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.

Sarah Galvin

The Sign with Nothing On It

This blank sign in front of the motel was my favorite object in the neighborhood as a child. It is shaped like it outlines words, but it has been a solid gray-green for as long as I can remember. “Look, it’s the sign with nothing on it!” I yelled to my parents when we passed it in the car. After much thought about why a blank sign existed, I decided it must be art.

My uncle said, “Paintings of the crucifixion can be beautiful. That’s the difference between a real crucifixion and a painting. That’s why people make paintings.”

The night my mom drove her car into the front yard, my uncle came all the way to our house. I was standing alone in the kitchen with the lights off, and he picked me up. My uncle who used to put his fake teeth in his belly button and make it talk to me.

I imagined crucifixions were the popsicle truck colors of the neighbors’ weathered plastic Jesus, and smelled like adults’ coats after some event where it was necessary to sit down and be quiet.



“The Sign with Nothing On It” is reprinted from Io.


Sarah Galvin is the author of The Stranger’s “Midnight Haiku” series, which are neither haiku nor at midnight. She has a blog called The Pedestretarian, where she reviews food found on the street. The thing she loves most about reviewing discarded food is receiving text messages that say things like “I hear the bus stop on 3rd and Union is covered with ham.” Sarah is poetry MFA student at University of Washington, and her poems can be found in io, Proximity, Pageboy, Dark Sky, and Ooligan press’s Alive at the Center anthology.

Sally Green



Don’t know why you have to go
and ask me such a question.

I don’t even like the word. It’s one of those
brutal sounds gets inside you churning
up feelings, even ones you didn’t know
you owned. Like a plow tearing through
played-out land gone to seed.

And it makes no matter whether
its kin, or a dear friend
the pain of it all spreads quick
as prairie fire threatening everything
in its way. And that’s all
I’m going to say.


“Aunt Mabel Talks About Adultery” is reprinted from Clover. 


Sally Green—poet, printer, book designer, calligrapher—is copublisher
of the award-winning Brooding Heron Press, which publishes fine,
letterpressed editions of poetry (Gary Snyder, Denise Levertov, Donald Hall,
Hayden Carruth, John Haines, etc.). In 2008, Pacific Lutheran University
awarded her a Stanley W. Lindberg Editor’s Award for excellence. Her own
poems have appeared in The Poets Guide to the Birds (an anthology edited by
Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser, and published by Anhinga Press), The Ladies
Printing Bee, Clover, The Planet Earth Poetry Anthology (Leaf Press) as well as
other publications. She was a featured poet at the annual Lower Columbia
College literary festival, the Planet Earth poetry reading series at The Moka
House in Victoria, and the Northwind Reading Series in Port Townsend.

Sharon Cumberland



When he arrived in September he could say “hello”
and smile with eyes one might have seen
in a caravanserai a thousand years ago.
He would leave his shoes outside his bedroom
door, wear perfume in his hair, excuse himself
from the table to pray on a carpet on the floor,
guided by his compass and a yellow schedule.
I taught him how to grill a cheese sandwich,
boil pasta, fry an egg, so he could feed himself
when I was at work. His mothers and sisters
had fed him in Jiddah, and washed his clothes,
so I showed him how to do laundry, empty the trash,
sew on a button. His buddies came over
to practice English, smoke sheeshas—apple
tobacco flavoring the air. Their mothers
sent them spices and recipes for kapsah;
I showed them how to thaw the chicken,
steam the rice. He called me his American mother,
because there is no word in Arabic for a single woman
who owns a home, or drives a car to teach
at a university. His four mothers sent him sugar dates,
almonds and green coffee. They sent me a pound
of saffron. At Christmas I gave him a snow globe
of Santa Claus. He asked to come to church with me,
but lost his courage. He went home at Easter,
returned with a pink hajalib for me, his third mother
proud to have found a dress large enough
to fit such a big American woman.


“To the Saudi Student Who Left his Prayer Schedule Behind” is forthcoming in Strange with Age (Black Heron Press, 2014).


Sharon Cumberland has been writing poetry since 1983, and has published in a wide variety of magazines and journals, including Ploughshares,The Iowa Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kalliope and Verse. Her first full-length collection is Peculiar Honors (Black Heron Press, 2011). Her second collection, Strange with Age, is forthcoming from Black Heron in 2014. After a career in New York as an arts manager, working for the Lincoln Center Theater Company and the Metropolitan Opera, she earned a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York. She is now an Assistant Professor of American Literature and Poetry at Seattle University.

Sherman Alexie

Death Song for Polar Bear


Dear polar bear—pale warrior, snow
Walker, seal hunter, floe-to-floe
Swimmer—when you tire and slip below
The water’s surface, do you see ghosts

Of other drowned bears and join the ursine
Migration into a far north afterlife?
Of course not. But, polar bear, when you die,
I hope you are dreaming of blood and ice.


Copyright © 2013 by Sherman Alexie. All rights reserved. No reprinting or reuse of any kind without the author’s prior written approval.



Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN/Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Sherman Alexie is the author of, most recently, Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories. He has also recently published the 20th Anniversary edition of his classic book of stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Poet, short story writer, novelist, moviemaker, and comedian, Alexie lives in Seattle with his family.

