Prerna Bakshi


Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet and activist of Indian origin, currently based in Macao. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of the recently released full-length poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love, long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK and cited as one of the ‘9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World’ by Bustle in the US. Her work has been published widely, most recently in The Ofi PressRed Wedge Magazine, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and Prachya Review: Literature & Art Without Borders, as well as anthologized in several collections, including America Is Not The World by Pankhearst. Website:

Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

My all-time favorite female writer is Amrita Pritam. Everything about her and her work consumes me. She literally paved the way for so many (women) writers, especially those from Punjab. As a Punjabi woman, I believe I owe so much to her; for all the incredible work that she did and for all those beautiful words she wrote. Her work speaks to me; it holds me. She wrote a great deal on Punjab, inter-ethnic relations and politics, experiences of women – all these topics concern me and something that I engage with/write about in my own work.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

Amrita Pritam’s poetry collection, Khamoshi Se Pehle and her auto-biography, Raseedi Ticket, had quite an effect on me, to such an extent that I began writing poems, after a long hiatus.  Amrita Pritam, who was a prolific writer and poet, mentioned in Raseedi Ticket that when she was suffering from severe depression and as she went into therapy, she was encouraged by her therapist to write. This phenomena, though, as we know is not too uncommon, as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath too, were told the same, when they found themselves in a similar position. Reading Amrita Pritam, whom I had always admired though, changed me in ways I cannot explain. I was going through some difficult times myself and still am (healing is a journey and never a fixed event) and it was precisely at this moment that I decided to write again. So, from that perspective, she’s been incredibly influential.

How did your work/works in Alyss come about?

This morning” was dedicated to all the victims/survivors of domestic violence. It was written from a perspective of a person who finds themselves entrapped in a violent and abusive relationship and/or marriage. Even to this day, in several parts of the world, our society, for the most part, sees domestic violence as ‘normal’, something that women should put up with, for the sake of their relationship/marriage, for family’s honor etc. Even in cases where domestic violence is seen as a problem, I would argue, the society sees it in terms of a fixed event, something that women should ‘get over’ with, and must get on with their lives, performing their daily chores. Domestic violence is never fully seen as something that goes to on to effect women’s lives, for a long period of time, often in ways that cannot be easily measured.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

My first full-length collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love (Les Éditions du Zaporogue, Denmark), just came out early this year. I made the long-list for this year’s Erbacce Press Poetry Award in the UK (as well as last year – that’s twice in a row!).Whittled down from about 8000 entries (a record entry) from across the world to just 100. To say that I was fairly pleased would be an understatement.

One of the most exciting things to have happened this year was when I learned that my book, Burnt Rotis, With Love, was cited as one of the ‘9 Poetry Collections That Will Change The Way You See The World’ by Bustle magazine in the US. To have my name next to the highly acclaimed and award-winning giants like Margaret Randall (who, incidentally, endorsed my book *still in awe*), Audre Lorde, Marge Piercy, Claudia Rankine and a whole heap of other talented and fine writers and poets (such as Heather Christle, Matt Rasmussen, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Gillian Conoley) was nothing short of a dream come true.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from a previous issue and why?

Date-Rape by Natalie N. Caro in Issue Deux. It was raw, powerful and beautiful.

What are you currently working on?

Nothing exciting, I’m afraid. Right now, I’m working towards my PhD and that’s taking up all my time.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

Alice Herz.

Chameleon – Penny Montague

PennyMontague photos

Penny Montague writes fiction and poetry. She’s a Londoner who has just completed an MA in Literary Linguistics, during which she gatecrashed the Creative Writing classes and corralled her fellow students into creating an anthology. Her work has been published by Bunbury Magazine and Ink Pantry. She tweets at @pjmontague.

Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?

I can’t give you an all-time favourite female character, as it changes for me all the time.

At this moment, I’m thinking of Kainene from Half of a Yellow Sun who was regarded as less attractive than her twin sister, but was so resilient and industrious, especially when the civil war began to affect her life and her community. Even though she wasn’t one of the viewpoint characters, I really felt a connection with her.

Another character would be Sookie Stackhouse from the The Southern Vampire Mysteries (depicted in the True Blood TV show). Although she is a mortal human surrounded by supernatural creatures she uses her cunning and wit to stay alive and to protect those that she loves. At the heart each of these novels is a mystery to be solved, which is the main draw beyond the vampire / werewolf / fae conflicts.

And finally, Dr Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist who helps the police to solve murder cases in the crime series by Nicci French. Klein is a bit of a maverick but has great insights which often has her police liaison guy scrambling to keep up with her.

