by Maxine Scates

The River

I want to lie down in the river.
I know that's where sorrow is,
sorrow the name I gave to a dog
long after she was dead
because I forgot to feed her,
forgot to feed sorrow, to remember
she needed to be fed. The wild cherries
glisten in the sunlight, the crows
clatter overhead
and somewhere the woodpecker thrums a trunk.
I know I could pick strawberries on the road
to the river, bend in the dusty rows
reaching for them in that moment
before sweetness fades.

I know the raccoon
lies dead by the side of the road
readying me, or is it these days
when the iris blooms as I want it to,
when the cat sits perfectly on her corner
of the fence? I know the flocks of redwings
are waiting there. They flash in the trees.

I want to drift all day in the yellow raft
past the corn in the fields, past the island,
the sweet grasses on its bank. I'll feel
the cool water coursing against my back.
No, I know when Sam Cooke sings
This world with all of its allurements
I want to cry. I know most of what I feel
is the fault of something else, blessed singing
or those full glasses of wine
though maybe they only eased the way,
or maybe I wasn't feeling it yet,
I don't know.
I don't know how to say it
though the body would, full of its love
its joy.

I want to touch you.
I want you to touch me.
I want to lie down where your arms
will hold me, where the birds
are at work riding the half-drowning trees.

-from Black Loam. Appeared originally
in Crab Orchard Review


by Tom Montag


You know the day that Mother Nature runs
Out of her worst extremes in everything -
Cold temperatures when people are talking
About how damn cold it is, and those warm,
Those tropical days you couldn't take off
Anything more and still walk around in
Public? Well, then, we won't have much to talk
About. You want to take what you get, sure,
But not without chewing it with coffee.
Don't you like to lift it and sniff it and
Stretch and bend it and moan some like a cow
About it? The breeze doesn't cool like it
Used to? It doesn't snow like when Grandpa
Had teeth? Maybe we can take some solace
In the fact that North Dakota has it
Worse, that it's hotter than blazes some place
In Kansas? If you don't have the weather,
What have you got? Who's having babies and
Who's not? Who sneaks around behind his wife's
Back, who's putting his thumb on the scale with
Whose meat? If we don't have the weather to
Talk about, we haven't got squawk. Tragedy
Fills the void: buses run right off the sides
Of mountains, children get kidnapped and don't
Get found, bad things keep happening to good
People and politicians go right on
Making laws like saying so makes it so.
Someone somewhere will do something and some
Republican president will have to
Start a war. See, bad weather is always
Better than its best alternative and
There's not much you can do anyway. So,
Folks, pray for high winds and fierce drought, for snow
That covers the tops of telephone poles,
For windchill and cyclone, for Arctic high
Pressure and more lightning, for that swarmy
Late night heat that makes the love making great.

Originally published at Poets Against the War


by Susan Elbe

If I Loved You, It Would Be This Way

Night like a giant manta ray brushes
the screens with hushed velvet wings.
Under the slant roof, in a kelp-sway of trees
I lie on a thin, cottage bed
and whether it is wind or rain blowing through,
I only know it is green,
rolling down through moss, deep
into algae, and deeper, where green declines
to the dark verdancy glyphed
in a plum or the body's first minnowing.

First appeared in Passages North


by Judith Strasser

What It Takes to Restore the Tall-Grass Prairie

Dozens of eight-year-olds collecting
thimbleweed, yarrow, dodder, aster,
sweet joe pye, rattlesnake master....
Three months to gather the plants.
Five weeks to clean the seed
in the Dane County Parks garage.
Dancing feet that press umbels
of Golden Alexander until
they drop grains on a dust-gray tarp.
An off-season nursery owner
with push-broom, sweeping up
chaff. Retired mechanics
in surgical masks, running
the fanning mills--ancient Clippers
bought cheap at auction,
farms gone to developers.
Farm wives with plastic bags,
hay-forks, and chippers.
Scales to weigh milk vetch
and compass plant. Sharpies
to mark purple coneflower
on lunch bags full of clean seed.
Wayne, who’s in charge.
Louise, who recruits volunteers.
Girl Scouts who come in the spring
to scatter the seed on the ground.
The vision to see corn
as tall grass, prairie as park,
the past in the future,
our mark on the wilderness.

