Eric Stepper

What You Say

“Some have tried to help
Or hurt: Ask me what difference
Their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.”
William Stafford

Here you are at my office door again–Bill,
Going on about the stock market and the Federal Reserve–again.
Nominal GDP, gold index, bond fund, funds rate
Short term, long term, rate hike, inflation spike.
The conversation street is one way,
And you supply me my opinion.
I find myself wandering,
And try not to almost make sense,
Start a sentence–I don’t know where it is going–
And see if I can find the end.
Bill at my office door, here I go again.



During the day, Eric Stepper is a mild mannered CPA, but at night he leaves the numbers behind and works on poems.  He recently took the next step in his poetry vocation by taking a creative writing class with Derek Sheffield at Wenatchee Valley College.  This is his first published poem.  A board member for the Chelan County Literacy Council, he lives in Wenatchee, Washington, with his lovely wife, Kristina.

Joe Milutis

[ Hear Joe Milutis sing licorice.]



like is like life is like loaf is like kettle is like line is like inert is like link is like ink is like kink is like kick is like lick is like like is like Ike is like psych is like physical is like hysterical is like America is like amorous is like amoral is like amorphous is like Orpheus is like endorphin is like dolphin is like Dolph Lundgren is like Ralph Lauren is like Sophia Loren is like dinosaur is like so are we is like sour tea is like sortee is like sorted is like sordid is like so did is like soda is like Yoda is like ode is like node is like knowed is like now is like snow is like rain is like fog is like hail is like mail is like letter is like litter is like lighter is like lighter and lighter is like ever after is like love is like like is like not-like is like dissimilar is like simile is like metaphor is like analogy is like analog is like digital is like finger in ass is like Fingal’s Cave is like Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture Opus 26  aka Fingal’s Cave is like allusion to another text is like illusion is like ill is like i’ll like all your posts is like aggressive sort of is like like but only sort of is sort of sort of like like or just like like like just as is like like sort of without like is like was is like as like is like so is like not like is as is has have and ‘tis is like forsooth like truth is like truant is like rue is like street is like avenue is like transport is like boxcars moving on the horizon is like a pretty girl is like a melody is like a song like from long ago is like just yesterday is like today is like tomorrow is like tomorrow is like tomorrow is like an island like an islet like Kate Winslet like to let this apartment like your roommates is like room is like moon is like June is like a limpid pool is like the problem with like is like link is like hyperlink is like the demise of analogical thinking is like dot com is like dot org is like dot edu is like dot net is like the blog is like the twitterfeed is like the book club is like the talk show is like chicken is like like “ing” is like liking like is like linking likeably is like wow is like let’s just like everything is like Hitler in reverse is like Hitler still like alive in South America like in that movie in which everything is not like you think like nothing turns out how you’d like is like your worst nightmare is like if this went on and on is like forever is like fever is like river is like reverse is like verse is like poem



Joe Milutis is a writer and media artist, and author of Failure, A Writer’s Life He is the author of many hybrid works including the fiction-performance-installation The Torrent, and various web-based non-fiction experiments.  He teaches in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington-Bothell, and as faculty for Bothell’s new MFA in Cultural Poetics.

Milutis will be launching his new book Failure at Elliott Bay Book Company in a launch event with Amaranth Borsuk on January 25 at 7.

He will also be reading a new experimental translation of a German translation of Robert Creeley’s number poems (which emerged from a collaboration with Robert Indiana) as part of the Henry Gallery’s Now Here is also No Where show.  The reading will be on Feb 28 at 7 pm, and will be followed by a discussion on collaboration in the work of Frank O’ Hara and Willem de Kooning.  He will be joined by Gregory Laynor.


Rachel Kessler


Parade of Fences


Donkey Fence. Brown Corduroy Suit Holiday High-jumping Fence. Cyclops’ Golden Grasses Fence. Spying Bushes Fence. Teenage Angst and Loneliness Fence. Tangerine Bikini Fence. Masking Tape and Wrath in Shared Bedroom Fence. Ancient Stone Fence. Family Religion Fence. Electric Fence. No Fooling Barbed Wire Fence. Angry Bull On the Other Side of This Fence Fence. Creaky Chainlink Gate Leading to Unplanned Pregnancy Fence. Falling Down Fence. Fence for Napping. Fence Without Hope. Wet Phone Books Fence. Garden Hose Wielded as Weapon Fence. Hedge Full of Surprising Thorns Fence. Invisible Fence. Useless Deer-proof Netting Fence. Bad Dog Barking Fence. Idealistic Fabric Hung By Hopeful Young Mother Trying to Be a Writer Fence. Small Children Hanging from Mother’s Limbs (Including Accidental Labial Grab) Fence. Horrible Grin Fence.



Rachel Kessler is a poet of the everyday.  She is a founding member of the Typing Explosion and Vis-à-Vis Society. For the past ten years, these critically acclaimed groups have been writing collaborative poetry and presenting their work in the form of text-based art installations, interactive multi-media shows, and collaboratively written handmade books.  Her collaborative poems have appeared in Tin House, TATE, and USA Today. She recently launched her “Public Health Poems” interactive hand-washing installation in public restrooms throughout the city of Seattle.

