by Rhiannon Conley

“Did You Know? You can swim through the aorta
of a blue whale.” I watched as two children
swam, their soft hands like fins pushing themselves
out of the open chamber of the imagined whale’s
red ventricle and back into the museum showcase.
The heavy plastic held on to the throb of their laughter.

I could fit, I thought. I could be held in this heart
like blood. I could be pumped through the veins
and organs of the whale, let it take me, flowing,
my arms at my sides gliding head first
through the enormous animal’s body.

Your heart, just the size of your soft infant fist
which fits twofold into my own, holds a small
whispering defect. The pediatrician presses air
between his teeth – tsst tsst – to mimic the sound
he hears on the stethoscope. “It’s nothing,”
he says, “Just relax.” Tsst tsst. Just a leak,
a little mist pressed through a tiny spout,
a space as tight as teeth.

You are supposed to outgrow the hole,
supposed to grow muscle around the flaw,
supposed to be as strong as hard plastic,
the murmur shrinking so that you never
have to think about the way your body
is whispering its defects. I am supposed to relax.

I could fit. Inside your body, remembering how you
once fit into me. I could repair you
with my own body, the way my body prepared you
in the first place, with all your flaws.
The pediatrician says it gets louder – tsst tsst –
as it shrinks. He says your heart is much louder.

I’ll take you someday to see the whale’s heart
and watch as you swim through its ventricles
and out of the oversized aorta like a fish, unaware
of your heart moving blood through your body
like waves, little echoes, like the plastic heart
holding onto your laughter.

Today’s poem previously appeared in Whale Road Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Rhiannon Conley is a poet and writing instructor living in North Dakota. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Her first chapbook, Less Precious, was published by Semiperfect Press in 2017. She currently has work forthcoming in Literary Mama and Longleaf Review. She writes an irregular newsletter of short poetic essays called Smol Talks and more regularly Tweets @RhiannonAdmidas.

Guest Editor’s Note: The echoes throughout this poem are its heart beating, whispering the emotions of the speaker told to relax when listening to a diagnosis of a leak in her daughter’s heart. Like so many mothers, she wants to fix the problem and also shoulder some of the burden. The following lines repeat words and sounds and serve as a mantra that comes from the deepest and most profound feelings of helplessness: “I could fit. Inside your body, remembering how you / once fit into me. I could repair you / with my own body, the way my body prepared you / in the first place, with all your flaws.” The repetition of “body” and “you” is natural, seamless, barely above a whisper. The second appearance of “I could fit” is a rhythmic reminder of the speaker’s profound wish.

The model whale heart is the perfect opening for this poem, set in a familiar place to observe children perhaps on a field trip or visit to the museum. The imagery of swimming through “the imagined whale’s red ventricle” in the first stanza begins a narrative that circulates through thought and lands back on hope for future visits in spite of a mother’s fear. The well-crafted stanzas and lines serve the poem and its theme and create a circular effect that emanates from the narrative, its imagery and metaphors.

Want to read more by and about Rhiannon Conley?
ND Quarterly
Moonsick Magazine
Buy Less Precious from semiperfect press
Smol Talks

Guewst Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.


After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


Portrait of poet Max Ritvo. Photo Credit: Ashley Woo, Ari Ritvo

By Max Ritvo:

Holding a Freshwater Fish in a Pail Above the Sea

He strips health out
of the water,
reminding me
of my mother.

I walk in sea
and hold my sweet
fish above me,
no small feat

given the rice-
hard salt scraping
my eyeballs twice
each blink of lid.

I put the pail
in the ocean
and then unveil
the decorous

frail white-eyed koi.
But the salt, I
think, will destroy
his rocking breath.

Where he wants space
he will get salt.
Where key traces
of the silence

should hang inside
his cathedral
of musical

Instead, delicious
crystal drills
will crack it all
open; the church,

its ebbs and flows.
I scoop the fish
up by its nose,
a forked affair.

I show you him.
Looks fine to me
you say (Ha!), dim
and lovely you.

This happens more
times, stopping and
starting, me showing
you my full hand,

my fish. Where have
you gone? I was
hoping to wake
from this dream

with you drawing
the curtains, a gold
glow on the sheet
wrapping me up.

You aren’t here
but I’m aware
that somewhere
you have moved.

