Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2011





Jeremy Bass of Fairfield, Connecticut for A Letter; Runes for the Heart; Second Snow

James Crews of Lincoln, Nebraska for Love; For Those Weary of Prayer; Airing Out My Father’s Cabin: Hickman, Kentucky



Jenny George of Santa Fe, New Mexico for The Stone Has No World; Threshold Gods; The Miniature Bed

Brittany Perham  of San Francisco, California for Silverware, Lamps, the Paintings in the Hallway; The Secret; Definitions for my Brother

Christine Poreba of Tallahassee, Florida for Rough Knowledge; Even in Clear Air; Inside the Blue



Josh Booton of Portland, Oregon for from The Union of Geometry and Ash; An Old Story; Paper Cranes

Traci Brimhall of Kalamazoo, Michigan for How to Write a Love Poem; Revelation

Michelle Y. Burke of Cincinnati, Ohio for Market Day; After Summer

Kai Carlson-Wee of San Francisco, California for Sunshine Liquidators; Fly Fishing; Holes in the Mountain

Jeannine Hall Gailey of Redmond, Washington for A Morning of Sunflowers (for Fukushima)

Brieghan Gardner of Nottingham, New Hampshire for Why I want to Come Back as a Bee; Why I want to Come Back as a Bat; Why I’m Still Here

Emily Rosko of Charleston, South Carolina for Fern; One March, Newly Turned; Il Pincio

Eleanor Stanford of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania for Smoothleaf Elm; Dawn Redwood; Harvest: Midsummer



Douglas Basford of Buffalo, New York for Rolling Pin; Post-Op; Buckle

Holly Virginia Clark of San Francisco, California for Always; Visiting Verdun; Gratitude

Katy Didden of St. Louis, Missouri for On Love: A Debate with Three Finns; On Trying to Save my Niece from Grieving; The Sycamore on Balance

Maia Evrona of Framingham, Massachusetts for Over Jerusalem Clouds Come Rolling

Jules Gibbs of Syracuse, New York for Even the Corpse Wants to be Beautiful; Buck in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Amy Greacen of Lafayette, California for Nelumbo nucifera (Lotus); Phoenix Dactylifera (Date Palm); Adenostoma fasuculatum (Chamise)

Brenna W. Lemieux of Carbondale, Illinois for We Were Waiting; Someone Else’s Pain; Mrs. Eder’s Sunday School Class

Rebecca Lindenberg of Salt Lake City, Utah for Improvisation (1); from Sense of Direction: 147 Preston Avenue; Marblehead

John Newsham of Bradford, West Yorkshire, England for Redemption; Moment; Her Artwork, Aged 3

Rachel Richardson of Greensboro, North Carolina for Ode To My Grandmother in the Week That She Stopped Eating; Susan Barnard Gardner, b. 1828; In Byzantium

Joshua Rivkin of Los Angeles, California for Elegy

Will Schutt of Nashville, Tennessee for Westerly; “The Rough, the Smooth, the Bright, the Drear”; Faraway Countries

Ali Shapiro of Ann Arbor, Michigan for Fall; Pop Song

Matthew Thorburn of Riverdale, New York for The Names; This Morning on the 1 Train

Rhett Iseman Trull of Greensboro, North Carolina for Music-box; The Theater Empties Us into the Street

Mark Wagenaar of Denton, Texas for View of Biscayne Bay with Baby Grand; Acupuncture; Portrait of a Laryngologist




Lauren K. Alleyne of Dubuque, Iowa for Portals; Contentment; After Greece

Brian Brodeur of Cincinnati, Ohio for After Rukeyser; Turtles Hatching; The Boy Without Arms

James Everett of Oxford, Mississippi for Poem to a Spider; Believing in Ghosts; Lauren

Maria Hummel of San Francisco, California for Calling Home; Ultrasound; Recovery

Henry Kearney, IV of Robersonville, North Carolina for The Continuous Simple; From a City Balcony; A Postcard to the First Wife

Deidre Lockwood of Seattle, Washington for The Cumquat Tender; Point Judith; Discovery

 Éireann Lorsung of Beeston, Nottingham, England for Honey; Wrappers; Consequences of travel

Ariana Nadia Nash of San Francisco, California for The Night of Traveling Stars; The Night of Impressionism; The Night I Want to Call You at 2.00am

Christian Teresi of Arlington, Virginia for An Alternate Version of Goya’s The Dog; About the Buddha in the Special Education Classroom; On the Meeting of Ruth Stone and Sylvia Plath

Chelsea Wagenaar of Denton, Texas for The Phrenologist Chooses a Wife; Matins; Adagio Morendo


Honorable Mention

Emma Bartholomew of Amsterdam, Netherlands for They Say; Theodor-Eyes; Let the Day Pass

Michael Boccardo of High Point, North Carolina for Another Love Poem Disguised as an Orange

Mario Chard of Campbell, California for Signs and Crossings; Gallop; Yawn, Risk

Kimi Cunningham Grant of Huntingdon, Pennsylvania for Dissonance; Prayer for a Boy at One; The Hardiness of Things

Julie Dunlop of Alburquerque, New Mexico for Chelonioidea; Out of the Blue; Seasong

Scott Gallaway of Bowling Green, Ohio for The Lost 40; Floating; The Bottom Line

Miriam Bird Greenberg of Berkeley, California for Lover’s Cipher; Someone Such as This; Killing

Tina Hammerton of Tempe, Arizona for The Last Graveyard

Andrea D.E. Levin of Marlborough, New Hampshire for A Water Legend; Old Woman Dying in a Shaker Cradle; In Search of Vernal Pools

Angie Mazakis of Bensenville, Illinois for Where Home is For Now

David Mohan of Lucan, Co. Dublin, Rep. of Ireland for Cinderella; Film About Love; Medicine Chest

Matthew Nienow of Port Townsend, Washington for Cutting Grass In the Orchard; Portrait of a Speeding Car; Exuberance

Prudence Peiffer of Brooklyn, New York for On Flag Day; Passing; Inheritance

Jeny Randall of Malta, New York for Walking at Dusk; Amazed; Flying Cross Country

L.J. Sysko of Wilmington, Delaware for From What Thistles Risen; Brandywine Sonnet

Sara Talpos of Ann Arbor, Michigan for After Chernobyl; The World Complete; Mercies of This World

Marcus Wicker of Ann Arbor, Michigan for O, the Maggots!; Interrupting Aubade Ending in Epiphany; Provincetown in Spring




Winning Poems

Lauren K. Alleyne



1. Kaleemera[1]


The day shimmers before you, a banquet,

stirs your hunger.  To swallow

the yellow disc of sun, the whole

rainbow of blue, the white points of sailboats

and houses, the silver veined stones

and purpling thyme, the pink bodies

and the brown bodies slick and glinting

in their beds of sand, the rioting birds

throating their delirious songs,

the cotton hush, the lurking moon,

the steep ascents and slow-climbing cars,

the chickens squawking in the monastery yard,

the soft-eared donkey, mischievous cats,

and half-naked children, the loaded tavern tables,

the honeyed air, the mad eruptions of glee

and the sweet indescribable grace of it—

you rise for this.


[1] “Good Morning” in Greek


2. Kaleenite[2]


Close your eyes in Serifos[3], and you fall

into the river of sighs. Night slips you

a token for safe passage—a red bud,

a seashell carrying the sound of the sea.

When the vessel arrives, a raft of wishes,

a puffing steamboat heart, an olive branch

braided with white ribbons, do not hesitate

to board. Do not ask where you are going,

or how you will get back to your firm bed

and your soft breathing body, islands away

now. Give your token to the river. Enter.



[2] “Good Night” in Greek

[3] A Greek Island located in the Western Cyclades





You see your first falling star, and flounder. You have no wishes

on this island, nothing to implore of the heavens. You do not even

want to ask for the night to go on, though the dark is dizzy with

the smell of salt and wine, braids of laughter, the moon.

Somehow you know ending is a part of the gift. Your heart is a

lake on a windless day, holds its depth in stillness. Your mind is

abundant with birdsong, blankets of light, softly growing things.

Even your lion body has abandoned its strut and roar; it is tame

as a housecat. It purrs and wants to lie in the sun. A puff of wind:

Pos? How? Serifos answers: yes, it is possible to be without

desire and remain so sweetly human.




After Greece


You were there. You entered and became

a part of it: you lived a whole lifetime in its gut.

The mountains and the winds knew your name;

the sea blooded your heart with new purpose.


You stood atop history in the houses of old gods,

awed by the scale and splendor of their ruin.

You walked through history as it carried placards

and called for justice in the full voice of human ache.


You split open with an unbearable love of it.


When your life called you back, you returned

like one resurrected, wrenched from a pure light

into the odd dimness of being. You walked

the ordinary paths your days spread before you,


slowly reassumed your former shape. Again 

and again memory reaches for that irrecollectable light—

You were there. Remember? You were there.




Douglas Basford

Rolling Pin



Until last year it had still been an antique.

I’d yanked off the yellowed paper tag dangling


by a stiffening thread—we’d been angling

for the basics, never mind what counts as chic,


when you bought it for me. You love my quiche,

caramelized-shallot, asparagus. While others sample


from wilted salad and tubs of half-drowned salmon

in the refectory, we’re always out of reach


in the sculpture garden, picnicking at a time

of year when the fountain is neither fountain


nor ice-skating rink. We puzzle out the signs

of change, the sun a chill self-pantomime,


noting but somehow not minding we’d forgotten

wood takes in oil, pressing gold into our lines.






              What is past is past—it is the present and the

              future that concern us.




Passing by, I thoughtlessly gave your shoulder

a tender squeeze, my thumb—accursed, opposable—


blunted right through your microfiber chasuble-

blanket to where your suture will still smolder,


raised, caked, and strip-shut, as the air turns colder.

You winced aloud. Though I thought it possible


I’d touched fire-damp with an inadmissible

flame, you forgave, turned back to it, feeling older,


unaccomplished. Let’s never forget this “procedure”

(a word I was finding inapt for that miracle


as I glicéed today over the rain-plastered flesh

of white oak leaves washclothed from a spherical


twig crown) has given us new life to bead our

bracelets with your loom’s spirited nylon mesh.







Two tarnished brass lamps hung from fifteen-foot

chains pinned just below the eaves, feather breeze

enough to set them in slow motion. Taking these,

ornate for this old dockworker neighborhood,

as plumb lines, try to calculate what could’ve

kept the façade’s brick-bulge flat, and sick will seize

your gut. Rob didn’t bat an eye, quipped, “She’s

got curves, ’s all!” Loves his baby, and his brood

of muttish browns yelping for their poor mother

who can’t make the stairs anymore. What was

that internist so thoroughly out of place

thinking when he made a bid for the other

half of the rowhouse? Dog-stench, the etceteras

of neighborly “generosity” would’ve chased


off homesteaders a whole lot hardier than he.

If not flippers, new buyers came overearnest

to meetings sporting their fret-lingo: new furnace,

trash pick-up, neighborhood watch, property

values. Rob’s doc, caught up in a residency,

never showed his face much, and only furnished

his place with a crash-bed. Brueghel’s Kermess

might give you a sense of Rob, scattered teeth

in a Cheshire grin as he relished the deal

he’d gotten with a mason, by word of mouth,

sans belt or bracket to stabilize the buckle.

Mortar bath and erratic lines will make you reel,

trees leveled, a lamp snapped off. Doc split, no doubt

wrote off the loss. Only Rob could and did chuckle.




Jeremy Bass

A Letter


What can I say to you today, one year later?

Leaves cover the ground, as they did then

Like a thin divide between worlds.


