John Whalen


The moon was closest as reflected
in the kitchen window where the August
sunset peeled itself from blue to a gray
flashed with embarrassments of pink

that begged the betterment of my mood.
After jotting letters sent next-day air
to Massachusetts, I back-stroked another
hundred laps in the apartment’s small pool.

Summer, that falling glass, that drunk-
and-driving-too-fast friend, was mostly
a suspicion of summer slipping away.
The picnic table held complicated plans in place

while I swam. Missing you— that punked-out
miscreant. That fear of water.



John Whalen’s books include Caliban (Lost Horse Press) and In Honor of the Spigot (Gribble Press), a chapbook. His poems have appeared most recently in Epoch, Ascent, and CutBank. He lives in Spokane.

Student Poem

Sliver of a Life
by Niyathi Chakrapani

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
But the newspaper only printed it once.
There was also
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some clammy, optimistic Bible text;
His birthday, a mere memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he did not pursue;
Names of family members he had not talked to in years;
Meaningless compliments;
His job, which he hated more than one could imagine;
A blurry picture with too much sunlight and exposure;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team.”

She had told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
With the tears that she abhorred
Sprinting down to her fragile chin,
Pouring down like livid rain.
The reporter feigned pity and said,
“I am sorry, ma’am. This must be hard.”
She wanted to punch his contrived smile.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

And when she read the newspaper that day
She took all the liquor in the house
And smashed their bottles
Till the shards became paste,
Sprinkled across the now-chipped wooden floor
Like freshly fallen snow.

The little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
Or a stanza trying to compensate
For a beautiful elegy.
The meaningless banter of a child,
Repartee and badinage,
A cruel joke played with good intentions
On the most mournful of souls.

For in that little square of words
There was no mention
Of how he always got ice cream on his nose,
And laughed as she wiped it off and licked her finger;
Of his yellow, pirate-like grin
Which could light up the room
More than the whitest and straightest of insincere smiles;
Of how he refused to leave the stadium
After the Yankees lost
Because he couldn’t bear to be in his home, in comfort,
With the thought of their failure looming in his mind;
Of how he cooked Thanksgiving dinner
Because she had a fever that weekend,
And though they both ate burned turkey that year,
It was the best turkey they ever had.

As she told the reporter,
“I loved him, I loved him,”
She knew she would never drink again
For the drunkenness of another
Was what had killed her love.
After that vow she grabbed the last bottle of brandy
And threw it over her fence,
As far as her slender arms could bear,
Knowing her pain lay in that bottle
And wishing it could shatter as easily.
There was anger and sorrow in her eyes,
The most pitiful of combinations.

She ran back to the newspaper,
Intent on ripping it to shreds,
But could not bring herself to harm
That little square of words,
A banal sliver of a life,
The last dregs of a forgotten eulogy
Spoken only in her mind.

For on that paper there was printed
A quote from his favorite baseball player;
Some hopeful Bible text;
His birthday, a loving memory now;
Awards from college, received years ago
In subjects he wished he had pursued;
Names of family members who loved him;
Innumerable compliments;
His job, which he only continued out of love;
A picture taken in a beautiful meadow;
And his love of the Yankees,
Quite understated in saying he merely “loved the team,”
But stated nonetheless.
And bottommost of all there was printed
Three simple words, more innocent without repetition,
Quoted with a name:
“I loved him.”

So she clutched the paper to her heart
And let fall her abhorred tears.



Niyathi Chakrapani is a 15-year-old poet from Sammamish, Washington who received four regional gold medals and a national silver medal for her literature in the Scholastic Young Artists and Writers national competition, as well as several local awards in the KCLS library system’s Rhyme On! competitions and the Issaquah Youth Board Poetry Slam. Niyathi loves to write poems about her deepest feelings and observations about the world, as well as to put herself in the shoes of other people and write poems from their perspective. She also loves to write and perform songs, volunteer, and eat chocolate.

Samar Abulhassan

For My Mother on her 60th Birthday


I am putting together a parcel to send to my mother,
a bilingual volume of poetry, poems translated from the Arabic.

I read the poems in English, pausing
to lift words in Arabic and copy them in my notebook.
My innocent wide-eyed script. I don’t make a dash
to represent a pair of eyes,
or forgo luxurious curves, like someone fluent might.
Earnest child, setting out each word to sea,
releasing the palms with the blessing of heat, to take flight.

I cannot chart my mother’s spine, whether the book
is a paperweight, pretend-chamber of colored sand
or will she ingest the Arabic like liquid,
and veer to the translation, only to hear a small hum inside her:
Sky, brain, heart.

