By Leah Umansky

        Game of Thrones

In this story, she is fire-born:
knee-deep in the shuddering world.

In this story, she knows no fear,
for what is fractured is a near-bitten star,
a false-bearing tree,
or a dishonest wind.

In this story, fear is a house gone dry.
Fear is not being a woman.

I’m no ordinary woman, she says.
My dreams come true.

And she says and she is
and I say, yes, give me that.

(Today’s poem originally appeared via The Poetry Foundation/POETRY Magazine and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Leah Umansky’s first book of poems, Domestic Uncertainties, is out now by BlazeVOX [Books.] Her Mad-Men inspired chapbook, Don Dreams and I Dream is forthcoming from Kattywompus Press in early 2014. She has been a contributing writer for BOMB Magazine’s BOMBLOG and Tin House, a poetry reviewer for The Rumpus and a live twitterer for the Best American Poetry Blog. She also hosts and curates the COUPLET Reading Series. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Thrush Poetry Journal, Similar Peaks and The Brooklyn Rail.

Editor’s Note: Ah, Khaleesi. Who doesn’t love her?! What an inspirational female role model, as Leah Umansky deftly expresses with today’s selection. The poet has taken a pop culture icon (of both the literary and television varieties) and brought her deeply into the realm of poetry, expressing the character’s strengths and struggles in beautiful, captivating lyric. Whether you are an avid fan of the Song of Ice and Fire series (now lovingly known as Game of Thrones, thanks to HBO) or you are unfamiliar with the stories, this is a poem we can all latch on to, can all love. How beautiful Umansky’s Khaleesi is, being “fire-born [and] knee-deep in the shuddering world,” how strong she is as she teaches us that “Fear is not being a woman.”

And may I take a moment to say how awesome POETRY Magazine has become since taking on its newest editor? I can hardly imagine today’s poem seeing the light of day in POETRY’s pages a year ago. And now it shares a home with poets such as CA Conrad and Ocean Vuong; it has finally become a publication that I am excited to read.

Want to read more by and about Leah Umansky?
Leah Umansky’s Blog
Buy Domestic Uncertainties from BlazeVOX [Books]
Thrush Poetry Journal
Brooklyn Rail
Poetry Crush
Buy Domestic Uncertainties from Powell’s Books


By Alice Jones:

Parting the grass to find snakes

We wanted up and they went down
                  wandering into the core
                  they always wanted
to go there, it’s the journey
                  you never pretended to take
                                inward, fruitful
        and winding

Cradle the moon on your belly

Held like a baby, a basket
                  of bruisable fruits
                  unpronounced ones
sweeter than you imagined
                           indefensible rind
                                we like peeling
                  we like thinking of eating

Black dragon swishes tail

Time catches up
                  and he’s bruising
keep dancing, you’ll charm him
                                he’ll watch

Lion shakes head

                  Are you sorry or hungry?
we gather whatever
finds us, gazelles
                  stronger than they look
                           sudden, the nightfall around here

Wild horse leaps the creek

Fly along and somebody
                  won’t catch you, skyborn
                            going out
the ears curved pathways
                           have you heard this before
                                a fairy tale
                  is always retold

(Today’s poems originally appeared in Extreme Directions: The 54 moves of Tai Chi Sword (Omnidawn, 2002), and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Alice Jones’ books include The Knot and Isthmus from Alice James Books, Extreme Directions from Omnidawn, and Gorgeous Mourning from Apogee Press. Poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Volt, Boston Review, Colorado Review, and Denver Quarterly. She is a co-editor of Apogee Press.

Editor’s Note: Intimate, simple, and elegant, the poems in Alice Jones’ Extreme Directions: The 54 moves of Tai Chi Sword are reflections on the practice of Tai Chi Sword, Chinese brushstroke painting, and human experience. Reminiscent of the peaceful quiet of Haiku, Jones’ poetry contemplates large ideas from a meditative space, asking questions such as “Are you sorry or hungry?” and breathing through answers with a Zen-like acceptance; “we gather whatever / finds us.”

A Note About the Omnidawn Series: Recently I attended a reading of Omnidawn-published poets at New York’s Poets House. The evening was filled with incredible talent and a palpable dedication to the craft of poetry that I wanted to share with you. I am honored that Omnidawn was willing to partner with me for this series, and am thankful to the poets who have agreed to share their work here so that I may help spread the word both about Omnidawn Publishing and about the talented writers they support.

Want to see more by and about Alice Jones?
Buy Extreme Directions from Omnidawn
“Spell” in Narrativce Magazine
Interim Magazine
Excerpt from Gorgeous Mourning (Apogee Press)
Buy Gorgeous Mourning from Apogee
“Idyll” in Boston Review
“Vault” in Boston Review
Alice James Books


by Dorothea Grossman

It was your idea
to park and watch the elephants
swaying among the trees
like royalty
at that make-believe safari
near Laguna.
I didn’t know anything that big
could be so quiet.