Last night moths pressed to the windowpane:

Spirits of the departed clinging

To the thin divide between worlds.


Light, then dark: rainwater furrows fields           

Between rivers overflowing their benedictions—

What to say to you today, mother?


That driving home last night, the roadside houses

Fat with light, each windowpane, each door

Made a brief gateway between worlds? 


How when we toast now, each face at the table

Wears absences of yours, how each becomes     

A mark of what we’d say to you, one year later?


I went to the windowpane to ask the moths to leave.

None of them moved, their wings like crushed sugar.

What can I say to you today? It becomes

The only thing, this thin divide between us.



Runes for the Heart


The coffee bean and the cocoa bean,

the vanilla bean and the cane

for rum—the pepper vine

and the cinnamon bark, cinnamon root

like a balm of mint

smelling of lemon

when it’s cooked in the sun—


Red palms of the breadfruit tree,

stiff fronds of banana leaves—

the snug-shelled lychee

and nutmeg, slice of starfruit

that clung like a petal

to your cheek—


Where we walked: dust

in the streets, frail poverty of dust,

dried fish and their organs

hanging in the light

and the blood beneath them, dry blood

of our blood in the soil—


All runes for the heart, this space

where we lived, where when each

thing spoke, it spoke

with the sharp and bitter

smoke of love, a smoke acrid and sweet —


What we saw one night

drifting from torches on the beach:

each orange flame carrying

to the next like a row of words

waiting to be spoken—

both of us listening

one to the other

waiting to be heard.



Second Snow


Snow and cloud: this

Winter canopy—white


Flecked on white.

Since the storm last night


I am the first one here; trees

Ice-plated, path


A glass flame

Untouched by ash—only


My shadow falling.

I know philosophers have set


Treatises in books, built

Thin cathedrals to doubt.


And politicians on TV

Incant verses while


Simple speech grows

Tiny and clear, like a pool under ice


In the hollowed rock.                         

The path sloping upward for miles


Under white branches, I want

So much to believe in something


Now when only silence

Answers, the simple


Hard texture of things.

Far off, in the stillness,


Snow falls from branches

High above: dust


Making a second snow

That silvers the air.




Josh Booton

from The Union of Geometry and Ash







A moment, then, back again the hummingbird

plunges, confusing one red shard

of flower pot for the salvia it once contained. 

So should be our sins: to spend

ourselves out too perfectly and often,

to passion some rationale from the broken

paving stones which lead toward

evening, the crippled crab apple in the side yard.


Let me be the savant of your slightest

vacancy, one shoelace in a makeshift nest,

a vein of quartz rivered through

more common rock, the immigrant work crew

fashioning, groove for groove,

a brand new house where someone else will live. 







Someone else will live with these

questions like a sleepy cat circling their feet.  But we

prefer dogs, to be hound-bound and driven

into the loose last logic of tin

roofs rusted the color of earth, a parakeet

this far north, fruit so sweet

just one more day would see it ruined.  But

tablecloths and backhoes and light.


But remember that night just after we met?

The moon snooping through the window wet

with rain, through the fogged-up glass,

looked like a cop’s flashlight, then was. 

We were only talking, my hands in my pockets. 

And still it felt like we’d been found out. 







Like we’d been found, out wandering the deserts

west of here, what asserts

itself as savior is sometimes just more sand.

Other times, the far-off sound

of the interstate is ocean enough to soothe. 

And in between are weeds, tires worn smooth

with use, the heft of half-lit days

laced with a casual loss that coins us, stays. 


To do: recalibrate the compass east, learn

the shorthand of three-hundred acres burned

by wildfire and the flowers that flourish

afterward, pray to the god of silverfish

and boot heels, betray

my mindset, mend the back fence but not quite all the way.






But not quite all the way, no closer

than a kiddy pool brimming with rainwater

approaches the Pacific, its depth and hue, 

can I come to knowing you. 

I marvel too much the improvised garden

of your underwear drying on the backs of chairs, cotton

intuiting your contours

the way a scrub jay, improvising, reveals the air.  


Once, this would have been enough:

to propagate unhaunted places, claim proof

in the lengthening evening shadows

that we are exiled mostly within ourselves.  Even now,

these words seem understudy

to intimations less vagrant: cut grass, sirens, your body.   







Cut grass sirens your body the way crickets ratchet

moonlight into each

sleeping thing.  I can’t explain. 

All these rote revivals just sparkle and wane.

But when, as we too seldom do, the fence rails

resume their former life as pines, cull

the forest from one warped board,

the late light lingers, clear, undivided,


and we harbor each other briefly home.   

It’s not enough, I know.  So quickly we dim

and continue on, map

the world by monuments only.  What little there is to keep

we must keep close: love notes

yellowing in drawers, butterflies pinned beneath glass. 







Butterflies pinned beneath glass.  Young junkie,

in a little girl’s pink unicorn backpack,

hounding the corner bus stop for half-spent

cigarettes.  Cement

cracking where roots run through.  Two clocks

three minutes apart.  We speak

most fluently in finger tips and tongues,

rum seductions from the heart’s velvet lounge.


But flesh is too physical to last.  I want

demarcations more darkly inked, a storefront

to display our insecurities.  I want you

always, as now, singing as you speed through

the backstreets home, the scenery

all inertia and blur, the whine of brakes in the driveway.     







The whine of brakes in the driveway is an instrument

best played in pairs: you bent

to gather what the day requires

each of us to carry home, me holding the door

and the dogs back.  Again we flare,

then atrophy into our former selves.  Two beers,

the day dolled out in incidents, fruit

falling in the yard as the shoes off your feet. 


I can’t say what is lost in all this relapse. 

Each city, giant and shining, built on the collapse

of another just as bright.  But tonight,

I watch a few fireflies reiterate

the whole history of passion,

flashing like beacons from the far edge of the ocean. 







From the far edge of the ocean, you drift

into our room.  Even these dreams are too swift

to outfit with flesh, to populate

past our farthest doubt.  Anyway, it’s late. 

What you mumble in your sleep I’ll take

for song, lyrics to the sand-sifted music

of passing cars, password

for those dim anterooms in which we usually reside. 


If our lives are nearly forfeit,

tamed by shopping lists and time, don’t forget

even these half-hushed passions, the thinnest whisper,

must have left our lips as fervor,

as something mostly holy and built for flight, to persist

in these distances between us.  




An Old Story



In the book I read before bed, a boy

on horseback tracks a wolf

three days through Arizona only to lose her

on the fourth and cross over

into Mexico by night.  Years later,

he’ll wander the deserted dirt streets

of a half-deserted cantina town

looking under each small black stone

for the wolf, or the boy,

until he finds himself standing beneath

the bare branches of an acacia tree

in the middle of the old town square,

the bark gray and worm-warn as the coat

of an ancient wolf.  It doesn’t mean anything. 

An emblem of longing.  A whimper

in the night that no one investigates. 

But my wife is already up, already

in the other room with our son

in her arms, there somehow just as his crying

begins, whisper-singing a lullaby

I listen to through the monitor. 

Who knows what his whimpers mean. 

Maybe wolves stalk his dreams.

Maybe he is calling to them, straining

to crack the backdoor of midnight.

If she sways slightly like a tree, he is

the wind.  No.  Her singing is the wind

and he, an old man staring up into

the chaos of branches.  Sleep, she whispers, 

as he closes his eyes.  As I close the book.   




Paper Cranes



This folding, unfolding, what is found where

a man turns inward on himself, turns


the corner to find his city somehow strange,

cornered by some change in himself, or the city,


the thousand cities each city is, as he walks

rehearsing the day, shrugging his coat


up around his shoulders, the paper

white, therefore, the city sudden with snow.


The next fold is introspection.  The next, a river

running spit-creased through the city


from east to west, from here to wherever he just

was.  So easy, the ornamental wings.  How slender


the slender neck that holds the head.  He folds

his arms against his chest against the cold


and continues on, toward a far white room

where he folds paper cranes for his son


as snow sifts all night outside their window,

the flakes so slow, hovering almost, some brief


species of flight, other men trudging through

other nights, the same cold, snow gathering on snow. 




Traci Brimhall

How to Write a Love Poem


Begin with blackbirds you shot for menacing

the finches. Begin with your suitcase full of maps.


Begin with the man who knocked on your door

and said the world was ending. He hung your sheets


on the line, gathered squash from the garden,

kissed you on the porch, but you wouldn’t let him


save you. Don’t begin with the black bear that came

down from the mountain to steal your goat.


Begin with the orange kite you fly each spring.

Begin with the cocoon that shakes in your hand


when you speak to it. Begin by telling someone

about the man who raped you and the woman who


helped hold you down. Begin with the deer you found

field dressed and hanging from the arbor gate,


mistletoe pinned to its cheek, a note tied around

its neck that read: To help you survive the winter.





I sing of the statue’s virgin breast,

the one I touched when no one was looking.


I sing of bats sleeping in caves, of gnats

troubling the scab over the lion’s eye,


of beetles crawling into the ear of the sphinx

who stopped riddling long before the flood.


After the rapture there is more waiting.

Blood runs from walls. I can’t find money


for the ransom. The man’s body I pull

from beneath the bed bears no wounds except


the medals pinned to his bare chest. I sing

of the children’s graveyard in a refugee camp,


and of a country with barracudas and lemon trees.

I am from the tribe named in the second chapter


of the book. I am on my knees asking

for permission to doubt again. I sing of brothers


who crucified crows to fence posts. Their mother

died anyway. I am brave the way any fool is brave.


I sing of a sheep and the wolf at its throat,

of a goat and its clanking bell, of blood cell


and bone spur and of time which conquers both.

I sing the truth. I sing to survive it.




Brian Brodeur



                     “I lived in the first century of world wars.”



I lived in the second century of world wars.

I woke each day and dry-swallowed my pills

for hypertension and high cholesterol

and turned on my devices asleep on the desk  

to check the nighttime progress of the wars.

It was like peering underneath a bandage

at a wound that would not heal. I waited

for myocardial dysfunction or septic shock

to put an end to them. But the wars

only changed names, addresses, currencies. 

I thought about the periods between wars

when munitions are stockpiled in storehouses

and the civilian population can forget.

Then an unmanned drone missed its target

and blew up another crowded marketplace

and I braced myself to feel the repercussions 

and felt no repercussions. I took issue

with the Democratic Party’s war-time positions    

and voted Republican then I took issue

with the Republicans and voted Democrat.

I tied a yellow ribbon to a poplar tree. 

I drove the long way home and sat in traffic

in front of Sunrise Assisted Living

and gazed into a window facing the street

at a figure in a cotton gown and thought:

Human beings live too long today.

I lived in the second century of these wars.







Justin, the nine-year-old who lives in our triple-decker, 

asks if I want to see something wicked awesome 

and leads me down the path toward Worcester Sand & Gravel. 


Standing over the pit, he points at mayflies

swarming the clutch and says we should find some rocks

and smash the hatchlings to save them from the bugs.


Among track loaders and well drills idling,

they seem too close to earth, smudges of clay

suddenly animated, gleaming as they climb the mud incline. 


Justin says there’s a pile of stones the construction workers left

when they filled the millpond to build the new high school. 

I shake my head and make him cross his heart and hope to die. 


An excavator dumps rocks into the circuit crusher

and the ground vibrates through my shoes. 

The hatchlings’ bodies steam.  Only a few have cleared


the crest of the nest, toppling down, scaling the steep

ditch walls, each thorny carapace teeming over

the other, their claws the size and shape of caraway seeds.


Grappling for a purchase in the sand, they scrabble

their separate paths out of the pit, their faces

blunt and striving, stippled with grit.