Today’s poem is from Four Reincarnations (Milkweed Editions, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Max Ritvo, and appears here today with permission from Milkweed Editions.

Max Ritvo (1990 – 2016) was an American poet. Milkweed Editions posthumously published a full-length collection of his poems, Four Reincarnations, to positive critical reviews. Milkweed has announced two more books, Letters from Max (co-written with Sarah Ruhl); and a second collection of Ritvo’s poems, The Final Voicemails, forthcoming in 2018. Ritvo earned his BA in English from Yale University, where he studied with the poet Louise Glück, and his MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. In 2014, he was awarded a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook AEONS. He edited poetry at Parnassus: Poetry in Review and was a teaching fellow at Columbia. Ritvo died from Ewing’s sarcoma on August 23, 2016, and is survived by his wife Victoria; his father Edward Ritvo, his mother Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, and his three siblings, Victoria Black, Skye Oryx, and David Slifka. Ritvo’s work has appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and as a Poem-a-day on (Annotated bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Guest Editor’s Note: Knowing about the life and death of the poet can provide a lens through which to read each poem in Max Ritvo’s Four Reincarnations. This poem from the collection, “Holding a Freshwater Fish in a Pail Above the Sea,” offers a number of thematic opportunities, but is most powerful through the biographical filter. The poet controls the language—each word, line, and stanza confounds expectations and inspires repeated visits to the poem and its evocative images.

At the outset, there is fear and love for the fish bound in memory and fear. The gentle rhyming quatrains are almost imperceptible behind the fierceness of feeling, but they provide the rhythm and sway of the water controlling the speaker’s emotions even in a dream state. Shifting awareness supplies a type of psychoanalytic wish fulfillment accompanied by an acceptance of the inevitable.

Each turn in the poem feels natural and effortless within a controlled formal structure, and this makes the emotional charge more concentrated and pungent. The lines “Where he wants space/ he will get salt” are especially potent and seem to anchor the speaker in reality revealed by the metaphors and symbols that emerge from the subconscious. Ritvo’s poem exposes the terror in living a life that ends in death and does so in language that is accessible and miraculous.

Want to read more by and about Max Ritvo?
The Poetry Foundation

Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.


After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB


Wonder Beans
By Janet Kirchheimer

My father went each morning to his garden.
He taught me to smell the soil to see if it was good,
to feel the dirt slide across my hands, to never
wear gloves, to stay in the middle of the row when planting seeds.
We’d look for work to do in the garden,
and sometimes there was nothing more to do
than watch the garden grow, wait for the harvest.
He thought that haricot vert were the dumbest thing he’d ever seen–
he liked his Kentucky Wonder beans, big and bursting with seeds, leaving
them to grow in the summer sun as long as possible.
Last winter he told me we couldn’t save
the parsley from the snow and ice, even though
we put blankets over it.
He got pneumonia in February.
In April, he asked me if I thought he’d get to his garden, and I told him yes.
By the end of May I brought him
cherry tomato plants to keep on the deck.
He no longer had the strength to pick
the first tomatoes that ripened in June.
August: I bring dirt from the garden
to his grave and scatter grass seed.

“Wonder Beans” previously appeared on String Poet and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Janet R. Kirchheimer is the author of How to Spot One of Us, (Clal, 2007). A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in several journals including Young Ravens Literary Review, Atlanta Review, String Poet, Connecticut Review, Kalliope, Common Ground Review, and several anthologies and online journals. Currently, she is producing a poetry performance documentary, After, exploring poetry written about the Holocaust.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is a celebration of life and a poignant reminder that one day we may be remembered by what we love. Through a daughter’s eyes we see a father, watch him plant and grow, watch him love and tend the earth. Through the poet we know what it is for this daughter to love her father, and what it is to lose him. How touching her remembrance, how bittersweet the sting at poem’s end when father is returned to earth.

Want to read more by and about Janet Kirchheimer?
After – A Poetry Film
Young Ravens Literary Review
Collegeville Institute
Podium Literary Journal
Forward’s Schmooze


By Stacy R. Nigliazzo:

“Harvesting Her Heart after the Accident” first appeared in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts/Matter Press. All other pieces are previously unpublished. Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Stacy R. Nigliazzo‘s debut poetry collection Scissored Moon was published in 2013 by Press 53. It was named Book of the Year by the American Journal of Nursing. It was also short-listed as a finalist for the Julie Suk Poetry Prize (Jacar Press) and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award for Poetry/Bob Bush Award. She is co-editor of Red Sky, an anthology addressing the global epidemic of violence against women.

