston,

tube down his throat, his whole body a wound.

While we wait for his brain to heal, his lungs,

heart, eyes, all try to give out one after the other.

Every day we wonder

if we should have let him die.

When I open the truck door

in the parking lot of the hospital,

the porcelain teacup decorated with green flowers

in which I've been carelessly toting coffee for a month

falls on the pavement and cracks, reminding me

that I haven't been to the dentist in three or four years.

It took me a long time to learn

to drive the truck, to work the clutch,

to let go and push at the same time,

give up control and count on regaining it with speed.

When we stop being children, we lose,

among other things, the ability

to run downhill, fast, with abandon.

But it's the sudden fear of death

that makes us appreciate the perfect things we usually

take for granted: the postal system, chemistry, birdsong...

I read to my father, the same chapters, the same essays,

over and over because he falls asleep sometimes. After

two or three readings, it all becomes poetry.

All my life, my father has talked

about a story he wrote while he was in college,

of an old man who kept homing pigeons

in a pen in his yard, came out on winter mornings

huddled deep in his coat and fed and

released them, then trudged back to the house.

My father, the omniscient narrator,

saw the birds swell into the sky and

circle above the old man's house, a storm

of unexpected beauty, but the pigeon keeper, safe

inside his thick coat, never looked up.

He knew they would return, and didn't need to.

Henrietta Goodman


The sign along the road that says Thickly Settled

means population, not soil,

but how many years ago did the horse

begin to cross the ice? I wade out,

the lake bottom hard-packed beneath an inch

of sediment inlaid with some globular weed,

the horse's spiked ribs still tethered somewhere

in the dark water like an ultrasound image -

my son's ribcage floating ghostly

in a black sphere, just large enough

to hold a tiny bird. Across the lake,

sun streams through bars of cirrus.

When my friend said the aftermath

of grief was solution, he meant science,

not remedy: the way grief drags us down

like a load of snow-covered logs,

then suddenly lightens, the way my feet

cloud the water - not gone, that layer,

but lifted, dispersed.

This Is How You Can Tell

If a girl ever drives three hours alone to a bar where she's too young to buy beer,

if she stands in the back in red lipstick watching the black, hammer-struck moon of your thumb as you play guitar,

if she follows you home along a two-lane road over dead snakes and possum, past kudzu-covered trees rearing up through the fog,

if you pull over where the road splits and she pulls over behind you and you sit in her car drinking coffee from a thermos while Muddy Waters sings I'm a man, a full grown man,

if you thump the side of her car twice with the palm of your hand before you go, a band of bluish light already spreading in the sky behind you -

she loves you, I promise, though I know she hasn't said so.

Thermodynamic Elegy

I step off the trail for a pack-train to pass and everything

hums: electric wires strung overhead on androgynous

steel towers, flies sizzling on the droppings of horses.

Snakes of smoke rise from the parched basket of Hell's

Canyon, and the creek descends in a white rush that makes

its own wind, stalls in a dark pool where clots of algae

bloom, then pours through the dam in combed rows. A wall

goes up when I think too far into it, the way someone chased

in a movie runs into a blind alley, the way the earth spins

dizzily if you lie still and close your eyes. Lie still

and close your eyes, wherever you are, and I won't try

to imagine what it's like. Where the trail crosses a rockslide,

a sudden coolness rises between rocks. I pick one up,

hold my hand over the black draft, then put it back.