My ink traces your silhouette.

Here is an unknowable space, this margin between mine and yours.
In the spine, I cast a river over despair, a path in which all eyes must pass.


This is just an entrance.

The Butoh master offers, “I speak baby English. Enjoy.”
We move while words are slowly spoken.

Previous generations are summoned.

The accent of my parents used to make me cringe
but this Japanese man has rinsed English into something bald, phosphorescent.

Mother, let’s find this flower through your body.
Flower never sinking, the Butoh master
recites over and over,
as we circle around the room, invisible

I am trying to lift it
to become the girl who cannot see
but dances to the music.
A line has been whispered from
the center of my head
to the ceiling.

Now the body crumpling, seething.


I reach long for the tender symphony. “And in the evening light they started to dance.”

At your son’s wedding, your body leapt up, wooden.
No buoyant whoosh inside, like a loosening, after many prostrations.

So here:
Now that the museum guards have gone home, slip inside
this hypnotic light show.
The sea roars at your feet.
The page is soaked with glittering sea dragons murmuring
Dance on into the night.


Mother, think about the legendary songstress,

vocal cords so
strong she had to stand
several feet away from the microphone.

Feet, arms, belly, yield to reddened.

Most of all, we long for touch. Who has congregated in this room?
I am listening for the wider stance.
Take, for example, gesture. Your word for it much more sensual,
a true beginning. A long sigh and whisper together.
A word learned by the body.



Samar Abulhassan earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University in 2001. She teaches for Writers in the Schools, a program of Seattle Arts and Lectures, and the Richard Hugo House. She has published three chapbooks, and lives in Seattle.

Gerry McFarland

Skipping Stones


I remember the sway of her forearm gentle
as she stepped small by my side up the hill
to the dam at the end of the steep boulevard.

The man-made lake. Summers then were loose,
sunny, long as the warm sidewalk uphill
from her yellow house. We didn’t know the dam

would burst when the fingers of the old fault
worked loose the bound water onto
the evacuated neighborhood. We were

thirteen. We didn’t know she would be thrown
from a horse in Denver, restrained in the brilliant room
while they set the bone, scrubbed the wounds.

We knew the words to Unchained Melody
and all the names of the Beach Boys. We were the small
flesh of the world. We didn’t know the imminence

of her father’s death. I didn’t know
what it meant when my forearm brushed against hers.
The stone has to look like this, I told her.

She showed a girl’s disinterest, wandered, mute
down the shore, touching the hair she had spent an hour
setting while I demonstrated how

to fit the stone in the knuckle, bend close
to the water, swing the arm parallel
the earth. I threw my heart out the end of my fingers.


“Skipping Stones” is reprinted from Sanskrit.  


Gerry McFarland graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Rainier Writer’s Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. He is a co-editor at Floating Bridge Press. His work has appeared in Zyzzyva, Crab Creek Review, Pontoon 8, Sanskrit, Crucible, Berkeley Poetry Review, Bayou and many others. He was awarded the 2005 Sam Ragan Prize and was a finalist in the 2003 WinningWriters.comWar Poetry Contest.

Amy Schrader

A Proverb


Your byword to my nayword. Check
& mate, my shining knight. Marriage is more
than four legs in a bed. Bare & backed
by bone. I killed & BBQ’ed the boar,

another eats his flesh. Sweetest & sliced
near the marrow. Narrow hallway, narrow
mind. I’m out of mine & out of sight.
Out of words, which we let fly like arrows

raining down. Like cats & all. Despite
the fact you’re skinned & hung, you’re looking
like a king. I’m watching you. You despot;
you cloak your eyes & steal the cream.

So curiosity is killing us.
My dress is black & backless.



“A Proverb” is reprinted from The Journal.

Amy Schrader holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Washington. She was a recipient of a 2008 Artist Trust Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) award, and her poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Coconut, The Journal, ILK, Bateau, and the Fairy Tale Review. She lives in Seattle.

Seren Fargo



Unnecessarily, the spider wraps another layer
around the motionless fly.

fishing lines—
again he tells me
he’s afraid
I will leave him


 “Caught” was previously published in A Hundred Gourds.


Seren Fargo, once a wildlife researcher with the U.S. Forest Service, is now a writer and photographer. She primarily writes Japanese-form poetry and is founder/coordinator of the Bellingham Haiku Group and teaches haiku writing to classes and private students. Her work has won several awards, including the Washington Poets Association’s Porad Haiku Contest, and has been published in many journals in the U.S. and internationally, including Clover, A Literary Rag. Her writing largely reflects her passion for the natural world and her struggles with chronic illness and loss. She lives in a poetic rural setting in Bellingham with her three cats.