From the Metro station, he steps into the sun,

his sleeves cut off, his hands dangling


directly from his shoulders, stiff, unfinished. 

His hair is parted, clean. His pristine sneakers


are double-knotted, his shirt tucked into his jeans. 

Who helped him dress this morning?


He turns around and looks into the crowd. 

I see her now, she’s there, the caregiver, a woman


following behind him to help him feed his change

into the SmarTrip card machine for bus fare—


his mother by the same soft slope of the nose, the same

spattering of freckles on her cheeks, the thoughtful


distance she keeps between them, giving him

room, but watching him and watching the others


pass him on the curbside as he stoops 

to press the crosswalk button with his chin.




Michelle Burke

Market Day



The sky is clear tonight. The plow horses

stand silent in the field, and the wife calls

to her husband to bring the truck around:

Tomorrow is market day, and the lettuces

must be packed in the cool night hours.


Their market prefers beautiful, high-priced

vegetables, so they swaddle their lettuces

in burlap and stack the crates carefully.

When the truck is loaded, the wife will follow

her husband up the stairs to the bedroom


they’d built to be a hayloft back when

there was going to be a house. At dawn, she’ll rise,

go downstairs and milk each goat she knows

by name. She’ll drive away, leaving behind

for his morning coffee a single jar of milk.




After Summer



There was this Sicilian place.

You had to take the ferry


to get there. Or we did,

living in Brooklyn. The ferry


was free and crowded, but we

elbowed our way to the rail.


Commuters sat inside, drank

beer from the concession stand,


and read the daily news.

We’d gotten engaged,


but we’d call it off in a few months.

At the Sicilian place,


a woman sat beside us

and ordered every appetizer


on the menu. She told us her cat

was dying. Baby, Baby is dying.


Later that night, we argued

by the B61. The word marriage


hung in the air like an obscenity.

Nevertheless, I remember staring


into backlit windows,

imagining life unrolling


as smoothly as the stocking

over an actress’s perfect leg.


At home, I told our cat

she’d live forever. You said,


Don’t give her false hope,

then took your fatalism


to bed. That was the summer

your mother worsened.


Once, toward the end,

she told me to eat the dahlias


before leaving. Whenever

I’m served a salad with flowers—


nasturtiums or marigolds—

I think of that and how


I would have eaten the dahlias

if doing so would have given her


even a little pleasure.

I haven’t gone back


to that Sicilian place,

but I remember the watermelon.


It was drizzled with balsamic—

sweet and satisfying and served


with a soft, white cheese

and only in summer.




Kai Carlson-Wee

Sunshine Liquidators

This poem has been withheld at the request of the author.




Fly Fishing

This poem has been withheld at the request of the author.




Holes in the Mountain

This poem has been withheld at the request of the author.




Holly Virginia Clark


       For J


If my mouth does not always fit

over yours, know that it means to.


If the sweat-polished cradle

at the crook of my neck does not


receive you, if I deliver another loneliness

you cannot fill, know I know I ask


too much. Know, tonight, that I linger

in the doorway in my nightgown,


my breasts in a downy rousing,

while the damp, live work of spring


fetches up the iron smell of earth

along the road I look out on.


And the lamp backlighting my clean

silhouette is from my bedside


—the lamp is on for you—and know

that I am watching the road.


I am always—no, always when I can—

at the open door looking out on the road


till it curves, as long as I can see it,

watching for you. That you ever


come home when the lamp is off

—for days, for weeks—


and slip inside this bed

is a nameless grace I didn’t earn.


That I always—in time—turn on the lamp

is a grace I name you,

                                 arriving at my doorstep.




Visiting Verdun


The trees grew from trenches, shrapnel

lodged where it hit so hard

the ground could only bury it.

And, forgive me, I thought of you,

the unflinching pettiness of our daily machinations

alongside a hand grenade. I was sorry for us,

the rifles slung open, patinaed, empty, the bayonets,

the iron throats of cannons, how readily we display

our impotent weapons, mercy at arm’s length.


I climbed the stairs of the ossuary tower.

At the top, miles of green patchwork,

sycamores with their haloes of gray light,

and the full heft of the love I carry became

the hollow-boned wings of sparrows,

the rows of white crosses spreading before me

and the roses—bless their red sincerity—

like swollen lips opening to taste the storm.






In your kitchen, the magnetic

knife rack displayed its measure

of black-handled notes while your eyes

fell to the page I offered, rose to my face: 

you could see I was trying,

that trying is a spade

in the soil, a bowed head

in the sanctuary, a giving

you recognized and returned,

which is maybe how love

sharpens in the throat. 

If I can thank you, please,

for something—your satchel

worn against your shoulder

then mine, your book

and the quiet it lent, so quiet

I could hear the colors,

so thank you for the gray-green trees

in the cooling light, the thick paper

between my fingertips, and your eyes—

all teeth and tongue—

your eyes, the blue room

I pulled myself into, the rain

that brought back sight.




James Crews



You must save up for it and collect and gather honey.



You can collect as much of it as you like,

keep it in trunks under the bed, in closets

or store it in stone jars as the pharaohs did,

placing gallon after gallon of priceless honey

next to the alabaster heads of sarcophagi

so when they woke wide-eyed and famished

in the afterlife they’d find something familiar

and sweet to eat. But nothing hoarded stays

hidden for long. Soon enough some looter

will shimmy into that secret room in you and—

ignoring the warnings—he will pry off the lid

of every sighing jar and scoop out the honey,

now crystallized, shining in his hands, still

delicious after all that time.



For Those Weary of Prayer


Surely you know that time of night

when fireflies, tired of their own sparks

fly right into the mouths of nets,

when cicadas begin to sense they are

nothing more than husks for the chorus

that fills them. Surely you have seen

a child slough his trunks and run naked

through the sprinkler, crying out with joy

as you call him to bed. Aren’t you always

calling the name of what you love most

back to you, holding the door wide open,

pleading, Please don’t make me ask again,

and asking again until he comes?




Airing Out My Father’s Cabin: Hickman, Kentucky


While opening one of the windows,

I found a pile of bones tucked

between the glass and screen, what

must have been a sparrow, I thought

and then saw him flying toward

the same light all those years ago,

landing on the ledge and deciding

at once to push his body through

the rip in the mesh just wide enough

for his body to fit, to get closer

to the heat of the woodstove where

my father huddled, banking the fire.

Did he not hear the cries, the wild

flapping as the sparrow tried and tried

to lift off again, I wondered, as I

wrapped the bones in a tissue

and slipped him beneath the leaves

of the compost, which steamed

with my soft stirrings, white smoke

like ghosts rising up in the dark air

to offer their condolences.




Katy Didden


On Love: A Debate with Three Finns


They taught me to speak with the middle third

of my lips, as if I’d sucked a lemon, or as if my mouth

were frozen slightly open.  After a litany of “Good morning,”

“Nice to meet you,” and “Where is the sauna?” 


I asked them how to say “I love you.” At this,

they murmured to each other. Then Satu,

the most outspoken of the three

who often said things that were slightly shocking,  


said she didn’t know how to translate “love” exactly.

In English, she said, you use the word too lightly. 

You say “I love you” to your mother, your friend,

and your lover, to a lover you only slightly more than like,


to a lover you hope will never leave you. 

How do you ever know, she wondered, which love

your lover means?  At first, I thought it was

a question of degree.  I gauged “I love you”s


by the way my lover looked at me.  The context

mattered; “love” was true, since love shifts intensity,

since any lover is both friend and mother sometimes.

But then she said the word for love


Finns rarely say; they speak it to one person only,

or at most to very few.  My friends grew serious,

as if the vastness of the word had swallowed speech. 

I asked if any of them had ever said it. 


By their looks, I understood none of them knew

what the others would say, and that no Finn

would ever ask this question.  But they answered me—

it was as if I’d asked when they lost their virginity,


and I knew somehow the word involved the body,

that the body was what made it irrevocable.

What would I have learned, what grief could I have spared

if I had faced that choice with the man I loved then?


I would have given him everything, said the word             

to record it in the caverns of eternal being.

Knowing the word, I also would have known how to love totally.

And he, on the brink of a life with me,


would have whispered only some variant of “like,”

and the clarity of that “like” would have set us free. 

But I live in the country of “love,” the valley, the desert, the fog,

where what is shapeshifts with what was or could be. 


At the warping of snow and volcano, at the blurring

of city and sea, love leveled my fantasies.

I was stone, but I could see clearly.

Then I was sound, and love moved through me.




On Trying to Save My Niece from Grieving


After my father

had recovered enough

to sit up in his bed,

my brother brought Clare in

to see him.  He was losing

the tips of his fingers

on his right hand.

They were shriveled and black

above the knuckles—

the rough skin bent

at wild angles.  As Clare

went to him, my father

(who could not lift

his arms) told her

he’d dipped his fingers

in blueberries,

and I watched Clare

measure the lie with a look

I have seen my whole life

on my brother’s face.

And in how Clare

did not look away

from the wounds

on my father’s hand,

but still reached out to him,

holding his wrist,

I saw my brother—

the way he can’t help seeing

all our flaws,

the way he winces,

then for our weakness,

wills himself to love us again.




The Sycamore on Balance

This poem will be posted when the author provides it.




James Everett

Poem to a Spider



Understand I want you dead

            but your weaving feet

dart like a boxer’s on your web

and you streak

            into the dark between

the window and the window-jamb


You sleep not so much

            in a web as in a retreat 

in a crack from which threads

in random order take over the window sill

            like some bivouac of silk

for the wayfaring insect


The only music to your days

            comes struggling from wings

when your web plays like a plucked string

but you have a rhythm to your way

            of turning a moth between your legs

and gathering thread about its body and head


For the moth in constant search of light

            this burial in white

is a second transformation

and for those of us who remain from birth to death

            the same figure of flesh

to be enclosed is an unremembered feeling


Soon the winter will push you

            inside to the other side of the window

and I will push a broom at you

gathering your industrious spread of web

            as you hide in a shadow

but until then I will envy you


Once in the morning

            the dew cast stars into your web

and you were the king of your own universe




Believing in Ghosts



Last night when I couldn’t sleep

            the ticks of the rain were a thousand clocks

in this empty room where emptiness is not you


Did even the rain miss your body

            to fall around

last night when the light was a burden


Because you are no longer

            I called the shadows to dance with me

outside under the shelter of rain


Those rags of water we slip ourselves into

            when our bodies are not enough

and waltzing through darkness we left darkness in our wake






there are no compromises of the heart;

yours wants and breaks my body down to doubt

and fault; the cadence of its desperate pleas,

while mutable, must never cease, except

once, when silence has no need for want:

I hope to never hear that quiet still.


My shoulders to your burden bear a yoke:

the pain is good; the rhythm that I march

you mark: it keeps a broken bone in motion;

I take your salted tears to salve a cut:

the pain is good; a man could learn this much,

to languish in the whisper of your pulse

and feel no weariness, your falling breath,

desire to never let this body rest.




Maia Evrona

               Over Jerusalem Clouds Come Rolling


After stringing memories in order enough for an evening,

I watch the clouds roll over Jerusalem in red-brown rows

and let the wind churn my mind until I am tipsy, going walking. 


I return to rest on a mountain peak:

through the windows and the terrace door

so much light fills my room long before I finish sleeping.


Months go by when it rarely rains,

though some mornings I awake

with my face all drenched from crying.




Jeannine Gailey

A Morning of Sunflowers (for Fukushima)[4]


Two hundred thousand sunflowers

drink the cesium from the grounds of the temple

where they burn lanterns made from the names of the dead.