Vis-a-Vis Society will present their work at The Frye Art Museum, Sunday, January 6, 3:30PM – FREE!

Rachel Kessler will read at Cheap Wine & Poetry at the Hugo House on Thursday, Jan 17, 7:00 pm.


Jess Walter

A Brief Political Manifesto


I was driving around the packed Costco parking lot
looking for a space and listening to some guy
on NPR talk about America’s growing suburban poor
when I saw this woman with four kids—
little stepladders, two-four-six-eight—
waiting to climb in the car while Mom
loaded a cask of peanut better and
pallets of swimsuits into the back
of this all-wheel drive vehicle
and the kids were so cute I waved
and that’s when I saw the most amazing thing
as the woman bent over
to pick up a barrel
of grape juice:
her low-rise pants rose low and right there
in the small of her large back
stretched a single strained string,
a thin strap of fabric, yes,
the Devil’s floss, I shit you not
a thong, I swear to God, a thong,
now me, I’m okay with the thong
politically and aesthetically, I’m fine
with it being up there or out there,
or wherever it happens to be.

My only question is:
when did Moms start wearing them?

I remember my mom’s underwear
(Laundry was one of our chores:
we folded those things awkwardly,
like fitted sheets. We snapped them
like tablecloths. Thwap.
My sister stood on one end,
me on the other
and we walked toward each other

We folded those things
like big American flags,
hats off, respectful
careful not to let them
brush the ground.)

Now I know there are people out there
who constantly fret about
the Fabric of America;
gay couples getting married, violent videos, nasty TV,
that sort of thing.
But it seems to me
the Fabric of America
would be just fine
if there was a little more of it
in our mothers’ underpants.

And that is the issue I will run on
when I eventually run:
Getting our moms out of thongs
and back into hammocks
with leg holes
the way God


“A Brief Political Manifesto” originally appeared in The Financial Lives of the Poets (Harper Perennial, 2010).


Jess Walter’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published, in DetailsPlayboyNewsweekThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles TimesThe Boston Globe among many others. His nonfiction book, Every Knee Shall Bow, was a finalist for the pen Center West literary nonfiction award in 1996. His novel Citizen Vince won a 2006 Edgar Allan Poe award, and his following novel,The Zero, was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award. His most recent novel is Beautiful Ruins.



Nicole Hardy

Mud Flap Girl on Teen Talk Barbie


Everyone knows I’m not into clothes, but
you go to the mall, girlfriend; knock yourself
uptown, little Ms. Bad Influence. What
else can you do when you’re pulled from the shelf

for expressing yourself. Here’s what I think:
math class is supposed to be tough. Take that
to any best selling, self-helping shrink:
she’ll say your stellar scores on the GMAT

and your supreme self-esteem can be traced
to childhood success at difficult tasks.
So when Jane’s math anxiety gets placed
on your plastic ass, remind them you passed—

and then pulled off a string of successes
in more careers than Skipper has dresses.


According to a New York Times article published October 21, 1992, Mattel’s Teen Talk Barbie was widely criticized by a national women’s group for saying “math class is tough.” The Barbie remained in stores, but the computer chip that randomly selected four phrases for each doll thereafter picked from 269 selections, not 270.


Nicole Hardy’s memoir, Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin is forthcoming through Hyperion/Voice in 2013. Her work has appeared in the New York Times as well as many literary journals. She’s the author of a poetry collection and a chapbook:This Blonde, and Mud Flap Girl’s XX Guide to Facial Profiling.

Caleb Barber

Beast in Me


When I said I would take you swimming,
I meant we would drive out
to the reservation and I’d say
it was too cold to take our clothes off.

When I said I would take you camping,
I meant I would wait until you went
away to Spain, then go to the hills by myself.

When I said “Yes, I will definitely be
at that show,” I meant I would
show up late, with a can of Rainier
in each of my pants pockets,
then leave once they were empty.

When I said we should maybe just
keep this friendly, I meant
I wouldn’t be calling you again.

And when you reported all this
to my best friend, he agreed with you
I was unkind, and listened
while you complained
two hours on the bar bench.

Honey, I was only a few blocks away,
putting the moves on someone new.


“Beast in Me” is reprinted from Beasts and Violins (Red Hen Press, 2010)

Caleb Barber earned a BA from Western Washington University in English/Creative Writing, and received an MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, based off of Whidbey Island.  He currently lives in Bellingham, WA, where he works at an aerospace machine shop. His poems have been most recently published in Rattle, Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, Makeout Creek, and New Orleans Review, as well as a feature in Poet Lore. His first book, Beasts and Violins, is available from Red Hen Press. The title poem appeared in Best American Poetry 2009.

