Laura Jensen

In The Summer Weather

May 1924

At the grave on Memorial Day
they remembered Albert.
My mother said to me,
one relative of ours died in an accident
down on the waterfront.

For August, Labor Day Weekend 1924 –
the Order of Runeberg planned a songfest,
Swedish-Finnish Runeberg Choirs from Tacoma,
and Olympia, and Hoquiam and Aberdeen,
would sing, and their rehearsals began.

I took Swedish at the University of Washington.
Older, a Swedish class at First Lutheran Church
a song about the fox,
how the fox crept over the ice.
Räven raskar över isen.
For vi löv? May I have permission?

Can I be in the choir?
Linnea said to Auntie.

Auntie came up from Grandma
and Grandpa’s house, where the choir
first began in 1913 – their
Swedish-Finnish choir,
next door and they rehearsed.

Elmer and Carl bases, Al a tenor,
Linnea, Ma and Auntie, singing.


At the address on Commerce
where the American Legion Assembly Room
once was, there now
is a Hookah Smoking Caterpillar,
the Cobra Lounge.

It is a Hookah Lounge
where once Linnea Gorde
played A La Bien Aimee.
and the Cobra must change
the caterpillar’s Hookah Hose
Stems and leaves
into a stinging snake. And is it
about the stigma of things of the East?

In 1924 although experiencing
English Only Laws, the Catholics, Jews,
and the Lutherans were to lay aside
differences and Initiative 49,
brought forward by the Ku Klux Klan
to abolish private schools, was to be defeated.

There was a list of appropriate books
for her grade level, because by June
she had read ten. She could sit on her bed
she could sit at the table
she could sit with her feet up on the sofa.

Can one of these books have been
Alice in Wonderland?
She pasted into the scrapbook
her reading certificate from Tacoma Public Library
and Tacoma Public Schools.

Although the news held stories
of Ku Klux Klan rallies, of robes and hoods,
of crosses burning,
Initiative 49 was to go down to defeat.

July 1924 – Kingfisher Lodge

Elmer, Al,
Carl and Ray, Linnea and Gilbert
camped on the beach
where Birger and Eric lived.
Birger and Eric were brothers
of their father and Uncle Albert.
Birger and Eric worked at an island quarry
and they lived in a house on the beach.

Linnea’s piano teacher’s studio
was downtown at the Bernice building,
down the street from the Assembly Room.
Auntie waited while Linnea had her lesson.
Her teacher said to Linnea
with happiness, you are very good Linnea.
Or, you are very good, so you must practice
with diligence, because you have talent.


We rode the train through the forest,
Linnea might well have said.
Linnea might well have said this
to her daughters. However, she was
a talented piano player, and the sound
was more likely to be Sommardansen.

Or, we rode in cars through the forest.
Or, we rode in the hired bus
through the forest to Aberdeen,
we rode in the hired bus, an arm
at the open window, in our everyday
dresses, and we rode on beyond
Aberdeen to Hoquiam. We were there
two nights, the songfest was all Labor Day Weekend.

The grand chorus sang, and the piano soloists
Linnea had to notice, were very pleasant
to listen to, and Linnea could believe
that she could do as well herself.

In the Aberdeen Electrical Park
nearby those people,
with the fires and the white hoods
were gathered, and all the women
exclaimed about this, nervously, then
quieted themselves and said something about
not letting it bother us.

The grand chorus sits for the photograph,
ladies in shades of white
men in black suits with neckties
in front of the B Street Finnish Hall,
Al on one side. Elmer and Carl on the other.

Al had been in soccer in the Stadium Annual.
Jones Photography, Gray’s Harbor .

In the paper from the area, The American,
a column on the front page
describes the KKK Labor Day Celebration
at the Electric Park,
an amusement park, in Aberdeen
and a column on the front page
describes the Songfest,
the Order of Runeberg Songfest.

One could attend one,
or one could attend the other.

