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Editor's Note Section

Spring/Summer Issue 2024 Volume 4 Issue 2

Editor's Note

 Editor's Note

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This past Saturday morning, I stood in the cold rain in the middle of downtown Lancaster, PA reading a poem into a bullhorn. It was hard to tell if I was speaking loudly enough over the rain and the traffic, but I think people heard me. It felt good to put my words out there for a cause I believe in. As I finished, I saw a spark of connection and recognition in the eyes of the people listening, which is a wonderful thing. 


I wrote the poem out of desperation–a need to say something about a situation I can’t actually do much about. I think a lot of poetry is like that, whether it is meant for the public square or to be whispered into one person’s ear. To be alive is to speak–we have an innate need to say I am here, this is what I see, do you see it too? 


But that speaking only happens if we give ourselves permission, and that goes doubly for women over 50. Who is going to ask us to speak or make a space for that? Has our culture ever given a place of prominence to the thoughts and feelings of older women? I would say that has never been the case. 


This is why a journal like ൪uartet is so important. Reading through the poems here, I am so glad the authors gave themselves permission to speak. I am also glad that I can play a small role in helping bring those poems to the public square. 


All over the world, women’s voices are vital, whether they are speaking about the environment, gender-based violence, racism, ageism, the simple joy of tending a garden, or the deep mystery of their own mortality. Older women’s voices are vital and full of surprises–as you will discover here–and they deserve to be channeled and amplified. Think of each issue of ൪uartet as the poetry bullhorn we all need. 

—Heather L. Davis



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Jacqueline Berger
Isabelle Bohl
Wendy Mitman Clarke
Brittney Corrigan
Barbara Crooker
Barbara Ford
Nancy L. Hausauer
B. Fulton Jennes
Jennifer Judge

Jacqueline Berger

The Feeling of Will-Be-Over


Finally, I believe I will die.

The feeling-knowledge arrives 

a little like the smell of eucalyptus, 

a medicine-cabinet smell.

Or is it more the sour of old ice

from the encrusted freezer’s snow cove 

back when bowls of hot water melted walls.

Or tar, or turpentine

in coffee tins, after-school oil painting,

little studio off Pico, 

every Wednesday for years,

the rag dipped then rubbed on hands

to remove cadmium or cobalt

from the stand of trees

I’d rendered valiantly

if naively all afternoon.


I am grateful for nothing,

what I know of it, 

the studio long gone,

my teacher dead, my mom as well,

and the Pinto she picked me up in

famously recalled for bursting

into flames on impact.



One of my favorite poems is Jack Gilbert’s “Finding Something.” His beloved is dying, and the poet is wide open in his feelings, and the poem is so generous with its gifts. I only wish I could make better use of these gifts, beginning with his opening line: “I say moon is horses in the tempered dark, / because horse is the closest I can get to it.” To my mind, this is a perfect lesson in trusting the power of the image while at the same time acknowledging the distance between ourselves and even our most intimate moments. Then, too, the ending of the poem slays me: “The arches of her feet are like voices / of children calling in the grove of lemon trees, / where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds.” How are feet like voices? I don’t know, but they are. And not just any voices, but children’s voices in a grove. And those lemon trees! And don’t get me started on crushed birds. Again, such faith that an image can both lift us beyond while lowering us more fully into. 

—Jacqueline Berger

Isabelle Bohl



Some Nights, When Thoughts of Tomorrow Narrow, I Choose

to Dream of Her


                           The world was so new…things lacked names.

                                                          —Gabriel Garcia Márquez


She dens beneath a fallen aspen,

for only a giant can shelter another.


Involute shadow tucked in cold,

she rests in her silent burrow,

her romping cubs having moved on

before summer’s shenanigans.


But her body is mum also,

as even a mast year can’t nudge

an aging bear into fire.


I envy her mute world

uttering no worries,

her faith in a coded future.


And I,

fallow of hands and womb, summon her,

as I think of my daughters, and my mother,

who recently revealed how aging speeds up with time,

how a single year scars your body like two

near the end.

I began writing poetry to preserve my family’s stories in France and share them with my daughters who grew up in the United States. Soon I realized that there were many more topics I could tackle as poems. I began writing to help me make sense of our complicated world, encouraged by my friend and mentor jim bourey.

My husband and I live in a cabin on a hill in the middle of woods where I am inspired by nature every day. This is why I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, the way she gracefully weaves her reflections with the natural world. I am also drawn to the work of Joy Harjo for her delicate connection to the Earth while telling the story of her people. I believe much clarity can be found in nature.

This poem was inspired by the black bears that live around us. Though they are secretive, they leave signs that let us know they thrive nearby. They are a source of strength to me, so I chose to mesh the story of an older female bear with my own. I am indebted to the people at The North American Bear Center & Northwoods Ecology Hall in Minnesota, specifically Spencer Peter, who patiently answered my questions on bear feeding habits and reproduction. They do good work.

—Isabelle Bohl

Wendy Mitman Clarke


Flight Feather


Here is the terminology; 

maybe it will help.


The shaft is like an obsidian arrow

thin and precise as a needle at the top 


thickening toward the quill further down,

pale grey now but perhaps bloodied 


when it happened, the flight feather blown

from the wing. Its vanes fan out on each side


like silk when I smooth them with my fingers,

interlocked by an invisible geometry of barbs.


And the design—that’s what caught my eye

of course, that and the spray of them—


so many strewn from the impact.

Morse code of black dots, white dashes,


an immaculate pattern that lends 

the downy woodpecker its tuxedoed appearance, 


“a very fresh look,” says my guidebook, appreciatively.

Clearly, it drew the eye of an owl, or maybe a sharp-


shinned hawk, some taloned Hiroshima hungry

as winter approaches. One by one I pick up


what’s left, these scattered shadows of symmetry, 

knowing I’ll never see it coming either. 


I’ve always found solace and wonder in the natural world, the way it mirrors so much in our lives, the daily small miracles of survival. It’s not surprising that Mary Oliver speaks most deeply to me. Poetry helps me find words for what I cannot say out loud or in prose. In a way, it lets me hide my pain in plain sight, giving it a way to light. I feel immense gratitude for that.