This invisible snow, says the temple’s monk,

brings us a long winter. A village woman mourns

the loss of her blueberries.


In Chernobyl they grew amaranthus, field mustard,

sunflowers. But how to dispose

of poisoned flowers in spring?


We build lanterns. We plant seeds. We set things alight.


[4] The quote from the temple monk is from this news article:





Brieghan Gardner

Why I Want to Come Back as a Bee


To go out

into the bright fields

and orchards each morning,

keeping the hours

the sun instructs,


and float over gardens

undivided by property lines.

To meet each bloom

as hand meets glove but

briefly, just long enough

to test the fit


then move on, doing, thus,

the quiet work of the plants’

love for each other and gathering,

as I go, whatever sweetness

can be gathered from each


until it becomes

nearly all I can bear,

then make my way home

flower by flower, without counting.



Why I Want to Come Back as a Bat


To pass on the flash and rush of day

and wait in a quiet barn or cave

‘til the sun drops and the frogs call

and the trees turn to shade.


To dive from branch to branch

or eave to eave, my own body

a scrap of shadow, freed

from the thing that cast it.


To measure life in distances

between self and prey, self and danger,

self and shelter, sure of my place

in the night as of my own voice


ringing back from a thousand angles,

tracing shapes in the dark until sound

is touch, or close enough. 



Why I’m Still Here


Because I can’t sleep.

Because I can’t wake up.

Because each sound repeats itself and,

doing so, becomes music. Because

there’s never a second without sound.


Because I can’t get enough

of the first light of morning,

can’t get enough of dusk, or the way

the white blooms on the dogwood

are the last thing to become invisible

(and they’re still there). 


Because the birds deserve an audience

and the butterflies have arranged themselves

just so in the air. Because the stones

are listening. Because I love.


Because the rain comes when the earth calls

and the well keeps filling itself and the fields

are a cathedral and the woods are a school

and the ocean a museum, all without walls.

Because that’s what I’m trying to figure out.

Because I’m still wondering.




Jenny George

The Stone Has No World    



The stone has no world.

Not the grass of the field.

Not the river migrating deep

over its surface.

A stone does not know

the sun, or ever stand

under a roof of grief.

It wants nothing,

not even other stones.

At the riverbank, two horses

clamor down in the heat.

Their hooves clack like sticks.

They stop in the open,

sensing us, then

after a moment

begin drinking the river.

The stone inside me

opens its dead eye.

Through the crack

the whole world arises—

its beatings, its small

yellow flowers.




Threshold Gods



I saw a bat in a dream and then later that week

I saw a real bat, crawling on its elbows

across the porch like a goblin.

It was early evening. I want to ask about death.


But first I want to ask about flying.


The swimmers talk quietly, standing waist-deep in the dark lake.

It’s time to come in but they keep talking quietly.

Above them, early bats driving low over the water.

From here the voices are undifferentiated.

The dark is full of purring moths.


Think of it—to navigate by adjustment, by the beauty

of adjustment. All those shifts and echoes.

The bats veer and dive. Their eyes are tiny golden fruits.   

They capture the moths in their teeth.


Summer is ending. The orchard is carved with the names of girls.

Wind fingers the leaves softly, like torn clothes.

Remember, desire was the first creature

that flew from the crevice

back when the earth and the sky were pinned together

like two rocks.


Now, I open the screen door and there it is—

a leather change purse

moving across the floorboards. It’s unsettling.


But in the dream you were large and you opened

the translucent hide of your body

and you folded me

in your birth arms. And held me for a while.

As a bat might hold a small, dying bat. As the lake

holds the night upside down in its mouth.




The Miniature Bed



A miniature bed, and in it two tiny people

not sleeping, not able to sleep because

a small lie has flowered between them,

fragile as a new, white crocus. 

The miniature bed holds them like a miniature boat

making its slow, true course to morning.

These tiny people, thoughts thrumming like mice,

are quiet as the lie blooms over them

in the night, fanning its moth petals,

becoming to them like a moon hovering

over their bed, a moon they might almost touch

with their miniature hands, if they weren’t certain

that one wrong gesture might break

the spindles of their small world, if their hearts

were not drops of trembling quicksilver,

if they were brave, if they could see

that small is no smaller than big, that thimbles

are deep as oceans for any god, they might even

touch each other then, opening the dark,

like a match the sun’s flaring.




Jules Gibbs

Buck in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction


His antlers a stubborn thought protruding

            from his cranium, driving his biology


                      forward like a Midwestern state motto,

          like the thing that makes us so

          grotesquely us. We find the bones that surface


most frightening, impressive, a mechanical

          sort of possibility rising to eight pale tips

                         that might be wired, lit, the elegant


structure of the more elegant super-

structure by which the crows spread


                      disaster, by which an evening hour

                                 transfers from tooth to femur.


The want that lurks in these boroughs

           is as quiet as snow, a cranial ache


                     that allows the fantasy to occur

                               in a feathered light, suburban aura


         of the modern-day miracle, real or not,

a buck prancing naked as a man

          down the middle of the road,

arms raised high overhead

bearing a chandelier of bones.




Even the Corpse Wants to be Beautiful


There’s something about my slowness

          I’m trying to know, why I cease to divide


and begin, how clustered bones form no limbs,

          piled into my own little slew.


Something more must live in the wake of the mind,

          which is still something, still a mind, even


in the after, as something new gathers

          in the body’s honeycomb, steeves in the hull


where protons unmake their pact. I want

          a congregation of ants to sing a hymn, a holy beak


to dip in. A small lizard to eulogize the grume, pale

          to my skin. At my finer edges, decay occurs


most rapidly — the hinge from which

          I used to jaw, the sockets where I waved


goodbye. Now all my thoughts are groomed

          in the tongue to die. I could describe


a blank and nameless need that comes next — smooth

          as the nacre of the conch, inward with intent to riot,


an anatomy of swarms coiled around the center line — 

          clustered at the base of the spine.


              Two girls walk by. One girl says to the other:

             After one semester, know so much less than the crows.


What the crows know is how to be alone in the throat. 

I try.


            I toil, curl and crack against corrosives —furl

                   towards the place where I still shine. I shine


            less. I miss all the sing and squawk, the talk

                    of talk. I could tell you how the wind swept in


and I was spilled, laid out, flat on my back—

           tenacious burr, tuft of fur, a clot that clabbers.


I could tell you once these feathers were really something

           in the sun, but you know it’s a march


even for the best of us, the tune

            always goes: da-dum, da-dum, da-dum




Amy Greacen

                     Nelumbo nucifera




I’m bending, or trying to, if that helps, bad hips

and all, tight-folded, hands clasped fast

as if against the flight of hopes

so intimate they don’t escape the lips

but sublimate, a wistful vapor

twisting upward like the smoke from joss

sticks lit by ardent acolytes

of nothing in specific. Infinite loops

wear on. I’m bending – trying to – to the tropes

of prayer, and song, and putting pen to paper,

a speech of figures, a rhetorical lapse

that eddies at the edge of something, laps

sand, renders pyrites from the clay, inflates

the sense of things to music anyway.

So much is accident, but what is not

is meditation, surely, a still spot

the murky water roils around, that floats

dispassionately gathering its white

radiance up from the silt, and still perhaps

attached to it, but in a token way,

as it arises and elaborates

itself to a mandala that connotes

a cool invulnerability to loss

and to desire. If it helps, I am

trying not to try to bend, to just

bend. To surrender, as an act of will,

what will I have. To move and still be still.




                    Phoenix Dactylifera

                          (Date Palm)


                                          Those hours were not in vain
                                          So long as you retain
                                          A lightness once they're lost;
                                          Like one who, thinking, spends
                                          His inmost dividends
                                          To grow at any cost.

                                            - Paul Valery, tr. James Merrill



It is, almost, as if

All time could be contained

Beneath these arching, stiff

Fronds, and the dates that rained

Onto the patio

Encapsulated – no,

Engendered – every thought

We’ve ever had, or will

Have. Almost. It’s a spill

Of sugar that will not


Find space to re-express

Itself in the concrete

It falls to. But the mess

It makes is still a sweet

One, sibilant translations

Of breeze to syncopations

Of dropped fruit, homonyms

For generosity

And sustenance, if we

Are listening. What hymns




To sweetness! And how svelte,

How lithe these limbs are, trembling

With purpose, meaning to pelt

Us with their meaning, resembling

Both sun and parasol,

Rain and umbrella. All

Oases, in their various

Forms, are precarious 

Systems. The fruits will fall,


Voluptuous, but warning

That scarcity must follow

Abundance; that adorning

Plenty itself is hollow

Hunger. Nothing can shield

Us from the double yield

That’s handed to us, fringe

And cruel spine, flesh and pit.

The dactyl, having writ –

A bounty we will cringe



From – keeps on writing. See?

An endless font, a frond-

On-frond calligraphy

That seals a lifelong bond.

The lowest thing you stoop

To might become a drupe

So sweet it makes the teeth

Ache. And the highest thing

You reach for, likewise, bring

You down. And underneath







Us, everything we’ve wasted

Is still there, waiting, vicious

With hopefulness, untasted

Renewal, dark, delicious

Sugars. Our needs are more

Than met. Excesses pour

Down, and we never see

Who bends to fit the tap;

Eternities of sap

Condensed to jaggery.




                  Adenostoma fasiculatum




There is no wind. The chaparral has gone

To decadence. And the sun, at such a height,

Leaves the sky desiccated, bleached ash-white.

A concentrated brightness, an indrawn


Gathering of the light, as if the whole

World were enclosed within a camera

Obscura, an inverted replica

Universe cynosured through a pinhole.


Even the soil is aching from the heat;

A cracking bed of serpentine where few

Species contrive to grow, and those that do

Sustain themselves on nothing but complete


Famine and drought. More than sustain: they flout

The whole system, responding to the mean

Conditions with a kind of libertine

Excess, oiling themselves elaborately, without


A care for consequence. Inviting fire.

Anointing their dry leaves with aromatic

Resins just to inspire a dramatic

Response. Spontaneous combustion. Dire



Consequences, but they’ve thought of that

Too, developing at once two kinds of seed:

One sprouts in wet soil. One is only freed

When the achene is burned. This habitat




Requires certain adaptations. And

Rather than being meager in return

For meagerness, why not agree to burn?

Say there is nothing you cannot withstand.




Maria Hummel


Calling Home



There used to be a cord that connected

receiver to phone, a hard little ribbon

I could slip a finger through, correcting

our distances with touch. Our hows and beens

were held. They went into a line and came

out a line, and sometimes my right ear hurt,

though I don’t think the sensation was pain.

I was the good daughter who moved away, sure

I’d drift back soon. Mountains, fields, rusted

cities, the wires hung over us. Long, far, days,

decades, we faded into voices. I trusted

love too much. You didn’t stop me. It’s too late

to bring it back but I miss peeling

the cord from my finger after all that feeling.







When you were born, which you are not yet,

and grew up, which you have not done,

loved another, which you have not found,

and lasted long in life, which you may,


I gave you this: somewhere there is a tree

that grows its leaves on the inside.

Somewhere a forest that rustles and hushes

in no breeze. Where stones float

and rivers sink below them. Where wine

climbs the throat in white vines,

and the wind is not a whisper

or song or sigh, but the rising

of the ink inside your eyes.


And there, where nothing stays long,

death will be the pressure of a seed

into the earth, and the seed a boat.


When it’s time, step into it.

let it take you back to this dark

apse, the soft folds swaying.


I will be holding all around you.







My bald son drags the hose

around the yard,

murmuring to his villains about


vanquishing their grim cities.

They all wear masks,

but so does he. They slink


and fly. So does he.

