Two Poems

Poetry / Maggie Queeney


Queeney 2 Poems PDF

From the writer


:: Account ::

These two poems are reimag­in­ings of two of the myths in Ovid’s Meta­mor­phoses, a book-length poem that presents a series of mor­tals, most­ly women, who are trans­formed into non-human forms after an encounter with a God or God­dess. The divine encounter, and result­ing trans­for­ma­tion, almost always include sex­u­al vio­lence or gen­der-based vio­lence. I too am a sur­vivor of vio­lences (domes­tic, gen­der-based, and sex­u­al). I too have spent years as some­one or some­thing not quite human. Dr. Judith Her­man notes in her vital text about sur­vivors of domes­tic, gen­dered, and sex­u­al vio­lence, Trau­ma and Recov­ery: “vic­tim retains the dehu­man­ized iden­ti­ty of […] the robot, ani­mal, or veg­etable… While the major­i­ty of […] patients com­plained, ‘I am now a dif­fer­ent per­son,’ the most severe­ly harmed stat­ed sim­ply, “‘I am not a person.’”

Decades before I read Trau­ma and Recov­ery, before Com­plex-PTSD was a wide­ly-known and accept­ed term (although still not includ­ed in the newest Text Revi­sion of the DSM V, and so not includ­ed on any of my med­ical records), I read The Meta­mor­phoses. I, who from my ear­li­est mem­o­ry felt more rock than girl, more bird or riv­er or vine than human, rec­og­nized myself in these girls and women, and in the crea­tures and things they would become. Their sto­ries were my sto­ries, are my sto­ries, and in re-telling what hap­pened to them, in work­ing to speak in their voic­es, I tell what hap­pened to me. I sound the bounds of my voice, and find my place among the many of my kind. 

Mag­gie Queeney is the author of In Kind, win­ner of the 2022 Iowa Poet­ry Prize, and the chap­book set­tler. Recip­i­ent of the 2019 Stan­ley Kunitz Memo­r­i­al Prize, The Ruth Stone Schol­ar­ship, and an Indi­vid­ual Artists Pro­gram Grant from the City of Chica­go in 2019 and 2022, her most recent work is found or is forth­com­ing in Guer­ni­ca, The Mis­souri Review, and The Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review. She holds an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty, and reads and writes in Chicago.

Two Poems

Poetry / Seth Leeper

:: cats in a bag ::

i learned my duplicity at a young age amidst late night serenades 
of shattering glass and slamming cupboards / slinking around 
corners to survive the impact from each sonic boom / donning 
my cheshire smile in the morning like a denial of the night before / 
an implicit approval / a strategy to avoid the jagged edge of a curse / 
the pointed edge of a cutting board / rolling across the floor showing 
my belly / projecting cute to survive / the long drive to the hospital 
for stitches above a crying eye / phone calls to mother explaining the 
accident / i don’t blame her anymore / we were cats in a bag tossing 
and hissing and fighting for love or approval / stalking a prey called 
loyalty or devotion / he’d left me once / i remember her perched on 
the kitchen counter looking at the clock / calculating the difference 
between time with him and time without 

:: the last time we saw you ::

we never got to see your final ascent she just dumped you 
like stale cigarette ashes into the delta and never apologized 
to anyone for the missed show or wasted gas which was her last 
power play her final triumph to singe the skin and squeeze 
the heart and she never had to touch any one of us to do it 
now she had something of you no one could take or give back 
her repulsive reflexes and cackling on the way back to her car 
ensured no one would try so you drifted away from us the wind 
carrying you across grass plains and water the wind chasing 
the wheels of her car down the dirt highway the keys in her 
ignition rattling as she slithered out of focus out of view 
out of our lives for good 

From the writer


:: Account ::

cats in a bag” and “the last time we saw you” are from my man­u­script, dou­ble fea­ture: anato­my of a star | of men and mon­sters. The manuscript’s first part fol­lows the Speak­er through planes astral and celes­tial in pur­suit of his father. The sec­ond part, which these poems are from, finds the Speak­er in more ground­ed spaces, anchored in the real­i­ty of his grief and trau­ma. The Speak­er is flee­ing from mem­o­ries and his own account­abil­i­ty in the rela­tion­ship between him­self and his father, and he has plunged head­first into pro­cess­ing the rela­tion­ship dynam­ics that were com­pli­cat­ed by his father’s spouse. Deprived of clo­sure for him­self and his fam­i­ly, the Speak­er makes attempts to forge his own res­o­lu­tion with his father, and make sense of the spouse who func­tioned as rival and vil­lain in his child­hood.   

Peel­ing back the cur­tain a bit on craft, these poems rep­re­sent exper­i­men­ta­tions with how space is uti­lized on the page. The deci­sion to use punc­tu­a­tion, or not, is meant to add an ele­ment of ten­sion, or dis­rup­tion. It com­pli­cates the nar­ra­tive and the expe­ri­ence of how the read­er engages with the text. It also mir­rors the frag­men­ta­tions of the Speaker’s mem­o­ries. 

I was also inter­est­ed in exper­i­ment­ing with prose blocks, since I had pri­mar­i­ly writ­ten in verse pri­or to this project. The blocks pro­vide a frame for each poem, and serve the over­all attempt to world-build in both por­tions of the man­u­script. The world in of men and mon­sters where these poems occur is one of harsh real­i­ties and uncertainty—filled with mon­sters both fic­tive and real—and it moves back and forth between the present and the past. This is the oppo­site of the world in anato­my of a star, where the Speak­er wields the pow­er of his imag­i­na­tion and grief to cre­ate moments out­side of com­mon­ly accept­ed con­scious­ness to inter­ro­gate and reunite with his father. The project is meant to tran­scend the per­son­al and the spe­cif­ic; to offer cathar­sis, com­fort, and hope­ful­ly heal­ing for the read­er who can empathize with the work.

Seth Leep­er is a queer poet. A Best of the Net nom­i­nee and 2022 Brook­lyn Poets Fel­low, his work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Sycamore Review, Riv­er Styx, Sala­man­der, Hobart After Dark, Over­heard Lit, and Always Crash­ing. He holds an M.A. in Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion from Pace Uni­ver­si­ty and B.A. in Cre­ative Writ­ing and Fash­ion Jour­nal­ism from San Fran­cis­co State Uni­ver­si­ty. He lives and teach­es in Brook­lyn, NY. He tweets @seth­wleep­er.

Two Poems

Poetry / Sara Lynne Puotinen

:: Two Poems ::

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From the writer


:: Account ::

Four years ago, I was diag­nosed with cone dys­tro­phy and told that all of my cen­tral vision would be gone in five years. I began to doc­u­ment the process of this vision loss. These poems are part of that doc­u­men­ta­tion. They are inspired by Georgina Kleege and her descrip­tion of find­ing the large blind spot in her cen­tral vision by star­ing at a blank wall.  

One day, dur­ing the ear­ly stages of the pan­dem­ic, I went to a blank wall in my liv­ing room, stood still, and stared at it. Soon I saw some­thing strange. It wasn’t a full spot but a dark ring with a light cen­ter. I taped a piece of paper to it at eye lev­el, closed one eye, and then traced the blind ring that appeared, first with a pen­cil, lat­er with blue cray­on. 

I was delight­ed to see this ring. Final­ly evi­dence of declin­ing vision that I could observe! I knew I was los­ing cen­tral vision by how much hard­er it was to read, how people’s faces were fuzzy blurs, how I nev­er noticed mold on my food, but my brain was com­pen­sat­ing remark­ably well and I often won­dered if I was imag­in­ing my vision prob­lems. 

Before see­ing my blind ring on the wall, the main method I used for mon­i­tor­ing my vision loss was to stare into an Amsler grid, which is a grid with a dot in the cen­ter used to detect dam­age to the mac­u­la. I would notice how the lines were wavy instead of straight, soft instead of sharp, how they fad­ed a few blocks from the cen­ter. I could reas­sure myself that I wasn’t mak­ing up my fail­ing vision. 

I decid­ed to use these forms—my blind ring and the Amsler grid—to cre­ate poems about my moods while liv­ing in the in-between state of not quite see­ing, not yet (legal­ly) blind. It seemed urgent and impor­tant to try to iden­ti­fy these moods and then find ways to express them, part­ly because I need­ed to work through my feel­ings, and part­ly because I want­ed to give atten­tion to some­thing that wasn’t dis­cussed enough: what it feels like to be in the process of los­ing sight, not after it is lost or before, but dur­ing. 