—Wendy Mitman Clarke

Brittney Corrigan


Duplex with Ship of Theseus


What do I recognize of myself

at the end of this unknitted year?


            At the end of this year, unknitted

            from a marriage that ferried me three decades.


Three decades of marriage have carried me

to an unexpected shore, and my body


            is my body, sure, but an unexpected

            mooring turns my breasts to sand and sea.


Mourning, I see my breasts and hands turn

unfamiliar. Older and untouched.


            Older, untouched, unfamiliar and

            still the kernel of my heart is figurehead.


My heart is figureheaded, still. Eternal.

What I recognize, my truest self.



Each December, I participate in a poem-a-day challenge with an ever-expanding group of fellow poets. Over the course of the month, we share the fresh, raw drafts with each other, providing words of encouragement along the way in order to be in community and mark the end of the year together. It’s a practice I look forward to each winter, and this past December even more so, as I was one year into a separation from my husband and on the brink of finalizing our divorce. Inspired by poets like Sharon Olds, Maggie Smith, and Jessica Pierce—all of whom have written so eloquently about the end of their marriages and how women experience that life shift in our bodies, minds, and relationships—I wanted to try my hand at creating poems about my own new state of being. I also wanted to find an appropriate container to hold my complex emotions, and I decided to experiment with form. I had been intrigued for some time by the duplex, a contemporary poetic form invented by Jericho Brown. The rules of repetition built into the duplex feel both ruminative and meditative to me, and I had a feeling I could get to the core of my experience through this vessel. I started writing a series of duplexes, each driven by an object or concept with which I’ve had a longtime fascination. The Ship of Theseus paradox, which asks whether a ship that has all of its components replaced over time is actually the same ship in the end, became an apt metaphor for my transition through divorce as a middle-aged woman in a middle-aged body. By morphing the repeated lines as I moved through the duplex, I was able to celebrate my own metamorphosis into a singular—and whole—being.

—Brittney Corrigan

Barbara Crooker



We were in our green canoes on a chilly lake;

you wore a plaid shirt: orange, green, brown,

autumn on your arms. My skin was warm

in the sun; above us, the tips of the sugar maples

were beginning to burn, the start of the great      

conflagration. We wanted the day to never

end; we knew in our bones that summer

was over. Already it was time for asters,

goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed. The sky ripened

above us, hard and blue. Beneath our paddles,

ripples spread in diminishing circles, barely

perceptible when they reached the rocky shore.  


As always, when I’m writing I try to capture and pin down a glimpse of life, that three-dimensional experience, and wrestle it onto the page, a two-dimensional form.  And as always, the poem on paper is never quite as good as the poem was in my head.  What keeps me going, I think, is the struggle, that part that’s always out of reach.  I’ll be eighty next year, have never had the opportunity to study with anyone, but I’ve gotten an MFA via the 3000 books of poetry that I’ve read and absorbed. I hate giving a list of who I’m currently reading as I know I’ll be forgetting someone, but here goes: Dorianne Laux, Barbara Hamby, Ellen Bass, Danusha Laméris, David Kirby, George Bilgere, Christopher Buckley, Tony Hoagland, Linda Pastan, Kim Addonizio, Ted Kooser. These are writers whose work I love because of their use of language, sound, and their willingness to engage the reader on an emotional level.  And I read every journal or anthology I appear in, front to back; in fact, twice: once for pleasure and once to study and take notes. I want to remain open, to keep a beginner’s mind, as the Zen practitioners say.  


This poem comes out of the space of mourning, having lost my beloved three years ago. For the first time in my writing life, I didn’t write a word for over a year. And then I took the top off my pen (I write in longhand first) and began, ending up with enough poems for a new manuscript.  This one came a bit later, when I was in residency at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, which has also been an important part of my writing life and practice.

—Barbara Crooker

Barbara Ford


Interior with Ida in a White Chair

                                    Vilhelm Hammershøi, 1900


She is facing the opposite direction.

She is mouthing a tune.

She is fingering a strand of beads.

She is cradling a bruise.

She is mending a tear in her dark dress.

She is staring at a spider climbing the table leg.

She is unfolding a piece of paper.

She is shelling peas into a blue bowl in her lap.

She is knotting a piece of string.

She is spinning two wheels of a child’s toy.

She is examining a splinter in her thumb.

She is sharpening the edge of a letter opener.

She is stilling her hands.

She is listening.

She will, in a moment, twist around to look behind her.

She knows she’s been watched the entire time.

The day after I turned fifty my steady correspondent of twenty years died from a brief and ravaging illness. Her death unmoored me. Who else was willing to receive my outpourings, who would anchor me in my struggle with incompleteness? Four months later an announcement for a writing group appeared in my mailbox. I signed up.


In the compelling cadence of a South African accent, Margaret, our leader, would read a few poems to help us settle before we wrote to the prompts she handed out. To hear words lift off the page and enter my ears was transfixing. She gave us Denise Levertov: She picks a quill, / dips it, begins to write. But not of him. She gave us Lisel Mueller: The death of the mother hurt the daughter into poetry. Wisława Szymborska: The joy of writing. / The power of preserving. / Revenge of a mortal hand. Dorianne Laux: I’m the only one here on my knees. I wanted to be Margaret. I wanted to take words into my body and release them into the atmosphere through the vehicle of my voice. I apprenticed myself to language and began to explore its layers of connective tissue.


The regular practice of writing dropped me into the land of poetry, where I found a road and a map. These days I write it, share it, participate in readings and workshops, and delight in seeing my poems in journals and book form. I don’t think anything tops my weekly experience of reading poetry for an hour on the radio, which I have done now for eighteen years. I didn’t become Margaret. I became someone new.


Poems quoted: “She and the Muse,” Denise Levertov; “Curriculum Vitae,” Lisel Mueller; “The Joy of Writing,” Wisława Szymborska; “Trying to Raise the Dead,” Dorianne Laux.