Ask me again tomorrow and I’ll probably give you a few different characters.

What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?

Another tough question!

Let’s say Bareback by Kit Whitfield. It was the first so-called genre novel that I remember that also asked questions of society. In this fictional universe, the majority of people are werewolves but the few people (the barebacks) that don’t turn furry under the full movie are tasked with policing the mayhem. It’s not just a werewolf story, it’s also a mystery and has a love story too. It proved to me that I can write in the genres that I enjoy (such as fantasy, crime and romance) but with the devices and scope that I admire in literary fiction. So I don’t have to choose just one genre or one way of writing.

Also anything by Valerie Martin, but especially her short story collection The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories. She writes so well about the creative temperament. I think my favourite story in this collection is the first one, ‘His Blue Period’, about a rivalry between two male painters. Our protagonist isn’t as successful as his brash rival, and is also in love with his girlfriend, which becomes a heartbreaking situation. I also adore her novel The Confessions of Edward Day, which is similarly about a rivalry (artistic and romantic) between two actors.

How did your work/works in Alyss come about?

I wrote ‘Predatory Thinking‘ for a creative writing assignment during my master’s degree, but the seed of the idea came from talking to another student in my class. She was originally from Nigeria but had spent several years in the USA and had a strong American accent. She mentioned that she often changed her accent depending on where she was living and joked that she would probably acquire an English accent over the year of her stay.

I started thinking in terms of her being like a chameleon who adapted to her surroundings and sparked the idea of this assassin who could transform at will.

I had feedback on the first draft from an experienced writer, who said that she loved it and encouraged me to make her ‘even more monstrous’. I was a little alarmed at first by that comment, as I felt that I shared some qualities with the protagonist, or rather that she was perhaps a more extreme version of myself. There are many ways to build a character, and I had used a lot of my own dark sense of humour in the creation of this character. I really enjoyed writing this story and letting the protagonist get down to business.

What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?

After I read out one of my poems at a reading group that I used to attend, a woman told me that it had made her want to cry as it had reminded her of her late mother. The poem was more of a reminiscence about old technology, so I was surprised that it had had that reaction, but I was so pleased that it connected with her emotionally.

What is your favorite piece by another writer from a previous issue and why?

As someone who is interested in linguistics and language in general, I was immediately drawn to ‘everytime i speak, my gums bleed‘ by Amber Atiya. The poem really evokes the unacknowledged violence of language and we can feel alienated by our own mother tongue(s). The use of English and other languages of colonialism as a lingua franca is leading to the death of languages spoken in some smaller communities; for this reason, I can see how some might describe English as a ‘pesticide’.  I think the poem also makes the point that verbal language is not the only form of communication that we have, and that the simpler modes in which animals communicate are much truer and more visceral than our words.

What are you currently working on?

I haven’t written much creative work since my MA, but I am hoping to send some more short stories and poetry into the world very soon. I am also planning to write a musical in the near future.

Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?

It would have to be Alice Pieszecki from The L Word, the journalist who kept a chart of the liaisons between the women that she knew in LA. Although another character called Jenny was ostensibly the ‘writer’ in that community of women, Alice was endlessly curious and observant – qualities shared by many writers that I know.


Wherever You’ve Gone, Joe DiMaggio

I turn my eyes, in desperation, to you,
because the current situation is simply too much.
Will anyone say of the nation’s 45th president, as was said of you:
He represented the best in America.
It was his character, his generosity, his sensitivity.
He was someone who set a standard every father would want his children to follow.
Will anyone pronounce him, with sincerity and a straight face,
to be among our most beloved heroes?
Who will think of him as someone who
gave every American something to believe in,
representing the very symbol of American grace, power and skill?
How many can believe, for even a fractured moment, that
when future generations look back at the best of America
his will be among the faces that surface?

With appreciation to

Erika Dreifus writes poetry and prose in New York City. She is the author of QUIET AMERICANS: STORIES and is currently at work on a full-length poetry collection. Visit her online at

This poem wants to be an ode

As a Jewish child who was also female I loved Portia
—and, like every other Shakespearean heroine,
she proved a treacherous role model
. —Adrienne Rich

This poem wants to be an ode, to sing. Sing how you master each scene, praise how you arrange your own marriage despite a dead father’s constraint, how you tip off your love with a musical clue so he picks the right chest and chooses: you, a prize. This poem wants to applaud your clever court disguise, your elegant plea for mercy—though you show none, a bloodless stone. This poem aches to appreciate your power, you the dead man’s savior, and regard your ring trick with delight, the way you trap your love into giving the ring he promised never to part with. It wants to say, Quick-wit wife! This poem longs to pour wine libations at your feet and cap your crown with laurels, sprinkle pale petals where you pass. But your temple’s defiled with ash. This poem itches but cannot scratch. It ends with holocaust and a cordial of tears. A net with a lamprey catch.

