Dorothy Prizes Awarded for 2013



Paula Bohince of Plum, Pennsylvania for Grandmother’s Marsh; Calling the Ants; The Peach
James Crews of Lincoln, Nebraska for In the Yard After a Storm; Telling My Father; When I Think of the End of the World
Jennifer Key of Asheville, North Carolina for Blue Ridge; Solstice 
Rachel Richardson of Greensboro, North Carolina for Fog, Land’s End; Shearwater 
Leslie Elizabeth Adams of Chicago, Illinois for Bright Theater 
Lisa Ampleman of Cincinnati, Ohio for Felicity, OH; Fidelity MO; Vows 
Ariane Bolduc of Dublin, Ohio for Toward Home; Another day Come to a Close; Brautigan, a Portrait
Josh Booton of Portland, Oregon for Tell Me What I Know; Notes Against Forgetting 
Keetje Kuipers of Auburn, Alabama for The story; Ought; Jonathan Plays in the Key of E
Sara Michas-Martin of Denver, Colorado for And so Begins, in Slow Motion, the Care of Him; This is Happening, I think. Maybe. Yes
Catherine Pierce of Starkville, Mississippi for Alongside; An Apologia for Taking Things for Granted; Halloween, 1988
Malachi Black of Atlanta, Georgia for Herring Cove; Damages; Prayer for a Slow Death 
Chanda Feldman of Fayetteville, Arkansas for Grandfather; Elegy
Christopher Goodrich of Montgomery Village, Maryland for On Death, with Mayzie, Age 4;
Morning Monster Chase with Mayzie, 3 and Leilah,2; Pressing Play 
Benjamin Gucciardi of Oakland, California for The Green Piano; Aurora; The Nest
Jennifer Leonard of Madison, Wisconsin for Ohio; Another Summer; [What then is there left at day’s end]
Jennie Malboeuf of Greensboro, North Carolina for Newfound Star System; Family; Why I’m Scared to Listen to Beethoven
Tarn W. Painter-MacArthur of Eugene, Oregon for The Neighbour; Little Brother at the Altar; The fox
Casey Thayer of Chicago, Illinois for Self Portrait with Crow and Thorn Necklace; Torching the Ground Hornets; Word from the Nursing Home 
Chelsea Wagenaar of Denton, Texas for Poem in Which Elephants Are Stupendous; August; Houdini’s Wife 
Amie Whittemore of Charlottesville, Virginia for Song for Stevens; Nostalgia Sweepstakes; Drowning the Marigold
Dilruba Ahmed of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania for Cancer Weather; Processing; Google Search Autocomplete
Ruth Awad of Carbondale, Illinois for Town Gossip. 1994; On 1-65 South; New Mother, 1984
Joshua Robert Conklin of Attleboro, Massachusetts for Everything Melts; If You Go; Honeysuckle
Jesse Curran of Northport, New York for Just Like This; Twenty-Third of August (After Yeats);The Waiting Room at St. Catherine’s of Siena 
Andrew Davis of Nashville, Tennessee for Early Mist; By the Schuylkill in October; Childhood Photograph
Elizabeth Hoover of Harrisonburg, Virginia for Luna Moth; A Fine Romance; Another Fine Romance
Katharine Johnsen of Wilmington, North Carolina for Visitation; Subscription; Anticipation
Nina Riggs of Greensboro, North Carolina for Anne Bradstreet Crosses the Atlantic 
Emily Rosko of Charleston, South Carolina for Offering; How thought the beauty of being; The Horizon Is Where All Points Meet 
Honorable mention ($250)
Michael J. Grabell of Valhalla, New York for Simile for My Brother; Why; Ode to Kirsten Dunst 10595 
Eleanor Stanford of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania for Personal Essay; Ninety Percent of Our Cells are Not Our own; A Brief History of the English Language
Our thanks to everyone who entered and
congratulations to our winners!
Winning Poems
Dilruba Ahmed
Work currently withheld

Lisa Ampleman


Felicity, OH

The brick-and-siding bungalows have sun

crawling up their sides. Oh the black-eyed-

susans in the ditch. Oh the empty bag

of Cheetohs. There’s the house that copper

thieves loved for its rail-thin pipes

and vacant rooms. There, balloons

blossom from the Felicity Arms’ sign,

as if to say, live here, there’s an empty pool

still redolent of chlorine. Two bus-stop kids

wait in egg-yolk light, one longing to have

a balloon, even if it sags to the ground,

the other pulling at a sweater-string—how

long could it be? Oh the places they’ll go.

Oh the places we’ll leave. A telephone pole

gathers teddy bears and wreaths to itself.

Just down 222, a recent wreck settles in the road,

cars at odd angles. The drivers have not yet

opened their doors, but it’s possible to

fix a dislodged bumper, replace a broken

brakelight. Someone will sweep up

the shards, someone else direct traffic

onto the shoulder. A line of cars waits

patiently to clear the mess, even

as traffic backs up past the parking lot

of the Food Mart. Inside, from her

high perch, a three-year-old

in her foam-green swimsuit hurls

cereal boxes into the cart. Oh the fiber

and bran, sugar and oats. Oh her toothy grin

since her mother hasn’t noticed

and the candy aisle is next.

Fidelity, MO

The only wind here is the distant whirr

of highway. In its warren, a rabbit reflexively


pulls out fur to cradle its bloody-thumb

babies. The woodstove in that ranch house


wafts the scent of pine down the cul-de-sac.

A flag, not lowered in three years, is thin


as linen and pinned by one corner

to a poplar branch. On the porch,


a woman smokes while she waits for the car.

And there’s the Pontiac, a red fox,


blazing through the trees.

There’s his mug-face through the rain


as he walks up, still singing

that classic-rock hymn: forever


yours, faithfully. His scarf askew,

his smile a half-moon on its back.


Today’s a ragtime ditty, half-speed.

She’s off to the diner for the lunch rush,


and he’ll sleep. Today’s a fried-egg sandwich,

bottomless cup of coffee, cottoned sleep,


as the late-day western sun

cuts a cloudbank into a slab of beef. 


          an epithalamium


You hauled me out of bed,

all wires and tubes,


too weak to stand.

Walked with me


when I moved so

slowly you joked


we were going backward.

It was no repayment


when I helped you sling

your broken elbow,


your arm curled, wing,

in front of your body.


There’s no ledger, no balance;

we can’t speed the collagen


hardening into new bone.

I can open the blinds


before you arrive home,

give you words


(this earnest thing),

vow to walk with you,


forward or backward,

over black ice, hospital tile, fire.


Leslie Elizabeth Adams


Bright Theater


The cold light of stars is the light of many trains

without passengers, many empty trains jointing night

to night, carrying nothing across the wide room of heaven.