And once, you stopped
on a dark desert road
to show me the stars
climbing over each other
like insects
like an orchestra
thrashing its way
through time itself
I never saw light that way

(“The Two Times I Loved You the Most In A Car” previously appeared in Poetry Magazine and Askew Poetry, and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

Dorothea Grossman: I have no bio for Dorothea Grossman, who is a bit of an enigma, but you can read an interview with her from Poetry Magazine here.

Editor’s Note: Some poems speak for themselves. And if the poet herself doesn’t need a bio, perhaps it’s evidence that this poem doesn’t need me to say much, if anything, on its behalf. I will say only that I love the simplicity, the way this poem evokes a kind of nostalgia that most everyone can relate to, and I must compliment the poet on a killer end line.

Want to read more by and about Dorothea Grossman?
Poetry Magazine
The Outlaw Poetry Network
Video: Dorothea Grossman and Michael Vlatkovich


(After Mustafa Zvizdic)
by H. L. Hix

I didn’t mean to fall away.
I own no whit of defiance.
I am, though, afraid of everything.
Others have a lucky amulet
attached to their key chain, or,
on a necklace they wear every day,
a ring from a lover. I have my fear.
I carry it in my left front pocket,
always, because (of course)
I am afraid to leave it behind.
I couldn’t carry it with me like this
without naming it, so I call it Kasimir,
because it resembles a Russian nobleman
out of Chekhov, with serfs who scythe
his sazhens and sazhens of wheat,
but for whom each year it proves
harder and harder to find credit,
and whose estate falls each year
further, more utterly, into disrepair.
It’s me in Benton’s “Persephone,”
keeping a tree between myself
and the most exquisite human body
I will be near ever, making sure
she doesn’t know I am there,
afraid to speak, afraid to ask her name.
And I talk to myself, out loud,
when no one is near (and no one ever is).
How could they not distrust you,
you who cannot look yourself in the eye?
Even in first grade your fear was visible,
and gave away to Miss Cassandra
the failures she rightly foretold.

So I slip through the party,
shuffling sideways, with my arms
above my head to avoid bumping
an elbow that would slosh someone’s drink,
hoping to get out the door
without Whoever Notices noticing.

(“First Confession from Harvey of the Pious and Patriotic Hix Family” was originally published in The Offending Adam, and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.)

H. L. Hix’s most recent book is a “selected poems” entitled First Fire, Then Birds: Obsessionals 1985-2010. Others of his recent poetry collections include Incident Light, Legible Heavens, and Chromatic (a finalist for the National Book Award). His books of criticism and theory include As Easy As Lying, Spirits Hovering Over the Ashes: Legacies of Postmodern Theory, and Morte d’Author: An Autopsy. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas, and currently teaches in the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Wyoming. More information is available at his website:

Editor’s Note: What a heartbreaking work of human genius. How brutally honest Hix is–not only with himself–but with his readers. Keenly observant of both his own inner workings and of the world around him, the narrator notes that while some carry a trinket for luck or love, he carries his fear–keeping it with him always because (of course) he is afraid to leave it behind. The mindset driving this piece is almost palpable. I know and love people who approach life in this way, and I have had my own moments of awkwardly trying to escape a room, “hoping to get out the door without Whoever Notices noticing.” Relatable in its content, today’s poem is also embellished with moments of brilliant and beautiful language and imagery. My personal favorites: “a tree between myself / and the most exquisite human body / I will be near ever, making sure / she doesn’t know I am there, / afraid to speak, afraid to ask her name,” and “I talk to myself, out loud, / when no one is near (and no one ever is).”

Want to read more by and about H. L. Hix?
Like Starlings
Poetry Foundation
Connotation Press

“Blowfly” by Andrew Hudgins


by Andrew Hudgins

Half awake, I was imagining
a friend’s young lover, her ash blonde hair, the smooth
taut skin of twenty. I imagined her
short legs and dimpled knees. The door scraped open,
but eyes closed, I saw nothing. The mattress sagged.
She laid her head on my chest, and murmured love
against my throat, almost humming, approaching song,
so palpable I could hold her only chastely,
if this was chaste. I couldn’t move my hand
even to caress her freckled shoulder.
So this is how imagination works, I thought,
sadly. And when at last she spoke,
she spoke with the amused voice of my wife,
my wife who was at work but also here,
pleased at the confusion she was causing.
This is a lesson about flesh, isn’t it?
I asked. Blowfly, she whispered on my throat
as we made tense, pensive love. Blowfly, blowfly. READ MORE