—Barbara Ford

Nancy L. Hausauer

500 Million Breaths


You asked me to shave off the white-blond abundance on your neck

but after just one stripe your electric razor died 

and I had to wing it with scissors, 

cutting as close as I could.  

Watch my ears, you said, as if I wouldn't.




First you were a statue and I was a woman,

then I was a statue and you were a man.

It took us so long to breathe in this place together,

spending our beauty like foolish children along the way.

Now kindness is the currency of our love.


We've watched dogs, a cat, a bird,

parents, cousins, friends 

step into the Mystery.

We know what waits for one of us

at the end of love, what waits 

for the other. 


We know how quiet and dark

the body seems in death.

You get so used to the tides of breath,    

to the unseen fire, the steady hum of life.

Their absence is so stark,

what you've taken for granted

so clear. 




Mornings are best,    

watching the shadows on the ceiling

arise and pass away

as the sun comes up. And afternoons,

when we are beautiful for each other again

or walk among the trees in slanting light.

Evenings, with our journals on our laps. 

The island you are 

in the ocean of my night.


When I lie awake at night, or in odd-shaped moments during the day, I often invite dearly loved poems to keep me company. Ogden Nash's "The Octopus," which I learned as a child, still makes me smile. The first stanza of The Canterbury Tales, memorized for an English 101 class, links me to long-ago people and how their mouths shaped our shared language. The Tempest's "Full fathom five" song--so voluptuous! Lorca's "Romance Sonámbulo" saved my life, so it’s always an honored guest. Audre Lorde's "A Litany for Survival" stiffens my spine, Wallace Stevens's "Gubbinal" testifies to the power of imagination and metaphor, Dickinson makes me shiver with delight. So many old friends to savor.


I write poetry to claim belonging, however marginal, in this tradition which has so profoundly enriched my life. To participate in the sacred ritual of reading and writing poetry. To perform acts of resistance to the brutally utilitarian ethos of our times. To kick over the traces of logic. And, of course, to express deep, complex feelings that I have no other way to convey--as this love poem to my husband of thirty-two years attempts to do. 

I live in Tacoma, Washington, with my husband and our geriatric cockatiel, on the ancestral lands of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, under the spell of Tahoma, Mother of Waters.

—Nancy L. Hausauer

B. Fulton Jennes

A quarter mile downhill from Our Lady of Tinos, Church of Miracles


she crawls up the cobblestoned street, six-foot candle strapped 

to her back, leopard-print dress split at the hips, stockings torn. 

Cars pass in silence. My God, what a shot


you say, palming your camera, ready to rise. Don’t I say. 

There’s blood on her knees. Her cheeks streak with sweat, 

mascara. Her coiffed hair unfurls. 


We finish our espressos, amble uphill, peer in windows, buy trinkets.

She’s already gone when we arrive at the church. Inside, banks 

of candles blaze, an inferno of atonement.


In a cold stone grotto behind the basilica, workers melt half-burnt 

candles in an enormous vat, stir sins out of the molten tallow, 

ladle the purified wax into waiting molds. 


I’m attracted to miracles. What—you don’t believe? I do. It was a miracle instigated by a priest-friend who died knowing how many years I struggled with infertility, a man who promised to intervene, that finally brought a daughter into our lives. A miracle saved that same daughter from an overdose death, called us silently to her side, hauled the crippled old dog she loved up the stairs to her bedroom to jump on her chest, restarting her breath after my CPR failed. A miracle happens every time I write a poem that seems channeled from the higher power I struggled to believe in during my early days of addiction recovery—another miracle.


I’m attracted, too, to other people who’ve experienced miracles—my mother-in-law, who prayed herself free of cancer, the friend whose father met her on the other side after she died and sent her back to finish her work. I’m attracted to places where miracles are known to have happened, like the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec, where crutches and braces sheathe two behemoth columns. And I hope the woman who crawled a quarter-mile uphill on cobblestone to the Church of Miracles on the Greek island of Tinos that day, a six-foot candle strapped to her back, received whatever miracle it was she sought. Seeing her was, in a way, a kind of miracle: evidence that people still believe so fervently despite illness, misfortune, grief.


Believe in the miracle of your work, of your life, even of your sorrows. Trust that they are there, waiting to change everything—even if only momentarily in the least-expected of ways.

—B. Fulton Jennes

Jennifer Judge

Pierogi Was a Whole Day


Flour always smelled better than it tasted.

Square strips of dough, a second layer on top, 

crimped by hand, the worry of it: too thin

and the filling oozed out in boiling water, too thick 

and the pierogi stayed gummy. The stink 

of cooking onion lingered like sorrow for days.

Flour sifted down on linoleum floors, 

that dryness under summer bare feet, the hunger. 

My mother made too many, not out of generosity, 

a kind of cooking martyrdom, the anger, 

the bitterness passed down.  

She pronounced it the Polish way,

never made it plural like her next-generation 

children always did, wore a babushka on cooking days, 

never invited us into the kitchen, always left 

the cleanup for us. It was a fucking mess.


This poem started from a writing prompt in a state park. The presenter for the workshop asked us to think about family foods, and pierogi was the first thing that came to mind. I think the idea was to get at warm family memories surrounding food, but my piece immediately went to a dark place. Pierogi is a cheap food, but it’s incredibly labor intensive. It’s a heritage food for my family since we are a hodge-podge of various Eastern European ancestry, but it’s a food I hate. This poem immediately brought back the poverty and lack of warmth in my family home. Those warm summer floors dusted with flour always felt as cold as the lukewarm water the pots and pans were soaking in as they awaited clean up. 

—Jennifer Judge

Crystal Karlberg

Empty Nest Floor Plan


Alarms keep ringing, but I tell myself I don’t know 

what for as I continue to fluff the proverbial pillow 


under the dog’s chin. Because she’s all I’ve got. Because 

beer-drunk and scotch-drunk are different, 


I am at my most keen as an observer on Friday nights. 

Loquacious is not a word my kids would use to describe me, 


but I bet they’d agree that when I drink I talk too much 

and agreement is everything, so it’s fine. It’s all fine. 