David K Wheeler

Slaughter Season


Before August was over, and the air remained a cotton fog in the lungs of all the school
chums back on grounds bleached by the heat that came early and stayed late,

we single-filed back through the wide stairwells and blue gymnasium that doubled as
the house of God on weekends when metal lockers weren’t slamming shut

and into students, winding around the hallways toward biology class, or Bible—it’s hard
to remember which, with the windows open and the room not getting cool;

the sweltering heat only made it that much harder to pay attention to whatever we
studied; we heard squeals across the street from animals they raised

at the subsistence ranch—pigs, cows, emus, and dogs at differing times over the
years and seasons—but, that humid afternoon kill was definitely a pig

because we later found the bloody stump of its neck and head, skinless and chewed, on
the thirty-five yard line of the overgrown football field behind the school

where the ranch hound took it like she’d found a new toy that tasted like true hide
and real blood instead of the rubber guts she was given on her birthday;

and, the real blood was on her snout and paws and in the yard and across the
parking lot, but also in the air, a thick stain on every breath that smelt like flesh

had come unpackaged and fissured from muscle, bone, tissues, and every sinew tied
together into the fabric and skin that manages to hold every piece together, in,

until one bullet and steel meat hooks pull the sheets apart to drain the blood and expose
the vital organs to elements like Idaho sky and quiet breezes from the south

that carried the fumes into the classroom where a girl cried while Mr. Syth tried to pry
us from the windows so as to discuss dissection technique—or was it sacrifice?

“Slaughter Season” is reprinted from Contingency Plans (T.S. Poetry Press)


David K Wheeler is the author of Contingency Plans, which was a finalist for the 2011 Booksellers Choice Award sponsored by Melville House. He has contributed writing to The Morning News, Burnside Writers Collective, and The High Calling, and received his Bachelor of Arts from Western Washington University. He now lives in Seattle.


Nelson Bentley

A slight break in protocol today in order to present this unpublished poem by the late Nelson Bentley, dated 1954.  Many thanks to Sean Bentley for the opportunity to publish a beloved figure in Washington’s poetic history one more time.


Kalaloch: Looking Toward Destruction Island


A driftwood barricade blends into dying pines.
On the beach, Thomas’s hullabalooing clams,
Gull and pipers, run
Through a creek where it meets the ocean.
The tide’s rolling
Backs me toward driftwood. Destruction Island
With its white lighthouse is a long black rock
Some miles at sea. A tree holds roots aloft,
Foot and head

Irrelevant in the pattern.
The low roar of ocean
Takes voice in the first row of whitecaps.
The horizon towers. Stillness deep
In driftwood juts seaward. In the last rim of pines
A crow calls. One washed-up trunk points
Inland like a cannon, roots smoothed as shell.
Gulls and creek water are smally

Beautiful as I walk pushing a buggy.
Gull feathers, shell fragments, lodge and dislodge.
Sandpipers run on their reflections,
Between wave reaches.
A clan of shells on the wet
Mirror spread butterfly wings, just lit,
Black on fresh fragrant sand.
I watch the pipers, white bellies and

Speckled backs, fragile feet, bills dabbing, as they run
To keep on the verge. What focuses the scene
Is the slender human footprint
Beside the assortment of twelve bright stones;
Beth’s brown form and black hair,
Far down the tidal fringe;
Shawn at four months in blue turtleneck sweater,
Alert eyes from his buggy above the foam’s reach.

Beside him, in the wet sand, a gull flies.
Foaming cold swirls around my ankles,
Brushed by gullfeathers.
Flying pipers sound over surf’s white thundering.
The tide digs hollows
Under my heels;
The sandpipers’ feet and their
Reflections dance the shore.



Nelson Bentley (1918 – 1990)  studied under W. H. Auden. He was a friend and colleague of Theodore Roethke, among other Northwest poets who created a distinct regional voice. In his forty years as a professor at the University of Washington, he conducted workshops, hosted readings at literary venues around the city and on radio and public television, juried poetry contests, edited poetry for journals and newspapers, and was a co-founder of Poetry Northwest and The Seattle Review. Although he was a fine poet in his own right, he believed his own greatest accomplishment to be his work in teaching hundreds of other poets who published in nationally recognized poetry outlets. He founded the Castalia Reading Series, which started at the University of Washington in the mid-seventies and continues today.  The Friends of Nelson Bentley continue to celebrate his life and legacy.

Jennifer Maier

Haute Couture


Just when you think it can’t be mended,
the April sky,
dingy from over-washing,
gray hem of clouds coming down,
they arrive—
the assiduous tailors,
with their blue smocks,
their scissortails.

Then you step out of winter like a grave
and awkward garment,
happy beyond measure to know
that from this same bolt of blue
they clothed the pharaohs,
an Etruscan woman scaling a fish,
even your elderly neighbors,
sitting together
with their oxygen canisters
at the edge of the lawn,

May slipping softly
down over their shoulders
as in the old stories,
where the blind see,
the beggar walks in robes of gold,
and everyone is saved.


“Haute Couture” is reprinted from Now, Now (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013)


Jennifer Maier is a  professor of  literature and creative writing at Seattle Pacific University and an editor of the arts quarterly IMAGE. Her work has appeared in Poetry, American Poet, Poetry Daily, New Letters, The Writer’s Almanac and elsewhereHer first book, Dark Alphabet (Southern Illinois UP), was named one of the Ten Remarkable Books of 2006 by the Academy of American Poets and was a finalist for both the Washington State Book Award and the 2008 Poets’ Prize.  A second collection, Now, Now, will be published in 2013 by The University of Pittsburgh Press.


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.