In the paper the KKK was to have fireworks.
The Lodge was at
The Hoquiam Masonic Hall
a new hall built the year before in 1923.
I wonder if the Lodge took everyone
to the ocean beach.

In November the election results
for Initiative 49 in Hoquiam and Aberdeen
were almost 50 – 50,
but Initiative 49 was defeated.

Slumrande toner fjärran ur tiden
toner i från stugor, från fält och vänen lid.
sang the choir. They sang in Swedish,
it was a foreign language.
Songs can lie sleeping, distant,
far from time.
Songs from the cabins, from fields
and times so sweet.

September 1924

There is a saved letter and its envelope
that came one September day.
I find it is hard to interpret
all of it. But Faster Emelie
father’s sister, thanks them
and says she would have written sooner
about her brother Albert. But every time
she tried she began to cry instead.


“In The Summer Weather” is a middle section to a poem in progress, and refers to, among other sources, Thomas R. Pegram’s One Hundred Percent American The Rebirth and Decline of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; The American, a newspaper from the 1920s in the Gray’s Harbor area; and to the Photo Archives at the Northwest Room of the Tacoma Public Library for references to the 1920s American Legion Assembly Room.


Laura Jensen‘s collections include Bad Boats from Ecco Press (1978) and Memory (1982) and Shelter (1985) from Dragon Gate Press. Memory was reprinted by Carnegie Mellon University Press in their Classic Contemporaries in 2006. Her work has been included in the anthologies  In Tahoma’s Shadow: Poems from the City of Destiny (2009), Longman Contemporary Poetry (2nd ed.; 1989), and Northwest Variety: Personal Essays by Fourteen Regional Writers (1987). In 1996 Jensen helped create the Distinguished Poet Series. Jensen has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission, and the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Fund. She lives in Tacoma and blogs at

Brian Culhane

The King’s Question

Before he put his important question to an oracle,
Croesus planned to test all the famous soothsayers,
Sending runners half around the world, to Delphi,
Dodona, Amphiarius, Branchidae, and Ammon,
So as to determine the accuracy of their words;
His challenge: not to say anything of his future

But rather what he was doing in his capital Sardis,
(Eating an unlikely meal of lamb and tortoise,
Exactly one hundred days after messengers had set out).
This posed a challenge, then, of far space not of time:
Of seeing past dunes and rock fortresses; of flying,
Freighted, above caravans and seas; of sightedness,

As it were, in the present construed as a darkened room.
Croesus of Lydia sought by this means to gauge
The unplumbed limits of what each oracle knew,
Hesitant to entrust his fate to any unable to divine
Lamb and tortoise stewing in a bronze pot.
When only the Pythia of Apollo at Delphi correctly

Answered from her cleft, her tripod just the lens
For seeing into the royal ego, she put his mind to rest,
But not before speaking in her smoke-stung voice:
I count the grains of sand on the beach and the sea’s depth;
I know the speech of the dumb and I hear those without voice.
We know this because those present wrote it down.

Of the King’s crucial question, however, there is nothing.
We have no word. The histories are silent.                                                                                                                                                  My analyst,
Whose office on Madison was narrow as an anchorite’s cave,
Would sit behind me as I stared up at her impassive ceiling,
As the uptown buses slushed all the way to Harlem,
And I would recount, with many hesitations and asides,

The play that I was starring in, whose Acts were as yet
Fluid, though the whole loomed tragically enough.
She would listen, bent over knitting, or occasionally note
Some fact made less random by my tremulous soliloquy.
When much later I heard of her death after long cancer,
I walked across town and stood, in front of her building,

Trying to resurrect those afternoons that became the years
We labored together toward a time without neurosis,
When I might work and raise a family and find peace.
Find, if not happiness exactly, some surcease from pain.
What question had I failed to ask, when the chance was mine?
When she, who knew me so well, could have answered?

Let just one of those quicksilver hours be returned to me,
With my knowledge now of the world, and not a boy’s,
With all that I have become a lighted room. One hour
To ask the question that burned, once, in a King’s throat:
The question of all questions, the true source and center,
Without which a soul must make do, clap hands and sing.