I cre­at­ed a grid and fit 3 poems describ­ing a mood into it: a main poem that was in the form of my over­all work­ing vision, a small­er poem that was in the form of the cen­tral vision with­in the blind ring that I still have left, and a hid­den poem with words fill­ing in the box­es in the space of my blind ring. Each box in the grid con­tains one char­ac­ter (a let­ter or space or punc­tu­a­tion) and I use a mono­type font to keep it even­ly spaced.  

Sara Lynne Puoti­nen lives in south Min­neapo­lis, near the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Gorge, where she reads and writes and tries to be upright and out­side as much as pos­si­ble. She earned a B.A. in reli­gion, an M.A. in ethics, and a Ph.D in women’s stud­ies, which all inform her exper­i­ments in pay­ing atten­tion and her play­ful trou­bling of what it means to write while mov­ing, to move while writ­ing, and to do both while los­ing her cen­tral vision from a degen­er­a­tive eye dis­ease (cone dys­tro­phy). Her writ­ing has appeared in Poemeleon, Hearth & Cof­fin, and Lon­gleaf Review, among oth­ers. Cur­rent­ly, she is work­ing on a series of poems that use Snellen Charts and Amsler Grids to describe her expe­ri­ences with vision loss. 

There are no synonyms for catharsis

Poetry / Chisom Okafor

:: There are no synonyms for catharsis ::

on the thesaurus of hearts. Only fear, then nothing       situated  
You wonder what the moon       in all of its opaque        resplendence  
would become       tonight 
without       a beholder       and with its lights       of silver        
left hemorrhaging 
into this empty room       while we drown ourselves within       a lullaby 
you suddenly        stop to ask. 
if my joy       long lost       has returned       but I respond       in the way  
of being curious in my unhappiness 
and curious       in my joys       and in my silence       there is a force 
acting       to cause a displacement 
within my body       a force       equal and opposite 
to the powerhouse       of my body 
what does it mean       to be a fruit       tarrying       undecided 
between ripening        and decay? 
even a vain thing        as indecision       possess the power 
to change       every man. 
Tonight       I come to you        a man in the face of his epiphany 
dear lover       watch me sift       into the heart of the night       watch me echolocate 
watch me trip       over a rock       just as I prep 
my heart for disaster       each of the human eye       being god’s 
loneliest creation       and hidden away        
each in its socket       each without knowledge       of the presence       of an 'other' 
a few inches       across the street       of the nose 
and my body       synonym for      utopia        rising from the Greek word 
utopus       which is to say       best place 
But which also means       no place       waterless       if you defer  
to its original         translation. 
Tonight       I listen to my heart       whisper double-faced promises       in my hearing 
I’ll take you out       it says       which is to say       dine with you 
which is also to say       suffocate you. 

From the writer


:: Account ::

In the heat of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, I was diag­nosed of right ven­tric­u­lar dys­func­tion, which is a hyper­ten­sive heart dis­ease. I was just 26, and the car­diac clin­ic where I had series of ECG and echo ses­sions, was filled with much old­er men and women, peo­ple in their sev­en­ties and eight­ies, who looked at me with so much pity and ques­tions, that they for­got their own trou­bles. I had been engrossed with writ­ing love poems before then, but after my diag­no­sis, my writ­ing grav­i­tat­ed towards the con­fes­sion­al, a kind of tes­ta­ment to the phys­i­cal and men­tal trau­ma Ive been forced to go through, on my jour­ney to heal­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, my heart con­di­tion, accord­ing to the car­di­ol­o­gist, may nev­er be ful­ly cor­rect­ed, and may lead to pos­si­ble car­diac arrests or cerebro-vas­cu­lar acci­dents in the near future. The poems I now write morph into repeat­ed echoes down a desert­ed land­scape, calls out to a kind of heal­ing, one that may nev­er arrive, but I keep call­ing, any­way. Also, I have spent about two years work­ing as a clin­i­cal nutri­tion­ist dur­ing the day, and writ­ing poet­ry at night. As a result, I often tend to think about bod­ies like mine, lin­ger­ing at the inter­sec­tions of death, depar­tures and clin­i­cal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. This mar­riage between the two, is also what my poems attempt to inter­ro­gate. They come close to trau­ma and dwell in its poet­ic pos­si­bil­i­ties, play­ing with the meet­ing point between heart as metaphor, heart as dead­ly lit­er­al organ and the body, and by so doing, attempt to stretch the real lim­its of being. 

Chi­som Okafor, Niger­ian poet and clin­i­cal nutri­tion­ist, has received nom­i­na­tions for the Brunel Inter­na­tion­al African Poet­ry Prize, the Push­cart Prize, Ger­ald Kraak Prize, and the Siller­man First Book Prize for African Poets. He tweets @chisomokafor16. 


Two Poems

Poetry /Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

:: Week 9: Grape ::

louse: the singular form 
of lice, small, wingless, 
you’d never heard of
because you never find 
just one like the note 
from your son’s school
saying one girl has them
& she’s been treated & you 
should check every tangle 
of your son’s curls to make sure 
some haven’t found their way 
inside & another mother 
says she’d buzz it all off 
just to be safe, says he’s a boy 
so he’ll look tougher anyway 
& you recall how you 
were three then too 
when your parents nearly 
shaved you & the other kids 
wouldn’t share the bench, would 
run away & yell & point, 
would laugh how you were infected
& dirty & a louse, ruined 
—Jewish—so you’ll refuse
to cut his hair & scour
each perfect ringlet, twist
their multitudes around your fingers
& when you find
only more locks, you’ll tell him
to sit with Evelyn tomorrow,
to remind her 
she is beautiful & loved

:: Week 33: Pineapple ::

Every time she turns her head 
between your ilium & coxal bones, 
you feel your water 
about to break, afraid 
of that balloon-pop 
in your pelvis, afraid 
break is wholly wrong 
for what shifts or tears, slips 
& loosens. Bones break. 
Hearts, maybe. But the veil 
between your body’s end
& her beginning? There’s 
no breaking it. Looks like that baby
is about to fall 	      right out of you, 
the women call, holding 
tight to what’s already fallen 
from inside of them. Fall too, 
wholly wrong for the way 
a body enters breathing. 
Rain falls. Fruits from trees. 
But body from body? 
There must be more 
to describe such cleaving. 
Directionless & unfinished.   
I’m gonna report you 
to the grocery store, a man 
yells passing, you stole
one of their watermelons.  
How easy to be 
so wrong in naming 
what you’ve never carried. 
She is not a vine-trailing
scrambler yet, spreading 
as she clings to soil. For now,
she’s still reaching for the sun
atop a tall palm, still 
hardening, bones in her skull 
just starting to overlap, preparing
for descent, She’s only 
a pineapple, you correct him, 
& keep on walking, one 
slow bone in front 
of the other, unsure 
which one of you 
is going where or how
to name your joined, 
persistent motion.   

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems come from a book-length man­u­script, 40 WEEKS (YesYes Books, 2023) in which I wrote a poem for each week of preg­nan­cy with my sec­ond child, play­ing with the fruits and veg­eta­bles the babys size is com­pared to in the week­ly emails those who are expect­ing can sign up to receive. While at times I take inspi­ra­tion from the objects them­selves, the poems aim to high­light the prob­lem­at­ic aspects of such comparisons—the way they gen­der and objec­ti­fy what is grow­ing inside—and focus instead on soci­etal taboos of the preg­nant body and our con­tin­ued cul­tur­al mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of and dis­com­fort with the expe­ri­ence of the more unfil­tered sides of moth­er­hood. These poems embrace the bare and grotesque, look­ing at what is often looked away from with­out shame, or at least ques­tion­ing why there is shame attached to the look­ing. They are also very much try­ing to fig­ure out how to con­tin­ue to moth­er my neu­ro­di­ver­gent old­er child, who is on the spec­trum, while preg­nant with my daugh­ter. In writ­ing a poem each week that con­nect­ed my expe­ri­ence of moth­er­hood and preg­nan­cy, I was able to stay con­nect­ed to my iden­ti­ties as a moth­er and writer, feel­ing that one was feed­ing the oth­er. I was a bet­ter moth­er because I was able to write, and I was a bet­ter writer because I was draw­ing on my vivid and vis­cer­al expe­ri­ence of moth­er­hood. I did not have to choose one, but rather, could be both, and for me, there is no oth­er way of being in the world. I am always nav­i­gat­ing space and inter­ac­tions as a moth­er, mul­ti­task­ing by simul­ta­ne­ous­ly try­ing to cap­ture the sto­ries and lyric moments all around memade more urgent and singing loud­er because of my chil­dren. 