Alisa Gordaneer


in another time, i would be your acolyte, would hold

your robes high over the singing cicadas or brush wet

dew from your arms before letting you rest. i would

be the one who breathed on your wrist to let you know

dawn had arrived, having poked myself awake with

sharpened ends of grasses, reeds, feathers, to ensure

i was there

when you first fluttered your eyes.

and i would be waiting then, as you washed:

my hands full with the sight

of you, my eyes and mind with the small cells

and insects that range undisturbed.

i would hold those small

animals and cherish them. i would be your acolyte,

would kiss your hems, would follow.

i would speak to you

only    in the flight of the swallow.



you begin, again, your body unfurled

like a cicada, wings gentled into being.


this is how you know where you are: the sky

is pink as the inside of lips. you have identified



if you could imagine three, you would place it in balance

above all else. ready to topple.


running, first, then falling forward. you have decided

upon this course of action, because all else seems slowed and cold.


you spread your green wings, step off

into space. and then ---

saving summer

in the small ways of peaches bottled in glass, the big chest freezer

filled with berries, chickens, fish caught and iced

but also in the scents of spanish broom, passiflora, sweat on a friend's shoulder

when least expected.

and in the colours, your skies wrapped in a pink lace shawl, your body warm

as yellow peach,

your senses humming with the buzz of hives, and then honey.

the chickens' pleasant muttering like wind soft on your neck.

you gather this harvest, hold it aside. whisper now,

abundance, your words round and sweet.

it's all for winter, when trees rise bereft

and the mouth


Heather Hartley

To My One Love's Letter

My darling M,

The alphabet is anorexic.

There's not enough flesh

to express what I mean


Suffice it to say

my heart is the verb

you conjugate perfectly.

M marks the spot dark and hot

where I'm under my one

love's letter's spell.

Une Voix Céleste

                              -at an organ concert

Underneath the swell, the great, the positive, one

Note sounds long and high. I look down.

Even from this low loft, music swells, I'm stunned,

Vertigo strikes, the organ sighs. The sounds

Open other pipes; I close my eyes.

It's your voice in these notes

Expressing something dark and disguised.

Crushed notes are caught in your throat

Eased only by certain stops. But now it's too

Late to stop, to compose, to choose. A voice,

Elusive somewhat off-key, one I never knew,

Speaks for you, through you, black keys, white noise.

Then I knew. Two voices, separate, are yet the same,

Emerging as a duet, still remain unnamed.

* une voix céleste is an organ stop that produces a gentle tremolo effect on the organ.


                  -for D. and M.

In that photograph you sent, the one with flowers behind,

I could tell you their color but not what they were,

I could count the times we've spoken on the phone,

the color of the Danish man's eyes.

It's him, you, in that photograph with the flowers.

But that was weeks ago-years.

I think that's what you said, 'It's in his eyes.'

When we spoke it was the day after your wedding and you and I were far away.

It's in your hands, like everything else.

I could tell you that Istanbul was built on seven hills,

that Copenhagen has four syllables,

that there will be happiness and more.

But why-

just look up.

Kristen Henderson

Poems Everywhere

The phone company's been here

three times and still my long

distance calls are not clear.

In straining to hear

every word - the static, garbled

hellos, the wires that stymie

the seasoned technician,

there's a poem. Even in the mangled

ant being carried by its brethren

across the sticky kitchen floor,

the load of its body

heading toward an entirely

different poem

in the corner of the room

where the few sweet crumbs

crushed to dust provide a feast

before another will succumb

to clumsy feet. When will they

grow big enough to retaliate

like the science

fiction movies promise?

Some day I'll write a poem

that will come true,

and another, or let them all go

into the surprisingly warm

wading pool of things

I can not do.

For now, trucks

compose road songs

outside my window

just as fast as they are blue

and before they unload the gravel

to pave our country roads,

the furniture to make comfortable

our insomniac bones,

the fruit whose juices drip down

the side of simple wooden crates

before being placed

uniformly, like an audience,

in rows at the supermarket

where no two pears

are the same.

Poems everywhere,

and always on the move.

Catherine Hope

Autumn, Winter ... and Spring

Boy on Glenferrie Hill

Small boy,

stocky in his winter parker,

stoops to collect

a brittle autumn leaf

(precious trophy)

and stuff it in his


plastic shopping bag.

Dead Bird

On the footpath concrete

a bird's head

carelessly dead -

while its body

by some accident

lies in the suburban garden.

