Gary Lemons

Snake’s Karma

Why this be as it is he wonders.
Questions boundin round inside
His tube like echos in a sewer pipe.

Why not some better endin
For everything—why we got to bring
Down the whirlwind on ourselves,
Past and present rubbed together
Til the future’s set on fire?

Why can’t we do this simple
Thing—love one another, love the land
Includin the land of one another
And the planet where it happens?

What keeps us from gettin it right
And makin peace with death so as
We don’t fear it so much we be invitin
It prematurely into our hearts.

Snake thinkin about this but all the time
He’s salivatin bout the good taste
Of a bone still got some of the critter on it.



“Snake’s Karma” is reprinted from Snake, Red Hen Press, 2012.


J. Gary Lemons writes, “There is tradition but there is also freedom from tradition.  Meaning really there is just freedom.  To look–to see the invisible lines between things, to color the world with thought and paint its huge relevant inexpressible ironies with the tiny brush of personal devotion.  The choice is the gift.  The rest is practice.

I want to be at that place where individual memory and collective memory intersect. Like a scientist picking the fragments of mesons and quarks left after a high speed particle collision,  I want to rake through the details of bones, of threads and odd symbols and mirrors every human being leaves in the safety net below them.  I want to draw attention to, perhaps even comfort, the trembling pieces as they begin to fade.”

His poetry collections include Fresh Horses (Van West & Co., 2001), Bristol Bay: And Other Poems (Red Hen, 2009), and Snake (Red Hen, 2012). He lives in Port Townsend.


Barbara Gibson

McLane Creek

No need to be afraid
in the dark wood.
Walk near the fox’s den,
the possibility of a coyote,
or toward the beaver’s lodge
sinking into the lily pond.

When you take a single step
into the dense green,
into the comfort of high firs
and the dazzle and pattern
of light among leaves,
there is no need to worry.

You will discover the realm
of dropping yourself,
of losing interest
in the small, failed you.

There is no need
for fear because every fern
and every simple moss
assures you
that you are suitable
for such a life.

The shimmering dragonfly,
stunning and buzzing,
and the red-winged blackbird
skimming over rushes, and each
finch who sits on a sturdy thistle

truly, though you
may not see this,
welcomes you into
the still pond and into
the buzzing meadow
of bright acceptability.

So therefore it is
not necessary to be afraid
once your legs and heart
walk you into the deep,
vivid comfort of just how
here you are.

Barbara Gibson was a counselor at The Evergreen State College, retiring in the late 90’s. She has written poetry all through the years and the changes. She also writes plays, one of which, “The Abolitionist’s Wife: the Saga of Mary Brown” was produced in Olympia this summer to sold-out audiences. Major literary influences include Paul Goodman, Kenneth Rexroth, and Robert Bly, all of whom she was lucky enough to know personally. In Olympia, she is privileged to be a friend of Jeanne Lohmann, who would be Olympia’s Poet Laureate, if we had one. She appreciates the talented and generous poetry community there.

Peter Munro

Hero’s Journey


rictus rictus
tooth and bone
sperm and shell
feather and strike
scale and fang
flower and thorn
skull and socket
antler and butt
talon and egg
horn and hoof
sand and spine

The rattler’s hiss down a red boulder
breaks into my waking
dream of an elder guiding
me along the rim of this canyon.
My true guide shakes to a stop, forked
tongue flickering to taste the breeze.
The path on this brink edges me
toward vertigo in the lingo of doves
and diamond backs.

Sometimes to travel one must become still.
This is the hardest journey.

Sometimes, the necessary travel. One must
This is the hardest.

When I take my blood to the desert
there is a river in the desert.
Dust assembled into current whirling
around bone, carried by bone.
A name, one name.
This petroglyph.


“Hero’s Journey” is excerpted from “DESERT RIVERS” and reprinted from Chelsea 60.


Peter Munro’s first calling is poetry.  Fortunately, he also has a second calling, fisheries science, loved second best but still much beloved plus it provides him a day job.  As a poet, Munro has had poems published in a variety of journals, including Poetry, The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Iowa Review, The Atlanta Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Chelsea, The Literary Review (Web), the Seattle Review, The Southern Poetry Review, Harpur Palate, The Crab Creek Review, Rosebud, and Borderlands.  Munro is grateful to be a member of the 2013 cohort of the Jack Straw Writer’s Program.   As a fisheries scientist, he helps conduct trawl surveys of commercially important bottom fish in the Bering Sea, the Aleutian Islands, and the Gulf of Alaska.

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).

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.

Dan Lamberton

The Abundance of Rain


I have some confessions to make—
they have to do with this century
and how much I don’t want to be led
along by it any further. They have to do
with today being nothing about tomorrow,
but, rather, about history and how
all I know is before me, that is, before
I was, and I confess that
I search through old photographs
for reminders of who I am. If the people
in early Nebraska somehow hung pictures
of their old homes in Virginia
on the sod walls above their gritty beds,
and I am the grandchild made through them,
then I still carry their dissolved walls
in me, and I confess I want mostly what is past.

Granted, we live in two directions. There should be,
for the young, the chance to make children. But once
made, have them look backward. Start
with pictures of the unclothed, with Eakins’ nude men
along a tug-of-war rope, their haunches in the grass,
and their heels dug in, and their arms showing they’re no
different from me. A little differently muscled perhaps,
more formed by old work, by scythes and stone boats,
but they look like I do and they died. But first they enjoyed
themselves. And look next at unclothed women, Muybridge’s
panels of them, pouring water on each other’s heads,
picking up children. They have nothing Victorian
about them. They lived through all that and survived.