Published in The South Carolina Review,
Spring 2004


by Grace Cavalieri


Mother, first of all, has a saintly concern fazed into the middle air
As if she has taken the veil,
She looks the other way when father shows his abominations,
His unsavory looks, his fists. He trods her instincts,
(I see here I write about father’s rage more than her forebearing.)

Eliza is dangling in the wind
Impertinent at first, now fearful, has arranged reality to suit herself,
Her view is a mistaken effort, inexpert, followed by a dependent smile.
Did I say that she had a crawling adherence, that started with revelry,
Bur ends up being a sweet lady (Liza: wouldn’t you rather just die?)

Everina lives by aggressive missions, striking a vigorous chord.
In scale I would compare her to the woman in the next village said to eat
Small household animals I suspect she would say, “I did what I did because..”
And you would believe it. Do you know how the horses, before they start,
After the whip, have a moment? Everina lives there.

Fanny Blood,
I wish I could describe the sound the heart makes. Being happy in spite of pain,
You are my one nice memory that has saved me from all the peculiar dogmatisms
That take my spirit away. You say if I can understand this,
I can understand anything.

From WHAT I WOULD DO FOR LOVE: Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Jacaranda Press


by Jesse Lee Kercheval

The City Where--I’m Told--My Mother Was Young

Long ago
the lens of a camera
this city

from Sacre Coeur to the far suburbs,
pressed it between the heavy vellum of memory,
so to reach it is to cross a bridge
much longer, much steeper than the Pont Neuf.

In this paper Paris, my mother is a young girl
waiting for her lover by a stinking canal.
Or so I’ve been told by people who might
--or might not--lie to my face.

I pour over Atget’s photographs,
each street, each boulevard, each arrondisement
falling under his care,
falling into his camera and out of this world.

But photographs are illusions, devoid
of both pot au feu and the garbage
the cook leaves---though Atget photographed
laundries as well as bordellos.

I imagine my mother leaving me a message
by way of Atget. I close my eyes
and think I hear laughter
and telephones ringing--but I’m wrong.

I walk over the bridge Atget made
with his stiff little pictures
and find myself in the Gare du Nord,
all steam, white and gray.

And my mother, ma mere--
is standing on the platform waiting.
She has always been waiting.
Unless--instead--she never did arrive.

Long ago
this city

Triste, I imagine her saying, so goddamn sad.

Originally appeared in The Crab Orchard Review, 9:2 (2004)


by Elisavietta Ritchie


"He asked me to fly to Bangkok with him,"
giggles the nurse. I picture my father's
wheel chair sprouting aluminum wings,
his skeletal shoulders growing feathers
scarlet, vermilion, green
like a swan sired by a parrot.

"I hope you agreed to fly with him,"
I answer. "He was a famous explorer."
She laughs, slaps her plump palms
against her white uniform.
"Lord, what a spaced out
i mag in a tion your daddy's got!"

His blue eyes watch us. I smooth
wisps of hair like down on his skull.
My mad daddy...Here are
the springs of my imagination.
At eighty four may I too
have license for madness.

Meanwhile I wheel his chair
to his place at the table
between old Mrs. Silverman
screaming "Sugar! Coffee! More milk "
and Muggsy sloshing soup on his neighbor.
I set the brakes, fasten his seat belt.

Although my father insists that this trip
he would rather have curry and beer
or smoked eel and vodka,
I spoon pureed liver and unsalted limas
into his mouth quickly before
his fingers explore the plate.

* * * *
Downstairs, in the Ladies Room,
by mistake I enter the oversized stall
with handrails, high commode
and the blue and white "Handicapped" sign.
But will there be space enough here
for my wings?

-Originally appeared in Home Planet News.


by Louis Jenkins


ast mishaps might be attributed to an incomplete understanding of the laws of aerodynamics or perhaps even to a more basic failure of the imagination, but were to be expected. Remember, this is solo flight unencumbered by bicycle parts, aluminum and nylon or even feathers. A tour de force, really. There's a lot of running and flapping involved and as you get older and heavier, a lot more huffing and puffing. But on a bright day like today with a strong headwind blowing up from the sea, when, having slipped the surly bonds of common sense and knowing she is watching, waiting in breathless anticipation, you send yourself hurtling down the long, green slope to the cliffs, who knows? You might just make it.


by Robin Chapman

Camp Emmaeus

Dear Ones– reading Thoreau,
"it was morning, and lo, now
it is evening, and nothing
memorable is accomplished"–
all of us walking the woods,
the aspen leaves again, those
sticky green mirrors of light
trilling in wind, and the oaks'
slow grey-green a bass line
rumbling, the river's waters
a tannin brown, the bluejay's
bell calls struck and ringing.
Barefoot in new green grass
we danced, reaching our hands
up like the nodding heads
of prairie shooting star,
folding them in front
of our hearts like the dark
blood petals of wake robin
trillium, all of us rooted
in earth and waving to sky,
sun streaming through,
and then it was evening.