J. W. Marshall

from Taken With


I’d wheeled Mother where
Faith Hour was slated to begin
after the chaplain got there

wiping first her chin
because a spoon in her hand
was an inexact tool.

I was set to leave.
Where are you going Mother asked.
I’m going home.

Take me with you she said
and laughed a kind of wreck.
The woman to her left

said take me with you too
then the six or seven of them all
took the sentence on

like hail taking on a garbage can.
Take me with you haw haw haw.
Take me with you laugh laugh laugh.

Like a headache made of starlings.
I can’t I said I have a wife and dog.
A dog haw haw haw haw.

A wife laugh laugh laugh.
Take me with you take me with you.
Haw haw laugh laugh laugh.

I zippered my coat closed
with a ferocity that shut them up.
Unbalanced silence in the room. Mom

knocked it over saying
you should go.
Saying I’ve been where you’re going.

Anyway go walk your dog.


Reprinted from the book-length poem, Taken With (Wood Works Press, 2005) and also the full-length collection, Meaning A Cloud (Oberlin College Press, 2008).


J. W. Marshall co-owns and operates Open Books, a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle, with his wife, Christine Deavel.  His first full-length book of poetry, Meaning a Cloud, won the 2007 Field Poetry Prize and was published by Oberline College Press in 2008.  Prior to that two chapbooks of his poetry were published by Wood Works Press, Blue Mouth in 2001 and Taken With in 2005.  Most recently his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Hubbub, Poetry Northwest, Raven Chronicles, and Seattle Review.


Jeannine Hall Gailey

Job Requirements: A Supervillain’s Advice


Grow up near a secret nuclear testing site.
Think Hanford, Washington. Oak Ridge,
Tennessee. North and South Dakota
are riddled with them. Your father – is he
an eccentric scientist of some sort? Did you
show early signs of a “supergenius” IQ?
Experience isolation from “normal” childhood
activities? (Multiple traumatic incidents welcome.)
Physical limitations, such as an unusual but poetic
disease or deformity due to mutation, are preferred;
problems due to accidents involving powerful
new weaponry or interactions with superheroes
are also acceptable. (Develop flamboyant
criminal signatures. Adopt antisocial poses.)
Fashionable knack for skin-tight costumes
(masks, hooks, extra long nails) considered a plus.
Study jujitsu or krav maga.
Practice creative problem solving;
for example, that lipstick could be poisoned,
that spiked heel a stabbing implement.
Remember, you are on the side
of the laws of thermodynamics. Entropy
is a measure of disorder.
Chaos, destruction, death: these are your instruments.
Use them wisely. You are no mere mortal.
Don’t lose your cool if captured; chances are,
you can already control minds, bend metal to your whim,
produce, in your palms, fire.
In the end you are the reason we see the picture;
we mistrust the tedium of a string of sunny days.
We like to watch things crumble.


“Job Requirements: A Supervillain’s Advice” is republished from Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006).

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the brand-new Poet Laureate of Redmond, and the author of Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011.) Her poems were featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and on Verse Daily; two were included in 2007’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Cincinnati Review, and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review,reviews poetry for The Rumpus, and currently teaches at the MFA program at National University.


Rebecca Hoogs



Here I am sucking on cherry pits
leftover from the cult of Mithras.


Here I am on a child’s sarcophagus:
children collecting walnuts to chuck
at a pyramid of walnuts.


Here I am with my melon hairstyle
and my prosciutto smile which identify me
as belonging to the 2nd century.


Here I am the sound of one sense
through a bone flute in past tense.


Here I am as she who walks and as she
who walks behind and as she who walks behind behind
and is only the hand which pours water or wine.


Here I am as a pair of sheet bronze hands
with gold buttons to navigate by.

Epic Poetry

Here I am writing epic poetry in my head
since I lost my epic pen.


Here I am announcing the flood.


Here I am a copy of a copy
of an original feeling now lost.



“The Muses Narrate a Slide Show” originally appeared in The Monarch Review.


Rebecca Hoogs is the author of a chapbook, Grenade (2005) and her poems have appeared in Poetry, AGNI, Crazyhorse, Zyzzyva, The Journal, Poetry Northwest, The Florida Review, and others. She is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (2004) and Artist Trust of Washington State (2005). She is the Director of Education Programs and the curator and host for the Poetry Series for Seattle Arts & Lectures.



Student Poem

That Man
by Blake (4th grade at View Ridge Elementary)

In that
movie I wish
I could be
that man.

that man
can do lots
of different
kinds of tricks
like back flips,
front flips, 360’s.
Oh and you can’t
forget the triple
4.9000 trick.

That man
is a magician
and an action
figure. There’s this
really special trick
that he does and
he never does it.

People say that
man has to show
us but he says
what are you
talking about.

And I say
that man is awesome.


I’m pulling this poem out of my personal storehouse of student work from View Ridge Elementary in Seattle, where I have worked through Writers in the Schools for five years now. “That Man” makes me laugh every time I read it, guaranteed. Thanks to WITS for helping to make the world go round.  –KF