Harsh contrast of

its black feathers

wet, clinging to the

unmoved grey concrete,

it lies

there in its ruin

and reminds us of

things to come.

Losing you (after Aidy)

I lost you again that day

as I peered

ever closer at the fuzzy

pixilated image of

You and that girl

that you'd posted on

the internet.

I'd laughed at first.

Having pondered for

a while the difficulty,

diplomacy of

how I would go about

finding you,

I simply

typed your name

into the search function

and you rose


like a bubble.

Well - not just you.

The page, I'd thought,

was supposed

to be about you - but here

was she,


the two of you,


And I thought,

I've lost you again.

After years of wondering,

Perhaps, perhaps,

I've lost you again


in the instant that you appeared




Nina Lindsay


Two friends drive me home and I complain

that a friend's younger sister

has got a poem in The New Yorker

that is unnecessarily convoluted

and contains an untranslated line in French.

My friend in the back seat

says she really liked it. It reminded her

of another friend-in-common, whose husband has suddenly died.

I get home. It's late.

I make blue cheese on walnut toast.

The toaster's antique chrome placard reads:



My husband sleeps,

dreaming his unnecessarily convoluted dreams.

I dine

and in the morning I will kiss him.

Mondays are like this

On the morning I have nothing to be happy about,

I am finally happy.

It is raining, so I've taken the train to work. I pass the gardener

working his blower,

making flaming piles of wet leaves and garbage.

I'm coming down with a cold.

I wave hello to the homeless Ghanaian historian, and to the man who sells me cheese

and who is on his way

to work in the opposite direction.

I am walking parallel

with the woman I sat next to on the train. She had been reading

quietly out-loud in Mandarin

as our shuddering bodies sped through the dampness.

Ambiguous despair mixed with the cold round our ankles.

But her words floated

on the warm inertia at shoulder level, like dandelion spores

like sparks of genius

igniting my sadness, burning it out, leaving a vacuum

where the world rushed in, taking up residence.

If not happiness, exactly, then necessary company.

Who can say truly that they are happy?

Who can believe they have no chance at it?

How else can one walk through the office door at eight fifty-six,

except like this: removing my coat, recalling my work, and getting to it.

Morning under construction

Give me the strength

of the laminated ticket,

         of the super-long-

         lasting lipstick

of the blonde hair that sprouts - phoenix-like - from my chin

Give me the strength

of no-smudge newspaper ink

         of the three-day-storm-

         breaking morning

of the pork chop that arrives, glistening, audacious, on my plate

         The strength of strawberry juice to stain,

         of the latches on old bus windows -

Give me the strength

of the sky-dividing cranes

         that pirouette pieces

         of the new bridge

and of the bridge to sway and bend and bear such a thing as traffic

         just to be beautiful

         just to be useful

                   though it causes competing factions to hurl invectives, costing billions,

just to do what it does, so well,


Jenna Martin

The Origin of the Swallow

It's as if the sky turned gray          suddenly

and the moon shifted from its rightful position. As if I can't recall my grandmother's face,

only the smell of camphor and lilacs in the bathroom. Things left unattended:

last year's Yule log in its wrap.

                                                        Fire never found.

It's as if language overlooked its purpose, leaving us

                                                                        to confusion and quiet longing.

                                    Bless me in this sense of errancy, of lost cause.

                                    Bless me for being in the center of my own dreaming. It is

as it is, and yet, I fight for what will be. Hard wood in lieu of linoleum, verb over place or thing.

                                    Why choose ease when there is so much beauty?

Embrace me as if my coming was inevitable.

There is fallen tree and power from the windmill;

                                                                        rushing water leading to wave.

And at the end of this sentence awaits a level field. I will play with you there.

I will bring everything by mouth and monument.

I will catalogue attributes and reason with the lesser gods about these passing days.

                                    Bless me for being the adversary in the stories you tell yourself.