Editor’s Note: Stacy R. Nigliazzo imagines the unimaginable, writes those words which cannot be spoken. An emergency room nurse, it is when her personal losses make their way to the page that her experience becomes poetry, and that poetry becomes an act of healing for poet and reader alike. How visual her imagery, how visceral her grief. And yet her poems leave us not in darkness, but with the necessary reminder that even in our darkest hour there is a “ripple of light.”

Want to read more by and about Stacy R. Nigliazzo?
Stacy Nigliazzo’s Official Website



By Dara Barnat:


I hear you’re gone and I fall with you.

In that place part of me stays,

like a hand in clay,

even as I make rice for dinner, boil water,

measure the grains,

pour wine, set out flowers with all their petals.

The imprint holds the loss of everything.

It holds what we thought was joy.


              Dark is just dark–

rooms and all we’ve built are nothing.

Chairs with their backs, tables with their legs, beds with their heads.

Outside, trees with their leaves.

I can’t write that wood into a vessel

that will carry us to a place

where life is a river never not flowing.

I close my hand around a filament of sun as it filters

through the window, try to catch
              its meaning,

              but light is just light.


There’s no one here, but me
alone. I close

my eyes and try
to remember your face,

its light, your
fingers, their light

touch, your laugh,
the lightness. I say a prayer

that is my own:
May we live

a thousand years together,
in another life.

Today’s poems are from In the Absence (Turning Point Books, 2016), copyright © 2016 by Dara Barnat, and appear here today with permission from the poet.

In the Absence: Dara Barnat’s In the Absence evokes a yearning of the spirit so strong that it becomes presence, its light unstopped.

Dara Barnat is the author of the poetry collection In the Absence (Turning Point, 2016), as well as Headwind Migration, a chapbook (Pudding House, 2009). She also writes critical essays on poetry and translates poetry from Hebrew. Her research explores Walt Whitman’s influence on Jewish American poetry. Dara holds a Ph.D. from The School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University. She currently teaches at Tel Aviv University and Queens College, CUNY.

Editor’s Note: Dara Barnat’s first full-length collection begins by declaring that “Dark is just dark.” But the assertion casts a shadow question: Is dark just dark? For it is light that is at the heart of this work: “I close my hand around a filament of sun as it filters / through the window, try to catch / its meaning, / but light is just light.”

But “light is just light” is no more the truth of these poems — and the poet’s journey that unfolds across them — than “dark is just dark.” This work is neither a book of questions nor of answers. Instead, In the Absence is an honest experience of grief that explores the inevitable, never-ending pilgrimage inherent within loss: “I hear you’re gone and I fall with you. / In that place part of me stays, / like a hand in clay.”

Not since Li-Young Lee’s Rose have I been so slain by a book of mourning. Like Rose, In the Absence mourns the loss of a father while acknowledging that such a loss is anything but simple, that the complications of life remain a reckoning for the living. “The imprint holds the loss of everything. / It holds what we thought was joy.”

Held close within this incredibly moving and painstakingly wrought collection is a poem titled “Walt Whitman.” I had the honor of featuring this poem here on the Saturday Poetry Series in 2013 as I marked my father’s first yahrzeit (Jewish death anniversary). Tomorrow will be five years since my father’s death. What at one year could be commemorated with a single poem, five years later needs an entire book. Such is the nature of grief — it does not diminish; it grows. And in its growing it becomes more painful and more beautiful all at once.

In the Absence transforms the poet’s personal grief into communion. I will re-read this book tomorrow as I remember my father on his five-year yahrzeit, and I will grieve. But, more than that, I will say a prayer that is the poet’s and is my own: “May we live / a thousand years together, / in another life.”

Want more from Dara Barnat?
Buy In the Absence from IndieBound
Buy In the Absence on Amazon
Poems in YEW
Poems in diode
Interview in Poet Lore
Dara Barnat’s Official Website




By Alexis Rhone Fancher:



Midnight, and again I’m chasing
sleep: its fresh-linen smell and
deep sinking, but when I close my eyes I see
my son, closing his eyes. I’m afraid of that dream,
the tape-looped demise as cancer claims him.