Years turn over like soil at the furrow.

Under the sky's dry mouth, the dead knit

together their cold wings in the blank light of eternity.


Dust, silence.


A slight scrape of wings.



Dew gathers like an onlooker

on the lawn of the First National Bank.


The sky claps its flat blue hands

and says again, again


I set my ladder against that blue

and climb into nothingness.



Once the animal-soul paced the cave of the mouth.


Now my lover has turned to smoke under my hands.

The stars do not rise like pale fish to the surface of water,

do not hang like white stones through clear water.


My hands have become strange to me—


Each morning, the light catches, the trees exhale

their birds, but the world breaks always from me—


I grow tired of the body.



Where does that wanting disperse to?

The whole earth throbs with it,

a cold fire, a blur in the rushes,


the city’s fire pit lights cooling

to a careless neon scatter—



In the dark, the mind stands large and apart

from the body, outside the sweat-threaded flesh,

the body’s hot-ash walls, outside


the clear and ordered ticking of the heart, the mind

with its words tucked away like shoes in a closet.



Night warms with the bodies of lovers,

a man’s hands, a man’s poor stumbling heart—


The lovers, whose bodies diminish

even in each other’s arms; already,

their hands fill with dust—


A kind of madness, surely, to love transience,

to taste that dust and call it water— 



We trafficked in myths,

set deception’s elaborate table.

We turned our faces away.


Forgive us.


How else to continue

when our mouths close each morning around endings,

when the ground we break is seeded already in teeth?



Night sky sewn horizon to horizon,

an intricate stitching of stars. Fireflies

repeating their bodies’ insistent question

to the dark—


How they come these summer evenings

in their thousands to flicker the branches, beaconing

the window-glass, stringing cobwebs

into eerie winter wreaths— 


Night sky, and the trees that reach ever-towards it

without touching, the wood-study they make of desire,

the air spark-strewn, the small human shape

our bodies make against wet grass—



The dead own nothing.


They arrange their unworn shoes

all day in the corners, drift their scent

among empty suits and dresses of closets,


go about adorned in nothingness,

and so move without effort.

We take even their names from them.



Then what argument,

which of our hands’ small works,

what brief triumph of the body?


The clay pots, which hold our hearts?

The rope we make of grief?


Each of us, a little model of suffering,

of memory passing even before the body—



Sweet chemical haze of pesticide.

Tandem banter of crickets, whir and fall,


capework of sound. Wind skirls

an idle finger through the grasses

like the bored hand of a lover

at the edges of sleep.


Outside Tupelo, the moon

pulls a hard right toward morning.


Then the sun's slow-fired wheel spinning

like a wrecked bicycle.


Then the light,

like a childhood dream of flying— 



Malachi Black

Work currently withheld


Paula Bohince


Calling the Ants

Piqued by the regimented beauty

of the jay, its muted blue uniform, white eye marking

and invisibly darting iris


that briefly beheld, then abandoned

me for the horizontal pleasures of the cornfield,

my eye collecting its colors as remnants,


weaving a daydream of a Union soldier—

sleeve pinned to his shoulder, waving wanly in the corn,

walking backward, into the mystery—


a vision that must arise from the part of me

that wants things held together

despite, despite…


the impulse that made me creep into the pasture

as a kid and pour my Coke onto a hay bale

to enliven it,


to see hay burn with ants, called forth from

daily labor, signaled by sugar’s

inaudible call, sweet music, with me happy to host


the feast, feeling part of the visible world’s miracles,

all those souls, my friends, eating

and dancing joyfully across my hands.



Grandmother’s Marsh

Where the Whitetails blend into

cattails, drawn by the salt of stillness, give-offs

from quiet botanical bodies.

Where the heart-shaped hoof and higher

leaping muscles muddy from the ginger climb

of preference to action.


The jays, little skies, excite the branches

of the nearly sunken tree.  They will not relinquish

the dream of nest.  How poignant

their newlywed happiness.

A groundhog skirts the scenery’s edges; the skunk’s

rockabilly forelock lifts in wind.


Insects abide in waving-goodbye

handkerchief formation, romantic as the one

she once clutched at the station, lace

beside the train, the something old from her wedding,

as her young, uniformed husband leaned

from the steps, watching her diminish.


Decades later, she swings on the porch,

smoking his pipe.  She’s the garden and house alike

now, in flowered robe, a little chimney.

How sweet to chew the bit and relax into solitude,

watching the marsh’s bridal blossoming,

at peace with buds at their beginning.



The Peach

It is luscious as the robes Hare Krishnas wear,

passing out daisies at the airport;

softer than a daisy’s center, offered to disembarking passengers

before they flee in taxis.

A fresh-picked peach will keep its leaf,

resembling the shaved head, slender ponytail those monks wear,

in devotion.  Its fuzz will always recall the face of a boy

at fifteen, or a girl.  No distinction in prettiness at that age.

Poignant the loner, lolling, or the many, spilled from school doors

as from a barrel.  Who will teach them

how to live in the windy world, on ever shaking branches?

Before me, a bee nuzzles the rose pit of a peach,

attentive as a wife fussing over her beloved in a hospital bed,

turning to the blood-robed brain on an X-Ray machine,

squeezing a hand in the midst of nurses, physicians, downpour

of white petals in too beautiful April.


Ariane Bolduc



Another beautiful bowl of fruit

placed in my hand by the man I love.

While I sat reading on the couch,

he stood in the kitchen, carefully

carving a pineapple from its core,

first cutting through its strange

rind of spikes to cut in quarters

the heft of the fruit, then segmenting

the quarters into smaller, bite-

sized pieces, dripping with juice.

I thought of the knife’s slow repetitions,

the wet mess of the cutting board,

things I have so little patience for

—but he quietly, calmly cuts

with his knife in a way that I’ve

never mastered or dared, never

bothered or cared to learn how to do.

How he slips a blade-tip beneath

a mango’s red peel, skillfully

slicing the slick skin from the soft,

orange flesh it tries to conceal.

How his fingers look so vulnerable,

so bare beside the blade that I often

have to look away. So I’m grateful

when he, smiling, brings me

the chilled bowl of sweetness,

an offering of love. A simple gift

of his simple braveries. In the morning,

I’ll wake before him, rise into

cold air, slip quietly downstairs

where I’ll brew a pot of coffee

and bring a fresh cup to him, still

in bed, where he wakes, opening

his eyes to the uncertain day ahead.

I’ll gently coax him into the day,

thinking: My Love, be brave.




Everything ends with flowers.  I read this in a book and think of you,

Richard, the picture of you cradling a daffodil in your palm, holding

that flower out to me— the reader— and offering it: a gift

from a ghost. You sit, head tilted, the rims of your glasses glinting

with light. You wear your wide-brimmed hat, dark coat, moustache.