                                    Bless me - for I may learn from my talk with the idols

that which I don't yet know: like the origins of the Swallow,

                                                                        the Brown Thrasher,

                                                                                                  the House Martin.

                                                                                                  And perhaps,

where time goes when she leaves us.


no interest in people who can't read,

no thirst for the drool of fornication,

of unrelenting tedium, If there is no

other world, I will die in this one, angry

about the trickery. I was told of the

monk, his vast library, his stunning

robes. If I've created my own division

I will see it through, take needle, sew

back up the parted seam. Every instance

of great information is dulled by the

automated drip of custom, of filtrated

bond. I will find God, if it means

living in the wide church on the hill,

3 square meals, disciples who scribe.

I will find God if it means blasphemy,

if it means faith, if it means bide.


I'd like to make love to her.

She has four names. Dances,

makes intricate designs, dreams

of fantastical napkin rings. I'd

like to make love to her. She has

4 faces - ranging from foreign

to familiar. She has 4 names.

I'd like to make love to her.

Does nothing but laugh.

Makes a sign that only I

know. One day, I'll make love

to her. She has four hearts,

Eight feet. She has one way.

I'd like to make love to her.

She has one name. I have 4

ways to make love to her.

I'd like to make. I'd like.

Valerie B. McKee



Ready to lay her eggs, the female catfish skims

the clay of the lake floor in search of a nest.

She weaves in and out of rocks, will finally decide

to build her own home for her fry. Her nose pushes

through mud like a pig sniffing for truffles, until she makes

a tunnel, surrounded by rocks, deep enough that no predator

can see in, and narrow enough that one could become stuck

in his search. She releases her fry and leaves. But the male stays

in the nest, guards the fry. Only at night does he move

to eat. Sometimes he doesn't have to. Lake life

attempt to find their own suppers in these caves,

but with his spines in perpendicular defense

and mouth wide enough to wrap around most trespassers,

the male catfish often finds his meals at home.

He protects the fry until they hatch, then will

stay with the young school to ensure their survival.


The dough's rising for biscuits and Daddy's fryin'

up catfish he got grapplin' this morning. Got us a blue cat.

I can't remember a birthday when he didn't wake

me at the crack of dawn to get my fish.

I'd pull on my bathing suit with sleepy arms

and shuffle out to the pick-up, Pop-Tart in hand.

When we got there, I'd sit on a rock, dangle

my feet in the cold water, and try to feel the minnows kiss

the tips of my toes, while Daddy waded out with his stick

in his steel mesh covered hand.

The year my mother left, he lost half a finger when he met

a turtle by mistake. Now he uses that stick to feel

for the fish♦tickle 'em out♦and gloves to protect

his skin and remaining digits from the cat's spines and teeth.

Today's my 30th, and I'm back in Tennessee for the first

time in nine years. This morning I sat on my rock, watched

him dunk under shallow water at the lake's edge, reach

into cavernous rocks, and felt my toes curl

as I looked for his body beneath the water's surface,

rings left by his descent gradually disappearing.

Suddenly, water thrashing like it's in a boiling kettle,

he popped up, half of his right arm deep

in the catfish's mouth, gripping

to my father, the predator, to protect his nest;

pulled from his home to feed my father's girl on her birthday.

At the house, I stand over the iron skillet, listen

to cornmeal and oil pop around his catch.

I'm soakin' up every bit of that good smell I can before I'm pulled

from the only place that ever knew me.

Last Will and Testament

When I'm gone, sprinkle my ashes

like a seasoning on the ground-

but not just in one spot. I'd like

an arm in Portugal, my lips in Greece,

one toe dipped in each of the oceans

(put two in the Mediterranean Sea).

My eyes should be placed at the base

of Kilimanjaro, so that they might

stick to the boot sole of adventure,

carry me to the top, and I'll look

out over the world I never saw,

never once thinking of the height.