My artist friend cancels her L.A. trip. Unplugs the
internet. Reverts to source. If cancer
will not let go its grip, then she will
return its embrace. Squeeze the life out of
her life. Ride it for all it’s worth.

By the time his friends arrive at the cabin
my son is exhausted, stays behind while
the others set out on a hike. He picks up the phone.
“Mom, it’s so quiet here. The air has never
been breathed before. It’s snowing.”

I put on Mozart. A warm robe. Make a pot
of camomile tea. The view from my 8th floor
window, spectacular, the sliver moon, the stark,
neon-smeared buildings, their windows dark.
Sometimes I think I am the only one not sleeping.

My artist friend wants to draw the rain. She
wants to paint her memories, wrap the canvas
around her like a burial shroud.

Tonight, a girl in a yellow dress stands below
my window, top lit by a street lamp, her long shadow
spilling into the street. She’s waiting for someone.

I want to tell my friend I’ll miss her.
I want to tell my son I understand.
I want to tell the girl he won’t be coming.
That it’s nothing personal. He died young.



Despair arrived, disguised as
nine pounds of ashes in a
velvet bag, worried so
often between my fingers
that wear-marks now stain
the fabric.

Is it wrong to sift
the remains of my dead son,
bring my ashen finger to my
forehead, make the mark of
the penitent above my eyes?

His eyes, the brown of mine,
the smooth of his skin, like mine.
Unless I look in the mirror
I can’t see him.

Better he’d arrived
as a snow globe, a small figure,
standing alone at the bottom of his
cut-short beauty.

Give him a shake, and watch
his life float by.



Now the splinter-sized dagger that jabs at my heart has
lodged itself in my aorta, I can’t worry it
anymore. I liked the pain, the
dig of remembering, the way, if I
moved the dagger just so, I could
see his face, jiggle the hilt and hear his voice
clearly, a kind of music played on my bones
and memory, complete with the hip-hop beat
of his defunct heart. Now what am I
supposed to do? I am dis-
inclined toward rehab. Prefer the steady
jab jab jab that reminds me I’m still
living. Two weeks after he died,
a friend asked if I was “over it.”
As if my son’s death was something to get
through, like the flu. Now it’s past
the five-year slot. Maybe I’m okay that he isn’t anymore,
maybe not. These days,
I am an open wound. Cry easily.
Need an arm to lean on. You know what I want?
I want to ask my friend how her only daughter
is doing. And for one moment, I want her to tell me she’s
dead so I can ask my friend if she’s over it yet.
I really want to know.


Today’s poems are from State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies (KYSO Flash, 2015), copyright © 2015 by Alexis Rhone Fancher, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies: “Alexis Rhone Fancher’s book, State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, maps in searing detail a landscape no parent ever wants to visit—a mother’s world after it’s flattened by her child’s death. Though her son’s early passing was ‘nothing personal,’ her poems howl with personal devastation. They insist that the reader take the seat next to hers in grief’s sitting room and ‘imagine him in his wooden forever.’ Fancher grapples with how to reconcile oneself to the slow loss of memory’s fade-out, and with how to go on living without betraying the dead, how to ‘[s]queeze the life out of / her life.’ You’ll need tissues when you read this book, but it’s well worth rubbing your heart raw against the beauty of these poems and their brave, fierce honesty.” — Francesca Bell, eight-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize in poetry, and winner of the 2014 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle


Alexis Rhone Fancher is the author of How I Lost My Virginity To Michael Cohen and Other Heart Stab Poems, (Sybaritic Press, 2014). Find her work in Rattle, Menacing Hedge, Slipstream, Fjords Review, H_NGM_N, great weather for media, River Styx,The Chiron Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have been published in over twenty American and international anthologies. Her photos have been published worldwide. Since 2013 Alexis has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and two Best of The Net awards. She is photography editor of Fine Linen, and poetry editor of Cultural Weekly, where she also publishes The Poet’s Eye, a monthly photo essay about her ongoing love affair with Los Angeles.


Editor’s Note: The poems in today’s collection slew me. Long after I finished reading them, they stayed with me, a specter. As I nursed my young son, worried over his maladies, rejoiced in his small accomplishments, there in the shadows was the poetry of Alexis Rhone Fancher reminding me that life is precious, fleeting, that nothing should be taken for granted, that anything–no matter how dear–can be taken away.