(After Herodotus, Histories, 1:46–86)


“The King’s Question” is reprinted from The King’s Question (Graywolf, 2008) and originally appeared in The Hudson Review.


Brian Culhane was born and raised in New York City, the son of a legendary Disney animator. He attended the City University of New York (BA), Columbia University’s Writing Program (MFA), and the University of Washington (PhD), where he studied epic literature and the history of criticism. His poetry has appeared widely in such journals as The New Republic, The Hudson Review, and The Paris Review. He has been an Inquiring Mind speaker, lecturing on Frost and Thoreau for Humanities Washington. In 2007, he was awarded the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Prize; his winning manuscript, The King’s Question, was published by Graywolf Press in 2008. Also in 2008, he received an Artist Trust / Washington State Arts Commission fellowship in literature. He received a MacDowell Colony fellowship in 2009. He currently teaches film studies and English at Lakeside School in Seattle, WA.

Ed Skoog



Big shot walks up his hat atilt,

a knife fight in his instep, starts laying it on.
The sky falters into the gutters, lobs a few

grenades against the barn, flash and pop,
and the air smells like cat. Am I a cop?
The thought had sprung up. The DJ is half man

and the floor looks like meowing. The idiot sweats.

It chews his haunch. For years now.
Where are the tigers to replace him?

Outside the Long Beach Airport,
pigeons have shat white the loudspeakers
deplaning locals roll suitcases by,

and always someone wears a pink
cowboy hat, or a fur from another climate.
Beside the boy with interlocking skulls

raining on his hoodie, the house sparrow
goes for crumbs of stale bagel.
The pilot’s gold epaulets catch on the cab door.


I then am Portuguese, spying through a glass,

leafing through maps up sort of the Nile,
or am returning, my knapsack
a jumble of unbearably small jade statues.

In this pane the gray cloud
is my mother in her housecoat.

Not all craft sink. Moored in a meadow,
the yacht rose above the valley. I found it
after a long time walking alone.

The mountains had battened it down,
scratched out its name.

Any fool could see it was the ark,
sign of some survival, quiet as Ash Wednesday.
I knocked on its ribs and no one answered.

Why should I think of this now?
The park’s closed. She locks the gate,

the carnival attendant, and drives home
to wash her convertible before the sun goes down.

Bring some beers over, she says.


Rain trick-or-treats the couple’s door,

but it is their red sedan that has been candied.
The hood glistens like licked cinnamon.

Perhaps I am riding an ox-drawn cart
on the western dip of Cuba’s green moustache.
The oxen are pulling their white thighs

across the water the rice field pours in.
The pepper-trees are turned up to the highest degree.
There is a sunset, finally.

Something is over again. Unbundle the curtain,
hang it on the bar, raise it into the dusky fly.

I dig my beat, sweating. I hold out. I get taken,
who never understands my hunger, its

terrible comfort.


A hole as if Skylab has fallen

through the clouds into my disarray,
a precise pouch, precise and utter

removal, force an eye from some dark animal
all pupil, with no center. The alley

There is a pavement to her comedy.

Mincemeat dragged through a wet glacier.
A dagger slipping across the continent’s ribcage.
I am one long hear. Put your hand in my mouth,

let me taste, and in return, feel all my orbits.
You think time flies? It falls to earth.

But sometimes evenings after dinner,
the news, the pipe he knocks against the railing,
my father spoke about the time their Buick

tumbled down the hill and she was pregnant
with the first boy, how their comfort spun.

He is still surprised, each moment, how
they rose and dusted themselves off,

and, feeling the baby kick, and, the tires
having landed right, just drove home.


The late-night menu mumbles something (inaudible).

Fat roils the smoked turkey in the black skillet,
as I chop mint from Strawberry Creek,
and I am parsing onions, carving peppers,
segmenting celery and measuring flour.

Mister Skylight shines down, full,
engorged, shining on all ships from the gorilla sky.

A lazy brown settles over the dogs and foxes.

