By Nicole Rollender

Behind my father’s house, the lake is stained
with floating water lilies, where deep marsh grass smells

like want. Where we’re always returning. Swan wings extended,
a flash of white and water. My father, now blind in one eye,

doesn’t know what chartless world he’ll enter tomorrow.
These flowers, here now, will die by week’s end. I understand why at night

they close so slowly, sinking under moon drift and leaf fall. He watches
a snapping turtle cross the lake, a slow, even trailing – its weighted body

knows how to cross waters, unsinking. Yet, my father’s journey
still ripens. Unmoored, he walks the yard, seeking the self

who has already walked up the mountain path toward a village,
its gate festooned with red flags and bells. And a woman holding a wash

basin filled with oil and flowers, a bread basket. He creates and creates
these streets, hung with paper lanterns, windows open, fountains flowing

with the passage of time. From the gates, what man will emerge?
Will he always wonder how his life was chosen for him?

Underwater, the lilies’ stalks will curl up, submerging and holding
the pollinated flower heads. As something beautiful dies,

it makes another kind of rapture: From bees’ flight, the flower petals
browning into thick seed pods (oh, the memory of their fragrance) will burst

into the lake, the old lily falling apart and drifting. His chance
for survival is remembered joy: Live your life as if pulling from a well

inside yourself. For you are alone, and within you is all of your past
and all of what will come. Live your depths over and over with gratitude.

Behind the shed, he finds a deer skull resting on moss, stippled
with evening light, and then rain. Here now, he’s swept away,

swept away.

“The Forms of Seeking” appears here with permission from the poet.

Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of Stars (forthcoming July 2015, dancing girl press & studio), Little Deaths (forthcoming November 2015, ELJ Publications) and Arrangement of Desire (Pudding House Publications). She is the recipient of CALYX Journal’s 2014 Lois Cranston Memorial Prize, the 2012 Princemere Journal Poetry Prize, and Ruminate Magazine’s 2012 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize for her Pushcart Prize-nominated poem “Necessary Work,” chosen by Li-Young Lee. Her poetry, nonfiction and projects have been published or are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Alaska Quarterly Review, Creative Nonfiction, Radar Poetry, Ruminate Magazine, PANK, Salt Hill Journal and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. She received her MFA from The Pennsylvania State University, and currently serves as media director for Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches Magazine, which recently won a Jesse H. Neal Award.

Editor’s Note: I suggest you curl up with today’s poem as you would with a good book. Read and reread until its thick layers enfold you. Read once for sound. For music and alliteration. Read once for story. For the father and the momentary windows that open into his life. Read once for structure. For form. Then read several times for beauty. Because “As something beautiful dies, // it makes another kind of rapture.” Because this poem wants you to “Live your life as if pulling from a well // inside yourself.” Give this poem enough of yourself to discover all that it offers in return. Then go forth and “Live your depths over and over with gratitude.”

Want more from Nicole Rollender?
Nicole Rolldener’s Official Website
Heron Tree
Quail Bell Magazine
Hermeneutic Chaos


Karen Paul Holmes with roses

By Karen Paul Holmes:


Last evening, I placed fresh towels on both dog beds
heard scratching and rearranging in the night.
This morning, each dog lay curled
into a circle of towel
like a bird’s nest.

How life loves
a circle:
the sun
cups of tea
pizza, roses, embraces
wedding rings, cathedral domes, bells
with notes radiating like ripples from skipped stones
the egg, the womb, the opening, downy heads
suckling mouths, breasts, eyes filled
with delight for bubbles
and bouncing balls.

Why do we box ourselves into corners
put our babies into rectangular cribs
build square houses and boxy buildings
drive cars to perpendicular crossroads
stare at newspapers, monitors, dollars
go to our rest in hard-edged coffins
slowly lowered into matching graves?

It’s a comfort
to imagine our rounded bones
becoming round bits of the globe
our spirits rising to orbit among spiral galaxies
joining those who completed the circle before us.