Julia Kolchin­sky Das­bach ( emi­grat­ed from Dnipro, Ukraine as a Jew­ish refugee when she was six. She is the author of three poet­ry col­lec­tions: The Many Names for Moth­er (Kent State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2019); Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020); and 40 WEEKS, forth­com­ing from YesYes Books in Feb­ru­ary, 2023. Her recent poems appear in POETRY, Ploughshares, Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, and AGNI, among oth­ers. She holds an MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon and a Ph.D. in Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture and Lit­er­ary The­o­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. Her dis­ser­ta­tion, Lyric Wit­ness: Inter­gen­er­a­tional (Re)collection of the Holo­caust in Con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can Poet­ry, pays par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the under­rep­re­sent­ed atroc­i­ty in the for­mer Sovi­et ter­ri­to­ries. Julia is the author of the mod­el poem for “Dear Ukraine”: A Glob­al Com­mu­ni­ty Poem She is the Mur­phy Vis­it­ing Fel­low in Poet­ry at Hen­drix Col­lege and lives in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas with her family. 

re: Poet Laureate

Poetry / Mark Neely

:: re: Poet Laureate::

I am afraid 
I have to refuse 
the laureate  
after all 
must envision  
edifying projects 
stroll through schoolrooms 
dropping verse 
into children’s beaks 
or force it down  
their pretty teenage throats 
to fatten up their hearts 
a laureate should 
have the gravity 
of a minor planet 
a gaseous atmosphere 
that can easily liquify  
a soul 
and my mornings are rough 
already I choke down coffee 
by the thermos trying 
to see in the ink 
something other 
than self- 
loathing zipped in my space 
suit even simple chores 
become difficult there 
are days I cannot stand 
to look at my shoes 
lined up by the door 
once I saw a moose 
swim across a bay 
the miraculous driftwood 
of its antlers 
hovered above the water 
a laureate 
would have to get that 
in a poem somehow 
I want to build a monstrous ship 
that eats ten thousand 
tons of plastic every second 
that squeezes through each canal 
suturing the planet’s scars 
I steer  
it towards my father 
as his hospital bed sinks 
in the waves 
and the sun closes 
its furious eye 
I taste salt on my lips 
he can barely lift his arm 
to wave goodbye 

From the writer


:: Account ::

There was a time when I didn’t like “poems about poet­ry.” As soon as I caught a whiff of that kind of thing, I tuned out. Now I see how nar­row mind­ed I was in those days. Poet­ry is per­son­al­i­ty. Poet­ry is pol­i­tics. Poet­ry is how we love and grieve. The best ars poet­i­cas are, like all good poems, about a bunch of things all at once. These days I find myself work­ing away on a man­u­script about teach­ing, poet­ry, and art—a fact that would cer­tain­ly hor­ri­fy my younger self, who want­ed to be Gary Sny­der and write poems about chop­ping wood and oth­er such man­ly things. 

In one of the poems from the man­u­script, “re: Poet Lau­re­ate,” I want­ed to have a bit of fun—both with the idea that any­one would ever ask me to be poet lau­re­ate of any­thing (ha!), and with the whole con­cept of the lau­re­ate, which is the awk­ward mar­riage of poet­ry (per­haps the most thought­ful form of lan­guage) and gov­ern­ment (where lan­guage is typ­i­cal­ly man­gled and manip­u­lat­ed in an attempt to con­vince peo­ple to vote against their own best interests). 

Mark Neely is the author of Beasts of the Hill, and Dirty Bomb, (Ober­lin Col­lege Press). His third book, Tick­er, won the Ida­ho Prize for Poet­ry and was short­list­ed for an Indi­ana Author Award. His oth­er awards include an NEA Poet­ry Fel­low­ship, an Indi­ana Indi­vid­ual Artist Grant, the FIELD Poet­ry Prize, and the Con­crete Wolf Chap­book Award for Four of a Kind. He is a pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Ball State Uni­ver­si­ty, and a senior edi­tor at Riv­er Teeth: a Jour­nal of Non­fic­tion Nar­ra­tive.  


Bless the Damage

Poetry / Allisa Cherry

:: Bless the Damage ::

Now that time has nacred over
the rough edges of memory
I can say that you were a real beauty.
A shiner. You glittered like glass shards
in the baby formula. I mapped
my way forward in the darkness
by the pulsing gleam of you. Sometimes
the lung-stopping quartz in the quarry
and sometimes the toothy drill—
its circumference as wide as two bodies
entwined—bearing down and fruitful.
When I finally went to Oahu I went there
without you. I sliced my foot open
on a bit of coral. It was my first time
snorkeling. The first time I’d seen
a school of fish. My presence small
before a wall of countless eyes,
I felt—for the first time—beheld.
Back at the hotel, I sat on the sink
and scrubbed the wound out
with bar soap and a toothbrush
feeling resourceful and alone.
And it wasn’t the shine casting off
the warm water or the ribbon of blood
unwinding that I found most compelling,
but how the cut resembled a lightning strike
across the arch of my foot—plumped up
with white blood cells rushing before infection.
How the tight red skin looked like it might 
burst into bloom the way the peony buds 
you sent to my new apartment bloomed.
They were still petal-dense knots 
when they arrived. And I got to watch 
the entire life and death of them: 
the almost obscene way they swelled open,
and then the velvet bowl of each petal 
falling empty across my kitchen counter.

From the writer


:: Account ::

: I’ve spent much of my life think­ing about the sub­tle and not-so sub­tle threads of vio­lence that run through large fam­i­lies and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. Because of the par­tic­u­lar­ly reli­gious bent of the town I grew up in, much of this vio­lence was shaped by tra­di­tion­al assump­tions about gen­der. It also dan­ger­ous­ly over­lapped with love and loy­al­ty. In fact, the whole of it—patriarchal faith, fam­i­ly, bru­tal­i­ty, sex­u­al­i­ty, love, and rur­al life—are so tight­ly entan­gled, I began writ­ing as a way to tease the ten­sion out of the knot.

I have found that the more com­plex the mat­ter is in my his­to­ry, the stronger my pref­er­ence for clean lines and clear syn­tax in poem. Though, of course, not always. It is often eas­i­est for me to inter­ro­gate my upbring­ing inter­tex­tu­al­ly, to tie my work to the reli­gious books that gave me both my ear­li­est affec­tion for lan­guage as well as my most dam­aged under­stand­ing of my des­ig­nat­ed role as a female in my com­mu­ni­ty. And so, I often see my poem’s speak­ers qui­et­ly strug­gling with lan­guage to wrest their own dig­ni­ty and pow­er back and to revise their posi­tion in sight of the patri­ar­chal sys­tems they grew up in.

Allisa Cher­ry grew up in a rur­al reli­gious com­mu­ni­ty seat­ed in an irra­di­at­ed desert in the south­west of the Unit­ed States and has since relo­cat­ed to the Pacif­ic North­west. A recent MFA grad­u­ate from Pacif­ic Uni­ver­si­ty, she has just com­plet­ed a man­u­script that explores the way faith, fam­i­ly, and land­scape are often reshaped by vio­lence. Her work has received Push­cart and Best of the Net nom­i­na­tions and can be found in High Desert Jour­nal, Westch­ester Review, and at SWWIM Dai­ly, and is forth­com­ing at The Colum­bia Review.

How to Make Beef Stew

Poetry /Stevie Edwards

Ste­vie-Edwards-1-Poem PDF

From the writer


:: Account ::

I wrote “How to Make Beef Stew” short­ly after war broke out in Ukraine. Beyond glu­ing my eyes to the news cycle, one of the only things I felt capa­ble of doing the day after the war broke out was mak­ing beef stew, which for me is a major com­fort food in win­ter. I love how it feels like a hug in a bowl and the aro­ma spreads through the whole house. In this poem I want­ed to cap­ture the jux­ta­po­si­tion between the com­fort­ing nature of the stew and the unthink­able vio­lence occur­ring. I also want­ed the poem to demon­strate the inabil­i­ty of dai­ly com­forts (like beef stew) to take my mind off the vio­lence, par­tic­u­lar­ly through the sim­i­le where sprin­kling flour on meat makes the speak­er think of the image of snow cov­er­ing dead bod­ies, which was some­thing I saw on the news. Ulti­mate­ly, this poem ends with rumi­nat­ing on whether this is the kind of world I would want to bring chil­dren into.