I’m fine. Even at my most sober I do not understand 

the hammerhead shark in terms of evolution. I admit 


we didn’t see any of this coming and that’s where 

eyes on the side of the head would be helpful. 


Last week a girl found the tooth of a megalodon, meaning: 

we’ve all been prey this whole time. Overnight the pink 


and purple macarons hardened in the fridge because 

we are always thinking about our children in the way they 


are always thinking about some other people. People 

they maybe love, people who have birds as pets 


or work at zoos. Like tribal tattoos, boundaries exist 

for a reason and I set them, but on fire, 


so all I’m left with is smoke and the questions: Why

is the hammer so wide? Why is it so hard to open our eyes?


I love poems that ask questions outright and/or force me to ask my own questions as I’m reading the poem. I also love poetry that weaves together things you might not normally think would belong together. Everything I experience, through any of my senses, is potential fodder for poetry. This poem was born from the frustration I was feeling as the parent of two twenty-something people. Around that time I saw a video of a hammerhead shark swimming with other kinds of sharks and I started to wonder about the usefulness of the shape of their heads. I revere and am terrified by sharks. Sometimes parenting feels like swimming in shark-infested waters. The question of evolution or why we are the way we are comes up a lot when I think about humans as parents. Writing poems helps me gather my thoughts. And answer questions and of course formulate new questions and thoughts. I have long been a fan of Richard Siken, who creates the most exquisite poems out of seemingly everyday events using language in a way that I can only marvel at. His poems and the poems of Amy Woolard (from her book Neck of the Woods) have given me permissions to gather the seemingly disparate images in my head and weave them into something cohesive that is hopefully interesting and hopefully beautiful. 

—Crystal Karlberg

Linda Laderman


In the terminal


a sign directs travelers to a reflection room. 

This is not a poem about an epiphany 

I had inside that room. I walked past it. 


I was too busy tying my shoes, too busy 

trying to find a coffee bar, too busy scrolling

through my phone to pause and reflect. 


At the gate, I watch a young mother nurse her baby,

mesmerized by how deftly she lifts her little boy 

onto her chest. She switches breasts while she talks

on her phone, laughing as she tells the person 


on the other end that people are staring, and really

I don’t give one fuck. I mean, where am I supposed

to go? How is it that airports designate relief

spots for dogs, but nothing for nursing mothers?


I want to ask her how she found the faith to bring 

a new life into a world that is caught up in chaos. 

What are her worries, her hopes for the future? 

Is she alone? Does she work? Where is she going?


She finishes nursing, and brings the baby up to her

shoulder, balancing him with one arm while 

she picks up her backpack. Then, she slides her feet 

into yellow Crocs, secures the child into a cloth sling 

wrapped across her emptied body and walks off. 


Last fall I was in a writing workshop led by Detroit poet and fiction writer Kelly Fordon. Her workshops are something I look forward to every year. She’s a generous teacher who’s willing to listen to any poem you bring to workshop. And her prompts are consistently thought provoking. When Kelly handed out a list of prompts called “Exploring Faith,” with links to work by poets like Ilya Kaminsky and Ellen Bass, I considered what I would write. I’m Jewish and was a docent for many years at the Holocaust Center near Detroit, but I don’t see myself as a religious person. I struggle when I try to reconcile the state of the world with the premise that God or religion can make a difference. When I saw the sign in the airport pointing to a reflection room, I thought about the prompt again. I got to the gate and found a seat near a young woman with a tiny infant. Watching her, I remembered when I was a young mother. I never would have had the confidence to travel alone—and here was this new mother with torn jeans, a backpack, and yellow Crocs sitting by herself with a hungry baby. Across the terminal was a luxury lounge for first class travelers, and behind us was a group of flight attendants oohing over a passenger’s show dog. Yet, there was no space in sight for nursing mothers. I don’t know exactly why, but seeing her laugh into her phone while she took care of her baby, made me think a bit differently about faith. Maybe I didn’t find it in a place of worship or a reflection room, but for a few minutes, I found a glimmer of it in the terminal.

Linda Laderman

Rose Lennard

She Said We Were Looking For America


We made a game of it to start with, sang a song 

about laughing on the bus, and a man whose bowtie 

was a camera, and looking at the scenery.


I’d never crossed the tracks before, my hometown tiny

behind us and nothing to snag the wind on its travels 

except a few poles, and wires shivering overhead. 


When she said we were having an adventure 

it sounded like a fairytale, and when my legs got tired

she swung me into the cart, on top of the boxes 


and plastic bags, and I pretended we had a car, 

imagined the way the wide seats would be slippy 

and have their own smell, and I’d wind the windows 


up and down, put my hand out and feel the rushing air 

push it backwards. I must have done that once, and later 

the wipers slip-slopping me to sleep, and the road 


all yellow as the headlamps held back the night. 

And already the sun is low in the grey sky, and even 

bundled up like a baby, I start to shiver, and mum says—


jump out honey, you’ll warm up if you walk fast,

but I’m hungry and I ask when we’re going home

and she won’t look at me and her bare hands 


are gripping the handle of the cart so hard, the bones

in her knuckles are white as an empty cupboard 

and her mouth is suddenly a locked door.


At school we studied poems by Robert Frost and his easy conversational style and intimacy with the natural world hooked me. Having taken up poetry four decades later, I am constantly amazed and challenged by the beauty, power, vulnerability and insight of many poets. On my bedside table today are volumes by Ross Gay, Fiona Benson, David Clarke and Jacqueline Saphra – just a very small selection of those I find inspirational. I enjoy poetry which doesn’t hide its meaning, which is generous and wants me as a companion. There is so much poetry that leaves me awestruck, that I have little time for poems which seem to want to hide their meaning from me!


When we were young, a friend and I once pretended we were going to look for America, inspired by the song by Simon and Garfunkel (we were actually just venturing on a slightly longer walk than usual from our home in Northern Ireland), and it felt romantic and exciting. This poem was written in response to an ekphrastic challenge and the image is much bleaker, and of course this is the reality for many people who find themselves homeless and itinerant, for whatever reason, or for no reason that makes any sense; and often there are children who are caught up in such situations, trying to understand. I find writing to prompts a good way to open up new doors, new territory to explore. 