And you hold that daffodil as if it might come alive— little sea creature,

urchin, crab— some peculiar pet, brought up from the depths, some

tiny token, precious prize you’d like to share. “Do you want to hold it?”

you ask, as if you’re telling me a secret, whispering the flower

from your hand to mine. Naked flower on naked palm. “No, really,

take it.” And despite the bullet that punctuated your life, I sense

another desire: the delicate future, its ever-returning spring.





In wind, the poppies at Elliot Bay

look like butterflies, petal-winged


creatures, stem-bound and flapping

furiously for blue sky. How they pull


toward the unknown. I know that

feeling: rooted, but ready to fly. 




The swift swing of summer to fall—

in the cemetery, a robin on a gravestone


turns (in a blink) to seven in one view,

seven rust-red bellies, brief flames


in the sun, amber bellies and breasts

the color of leaves. In another blink: gone.




On the river, a flock of white birds

floats like a fleet of origami boats,


each a folded note, with a message

I’ll never read, some other life


I chose not to lead. Glimpsed,

but untouchable from this shore.




And so it is: the everywhere clocks

tick toward tomorrow as a cat


crosses a room, her tail curving

like a question mark that follows


and pursues me— a subtle stalking,

like butterfly, flower, leaf, bird.


Josh Booton


Notes Against Forgetting

You are not dead.  You are that which lives

in between.  The sun rises, the sun sets.


The man who visits each morning is your husband.

You are his wife.  You are the darkness


that breeds light.  Your daughter will come

each night to brush your hair, sing


you to sleep.  You are not dead.  You are

between the sun and moon, a table set


for a great feast.  You will eat the light

and darkness will be a man who rarely visits. 


Do not kill yourself, that is God’s duty.

You are his wife, the morning which lives


in everyone.  Your daughter is the moon.

The dead rise, the dead sit down at your table.


Visit, but do not stay.  You are not dead. 

Brush away the world, as rock worn white


by light.  You can not be killed by darkness.

Your duty is to sing.  Your duty is to rise.


Do not God yourself, there is no time

for mourning.  There is only dead light,


a table, a man.  Only a song which rises and falls

and breeds.  Sleep like the dead, your days


laid out on the table.  Your husband will warn

of his coming.  Your daughter, be your rock.


Set down your duties.  You are alive. 

You are arisen.  God will brush your dark hair.



Tell Me What I Know

Tell me how this skin grows thin

as light.  Tell me the story of a girl lost


in the woods.  It is night or at least

darkening.  Whisper her the way home,


that it will be alright.  Tell me why,

when the wind lifts no name I know,


I fear it is my own, misplaced, misspoken.

Why this trace worn through the carpet


leads always to the same locked door.

Beyond, children hook arms and sing


joyful songs about a dead disease. 

Tell them, please, to shout.  Tell me


who I am when my stranger arrives

each morning to tell me my life.  He says


I am his wife.  He says: table, clock,

dementia.  That the world once was mine,


a map surrendered to brilliant

pins.  Please, tell me your name again.


Joshua Conklin


Everything Melts

Ice, even at the poles,

will slip to sea,

bob and diminish

until it passes through gills.


Stars, giants and dwarfs alike,

blaze for millennia

but fade and collapse

into black.


Sand gives and gives again

to a swelling ocean,

ancientforests turn to ash

at a fire’s breath,

and iron corrodes with the quiet

pull of electrons. 


Our bones too, my love,

will turn in the earth

until after centuries of springs

we are tilled.


But this afternoon the pond is frozen,

and the wind forgets the last of the oak leaves.

Time, that grizzled bear, hibernates.

So I ask, once again,

take my hand

and skate with me

across what ice

we’re given. 




During the first spring mow

its sweet perfumed sting

buzzes back an old lover

and the walk we took through a park,

fingers twisting together like roots.


The next day

I pulled every petal

from her blossoming heart.


It doesn’t matter now

to either of us

I’m sure.

Yet, I’d like to bring her here,

not to say sorry

or to reconcile,

just to sit beneath the flowers

and let the bouquet

and the bees

do the work.



If You Go

Near the end of winter there’s a place you might visit

tucked in the back acreage of an antique garden

now overgrown with bramble and brush.


Bring a walking stick

for snow cramps into the troughs

and sinks the unprepared.


Wade beyond a row of crab apples

until you arrive at circle of evergreens.

Enter where the sun slips

the most rays to the white carpet.


When you get to a large maple,

its leaves long brown beneath you,

turn east up a small hill.


At the top of the knoll three birches hold court,

branches balancing caterpillars of snow.

If you lie between them on the bluest of days

they’ll appear as a white ladder to heaven

and you can drift among the clouds

until you feel yourself rise.


But call me if you go, for I might travel with you,

if you lie quietly

and wait long enough.


James Crews


In the Yard After a Storm

I placed the acorn cap in my palm

like the smallest alms bowl, held it up

to catch the last drops of rain falling

cold from the tips of shivering leaves.

But as I turned it over, let the water

trickle slowly out, it became the knob

to a trapdoor that appears only for those

who wait long enough to see its shadow

hung on mist and air. I pulled, lifted,

then looked down as if into that place

carved out in my mind like a cellar filled

with the murky jars of my worst fears,

their labels faded, but the message clear:

to know myself, I must taste each one.


Telling My Father

I found him on the porch that morning,

sipping cold coffee, watching a crow

dip down from the power line, into the pile

of black bags stuffed in the dumpster

where he pecked and snagged a can tab,

then carried it off, clamped in his beak

like the key to a room only he knew about.

My father turned to me then, taking in

the reek of my smoke, traces of last night's

eyeliner I decided not to wipe off this time.

Out latewas all he said. And then smiled,

rubbing the small of my back through the robe

for a while, before heading inside, letting

the storm door click softly shut behind him.

Later, when I stepped into the kitchen again,

I saw it waiting there on the table: a glass

of orange juice he had poured for me and left

sweating in a patch of sunlight so bright

I could not touch it at first, much less bring

to my lips that kindness I drink each day.


When I Think of the End of the World

I know I will miss that first messy bite

into an apple, burst of late summer

light on my tongue, dripping from my lips.

And opening the window that always sticks,

pushing up until it gives, inch by inch,

and then there’s air. And hearing my own name

called out on a rush hour train, turning to find

my lover’s face in the crush of faces.

We see the world only when we remember

what might disappear. Thinking of the bees,

I eat half a jar of raw honey, amber-gold

as an autumn sunset. I call my mother

and we talk about the weather, whether

the frost will kill her four o’ clocks, or not.