He raises the nozzle;

a thin waterfall bends:


I can see it

and through it,

the latter less clearly,


can hear his retreating story

but not its end,

because everywhere the grass


is tipping its head back to drink

and he can’t stop winning.




Henry Kearney IV

The Continuous Simple


It is snowing, lightly, now, in Kyoto.

Or it is not.


I have no way of knowing,

and I can’t imagine

the city is as we left it.


But in that land where they name

their mountains like men,

certain souls will always


be stacking stone cairns

around Ontake-san, the old volcano.

And we will have always


walked there, helped the few

of them we could by simply

piling one rock on another.


It was raining, there, on my birthday,

and I was speaking, easily,

a language I did not understand.


You see, sometimes there is no need

for talk of the intangible:

the past tense, the future tense.


With the barefoot pilgrims, we named the flowers

and faces; divided the berries

between “delicious” and “deadly”.


We shared only the simplest present,

the language of the world

you can point at,


the world you can touch.

We shared only the simplest present,

and it was enough.




                            From a City Balcony


The sunlight slanting down from over the rooftops

cuts long shadows on the sidewalk trees.  In the breeze  

their leaves twitch, turning in and out of the light. 

Below, the passing cars are flecked with warmth

filtered through the half-illuminated trees.  It gives

their cold machinery a joyful, almost tender look


before they move on.  It is almost fall, but the leaves

have not begun to change.  They will not for some time.

A pigeon, strangely brown and white, is tending

its nest in the hollow left where a poplar lost a limb.

My vast, secret plains refuse to be built upon:

inside me there is nothing but horizon.




                                A Postcard to the First Wife


Beloved, on the way to the grocery store, I got turned around

and ended up in Ohio.  You remember how lost I was then,

how I bought eggs when the recipe called for chicken.

But the back roads of Ohio are beautiful, with roosters and hogs

different from the ones I knew at home, and hills in strange shapes.

None of this helped me with my grocery list.

But I did meet a Woman there, a kind Woman who may have had

a bit of Angel in her (you would have thought so), though it’s hard to be

sure about these things, even after three years of Marriage and ten of Divorce. 

All of this led, of course, to the Three Plagues of Myself in Ohio:

Homelessness, Hunger, Heartbreak.


Later, to my relief, I discovered that even in Ohio there are grocery stores,

the meat-slicers in their delis sharp and greasy, their Beer cold.

Let us now sing the praises of Beer kept cold, and of demagnetized compasses.

That we are all still alive and sometimes smiling

is proof enough that God loves the misguided. 

By the way, I have forgiven you.  That is all I wanted to say.




Brenna Lemieux

We Were Waiting


The trees undress as gradually as parents

after a dinner party and everything outside

smells smoky: burnt-wick branches,


leaves drifted like spent flames—as if hundreds

of front lawns flared and snuffed to brace

themselves for winter. One night, a mother


and father return whispering, slip off

their shoes and tiptoe to kiss their daughters’

foreheads. Her earrings unclasp in her fingers,


a glass fills with tapwater at his touch.

Upstairs, he tugs her zipper—her dress curls

from her shoulders and sifts to the floor,


their bare limbs sway into each other.

In family legend, this is how the fire began:

castoff party clothes like leaves, arms and legs


like twigs, the house itself a furnace. The parents

woke to find their hair singed gray, their skin

dry and wrinkled, their daughters’ beds empty,


ash collected on the pillows. It happened so quickly,

said the father. Yes, said the mother,

And we didn’t even realize we were waiting for it.




Someone Else’s Pain

         for J.B.


You, who exult in fatigue, whom sweat salves,

whom motion girds like prayer, try to tell me

calmly that your new meniscus (transplanted

last summer, not yet healed) has torn, or turned,

or that scar tissue has crept between your ligaments—

you’re not sure—some driven-screw anguish

that flares when you move, gluts your knee

with heat;

             your voice climbs in coils that you catch

and unsnarl before they snap, as if tuning a loose-

dialed radio, twisting out each snore of static,

and all I can do is nod or shake my head, offer

the sturdy focus I once used in art class to smudge

graphite across a page, trying in vain to capture

the way shadows defined my unclasped hand.




Mrs. Eder’s Sunday School Class


Never mind that her fingers are so lithe

they bow backwards, that the bones below her skin

spoke like umbrella ribs, that the bible’s onion-skin

pages arch at her touch—James gazes at the crumbling

piano and Jeremy glues his eyes to the hall door,

tensed to shout when the tray of animal crackers

and juice arrives. Never mind that these passages line

her soul—I shall not want and yea, though I walk

nor that she teared up yesterday planning this lesson,

remembering the first time she’d read the 23rd Psalm

and understood it, just after she’d lost her second

and the doctor began to speak of alternatives, that she’d

so looked forward to guiding her class through it.

Kim asks to use the bathroom, Hanna wants the window

open, and when Jeremy springs to the door and thumps

the food and pitcher on the table, what can she do

but let them eat? Grace, of course, after grace.




Rebecca Lindenberg


Improvisation (1)


He watches while I talk

about being in love


with this fallen world – we sit

on the concrete steps,


the door-well a mess

of leaf-litter and tiny carcasses


of winged ants.  I don’t say

how much I long 


to stop contending

with the past –


how I long to throw myself

into the deep groove


of the present

like a needle in a moving record


and pick up the note of his life,

my life, this everyday bounty –


it’s okay.  Around the corner

a clear river


courses through cold rocks

beneath a specimen we call


the Tree of Life.

A neighbor’s car idles, resonating


in our storm door.  The clatter

of wings as two


dragonflies uncouple

the long exclamation marks


of their bodies

is a kind of tenderness


I had thought was gone from me

until I saw it again


in his steel-

blue eyes, sure in their questioning


movements across the pavement,

following my hands as I gesture


towards this or this, meaning

exactly what I say and more.






147 Preston Avenue

(shortest time)


1.  Head west from clutching seclusion towards

          a memory of what it felt like to have a lover

          sugar your coffee, wash your hair in the shower  -

                 small acts

          of gentleness you can do for yourself, which is why

          they felt like luxuries.

                                                                      2495.7 miles


2.  Traverse the Virgin River Gorge.  When you come

               to a massive tree

        whose base is a bench made of itself,

        sit down.  It’s a good idea to read that one

        D.H. Lawrence poem, you know, O the green glimmer

        of apples in the orchard, lamps in a wash of rain. Drink

        a glass of purple wine – nothing with a name.

                                                                      427 miles


3.  Call your friend with the flour-soft hair.  Let him tell you

        he regrets not having slept with you that day

        you came home together covered in sand.  Regret it

        a little, yourself.

                                                                      1621 miles


4.  Put on tall shoes and a blue dress.  Say something

        about Heidegger and something about Michael

               Jackson.  Say

        something in Italian but say it wrong.  Then say,

               in Spanish,

        that you’ve forgotten all of your Italian.  Spill


        in your lap.  When the guy who was teaching you

        how to play pool offers to drive you home, say Yes.

                                                                      1.4 miles


5.  When the guy who was teaching you how to play pool

        buys a swivel chair that’s your favorite shade of

               tangerine orange

        so there’s something to sit on when you come to his


        say Yes.

                                                                      83.3 miles


6.  When he asks you to call his house (with that orange


        and an avocado stove and wood paneling and

        a bed that’s always a little sandy thanks to the dog,

        and a swing by the river out back) shelter, say Yes.

                                                                    238857 miles






not to be in love with you

I can’t remember what it was like

it must have been lousy.

-James Schuyler


You take off your black

motorcycle jacket, hang it

on the back of a chair. It’s cold

from our walk along the sea wall.

Your pockets jingle with shells.

While we were gone, you left

the stove on low—some things

you do make me so nervous.

You graze the surface of sauce

simmering in a pan, shiny fingertip

held out for me to lick, you say

what does it need?  Maybe nothing,

maybe honey to unbitter the lime.

Later that night you’ll bury your face

in my belly and sob. I’m sorry,

though I don’t think you are

always talking to me, my love.

But now lobster steam billows

up the window, you gulp

purple wine, your pinky sticking out,

and the round olives are the green

all green things aspire to be.



Deirdre Lockwood

The Cumquat Tender


The plum tree in the lobby of my hotel

is beautiful because cards flutter in it,

red and gold cards of the new year,

auspicious, and because it holds no plums.


Underneath thrust cumquat trees,

fertile and tight-lipped, green boughs darting skyward.

I tried to take a picture, but a picture

will not flutter.


Yet I’ve been snapping them

like a student of your art, Hong Kong. Textures

bum up to each other at the bar here,

slicks and erasures, cracks in the past.


Crunching my mechanical eye, a different

seeing than poetry—a seizing, a thrust.

How much courage to take—

that verb not an accident. Something is stolen.


While poetry rides alongside like a companion

on the subway, silent. Melting the scene

in unobtrusive, unsensed wavelengths

to reconstitute it, hammered bright


and mild, somewhere else.

I have been a poet for so long, a light

shadow, wink of flame, I am unspooled by the whisk

that demands my fellow humans developed and exposed.


We shirk this exposure—and long for it,

preen-wriggling inside—willing to be gotten,

right this time. But I have no backbone

for the capture. I have so far only one:


the slender cumquat tender

in her long rubber gloves, arranging the trees

for sale outside the hotel. I asked,

she smiled, I quailed, pointed, shot—


it hurt me to do this—but at the last moment

she saved me, shielding all but her eyes

behind a pot of startled tulips.




Point Judith


Mornings of rocks thrown at the sea.

The rib-ache reaches toward the ridge

of shoulder blade, burrows underneath

the collar bone, curls down the arm

hinge-honing, leaving only the heft

of denser stone, the damp of salt-gnawed palms—


men arrive with the tide, tilting

under poles and buckets, at careful distances

staking rod-holders in the dark sand;

they linger, guarded over rig-tying,

stitch hooks through thick clam bellies,

crouched before the prayer of the first cast


—grains that glisten against the lifelines

and cling, even plunged in the chill sea.






Once more we take the path down through the trees

to meet the Sound. Last winter’s storms have thrown

some maples down—like strings tuned by the wind

the tall ones stand against the water. This spring

the mountains have returned.


Through ferns and moss and mud we wind our way

without speaking, to clamber over driftwood, sandy dogs

and purple mussels. Last year here at high tide

a young grey whale tipped his hat. This spring

our bodies have returned.


I’ve come here with questions and found smooth

green stones, once spotted a raccoon

sampling shells at low tide. Our bodies

tuned by water stand against the wind.

Sun, discover us again.




Éireann Lorsung


for Laressa



First print the cloth with jasmine

drawn on this screen, white


flowers on a pale purple field.

We're going to the hives


tonight, we'll wrap

jars & comb in the cloths


we make. Bees

take pollen from acacia


from orange

from rosemary


from clover

from viburnum


from quince,

bees less bitter and more astute


than their keepers.

We're going to bend wires


down around the bee-yard,

lift those hay-frame boxes.


We're going

with our bodies


full of something sweet

like honey, something radiant.


We'll steal








You will remember all the times we went to the Russian grocery store

and bought chocolates, because I saved (yes, these too)


the wrappers from the candies, printed with nesting dolls, alphabets

I didn’t understand.  And I can show them to you,


having kept them in this notebook since my childhood, and you will remember

the days we spent in the fabric store next door


among the huge bolts of discount, mill-end fabric, the bins of buttons as tall

as I was, then.  Every time I wanted more buttons, more


candies wrapped in foil or with pictures of ladies in fancy clothes.

You never said no.  I saved them all up. They were beautiful. Worth keeping.


I thought we were rich.