Ste­vie Edwards holds a PhD in cre­ative writ­ing from Uni­ver­si­ty of North Texas and an MFA in poet­ry from Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty. Stevie’s poems have appeared in Poet­ry Mag­a­zine, Amer­i­can Poet­ry Review, Crazy­horse, and else­where. They are a Lec­tur­er at Clem­son Uni­ver­si­ty and author of Sad­ness Work­shop (But­ton Poet­ry, 2018), Human­ly (Small Dog­gies Press, 2015), and Good Grief (Write Bloody Pub­lish­ing, 2012). Edwards is cur­rent­ly Poet­ry Edi­tor of The South Car­oli­na Review and their third full-length col­lec­tion of poet­ry, Qui­et Armor, is forth­com­ing from North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty Press’s Curb­stone imprint. Orig­i­nal­ly a Michi­gan­der, they now live in South Car­oli­na with their hus­band and a small herd of res­cue pit­bulls (Daisy, Tin­ker­bell, and Peach­es). Ste­vie uses she/they pronouns. 

Four Poems

Poetry / Jenny Molberg

:: Four Poems ::


Mol­berg — 4 Poems PDF

From the writer


:: Account ::

These poems seek to shed light on the fail­ures of the Amer­i­can jus­tice sys­tem to pro­tect vic­tims of abuse and inti­mate part­ner vio­lence. The poems are a part of a forth­com­ing book, The Court of No Record (LSU Press 2023), in which a court tran­script in verse presents a cast of characters—the Alpha, the per­pe­tra­tor of abuse and the peti­tion­er in court; two women who have spo­ken out against his abuse; the Hon­or­able Answer, a judge with ques­tion­able con­flicts of inter­ests; and the two attor­neys who rep­re­sent the peti­tion­er and respon­dent. The Alpha’s attor­ney speaks most­ly in anti­quat­ed Bible vers­es, illu­mi­nat­ing the oppres­sive dam­age of patri­ar­chal reli­gious insti­tu­tions on our society’s response to inti­mate part­ner vio­lence and the gaslight­ing that occurs when vic­tims break their silence. “Evi­dence” sug­gests what the court will not hear—that is, tes­ti­mo­ny often silenced in cas­es of abuse, as a victim’s sto­ry may not be con­sid­ered evi­den­tiary sup­port or is called hearsay. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, as many vic­tims of abuse know, legal action can exac­er­bate a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, and often an abuser’s ver­sion of events is weighed in equal mea­sure to a victim’s. Orders of pro­tec­tion are often manip­u­lat­ed by abusers or proven inef­fec­tive because the court will not see “proof” of abuse until a vic­tim is already injured, or, dev­as­tat­ing­ly, killed. With these poems, I hope to encour­age a con­ver­sa­tion that needs to be made more urgent—how to demand change with­in our sys­tems’ fail­ures and how to recon­sid­er the word “jus­tice” in hege­mon­ic and misog­y­nis­tic legal set­tings.  

Jen­ny Mol­berg is the author of three poet­ry col­lec­tions: Mar­vels of the Invis­i­ble (win­ner of the Berk­shire Prize, Tupe­lo Press, 2017), Refusal (LSU Press, 2020), and The Court of No Record (LSU Press, 2023). She edit­ed the Unsung Mas­ters book, Ade­laide Crapsey: On the Life & Work of an Amer­i­can Mas­ter. She has received fel­low­ships and schol­ar­ships from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts, the Sewa­nee Writ­ers Con­fer­ence, Ver­mont Stu­dio Cen­ter, and the Lon­gleaf Writ­ers Con­fer­ence. Her poems and essays have recent­ly appeared or is forth­com­ing in Ploughshares, VIDA, The Mis­souri Review, The Rum­pus, The Adroit Jour­nal, Oprah Quar­ter­ly, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She is Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Cre­ative Writ­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cen­tral Mis­souri, where she directs Pleiades Press and co-edits Pleiades magazine. 


Poetry / Maxwell Suzuki

:: Wrestling ::

Maxwell Suzu­ki Wrestling — PDF


From the writer


:: Account ::

In my poet­ry, I have been obsessed with what it means to be queer, to have loved some­one, and for it to bub­ble deep with­in his­to­ry. I want­ed to chal­lenge our under­stand­ings of mas­culin­i­ty (and sex­u­al­i­ty) with­in the con­text of ancient cul­tures as well as our own; how they min­gle and diverge from each oth­er. And when learn­ing about Ancient Greece in par­tic­u­lar, I was fas­ci­nat­ed with how pow­er, as a man, was tied to sex­u­al­i­ty rather than strict­ly being about gen­der. This dimen­sion of sex­u­al­i­ty was some­thing I hadn’t thought about and want­ed to delve into that com­plex­i­ty. 

When writ­ing “Wrestling”, I decid­ed to play with space, in that I imag­ined the stan­zas as being two men inter­con­nect­ed and fight­ing for dom­i­nance. And in that dom­i­nance, there is an intrin­sic emo­tion­al fragili­ty to the wrestlers. That inti­mate phys­i­cal­i­ty through aggres­sion, I think, is the only way for some men to feel a con­nec­tion beyond them­selves. “Wrestling” under­stands these rela­tion­ships, is restrained in divulging the secrets of the wrestlers, and works to reveal their queer sub­tleties. 

Maxwell Suzu­ki is a queer writer who lives in Los Ange­les. Maxwells work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in CRAFT, Lunch Tick­et, ANMLY, and trampset. He is writ­ing a nov­el on the gen­er­a­tional dis­con­nect between Japan­ese Amer­i­can immi­grants and their chil­dren. 

Two Poems

Poetry / Dear Anselm

:: Dear Anselm ::

Dear Anselm PDF




:: As in Leaving the Pyroclastic Volcano ::

As in Leav­ing PDF






From the writer

:: Account ::


Dear Anselm”

I took some emails I had writ­ten to my friend and decid­ed to turn some of them into a poem. I still feel guilty for not return­ing his MoMA mem­ber­ship card.

As in Leav­ing the Pyro­clas­tic Volcano”

The first pan­el was inspired by the stark land­scape of North­ern Ice­land. I imag­ined a broth­er and sis­ter hold­ing hands and wit­ness­ing a vio­lent tra­di­tion (a whale heli­coptered above the caldera of a vol­cano and dropped in). I guess it’s a metaphor for how adults treat the envi­ron­ment and what we pass to our chil­dren. The sec­ond pan­el is a kind of light Frue­di­an dra­ma between two gey­sers in Ice­land. This was inspired by a geyser that went dor­mant (the father) and the younger geyser (the son) who keeps blow­ing steam into the world. The third pan­el was writ­ten on the flight leav­ing Ice­land. I turned on the TV and clicked on the flight path and we were fly­ing above a place called “Hap­py Val­ley Goose Bay” and I loved the name so much, I had to put it into a poem. 


San­dra Simonds is a poet and crit­ic. Her eighth book of poems, a col­lec­tion of trip­tychs, will be pub­lished by Wave Books in 2022. Her forth­com­ing nov­el, Assia (Noe­mi Press, 2023) is based on the life of Assia Wevill.

Three Poems

Poetry / Claire Wahmanholm

:: Meltwater ::






:: Meltwater ::



:: Meltwater ::





From the writer

:: Account ::

These poems are based on Lacy M. Johnson’s 2019 New York­er arti­cle “How to Mourn a Glac­i­er.” They would usu­al­ly be called “era­sures,” though I’d like to find a dif­fer­ent word for them since the poems—and I—don’t have the rela­tion­ship with the source text that often char­ac­ter­izes era­sure projects. I’m not inter­est­ed in using era­sure as a method of cri­tique or con­fronta­tion; I pre­fer to think of my inter­ac­tions as a kind of close read­ing. I see the era­sures func­tion­ing like any oth­er crit­i­cal essay on a text, except that I’m using only the lan­guage of the orig­i­nal source. 

My inten­tion was that the vis­i­ble words would point up a series of par­al­lel storylines—ones that are some­times more micro, and more macro, than the orig­i­nal. There are only so many things that can be made explicit/conscious at one time, so iso­lat­ing cer­tain words might be a way of untan­gling those threads and mak­ing each more vis­i­ble. In the case of Johnson’s orig­i­nal essay, she’s writ­ing about Okjökull while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly writ­ing about much more than it, and I see the lone­ly words as mak­ing that “more­ness” explicit. 