Jesse Curran


Just Like This

one winter day of your thirtieth year

you take a cup of tart tea

and not because it tastes good

but because it feels right

you suspect with such sipping

a mode for longevity


and perhaps in this same season

you mislay some old worry

then choose not to seek it

or miss it or feel guilt

to have lost it


so marriage seems a possibility

and careers of last century

so another trip to Italy

just seems to make sense


you might arrive here


without psychotherapy

without breaking down

without breaking through


you might just arrive here


some call it happiness

others deem it the present


though you suppose it’s


rose hip



maybe life is just like this


Twenty-Third of August

(After Yeats)


I don’t know how to weave

a spider web—nor could I

but I am amazed and arrested

by the prism of light

glistening through one.


Seek what they sought;

the daily work is trusting

the voice already here.


This summer I taught myself

to love earwigs. I let myself

rest enough to listen, to trust

the bluegrass fiddler

bowing her heart

in my heart.


Today is the summer’s fruition.


Come winter.

Come the loss of it all.


We still light the candles.

We nod our heads to the sun on the water.


Yes, we are blessed

and we bless.


The rickety back deck

is the lotus land.


The Waiting Room at St. Catherine’s of Siena

No one wants to be here

though we find ourselves here

with a woman named Monica to the left

and another Monica waiting to the right.

Slowly, the surgeons emerge and say it went well.

I am waiting for a man named Herbie,

who has me or a taxi driver and a heart

so damaged that even the nurses wince and sigh.

In Siena, descending from the pastel duomo

Saint Catherine slipped on a step,

which is still marked with a cross.

In Siena, the marble is so soft and the city is so wrought

that it’s no wonder she fell; maybe that day

Catherine was also in need of care.

Here, one of the Monicas tells me I’m an angel

because I’m decent and have the morning to spare.

And in surgery, Herbie finds no peace

not yet ready to die

still needing to grieve for his wife

who also fell down the stairs, twelve years ago.

Born into the black death

Catherine was known for her letters, her mystical love,

and for bringing the papacy back to Rome.

Catherine was a writer who could tell Herbie:

It’s time to let her go. None of us fare well, but we fare

aside one another.

I have faith in cities like Siena

and in stories like Catherine’s

and most of all in the baby carriers

that go in empty and leave full.

In the waiting room the universe exhales.

The newborns take their first breath

in the damp January air.


Andrew Davis


By the Schuylkill in October

The dim boathouse is empty

but for six pairs of shoes.


Shirtless boys in gliding sculls

move the dark green glass, laughing.


Hands welting on old oar grips,

they never let on.


Not even their nipples

are vulnerable.


They drive the ring-necked duck

from the river’s long face,


sunset leaves from the tulip poplar

in their wake, a night full of stars.


Tender things gather behind them.

They steady their sweep


and hasten on, five to a boat

as the coxswain calls


with a father’s voice, a grandfather’s,

a voice of oil and pepper,


scratchy beards on their cheeks,

chapped hands on their shoulders.


Childhood Photograph

Through the sprinkler’s veil,

Missouri midsummer,

the cheek of light that forms has no face.


Caught leaping through

the pins and needles,

the shattered rainbow,


slick like sea lions,

like we’ve just been

born in the imagination,


we stretch away from what’s familiar,

our skinny limbed action

lithe with the smoke of unknowing.


What worlds the body knows

as it passes through the curtain:

on one side dull, on the other, lit and shining.


We slip the yoke of speech

and all the camera captures

is a silhouette filled with fire.



I wake to catch the floating life:

haze easing things

into green anchorage.


This is the time

I most think

the grass will talk,


all things softened:

the daffodil’s crimped trumpet,

the cut heartwood stacked,

the stink bug’s shell

and cracked apple’s seed,

the knife edge of all that is not you

dulled, blurred, suspended

in white mist.


Before the sun

burns the vapor off

we might come up and say

what we couldn’t bring ourselves to say

last night.


Chanda Feldman


Work currently withheld


Christopher Goodrich


Morning Monster Chase with Mayzie, 3, and Leilah, 2

Amidst the screaming and running away,

the crazed flash of hair and limbs, amidst the crashing into walls

but before the strawberry mini-wheats and peanut butter toast,

Mayzie, now three, tells me that should I slow down

(as her dad is wont to do on occasion, not yet 20 minutes awake),

the morning monster, green and pointed, whom we both made up

(breath like a locker room), the morning monster will,

in no uncertain terms, punch me in the penis.


I can't tell you how awake I am now, knowing that

in this age of the mommy supreme, in our household

where these girls wake up and instantly call for my wife,

even refer to me as mommy when they want comfort and goldfish--

in this house where the songs announce again and again

that when the monkeys fall from the bed and bump their heads

it is mommy who calls the doctor and the doctor said

when bringing home a baby bumblebee,

it is mommy who will be so proud of me--

in this hostile environment of bullying by omission,

my daughter, I am relieved to report, still has her daddy's best interests at heart.

She loves me. And I am saved.



Pressing Play

At times, I believe there is nothing

so pure on this planet as the voice

of John Denver, whose music

has rescued me this evening

from the talons of the political circus


wrapped around my every recent breath.

Why can't earnestness run for Congress?

His opponent, the sound of a fiddle on fire?

A campaign run by nothing less


than the Shenandoah river standing

on two strong blue-jeaned legs

tossing coins and making wishes.  

Imagine a piece of solid wheat,


fresh from the field this morning,

taking the podium for the first debate,

a sliver of mountained Colorado the second.

The cry of a peacock in heat, our honorable


Secretary of State. Can you imagine the smell

of your mother's homemade Lobster salad

presiding over the Supreme Court, giving the verdict,

sentencing all of us to our rooms, a place


we should have stayed perhaps a little longer,

curled under a featherbed, learning what it means

to do something right, practicing speaking

the truth day in and day out:


Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.

Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.  



Michael J. Grabell


Work currently withheld


Benjamin Gucciardi



Under the stunted pomegranate tree,

The oldest woman on Webster Street

Spends her days alone

In the small garden behind our building.

Her cataracts have grown big as dimes.

She misses home, refuses to learn English,

Will be evicted soon.


This morning she is up before the sun.

Seated on the stone bench

Beside the succulents,

Dawn settles on her like a shawl.


In Rome, they believed dawn was a woman.

They painted her on vases,

Her fingers red from prying

Open the gates of heaven

So the sun could pass through to rise.


I join her in the garden.

The first rays of the sun

Invite the spider webs into morning

Piece by silvery piece.

I want to walk across that shining.


She turns, looks at me through cloudy eyes,

Regarding my face the way

The nearly deaf regard

The symphony of crickets,

Which is not so different

From the way the dead

Regard the living,

Their fingers turning red,

As they pry open

The bolted brass gates of their home.