Get Skoog with the whale ballet in his head.
Listen, the first alarm. Man the lifeboats.
Then, as neighbors move around their house

at night, shuffling and washing,
help a man who falls in, over and over.
Now all the horses are
poplars waving across the immense field.

Jesus in my nightmare
comes down the gravel driveway,
a teenager in sportswear
go home I say
he says give me your home.


This is it, spaceman: life on Earth.

It starts when she turns off the lamp
and points to the city’s orange crown.

Schoolchildren hold up candles
for Mister Skylight’s midnight ride.

By now I could hold it in my palm
or sip from it. From some porches,
the night is more. Get ready

for the all-skate, the group swim.
My hand falls to her lap, our teeth click.

My soul steps outside. Down boulevards
hot rods abduct the day. Saudade

in car wash dust; wind along a post office;
a sprinkler reflected in the windows.
The pool’s open; why aren’t we swimming?


On the garbage truck, the runners hang

half-out, undefined. Shouting they lift
lug, tug, huff, drag, and push
up the bright defecations, Chinese take-out

and new Sonys, the granola salad of litter boxes,
acres of bubble wrap, ripped tissues,

fish gone bad like plague, blood clots,
suppositories, diapers, the vomit
of the cancer patient wiped up with Brawny,

rum vomit of the bright girl,

the sheet music to Clair de Lune,
cuttings from a holly, oyster shells
on top, round mirrors of the dawn.


“Mister Sky Light” is reprinted from Mister Skylight (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). Most of the book was written in New Orleans prior to 2005, and revised heavily in the aftermath of the engineering failure that flooded the city following Hurricane Katrina.


Ed Skoog’s second book of poems, Rough Day, will be published by Copper Canyon Press in 2013. His first book, Mister Skylight, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2009. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Paris Review, The New Republic, Poetry, Narrative, Ploughshares, Tin House, and elsewhere. He has been a Bread Loaf Fellow, Writer-in-Residence at the Richard Hugo House, and the Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence at George Washington University. His work has received awards from, among others, the Lannan Foundation and the Poetry Society of America. He is a visiting writer at the University of Montana for 2012-2013. He lives in Seattle.

Janet Norman Knox

Wyckoff Superfund Site Sheetpile Wall
After Matthea Harvey


Consider the wall, its forced embrace,
holding back, holding arm’s length.

Consider the salt, its corrosive face,
trading electrons for rust,

turning iron to ore to dust
to its mantle-fed home.

Home to the wall
to consider its inside, faced

with floating
oil, sinking blebs—

like canola, molasses, caramel
to coat a face

of wood against sea—home
of many eating things.

Consider your face, its flush
of bacteria coating,

trace the line of your cheek,
one finger trading

a trail of cells
mine to yours, yours

on my fingertip holding
an armful of home.



Seven-time Pushcart nominee and finalist for the Discovery/The Nation Award, Janet Norman Knox’s poems have appeared in Los Angeles Review, 5 AM, Crab Creek Review, Rhino, Diner, Seattle Review, Adirondack Review, Poetry Southeast, Red Mountain Review, and Diagram. Her chapbook, Eastlake Cleaners When Quality & Price Count [a romance] received the Editor’s Award (Concrete Wolf, 2007). She received the Ruskin Poetry Prize (Red Hen Press) in 2008. The Los Angeles Review nominated her for 2010 Best New Poets. Her poetry was used by composer Paul Lewis for his 2006 opera, Last Poem on Earth. She participated in a 2011 Jack Straw Foundation Grant in collaboration with artist Syracuse University Professor Anne Beffel. Janet Norman Knox is also an owner of 25-year old Pacific Groundwater Group, an environmental and water resource consulting firm. She is an Environmental Geochemist specializing in contaminant investigations and cleanup like a doctor of the land.

Janet will be giving a Pocket Concert at the Seattle Repertory Theatre on September 28, 2012.