We were just barely breaking even.




Consequences of travel



Our Lady of lost-luggage

rooms, the half-moon


tour of the station’s driveway

is your novena.


Our radios run out of battery

during the shipping news.


Above us airplanes broadcast

to each other, positions only they can see.


We are carrying strapping tape and nails,

photos, handles and hinges, some of us


have deserted with only our clothes.

Flannel. Rough velour of train


seat covers. If we could rise out

of our bodies we’d see the lines


we’ve made, our past selves like long

skins we’re always shedding,


the ones we love and have loved

bright intersections of skin and light.




Ariana Nadia Nash

The Night of Traveling Stars


Time has told me stories of growing orchids, and I have

asked her to sit next to me awhile. She has held my hand

while I told her stories of Japanese maples changing with

the seasons, twisting as love grows, and of tides pulling out

to reveal skies of starfish.  And time has told me of the man

and his dog who sat buried in a vast moonlit field for years

and saw the roar of oceans in the rippling wheat.  She

told me about this solitude, and about broken shells and

stars projecting themselves millions of years into the future,

how they’re her brothers and sisters.  She has told me

about her family.  Time has grown around me and let her

orchids die.  I have asked time to sit beside me and be quiet

for awhile.




The Night of Impressionism


I see more clearly

at a distance now.


You are sharper in story—

your reasons for buying firewood,

your dreams


of umbrellas, the steam

and clatter of your view

of the railway station.


Colors resolve as they blur

and your phrase, the moon

is thin tonight, clears


only at a distance of many days


I can’t see a body

in a bedroom anymore, can’t


put together the eyebrows

and jaw, the face and line


of the shoulder, the foot

and the chest.  But the swamp

of green, step by step as I back away,


becomes a footbridge over water lilies.




The Night I Want to Call You at 2 am


I am thinking of the people I adore.

I am thinking of how their hearts

have fanned out in front of mine. 

How few and far between they have been


like a belief in ocean between the Atlantic coast

and the Pacific, traveling by car.


How they can’t be described; how

sometimes you can be distracted,

you think—you, you’re a ball of flame

and then realize no, and anyway,


I’m not looking for the sun

but for the solitude of night.


How few you continue to adore. 

How the ones you have loved, whether

taking their bodies or just their hands,

whether lips embrace lips, or minds


grip minds, maybe hearts blend—they become you. 

They become your branches,


your salt and pepper shakers, your

precious metals, your water, manna of rebirth. 




John Newsham



What do you wait for?

Some hallelujah,

or the rising of the righteous from the dead?


They said

God was made flesh

in a shed

with the smell of shit.

With the mud and the sweat

thick in the straw.


Look around

at the dust and the dirt of life.

The world and all upon it are imperfect,

I’m a fool and so are you.

Are we not made for one another?


Here it is,

with all the pain and agony of birth.

In the mud, the sweat, and the shit,


Here it is.






I want to

slow the world


to a fraction

of a moment.


Hear each

new note


and linger

like a





in every


the weight

of each

time it‘s




Let my

wild Self


upon the


of an



On the



















Her Artwork, Aged 3


She dragged the green felt-tip across the page;

five unrecognisable shapes,

two scribbled blue,

the rest left well alone.


This is for you

she proudly said,

and smiled.


I keep it folded

in the pocket of my coat

like a blessing

in a language

far from mine.


Like a morning walk

through windy hills in winter

without cause or destination,


just for the conviction

and the chaos.




Brittany Perham




The universe is expanding from the center,

which is any point you watch from.

In this way, things pull apart, gaps gap

between body and body, although

it appears that you are the constant.

My father moves out of our house.

He takes the coffee pot and the blender,

two clocks and the television set.

Every time we come home something else is gone:

silverware, lamps, the paintings in the hallway.

He leaves the photographs, which stay on the walls

like water stains. My brother and I

guess what will be missing next.

It’s a game. He thinks it will be the sofa,

I think the set of kitchen knives.

But it is my parents’ bed, the mattress

heaved onto the floor, the frame itself

dismantled. I sit at night with my brother.

He is looking through his telescope

for two planets, which he thinks will align

with the moon. The sky clouds

and reemerges, clouds again. He adjusts

the eyepiece, focuses and scans:

what do you know about space?  







As the work of the world continues,

my father opens the door to the dark hallway.

While the house works to hold the secret

all night. The heater comes on. Voices hum.


My father opens the door to the dark hallway

gathering shadows of leaves on the wall.

At night the heater comes on. Voices hum

in the room where my brother and I sit,


gathering shadows of leaves on the wall.

Darkness leans down like a tree.

In the room where my brother and I sit,

my mother looks at her hands, tells a story.


Darkness leans down like a tree

pressing against the landscape. Rain.

My mother looks at her hands, tells the story:

the storm and pilgrims arrive in boats,


pressing against the landscape. Rain

on the glass in the windows, which endures through

the storm. And pilgrims arrive in boats

in my mind. A new history begins opening.


The glass in the windows, which endures through

my childhood, will hold and hold.

In my mind, a new history begins. Opening

from the dark, the bright day is a shock.


My childhood will hold and hold

while the house works to hold the secret

from the dark. The bright day is a shock

as the work of the world continues.







Lung X-Ray: heavy grays and blacks

are good, meaning: expanding tissue.

Whites: blockages, closures.


Terbutaline, a nurse says,

to open up the airways.

Infusion pumps switched on.


Doctor. His first breaking

whisper is the slip of the sheet

over your chest. Tubes coil

over your shoulder.


Night happens:

since there are no windows in the unit,

I don’t see it. This is true

also for morning. A curtain

spins on its rectangle all the way around the bed.


I think in numbers:

one-hundred-eighty, your heart rate—high.

Eighty-four—blood-oxygen content—low.

Carbon dioxide—ninety— (remember the fall

you hiked up to the lake,

holding to the flat edge of rock— the wind

unnaturally heavy—looking down all that distance?)

is taking hold. It beds itself

down in the blood. To understand this,

it will help to imagine closet:

a row of dark suits in dry-cleaning bags.

Stand between them and close the door.




Christine Poreba

Rough Knowledge



The photograph my father showed

my mother of our garden on the day

we planted it down in Florida

was an image, she said, only a real

gardener could enjoy, sensing

what the box of soil would become,

knowing the small envelopes poking

up from the earth marked places

where seeds were taking their first wide

breaths below.  The way others of us know

a glass jar marked paprika contains

the burnt umber smell of grandmothers

cooking in a basement, or that around

a certain twist of road, a whole range

of blue ridges awaits.  Yet the knowledge

never quite prepares us for the turn. 

And as my father, my husband and I set

those seeds into their soil on the day

of planting, we might have been dropping

stars into the sky for how little we knew

of which might collapse, and which,

in that wide stretch of dark, would brighten.




Even in Clear Air



The bales of hay are wet from last night’s rain

and the damp air that followed it

has shifted to brisk currents stirring sunlight.


We wanted to see the cows

asleep last night, so we walked through the wet dark,

eyes adjusting to silhouettes.


Twice you said you saw a shooting star

but twice I missed it.  There are moments

in marriage you can not share, and moments you must—


the bed unmade, a curtain

falling off its hook, a rattle of breath

that startles even the snorer.


These sounds, once learned, become the soft sputters

of a lake, what bark might say

if it spoke.  There’s a joy to not knowing whether the shape


on top of a faraway mountain is a column or a cloud.




Inside the Blue


My student, Yeon Do, asks why to be blue

means to be sad.  Blue is happy,

he says, the sky is blue and beautiful! 


He’s right—what other color can join us

to the stars, both define and lead

beyond our own horizon?


But isn’t some of this the sun’s work,

the color blue an illusion of light

scattering through dust?


Weren’t all of us once told that what

looks blue to me might be the color

that to you is red?  That paradox


of the little world within us and the one

without.  Today my husband cleaned

the inside of our yellow teapot


and it gleamed whiter than it had

since we’d received it.  A blue jay landed

in the garden and I thought blue is surprise. 


That way the blues, when they arrive,

can streak their way through us like rain

leaving wet lines down the trunk of a live oak,


down the bark unprotected by leaves.

The way the galaxies sneaked up on me

outside a bar last week, when we ignored


the glare of streetlights as we listened

to a visiting astronomer, and looked up through

a telescope at the rocky light of the moon,


at matter deep in the sky, at nebulae, where,

just above us, though quite far, stars

were being born.  Once a student described


being nearsighted as having a short eye. 

This is how we felt beneath the night sky,

a page written on both sides, a page


through which light can slip in a footnote, a sprinkling

in window boxes, a scattering of keys for the right

chord—fierce and full—the kind that never goes out.




Rachel Richardson

Ode To My Grandmother in the Week That She Stopped Eating



                                 In October, in Vermont,

your bones in clear relief against the old suit

already, you had nowhere to go


in the physical world.              Your daughter’s lover outside

mapped the trees for sugaring. Cows lowed

over the hill. The sweet smell of dung

drifted in on pads of adolescent kittens

who curled near your feet by the stove.           What world,


you might have asked, but no.     

                                   They tell me

                they lay plate after plate before you

and each time, to each supplicant, you turned up your open face

and smiled at them, whoever they are—     


your kin, everyone your child, alternately begging you to taste

and forcing bread against your teeth.


You remained empty. You said nothing,

until you said thank you, and turned back toward the window

which you had no need

to see beyond. 




Susan Barnard Gardner, b. 1828



I lived in a small room, my gable facing out

toward the sea. My father lined the sill with scrimshaw

because a sailor never forgets the stories:

men baling the waves, men stoved by the beast—


A quarterboard hung from our hearth,

the planks of its ship refixed

as floors and cabinets. This is what it’s like

to live in the mouth of a whale.


My bedtime stories were the mariner’s instructions;

Father quizzing the girls on each shoal, on maps

of lightships numbered, named.

Tales of men burning mattresses in rigging:


this is what happens on a foggy night.

This is what happens when the tender sleeps.

Fires, fires raged on the sea,

and the whale’s teeth beckoned me


look out on it, to hunger—

already I knew nothing else would take me whole.




In Byzantium


        after Jack Gilbert



Cracking eggs in a red bowl, I looked down and saw Byzantium.

How strange to find it here, that golden yolk: Byzantium.


I had been reading your poems all day, practicing scales.

Pacing small rooms—when rose the turrets of Byzantium.


And what was below? Great domes? Stone-paved lanes?

Yes, and the miniscule marketplace of Byzantium.


I glimpsed women in kerchiefs swinging baskets of fruit

and heard the clattering hooves of the horses of Byzantium.


The ample breasts were tucked behind thick silks,

but in alleys, love-cries echoed through Byzantium.


The doors are all locked here; mailboxes stuffed with news.

On clogged streets the cars rumble home, not to Byzantium.


Around me is a suburb, splayed smooth as if flattened.

Look closer, you say? Even here might be Byzantium?


Jack, where will it end—with the heavy apples hocked there,

each enclosing a mystery? We could fall ever deeper into Byzantium.




Josuha Rivkin



I imagine you in an apple orchard. 

Workers twist fruit from light,

white tail deer nightly graze, and

I’d make you sleep against trunks

until you promise to stay

alive through winter, stay after 

blizzards,  when trees go white

like late season dandelions.  Stay

through spring into the summer

when men with fruit knives dust

the dust from their jeans, reenter

the orchard, recognizing limbs,

seeing how fruit has come back:

bright, whole, waiting.  Stay

through summer into fall.   Fall

into winter.  Winter into spring.

What else do you want?  What else

can I offer?  A place at the table

where we last sat together –

your sipped a macchiato and read

my poems with an eye towards

what could be cut, what tightened,

what with time could be art.