The Green Piano

Work currently withheld
The Nest

Work currently withheld



Elizabeth Hoover


A Fine Romance

Work currently withheld


Another Fine Romance

Work currently withheld


Luna Moth

South from Chicago I pass men working under lights,

silhouettes in the mist of their jackhammers. Some instinct

to pray for their safety addles even miles away

as I turn into a gas station. Waiting for the chug

and clunk of the nozzle to cease, I notice the pumps are topped

with planters sprouting plastic vines, leaves speckled with

acrylic dew. One leaf seems to have fallen against

the curb, but there is something in the living that makes us

recognize one another—a phenomenon I once heard

called biophilia, our innate love of regarding

that which is alive. This concept explains koi ponds,

bird watching, and how much I loved looking at you

even in the absence of touch. Or it explains nothing—

after all it can’t tell me why I want to carry the moth

from the concrete to the grass or my fear of touching her,

why her battering, though feeble, makes me start

and draw back. When I lift her, she clings to my fingers

with brown legs seamed in fur and I think I look

into a wise and mournful face, rather than

an evolutionary trick of camouflage.


I set her down beyond the glare and she lifts her wings

making a little steeple then lets them fall. They are pale

and downy, tapering into streamers that furl away

from her snowy body. She must be at the end of her life

and may just struggle back to the station’s glare,

but what can I do? How strange to praise the dust

she scattered on my palms and stranger to still to praise

the jackhammer mist set alit, trailing in a darkening sky.


Katharine Johnsen


Work currently withheld


Jennifer Key


Blue Ridge

The house holds no more words.

Every one from a to zygote,

even the World Book Encyclopedias

(a graduation gift circa ’62),

long since carted to Carolina

for my parents’ grand retirement

that will not come to pass.

On the porch my father lies flushed

and dreaming back to boyhood

or war, when soldiers crushed heroin

with their hands and smoked it.

He refused, but now wears a patch

more potent than opium behind one ear.


Beyond the porch screens, bug-picked

and spider-laced, the hills of Virginia

march into a future we can’t see,

just as birdsong insists on daylight

long after it’s gone. The lilies father planted

to flower the season of my wedding

open their awful mouths—

the first just yesterday and by today

two turned trumpet. There is no silencing

their dreadful fanfare. Why must they persist

when each pink tongue only says the same thing?

The more that open, the sooner he’ll be gone.


Winter Solstice

No neat bales tally the end of winter’s ledger.

Instead, my father’s dog, an arabesque

in white, whirls in the haze grown two feet tall.

The setter who always points his target

cannot find his master. Late afternoons hereafter

we’ll see what we’ve been navigating in the dark.


Indoors, a pointer patterned in green toile’s

the only thing that hunts. It holds its point

on grouse, mid-flap, aloft on curtains, walls,

or bedspread folded at my father’s feet this year.

Too soon he will be scattered far from here

in another field with neither dog nor me.  


But here in branching dusk his dog alights,

content to flush whatever birds bed down.

He sees no absence where none yet exists,

and so he stalks the grass as he was taught

while in my father’s room small rabbits dart

and pheasants burst repeatedly then fly.


Keetje Kuipers


Work currently withheld


Jennifer Leonard


Another Summer

Women grease a watermelon with Crisco. Men divide

into teams, dive into the deep end, and wrestle it out


of the water. Each year, the rules are the same:

to win requires the shell cracked on concrete.


We were children. We toed the edge. When one of our fathers

heaved it up, out, with enough force to shatter it,


we scooped the fruit to our mouths, competed to spit seeds farthest. Little bullets.   

Josh Roberts was bravest, the first to peel the water wings


off his skinny arms, climb the high dive ladder, cannonball

into the bright water. He said that at the bottom, he’d seen a Ferris wheel


like the one at the state fair, except the seats were rusted, filled

with skeletons of those who’d lived in our houses before us.


Their bones, he swore, were clothed in algae; water snakes

threaded the eye sockets. And some of us believed


him, because we did not know better. We did not yet know

from all those seeds we spat, those rinds chucked over the fence to rot,


wild vines would shoot up, grow heavy with melon. We could not

yet know that another summer, Josh Roberts would be caught


in the guardhouse, pressing his lips to a boy who was not

drowning. By then, we would not speak of below, but beyond:


an ocean. Another country of bullets, real ones, where

Josh is now. And again I am here, at summer’s center,


to witness another year: whole, floating; and all of us

circling to touch it, and it slipping from our hands,


spinning in the water; and Josh, not here; and another boy

in the guard chair. He is twirling a whistle in spirals


on his finger. It glints silver in the July light, like a little galaxy,

like a Ferris wheel, like a child cannonballing into the next year


and the next. And I am watching. And I am waiting

for the pause, the melon in that moment of suspension:


lifted from the water, before it shatters, and the flies

descend, and we scoop it up, and fill our mouths


with its summer; I don’t know why I’ve come back,

except to stand here, and witness what we’ve broken, and break, 


and will it to be beautiful, to feed.



After she scythed

the last of the corn, and shucked


the husks; after the fields were sold

and stitched with the new seed,


the kind that could sleep under

a chemical rain, and live—


my grandmother moved

into our house in the suburbs;


she lay down in the room

at the top of the stairs where all the women


went to be born and die and give

birth and help each other die.


And the next summer, after

a mall built of granite and marble


and glass rose in the empty field

across the freeway,


I was paid a wage to pin thin cotton

to the waists of mannequins.


Once, there was a man who loved me

best when he could cover me


in a white sheet and whisper,

Such small bones…


I know the earth is not a woman’s body,

but I swear, I’ve seen both diminish


a little more each day.



[What then is there left at day’s end]

but a dooropening to a small


scrap of lawn in Ohio,

enough yarn and a needle to flash


silver in the last light, to gather

the dusk…


Long after she’s forgotten

where she is, or who, her hands remember


how to knit row upon row

so a blanket, shapeless and vast


as a river, spills across her lap

and onto her feet and runs through the rooms


of her house and over her small patch

of grass. Long after words…


when words failed, and after, when…


here, she’s left one hundred

skeins of yarn. Spools of thread.


I will stitch this story:

we were here, we have loved one another—


in the brightest colors you can imagine.



Jennie Malboeuf



for David and Mavis


It is just the three of us

in this world, which is scary

but right. No filled room

replaces the scarcity of bodies

here. We will start crowding

our house with books,

sentimental furniture,

little clay jars ready for content.

Then, spider webs and dust:

gauzy whirligigs and statues of

Mary.                 Our dog is large

and takes up two person seats.

              check    check!

You are broad-shouldered and 6’ tall.

