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.

Laurie Lamon

The Beginning and the End



What do we make of the God of vengeance, the bloodshed of kings,

  the women running from homes without

preparation; what do we make at the end of astonishment’s

    glance without preparation for darkness, and afterward,

darkness? What do we make of the landscape where stone begat stone,

   where soil was lifted and carried, and the cell’s

transparency was lifted and carried; what do we make of the feathers,

   the imprint of glass, the black weather swept

into floorboards; what do we make of the twenty-seven bones

    of the hand, the clod of dirt, the ring?

What do we make of the son replacing his meals with mourning,

   his evening run and the hour of bedtime reading

with mourning? What do we make of a father’s wristwatch, a hospital

   window, sun-splintered; what do we make

of the driver’s license and telephone number, the heart’s

   empty quarter, the history of voices, birthplace and geography,

the blurred eye, the shoelace pulled from the shoe?



“The Beginning and the End” is reprinted from Without Wings (CavanKerry Press, 2009).

Laurie Lamon’s poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Criterion, Ploughshares, Arts & Letters, Journal of Contemporary Culture and others, including 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Ordinary Days, edited by Billy Collins, and the Poetry Daily and Verse Daily websites. In 2007 she received a Witter Bynner award, selected by Poet Laureate Donald Hall.She has also received a Pushcart Prize. Lamon holds an M.F.A. from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Her two collections of poetry are The Fork Without Hunger and Without Wings, CavanKerry Press (NJ), 2005 and 2009.  She is a professor of English at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.


READING:  Laurie Lamon will be reading from The Plume Anthology of Poetry, 2012 at Elliott Bay Books on Thursday, November 1, along with poets James Bertolino, Brian Culhane, Tess Gallagher, and Richard Kenney,

Joannie Stangeland

The Lake Makes a Mirror


She sees herself on the surface, a little wavy,
as though looking through old glass.

The wind arrives, ruffles her image, rustles
through willows along the shore,

each leaf turning like another page
and she sees the plots unfold

in shifting currents, the water’s texture
becoming a scheme she can open

like the paper fortune tellers
she folded as a girl. Here,

she writes a new future without worry,
chooses a villain

who makes a suave entrance
and looks nothing like a crab.

Evasive, the lake’s face hides
the light she knows will come

when this weather has done its work.



“The Lake Makes a Mirror” previously appeared in Into the Rumored Spring, Ravenna Press, and in The Midwest Quarterly.


Joannie Stangeland’s third book of poems, Into the Rumored Spring, was published by Ravenna Press last fall. Her chapbook A Steady Longing for Flight won the inaugural Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award, and her chapbook Weathered Steps was published by Rose Alley Press. Joannie’s poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Many Trials to the Summit, Fire On Her Tongue, and other publications. Joannie was a 2003 Jack Straw writer, and she serves as poetry editor for the online journal The Smoking Poet.


READING:  Joannie Stangeland will be reading from Into the Rumored Spring at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, tomorrow, October 13, at 5:00 pm.  Poet Marjorie Manwaring will join her with poems from her new chapbook, What to Make of a Diminished Thing.  

Thomas Brush

The Shrew


I found him dead
In a cold corner of the garden, between the rock
Wall and the spring that never goes completely
Dry, his small hands soft as a child’s lost gloves, his blind eyes
Closed to the wet earth he came from where I returned
Him with only two turns
Of the shovel. Now, in this quiet house,
While my wife and son sleep and wind brushes the cold
Floor of dawn, with the year nearly gone, I wonder
How we got this far and why
Our fathers pitched their tents under the old threats
Of storms and floods, cut sod to make roofs, outlasted
The winter, dug deep for water in summer and stayed
Alive so far from here. And why the stars still cross
The crooked sky and why the fox flashing in the fairy tale returns
To me tonight like the dreaming face of the shrew and the narrow tunnels
He must have made, here, with the first month of winter buried
In leaves and rain and waiting for snow to fall again
Like the light of that small heart that just went out,
And the larger one that pauses and then goes on
Of its own accord, waiting for the first slight song
To rise from the blue edge of the world, greeting the New Year with love
And hope because our fathers came for the dream that wouldn’t leave
Them, put candles in the greased paper
Windows of those first houses so the lost could come home,
And prayed for the dead because they were.


“The Shrew” is reprinted from Last Night (Lynx House Press, 2012), winner of the Blue Lynx Prize.


Thomas Brush’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, Crazyhorse, North American Review, and many other journals and anthologies.  The quality of this work has been acknowledged by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Artist Trust, and the Washington State Arts Commission. He lives in Seattle.

Michael Schein


With what vigor we plumb the unseen world,
the spirit driving the sun across the sky,
the tug at the edge of knowing,
the homunculus behind the curtain.

What if it’s all just as it appears,
the curtain is a curtain
sewn by eleven year old girls
in a sweatshop in Shanghai,

That chair holding you up
is wood or metal or plastic,
atoms without quarks,
something solid against the pull of gravity.

What if death is just the end,
a kiss is just a kiss,
and we are mammals
born live on a beautiful planet,

Floating in an expanding universe,
bamboozled by over-evolved brains
into looking past the wisteria
for some divine plan,

Forever missing the wonder of butter
in our search for a mystery
greater than what’s on PBS at 8.
I’m bored by the ineffable,

By negative capability, liminal listening,
the poem between the lines.
What is is more than we can know,
What is is more than enough to love:

What is is the mystery.