I am hop­ing that the project also makes a point about the way we read news, and our ten­den­cy to notice nar­ra­tives we’re already invest­ed in. The poems obvi­ous­ly say some­thing about me and my own pen­chant for see­ing grief in every­thing (as well as my impulse to put every­thing with­in the con­text of children). 

I saw the essay’s instruc­tion­al title as mak­ing an invi­ta­to­ry ges­ture to mourn, or to at least con­sid­er how mourn­ing looks for each read­er. I was com­pelled by the fact that my own mourn­ing, maybe, is already embed­ded in the orig­i­nal text, so that the essay is (poet­i­cal­ly) enact­ing the mourn­ing that it (jour­nal­is­ti­cal­ly) describes. I was try­ing to repli­cate on the page what I felt like my body was doing when I read the arti­cle, which was like a slow­ing down of my heart, or an uneven­ness in its beat­ing. Like large chunks of myself were being eat­en away. 

I was inter­est­ed in doing more than one era­sure (and iso­lat­ing dif­fer­ent words every time) to empha­size the cycli­cal nature of mourning—how we make minor adjust­ments with­out any sweep­ing over­haul, how it’s (appar­ent­ly) pos­si­ble to mourn the same things again and again but using dif­fer­ent words. I am hop­ing that the poems high­light the ten­sion between the appar­ent inabil­i­ty to communicate—the way we write arti­cles and arti­cles (and poems and poems), and noth­ing changes—and the impulse to keep try­ing any­way. And by mak­ing the high­light­ed words off-lim­its for the next poem, I was try­ing to show how the pool of words to draw from drains and drains. The way our vocab­u­lary dimin­ish­es and dimin­ish­es, we have few­er and few­er resources avail­able to us as we descend into grief.


Claire Wah­man­holm is the author of Night Vision (New Michi­gan Press 2017), Wilder (Milk­weed Edi­tions 2018), Red­mouth (Tin­der­box Edi­tions 2019), and the forth­com­ing Melt­wa­ter (Milk­weed Edi­tions 2023). Her work has most recent­ly appeared in, or is forth­com­ing from, Cou­plet, Ninth Let­ter, Black­bird, Wash­ing­ton Square Review, Good Riv­er Review, Des­cant, Cop­per Nick­el, and Beloit Poet­ry Jour­nal. She is a 2020–2021 McK­night Fel­low, and lives in the Twin Cities. Find her online at

Two Visual Poems

Poetry / Nance Van Winckel

:: Clearly ::


:: Auto Pilot ::




From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve been work­ing on a kind of graph­ic nar­ra­tive about a char­ac­ter I call Admi­ral Dot. He’s full of hubris. He keeps try­ing, and fail­ing, to con­quer the skies. For the pages of his sto­ry, I begin with old pages from children’s books and oth­er pub­lic domain illus­tra­tions. Con­sid­er­ing these pieces my “can­vas­es,” I col­lage onto them and make many alter­ations as I crop and col­orize, etc. The text is my own, and gen­er­al­ly it evolves AS I rework the pages and think about poor old Admi­ral Dot and his world.


Nance Van Winck­el’s ninth poet­ry col­lec­tion, The Many Beds of Martha Wash­ing­ton, will appear in 2021 from the Pacif­ic North­west Poet­ry Series/Lynx House Press. She’s also pub­lished five books of fic­tion, includ­ing Ever Yrs, a nov­el in the form of a scrap­book (Twist­ed Road Pub­li­ca­tions, 2014) and Boneland: Linked Sto­ries (U. of Okla­homa Press, 2013). The recip­i­ent of two NEA poet­ry fel­low­ships, the Wash­ing­ton State Book Award, a Pater­son Fic­tion Prize, Poet­ry Soci­ety of America’s Gor­don Bar­ber Poet­ry Award, a Christo­pher Ish­er­wood Fel­low­ship, and three Push­cart Prizes, Nance teach­es in Ver­mont College’s MFA in Writ­ing Pro­gram, is visu­al poet­ry edi­tor for Poet­ry North­west, and lives in Spokane, Washington.

The Thing About Nature

Poetry / Wendy M. Thompson

:: The Thing About Nature ::

You lie smooth on your back, 
a long pier. 
Each bone is a cliff 
overlooking skin, fatty tissue, 
the best parts around the hooked jaw. 
The hairs at the back of your neck, 
small tufts of alumroot,  
were singed by the fire,  
along with feathers, claw,  
and cartilage. 
Smoky with ash, your teeth, and 
an upturned skull in the debris 
were the only evidence they found  
of global warming. 
Because there is never a soft way  
to indicate that  
          Man is responsible for the death of earth, 
they extracted the science first: 
a hair pulled from the lab, 
an entire species folded into extinction  
in the back of a  
leather-bound encyclopedia. 
What is science anyway but a wholly  
irrational, irrelevant, omnivorous,  
long-tailed thing? 
Instead, it was convenient to lie  
while looking for the 
match that ended the world:  
          an arsonist, white male, about 30,  
          wearing camouflage, holding a beer. 
It’s never the tire marks that  
mar your bed of sage, 
or the eventual highway that  
cuts across the height of your thigh, 
slicing through tendon, 
the fur still warm. 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
                    New single family homes are being built in this development 
The deer that you carried,  
fractured by headlights, 
have migrated further east, onto  
new land  
slated for development. 
Every hour,  
the ocean drags you further away  
your mother, 
your children, 
until there is no name  
left in the sand but, always,  
bits of shell and the people  
who come  
to collect them. 
Perhaps one of them will listen  
deeply enough to hear you  
calling for your family. 
It isn’t an echo, 
it’s an owl. 
It isn’t an owl, 
it’s a hybrid car backing out of the driveway. 
Night constellations map the fibers 
of your many homes: 
a womb,  
a nest,  
a meadow,  
a new three bed / two bath house 
inside of a cul-de-sac 
that was just built in this development. 
The sky is a quilt,  
is a mirror  
through which you look,  
and ask your ancestors,  
          Who’s the fairest of them all: 
          the gophers that dig up my lawn 
          or my right as a tax-paying homeowner to kill them? 
Because after all is said and done,  
the wet membrane  
from which you crack, 
the yolk that runs down  
the scruff of your throat when  
you (try to) pick up women  
ten years your junior, 
the savage expression you hide  
behind giant luminescent wings  
when your coworker Eric  
claims full credit and is  
promoted over you, 
the sea cave that rages 
in your throat  
when your father tells you  
he’s getting remarried  
to a brunette your brother’s age, 
the territorial way you mark  
your job title,  
your woman,  
your assets, 
even the blood that fills your mouth  
when you make her 
lie smooth on her back, 
a long pier, 
each bone, a cliff 
overlooking skin, fatty tissue, 
your erect jaw and open teeth 
tearing through her best parts around  
the hooked jaw, 
is anything but fully human. 




From the writer

:: Account ::

I wrote this poem after think­ing about the inter­re­lat­ed rela­tion­ship between Amer­i­can mas­culin­i­ty, pow­er, prop­er­ty own­er­ship, and nature. There’s this way in which the struc­ture of Euro­pean set­tler colo­nial­ism orga­nized all four into a matrix of dom­i­na­tion, pos­ses­sion, and (over)use that con­tin­ues to shape our lives and world today. Through force and vio­lence, the con­quest of native inhab­i­tants, flo­ra, and fau­na led to the aggres­sive amass­ing of land and resources with the ulti­mate intent being max­i­mum extrac­tion and pro­duc­tion for prof­it. Today, dom­i­na­tion, pos­ses­sion, and (over)use reside as core tenets that define a man’s val­ue and worth in soci­ety: his abil­i­ty to dom­i­nate all liv­ing and non­liv­ing things using direct or indi­rect vio­lence, his abil­i­ty to amass great wealth or prop­er­ty at the expense of the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment, and his abil­i­ty to extract max­i­mum val­ue from what he owns or pos­sess­es. It is an unnat­ur­al way of life that has been made to feel and seem nat­ur­al. It is also the cause of tremen­dous detri­men­tal stress on our nat­ur­al world. 