Dayna Patterson is the Managing Editor of Bellingham Review, Poetry Editor for Exponent II Magazine, and Editor-in-Chief of Psaltery & Lyre. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Hotel Amerika, North American Review, The Fourth River, Literary Mama, Weave, and others.

Proposal pitching the next big breakthrough reality show to my hero, Andy Cohen of Bravo


Meet the Poets


Reality descends upon 16 obscure poets when they are thrust into a four-bedroom house well-stocked with wine, whiskey and cigarettes. Without a computer, dictionary, or thesaurus, the poets must dip fountain pen into ink and produce great poetry if they are to become the last poet standing. Dicey and dangerous words spill from quills in this high-drama, docu-style reality series in which the stakes are incredibly low. Think: “Ice Road Truckers” meets “Tabitha Takes Over” meets “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”


Co-hosts and beloved poets Sharon Olds and Billy Collins, wearing black turtlenecks and slacks, greet viewers as they tune in each week to Meet the Poets. It’s like Tabitha Takes Over except nobody’s taking over and nobody is a hairstylist named Tabitha. Sharon and Billy wield red pens like shears and occasionally suggest cutting extraneous words. Needless adjectives weigh down meaning, one of them will say. Things get hairy as, with each snip of stanza, hurt feelings fly like simile.

A Note about Winning and Losing:

Any poet who doesn’t follow the show’s guidelines (refer to attachment 1-B) will no longer be considered part of the show and subject to immediate removal. This will add to the drama as viewers feel like they’ve been hit by an ice truck and are left wondering, What the hell’s going on? What happened to that poet I liked?

Each week the poet with the worst poem must leave and the poet voted with writing the best poem wins five hours alone in the highly coveted writers’ retreat cabin. The last poet standing receives no financial compensation, but he/she will receive a complimentary copy of the TV Guide that lists that week’s final episode. One of their poems will also be considered for publication in a literary magazine of their choice—but no guarantees.

Episodes 1-11:

#1: Meet the Poets.

As the poets arrive, viewers hold their breath as brawls erupt over commas, where to place them, or if they should be there at all.

We meet Francois, who prides himself on ending lines with a preposition. He also overuses the phrase: to flail like fish. Prone to sentimentality, Francois is the first poet voted off the show.

Then there’s Madeline, the poet’s poet. Generous with both praise and helpful critique, Madeline encourages the others, all the while churning out stunning verse that knocks the other poets breathless. Contrast this with the selfish Morinda, who cares only about her precious windmill poems and exhibits rude behavior, such as flossing her teeth or leaving the set while others reveal their works.

Belinda is a lonely housewife and closet poet who, as quickly as she writes poems, shoves them under sofa cushions. Hilarity ensues when she learns there are no sofas and no place to hide. As she is forced to face her fears, viewers fall in love with Belinda and her poems.

Enter Al, who can forge metaphor out of metal, not to be confused with Sal, who is transitioning from male to female. A former lawyer who once wore ties and wrote powerful haikus on the sidelines of her briefs, Sal surprises viewers—and herself—with gripping villanelles.

A known semi-colon hater and slam poet who is inclined to rhyme arrives late on the scene; stirs bitter feelings among the contestants. Does the poet not concede that, at the very least, a semi-colon is necessary between two independent, yet related clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction?

Throw in a poet past his prime who wears a tweed jacket, smokes and drinks excessively, and you have yourself: One. Hot. Show.

At the end of this first episode, the contestants each draw a number to learn the order in which they will select a cardboard cutout resembling a dead poet. One by one they enter a dark, smoky coffee joint and place their cut out on a chair next to a cafe table that holds only a flickering candle.

The following episodes, with the exception of the finale, culminate at the coffeehouse. The poets take turns reading their work aloud to Robert Frost, Rumi, Sylvia Plath, Lord Byron, Basho, Maya Angelo, Anne Sexton, and others. The air is thick with smoke, the judges obscured, and the poets see only their silhouettes. (The true identities of the judges will be revealed in the final episode.)