It is impossible not to be moved by these poems. By “a girl in a yellow dress [who] stands below / my window, top lit by a street lamp, her long shadow / spilling into the street… waiting for someone.” By the poet, the mother, who wants “to tell the girl he won’t be coming. / That it’s nothing personal. He died young.” By the admission, “Unless I look in the mirror / I can’t see him.” By the callousness of a friend who would ask if a mother is “over” her son’s death. By a mother’s very human reaction to such a question: “I want to ask my friend how her only daughter / is doing. And for one moment, I want her to tell me she’s / dead so I can ask my friend if she’s over it yet. / I really want to know.”

State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies is raw, brave, honest. It rips you apart as you read it–and leaves you grieving long after–because of the very vulnerable and wounded place from whence the poems arose. This is an incredibly compelling collection that does what lyric, confessional, narrative poetry does best: invites the reader into a human experience that is at once personal and shared, pairing vivid imagery and beautiful language with a story so moving that the reader is forever changed by the very act of having read it.


Want to see more from Alexis Rhone Fancher?
Buy State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies from Amazon
Four poems in Ragazine, including “When I turned fourteen, my mother’s sister took me to lunch and said:,” chosen by Edward Hirsch for inclusion in The Best American Poetry, 2016
Broad (“Dying Young” was first published in Broad)
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s Official Website / link to published works


Jen Karetnick Head Shot

By Jen Karetnick:


phone calls from patients, their parents or partners,
repeating what he has already said half-a-dozen times

in the office—“I know the auras are uncomfortable,
but they’re better than grand mal seizures, and that’s

what the meds will help to prevent”— and dispensing
predictions no one wants to hear—“No, I don’t think

he’ll come home; the stroke was catastrophic”—but
are asked for over and over in the hopes they will change,

while I shush the kids in the backseat, stop them from shouting
with too much apparent joy in their voices, keep the radio

playing Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” turned down. Soon
we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter

herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin
of faith. We will recite the plagues: boils, murrain,

the lice we have been visited by several times this year.
On this night, we will open the door for a rogue spirit

who might drink our wine but not heal vertigo; on this night
we will recline on a pillow that can’t fuse a broken

spine. On this night, the cell phone chirps and sings,
and there are no miracles beyond what can be doctored.


Mother, in your womb I am an experiment.
You pass on not immunity but its silvery underside,
give permission for the needle like an arrow to
birth holes in this temporary home, sip the fluid
like a taster of fine wines without the benefit of
a visible image. No bigger than a black widow
spider, the doctors must guess where I am,
and agree there is nothing to be done.
I am poison to both of us. Unsafe
harbor, you insist on mooring me to
your designated slip, tossed by rash after
rash of storms. I will remove myself early. Still ill,
of course you will not care for me right away. Of all the
eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.


Stamina. From the Latin stamen,
meaning thread of woven cloth. Plant parts
resemble the warp and woof, but old farts?
The boost was designed for the impotent,
not the young at heart. They can’t afford
to see the blue of detached retinas
when the sky has already claimed those hues
and the days for viewing them are numbered.
How ‘bout a pill to make them remember
to take out the garbage or mow the lawn?
One to defoliate the nose hairs grown?
Or better: to spark conversational vigor.
No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on.
This is the last thing, the last thing we want.

“On the Way to Seder, My Husband Answers” was previously published in The Healing Muse. Today’s poems are from the forthcoming collection American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing), and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Jen Karetnick is the author/co-author/editor of 14 books, two of them forthcoming: American Sentencing (poetry, Winter Goose Publishing) and The Treasures That Prevail (poetry, Whitepoint Press). In addition to poetry, she writes lifestyle books, the most recent of which is the cookbook Mango (University Press of Florida, 2014). Her poems, prose and playwriting have been widely published in literary and commercial outlets including, Cimarron Review, december, Miami Herald, North American Review, Poet’s Market 2013, Poets & Writers,, River Styx, Spillway,, Valparaiso Poetry Review and Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Based in Miami with her husband, two teenagers, various rescue pets and 14 mango trees, she works as the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School and as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine.