What stays

is not the moment when I looked down

at the blood puddled between my legs

after waking to a twinge of pain

deep inside my not yet swollen belly -

like the swift pinch my mother

would give me when I asked

too many questions-but so far inside,

I couldn't imagine the source.

It's not the memory of squeezing each

of your fingers between each of mine

when the doctor told us it finally worked.

Or the years of sitting in that room hoping

against our failure.

The one that stays is the boy

turned around in the pew so he could smile,

blow kisses at me, no matter how many times

his father turned him back around.

I whispered, I can't wait to have one, expecting

you to stay silent. Instead you lifted my hand,

kissed my knuckles and said Neither can I.

Michelle McLean


Acres of them, an undulating dawn;

golden waves against a sepia toned sky.

Heads blown heavenward,

then pulled to the earth,

with the weight of the next generation.

A kick, as though on cue, tells me

you're busy surfing amniotic waves,

waiting to shore up in my arms.

I already love you too much;

I was afraid this would happen.

Sitting here in different skin, but

somehow more familiar than before,

my stomach rises like bread,

sacramental -

and I am overcome

with hunger.

Not sure I'm ready to see the world

from a mother's eyes;

to become fluent in the mother tongue.

We enter this world amidst

blood, pain and joy;

Our memory, mammary -

from first contact.

I sing a lullaby for both of us,

watch sunflowers glow;

Cradling newborn faith

in their alchemy of light.

Gardening Notes

I didn't clear the landfill of my mind

by recycling thoughts;

I had to break them down.

Rake piling pain, raw regret;

Longing, well-watered.

Tossed in seeds unfit for planting:

Peelings of skin I've shed.

Ancient anger, brittle betrayals

crumbled in my fist;

disappointments blown free

on opening my palms to the wind.

The process is hastened by stirring,

turning it all over from time to time -

           (although the smell can be off-putting.)

There are various techniques,

according to intent, how quickly

nutrients are needed

for healthy root development.

In wonder I watch pink-slick worms

transforming waste to rich, fertile soil.

Goes to show - you never can tell

where help might come from;

What form grace will take.

Often working behind the scenes,

eluding the naked eye,

doing dirty work unseen

as we strive toward a workable balance

of decay and growth, with plans

to create something healthy,

wholesome and clean.

Degrees of Separation

Only fifteen,

I didn't know much

about babies;

But I knew they shouldn't

be blue like an azure sky.

Do you still carry

those pictures with you,

as I carry them with me?

Or did you shed them, one by one

finding the collection too heavy?

I wish I'd known what to say,

straitjacketed behind the checkout

in my orange and navy apron,

clutching your pot roast like a charm

that could somehow protect me

from what had been offered -

something I had no language to name.

My tongue turned to stone with your

china doll smile, dark river eyes

as I watched you carefully return

them to your purse.

Isn't he beautiful?

You said


I think I said

He is.

Alexis Orgera

From the Field of Disquiet

What a weekend. I behaved! I smiled,

kissed his neck, made love. We sat in a field

above an old New England mill,


           mooned over our lives.

How lucky this, and that. The ripe fall falling

and falling all around us.

But the skin beneath my skin ached

from shaping days

into months into years. A timeline of accumulation

broods and bangs around like a revenant,

like the memory of some close past.

In church a long time ago we had a God

who didn't like short-haired women, though I kept mine

cropped all those years, slicing

my childhood into things that might have mattered:

God's screaming through the dogwoods, strangling evil

like a vine, gives me this flesh

to sculpt, to die with, my friend.

           We sang a song in church:

God speaks to us, by his great power

we're led. Let not your hearts become disquieted.

What an unruly heart I have. I can't do anything

without it, cried in public today,

welled up until I was so full

I could taste its delicious, serrated edges.

Let my heart rave when words corrode.

Let it ridicule anger, confine sickness. Let my heart,

in a mantle of darkness, disquiet the light.