Emily Rosko



Even as inside

as you are, you are

not yet inly enough.


I know you with your

folding in: the start of

the fern frond, snail-tight


curl, the whisk and horse-

tail which unrolls a quick-

scaled green-forming,


uncoils its scrollwork

of fiddlehead, shepherd’s

crook which seeks


the ground, no seed or

flower to concentrate

on, even as in shade


and poor soil it thrives:

only you go the other

way: tighter knot, false


part of unfurling. Sink

to dirt a deeper bed

those roots, my love.




One March, Newly Turned


—for Q.


Three—and want has no definition

other than right now.  This evening

brought us out, hunting for rabbit tracks

under the neighbors’ pines. Booted,

you stomped around the perimeter,

head down serious in look, some

inner weather curled under

your lower lip. You are a brilliant mess

of color: white cheeked, near freckle

and auburned. The grass is high

in first green growth, the turned dirt

divots the dog makes with her forepaws,

nose alert. She is small and so are you,

but that doesn’t explain why

you take a sudden start at her, foot

kicked squarely into her side.

You know it’s wrong. I can see

that. You know your after-cry

is fake, put-on as we time-out

the sentence, sternly set. I’m taken

by two things: that this reels out

of you, unspooling furiously

in a slideshow you feel yourself to be

playing in; and, that you size me up

to see how much I am aware and what

flooding-in part of me understands.




Il Pincio


        Spoleto, Italy


All day Assisi’s perfect white-pink sun-glint rocks spilled

down the mountain, forty-five kilometers from where

I stood balcony-side and removed above


the rented villa’s blue pool, terracotta roof. All day

and the wind was northerly rushing in in a frantic

sort of movement much like my heart up and down


from the chair disturbed by the Italian landlord

with his family, friends bikini-clad and uninvited,

lounging below. I was perched to pounce, by which


I mean, I am a not a good host. I do not join

the strangers, home but not at home, with any resemblance

of good day. I’m not invited anyway, do not


seem seen, though am, as I pace in and out, allowing

the door to slam and give noise to the annoyance

lodged in my brain more than anything close to sharing.


It’s a feeling I’d rather not admit, this I was here first,

an age-old sense of propriety, a false belief the eye

owns what it sees. Not unlike the villa’s mice-catching


orange cat which skulks along the rock wall needy

for hand-outs it doesn’t need. I willed go away, go

away. And then they did. All day for this, the advancing


sun’s gold-set light yellowing the hay-grasses

waist-deep when I walk up to them, something small at last.




Will Schutt




Even up close it’s hard to tell

whether the white and blue

church tower is defunct or half-finished

or, like every third house

block after prim block, let for summer.

Only an odd patch of moss

flecks the siding, and thin ginger-colored

stains make a noncommittal

braid, like wicker or wings at rest.

From our third floor window

long scarves of water push

right up against the houses.

They seem to clip the gutter spouts.

If one were Elizabeth Bishop

one would probably hear a tidy music in them.

Tidy and resolved, the way

history says “Look West, Future-looker”

and kids worry a blue vein

of hope in their spiral notebooks.

At night after each boat has pulled in

behind the artificial bulwark

moonlight saddles a galvanized tub

of orange marigold and sedum,

and green and burgundy rosettes

creep upward like weird insect antennae

trucking the earth off to Westerly,

Rhode Island, where nirvana is a long time

coming. Or untidy, unresolved,

the way stupid hope won’t shut up

and my shoelaces make antsy on the deck

as moonlight shoves off the sedum,

and ginger-colored stains resemble

the warp and dash of a question mark.








I do not want happiness to resemble happiness

or poetry, poetry.

I want hunger to come back into fashion

and longing to fall out of fashion. 

I want to submit the good parts of my father

and the good parts of my mother

as evidence of what they could be, sometimes,

despite the circumstances. 

I want to be alive not lucky to be alive.

I want to be alive in the sun at noon with a cup of lemon   


Via clarity and simplicity I want to arrive

at complication and surprise.

I do not want to carry around all this want

just to empty it out onto the street

and ask you what you think I should do with it

were we to cross paths. Each, I hope, would acknowledge

the other without erasing the other.






One could do worse

than throw on a coat 

and walk past the house


held up by his name,

past signs for captain this & that

scuffed on each fence,


past summer people

preparing salmon coulibiac

with little to do but look


from the low end of town

at boats hovering

like faraway countries


in full disclosure.

As for the sea, a woman

once said the look of it


sent a shiver down her back.

Like waking up

in a room with no roof.


We were on the tail end

of a trip to Portugal.

I didn’t expect much to go on


that we would take with us

afterward or elsewhere.

One could do worse


than take nothing with him

but this light coat

and a little earth in his pocket.




Ali Shapiro




October, and the blood

has rushed from the trees


but not yet from the leaves:


you stoop to choose

favorites, then pass

them back to me, to hold

and then discard, like


the trees did. These Rorschached reds

and yellows, these blazing

Fauves, these


gifts—each says, This one.

Each says,


from this vast ground covered

with bright dead tinder

there are careful

selections to be made,


says excess

does not cancel

beauty out. Later, you’ll emerge


from the gas station with a lotto ticket

and offer it to me

like a leaf,


another piece

of this world made crisp

by your attention,


and my fingers

brushing yours

will say: This one. Will learn

how to relish what’s


already over. The thinning

wind, the forest

in flames, your taste

of salt in my throat. If nothing

can be saved still give


me this: my brief

body, the leaves

as they’re leaving. The ticket


about to be scratched.







Eyes, let’s see, a simple

rhyme—my, mine. Yours

are like skies, like clouds

and light skeined together, the storm’s

fickle center—simpler. Not morning’s

yearning. Not violence,

violets. Tonight we take only

the direct flights, Boston

to Austin, my heart

at the Mini-Mart, dogs barking

in the parking lot. Oh

lover, you could be

anyone’s, but it’s my mouth

your mouth covers, and under

each layered gasp another

chorus for us to remember

forever without even trying. Oh my

one-true, my only-you, my

most-dear, there’s nothing

new here, nothing not

radio-ready, just this pop song

longing, just our blank-slate

faces, just our bodies

pressed together in all the

usual beautiful places.




Eleanor Stanford

Smoothleaf Elm (Ulmus minor)


The chemo leaves my mother

weak and docile, out

of sorts. Her head wrapped

in old scrap fabric, a garland

of tiny flowers. 

But how young

she looks, the gray

erased, her eyes the pale green

of new leaves.




Dawn Redwood


In dreams I return to Salvador. The roads

are washed out. I have to swim. Or

I am held at gunpoint

in front of the coconut stand.

Yet it is unmistakably

the same city where I once

lived. Where I walked

with a newborn in my arms,

first light spreading through the palms.

It is true, the dawn redwood,

believed to exist only as a fossil 

was, in 1941, discovered living

in a rural Chinese province.

For myself, though, I do not believe

in miraculous returns.

In no region of this earth

will I again wake to soothe

an infant’s ferny cries, or find myself

flooded, suddenly, with milk.




Harvest: Midsummer


This is my favorite time, before

mold claims the zucchini leaves,

before the chard turns tough and sullen

and the spinach bolts. I kneel

in front of the butter lettuce,

tender heads in which I take

inordinate pride. As though

it were my tending, and not

the turning of the earth

that brings them forth. As later,

when I am tearing the leaves

for salad, calling my sons

to wash their hands, I feel

for a moment the almost weightless

syllables I have plucked, it seems now,

from air, and chosen

willfully to love.




Christian Teresi

An Alternate Version of Goya’s The Dog

                      For Jaimie


We look at what could be your own dog drowning. 

We came through room after room where there was only the divine

as best guessed.  Jesus was never the same


from one canvas to the next. You believe one day our dog will die,

but Goya’s dog is a long time in the luxury of undying­­—

the perpetual mid-paddle, the forever abiding no motion.


How like guesswork belief can be. 

Goya’s dog with all the handsome colors conjured

without bone, or fur, or pain.  This is the liminal tour


of a limited world you choose to place your pathos into. 

We look at the picture and see your dog barking louder

than necessary, or his begging devotion, though there is none


of those things.  We see a lunatic tide

though there is none.  We look, and we look again,

just as some look at those other paintings and see


an idea of heaven even though they look to me like drowning. 

Here the dog is drowning in the dark edges of the day. 

Here he is drowning in love.  And here, to be fair, he is drowning


in someone’s mongrel gaze.  Here drowning, come of darkness,

lay down water dear clever Spaniard—sit and makes us

swimmers floating in the joy of anything even if it’s sorrow.  




About the Buddha in the Special Education Classroom


The Buddha spoke of rebirth as an opportunity

to reach enlightenment.  Of the six realms a person can be born,

there’s none that match the exact statistics of Lucas.

To be born with the combination of afflictions confirmed

in his twisted limbs is as unlikely as being born to royalty.

Speak with Lucas.  His reaction to a negative,

what does Fairfax County say?  So ask, About what Lucas?

There’s no answer as if he cannot be bothered to say.

A fifteen-year-old with the mind of a four-year-old,

and the copycat ease of a colloquial tongue.   Lucas bellows,

What a woman, with such confidence to the speech pathologist

for an instant he leads her all smiles and dancing, but he returns

to the muscular dystrophy that leaves him gnarled,

glared at, and dead before thirty.  Held so close to this terrain

of impossibilities, Lucas calls Alissa chicken legs, a name

his brothers bestowed upon him at home.  Say it’s not nice

to call people names and he slips a smile, hits the mark, assert,

I don’t know about that.  The Buddha said being human

offered the best chance for enlightenment.  For whose benefit

is our cascade of sounds, and gluttonous sight, and taking

grip, the jaunt of feet propelling the effort along, and it is all

effort mostly wasted, but see Lucas do so much with so little.




On the Meeting of Ruth Stone and Sylvia Plath


Ruth found Walter and did what she could

to shush the knot and rope, the truth of gravity


around his neck, but there aren’t enough

idiomatic expressions to converse flawlessly with the dead.   


There was enough love to let some meaning slide. 

There was the earlier invitation—dinner in a London restaurant.


Conversation masked envy and ego when Walter’s

a month from a wretched suicide, and Ted starts counting


March storms to where the days then divide by the posture

of chemicals in the brain, or the water heater inevitably


at the lazy end of inspection, and do the math—four years

from disrepair—but the dinner never happened. 


The night before Ruth had too much wine with dinner,

or not enough dinner with wine.  And this is the hangover


(all these years later), this is what really has survived;

it was difficult for Ruth to leave her bed and get the girls


into their nightgowns, if only so they knew her belly laughter,

almost that of a witch, each cackle a melody.  It is enough


to know Ruth’s efforts—though Walter never sounded back—

speak more of the fifty years since than any bullshit


about Sylvia’s self-destruction being a source for creative energy. 

What good are prizes awarded to the dead?  Who cares


about the Lazarus of Ruth’s work, having been “discovered”

for the sixth time at eight-five?  It can be a long time


from flower to fruit that doesn’t fall to the ground unnoticed. 

Who cares how many times you can die and come back again? 


Sylvia’s words break their necks in the offering.  Ruth had

long since repaired what could be, still caring and cared for


by her daughters, still in the classroom, the last one

with sound from her mouth if she so wished, her voice


the perfume from day-old apples—both sweet and strong

and a long time coming.  I was one student in the second row. 


Ruth was alive—not the never-ending failure of ink on paper—

hair like the sun on a smokestack, and smiling.




Matthew Thorburn

These poems will be posted when the author provides them.