I begin the poem describ­ing the human body as though exam­in­ing a non­hu­man ani­mal, sit­u­at­ing it in the midst of a land­scape that is per­pet­u­al­ly on fire and marked by human overde­vel­op­ment. Here, I want­ed to link us back to the world we work so hard to dis­tance our­selves from: one con­nect­ed to trees and plants and birds and preda­to­ry mam­mals. I then move to empha­size the way humans have ren­dered our nat­ur­al world unfa­mil­iar, exter­nal, and patho­log­i­cal, an emp­ty excess onto which we can build ever-expand­ing sub­di­vi­sions and cook­ie cut­ter hous­ing devel­op­ments. While we look at nat­ur­al dis­as­ters as vio­lent dis­rup­tions to our idyl­lic lifestyles, we rarely rec­og­nize the vio­lence that is present in our addic­tion to sub­ur­ban sprawl, to widen­ing and con­gest­ed free­ways and express lanes, and to the attack on nature when it shows up in the form of “inva­sive pests” in our back­yards.     

The rest of the poem inter­ro­gates how our man-made sur­round­ings have left us unable to imag­ine or reclaim our link­ages to our ani­mal kin and nat­ur­al world. Wildlife is dis­pos­able when it comes to build­ing new­er town­homes and sub­ur­ban devel­op­ments. And we find our­selves seek­ing out the calm­ing and heal­ing prop­er­ties of nature, dri­ving miles or fly­ing to pre­serves and oth­er wilder­ness sites far away to escape the mun­dane­ness and monot­o­ny of our every­day lives. In writ­ing this poem, I want­ed to stress the fact that we as human ani­mals have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to our nat­ur­al world, that our strained rela­tion­ship to/with nature must be appraised and reme­died, and that our prox­im­i­ty to non­hu­man ani­mals is a lot clos­er than we’d like to believe. 

I end the poem by play­ing with the notion of the “ani­mal,” a pejo­ra­tive term that we apply to humans who we per­ceive as behav­ing in ways that do not adhere to social norms or exhib­it accept­able deco­rum. Here, I cat­a­logue the ways that cer­tain expres­sions of raw human emo­tion, respons­es, and behav­iors are per­ceived as ani­mal­is­tic and can sig­nal our inher­ent wild­ness, chal­leng­ing us to con­sid­er how our instincts sit­u­ate us always close to nature no mat­ter how advanced and civ­il we strive to be. 


Wendy M. Thomp­son is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of African Amer­i­can Stud­ies at San José State Uni­ver­si­ty. Her cre­ative work has most recent­ly appeared in Palaver, the San­ta Fe Writ­ers Project, Rap­pa­han­nock Review, Jet Fuel Review, and Wac­ca­maw Jour­nal. She is the co-edi­tor of Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Pro­gres­sive Illu­sion (Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press, 2021). 

Excerpts From Your Baby Book

Poetry / Catherine Theis

:: Excerpts From Your Baby Book ::

You sleep for an hour. 
The bird flutters by the window’s screen just as you stir awake. 
I feed you again, hoping you will fall back asleep. 
You are quiet now. 
You are crying now, matter-of-factly. 
There is always a touch of the menace in the imagination. 
It’s hard to understand. 

The loneliness of the long-distance swimmer is like the loneliness of the mother. 
I hear you cry in the film’s soundtrack. 
The short film is usually in black and white but your cry is always color. 

Poems, babies, I have milk. 
I have loaves of bread, wheels of aged goat cheese 
and a bruise you would hardly believe. 
I have a small barrel of red wine ready 
to be tapped after seven o’clock 
and an entire dishwasher of stemware piping hot. 
I have an advent calendar with twenty-five tiny doors opening 
into a hallway of pure celestial light—

The facts of today: 

I buy a singular persimmon nicked by your teeth. 

I bring permission to myself to begin again. 

I whip heavy cream for a dessert custard of persimmon. 

The custard so sweet I don’t add any sugar. 

Your bumblebee hat still fits, so. 

The slide at the playground an entirely new experience. Have we officially exhausted the swings? 

I hold onto your tiny torso while simultaneously letting you slide down. You look the part of a young bumblebee. 

We buzz on home under the pink toxic skies of Los Angeles. 

I buy a second persimmon from Bob’s Market. 

You get to work immediately, scoring its smooth orange skin with your luminous front tooth, a surprising ferocity. 

Your fist smaller than the globe of fruit.

Closer and closer you inch toward 

the spinning center of creation. 

Your preferred method of transport 

the whirling, lurching see-saw of swing. 

Your clothes grow tighter. Two colds, 

one with one cough. We wash blackberry 

stains from your booties every night. 

Birthday celebration? Champagne, 

oysters, blackberries?




From the writer

:: Account ::

I decide to write again out of the nothing. 

The appro­pri­ate amount of time has passed. I have griev­ed enough for my body. The world glows in spring­time green. I almost for­get how quick­ly the hem­or­rhage began, how many pints of blood I lost that day or how the doc­tors and nurs­es didn’t even have enough time to warm the trans­fu­sion blood. I’m O pos­i­tive. One of the ancient blood types. Var­i­ous mys­tics and heal­ers have sug­gest­ed to me that it’s ben­e­fi­cial to eat red meat and greens. This doesn’t sur­prise me. I’ve picked my fair share of bit­ter dan­de­lions from the rocky moun­tain­side with the wind blow­ing up my black skirt. I do try to eat a nice steak at least one a week. Just like I try to write at least once a week. Also raw oys­ters. What­ev­er min­er­als I’m miss­ing, I crave the creamy flesh of oys­ters like you wouldn’t believe. 

I read some­where that the preg­nant woman’s brain shrinks, and that it takes a full six months after the baby is born to regain its orig­i­nal size. 

I have rough­ly two more months to go. 

My sis­ter tells me this is not true. A woman’s brain after hav­ing giv­en birth actu­al­ly grows in size. But we both get some ver­sion of the sto­ry wrong. I final­ly read an arti­cle that describes the loss of gray matter—specifically in the part of the brain that con­trols social interaction—as a process called synap­tic prun­ing. This prun­ing is not a loss of abil­i­ty but rather an indi­ca­tion that the brain is becom­ing more spe­cial­ized. In oth­er words, the gray mat­ter in the mother’s brain changes so that she becomes more attuned to the social cues of her baby and less atten­tive to the cues of those bit­ing flies around her. 

I always keep a fly­swat­ter with­in reach now. One hangs on a hook near the kitchen sink. One hangs in the laun­dry room. I saw anoth­er one on the din­ing room table just the oth­er day. 

That’s a cal­en­dar with the moon cycles,” I tell the baby, who eats his stuffed fire­fly we have named Blu for no oth­er rea­son than we like the sound of the word—blu. The baby sits upon a tuffet on the counter while I nar­rate the mak­ing of the cof­fee. Eat­ing his curds and whey, eat­ing his curds and whey. 

He moves his lit­tle neck. His eyes fol­low. Then his arms stir. He moves in pieces, in parts. A tiny red porce­lain spoon taps out cof­fee grounds into a red cof­fee pot. I nev­er noticed our fetish with red kitchen appli­ances and uten­sils. I’m let­ting his father sleep in this morn­ing. I can han­dle the first round, I think.


Cather­ine The­is is the author of The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Mod­ern Poets, 2011) and  the chap­book The June Cuck­old, a tragedy in verse (Con­vul­sive Edi­tions, 2012). Her recent pub­li­ca­tion is a full-length orig­i­nal play called MEDEA (Plays Inverse Press, 2017). Recent poems have appeared in Pre­lude and Quar­ter­ly West. Forth­com­ing poems in Fir­ma­ment.