When I am absorbed in writing, when I’m in a state of flow, I just want that to never end.


—Rose Lennard

Bonita Lini Markowski



I was born with a hollow to my bones

that I stuffed with rosary beads and pinewood shavings 

from windows planed with Dad’s own two hands, with the guts


of crucified deer and pheasant swinging from our black cherry tree, 

startled faces twisting above puddles of their own stale blood, 

with a balled-up white apron spotted with spaghetti sauce 


jammed in the back of an S & H green stamp drawer, 

cardinal feathers that remind me of Mother’s fuzzy red hair,

with chunks of frozen water all dewy-eyed


snitched from a wooden icehouse on a dirt road 

after Mass, with wedding confetti in white netting

tied with a bow, the pink so unforgiving no tooth 


could crack to the stale almond shrouded inside, 

the Sunday smell of Poppy’s Stogies and Dago red.

Because I know you could never love something


so heavy, I empty them, but I dread I will drift

off the earth with nothing to hold me down. Maybe 

I can evolve into a sparrow wearing a black mantilla


 I find at the bottom of a Sunday purse.



For me, poetry has always been necessary. Poems were safe spaces where I could grasp a thread that might tether me to something more stable than my own childhood experience. Early on, I had an affinity for Emily Dickinson and my beloved Aunt Sadie fueled that passion by gifting me a book of her poetry. I’ve always dabbled, but about 6 years ago I finally got the courage to take a serious shot at being a poet. Part of that journey involved earning my MFA. “Hollow” came from a place of longing and never seeming to belong. It’s from the perspective of a speaker who worries that if she gives up all that weighs her down, she would literally disappear. Using the idea of birds whose bones are hollow, I re-imagined this idea of disappearing to one of being able to fly. I often write through memory trying to balance the good ones with the bad. For “Hollow,” I used imagery from my Catholic, Italian American heritage to work through some of the trauma and strive for some sort of balance, but also try to move past that same upbringing. 

—Bonita Lini Markowski

Mary B. Moore

To the God of Over


Dear embolism to come, shaped 


like the loblolly pines I 


just drove through; dear nodule, five-armed,


lodged by the darling nipple; dear


constellation, calcium stars swarming


the X-Ray’s night:  I get it. I’m


overgrown, a carnival, a bazaar


inside a terrarium. You’re over it: 


But you’re rife in me too, rumoring another life,


or none, while I try to ivy the porch rails,


to cling like the purple-flowering vine 


that spirals the light pole, 


clematis.  Its name begins like clemency.


Look: the caduceus is blooming.


I am a worry-wart. I worry about my husband’s health, and instantaneously see his actual fall on a friend’s steep porch stairs replayed. He’s a tall man; it was like watching a building topple. (He had scrapes but no broken bones.) Contemplating dinner out, I imagine trying on my long double-layered white silk printed with small cobalt flowers in front of a door-length mirror. I think “I don’t deserve this”––what? Beauty, silk, blue flowers? Who knows? The skirt catches fire. 


The natural world helps ground or console me. I feel whole as I describe a pin oak’s bark and find language with a little music. Some of my favorite recent and contemporary poets, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, Galway Kinnell, Lauren Camp, Lise Goett, Frank Paino, describe their way into meaning. I love the Modernists, and Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Hopkins.  


And so, embolism and loblolly: what worry-wart poet traveling in North Carolina and Georgia after being diagnosed with a small breast tumor, which turned out to be benign, could resist that echo’s absurdity, marveling at the pine’s shape, imagining the Rorschach shapes of tumors and blood clots? Dread evokes the Catholic God I don’t quite believe in but love to address. (My last book is Dear If.) I wrote the draft of “To The God Of Over” without realizing, until I revised, that the images’ underlying motive is cancer cells’ run-away growth. Hence, the x-ray’s many stars, the overgrown vegetation. Nothing is “resolved” but when the clematis-caduceus from my neighbor’s yard pops into consciousness, I felt an ease, the exhalation of a deep breath.  Then I found the echo clematis, clemency.

—Mary B. Moore

Lisa Righter Sloan

Halloween, 2023


Peek through the blinds.

It’s gone quiet out there,  

no noise at all.  

No shrieks, no keening

of parents; 

Watch for cars! Stay off the road! 

It has been a dark night.  

This must be the end.  


The TV whistles: 

orbs arc across a black sky,

lose integrity; 

spatter in brief squalls 

flash like fireflies 

before evaporating 

behind the shadows,

cratering hills, whole buildings;

the landmarks of a place. 


Forefront, a light-shocked face 

beneath crooked helmet, 

above a panicky flak jacket.

Mic gripped tight. 

The outfit of unrest. 

The get-up of war. 

This kind of correspondence 

is tough.


Still quiet outside, 

no dogs barking, no crickets; 

no cars inching their way home.  

Now it is raining. 

The children have been bundled 

inside, dazed. Unable 

to decide what to keep, 

what to give away.

They unravel bloody 

mummy bandages, fall asleep 

in shredded zombie costumes.  


They will wake up 

with tummy aches; throw most of it away.



Big eyes, barely open eyes,

slide across the screen; 

stare up at the falling sky, 

observe the ceiling as it caves; 

recognize the opalescent inside

of a small, correctly sized, bag.


Those who move or can be moved

glide as if on ice or are grasped close 

in crossed arms. Their eyes are oxidized.

Small arms dangle by their sides. 

They are thick with dust;

abandoned items on back shelves.


And they are bloodied.

It seeps through the insistent layers

that cling to their bodies, 

their clothes, their lashes.

Through bandages 

caked with the stuff.

In rare stillness 

a glimpse of a narrow pink cuff 

adhered to a limp wrist;

the blue toe of a loose shoe

dangling from a little foot.


Everywhere, children look up.

Only somewhere there is a moon.

Somewhere there are stars.

