Jeff Encke

The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean


It is the calm and silence that drown us.

Some people can disturb words
with a mere movement of the teeth.

The pouch of the mouth strewn with roses
…………………………..roofed with lost causes.

Pumpkins and habits have a smell
and breath is its beginning.

The womb carries on its shoulders
a beggar wrapped in earth.

……..Absence washes
away love, taking the tint of all colors.

…………………..From the well of envy
the child teaches us to weep.

………….Every sickness has its herb.

Heaven is dark, yet quiet and limpid.
Shovels of earth cannot quench a mountain.

Scum rises to the top of the heart.

………………………..A bubble on the ocean
a taste the teetotaler will never know.

Do not pour on the strength of a mirage.
Do not torture thirst with shallow water.

A merchant in the rain saves only himself.
A shadow that always follows the body.

When your cheeks beg for fever
……………….you are halfway there.

Habit is the shirt we wear for a midday nap.

Gray hairs its blossoms.

Hope a pearl worthless in its shell.

Death answers: I have a lot to say
.………………….but my mouth is full.

Those destined to drown
…………will drown in a spoonful.

The tears of strangers are only water.


“The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean” is reprinted from Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days.


Jeff Encke taught writing and criticism at Columbia University for several years, serving as writer-in-residence for the Program in Narrative Medicine while completing his PhD in English in 2002. He now teaches at Richard Hugo House. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review Online, Salt Hill, and Tarpaulin Sky. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, a series of love poems addressed to Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi war criminals printed on a deck of playing cards. For the past six years, Jeff has hosted a biweekly social group of poets, journalists, translators, playwrights, and other writers. The group currently alternates Sundays afternoons between Brouwer’s in Fremont and The Pine Box on Capitol Hill (for more information, or to add yourself to the mailing list, visit the Seattle Poets Gathering blog).

Thom Caraway

The Leper Attends the Idaho State Roadkill Fur Auction


Like mine, their removal
is detachment from
the body, ruined
but not too ruined.

I think about the men
who hustle the long roadwork
of Idaho, who have learned
the language of blood,
smeared down fifty yards
of highway—the parallel skid tracks
of the locked-up vehicle,
a body inside, a body outside—
those men whose job it is
to quantify the dead.

Love is not
the coexistence
of two alonenesses.

Like the roadkilled raccoons,
porcupines, deer, skunk,
the occasional bear, the coyote,
house cat, lost dog—
like all the other beloveds
lost on the back roads
of this terrible wilderness,
and like the men who
collect, strip, and scrape
the pelts, I would also
remove my skin if it meant
my permutation into the world.


“The Leper Attends the Idaho State Roadkill Fur Auction” is reprinted from Ruminate.


There was a time in his life when Thom Caraway wanted to be a truck driver. He still occasionally regrets his decision not to pursue that path, a regret that was inadvertently reinforced by his son, Sam, who recently said, “Bus drivers have the coolest jobs. Why aren’t you a bus driver?” Thom lives in Spokane, and does a variety of things that, to a six-year-old, are not as cool as driving a bus. (Though one might be: Thom has just been named Spokane’s inaugural Poet Laureate.)


Aaron Counts

Becoming Iron

High above the hustle
of the Brownville Projects,
bullies find Mike’s solace:
a rooftop walk-in filled with
pigeons named for boxing greats.
In his hands, Mike cradles
his prize racer, Mongoose,
cooing as the bird pecks
seed from his lips.

Lemme hold it,
the big guy says, and wrenches
Mongoose from Mike’s chubby
fists. The sidekick chuckles
and the bullies pass the bird back
and forth, take turns pushing
Mike away, laugh as he pleads
with them to thtop it.

Mike almost holds in his squeal
as they pop the head off Mongoose,
twisting its cap as easy
as opening a soda bottle.
The big bully shoves
Mike back in the coop,
then throws the limp bird at his soft
chest and walks away smiling.

When they’re gone, Mike raises
his arms; palms open like he’s addressing
his congregation, and commands
the other birds out of the coop.
Feathers flutter in the air like dirty
snow, and Mike slumps
against the back wall, crying. He wipes
his nose on his sleeve and vows
to take the head off every fool
that tests him.

He’ll start with the tips of their ears.