Two Poems

Poetry / Jennifer Richter

:: Trending: Seismologist Explains How to Make an Earthquake Early Warning System With Cats ::

Lately I have more cats in my Cloud than kids 
in real life two kids no cats but now no kids at 
home so cats are how we stay in touch if their 
phones ring they huff mom why’re you calling 
but when I text my son a tabby in a taco bowtie 
he texts right back maybe a chonky ginger and 
I know he’s okay that’s a thumbs up for today 
since the kids left I’ve been using cats to predict 
disaster as the seismologist says it’s tricky you’d 
think cats parkouring through kitchens crashing 
trashing everything would mean it’s all falling 
apart you’d think a cat reeling with cheese stuck 
to its face might be a cry for help but when he 
sends those I know my son’s actually laughing 
that day my daughter had a fever and a French 
final I texted you’re the best with a moustached 
munchkin she sent back a show-posed golden 
Persian someone had captioned yo for real this 
cat looks like the grandfather of a croissant how 
is it only 16th best ha I thought okay she’s okay 
when they don’t respond I’m suddenly back 
in a too quiet house with toddlers I worry if 
one sends the same meme two days in a row 
what’s so distracting I worry getting bursts of 
Norwegian forest cats in the snow from my son 
it’s tricky you’d think all those dreamy scenes 
might mean he’d found a little peace this week 
but the last winter he lived at home it vanished 
the neighbor’s cat with ears like that slept only 
on our deck only ever let my son get close then 
one day left no warning just didn’t come back 
that winter my friend left too you never know 
seismologists agree meanwhile we chase hints 
of what and when like red laser dots we won’t 
ever pin down a guy online actually analyzed 
a thousand cookie fortunes found very few use 
predictive language mostly they offer random 
observations about you like my daughter when 
I visit her wow mom at my outfit means either 
the heart-eyed cat emoji or the crying one now 
my son texts kittens spilled from a takeout box 
rice like snow on their noses my friend’s hands 
on my body used to shake with jolts that rose 
he said from deep beneath his feet okay you’ll 
be okay he said anyone can heal anyone then 
pointed to a shadowed corner sighing oh look 
at all their wings so I squinted like I do at my 
phone now at one of the sticky snarling kittens 
chewing a fortune you are surrounded by angels 
it says wow mom they’d say if my kids saw me 
always staring at my dark screen like that corner 
look I’d say I’m okay every day you light it up




:: Message in a Bottle: Dear Future ::

Stunned to still be here 
after emergency brain 
surgery my friend kept 
weeping kept palming 
her chest to feel the rise 
of her actual breath oh 
future maybe by now 
your earth is fissured 
as a cortex maybe your 
west coast has become 
a sedated brain wiped 
clean by waves oh dear 
future if like my friend 
you wake in a shaken 
state may you recover 
like her surrounded by 
beloveds repeating the 
word fine and experts 
nodding at the word 
stable may it be still 
too soon to say what’s 
been irretrievably lost 
may your memories 
resurface like hers 
just the sunny ones 
floating back so far 
dear future how are 
you I seriously think 
about you all the time




From the writer


:: Account ::

In the win­dow­less depths of the Cal­tech Archives, I read this ques­tion in hand­writ­ten fan mail to Charles F. Richter, inven­tor of the earth­quake mag­ni­tude scale, and knew I’d found the spark of my next col­lec­tion: “I was won­der­ing how you feel about your name being asso­ci­at­ed with a disaster.”

I grew up in the flood-prone, tor­na­do-swept, wind-chilled Mid­west; it wasn’t until I moved to the Pacif­ic North­west twen­ty years ago that I began hear­ing the term “Richter scale” thread­ed through pub­lic broad­casts and pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with increas­ing fre­quen­cy and urgency. These two poems come from that new man­u­script, The Real­ly Big One, which has become a con­sid­er­a­tion of the ways we—as indi­vid­u­als, as fam­i­lies, as communities—cycle through peri­ods of shat­ter­ing and heal­ing. In both of these poems, the lan­guage and imagery of seis­mol­o­gy helped me approach the entwined sub­jects of fam­i­ly, fear, and the future; at the heart of each poem is the beau­ti­ful and brave leap of faith we take each day, trust­ing that every­thing will be okay.


Jen­nifer Richter’s first col­lec­tion, Thresh­old (2010), was cho­sen by Natasha Trethewey as a win­ner in the Crab Orchard Series in Poet­ry; her sec­ond col­lec­tion, No Acute Dis­tress (2016), was a Crab Orchard Series Editor’s Selec­tion, and both books were named Ore­gon Book Award Final­ists. Her new work has been fea­tured in ZYZZYVA, The Los Ange­les Review, The Mis­souri Review, and The Mass­a­chu­setts Review. Richter teach­es in Ore­gon State University’s MFA pro­gram.

Two Poems

Poetry / Susan Rich

:: Salt Crystals in Cape Town ::

Always it was the men involved in such minutia— 
which prayer to recite first: table salt or kosher, 
while the women chopped carrots for the cholent, 
added tomato paste and kidney beans that would begin 
to simmer and flake before sundown— 
indestructible slop dating back to the second temple. 
In Cape Town I met my only orthodox boyfriend  
whose lovemaking leaned towards devout. Please your woman  
in bed on the Sabbath, the Torah reads—my favorite  
part of the teaching—a religious obligation to pleasure  
the woman solely for pleasure’s sake, Exodus 21:10. 
Regularly, if he is a husband of means, or once a month 
for camel drivers and long-haul truckers. We made love 
under orange scented trees and above mountain tops. 
We salted our lips with each other’s sweat, and still 
he hid his grapes fermenting in their improvised machine.  
The dozen wine bottles uncorked and sequestered 
in the hall closet among suit jackets and ties  
because I wrote on Saturdays, flicked light switches, 
loved shrimp. My body would remake his wine  
into something impure. So many rituals, so little time— 
prayers for a healthy shit, another one for the car keys before 
they magically reappear. When my mother died, we covered  
the mirrors, thought to tear our clothes. No easy listening,  
no rock & roll, no show tunes for a year he ordered. 
But listening to the Red Sox on the radio? Allowed.  
I wonder if God cares for team sports or salt crystals—if  
a woman’s pleasure in the Scriptures is a directive slipped  
in from some lost holy book? Is there a verse there for fair  
wages? Equitable lives? When the orthodox scholar left 
me he said he said he wanted to make love to everyone 
else. His own kabbalistic interpretation of tikkun olam. 
He assured me it was kosher because Jewish women  
aren’t allowed to create law. Is there a prayer to tell  
ex-lovers to fuck off? A prayer to regain belief  
in orange groves—for transforming what we are told? 




:: Kerchiefs of Yellow Linen ::

     During World War II, 91–95% of Lithuania’s Jewish population were killed—  
     the highest casualty rate of Jews in any nation in the Holocaust.
Somewhere in Lithuania, my grandmother’s  
sisters, parents, cousins, aunties, in-laws, and everyone else  
die during the Holocaust and before that, in pogroms. 
I wonder if the women tracked the soldiers’ path 
from the hills, watched them with binoculars as they 
frog-marched through fields of pomegranate and rye. 
Did the women foretell danger, the cold wave  
cresting on the edge of their skin, their skin 
intuiting door to door searches, ditches, death? 
Scientists say our bodies remember  
trauma like footsteps from one generation 
into another. The pathogen of the physical  
fear planted in infancy 
that festers and expands—not like wild mint 
but more like a grove of stinging nettles  
that surrounds my sleep. The house 
where I grew up—I’m there alone and then 
—you’d think they were delivering flowers  
the hard knock, followed by the doorbell,  
such politeness—until the door breaks open— 
and I exile myself from myself— 
watch as the militia takes over, helmets  
to boots readied for an ever-present war.  
Recently, the scenario reconfigured 
with tech execs and hedge fund  
entrepreneurs with slick hair.  
The men drone on: foreclosures and stock ops.                               
Do they occupy my body, my land?  
I wake on high alert 
bathed in the breath of terror, 
a haunting that thrives across  
continents, and further. 
What happened to my women— 
the Jews of Lithuania— 
raped, taken, tossed  
into the deep unknowing  
until perhaps now— 
when maybe if I learn to listen, they’ll speak. 




From the writer

:: Account ::

For many years I avoid­ed writ­ing about fam­i­ly— not because it seemed too dif­fi­cult, but because it seemed too ordi­nary to me. I grew up at the far edge of the post-Holo­caust gen­er­a­tion with rel­a­tives who had hid­den in garbage cans to sur­vive and escaped rape by being ban­daged to pass as lep­ers. The old-coun­try sto­ries always end­ed with the same piece of implied advice: Don’t trust any­one that isn’t Jew­ish. I reject­ed this whole­heart­ed­ly and spent sev­er­al years in Niger, West Africa, per­haps the only Jew­ish per­son in the coun­try. (At least I nev­er met anoth­er.) There­fore, it was a strange sur­prise to me when, a cou­ple of years ago, I wrote a poem where my Jew­ish­ness took front and cen­ter. Since then, more poems of oth­er­ness, pogroms, Holo­caust sur­vivors, and racism have appeared. My per­spec­tive, I believe, is more irrev­er­ent and sur­re­al than what one thinks of when they think of Jew­ish poet­ry, if they think of it at all. These poems are irrev­er­ent, sur­re­al, and most def­i­nite­ly in the lin­eage of Jew­ish writ­ing. There is no one way to be Jew­ish just as there is no one way to be a poet. 