I didn’t know what crimes they committed,
didn’t want to: those 12 guys glaring at me,
wondering what I had in store.

No female had taught there before
so I wore a calf-length, shapeless dress;
no make up; tortoise shell glasses instead of contacts.

Twice a week, iron gates banged behind me,
paperwork shuffled, an armed guard took me down
a warren of halls. He stationed himself by my door.

I needn’t have worried–soon knew, just as told,
if one prisoner caused trouble, he’d be jumped
by the others grateful for the chance of a college degree.

This was music appreciation. None knew the classics,
but one had played William Tell Overture in band.
All began to embrace opera, symphony, sonata—

I think the music transported them, comforted
even as they struggled to study in noisy rows of bunks.
One evaluation stays with me 30 years later,

Thanks be to God for blessing us with Mrs. Holmes.
But I felt blessed early in the semester:
We arrived at Mozart Piano Concerto Number 21.

Their books covered just the first movement, yet
I left the record playing into the second, saying,
You’ve got to hear a bit of the andante.

Muted violins conjured the ethereal melody while
repeated notes in the violas mesmerized.
After the pianist took up the solo for several bars,

I reached out to lift the needle… Twelve students
—no longer thief, mugger, murderer—
sang out in unison, No, leave it on!

“Drawn into Circles” was first published in Poetry East and appears in the collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” was first published in POEM. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Karen Paul Holmes is the author of the poetry collection, Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), which tells a story of loss and healing “with grace, humor, self-awareness and without a dollop of self-pity,” according to Poet Thomas Lux. Karen received an Elizabeth George Foundation emerging writer grant in 2012. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, POEM, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Every Day Poems, The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia, and the forthcoming anthology of Georgia poets from Negative Capability Press.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poems shed new light on existence, demanding that we reconsider our human condition. “Drawn into Circles” deftly considers both the concept of the ‘circle of life’ and the roundness of nature versus the right angles of the man-made world. “How life loves / a circle: / the sun… the egg, the womb, the opening.” So “[w]hy do we box ourselves into corners / put our babies into rectangular cribs / build square houses and boxy buildings”? “It’s a comfort / to imagine our rounded bones… joining those who completed the circle before us.” While “Teaching Mozart in Stone Mountain Prison” engrosses us in a moving narrative that forces us to forfeit our assumptions and accept the beauty of being human. Both poems demand a second read, and a third, and neither poem leaves us quite the same as we were before we encountered them.

Want more from Karen Paul Holmes?
Buy Untying the Knot from Amazon
simply communicated, inc.
Interview with Karen Holmes on NetWest Writers
Reality Show: Save This Marriage on SoundCloud
Kentucky Review


JVW by John H. White

By Jacinta V. White

Dangerous, wanted
Endangered, hunted
Beauty protected
             You, young
                          Black man
Stand in courage
             In love
             In honor
             In glory
Forget put upon shame
Young man stand
             In beauty
             In strength
             In dignity
Stripped and threatened
Generations down
                                       Hands down
Young black man
             Brother, father, husband, son
Stand in your weariness
Stand in your strength
             In your courage
             In your truth
             In your faith
Stand knee high in the depths of your passion
                          Take your crown, young black man
             Wear your crown
Young black man

“Standing in Courage” was originally published by New Verse News and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Jacinta V. White is a NC Arts Council Teaching Artist and the founder of The Word Project. Her chapbook, broken ritual, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Most recently, she has had poems published in, Prime Number Magazine, and What Matters, an anthology published by Jacar Press.

Editor’s Note: “A wild patience has taken me this far…and when freedom is the question it is always time to begin.” So says Adrienne Rich, and your faithful editor agrees. It is time to begin. Speaking up. Speaking out. For freedom, and against injustice.

There is a rich history of poetry in social justice. Of outcries from the poetic heart of humanity for human rights. Since time immemorial poets have used their words to demand equality, whether based on race or class or gender, and from time to time they have even been heard.