UPDATE:  Janet Knox’s poem, “Carbon Shining on our Faces” is worked into bars of glycerin soap available from the Brightwater Environmental Education Center for a limited time.  (September 30, 2013)

Sarah Zale


Diego Rivera: Industrial Detroit Murals
a pecha kucha


[Baby in the Bulb]

If a child, fetal in the womb
of a daffodil, growing heart and brain
and petals that protect with careless poison,
what will we say of spring—the world in bloom?

[Fruits and Vegetables]

During the first revolution of the human journey,
we cultivated einkorn, barley, and figs. The second
revolution: steam, gas, and combustion engines.
Now, it is coming, a great turning—a new way
of listening, of creating. Of understanding seed.

[Four Races]

It is hard work. They call themselves Fire or Air,
Earth, Water. They answer to North, South, East
or West. One says Call me Coal or Iron, Limestone,
Sand. It does not matter to the heart, the volcano,
the furnace. As they work, they are steel.


He cannot fool himself. The eyes of the Other stare
back like a mirror. He picks up his palette and brush
and paints his own face into the crowd. There he is,
the man with a hat and brown eyes.

[Conveyer Belt]

On my left you rise, I pull then lean and lift
into the wait of the pull to my right. Some hear
music. Some say machine, some say dance.
Every line of your life crosses your face.

[Manager and Worker]

I am the sound of steam and sweat.
You are ear. When I smoke after dinner,
you hear me exhale. When I make love
to my wife and she calls out my name,
you sigh.

[Poison Gas]

Workers put gas in a bomb. They put pyrethroids in a can.
Wilfred cannot pronounce it. He says dulce, he says
hissss. He says a spider will jump, run, do flips
to its back, roll back to its feet. Repeat till it dies.

It is an old story. Hands rise, fingers empty
and craggy as talons. Some formed as fists.
Others are molten and alive, and of the earth.
They fold around augite, quartz, mica, feldspar.


A manager in the aviation capital of America
hires a worker to build a plane. A woman flies
to Chicago to see her daughter. An army pilot learns
to drive a “tin goose.” A dove enters the open eye
of the engine fan, beneath the center blades.

[Half Face, Half Skull]

Sometimes, in the dark, I look
into the mirror and see my death.
I am not afraid. I offer my hand and we go
back to bed.

[Stamping Machine]

No longer listen to wind through tall grass
nor ride the pull of ripples across water.
So says this god, our creation. We miss
Coatlicue. She with her head of snakes
only asked for human blood.

[People on Tour]

People enjoy the zoo. They say
the animals act almost human. Men in fedoras
talk to their watches. The Katzenjammer kids
pull another prank. Foolish, say the monkeys,
and never laugh.

[Engine Dog]

The ancients used a guide for passage
to the next world. Charon ferried the dead
across the River Styx. Pre-Columbians chose
a Colima dog. My brother plans to drive himself
behind the wheel of a 4-valve, V-8 engine.

[Predella Panels]

During the Hunger March, he saw
even blood in shades of grey. One day
someone will paint his story. The world
will know more than the grisade of his life.

[Spindle Machine]

My job is about boring holes
in engine blocks. After work, I go out for beers
with Quetzalcoatl, Muhammad, Krishna,
Siddhartha, and the new guy, Jésus.

[La Raza Cósmica]

The Census Bureau does not list
el espiritu as a race, yet here we are,
working side by side, of one blood.
Por mi raza hablará el espiritu.


Whether a child is the son of God
or the son of a scientist, aviator, inventor,
we look at him with hope. We are sure we have time
to do good things. We are sure we are forgiven.

[River to Fordlandia]

Some men like to tame the land, some like
to tame other men. They forget they are only men
and others are not clay. On the third day, he created land,
and a river from Detroit to Brazil.

[Night Foreman]

I am 45th on the assembly line of 84 steps.
The guy next to me places an engine. I add a bolt.
It is a game of interchangeable parts. Bricker says
93 minutes is too long to build a Tin Lizzie.