Rhett Iseman Trull



When I let myself in, my brother is singing, up

in his room where he thinks he’s alone. I tune my ear, as if

to a safe unlocking, as if now might be revealed

secrets known only to the pinball wizard, jack

sprung from a box, and carousel ponies the moment the ride

switches on. All summer, he’s hidden

his voice, no matter how I begged for

just one song. Is his refusal vengeance

for that hide-and-seek, long ago,

when I let the neighbor girls convince me

to abdicate my role as It, though Jim alone remained to find

and would remain, tucked behind the holly,

as its leaves performed their cruelty on his skin

and the sun dropped toward the spiny curtain

of the trees and his sister was not coming, was not even

    looking, was

in the basement watching MTV, trying to be like the older


I wish he’d remember instead how we found each other

other times, when storms would out the lights

or the algae eater we loved—strange against the glass—

went belly up in the greening tank; or how, when he was


and wanted it opened and closed, opened and closed, I’d

bring my music-box down from the high shelf,

though I feared he might break it.


More likely, he remembers his first solo, his

Winthrop who’d barely speak until that wagon with its

promised trumpet was on its way, his opening night, night I


from the theater, disappeared again, might have been

thinking suicide for all he knew, couldn’t explain 

those dark halls inside me lit by music. Is he, too,

unable to separate the two events, the two of us?

Or does he think of me at all anymore? And

which is worse? A month from now,

he’ll make his one exception—or so he thinks—to this

summer’s silence, at Tony’s, the beach’s

lone Italian fine dining, where he’ll stop busing tables, turn

to surprise us: his happy birthday to you to our mother,

    a cappella,

laying down every spaghetti-twisted fork, pulling even

the cooks from the kitchen. He’s that good.


I’ve wondered if he fears the presence of an audience

dilutes, somehow, the instrument. But

walking in on him tonight, I understand:

he’s Orpheus, dangerous power to move a stone, to make

and unmake, incite the already unhinged

to further madness, inspire the gods

to call Eurydice out of the dark. I wish

I could tell him it’s not his fault his song

becomes mine when I hear it.

The roof is lifting off the scaffold of this house.

Knives in their drawers have gone percussive.

My brother’s song is sky at dusk unfolding its stars, galoshes

troubling a puddle back to rain. It’s the old

strange tremble in my chest when, to prove it wasn’t

the quick- kind, I stepped out onto the sand to learn it was.


I dare not stir, not even to slip the keys

to the counter. I am next to enter

the coliseum: we who are about to die, next

to be fired from the cannon, next soul

for whom the gate with its pearls like teeth

has opened. The boat tacks now toward

our new country. Words drop from our tongues

like tickets, spent. One day scholars writing A History of


will sink their heads to their desks, stumped

by the lost word brother. Hold on. He


slows it down, wraps each note in a softness, opposite

of mussels in their shells. I remember myself, farther back.

Unlike the flimsy ballerina in the music-box, turning

over and over over the years to her one song, I’ve been


by many, all part of the same: cheap kazoo prize

from the Guess Your Age booth, tobacco-clouded

codger every autumn bringing our piano

into tune, Mama humming at the end

of a set of lullabies she rocked me nightly to

while my brother slept inside her waiting to be born.




The Theater Empties Us into the Street


The dark leans close. My hand in my pocket makes

        a fist. Night, I pray,

to the audience of stars, Night, hide me. My own ghost

        has returned, whispering again

her could-have-beens, her almost-was and wasn’t-I-


        once up there under the lights

or just before, as the piano opened the evening, awaiting

        my cue in the wings…

I try to find the right song, scroll through my private

        rolodex of show-tunes—“Old Man River,”

“On My Own,” some of my old favorite songs from way back


        to drown her out, that girl I was, wishing

every night the same wish on the same false star. I hear her

        in the water mornings

when I twist on the shower’s applause; hear her twittering


        any music she can find: winter

wrens extra mad for suet, horns blaring at the crossroads,

        soft plink of the knife

cutting to the plate through the meat. And tonight,

        rustling with the playbill

in my jacket, tapping the wet sidewalk with my boots,

        it’s all her. She won’t let me

alone and my loneliness deepens. Sweetens. I am

        that girl I was,

singing to myself. Tonight the role of the dreamer

        will be played by the wind, my

understudy, ringing the porch chimes as I go past, taking

        a thousand final bows through the leaves.




Chelsea Wagenaar

The Phrenologist Chooses a Wife



What fascinated me most was the arc

along the top of her head, the Immortality


space—perfectly parallel with the earlobes—

because it was slightly raised, more convex


than any I’d felt before. It indicates

a striving, a yearning toward the other world,


reached by prayer, by dream, the pause

between words, a ragged breath, the revelation


of need. I nearly believed she’d been

to that world and back already. Do petals


still fall, I wanted to ask, are there

enough teacups? Her eyes, ethereal


orbs of light, never wavered, scarcely

aware of my roving hands. I passed


over Firmness, over Self-Esteem; I paused

at Hope, where a pulsing feathered


my fingertips. I placed my palms against

Secretiveness, felt the full swell—


remarkable, a phantom ripeness.

You, I said, you, wanting to ghost the vault


inside her. She did not startle when

I bent my lips to hers.







This morning’s matins are dream-based, fear-infused,

a first groggy plea not to still be waiting tables,

not to have my teeth break off and spew out of my mouth,

not to be coiled and bound on a precipice, awaiting

the promised superhero. He’s probably been detained—

perhaps stumbling heat-ravaged through the furnace

of lower Texas, or on a South American vacation,

unable to turn his eyes from the glaciers of Patagonia,

cerulean and windswept, terrible. The city of ice

reminds him of another, a city of glass towers

they’d called it, which he’d swooped in to rescue

from gangs and mafias, only to find all the ornithologists

wandering the streets stunned, mute, gathering

the stilled bodies of white-throated sparrows

from the sidewalks. Their shattered anatomies.

A whistle trapped in each throat, the world

that much quieter.

                            Cold coffee this abandoned morning,

straggling rain, thumbed out sun. Vagrant tongue,

I’ve followed you here, your far-fetched horizons,

your tall tales. Too often you return empty.

O Lord, there are even elegies for the guilted sidewalks,

small laments that throb to be heard, so what

is your reply? Word made feather. Made glacier.

Made flesh—that your eyes are fixed here,

your ears lashed and ragged with the tatters of prayers.




Adagio Morendo



The bullet sings in its long peripheral arc toward you,


over the glyphic movements of ants in the desert dust,


under the fumbling swabs of cloud.


Heat miraging in the distance, tall, like blue glaciers.


Baby breathing in the crib upstairs,


your wife’s hands in a sink full of water and soap.


Tomorrow they will print your name in the paper.


The arpeggio nears you, descending its invisible keys.


A fine sheen of hair powders her throat,


which you could sometimes see when the light was soft enough.


How strange to think of it now.


And yet how lovely in its occasional grace, all


but hidden, even after the singing has ended.




Mark Wagenaar

View of Biscayne Bay

with Baby Grand



Only ankle deep,

yet the water cools twenty-six bones in each foot,


a litany recited by the sea

in two-note murmurings,


calcaneus, talus, a list that stretches back

to the first step & the first word,

lateral cuneiform, medial cuneiform,


back to ships packed with barley,

holds full of roped-off amphoras,

                                                olive oil to their throats,

ships trailing words in their wakes,

conversations & curses in Greek, Persian, Akkadian, Sumerian…

the sea on the horizon, as it is here,

                                                     except for a small speck

the size of a tinderbox,

dark lunula of a hand held out at arm’s length—

someone’s plunked down a baby grand

in the middle of the bay,


& the last song played on it?

Some cantata, still trembling in the joints, half-hollowed

by the silence

that followed the storm two nights ago,


a note for each sea & one

for the body of the Hunter Gracchus,


forever drifting port to port,

face to the stars

                     that once guided him…

Sometimes any little piece of eternity,

                                         whatever we can beg or borrow,

is enough, or has to be—

star drift & bone shard,

                                  deep pulse & deep prayer,

the body’s Thirteen Ghost Points,

                                                some nothing that remains

after something’s created out of it.

Little eternities. The endlessly circling,

                                                       Hunter & raven.

Twelve sets of ribs & a prayer on your lips,

a fading cantata of smuggler’s wakes

                                                       & footprints,

as if someone had just left the piano


to tell you that there is no way to remember

because no one ever returns to tell you how,


that this song was just another vessel

urged on by its emptiness.







There’s a chart on the wall from the Ming Dynasty,

the Expression of Fourteen Meridians, a man haloed

by Chinese characters, as if wearing a yoke

of honeysuckle vines that trail after him,

like the thermal plume that follows each of us—

the skin’s 91.4 degrees constantly radiating

into its surroundings, beginning at the ankles

& swirling up, in a constant upward motion,

so that each location contributes chemical traces,

a signature we each leave petaled on the air.

There is no landscape, then, that remains untouched

by us. And no one that has not been limned

by the wakes of our ancestors, recitations of arches

& hollow places. Otzi the Iceman, frozen 5,000 years,

emerged from the ice with fifteen groups of tattoos—

some at acupuncture points— the ink intact through

all of recorded history. Body of rivers, body of stars:

du shu, the ‘great numbers’ that correspond to each

other in the universe, the twelve channels

& the twelve rivers through the Central Kingdom,

needle points within slopes & hollows with the traceries

of heaven-signs, other points more like a dream

of stars than stars, the scapula like a dream of wings.

Maybe it’s possible, then, to measure your solitude

to the last snowflake, to gauge mercy or longing

by the number of lumens, the way your name was once

said for the first time in the morning to no one

but the first light & the tanager’s wake, by someone

who becomes lost in the thought of your thirteen

ghost points, Ghost Palace, Ghost Faith, Ghost Heart.

Celestial Oriole & Celestial Spring. Cloud Door,

the depression below your clavicle. Camphorwood Gate,

below the free end of the eleventh floating rib.

Each needle a point of light, the constellations fixed

for a few moments on your skin. One more pierces

your skin, sliding past oil & dirt & tinges of poisons,

chlorine, fluoride, lead: if a history, then one of your life,

through the spills & traces of past days, through melanin,

a pigment that radiates heat when struck by light.

If a cartography, then one of desire: sunlight darkens you, then disappears: the wakes of those who have gone on ahead vanish from sight even faster: it’s in this evening

veil, & in the body’s dark waters, that you wait

for someone to call you back. To recite you, City of Canals, City of Longing, each of our Sky Window Points.
To find you between the points. To darken you.




Portrait of a Laryngologist



The larynx is an ark drifting through

one’s solitude, an ark with one of everything:

pins, coins, a locket that clasped

a picture of a woman’s husband

who was gone when she returned.

On the cervical x-ray of the upper chest

& throat, the larynx is an afterdusk landscape

above the whitewashed latticework of ribs—

the object becomes the radiolucent moon

of the body, a relic of one’s desire.

I’ve been asked why I do it. The word

itself, larynx—from the Greek larunx

as old as civilization itself, as the hollow organ

that gave us our first word. Or the old stories

that point toward metamorphosis,

like the man who swallowed fire & awoke

to a peach tree in bloom beside him.

All language is the revelation of our need:

to be nearest voice is to be nearest prayer.

It’s a kind of prayer, an intimacy, a recovery

of the missing, that has one swallowing

the dearest items, & calling it an accident.

I’ve become a counsel of sorts. A man gestures

at the x-ray, a pictograph of his story, trying to explain

the ring in his throat. I want to say it will be touched

somehow by the hidden gravities beneath it,

the pulsing dream clouds of the lungs,

the shuddering heart. Every word you utter

will ghost around her ring, will become a vow.