Aaron Counts has written and read with professors, prisoners, high school dropouts and national book award winners. He is a teaching artist with Seattle’s Writers-in-the-Schools program, and his non-fiction book, Reclaiming Black Manhood, has been taught in area jails, prisons and juvenile detention facilities. He holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia.

Jeremy Voigt


After Looking at Paul Klee’s Ad Marginem


The owl was eating something I could not see.
I had come out early and it was time to go back.
I wanted one more turn where the trees opened
in their damp, green glaze to the flat tongue
of field. My feet on the gravel path felt good
and the day, to be sure, would be difficult.
I made it within five feet of the bird before it looked
at me and I thought it would lift, but it remained
faithful to its indifference.
………………………………….Out of an old chaos
through the trees and sun his mate arrived
and landed ten feet above. They did not care
if I moved, or breathed. I was lost trying to keep
my eyes. He finished the meal and I left
to return later that week, searching beyond the edges
of trails in the leaves and mud for the orb
of what was eaten—the impossible to digest.
I want to cut it open as I once did in a classroom,
to see the inside of what was on the inside.
I find nothing. When I look up I cannot see the sky,
just boughs moving from green to green to black.





Jeremy Voigt has published poems in Willow Springs, Beloit Poetry Journal, and recently in Post Road, as well as in the chapbook Neither Rising nor Falling. He is the editor of Cab Literary Magazine, a philanthropic literary journal, and lives with his wife and three kids in Bellingham, WA.


Mike O’Connor

—In Memoriam, T.G.


At Sea Breeze Trailer Court
(in mill-smoke range),
my friend, the old professor states:
“TV’s my babysitter now;
please, take a seat.
I’m always glad to see you.”

Wrapped in wool sweater
on a wooden built-in couch,
legs draped with blankets,
oxygen tubing curled at his feet . . .

“I’m breathing better now,”
he says. “My mood improves, but
I can’t sleep. Whatcha
been reading?”

Heart surgery, arthritis, pleurisy—
he declares he misses coffee
with the writing gang.

“Oh, you’ll be back,” I tell him.
“We all expect it.”

The trailer’s light is dim
as on a trans-Pacific flight.
I fetch a cup of soda for him
and a pill.

Remote in hand,
he changes channels.
“Here’s the Discovery station,”
and I look:

a pride of female lions
(muscled, eager)
splits off a bovine
from a grazing herd.

“Cats right out of Gaudier-Brzeska,”
I observe.

Terrified, the ox
brandishes its horns; then turns
and tries to lumber off,
its big hindquarters
easy for the cats.

One lion springs upon the ox’s withers;
a second climbs its haunches.
Both getting teeth and claws in,
ripping chunks of flesh and hide.

A third tears at the ox’s underbelly;
a fourth, bounding ahead,
seizes the ox’s snout
(briefly, we see the ox’s eyes)
to suffocate it, as the beast
is ridden to its knees
in the sub-Saharan grass.

It will take some time,
notes the narrator,
for the ox to die
while it is being ripped apart alive.

Some of the hunt is shown again,
and in slow motion
when a point of science
merits emphasis.

I see now at the end,
the African sun setting
on the scene, forming silhouettes
of the statuesque cats
as they finish eating on their prey.

Some folks speak coolly of “things as they are”;
others, like Jeffers, of the “beauty of God.”

But the old professor—
incorrigibly humanist—
changes channels

and remarks, “If I were God,
I would have made things differently.”


Mike O’Connor, a native of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, is a poet, writer, and translator of Chinese literature. Beginning in the 1970s, he engaged in farming and forest work, followed by a journalism career in Asia. He has published eleven books of poetry, translation, and memoir, including Unnecessary Talking: The Montesano Stories; Immortality; and Where the World Does Not Follow: Buddhist China in Picture and Poem. O’Connor is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, an International Writers’ Workshop Fellowship (Hong Kong), and a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship.

Lorraine Healy

Ode to the Palouse at Harvest Time

The Palouse, Eastern Washington State


In the beginning the sky
was blue and wheat was yellow,
the clumps of sage were their exhausted green,
and so the farmers said
let the barns be red, and the barns
were red.