The Elderly Mojave Finally Speaks Her Mind

You are you and I am I, a flexing flame

skimmer, sinkhole cavorter.

Patience and cholera, my dear. Platitudes, pampas brooms.

When I was your age, I beat the Coleman stoves

piled high against cinderblock walls

and clacked Budweiser cans with my springbok jaw.

The Queen Anne love seat left here works

to kindling. Your macramé rug? Hanging

from a floss line with the bleached bones,

Lavoisier's mirror chimes: I am here. I am not.

Here. Not. Today's mirage is an eye that catches

barred windows, shutters plastered

with L.A Times from before the earth

could read. People tell me, here, wear a feathered

beret, be a kindly movie star. Wear a tapestry,

leather elbow patches, be the succulent Gobi

for a day and forget all this -

as though I am tired of naked fire.

They never say, be the cacti clustered

like incisors in mouthfuls of grass.

Tell me, are your boots an Alcatraz?

Do tongues of sand burrow your skin?

Then you have no excuse to fear this place.

An old woman holds these things close

to her arid, limestone heart.

Lisa Ortiz


I wrap my daughter's backpack

in aluminum foil

as it is Halloween

and she is to be an astronaut.

Beyond the amber fog of porch light

her space suit lifts

down the long street

towards a tin moon.

For me it's like this:

hunched over the control board

my fingers on ear phones.

I worry that I missed

some mechanical sign.

When I count backwards from ten

the engines will explode all wrong

and all I am living for

will be suspended

in stars of remorse -

but how foolish

to want this night to remain

punched out in darkness:

a constellation of small fists,

and foil sweets.

To be Happy

A body singing in the kitchen

that's what you need, a dance hall kitchen

garlands of flowers, platters of brioche,

stuffed red peppers, a quartet in the corner

tuning their violins and sipping espresso.

Either that or a body cracked open

down to your knees in the dark, midnight

that won't ease up, horizon of a hungry star

a singularity that sucks in furniture

lines of long-held perspective

and then morning

and your family

in such a small kitchen

the dishes piled up

laundry, bills, sunlight

and two cracked cups

of bitter coffee, a little cream, two daughters

squeezed into one creaking chair: a morning,

an afternoon, a whole day.

Why You Can't Sleep

A moon: piss-colored,

binge-big, indulgent,

indulged, obese, greasy.

Nor a moon. The moon,

The one moon, no other moon,

not an elected moon,

no surveys passed around

asking about the moon you want.

It follows you, has since

you were a back-seat kid;

your mother said, an angel

or a devil's spy glass eye.

Some feelings you don't outgrow -

regret, hunger, envy: round and white.

There it is after your suitcase is packed

your note tacked, when you've made

it clear - you've gone.

The moon remains - says

with its orb of mouth: you don't change.

But, oh, it can change. There is a chart

out into the years ahead, how it leaves,

splits, goes missing

and they call that new -

until bam

back, as from a bender

the sky's giant jaundiced eye

God's turncoat spy

the one who knows

you are not so lost, just loose

knows your promises

are shards of glass

moonlit, and, face it: beautiful.

Joshua Rivkin


In the evening it's all fireflies.

They give the dark

permission to rest.

I go outside and lie down

under their alternations;

the smallest self I have

stretches inward.

It's unfashionable to be

this quiet, or sincere.

I find the ground with my body.

Or, find my body

with the ground.

A stubborn root

I taste the earth,

ask for more.

The Snap

Last week I wrote, "On the coldest day of the year, women in orange

parkas & men in herringbone scarves fill the city sidewalks like protesters,

shoulders down, marching against ice and wind." But today on the Metro

war protestors leaving downtown, cylinders of paper rage wrapped under arm,

crowd into the car - cheery, jovial - as if coming home from a friend's party,

tired and pleased with themselves, stringing together their blurred accounts

and then he said, and then she said, and then. And how can I trust in that?