Today’s poem takes part in this critical tradition, demanding the world pay attention and that the world order be reversed. It cries out for the oppressed to rise up, not in violent retribution, but in glory. It requires us to admit and to remember, while allowing us our outrage, our grief, and a new hope alike.

Want more from Jacinta V. White?
Jacinta White’s Official Website
Prime Numbers Magazine
The Word Project
Jacinta White on Facebook


photo (1)

By Allie Moreno

I have been stretched like
skin to dry in the sun
I am a blanket
I’m a tightrope
a staircase
a palace of forgotten
a sandcastle exposed in the wind
I love and
cover you

I have filled all the glasses
on the table
I have eaten what is
left on every plate
to be free of it

I have swallowed your
skeletons on cue
I should probably apologize
for complaining
but I’m the parade and the rain

“Too Much of a Good Thing” appears here today with permission from the poet.

Allie Moreno spends her daytime hours writing for a large tech company in the San Diego area. She received an MFA in Writing from UC San Diego and sometimes writes poetry from the confines of her cubicle. Allie tends to write about identity, belonging, and her experience as a trans-racial adoptee.

Editor’s Note: Simple, straightforward, and full of evocative imagery, today’s poem takes us inside the world of one who has lived for another. Stretched tight, walked upon, now disappearing grain by grain, “a sandcastle exposed in the wind.” To give love is not enough, when in so doing we give too much of ourselves. In end end we are almost left with a woman’s tendency to apologize for herself, but instead we are left with a counterweight. A provocative image slightly obscured. What is a woman when she is “the parade and the rain”?

Want to read more by Allie Moreno?
Allie Moreno’s Blog
Interview: Allie Moreno’s Adoption Experience



By Laura E. Davis:




about their cocks, naming
names—Rebecca, Elizabeth,
Ashley—we see these girls
all lined up, waiting to admire

the boys’ cocks. And the boys
talk about size of their cocks,
seven inches becomes ten, then
thirteen. They tell us how

they measured their cocks
after their first wet dream: they
woke up sweaty, quick-covered,
got their cocks hard again, pulled

out the ruler. Boys and cocks
everywhere. A boy shows his
cock to a girl on the playground.
Another boy watches girls from

a parked car while he touches
his cock. On the subway, boys
unzip their pants, put cocks
on display. Baby boys discover

their tiny cocks during every
diaper change. I didn’t see
my own clit was until I was
twenty-three. I had to hold

a mirror just to see it rise
like slow-motion stalagmite.
Had to hold back my own skin
just to show it to myself.


woman as human being.smaller

“Attitudes Toward Sex” was originally published in iARTistas. “The Boys Are Always Talking” was originally published in Muzzle. “Woman as Human Being” was originally published in Toad Journal. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Laura E. Davis is the author of Braiding the Storm (Finishing Line, 2012), founding editor of Weave Magazine, and founder of Submission Bombers. Her poems are featured or forthcoming in Toad, Stirring, Corium Magazine, So to Speak, Muzzle, and others. Laura teaches for Poetry Inside Out, a K-12 a bilingual poetry program in San Francisco, where she lives with her partner, Sal.

Editor’s Note: This week I had the honor of working with an artist to create an artistic response to the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. I have already written an editorial response to the ruling, but I wanted to speak out against this injustice in many ways, through many voices.

Today’s poems speak for womankind. They speak for our bodies, for our vantage point within a man’s world. When read together today, they are meant to be a shout from the rooftops. That no one exercises control over our bodies but ourselves. That we are human beings whose rights are superior to the rights of corporations. Yes, that we are human beings. Beautiful, complex, powerful human beings who are as capable of a battle cry as we are of “a vigorous and radiant sigh.”

Want to read more by Laura E. Davis?
Dear Outer Space – Laura E. Davis’ Blog
“Quiet Lightning” on Youtube
Buy Braiding the Storm from Finishing Line Press
“Relics” in Sundress
“Vessels” and “Red Storm” in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review



By Jenny Sadre-Orafai

When I miss her, I open my popout map.
I spill my face into the streets of Tehran.
I hide in Laleh Park. I read street names
aloud, like I’m reporting to someone.
I pretend I see things no one else can─
who took the Peacock Throne, how the burnt
city fell. I say Karaj like I’m telling you your future.

Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of four chapbooks. Her first collection Paper, Cotton, Leather will be published this fall by Press 53. Recent poetry has appeared in Redivider, Thrush Poetry Journal, PANK, Rhino, Sixth Finch, ILK, iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, and Poemeleon. Recent prose has appeared in The Rumpus, The Toast, and Delirious Hem. She is co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.

Editor’s Note: I fell in love with today’s poem because it so intimately and distinctly tells the poet’s story, and yet, this is not her story. I have my own Karaj, and anyone who has ever loved a city that lies on the other side of the world—anyone who has ever loved a city by way of memory and longing—speaks the language of this poem. I am reminded, too, of Danusha Laméris’ beautiful poem, “Arabic,” of the ways in which love—of a language, of a people, of a place—remain with us across the span of distance and time. When Jenny Sadre-Orafai leaves us with her (killer!) end-line, I know what my future holds. I know what city waits for me on distant shores.

Want to read more by Jenny Sadre-Orafai?
Official Website
Two poems with audio in PANK
Creative nonfiction essay with audio in The Rumpus


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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”



By Megan Volpert:

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Today’s poems are from Only Ride, published by Sibling Rivalry Press, copyright © 2014 by Megan Volpert. “You are suspended” was first published in This assignment is so gay, edited by Megan Volpert and published by Sibling Rivalry Press. These poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Only Ride: If Denis Johnson had written Tuesdays with Morrie, it’d feel like Megan Volpert’s book of prose poems. Clawing its way out through this minimalist checklist of suburban malaise is an emphatically optimistic approach to growing up. These tiny essays carefully detail how to avoid becoming one’s parents, how to manage a body addled by disease, and how to keep having the best possible time in life. After all: this is the only ride there is, and we can only ride it. Volpert’s is a story of Springsteenian proportions, a gentleman’s guide to rebellion complete with iron horses and the church of rock & roll.

Megan Volpert is the author of five books on communication and popular culture, most notably about Andy Warhol. She has been teaching high school English in Atlanta for the better part of a decade, and is currently serving as her school’s Teacher of the Year. She edited the American Library Association-honored anthology This assignment is so gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching, which is currently a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Predictably, is her website.

Editor’s Note: Megan Volpert’s Only Ride is a no-holds-barred journey through personal history, with sage wisdom bursting from its rough-and-tumble seams. The book is less Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and more Get a Grip and Ride Like it’s Your Only Ride. This is a book about how to live life. Suck it up and move past the childhood issues that scarred you. Don’t just cope with illness, thrive in the face of it. Live life full throttle no matter what it throws at you, because life is short and living demands fierce courage.

Throughout her journey Volpert takes personal and political stands, inspiring her readers to do the same. Sometimes you’ve just gotta smash things, because “a deep frustration that hurls pottery against the concrete floor… is not the thing to bottle up in shame.” Sometimes a teacher has a responsibility to teach more than just standard curriculum. As “the only openly queer faculty member in [a] public Southern high school,” Volpert is “fully equipped to teach both English & tolerance,” and she’ll write a student up for failing the latter.

Brimming with humor and hubris and wicked wit, the greatest gift of this book is the life lessons it relays. Stand up for what you believe in. Move past life’s bullshit and face adversity with a battle cry. Let go of the small stuff. “Many things annoy me,” Volpert confides, “but I seldom get really angry because now I just feel so lucky to be alive.” And we all should, the implication echoes. In a world where “[d]eath knocks twice: once for introductions & once to take you away,” why waste your precious life letting things get your goat? Having faced death, the poet gave her goat away; she has no goat to give. And we would all be well served to follow her example. “After all: this is the only ride there is, and we can only ride it.”

Want to see more from Megan Volpert?
Official Website
This assignment is so gay
Sibling Rivalry Press