There’s a phrase that is frequently used that loosely indicates a kind of extra state of being: “I am (or was) beside myself.” The phrase can lead to so many conclusions: “I was beside myself with happiness;” “I am beside myself with anger, with grief, laughter, glee, disbelief, shock, etc.”  So many ways to be beside oneself!  But the generosity, the openness of the phrase got me thinking.  It is this dynamic of the self, the ability to be oneself and yet “beside oneself,” to observe or take stock of the self (or of anything, really), from more than one perspective that is so at the heart of what poetry does for me, and what I strive to honor in my own writing.  


To be clear, I don’t like to think of this as a dynamic of duality, i.e., the inner vs outer self, but more of an opening up to the possibility of multiple perspectives, a means by which to craft something that can be shared, something that can be passed on, especially in the world we live in today.  Life swirls around us in such unexpected ways, but we are all in this chaos together and we all bring to it an arsenal of perspectives. We owe it to ourselves to be open to listening, seeing and sharing.  

—Lisa Righter Sloan

Heather H. Thomas



​1: father


Buried yourself long before

you died. My grief 

dug itself out, 


through shards, thinking 

I wouldn’t feel anything. 

I’d never felt a thing for you.


After, I bled where you, 

intoxicated, fell on the street,

breaking your arm. 


You died alone. 

No one told me 

until my mother 


read your obit. Survivor 

unnamed: daughter

dead to you. Wakefulness


hurt. I couldn’t breathe.

Viewing your body, 

I said my line, performing


the ritual of myself:

You were a fool to leave 

my mother and me.


Mother seemed pleased. 

Had we stayed with you, 

she told me once, 


we wouldn’t have survived.


2:   mother


Now you are dead

and my father is dead,

you buried in one green place,


he miles away amid statuary.

Looking at the earth, 

no one will know 


you knew each other. 

No one will know I was, 

I am, the issue


between you. Hinge

of the compass, I will place

the needle on one grave,


circling it with the pencil.

Move the needle to the other. 

Draw another circle. 


Where the circles intersect,

I will live, each circle

a lung breathing me back.


Opening the dark, robin sings. 

Finch nears as I hang the feeder.

On an oak branch, two doves.

“Birthplace” is a poem of healing and reunion that took a lifetime to write. I had to find my breath and voice, having grown up abandoned by my birth father in an atmosphere cloaked in the language of denial. My silence became shame about my true paternity. I learned that if you do not use language, you are used by it. 


I wasn’t fully breathing because I felt unworthy taking up space with my truth. To find my voice I had to breathe differently and become embodied. In quiet moments, I could hear a faint wailing buried within. As I listened, I wrote. Eventually I was making poems. To write oneself into wholehearted being is an ongoing process of discovery. Among poets who inspire me are the late C.D. Wright—“Poetry is not like, it is the very lining of the inner life,” and Alice Notley—“Poetry is the performance of the search for the soul.”


As I wrote “Birthplace,” the compass image came to me.  Then I recalled Donne’s compass in “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”: one foot fixed while the other travels away circling the fixed foot, keeping two separated lovers connected. My compass inscribed two circles intersecting to create a third, boundaried space. Here the speaker can live freed from being the “issue” between her parents, yet in a reunion possible only after both parents are gone. 


A poetics of reunion is central to my work following Vortex Street (2018, FutureCycle Press). 

I cherish Rilke, Virginia Woolf, H.D., and Wallace Stevens as literary muses. My recent reading includes Victoria Chang, Mahmoud Darwish, and Valzhyna Mort. Rilke teaches me that it’s not enough to have memories. They must be “changed into our very blood, into glance, and gesture” before the first word of a poem arises from them. 

—Heather H. Thomas

Sue Ellen Thompson



When I stand with my back to a full-length mirror 

and hold a smaller mirror to my face, 

I see my mother walking away from me 


in her bathing suit, the one with shirring 

at the waist. She’s left me and my sisters 

floating on our rafts, while she prepares 


a lunch that she will serve us on a tray. I know 

that we should rouse ourselves to help her, 

but we’re too languorous and sun-dazed.


She’s in her seventies—16 months

from dying, although none of us

will know that for a while. How lean 


and tan her legs are, free

of the dimpling that comes with age.

But the flesh around her waist 


has decided it will settle in the place 

where it feels most at home. In this way 

I am both like and unlike her, moving through


these years—which may be fewer 

than imagined—in the flesh that has accrued 

to me, but without the luxury of three


grown daughters lounging poolside, so sure

of being cared for they just lie there, 

waiting for their sandwiches and beer.

Family life has always been, and continues to be, my most fruitful subject. Marriage, parenting, the death of loved ones, an adult child’s emerging gender identity: Just when I think I have exhausted these themes, they re-emerge. “Poolside” is a good example. As someone who grew up in a large family and produced a very small one, I often think about what my mother’s life must have been like. She was deeply involved in the lives of her five children and eight grandchildren and was still taking care of us well into our adulthood.


The poet to whom I look for inspiration is one who never had children of her own: Jane Kenyon. But her precise and plainspoken diction, along with her gift for imagery and emotional restraint, are the qualities to which I’ve always aspired. In her poem, “Happiness,” she compares this elusive emotion to “the uncle you never / knew about, who flies a single-engine plane / onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes / into town, and inquires at every door/ until he finds you…” Whenever I feel “stuck,” I pull her Collected Poems off the shelf, open it at random, and just start reading. 


Because I have taught adult poetry workshops at The Writer’s Center in D.C. for so many years, I am often asked to read my students’ manuscripts before they are published. I recently read Amanda Newell’s first full-length book, Postmortem Say, forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press, and had the same visceral reaction I remember having the first time I read the work of Sharon Olds. So much of the poetry, published or unpublished, that I read nowadays just washes over me. Newell’s poems are still with me.


—Sue Ellen Thompson

Laura Grace Weldon

Touching The Sun    


It starts as cloud-like white rings

around the page I am reading. 

I look up to see coronas circle 

framed photo, lamp, doorway. 

Migraine, I realize,

not long before my vision splits

into shimmered geometrics, a

zigzag of dazzle camouflage. 