After the judges vote, Sharon Olds approaches the table of the poet whose poem is deemed most unworthy. With thumb and forefinger, she extinguishes the candle flame. We hear a hiss or sigh (the poets will later argue over the sound of a flame dying). The loser must then immediately pick up their dead poet cutout and head out into the dark and stormy night or maybe it will be woods on a snowy evening depending on the night they lose. In episode #3, loser poet does not go gentle into that good night, but will rage, rage, rage against something trite.

As Sharon Olds licks her singed fingers, the camera cuts to the hands of Billy Collins. He’s opening a book that contains a list of the contestants’ names. Using the eraser end of a pencil, Billy rubs out the name of the loser poet. (Sometimes, especially when he doesn’t like the poet, he will rub so hard that he’ll make a raggedy hole in the paper.)

Scene fades as the winning poet dashes off to the writers’ retreat.

#2: It happens all the time.

Poets funnel into an empty room. Voluminous voices of editors who have rejected their fine work are piped into the room through large speakers in the ceiling. Against the backdrop of failures, they must persevere and write a haiku. Then, sent into a room without alliteration or rhyme, the poets, in nine hours, are required to compose an epitaph to time.

#3: There once was a poet named…”

Each poet must pull a word out of their butt. That word becomes the subject of their limerick. The more risqué the five-line poem, the more likely they will survive this episode.

#4: Land-ho!

Poets are forced to write a pantoum on a pontoon. Captain Lee of the hit show Below Deck is at the helm as the poet past his prime falls overboard, hits his head, ruins his tweed jacket, and is rushed to the E.R. He’ll return in the next episode, drunker than ever and without his tweed jacket.

#5: Haiku you?

The remaining contestants must write a haiku again. This time, there’s a catch. They must convince a stranger, preferably one they meet on a bus, to allow them to tattoo the three lines somewhere on their body. Former reality star and tattoo artist Kat Von D of LA Ink stands by to assist.

#6: It’s sonnet as easy as it appears.

While blindfolded, poets are divided into two groups. They must work in teams to pen a sonnet at sunset. They’re not allowed to reference light or lack thereof, or use any noun or verb beginning with the letter “S” or “R.”

#7: One part inspiration, but mostly perspiration.

Remaining poets are given $100 and let loose in a bookstore. They have five minutes to purchase inspiration for their next poem. The self-absorbed Morinda buys up copies of her latest chapbook, Windmills, writes a poem she entitles “Ottoman or footstool, you decide” and is promptly voted off the show. 

#8: Because I could not stop for Death.

We see a close-up of horses’ hooves clopping along city streets and coming to rest before the poets’ place. Contestants climb aboard Emily Dickinson’s leisurely carriage ride. They pass by everything familiar only to disembark at their future graves. There, amidst stone and moss, they tackle death and loss with only pen and paper.

#9: Woo-Hoo, William Carlos Williams!

This week, contestants are whisked away in red wheelbarrows and dropped off at a farm. Sitting on bales of hay, they must create prose poems as Vicki Gunvalson of The Real Housewives of Orange County arrives and starts chattering about her ex-boyfriend and how she can’t believe he faked cancer. Vicki is holding white chickens to her plunging neckline glazed in gold. So much depends upon whether or not their poem makes her toss a chicken into the air and shout out her trademark, Woo-Hoo! The poet who commands the biggest Woo-Hoo! is wheeled away and gets five blessed, camera-free hours in the retreat cabin. The losers must find their own way back.

#10: Are you botched, baby?

Poetry, as you may have noticed by now, lends itself well to crossover shows and so plastic surgeons and Bravolebrities abound in this series. In this episode, Botched stars Dr. Terry Dubrow and Dr. Paul Nassif thrust a mangled poem under the noses of the remaining contestants. The poets must salvage what they can and fix it. The hitch? They have one hour and must do it while under anesthesia and the watchful eyes of the plastic surgeons. Viewers will be transfixed, wondering, can this botched poem be saved?

#11:  Wait, er, I heard a fly buzz…

The season finale culminates in the greatest crossover show ever. After the final four poets receive fabulous make-overs, hosts Sharon and Billy pair the poets with a Top Chef contestant to create a meal that evokes the taste of their latest poem. But wait! There’s one final twist. Dressed as Walt Whitman, Bravoleb and celebrity chef Tom Colicchio bursts on the scene and informs the poets that they must also pair their poem with one of Bethany Frankel’s Skinny Girl cocktails along with a side of Sestina.