Last week I wrote, "Even oak trees shiver their centurion trunks, generous plumes

of cinder and chill escape people and cars, & bones inside my body become

icicles, suspended above the wide avenues of longing." But today,

the salt left to dissolve the snow dissolves in the late morning sun,

a swallow fallen below the eight panes of the luxury lofts hops on one good leg,

and protesters ride the subway through the city of my body, those narrow passages

of melt and freeze, melt and freeze, making extravagant plans for the night.

Winter House, Galveston Island

                                     after psalm 92

It's good to want this: a bay window

         & its inner ledge, you can watch

tides of evening, last blessings

         of light, marsh grasses

wild like the wicked in their bright,

         distant cities. In heather fields

of sky, ox clouds roam free, and the

         wind hums a remembered line -

what we shall not perhaps get over,

         we do get past

repeating like green palms or cedar

         from Lebanon, multiplying, taking

over the space of mind kept clear,

         like the empty order of sand,

a beachhead of quiet made full;

         the ocean arrives, greets us

where we are, submerging this island's

         coast, this waiting shore.

Emily Rosko


Last night, a car hit a dog,

         and I kept going

back to the story about the boy

         who sat on the railroad tracks

waiting for a train.

         Someone once said, we are nothing

but vehicles in time. Our lives

         slipping away

toward a death. Maybe, we are

         like children who run down a hill

screaming. Leg after leg, the pull

         and release, the body

crashing down and lifting, almost

         the way lightning builds

from sky and ground, meeting

         somewhere in the middle.

There is a gulf

between happiness and despair.

         And that space defines us,

just as holes create beauty in lace.

         Tell me: does it matter now

which way the boy was facing?

         Or that the sleepy-eyed driver

continued to stroke the black coat

         of the warm dead dog?

(How I Stopped Worrying & Learned to Love) Central Pennsylvania

Each day moves slower, an Amish buggy

         traveling backward along the Susquehanna.

                  The father tips his hat, the children shift in

the sun. Yesterday, a cow dropped dead on the road.

         At the farmer's market, a fat widow wore five

                  rings on each finger, enticed me toward

her pies. Yesterday, I circled the house where I once

         lived. Everything enlarged, the pines footed by

                  mushrooms and rhododendrons

overtaking the front windows. Yesterday, rain again

         in buckets, blank ants swarming the pavement.

                  Yesterday, the Bull Run Inn packed with ball

fans, nightly regulars. The opera house's one remaining

         corner stone vandalized and pissed on. Yesterday,

                  a Siamese cat stretched on a porch,

the wood shutters left unhinged, the old owner's suspicious

         face. Yesterday, the pink underbellies of clouds.

                  Yesterday, I was so still I could've been a tree,

dreaming about autumn. It's a slow death,

         if you're a tree, you forget each day. That's how it is

                  with trees, with love. It starts with falling.

Legends from a Dead-End Street in West Virginia

Once, I put broken glass in Wanda the Witch's mailbox

in revenge for yelling at me after our dog peed

in her yard. When a frozen snake turned up in a fresh pile

of leaves, Little Virginia's mother ended up in a wheelchair,

and deaf Rascal who chased cars up the street

didn't see the UPS truck that backed into him. At night,

deer staggered in from the highway. Scott and Helen

were bare-chested and dirty. Big Lou, their father, dozed

all day in a lazy-boy. Together, we found marbles

in the abandoned farmhouse. From a living-room window

Scott pointed to the tree where the farmer hung himself

after sticking the bodies of his wife and children in the ice box.

When they cut down the dead tree in Todd's backyard, a nest

of squirrels came down with it, dazed and bloody, I could see

each fine hair. The mother screeched from far away.

One winter, I walked home from the bus-stop in a blizzard.

I couldn't see our house at the end of the street. Snowflakes

whipped against my cheeks, then from the white-out, my mother

appeared, an angel with our angel dog who leapt chest-deep in the snow.