I close my eyes to wait it out, 

wonder when I might get 

back to all I need to do 

while burgundy light through my lids 

flickers into fractals. This week

the Parker Solar Probe flew between 

the solar wind and the Alfvén critical surface.

This means it touched the sun. 

We touched the sun.


Here on Earth I teach classes, type 

Track Change comments on manuscripts, 

decide what to make for supper,

oblivious of our planet’s graceful pirouette, 

its thin blue band of atmosphere 

between all living beings and space.  

We inhabit a tiny blip of time 

near the Milky Way’s edge, 

born from mystery into mystery.

My vision clears. I go back to work. 


I rely on poetry as a handhold, steadying me to face this beautiful world’s chaos and despair. Some poems sink in so deeply I feel I’m walking with the poets. Their words resound in me. They encourage me to see and feel and wonder and sometimes, through poetry’s alchemy, they help me stand in the presence of the unfathomable. Every night I read poetry before turning out the light. I like to believe those poems infuse my dreams. 


—Laura Grace Weldon

Editor's Choice

Crystal Karlberg
Linda Laderman
Rose Lennard
Lisa Righter Sloan
Mary B. Moore
Bonita Lini Markowski
Editor's Choice
Heather H. Thomas
Sue Ellen Thompson
Laura Grace Weldon
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Wendell Hawken
Penny Johnson
VA Smith

All Editor's Choice poems from Winter Issue 2024 through Spring/Summer Issue 2025 will automatically be entered in our single-poem contest. Winner to be announced in Fall Issue 2025.

                                                                           ~ ~ ~

•  Wendell Hawken’s poem is an ars poetica with a unique approach. She successfully uses humor as, in her own        words, “a take on a writer’s self-absorption.”

    —Linda Blaskey

Wendell Hawken


I Live Near the Village of Hawken, County of Wendell 


I hawken my way through bead-curtain days…

strand striking bead strand in hawkening rattle 

making a hawkenly wake behind...

or is behind superfluous with hawkenly wake?

I wendell it is.

Scratch the behind after hawkenly wake

Make wake a ripple, a wendelly ripple, gently 

wendelling down the dream. 

                                                  Slip a wendelling way 

through bead-trembled days where all dogs are 

called Hawken, the ones not named Wendell. 

Some come to Wendell, 

the dogs I call Hawken. It’s all in 

inflection, a long line of creatures 

hawkening off as far as the eye can wendell. 

All cats are called Kitty.  



“I Live Near the Village of Hawken, County of Wendell” is a take on a writer’s self-absorption, how everything, especially for a poet—at least for me— arrives through the me-me-me-lens. And sometimes I get sick of it. I enjoyed messing with the flexibility of words here; how context can be enough for meaning. This was a fun one to write. 


James Wright has been my reliable muse for years. Not sure why but something about his voice stirs my creative. Thumbing through his Above the River: The Complete Poems often leads me to my own poem. 


Louise Glück’s recent death prompted a deep dive into her work. In her Faithful and Virtuous Night, Glück maintains mystery within narrative, her diction cool, her language spare yet intimate. As an over-describer myself, I am in awe of her control and her craft. And she’s not afraid of her dark side.


As for lines to live by, from Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” there’s …that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude; from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 29” there’s …With what I most enjoy contented least; and the final two lines of Tom Lux’s “Refrigerator, 1957” have become something of a mantra: and because you do not eat / that which rips your heart with joy.  And now that I think about it, this poem here might take inspiration from Lux’s use of humor and hyperbole.

—Wendell Hawken

  I was won over by the “wrinkled fortitude” of Penny Johnson’s speaker, her will to learn, to challenge                     assumptions, to grow.

    Jane C. Miller

Penny Johnson



Tractor designed with a cold-start


-this stream of damp musk, sawdust and beige mushroom. What it is to be seventy, seventy-one, seventy-two and so on and so on. Stop and start. Green light. Red light. Listen.

There is no one here. There is never anyone here. Look at this metered gauge where now the needle jousts and skews. This lassitude of my own wrinkled fortitude. And then, in a single gasp of hyperventilation:

I buy it. Buy it new. Off the ship. Off the docks. Coax it home in all its enamel and cobalt blue. Nonnecrotic and scratch resistant. Non-sclerotic and felted in black hydraulic lines like elephant trunks their nimble wrap, their twist. Reaching. Reaching.

Tractors survive an expanse of time like all the other matriarchs. Like matriarchal elephants. Now,       


remembering to stretch forward from the waist. Palm open. Clasp this new vocabulary with its

array of tiger-orange and lapis-lazuli knobs. Clickers right. Clickers left,

as if it is fanning its giant ears. As if they flap in warning. And this sprig of a tail, its own hygienic three-point-hitch. Gargled growl of its power-take-off.

And I will swing the wide maw, the tusks, the teeth barely missing my own roof line. All in practice

to tilt this black bucket just so and even now it carries me. We, working in tandem, as neighbors

drive by. One after the other. White pickup with the blue handicap sticker. Gray pearl pickup.

Three black pickups in a drawn-out row.

They will lean out their windows. Lean into their elbows on the window frames. They will gawk.

They will turn to their passenger and say she doesn’t know what she is getting into. She won’t

make it through the first winter. They will laugh.

But tonight, I brew this soup of vermillion tomatoes plucked out of frost, whose cracks are barely sealed over with opaque filament. This glue. I stir the pot and dabble in the wide leaves of gray

sage, the needle nose leaves of evergreen rosemary. As the crescent moon rises, I will bury the

paper white garlic, the red fall potatoes deep in earth that lies in the sparkle of its own ice crystals.

Plant for spring. And don’t even ask how strong this elephant is, not with these solid-state cotter-

pins. The chromed sway bars. This howdah rides high and slides within an endless luxury of lube.

Black and grated, both split brake pedals cup my soles. Oh, it will spin on a dime. This new realm

that shimmies in blue.