“Plumbing” is reprinted from THE KILLER POET’S GUIDE TO IMMORTALITY by AB Bard (c) 2012 Wry Ink Publishing, all rights reserved, reprinted with permission of Wry Ink Publishing, LLC


Michael Schein is the author of three novels, a play, and a logorrhea of poems.  His novels are The Killer Poet’s Guide to Immortality by “AB Bard” (2012); Bones Beneath Our Feet (2011), a historical novel of Puget Sound; and Just Deceits (2008).  Michael has taught poetry and fiction at a number of venues. He is Director of LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop.  His poetry is supported by a grant from 4Culture; it has been nominated for the Pushcart twice, and stuck to refrigerators by magnets.  He lives in Carnation.


Emily Pérez

Advice to my Younger Self:  Winter

One night you will learn you are soon
to be abandoned, cast outdoors.

This news may cause you some alarm.
Swallow it and savor those last hours.

You’ll have years to assign the anger, blame.
For now hold them close. They’ll keep you warm.

The day will start with a long hike. You’ll receive
a crust of bread, an afternoon’s low fire,

and you will take a nap, a few hours to believe
you are still loved, and maybe you misheard—

But night falls, and it’s certain. You’re forgotten,
left to freeze, starve, be eaten alive by wolves.

Allow yourself a moment’s grief for all that’s gone:
your cat, your clothing, your warm bed.

You may shed some tears,
but don’t cry loud or long.

The cold will come; you’ll need energy.
It helps to have a plan before you leave.

On your voyage out you can collect,
then drop along the road

the smoothest stones, the ones that reflect
moonlight, make a lighted trail home.

Or, as the story goes, you could crumble
up your crust of bread and leave a map

sure to be consumed by birds.
It hardly matters. Either way

you’re lost. Either way
you’ll wander into deeper woods.


Emily Pérez is the author of the chapbook Backyard Migration Route (Finishing Line Press). Raised in south Texas, she earned a BA from Stanford and an MFA at the University of Houston, where she served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast and taught with Writers in the Schools. Her poems have appeared in journals including Crab Orchard Review, Borderlands, The Laurel Review, DIAGRAM, /nor, and Nimrod. She teaches English and Gender Studies in Seattle where she lives with her husband and sons.


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.

Susan J. Erickson

Blue Ghazal

She redesigned her aura. Updated its faded fresco blue
with a sexy shade that matched her eyes; Marilyn Monroe blue.

Easter Sunday, Assisi chapel. Anchovy-packed pilgrims.
Is that St. Francis, high above, blessing us with Giotto blue?

The feathers of the Steller’s Jay are not intrinsically blue.
It is light refraction that turns them braggadocio blue.

Her brows grew as one. A mustache appeared, then a monkey.
This can happen to you. Paint your house Frida Kahlo blue.

Vincent writes to Theo, “[I] am … looking for blue all the time.”
Then paints himself in a straw hat and smock of Van Gogh blue.

Lord Rayleigh said light collides and scatters to give us blue skies.
He’d know why I, Susan, covet a sky of New Mexico blue.


“Blue Ghazal” is reprinted from Cascade: Journal of the Washington Poets Association.

Susan J. Erickson encountered the ghazal early in her poetic life and has been a
fan every since. Currently she is working on a manuscript of poems in women’s
voices—mostly in free verse. Susan was one of the founders of the Sue C.
Boynton Poetry Contest in Bellingham, Washington where she lives. She also
helped organize The Poet as Art reading series.

Linda Strever

Watching a Gull at Cannon Beach


You stick your beak into everything:
wave-darkened pebbles, grayed scraps
of litter, drying carcasses, just in case

there’s a soft spot, an organ you can pluck
and swallow down your narrow throat,
something, anything to make a dent

in your hunger. You peck everywhere
along the beach, among things that defy
naming, among your own feathers

until you draw blood. But look,
there’s a pool of sunlight on the sand,
yours for the having, no need to poke

anywhere, just move your craggy feet,
your ruffled wings, lift your head
and draw the sunlight in. It’s a different

kind of emptiness than the one you fear,
a place to rest, to feel warmth on your
back, no need to tuck your wings close

to your body. Instead, spread them
a little. There’s no one here to begrudge
you, to list all your failings. Here

there is only you and sunlight, blinding
and beckoning, a spot of heat
on a stormy beach. You’d be crazy

not to give up the hope of some stagnant
morsel in favor of fullness that cuts
like grace through the clouds. You’d be

crazy not to take your scaly feet and
lopsided wings, your empty belly, your
sharp beak and step into that circle of light.


“Watching a Gull at Cannon Beach” is reprinted from Crab Creek Review.


Linda Strever’s poetry credits include Crab Creek Review; Spoon River Poetry Review; CALYX, a Journal of Art and Literature by Women; Beloit Poetry Journal; Nimrod, Floating Bridge Review, and others. Winner of the Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize from CALYX Journal, her work has been a finalist for the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize, the Crab Creek Review Poetry Award, the Levis Poetry Prize, the Ohio State University Press Award in Poetry, the A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, and the William Van Wert Fiction Competition. She has an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and lives in Olympia, Washington.