There’s a haystack, “1947, Near Norfolk, Nebraska,”
in a Wright Morris photo. And I know that
each of those straws were arranged
by the physics of elbows
and the leverage of hayforks
and that elbows and hayforks
depended upon the occasional abundance of rain.

So that’s it. It’s about rain, and how I am
drawn back into it. Remember how we lay
together, in that wood-paneled room near Seattle
with rain washing down so hard we felt
what we were doing was cleaned the second
it happened? It’s not that our future was rain,
but that its sound was a sound we both knew,
that took us out to itself and we heard, “There
has always been rain and there has always, therefore,
been you. Even more, there have always been
numberless thousands of you, not just
now, not just all of you now who are blind,
but there was always this sound, rain’s and yours,
pounding the outside and inside of walls
like these, and the Indians’ leather walls,
and the hopeless poor people’s walls,
and also, alas, the walls of all those
whose ears are closed and who think
they’re creating the future.”

“The Abundance of Rain” is reprinted from a broadside by Ian Boyden, Crab Quill Press.


Dan Lamberton has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington and has published poems nationally in journals and magazines such as Sojourners, Northern Lights, and Poetry Northwest. He is the author of On the River through the Valley of Fire: The Collaborative Ceramics of Frank Boyden and Tom Coleman (American Museum of Ceramic Art, 2008). His essay, “Randlett’s Roethke:  It Was All So Visual”  considering Mary Randlett’s late photos of Theodore Roethke, appears in the 2013 Spring & Summer Photography issue of Poetry Northwest. Lamberton has delivered, throughout the state, over 60 lectures on Washington’s poets for Humanities Washington. He has also lectured in Seattle for the Teachers as Scholars program, sponsored by the Seattle Arts and Lectures Series, and has taught a summer course at the University of Washington called “A Sense of Where We Are: Literature and History of the Pacific Northwest,” and completed a northwest literary history anthology in cooperation with the University of Washington history department. Dan is Professor of English and Humanities Program Director at Walla Walla University.


Stan Sanvel Rubin



When we wake, we are a morning of despair.
We comb our hair out with crumbs,
we suck sleep from long spoons
until dizziness takes us back to the dream
we walk through all day. If we head up,
we go down. If we go down, we go
all the way down, to basements we didn’t realize
and further.  We step on stairs made of bodies,
an escalator of ruin keeps us moving.
It is so hard to want anything we can use.
Everything we want hurts someone.
Everything we answer for is the wrong thing
and our answers mean nothing. Surely someone
will recognize our innocence, and love us.

“Here” is reprinted from There. Here.  (Lost Horse Press, 2013)

Stan Sanvel Rubin lives in Port Townsend. His fourth full-length collection, There. Here., has just been published by Lost Horse Press. His third, Hidden Sequel (2006), won the Barrow Street Book Prize and was a Small Press Distribution best seller. His poems are forthcoming in National Poetry Review, Cutthroat, The Florida Review, Great River Review and elsewhere. He writes essay reviews on poetry for Water-Stone Review. He’s the founding director of the Rainier Writing Workshop low residency MFA at Pacific Lutheran University.

Mark Simpson

Sweet Plenitude


The Aurora Borealis reminds me
of the disappointed—
the bum on the street, the little girl
not invited to the party.
Early one fall I saw it.
I stood on the back patio at 3am
looking northward,
and made out, finally, the streaked sky—
washed out colors indistinct
against the dark.
3am for this, I thought, retuning to bed,
the magnetic flexure of air carrying on
its vexed dance without me.
The bum wakes from his cold nap
and the little girl turns on the TV.
I lie sleepless for the rest of the night.
What has become of the fullness
we have been promised?
In the wood lot, owls have left
the bones of mice—
so many under the green pines.
Day after day of enumeration.
The sun’s white disk behind early fog,
too weak to cast shadows—
so that things must stand for themselves,
frost-edged, claiming their own territory.


“Sweet Plenitude” is reprinted from The New Poet.

Mark Simpson’s work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Hiram Poetry Review, Cream City Review, Faultline, and Poetry Quarterly, and online in Full of Crow, Albatross, and Dialogist. He works in Seattle as writer for an instructional design firm. A chapbook, Fat Chance, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.


David Whyte


When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize your own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

“Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte is printed with permission from Many Rivers Press, Langley, Washington.


David Whyte is a poet, author, and lecturer who makes his home in Washington.  He is the author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose, holds a degree in Marine Zoology, and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon, and the Himalaya. He brings this wealth of experience to his poetry, lectures and workshops. An Associate Fellow at Templeton College and Said Business School at the University of Oxford, he is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, where he works with many European, American and international companies. In spring of 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Neumann College, Pennsylvania.  He brings a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the nature of individual and organizational change particularly through his unique perspectives on Conversational Leadership.

Judith Azrael



The wind is cracking branches

in its teeth

It is running after me

I am not afraid

We are all going

to the same place

whoever  gets there first will have to wait


“Alone” previously appeared in Rosebud.


Judith Azrael received an MFA from the University of Oregon and taught for many years.  The teaching included a three year position at Western Washington University  as visiting writer and  at other colleges, community colleges and art centers.   Her four volumes of poetry include:  Fire in August from Zeitgeist Press,  Fields of Light from Cassiopeia Press, and Antelope Are Running and Apple Tree Poems from Confluence Press.  A collection of her stories and lyrical essays,  Wherever I Wander, was published by Impassio Press.  Her work has appeared widely in magazines including  Harvard Review, The Yale Review, Shenandoah, The Nation, The Sun, Rosebud, Humanities Review  and The Christian Science Monitor.