Susan Rich is an award win­ning poet, edi­tor and essay­ist. She is the author of four poet­ry col­lec­tions, includ­ing, most recent­ly, Cloud Phar­ma­cy (White Pine Press, 2014) and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (White Pine Press, 2010), and co-edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy The Strangest of The­atres, pub­lished by the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion. Rich has received awards from PEN USA and the Ful­bright Foun­da­tion. Recent poems have appeared in the Har­vard Review, New Eng­land Review, Poet­ry Ire­land, and World Lit­er­a­ture Today. Her 5th col­lec­tion, Gallery of Post­cards and Maps: New and Col­lect­ed Poems is forth­com­ing from Salmon Poet­ry, Ire­land, in 2022; Blue Atlas is forth­com­ing from Red Hen Press, 2024. Susan is on fac­ul­ty at High­line Col­lege out­side of Seat­tle, WA

Two Poems

Poetry / Suphil Lee Park

:: Present Tense Complex ::

Not I love you 
but the cuckoo 
clock moves me 
to tears. Poor 
Have seconds, fast 
I will 
seconds to fast. 
Spare us a second. 
Light at gunpoint. 
Whose lung 
brims with bullets 
ruts snowed- 
in, mind tucked in 
skin. What will 
heal, what not. 
There’s no sobbing in this world 
there’s no sobbing 
          in this world 
          there’s No 
sobbing in this world. 



Poetry / Suphil Lee Park

:: Route, Root ::

Volcanic winter, the cold 
is in color, sheltered. 
The canon balls in place 
of your eye balls 
I’m sure are the dead 
ends of your brain—god, 
should I drop my torch.




From the writer

:: Account ::

I’ve always found it hard to agree with many who like to say the most impor­tant qual­i­ties of a poem are essen­tial­ly son­ic. I believe I feel this way because I’m Kore­an AND a bilin­gual writer. I have that hard-head­ed bias as a native read­er and writer of the Kore­an lan­guage that has evolved from cen­turies of such com­pli­cat­ed his­to­ry; unlike the Japan­ese who have ful­ly inte­grat­ed Chi­nese char­ac­ters into their own lan­guage, we invent­ed our own unique alpha­bet while still car­ry­ing over most of the words that con­sist of Chi­nese char­ac­ters from the last cen­tu­ry. For exam­ple, the sun in Kore­an is 해. Oth­er words in Kore­an, such as “year” and “harm,” even some phras­es like “will do,” “do this,” “should I do this?” spell and sound exact­ly the same (except some sub­tle dif­fer­ences in into­na­tion when it’s used as a phrase); the mean­ing of the word, there­fore, depends entire­ly on the con­text. But we also have anoth­er word for the sun in Kore­an, 태양, which con­sists of Chi­nese char­ac­ters “​太” (big) and “陽​” (yang); and each of these Chi­nese char­ac­ters also has mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions. While 해 is an exact equiv­a­lent for 태양 when it means the sun, a skill­ful Kore­an read­er will be first sprint­ing through a web of lin­guis­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties and con­no­ta­tions at their  recog­ni­tion of this sim­ple word. In oth­er words, I was born into a lan­guage that neces­si­tates lis­ten­ing not to the words them­selves but for the his­to­ry and poten­tial of each word and how words come togeth­er to form a wild­ly com­plex rela­tion­ship. So my obses­sion with words lies not in how they sound (the son­ic ele­ments are notes and beats that pro­vide pre­req­ui­site back­ground music) but in the chem­istry they spark up on the page. 

This lin­guis­tic incli­na­tion of mine matured into an impor­tant aes­thet­ic lat­er when I start­ed writ­ing in Eng­lish. At first, my very Kore­an brain approached the Eng­lish lan­guage pri­mar­i­ly as text, not as sound that I often had a hard time mak­ing out. While spo­ken Eng­lish was slip­pery and hard to grasp at the time, the lan­guage on the page felt to me some­thing like clay, espe­cial­ly in poetry—malleable, volatile, and tac­tile, as the words put and close the dis­tance that we call lines between them. Depend­ing on that dis­tance, they could become entire­ly dis­parate things, con­tained in the exact same word. In that sense, writ­ing in this lan­guage has been like paint­ing to me. A sim­ple jux­ta­po­si­tion can bring out an unex­pect­ed hue in a sim­ple red; some shapes, you can only dis­cern in hind­sight, at a dis­tance. A poached “egg” dif­fers dras­ti­cal­ly from a woman’s “egg.” I’ve always loved the idea of every word as an attempt and fail­ure to con­tain the uncon­tain­able, and how that only expands the hori­zon of each poem, with every word, even a rudi­men­ta­ry one like “egg,” adding lay­ers and nuances when put in a dif­fer­ent con­text, and depend­ing on which line it’s placed in. In that sense, I almost feel every poem is to be a brief jour­ney for its words to align them­selves. This is why many of my poems make use of antana­cla­sis and explore the con­tex­tu­al and tex­tu­al rela­tion­ship of words.


Suphil Lee Park (수필 리 박 / 秀筆 李 朴) is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion, Present Tense Com­plex, win­ner of the Marysti­na Santi­este­van Prize (Con­duit Books & Ephemera 2021) and has recent­ly won the 2021 Indi­ana Review Fic­tion Prize. Born and raised in South Korea before find­ing home in the States, she holds a BA in Eng­lish from NYU and an MFA in Poet­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. You can find more about her at:

Eye to Eye

Poetry / Carol Moldaw

:: Eye to Eye ::

When I see my mom and H__ stare into each other’s eyes, inch­es away from each oth­er, my moth­er on her sag­gy flo­ral coach, H__ bend­ing to her lev­el, lean­ing in, with her obsid­i­an eyes and limpid smile, the deep­ness and unbro­ken length of their gaze stuns me. Had my moth­er ever held her wild­flower blue eyes that steady for any­one, for that long? In old pho­tos, she looks straight into the cam­era, shin­ing, intent—until the flash pops. With us, her regard was tran­si­to­ry, less than a gaze but more than a glance. H, one hand on the couch’s arm, close to my mother’s rest­ing arm but not touch­ing it, is firm and insis­tent as she cajoles and appeals to my mother’s bet­ter nature. And no mat­ter how unin­ter­est­ed or stub­born­ly oppo­si­tion­al my moth­er is, H, in this way, man­ages to per­suade her time after time to do what she wants her to. To rise from the lily-print­ed couch, to eat, go to the bath­room, change from one fleece or print­ed poly­blend zip-up caf­tan to anoth­er, fresh­er one. I arrange not to be there to wit­ness the get­ting out of bed, the teeth clean­ing, the bathing, the trans­ac­tions from one room, one chair, to anoth­er. For the moment, H__, the firm but lov­ing moth­er my moth­er nev­er had, has her entranced.



From the writer

:: Account ::

In describ­ing aspects of the rela­tion­ship between my moth­er and H__, her caregiver–H__’s patience and lov­ing kind­ness, my mother’s unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly pli­ant response to it–I want­ed to con­vey how deeply the rela­tion­ship reach­es into my mother’s psy­che, how heal­ing it appears to be for her. Of course, I can’t–and the poem doesn’t–presume to know what place, if any, in H__’s psy­che the rela­tion­ship has; the poem can only char­ac­ter­ize the way she treats my moth­er. Prose, straight­for­ward and obser­va­tion­al, seemed to bet­ter con­vey the cadence of their inter­ac­tion and my own role, as a bystander. Only in describ­ing each set of eyes did I feel the neces­si­ty to use imagery. 


Car­ol Moldaw is the author of Beau­ty Refract­ed (Four Way Books, 2018) as well as well as five oth­er books of poet­ry, includ­ing The Light­ning Field, which won the FIELD Poet­ry Prize (Ober­lin Col­lege Press, 2002) and a nov­el, The Widen­ing (Etr­uscan Press, 2008). Her work has been pub­lished wide­ly in jour­nals, includ­ing The New York Review of Books, Poem-A-Day, AGNI, Den­ver Quar­ter­ly, FIELD, Har­vard Review, The New York­er, The Yale Review, Plume and On the Sea­wall, which also pub­lished Tyler Mills’s inter­view with her in 2020. She lives in San­ta Fe, NM.