Natasha Kochicheril Moni



Wisteria contain yourself, your legs are far
too feral—spawning by day, rising to twelve
new shoots by morning.

The apple tree spied you
making a pass at the pear
who has done nothing
but boast about her figure.

Oh, my
green, my curves.

Remember your thirst, Wisteria, what first
sent you scaling—how you bet the English
Ivy you’d fetch the sun, a wheel of light to throw.

But your tongues are always
in the way, dripping
and who will trust a tongue
whose purple is her iris

whose iris is her fall
whose kiss could paint
portraits in the dark.

With your many eyes, Wisteria, swallow
what bears. Your trellis fills.
Your garden betrays you as you betray.
Feast, Wisteria, on the light you’ve stolen.


First published in Pebble Lake Review.


Natasha Kochicheril Moni is a naturopathic medical student and a writer. Her poetry, fiction, essays, and book reviews regularly appear in journals including: Defenestration Magazine, Rattle, Indiana Review, The Pedestal Magazine, and Fourteen Hills. Natasha’s poems have been nominated for Best of the Web and Best of the Net.

Richard Kenney

Hydrology; Lachrymation


The river meanders because it can’t think.
Always, with the river, the path of least resistance.
Look: lip of a low bowl swerves the river tens
Or thousands of miles wild. The least brink
Of a ridge and its python shies… How efficient— think—
Would a straight sluice to the sea be, in terms
Computable? When’s water simpler? Cisterns
Certainly, still as a tearful blink;
Lake effects likewise, like the great circular storms,
Tornadoes, hurricanes; those lesser weather systems
Too, troubling the benthos where the icecaps shrink.
Straightforward isotherms… or is it isotheres…
But a moment ago, someone mentioned tears.
Why tears, for love? Why rivers? I can’t think.


“Hydrology; Lachrymation” is reprinted from The One-Strand River (Knopf, 2008).


Richard Kenney’s most recent book is The One-Strand River (Knopf, 2008). He teaches at the University of Washington, and lives with his family in Port Townsend.


READING:  Richard Kenney will read with Tess Gallagher, Jim Bertolino, Brian Culhane, and Laurie Lamon at Elliott Bay Books on Thursday, November 1 at 7:00 pm.

Linda Cooper

Mountain Vesuvius Takes a Lover

We can only speculate, but after discussing the matter
thoroughly, we believe the mountain has taken a lover.

He keeps to himself, doesn’t join chariot races,
wild beast hunts or crucifixions. He smiles constantly,

staring off into the heavens; we don’t know where
he goes at night. We suspect the fat lake, ever full and

cloying, or that mercurial river; that one will surely
take him down. Last week, we hired a private

detective to follow him, but a rock fall ended that.
Frankly, we are afraid to pursue this further; he erupts

weekly and his passion is menacing. We suspect he’ll soon
move away, leaving a vast, inviting hole in the sky.



“Mountain Vesuvius Takes a Lover” is reprinted from Hubub.

Linda Cooper lives in Seattle, Washington and is a middle school English teacher. A former park ranger, Linda spends her summers exploring the North Cascades and writing poetry. Her poems have been published in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Many Mountains Moving, West Branch, Third Coast, Willow Springs, Diner, and Elixir, among other journals, and Verse Daily.

Jonathan Johnson

Longing Is Not Desire


Longing was never meant to be satisfied.
Alone with the ruins on the grassy promontory,
low sun of early January on the sea,
I long to be alone with the ruins,
low sun of early January on the sea.
When at last I look back, I long to look back,
ruins in silhouette over silhouette of rocks,
some of what’s left of the day showing
through former windows. What desire makes
crumbles with the weight of its own creation.
But longing, longing wants most when it has. So forgive me,
when our blankets are spread before the cottage fire
and it’s been night after night since I’ve touched your skin,
if my finger tip lingers along one last seam.


“Longing Is Not Desire” is reprinted from The Missouri Review.

Jonathan Johnson is the author of two books of poems, Mastodon, 80% Complete (2001) and In the Land We Imagined Ourselves (2010), both from Carnegie Mellon University Press, and the nonfiction book, Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood (University of Nebraska Press, 2005).  His work has appeared in the Best American Poetry, The Writer’s Almanac, and numerous other anthologies, as well as Southern Review, Missouri Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner.  Johnson migrates between upper Michigan, Scotland, and eastern Washington, where he teaches in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University.