- Originally appeared in


by Jesse Lee Kercheval

At the Office

When I think of your small hand & the sticky warmth of it
I feel jubilant as if this dim light
were the sun or pair
of them--cardinal & pure
profligate magnified full of glorious distinction--
all viewed from a distance
like the dead looking up

Originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, 78:1, 2004


by Tom Montag


Breathe into it. Breathe
into it. When the poem
sticks out its tongue
you must bite it off.
This is the charm of poetry.
It is all you get to keep.

Originally published in Northeast magazine
and in The Big Book of Ben Zen
by Marilyn L. Taylor

One by One

Now You are closing down my five senses, slowly,
and I am an old man lying in darkness.
—Czeslaw Milosz

First, I will draw backward from the stench
of living; I will make myself immune
to its erotic sweats and stinks, quench
my lust for one more August afternoon,
the steam of which will be forgotten soon—
the human brain is that incompetent
at conjuring the memory of scent.

Then I will put my fingers to my ears
to silence the brass bands performing there
with frills and flourishes, greeting the years
as they sweep past. Instead, I will prepare
a quiet room for taking in the spare
continuo of leaves dropping from trees—
no harmonies are more profound than these.

The trick is to un-feel what one has felt
against the fingertip, the cheek, the groin—
that rare capacity we all were dealt
for knowing lavish pleasures, rattling pain,
lethal implosions where the two conjoin.
I un-remember them, I dis-evoke,
I let them dwindle into air and smoke.

Foreground, background. Particle and field.
Every law that proves or justifies
the separateness of things has been repealed:
contours and edges melt before my eyes
and there is nothing left to recognize.
Blinking, I sit behind a watery scrim,
watching forms and colors seep and swim.

Now I will push aside the bedside glass
of medicated liquor, thick and sour,
refuse to let its chalk and brimstone pass
across my tongue. I yield, at this late hour,
to the obliteration of my power,
relinquish my compulsion to consume.
My shadow curls. I am the one consumed.

From Subject to Change
(David Roberts Books).


by Catherine Jagoe


Great-Aunt Sara eats for her dead relatives.
Italian women of her age might choose
a more pedestrian form of grief--
weep at the funeral mass
wear black their whole lives long
light lines of candles in red plastic votives
leave them trembling in the murmuring penumbra
of some church, pay for novenas, cross their breasts
with lightning moves like master artists
fingers dipped in holy water by the door
take flowers to the graves each week
polish the garish stones.

Aunt Sara will have none of it.
She loves her host of dead through food,
through double helpings of
the dish that pleased each one the most.
For her son, the rich, sweet, sloe-black sauce
of squid-ink pasta.
For her dead man, the earthy flesh of olives, crunch of capers,
dark anchovy and salt red heat atop the limp soft strands
they used to pay the whores in, pasta
alla puttanesca. For her grandma, crackling sticky ginger rolls
of brandy-snaps, stuffed with pale ricotta laced with rum.
For Babbo, plates of starchy, melting, dimpled gnocchi
with their stabbing cloak of gorgonzola blue.
For her scented Mamma, now long gone, the wide-rimmed glass
of lemony Marsala-frothed zabaglione, served
with ladies’ fingers.
And when she tours the kitchen garden, she never fails
to pick a ripe tomato for the baby brother that she played with
on those same dust paths, remembers how he loved
the bitter green perfume of basil, flatter rounder one of sage.

She bites luxuriously and chews and savors each of them
pregnant with memories
her duty to her kin to eat for two.

Published in Kalliope, Volume XXIII, Number 1, 2001.


by Judith Strasser

Cosmic Symphony

Everything, all matter and all forces, is unified under the same rubric of microscopic string
oscillations--the “notes” that strings can play.