Today the wheat is ready, a thread
beyond golden
except a summer storm rages in its mess
of purple clouds and stops the day.

The old Danes and Swedes
are in the Farmers’ Cemetery
where death suits their natural reserve.
Grey slabs for Petersens, Larsens,
for every blessed Hanson.
And here and there, a perfect garland
surrounds a lovely, tiny marble lamb—
splurge for a child of wheat-like hair,
stolen by diphtheria.

The afternoon leaches
the rust of rain out of everything,
until the dry stubble
bursts with cricket and grasshopper.
Again the world a spark away
from wildfire, one unconscionable
flick of lightning touching down,
one idiot match flung out
a car window and why
do we call them wild
these fires arsoned by thoughtlessness,
ours, God’s?

Come sunset, an almost solid haze
rattles everything from here to the horizon:
the chemical ghost of weedkiller,
dust from ten thousand fallow fields,
over the silos, over the Quonset huts,
over everyone’s sins.


Lorraine Healy is an Argentinean poet and photographer living on Whidbey Island, Washington. The winner of several national awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination, she has been published extensively. The author of two published chapbooks, Lorraine is a graduate from the M.F.A in Poetry program at New England College, New Hampshire, as well as from the post-MFA Program at Antioch University Los Angeles. Her first full-length manuscript, The Habit of Buenos Aires (Tebot Bach Press, 2010) won the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Lorraine’s newest chapbook, Abraham’s Voices, will be out in October from WorldEnoughWriters Press.”

J. Glenn Evans


After Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)


To take, to take?
I feel that mist.
As though my boiler was busted
I think my bones forgot.
Like half-gone love I hug my memories.
O for a vision of what’s to come,
Heavenly music across the bay,
Echo of the Lord’s message,
Full jolly, a string
Melodious and,
On the straightaway
Lost among the firs and wood songs
Wind flashes by
To hold conference with me
Where mountains converse,
And leap over shoulders,
Of an old man
Racing like a fool.
If only I could go back
To gather memories holding sway,
Coming back this way,
The passions of my day,
Floating on a sea of memories
In a house of beautiful memories
Now that time is gone:
I’m old and life is done


Founder of PoetsWest and Activists for a Better World, J. Glenn Evans hosts PoetsWest at KSER 90.7FM, a nationally syndicated weekly radio show, and is author of four books of poetry: Deadly Mistress, Window in the Sky, Seattle Poems and Buffalo Tracks, author of three novels, Broker Jim, Zeke’s Revenge and Wayfarers, several community histories and numerous political essays, co-produced a movie, “Christmas Mountain,” with Mark Miller, co-staring Slim Pickens, and is a former stockbroker-investment banker.  Part Cherokee, native of Oklahoma.  Evans has lived in Seattle since 1960.  Listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.



Esther Altshul Helfgott

Letter to Abe

– after Izumi Shikibu, a woman of ancient Japan
with thanks to Jane Hirshfield and The Ink Dark Moon

I’ve written
the story of our years
together, Abe
They still hold me
All of them.

At Thornton Creek
I saw a cormorant sunning
on a rock
I looked for you
but you weren’t there.

I wonder
which galaxy you’re in
Are we still
under the same moon?

I wish I knew
where you were tonight.
I would visit you.
Will you send me a message
soon? I’ll wait.

I don’t remember
yesterday. It’s the same as today.
The only difference is
the planet moved
slightly –

How lucky I
am to have
this chair,
the one you used
to sit in.

It took
you eight years to die.
All that time
I waited for you to get better.
Why didn’t you?

to Mozart , I see
us holding hands,
snuggling in the movies
watching Amadeus.

when I look in the mirror
I see you.
Even our hair is the same—
— curly and mussed.

no longer
a mourner’s

There is
no sorrow in my missing you
only gratefulness
that we have

But on some days
like today
the third anniversary
of your death
my heart longs.


Esther Altshul Helfgott is a nonfiction writer and poet with a PhD in history from the University of Washington. Her work appears in Blue Lyra Review, Journal of Poetry TherapyMaggid, American Imago, Raven Chronicles, Floating Bridge Review, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, HistoryLink, The Seattle PI blog pages, and elsewhere. She’s a longtime literary activist, a 2010 Jack Straw poet, and the founder of Seattle’s “It’s About Time Writer’s Reading Series,” now in its 23nd year. Esther’s book, Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems, is forthcoming from Cave Moon Press in 2013. The poem presented here is from her next manuscript, “After Alzheimer’s: Poems & Diary.”