(Since our wedding I’ve gained weight

too.) We make up for the missing;

yet their ghosts manage to choke us


Newfound Star System

Let’s not leave it.

We spent this morning with

your head between my legs

and this afternoon I questioned

why we’d ever do anything else.

We held hands in the art museum

and laughed at the pocketless

pool table, the broom held by a balloon.

Without irony, you whispered I’m proud

of you, tore down the rotting carport

to see the supermoon. I know I’m not

supposed to say, but I dreamt of kissing

my gradeschool crush, him blond

and six-foot-two, but knew—you know

how it’s more about what you feel during?—

that I needed to marry you. That made his

long awaited kisses stupid darts.


Why I’m Scared to Listen to Beethoven

for DMM and Louis CK


Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.


Today is about hope: we walked our puppy

to the city fair, praying she wouldn’t growl or bite.

She didn’t. A dozen strangers laid hands

on her and gushed. A little celebrity, she ate it up.

But each new joy sits at the wake of grief.

For years, you traveled 40 minutes

back and forth to work

with no radio and no phone.

I thought about how just for a few

seasons, when I worked at a knife shop

in a better part of town, I would listen

to classical music in the car—the only

station that didn’t yell in the morning.

All I could do was think. Even the happiest

arrangements sent me down. I saw

my family float away on a little island,

only they weren’t moving; it was always me.

I felt the kick to the chest of putting down

our girl dog—Patches—the vet saying it’ll be

one to the lungs and the second will stop her

heart. My face crumpled,

                           the wailing a surprise.


Back on the road, I know no strings were there with me,

no hounds, no tiny shrinking family. Yet the highway,

alone, the reel of haunts, the ticker of quotes—



Tarn MacArthur


The fox

Work currently withheld


Little Brother at the Altar

Autumn we buried father.

Then winter spread its filigree

of frost over our eyes.

Now my brother walks the halls

locking windows, closing doors

left ajar, says they’ll let the cold in

as if a ghost could slip like a draft

back into the house.

We stave off the days with routine:

a cup of tea warms the inside

is something my mother says

and she settles into the upholstery’s

worn flowers and hummingbirds

as steam gathers above the pot,

beads the windowpane in condensation.

Beneath the mantle my brother,

face to embers, blows red

into the hearth, his cheeks

flush with sudden heat.

And I want this for him:

a little warmth at the end of the day.

Because he forgets he breathes life

into things too, that he provides

beyond the stretch from porch-step

to curb-side bin, the sink piled

with dishes—those little acts

we ask of him. And I know

how he leans against this moment—

he and I transfixed—waiting

for the glowing burst to jolt us

back to our living room, back

to our daily manner. Outside

the wind picks up just below

a whistle, and we listen

as trunks bend to that music.


The Neighbour

Work currently withheld


Sara Michas-Martin


And so Begins, in Slow Motion, the Care of Him

Love set you going like a fat gold watch

                        —Sylvia Plath


After all that measured breath and surge,

the hours of nothing, then something,

then more terrible pause, and, finally,

(prolapsed cord/emergency)

out of the fluid-filled clutch

he’s ferried—stern and perfect—

to the other side.



What made me subterranean

those first days was more

than fatigue, strained muscle.

Flashed between sleep, his gaze

pulled me down and under.

His neck more fragile

than the stem of a flower. In a dream

I wore oversized shoes and shuffled

around the source of a radiant light;

my face warmed by it,                                        

weary also of its proximity.



I shift between cords and machines,

struggle to sit up, gathering him,

his fluff and shock of black hair.

The nurse makes a show of her arms

explaining the cross-cradle hold

while I fumble with my gown.

I notice his fists, the size of large seeds

and once latched they unfurl, release.



I lay him down as if he’s made of music

in a world infected by silence.

I untuck the felt corner of his swaddle

exposing his barrel chest that rises

steady as the clap of moth wings.

I unwrap his skinny bowed legs, his toes—

small beads on the end of a spoon.

I peel the right tab of the diaper,

then the left—slowly—                                        

to dampen the velcro sound. 

With one hand I hold his ankles together

lifting him—where did I learn this?—

to pull the diaper out with the other.



The afternoon mimics the night.

The night a disfigured portrait of days.

Morning comes, pardons us

from immeasurable stars and sky.

A protest in his cry. The child eats.

The child sleeps or does not sleep.

Red numbers drift from the clock.

The child eats. The child empties.

Once the wheel begins to slide forward

there's no pause in the cycle

only slight variations to the course.


I stand by. Ready to nurse. Ready to sway. 



Catherine Pierce

Work currently withheld


Rachel Richardson



Love for the particle, particulate,

for the whiteness, yes, enveloping,

love, and for the rickety steps

where I climbed with my good red dog,

the dirt clumped, kicked up

along the wood ladder to another plateau

of trail. For vision kaleidoscoped,

for pie chart, love for the particulate, the bridge

just poking its orange prow from cloud.

Pieces of sea. Nothing to be taken in

full-mouthed, nothing laquered

but particulate, held in the hand, this air

like bread I inhale wetly, the animal’s

breath steaming. Lift me, throw

me down. Stroke me with your million pearls.



Nina Riggs


Anne Bradstreet Crosses the Atlantic

I know you below deck with the other Puritan wives,

your hands working the Bible after lightning

nearly split the mast, and the crew pitched


your impeccable linens to the sea to trail and sink
with all things weak to a flame’s suggestion. At your feet,
a woman delivers a stillborn you would have wanted


to wrap in the crisp apology of a sheet, and you mourn
the cloth dear as the godliness that drove you all ashore

at Yarmouth to scrub your neckties one final time


before setting your mind on the wilderness.

You’re ill and bone-chilled. Still small-pox frail.

You do not write anything down. News filters below


of the soundings that found no ground. A whale

that would not yield, and spouted as the ship passed

within a stone’s cast. A drifting fir log entombed


in a century of barnacles. A pigeon onto the ship’s wet

heaving and setting. Then news of ground at eighty fathoms,

a fine grey sand. News of a garden smell. You are


just off shore. Even now you tack from the subdivision

of the night toward my kitchen window. Stack

of dishes to dry, my children to fold into their beds,


but enter and we won’t call the poem domestic—

you’re no one’s mother yet, and almost the poet,

both of us far from home in this kitchen,


no ground, your husband astep on deck spotting

some green shore, and mine down the hill

at the bar like a pin on a map of a place I visited.



Emily Rosko


The Horizon Is Where All Points Meet

I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.

—Rainer Maria Rilke


A scalloped-out blue shell. The sky’s sliced

by the hawk on the scour, the little


sun, shadows the creatures

hide in, under leaf, against the rock’s


dull cold. What’s the difference

between the tree stoic against the cloudfront


and the arcing trace the early moon makes?