[Miller Street Bridge]

It is the end of March and bitterly cold. I count
the stairs to the bridge: one, two, three–Joe,
Joe, another Joe. Four, Cole. Shot and buried
with union on their lips. Black Curtis, five.
His ashes like snow dot the cemetery soil.


“Diego Rivera: Industrial Detroit Murals” is reprinted from Sometimes You Do Things (Aquarius Press; March 2013).

View the murals.


Sarah Zale teaches writing and poetry in Seattle. She holds an MFA in poetry from Goddard College. The Art of Folding: Poems was inspired by her travels to Israel and Palestine. Sometimes You Do Things: Poems will be published March 2013 (Aquarius Press, Living Detroit Series). The title poem appears in Floating Bridge Review 3. Naomi Shihab Nye awarded “September 24, 1930: The Last Hanging in Michigan” as a finalist in the 2011 Split This Rock Poetry Contest. Zale’s work is in the anthology Come Together, Imagine Peace, a finalist for the 2009 Eric Hoffer Award. She lives in Port Townsend.

Sylvia Byrne Pollack

Vagrant Waltz
For Yaffa

It’s time in mid-summer
to think about nothing,
turn from ideas,
make ice cream instead,
float on a raft of popsicle sticks.

You will know when to get up,
wield pencils like chopsticks,
tease apart vagabond thoughts
meandering through your mind.

When bedraggled ideas knock
at your door, don’t turn them
away. Like your mother before you
give handouts to hoboes –

a sketch of a cat will be
etched on your gate.
Words will come tramping
into your dreams, vamp
your domesticated mind

with rumbles, a jungle
utterly outside your safe picket fence.


“Vagrant Walz” previously appeared in Shark Reef.

Sylvia Byrne Pollack retired from careers in cancer research and mental health counseling but remains on “active duty” as a poet and grandmother. She lives and writes in Seattle. Her recent poems have appeared in Hobble Creek Review, in Drash: Northwest Mosaic and are forthcoming in Solo Novo.

Shin Yu Pai

Search & Recovery
for James Kim (1971 – 2006)

it could have
happened to any
of us

a wrong turn
down a logging road
tires tunneled
into snow

a man’s undying
love for his children

moves satellites
maps aerial images

eighteen care packages
dropped over sixteen
miles of the Siskiyou,

bearing handwritten
notes from a father
to his son

the signs
you left for those
who came after you

a red t-shirt
a wool sock,
a child’s blue skirt

layers of a life,
stripped down to
a family’s fate –

the weight of being
unseen – to travel
a path back to

what you knew
at birth, the warmth
of being held close

brought home


“Search & Recovery” originally appeared in Adamantine (White Pine, 2010).

Shin Yu Pai is the author of Hybrid Land (Filter Press), Adamantine (White Pine), Haiku Not Bombs (Booklyn), Works on Paper (Convivio Bookworks), Sightings: Selected Works (1913 Press), The Love Hotel Poems (Press Lorentz), Unnecessary Roughness (xPress(ed)), Equivalence (La Alameda), and Ten Thousand Miles of Mountains and Rivers (Third Ear Books). She is the former poet-in-residence for the Seattle Art Museum and has been the recipient of individual artist and heritage awards from 4Culture, as well as a SmArt Ventures grant from the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs. She is recently returned to Seattle.



John Burgess

[Ballad of James Acord]


Sometimes alone.
Sometimes in clusters. Sometimes

in parallel but a lifetime apart. Sometimes
sinking. Sometimes afloat. “There are

2 parallel paths on which human beings
seek the truth.” Sometimes tangled

in each other’s hair. Sometimes oblivious.
Sometimes replicas coming off a conveyor

belt upstream. “I wanted to be able to identify
and imagine how everything I saw was made.”

Sometimes punk. Sometimes Li Po
folded into paper boats. “Demonstrate

the ancient link between art and
technology.” Sometimes mammalian

noses just above drowning. Sometimes
a Cold War that never ended. “Science

and art, art and science—they’re
just two spokes going into the center

of the Karma Wheel.” Sometimes a rodeo.
Sometimes a Veteran’s Day parade.