Linda M. Robertson

Child, You Did Not Have


you did not have much of life:
seven days times ten,
all the while swimming
—a minute amphibian in fetal waters,
xxxxxxthe primeval sea within me.

How you floated, and grew:
formed fists and feet; dark eyes
that would never see beyond the placenta
to which you were moored by the pulsing cord,
as your diminutive heart

Abruptly, you, in your sea began to drift;
as if the anchor
xxxxxxxxxxxxxgave way.
On convulsive waves
you slipped from me.

you did not have much of life:
I never felt you quicken or kick, did not
grow sore from heel or elbow beneath my ribs
—you never gasped for air.

No ashes to cast,
no small grave to visit and tend—
nothing to mark your beginning, your brief becoming,
xxxxxand end.

Child, I loved you.
I was your mother each moment of your life;
xxxxxxmy never-born, my littlest one.


“Child, You Did Not Have” previously appeared in the chapbook, Reply of Leaves (Magic Mountain Publishing, 2002).


Linda M. Robertson has lived outside of Winthrop, WA, up the Chewuch Valley for over 25 years. Her chapbook Reply of Leaves was published in 2002. She is currently a Low-Residency MFA Candidate at Chatham University, Pittsburgh and working on a collection of poems inspired by visual art.

john defuca


To judge by outer detail is frail n will fail most don’t see souls so I close my eyes n sail through my dreams connecting to different galaxies to me complexities appear simply split personalities make me learn quickly the downside though is the same thing that I love hurts me, the same I love hurts me, what hurts me I love why I question why, look up in the sky see one figure holding my heart n see numerous ones holding the broken side, god is here, god is here but something in me loves these devils inside.. Soon as I get the first opportunity to escape I will ….see my people killin ourselves everyday off the alcohol n pills… I wish I could tell y’all it’s a movie but This ish is real….lemme show you how danger feels don’t get addicted to the thrill….. Sounds entertainin looking into our lives but this pain n sinnin is never endin man I ain’t pretending… Lemme take you to the beginning…. Young bucks down on they luck drinking in smokin before the age of thirteen where in the world did life get so mean we used to be running around playing now pay attention to what I’m sayin……last night there was partying n wildin come home from school flirting with the girls smiling ….enter the room yo mommas eyes black n blue the violence is constant man why she stickin with this fool…swear when I’m bigger imma pay him back frustrated as hell no time to relax… Oh no they on a binge sneak out the window go stay at your bestfriends… Next mornin same thing again all the adults past out see the drugs in the syringe…man I’m starving no food in the cabinet… So you start to steal n that becomes a bad habit…so now your stealing got the feeling it’s easy thinking you made a big score… So you give money to your older homies to get as much from the alcohol store…drink till you poor.. It’s surprising you Not realizing your doing the same thing your tryna hide from…life goes by life goes by damn now you gotta son! Who with… who with? The girl you used to love now you only refer to her as a bitch! Wasnt you just innocent?? Now look at him you don’t care bout buyin diapers you’d rather get high huh? Now watch the cycle begin! I hope he escape though I hope he escape though find someone beautiful n be faithful work hard so the innocent won’t turn fatal..


john defuca writes, “My name is John Robert Pritchard III, however I am one of those guys with a million nicknames. I am grateful to be labeled a Makah, I love my culture deeply. Anywhere I go in the world, I know only I will know my language, songs, and dances. My dream is to see the world and witness others perform theirs. I fight for what I believe in, whether I’m right or I am wrong; it’s going to be righteous in my spirit so may the lord forgive me. Don’t place myself above or below anybody, ultimately I believe in equality. That’s impossible to most but scientists could tell you stars are just dead rocks however they are still beautiful to me. Muhammid Ali hands down is my influence on performing slam poetry. Too many words to explain why, I am always amazed of how strong he speaks and stands alone because a lot of people are scared to speak their truth. I am not, I had a rough childhood. I never play the victim role, it made me who I am. Only thing I despise are cowards, God bless.”