I do not know what the leaves will take,


their wrist-skin upturned to wind. I do

not know what anger will come. Nothing beyond


what small self I have, resolute as stones

bedded under the river current. I am no


longer feeling but all feeling, the softness

in me the softness in others and inside


the center faulted. Cracked ribcage to

collar. The afterstorm atmosphere


emptied of anything held by the bone-

bare tree, sycamore mottled, each twig


unleafed by their dream of spring. Each

of us in a perfect unloveliness we all


know but do not mention. No one

should be afraid, the stars say wheeling


out their hard separation, unwilled

in their staying, in their one small pin-


pierce that holds all the dark nothing away.



The day is nearly complete.

Jasmine’s lazy curvature along the iron

fence: the garden’s uniform

wilt with sun-blaze off stone. Even

the black-eyed Susans’ resilience

is questionable: leaves blighted

with holes. The lawn peppered with fire

ants and upturned in mounds. Such

a mistake to let the burrowers in,

the striped snake with a movement

that stills one—quick muscle

on the ground. But there they are

attending to the day unwearied

with the weight of all that has to be

done under this tropical heat’s increasing

cloud-collective: grey-blue-purple sky

that folds and releases, a warning,

an equilibrium of particles. Rain

is one good thing. If it’s the only portion

of love the day offers, then it’s just enough

to keep me tending this plot

of sand-rusted earth. The live oaks, here

all along, stir with the wind and I give

myself over to let some small thriving in.


Ruth Awad


Town Gossip, 1994   

But we were strange girls, girls thrown together
in mismatched clothes, shaved sideburns, that Arab last name.


My father got letters: Please don’t drop the girls off early.
There’s no one here to watch them.


Kids asked, what do you mean, your mom’s not here?

       Wolves without her—


unkempt in the eyes of our teachers
Sarah hoards the week’s lunch money in her desk


because she is too scared

to hand it to the cafeteria cashier. 


Those days we’d ride our bikes down Highway-1
to the hotel where our mother last stayed


and we’d loop the lot for hours, sawing paths between the bumpers
for no reason really other than that door was briefly hers.


Our guidance counselor
is excellent with children from divorced families. 


We stole the bitten-eared tabby
from the neighbors,

mined playground rocks,

        pocketed mom’s old lipstick tubes.

 Mariam is outspoken in class, but we worry her peers pick on her

for the wig she wears. She spends recess on the blacktop. 


Leaf-strung hair, crabapple girls. We climbed the arthritic tree
outside our dentist’s office, clutched there until sundown.

Ruth wears men’s overcoats to school. 
Do they belong to you?


On I-65 South

When headlights skim over you, you’re just a girl

in a hiked-up skirt somewhere in Kentucky.

A pebble stuck in your shoe.


Your mother instructs from the dark, wave,

so you stretch in the Volvo’s spotlight,

hair wrung over your face as a semi whips by.


Your heart, a fawn’s new footfalls.



All those times you stood in the driveway,

waving to your mother as the same lights

rescinded into the night.


A birthday candle you can’t blow out.


Then a car pulls over, the man glancing at you quickly

enough to still be considered polite. Your mother says,

Nashville. He nods. His voice swallowed by the passing cars.


Your heart climbs to its feet.

You tug your skirt down and put your jacket back on.

The miles stretch ahead, wind shoves you.

Spark, it’s saying, speck.


Your mother’s black sleeves are the lace of the forest

hemming the highway. Scuff of dead leaves,

road-scrape. Somewhere before Nashville,

moonlight clears a meadow


where a family of deer have been running,

running as long as they remember,

their long legs step into the light

and steam is rising off the velvet of their backs.


New Mother, 1984

I’ve sat in the dark all day. The blinds sealed
like eyelids. I draw the baby closer
to feel the warmth I held inside me all those
months. That light. I don’t know why the baby


becomes a pendulum, my rocking arms mechanical,
brass, her cradled weight knocking the seconds over,
the day’s small dominoes and the hours they clatter
toward, and I hear my husband’s footsteps


at the end of it all, metronomic file
up the porch then the slammed door,
the baby crying when he tries to hold her. 

I shouldn’t talk like this, shouldn’t hollow
out these hours to crawl inside, shouldn’t

press the hungry mouth to my chest
when she can taste it—dread
that floats around us like pollen,
in the floorboards and watered with my steps,


until stalks tower and point, until she is lost
in the field her mother endlessly combs. 
No, sweet girl, don’t drink in your inheritance,

this grief you can wear like a locket and open often,
this grief that will wring your hair over
its knuckles and pull up the dark roots.

The purpling heart, some edible thing.


Eleanor Stanford


Work currently withheld


Casey Thayer


Self Portrait with Crow and Thorn Necklace

No one notices at first the petals of blood

flecked from her neck, a few little pricks.


Or the nails clawing her throat, her Jesus choker,

crown of thorns pulled down past her crown


and squeezing. Ignore the shadow animals,

crow caws off canvas, and colorless landscape.


Ignore the body’s continental drift and notion

of how it feels to be whole, unbroken.


Stillness is important just now with this chest

cracked and scratched, jagged as an egg shell.


Frida, if we move, we’ll pull ourselves apart

at the grooves of the body’s saddest song.


We’ll shatter the cage of our chests and let

the birds we tended tiptoe to the edge. Don’t


fall apart on me tonight. Dignity is needed

for a piecemeal saint shedding relics: a door


adornment warning off spirits that is more

than a painting, it’s a window. You might


consider us captured by the frame. My dear,

we’ve created a new world for us from air.


                          —after Frida Kahlo

Torching the Ground Hornets

Throwing a stick for the dog or mowing lawn,

that’s when I find them, hornets in a traffic buzz

hovering around holes we call the ground’s mouth.


I cut squares from spare metal screens and haul

the hose over. It’s reverse Drano: the ground coughs

the bees up to whine against the mesh as they drown.


Kneeling there, I am young again, play-chasing

the boy who’s name I forget. Not his straw-rough hair.

Not the fit of his foot in the hole when he


fell over. His name I forget. Not the groundswell

of bees and the hive emptying out to attack him.

Not the beard of bees curled around his lips,


his popsicle-stained lips. Now, I kink the flood,

let puddles swallow the cavity, and roll the hose

back to the house, knowing I should smoke


them out, knowing I should think of pollination,

of saving the colony to help seed my garden. I never

do. I drown the hives I find. I broom down old nests


for the boy’s father, who after the burial, walked

slung-shouldered, with lighter fluid and a torch

out to the field. For the father of the nameless boy


who sent bees wheezing like stuck tires, filled

the night sky with small stars that blinked out quickly.

