Picture 1

Edited by Tanya Chernov
Selected Poems From the Anthology By Sivan Butler-Rotholz:


[My father taught me] every time you breathe in,
say thank you. Every time you breathe out, say goodbye.

                                                                             —Li-Young Lee

The thing about my father is I wear my sadness like the inside of a jar.
How can you not see inside of it? How the slightest bit of air destroys me.
How I love him so much          I struggle

                           to love him

                                                                    at all.


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and in this way the world was created.

ii. Definitions

“Wife”:           The person I love most
                         in the world.

“Death”:         He is not here
                         in this hole
                         in the ground
                         piled with dirt
                         and seashells.

“Mother”:       Inlaid tongue.

“Wedding”:    When I was young I liked to play ‘wedding’ and my father would walk me                          down the aisle and it’s a good thing he did then because
                         Flowers are like that.

“How”:            We go on

“Flowers”:      Are not stones.

“One God”:     Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.

Today’s poems are from The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss, available by donation on Smashwords and Amazon. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

The Burden of Light: Part poetry anthology, part field guide, part multimedia art collection, The Burden of Light offers its readers companionship through the darkest days. With work by artists who have confronted serious illness or grief in their own lives, the poems and artwork in these pages hold the power to touch the heart, stir the mind, and heal the spirit, each in its own way. These pieces illuminate the vital force of our humanity, while encouraging us to reach out to others in need.

With 100% of the proceeds benefiting the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, even a small donation from one has the power to affect change when added to the contributions of others. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America, yet this cancer is largely preventable when detected early. By supporting the groundbreaking work of the NCCRA, we’re all helping to promote regular medical screening and fund the research needed to develop better tests, treatments, and ultimately, a cure. Just as The Burden of Light is designed to help readers move forward from trauma, so too will donations help those currently experiencing serious illness.

Editor’s Note: Yes, yes, today’s poems are a first here on the Saturday Poetry Series in that they are written by your faithful editor. I am honored to be featured in this anthology alongside a plethora of talented artists, including SPS-beloved poet Peggy Shumaker. But beyond sharing a little of my own work with you here for the first time, I wanted to share with you this important collection.

Whether you purchase it for your Kindle or download it as a PDF, you get to decide how much you want to pay for this anthology, and 100% of the proceeds benefit the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. Via the Kindle edition or PDF you will find links to listen to the poets read their poems aloud, for an added layer of experience and immersion. This is a thoughtful, powerful, philanthropic endeavor with the power to both move the reader and effectuate change.

Check out the full anthology for more poems by yours truly and many more talented poets writing through their own experiences with illness and grief. Please donate what you can, and then go forth and read!

Want more from The Burden of Light?
Download the PDF via Smashwords
Purchase the Kindle edition from Amazon
Listen to “Elegy for the Still Living: Father Cannot Stand Still”
Listen to “Genesis”



Poems of Costa Rica
By Peggy Shumaker


Cousins, then,
the myriad orchids
of the mist forest
and this towering
strangler fig.

Both start
tenuous life
as stowaways
tossed aside
by wind or wing

without anyone’s
high above
the forest floor.

Air plants,
epiphytes, bromeliads
plastered so heavy
some branches
crack, tumble.

But the fig’s patient.
It settles in,
sucks what it can
from leaf rot, from
breaks in bark,

drinks deep
from fine mist.
Then into air
fig tentacles
unfurl, aiming

toward the host’s
small patch of soil.
Fig leaves above
cover all else.
Not out of modesty.

Each fig takes its own
special wasp
to carry on,
wasp that swaps
pollen for protection.

Nearly gone,
the host lingers
within the fig
like the memory
of a difficult parent

who never knew
what she was taking on
when she got you,
mother who resented
being tied down,

mother whose face
you can’t quite
picture, mother
who changed so much
those last years

you barely knew her,
broken mother
asthmatic, wheezy,
who gave her all
so you might live.


The parents, like most parents, yell.
A lot. But little ones hang
by the tips of their tails,

sail off into space, misjudge
the next branch,
crash through

limbs and leaves,

carry on
as if they’ve got a lifetime
maybe more.

Mangoes ripe
right now
drip down their elbows.

has yet
to occur to them.

                              Río Sarapiquí


Purely practical, we know,
her need to hold herself open

to let what sun she can catch
ease the river from her wings.

And yet. And yet.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

See Peggy Shumaker Read in New York 8/20/2013:
Tuesday, August 20th
Word for Word Poetry welcomes Red Hen Press
Bryant Park Reading Room
7:00pm – 8:30pm | Bryant Park Reading Room, 41 W. 40th St.
42nd Street & 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10110
Featuring Peggy Shumaker, Ron Carlson, Evie Shockley, and Tess Taylor

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today’s poems are from Toucan Nest (Red Hen Press, 2013), and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Praise for Toucan Nest: “This is a book of burnished, lapidary attention. Its poems—vibrant with seeing, quickened with soundwork, subtled by insight—peel open landscapes both outer and inner. The costs of our human presence and extractions are in these pages, but also the radiant return of human awareness. Toucan Nest is a unique account of encounter, imaginative inquiry, and expansion.” — Jane Hirshfield, author of After and Given Sugar, Given Salt

Peggy Shumaker is Alaska State Writer Laureate. Her most recent book of poems is Gnawed Bones. Her lyrical memoir is Just Breathe Normally. Toucan Nest grew from an eco-arts writing workshop in Costa Rica. Professor emerita from University of Alaska Fairbanks, Shumaker teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is founding editor of Boreal Books, publishers of fine art and literature from Alaska. She edits the Alaska Literary Series at University of Alaska Press. Please visit her website at

Editor’s Note: Having had the pleasure of both sharing Peggy Shumaker’s work on the series before and seeing her read, I could not pass up an opportunity to both feature some pieces from Shumaker’s latest collection and to strongly encourage those of you who are in the New York area to go see her read on Tuesday. Red Hen Press is a fantastic publisher renowned for the quality of the women writers they publish, and Shumaker’s reading on Tuesday promises to be both powerful and moving while taking you, as Toucan Nest does, on a vibrant journey.

Want to see more by Peggy Shumaker?
Come see the poet read this Tuesday, August 20th, in Bryant Park
Poet’s Official Website
Author Page at Red Hen Press


By Peggy Shumaker

The morning I was born
                       you held my hand.

The morning you died
                       I held your hand.

What’s left
                       to forgive?

Today’s poem appears in Gnawed Bones (Red Hen Press, 2010), and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Peggy Shumaker is Alaska State Writer Laureate. Her most recent book of poems is Gnawed Bones. Her lyrical memoir is Just Breathe Normally. She’s at work on Toucan Nest, a book of poems set in Costa Rica. Professor emerita from University of Alaska Fairbanks, Shumaker teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is founding editor of Boreal Books, publishers of fine art and literature from Alaska. She edits the Alaska Literary Series at University of Alaska Press.

Editor’s Note: I recently had the extreme pleasure of seeing Peggy Shumaker read with Amber Flora Thomas and Li-Young Lee at New York’s Poets House, at an event sponsored by Red Hen Press. It was one of the most moving and charged readings I’ve attended, and Peggy Shumaker delivered a deliberate, thoughtful performance. Today’s poem was recited from memory—Shumaker’s eyes locked with the audience—and tears ran down my cheeks.

On my way into the world, my father held me. On his way out, I held him. This was a gift. Being a reader and writer of poems is also a gift; an entry into shared experience, an outlet for the personal.

Want to see more by Peggy Shumaker?
Peggy Shumaker Official Website
Purchase Gnawed Bones from Red Hen Press
Read, Watch, and Listen to Peggy’s work online