The poets serve up their poems, dishes and drinks to the judges—their identities now revealed—and wait for the final verdict. Judge Nene Leeks of Real Housewives of Atlanta points out one poet’s poor decision to pair a simple soup and Skinny Girl Naked Cosmos with a poem layered with meaning. Obsessive compulsive designer Jeff Lewis of Flipping Out flips out over the clean lines of another poet and then berates another for their clunky phrases but, in the next breath, congratulates them for serving their hunkless poo of poetry with meatloaf drenched in gravy. The third and final judge is the entire cast of Vanderpump Rules minus Lisa Vanderpump. Because they are beautiful, young, and stupid, these waiters and waitresses don’t contribute anything of significance other than the hotness factor.

And the final poet left standing is…..well, you’ll just have to produce the show and see who wins.

Reunion Show:

Hosted by Andy Cohen, the cast convenes in a library and argues over the pedagogy of poetry, wrangles over words, such as is bungle better than blunder? Viewers are treated to never-before-seen moments, such as an in-depth and heated discussion between Sal and Al about line breaks and when Madeline, Al, and Belinda confront the very nature of poetry. Naked and afraid in a public, but rarely frequented park, these three contestants create some of the show’s most raw, stark poems.

Final Thoughts/Comments on Casting and Spin-Offs:

If Angela Lansbury isn’t dead, her presence on the show may rope in older viewers. I loved her in Murder, She Wrote, didn’t you?

Bravo should be prepared that Meet the Poets will likely inspire wildly successful spin-offs, such as Meet the Playwrights and Meet the Hic Lit Chicks.

Jennifer Clark is the author of Necessary Clearings (Shabda Press). Her second poetry collection, Johnny Appleseed: The Slice and Times of John Chapman is forthcoming from Shabda Press. Co-editor of the recently released anthology, Immigration & Justice for our Neighbors (Celery City Books), Clark’s work has been published in Columbia Journal, Flyway, Amsterdam Quarterly, Nimrod, and Ecotone, among other places. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.



The possessor is desolate without me: a picture:
                a pickpocketing where the pocket is stolen,
its contents left intact. This is almost about
                            something but then not as I shift to another thing:

another picture: little box like a pin cushion but not
                prickly: lacks tacks. Little box exactly like a mouth,
a compiling of probes, a spattering of spits,
                            clunky clever, and spear empire: except I put it

in my hair: hairbrush now as knot of wood,
                measuring time, wildly wound up self-snarl,
compacted single tangle where the tangles transferred,
                            head to head: half-thief: little half-limbs of its teeth

holding my little hoax-limbs forever lost to their host.
                Every morning, every evening, I endure, indurate
the disquieting comfort of unloaded strands littered
                            in the whisk’s incisors: it’s least of all me, this looped

polluted feast, furred pyre (my excesses are animal)
                plentiful but hunkered in its crenellated pit,
silver-plattered skin-lint caked on but not seen.
                            Still, it’s loaded with me not meaning, just look:

the pawn in action: Topical (touch), internalized (touch),
                I tend to you, you tend to me. We get put together,
tethered together: a picture. What possesses who:
                            who possesses what: in ritual, the object owns you.

A bust: in my palm, not a portal, not a blotter,
                but just a handle, anodyne, a small bundle to hold
on to, calm you. Its tracery nonplussed—down-slick
                            of the nestling spikes then an untouched up (little

nest tasked with the build-up of itself)—undrawing
                the drawn-on. Not a dupe, not quite doubling not unless
I say this brush and this brushing press, trammel, cradle
                            wield, arrest like a reliquary its remnants: of mimicry:

of strata: my motions; unless I say the receptacle
                bottles up its fondles, my fist-givings, these filaments.
Ceremonious and amniotic, what’s more maimed
                            than the miracle of birthing worth. Preened moments

aren’t whole if you picture them, take their picture. You take
                a step back—a scalping lacks tact—lacerations are never
exact except in the bull’s eye, the surgical eye, the camera
                            snap. The deeds I do every day are flotsam, off-floating

in a shrill feed of filigreed pictures wherein I forget them
                instantly. I lance them with my half-self, my sequential
objector: yes, to save time, this is about time. It’s about time
                            to say I’m obeisant to my little boxes, my watches,

the numbers that tick on the wall, these shiny tresses.
                I love the clutter of curls. But before you know it: you get
careened into the routine of touch & go: I reach into my
                            pocket for meaning, for something familiar to my finger-

tips, a key or coin, a ready token to momentarily believe in,
                something all core, a discombobulated pearl whose shape
is thorough enough, burrowed well enough for warmth
                            though you don’t have time to fully recognize its round

ness, its balled-up body, so go on, and on with blind findings:
                a picture of a picked pocket is just a pocket: I get ready here
for the metaphor where there is none. Where there is none,
                        I get ready to go and go out and I’m going and (I’m) unraveling

and here I am.