One then another until the ground grew silent.

Word from the Nursing Home

On a night as dark and unremarkable as this,

her body no longer will do. So she leaves it


for stars, for the car ferry stitching the inlet

with water rings. She leaves it to scale waves


that brush back a beach pinned with driftwood

and alewife bones. She barely notices


that she can wade a half mile before the water

flushes her nightshift, past her knees. By then


she’s a buoy at the center of the channel,

swaying with the tide, water like blacktop


around her. What’s the moon if not a wafer

she holds on her tongue before she swallows?


What are the stars if not the distant lights

of a city? The waves rough her up but never


tip her over, her light blinking on, her light

disappearing. When we arrive, they’ll tell me


she’s under this sheet. They’ll say she’s gone.

But I’ll watch for her in the green flash between


sunset and the dark, trace her riding bareback

on the Pegasus set of stars, heading home.

Chelsea Wagenaar




Amie Whittemore


Drowning the Marigold

If every diary is a prayer, leave them clasped

as palms. If everything I say is divided


like a coin—half true, half foul—

know that when I drowned the marigold


my brother planted for my mother,

it was spiteful though I called it accident.


Know that I wanted the bees to live forever

in our barn slats, that I still wake wanting


to watch my father and uncle, home from farming,

eat sandwiches on rye. I want to keep the hate


I felt for that grassy flavor, though I love it now,

as I do so many tastes, not so much acquired


as surrendered to. I’d trade red wine

and bitter beers, the darkest chocolate, for those


childhoods I keep polished as coins in the satchel

of my chest: dew climbing my feet as I


walk to the sapling I planted and weep,

so fretful of its survival I’m tempted to pull


it from the earth, its dirt-thick roots

the matted hair on a newborn’s skull.


Nostalgia Sweepstakes

               for R.


Remember how you led me out

of the crowded party at your parents’ house?


We walked to where ocean leaked into marsh

beneath narrow fingers of moonlight.


Already our bodies knew each other the way boat

sees its home in coast—not lust, but its cousin—


for we never left the warm boundary waters of kissing.

Splashing, sun-soaked, sleepy-eyed strangers


by anyone’s accounting, we stopped numbering kisses, naming them instead—hula hoop, elevator, in the dark shed.


We can’t have that week back. If someone offered it,

small print erased from some nostalgia sweepstakes,


whole enchilada of butterfly gardens and ferry rides,

dice thrown beneath mating dragonflies, our lips


two slip-slant rhymes, we’d smile, shrug, walk away—

not out of lack, or slack, or the flack we’d be given


by our current mates—but for some other ache.

Our necks weren’t made to look back.


I almost never say your name. Even now when it cleaves

my lungs like pollen, it never sheds its silvery skin—


sweet cough, light-fed dust, unborn flower in my chest.


Song for Stevens

I’m unsure which undoes me more—

her whisper-meow when she mimes herself;

her duck-quack when she wakes.

Perhaps the polish of her yodeling

yowl that flings blame’s net at me. It’s all

of course and more, her tongue a clapper,

her mouth a bell punctuating

this rumination, reminding me no love

poem alliterates as well as her green eyes

with her goddamn perfect face.

If given seven slides of calico hides,

I’d know which side was hers. If blindfolded

and handed seven cats, I’d know her by shape.

In my dreams, she’s seven kinds

of claw and scruff as I carry her

across streams, cafeterias, wind farms,

basements, through culverts, old houses,

down drain pipes, up ladders, in barns,

on buses…you see now.

She is always one half of metaphor.


She asks no forgiveness for mice

on the step, baby rabbit I tried saving

in our long ago days

when she still roamed outdoors;

I kept her in all night. At dawn

she caught that rabbit too stupid to scram.

It’s not hip to admit I trace the white lake

pooling on her stomach. When she paces

the apartment like it’s a labyrinth,

I know she seeks the string

that leads to freedom—and if I could

I would return her to a life of killing

songbirds, rabbits, mice, hopefully

maybe finally bugs lurking in the tub.

I’d give her a fencepost on which to perch

like a gargoyle-prince, muscles yawning

like silk, sleek tongue scraping

the moon’s deep bowl of cream—let me kiss

dirt from her prowling paws, my queen


my heartbreak, my cat, my cat, my cat.


Chelsea Wagenaar



Work currently withheld

Houdini’s Wife

Each time he jumps

from Harvard Bridge, I expect the fall

to last the eternity of a Tuesday afternoon,

his body not in plummet

but in orbit, celestial, something I interpret

for rain, for seasons.

Nights he lets me see his wrists,

burnished and welted red from the chains.

We never speak of the hurt. 

Instead, I think of the time, hung

by his ankles above Times Square,

he hatched himself

from a straitjacket, how I expected

wet wings instead of arms:

the place closest to pain shines.


And now the poised musculature

of his thighs unstitches the water.

You are an aperture,

I want to tell him,

though of what I am not sure.

Fear? In furtive agony he nears

the other world.  And now he surfaces—

chainless--to applause and a thicket of gasps,

this world eager as usual to peer

into such a vanishing.  He glistens

on the bank of the Charles, preening himself

dry with a towel.  And a tender wreath

of blisters blooms around his ankles. 


Poem in Which Elephants Are Stupendous

After his parents moved to the U.S.

three years ago, Nathan, who is now eight,

began coming to tutoring.  For help with English,

his mother said, glancing away, the blue

current of Texas sky rushing away

through the windows behind her.  Now, Nathan hands me

his homework—a sentence for each vocabulary word.

It is humble to play with Legos,

he has written, and I do not know how to correct him,

because yes, one of the definitions is simple,

and he’s right.  He doesn’t understand why

tremorisn’t a verb, or why he can’t say I am

tremoring at the tornado, though I know

exactly what he means, and I am, too.

Because that is what fear does—it shakes

all our nouns into verbs so that we seism,

we twister, we cyclone.  Have you ever had

kimchi, he asks, when he is supposed to be

reading about sinking cities, his hair untamed,

his thick lenses full of his eyes.

I help him pronounce the names of the cities

and he says Baton Rouge exactly the way

it is spelled, a beautiful woman with ruby cheeks

tossing a flame-lit baton in the air. 

I have never had kimchi.  He writes garlic

for me in Korean, though he can’t remember

cabbageor ginger anymore.  For the rest

of the hour we fit words into sentences

like Legos into buildings.  This one here.  No, here.

Elephants are stupendous, he has written,

and I realize all my life I have used stupendous wrong

because it is not just causing astonishment;

it means causing astonishment due to size or greatness,

so fingers are not stupendous, and neither

are hummingbirds.  But language is.  And before it

Nathan and I tremor, and I am humble to help him,

because it is not humble at all.