Sometimes loose-cannon protons released
from larger atoms looking to start

a chain reaction. “We have not stolen
anything. We have just learned about it.”

Sometimes long stretches like nothing is
wrong. Sometimes failure takes years. “If

you want to make things, if you want to
create things, everything is hazardous.”


Samples: James Acord as quoted in “Looking for Acord,” The Observer (July 1998) and “James Acord: Atomic Artist,” Nuclear News (November 2002).


JOHN BURGESS grew up in upstate New York, worked on a survey crew in Montana, taught English in Japan and now lives and works in Seattle. He has three books of poetry from Ravenna Press: Punk Poems (2005), A History of Guns in the Family (2008) and Graffito (2011).

John will be reading from Graffito at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle on Friday, July 27, at 7:00, along with Raul Sanchez and Lana Hechtman Ayers.


Muriel Nelson

The Widow Kramer
Ritzville, Washington, 1918


In billowing black, her pitchfork raised, she
chased a coyote out into her wheat.

Behind her: children,
horses, milk cow, chickens, geese,
ghost of a man,

sagebrush, mountain
range, width of a country, an ocean,
a sea, length of the Volga, a war,

ghost of the town
she called home.


“The Widow Kramer” previously appeared in Part Song (Bear Star Press).

Muriel Nelson has two collections of poems: Part Song, winner of the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Book Prize (Bear Star Press, 1999), and Most Wanted, winner of the ByLine Chapbook Award (ByLine Press, 2003).  Nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in The New Republic, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Seattle Review, and several anthologies, and on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily.  She holds master’s degrees from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the University of Illinois School of Music, and lives in Federal Way.



Marvin Bell

The Book of the Dead Man (Rhino)

Live as if you were already dead.
Zen admonition

1. About the Dead Man and the Rhino

The dead man rode a rhino into Congress.
An odd-toed ungulate in the Congress, and no one blinked.
It was the lobbyist from Hell, the rhino that ate Tokyo, a lightning strike in their dark                     dreams.
A ton of megafauna, and nowhere for a senator to hide.
I’m gonna get you, says the momentum of a rhino.
The rhino has been said to stamp out fires, and the dead man hopes it is true.
He steered the beast to the hotheaded, the flaming racist, the fiery pork-barreler, the                  sweating vestiges of white power.
The dead man’s revolutionary rhino trampled the many well-heeled lawmakers who stood           in the way.
He flattens the cardboard tigers, he crushes the inflated blowhards, he squashes the                cupcakes of warfare.
Oh, he makes them into blocks of bone like those of compacted BMWs.


2. More About the Dead Man and the Rhino

The dead man’s rhino was not overkill, don’t think it.
He was, and is, the rough beast whose hour had come round at last.
The dead man’s rhino did not slouch, but impaled the hardest cases among the                            incumbents.
The committee chair who thought a rhino horn an aphrodisiac found out.
The dead man’s rhino came sans his guards, the oxpeckers.
He was ridden willingly, bareback, he did not expect to survive, he would live to be a                    martyr.
The rhino’s horn, known to overcome fevers and convulsions, cleared, for a time, the halls          of Congress.
The senators who send other people’s children into battle fled.
They reassembled in the cloakroom, they went on with their deal-making.
They agreed it takes a tough skin to be a rhino.


“The Book of the Dead Man (Rhino)” appears in Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press.


Three books by Marvin Bell were released in 2011: Vertigo: The Living Dead Man Poems (Copper Canyon); Whiteout,a collaboration with photographer Nathan Lyons, (Lodima); and a children’s picture book, based on the poem, “A Primer about the Flag”  (Candlewick). Since 1985, he has split the year between Port Townsend and Iowa City. For many years Flannery O’Connor Professor of Letters at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he teaches now for the brief-residency MFA based in Oregon at Pacific University, One can see a brief interview with him about writing in the literary video series  “On the Fly,”  and others at Drunken Boat,  Arch Literary Journal, and Poetry Kit.