Kristina Martino is a poet and visual artist. She studied at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Some of her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in BOAAT, Third Coast, Bennington Review, and elsewhere. Some of her drawings can be viewed here:

An almost imperceptible percussiveness

What is the decibel of a sigh? How loudly
must disappointment teakettle before you
clap hands to ears and cringe? The rasp of a
rasp, a long obsession. Daydreams thunder in
wild herds. You breathe like one setting
down a colicky baby, finally still, still, you
hear each exhalation, dry fingers drawn down
silk, a catching and a tearing. Your whole
being pants against you, the most faithful of
dogs. Listen to regret, welling like a glass
rim, a wet finger circling round.

(after Doug Wheeler’s Installation “PSAD Synthetic Desert III”)

Devon Balwit is a mother/teacher/poet from Portland, OR. She has two chapbooks: How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press) & Forms Most Marvelous (forthcoming with dancing girl press). Her work has found many homes, among them: Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Peacock Journal, The Cincinnati Review, The Stillwater Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Red Earth Review, Panoplyzine, and The Inflectionist Review.

The Second Death

imagine a warship—heavy with cannons, overgrown
with gold. imagine its heavy body, its mossy stomach—

dipping in and out of the water like a swan.
imagine the first voyage—the dock a confetti

of color. a girl blows a kiss—her breath
mixing with the spray. remember how mermaids wink

from the ship’s prow, how sea monsters snarl from the bulwark.
this—and a fracture point, a top heavy curl into the deep,

a nautical mile of fright and gulp and salt
salt salt. the metal weeps in the bay—think

sunk. the warship is a treasure of bones, of muskets drowned—
nestling beneath the navy yard, the harbor’s sweet neck.

the ship sits still through the storms—its ropes fraying
like satin ribbons. this is the second death, the waiting,

breathless, the constant decay and bringing back.
when the draining begins, the Vasa catches its breath.

and the crumbling begins. the wood unlearns the water.
hisses in the Swedish wind. forget its mossy stomach,

shrugging off a confetti of barnacles. forget the swan.
forget it was meant to swim. forget that the muskets

drowned. the metal gutted and worth nothing but rust,
fright, gulp, and salt—unfound, unlearning.

Sara Ryan is a second-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate poetry editor for Passages North. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Storm Cellar, Tinderbox, New South, Third Coast, Slice Magazine, Fairy Tale Review and others.

Gertrude Complex

How child-like is dirt, and then
death, how my child
asks about death or dirt and I want
to say something that makes sense.

If I were a really good atheist, I would
want him to know the earthworm
he holds out on his pudgy index
finger is something like, king-like, of a king

and all of that. But we both know,
you and I know, or maybe only I think
this isn’t any comfort. Give me
a way to say yes, there is a window

and yes, when I die I will watch you,
keep watching you, and I won’t let
even this worm near that little face. Not
even any God or dusty breeze. Not any.

Give me a window, not metaphor,
not ghost, not particle or microbe, not
shimmer of the perfect: window. I want to see
someone watching. Because that is all I want

to watch, too— be allowed to
watch. When my son asks will I die
before him and I say yes, if I were
a good atheist I would let this rest, talk

about dirt, of dust, of the smallest breath,
the lasting footprint. No. No.
Not this time. This is what we do,
what I do, maybe not what you do, what

I do as a mother. Play it long
and shadowed until: Belief
comes in the next generation.


Sara Moore Wagner is a Pushcart nominated poet whose work has appeared most recently in Lingerpost, Reservoir, The Wide Shore, and the Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Her chapbook, Hooked Through, is forthcoming from Five Oaks Press in early 2017. She lives in Cincinnati with her filmmaker husband Jon and their children, Daisy and Cohen.

A Girl Looks Spirited When the Candle Flickers

on her face. The shadow of the moment flickers with it.
Every moment has a winter. A space within us is flurrying with snow.

In a dream, I think, I must have loved once;
on top of the stones’ endless staying, I loved him.

A photograph where he walks away
down an endless wooden path leading only to the sea,

which was infinite and cold and in which I was alone.
The only human alive for years in that sea.


Kallie Falandays is the author of Dovetail Down the House. You can read her work in Day One, Black Warrior Review, The Journal, and elsewhere. She runs Tell Tell Poetry.