-theoretical physicist Brian Greene

How do we score the cricket’s slow crawl
up the stucco, the driveway’s crabapple
litter, the rise of the full moon, for the theorist’s
minuscule strings? Physics breaks open
the atom, plays with electrons and quarks,
explains that vibrations compose not only
the song of the cricket, the sway of the laden
branch, the texture of space that moonbeams
traverse, but the music of life in the mass
of the photon, the putative graviton’s spin.

I tap on the wall. The cricket rounds the corner
and vanishes from sight. I pull up to the house.
More crabapples turn to sauce. The moon
reverses my motion, draws me out to the canyon.
Everything trembles. We move in the same universe,
plucking each other’s strings.

Published in Birmingham Poetry Review,
Winter/Spring 2004


by Grace Cavalieri

I Can Think Of Far Worse Things

Than to be a governess –
Saying “that’s that” and hustling children
To the bath –
Oh yes, far worse things …
Like prostitution, for example,
Or embroidering, for that matter…
Or marrying someone I do not love.
And although I’ve never had the pox,
And one eyelid droops a little,
I am not ugly. If I lack sparkle
It’s just because
There’s such a narrow light in this room.
Do people think I should be a squirrel or rabbit?
In the shed eating wood? Unworthy of my work?
No, with twelve guineas saved
One could start her own school,
Or buy some self respect,
Or even start a dowry.
If I have to work for people whose
Fortune was not made in this lifetime,
Then I will tend to them sweetly,
Saving this beautiful handwriting for night.

Poems in the Voice of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)
Jacaranda Press, 2004.
by Louis Jenkins


The place I lived as a child, the sharecropper's farmhouse with its
wind-bent mulberry trees and rusted farm machinery has completely
vanished. Now there's nothing but plowed fields for miles in any
direction. When I asked around in town no one remembered the family. No
way to verify my story. In fact, there's no evidence that any of what I
remember actually happened, or that the people I knew ever existed.
There was my uncle Axel, for instance, who spent most of his life moving
from one job to another, trying to "find himself." He should have saved
himself the trouble. I moved away from there a long time ago, when I was
a young man, and came to the cold spruce forests of the north. The place
I thought I was going is imaginary, yet I have lived here most of my


by Elisavietta Ritchie


(For poets Josephine Jacobsen, Rod Jellema,
Irene Rouse, Roland Flint, Barri Armitage,
and David and Judy Ray, who lost sons and
a grandson in automobile accidents)

Even as my children scale
jungle gym and pine,
they too are swinging toward silence.

In desperate dreams I try to save
my daughter from the flood of night.
Still she drowns and drowns

while both my sons
spin nightmare wheels
against a thundering sky.

This wet midnight terribly awake
I pace the living room. My youngest son
is driving his broken Toyota home

from The Grateful Dead Live In Concert.
The storm keeps pouring over icing streets.
Finally I go to bed

but toss, alert for doors or else
strange strained voices on the phone,
and I do not undress.

-Originally published in Full Moon, 1984


by Sara Parrell

On My Son Leaving Home

All these years they have gathered in our house,
the first smooth stones resembling valentines
plucked from piles along Lake Michigan shoreline.

Later we searched north where Superior offered up
her infants, cold, glistening, and later still, Agate Beach
south of Bolinas strung thin hearts riddled with holes,

a sign, we believed, of my sister dying three thousand miles
cross country—and the two you stowed in pants pockets
from the mountains of Nicaragua, grey as sky,

as her eyes. Only a few weeks ago you tumbled red jasper
onto the kitchen countertop: I brought you rocks, Mom!
one perfectly heart-shaped, veined with quartz

where cracks considered coming home. Our house
brims with heartrock as I marked our mother-son time
stone by stone, heaped on the concrete hearth, lining dusty

windowsills, coffee table knick-knacks, paperweights.
My first-born crossing away to the West Coast might be named
rock-too-heavy-to-carry—what I feel as you pull out the drive,

a passenger in your father’s red Intrepid; there’s Amtrak to catch
to the ocean and all those books and boulders. Watching you
I remember as I rub a smooth pebble picked from the lily bed—

all small triangles of stone we call heart were once one
monolith of being, seamless as a mother’s love.
This fragment I hold is warm as birth-water, a reminder

how you and I, each in our own awkwardness and wonder,
break like rock, like wave, like heart, into the whole.

-originally appeared in The Wisconsin Academy Review, Summer 2002.