This year I have grappled with form. Xavier Cavazos at Central Washington University propelled me along this road in one of two classes. When searching for cross-genre publications I happened on Maggie Nelson’s “Bluets.” I have enjoyed her use of form. My past advisor, Beatrix Gates, whispered the word “space.” I have been adding slabs of white space very recently. I do not write a poem in a form but after it is finished, finished, finished, I start to question the poem about what form it would choose. I have always written about marginalized people. Now, I have entered the realm of “dear, you are so cute,” I want to challenge the stereotypes of ageing and I will put my two cents into the fight against ageism in my life and anyone else’s. 


—Penny Johnson

   Full disclosure: I studied with Hayden, who was a lovely person, so I felt an immediate connection to this             poem. I love that it cycles through the various personalities of other well known poets in a light way to land         at a very serious place. The author sets us up to think of these teens as romantic and naive, but when Hayden       shows them the truth, refusing to wear a mask of superiority or strength, they recognize it and have to look           away. Could it be that they too have turned to poetry because life can be full of darkness?

      —Heather L. Davis


VA Smith

When Hayden Carruth Visited My High School Creative Writing Class


it was the end of the last

century. I was the teacher,

inches older than my students, 

who, faces studded with piercings

and zits, declared in hushed

voices their longing to become



Legends came to us, largesse

from our local college’s

Poetry Center: Maxine Kumin, 

wearing an athletic, equine

grace, talked to the teens about

poetry of place, her New Hampshire,

read about moose scat, landlocked

seas of violets.


Carolyn Kizer trailed whiffs 

of screw you glamour, enacted

her “from Sappho to myself”

“Pro Femina,” warning the girls 

how the boys ruled poetry’s empire,

guarded its gates.


Galway Kinnell, all denim

and tweed, read “After Making

Love We Hear Footsteps,” muted

Irish brogue caressing the phrase

“come-cry,” kids later trying 

that trope on for weeks.  


I don’t remember what Hayden

Carruth read. Grizzled, medicated,

maybe, with the old stuff that 

wrung wildness from the brain.        

He talked of madness, of the desire

not to be, of a Thanksgiving

dinner baked with sorrow. He said, 

“These things, too, will happen to

you.” His eyes searched ours 

for darkness. Students bent their heads.

I joined his gaze, offered: “I don’t know

how to thank you.”



Though I read widely, the poets I return to are most always foremothers. First is Anne Sexton because in her own voice she worked her way into the closed circles of a highly masculinist/misogynist period in American Poetry. She was her own canny agent and publicist.  Her continual poetic dance between Eros and Thanatos opened me, as a young woman, to poetry’s sensuality and danger, to writing a woman’s life as a necessary and legitimate artistic endeavor. My current teacher/mentor is Sexton’s student, Ellen Bass. Her praise poetry tethers us with each line and image to what Richard Wilbur called “the things of this world,” yet enacts ineffable magic in its turns and endings that are both inevitable but surprising. I am currently reading The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems, 2002-2019, by Alicia Suskin Ostriker.  She does it all.  As a feminist, oracular, socio-political, and ekphrastic poet, she is distinctly urban Jewish-American in her sensibility and contribution to the canon. She also writes humorously, lovingly, sometimes tragically and always bravely about family and generational trauma. 


For the last several years I have been attracted to some formal verse—sonnets, ghazals, villanelles. If a subject feels too loose and baggy, form helps me to wrangle and capture interlocking layers of complexity—of time and ideas. I also find myself able to write more elliptically in both free verse and formal verse—to rely on what is not said, what notions can emerge in the white space.  I am working with that unsaid in my recent writing of haibuns.  Also, these days the sonic seems foremost in my writing—sound as sense. Yoga and walking help me feel the rhythms of my own body and breathe as music. I recast that embodied memory in my poetry. 

—VA Smith

What We're Reading

What We're Reading

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We like that our contributors share what they are reading in their artist statements,

so we are returning the favor. Here is a list of what we are reading.

 ~ ~ ~

Heather L. Davis

Hell, I Love Everybody: The Essential James Tate 

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head - Warsan Shire

What Is Left. - Bunkong Tuon

Scattered Clouds: New and Selected Poems - Rueben Jackson

Linda Blaskey

Sleeping Preacher - Julia Kasdorf

colorfast - Rose McLarney

Narcissus - Cecelia Woloch

Jane C, Miller

Poetry in America - Julia Spicher Kasdorf

Paradise - Victoria Redel

Mother Countries - Andy Fogle

Contributor Kudos



Contributors, post your current accomplishments on our private Facebook page and we’ll give you a shout out in the next issue of the journal.

 ~ ~ ~


Beth Copeland’s collection of poems and photographs, Shibori Blue: Thirty-six Views of The Peak, is now available from Redhawk Publications. (


D. Dina Friedman’s new book, Here in Sanctuary—Whirling, was published in February 2024 by Querencia Press. (


Karen Paul Holmes’ poem, “Unrest or What the French Horn Can Teach You,” appeared in Plume Issue #151, March 2024 (


Jane Edna Mohler’s poem, “Spectators,” appeared in Gargoyle Online #7 (; her poem "Feast" is featured in Arts & Cultural Council of Bucks County's "30 Days of Inspiration," day 17. (; "The Strays of Incheon" appeared in Gyroscope Review on April 23, 2024. (


Shaun R. Pankoski’s poems “Ode to the Strawberry Moon,” appeared in Gargoyle Online #7 (; “It’s Just Not That Hard,” appeared in MockingHeart Review, Volume 9 Issue 1 (; “Kiko,” appeared in StoryTeller Poetry Review, March 19th, 2024 (; “After She Died, We Cleaned Out Three Houses and a Car,” appeared in Silver Birch Press, March 28th, 2024 (; "Gardenias" and "Optimism" appeared in MacQueen's Quinterly, Issue 23, April 28, 2024. (


Annette Marie Sisson’s manuscript, Winter Sharp with Apples, was chosen by Terrapin Books for their 24/25 publication cycle. (


Ellen Wright’s poem, “The Presentation Icon,” appeared in the Fall/Winter 2024 issue of Common Ground Review (

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Contributor Kudos
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