Editor’s Note: Jen Karetnick expertly catalogues the vast and startling spectrum of life, from the mundane to the monumental, from humor to horror. Amidst the stories that unfold are stunning and heartbreaking moments of lyric: “Soon we will dissect the Seder plate, digest the bitter // herbs, finger the salt dried on the easily torn skin / of faith;” “Of all the / eggs you might have nourished, I am the one who breaks you.” And that beauty is balanced by the hilarious and the absurd. Of viagra, a group of women posit, “How ‘bout a pill to make them remember / to take out the garbage or mow the lawn? / One to defoliate the nose hairs grown? / Or better: to spark conversational vigor. / No chance of that? Then don’t bring it on. / This is the last thing, the last thing we want.”

Want more from Jen Karetnick?
Read poems from Brie Season
Buy Brie Season on Amazon
Buy Prayer of Confession from Finishing Line Press
Buy Landscaping for Wildlife from Big Wonderful Press
Read more of Jen Karetnick’s poems and prose



By Elana Bell:


         The Lord gives everything and charges by taking it back. —Jack Gilbert

I was formed inside the body
of a woman who wanted me
as she wanted her own life,
allowed to drink the milk
made only for me.
I was given mother-love,
its bounty and its cocoon
of those first years without language.
It is right to mourn the rocky hills
of Crete where we walked, my small
hand in hers for hours. The hidden
beach where we swam naked
then baked on the fine sand. Lazy
afternoons in her lap, thick
hand stroking my curls.
Her fingers have stiffened.
In her eyes, the eyes of an animal in pain.
I hold the memory of my mother
against the woman she is.

Today’s poem was originally published by AGNI and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Elana Bell’s first collection of poetry, Eyes, Stones (LSU Press 2012) was selected by Fanny Howe as the winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. She is the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Brooklyn Arts Council. Her work has recently appeared in AGNI, Harvard Review, and the Massachusetts Review. Elana leads creative writing workshops for women in prison, for educators, for high school students in Israel-Palestine and throughout the five boroughs of New York City, as well as for the pioneering peace building and leadership organization, Seeds of Peace. She was a recent finalist for Split This Rock’s inaugural Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism, an award which recognizes and honors a poet who is doing innovative and transformative work at the intersection of poetry and social change. Elana also teaches literature and creative writing at CUNY College of Staten Island and curates public art installations with Poets in Unexpected Places.

Editor’s Note: If I have learned anything from reading Li-Young Lee and Ocean Vuong, it is that great poetry changes the reader. Whenever I read Elana Bell, I am deeply moved in the moment. Many poems do this, and many make it into the pages of this series. But today’s poet has always moved me far beyond the moment of reading. Her words stay with me. Weeks, months, years later, her poems are still a part of me, as if they are my own memories. Once I have read an Elana Bell poem, I have been forever changed.

I first heard the poet read “Elegy for a Mother, Still Living” at NYC’s Bluestockings nearly four years ago, and the poem has never left me. A year later, I wrote “Elegy for the Still Living: Father Cannot Stand Still”, a mourning poem for my father’s illness, named in homage to today’s poem. Years have passed. My father has passed. No elegy I write for him will ever again be “for the still living.” But “Elegy for a Mother, Still Living” remains with me, a memory of a different time, a different kind of mourning.

When I came across today’s poem in AGNI, it was like coming across an old photograph. A commemoration of my own past. A memory like an artifact, layer upon layer of personal significance buried between the lines of someone else’s words, someone else’s experience, someone else’s life. And yet, by the gifted hand of the poet, someone else’s experience has become my own. I am reminded of a line from the musical Wicked: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? (I do believe I have been changed for the better.) But, because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Want more from Elana Bell?
Elana Bells’ Official Website
Academy of American Poets
P.O.P. (Poets on Poetry) Shot and edited by poet and photographer Rachel Eliza Griffiths, P.O.P is a video series featuring contemporary American poets who read both an original poem and a poem by another poet, after which they reflect on their choice.
Poets in Unexpected Places
Buy Eyes, Stones
Reading on PBS



Poems by Dara Barnat; Translations by Sabine Huynh:


We must choose each other
again and again.

The feeling is a brilliant fish
you catch a thousand times.

We must carry each other
like smooth stones
in the palms of our hands –

a familiar feel,
a roundness.


Un poisson moiré
Se choisir l’un l’autre, s’y reprendre
à plusieurs fois.

Cet émoi ressenti face à un poisson moiré
qu’on pourrait attraper des milliers de fois.

tels des galets lisses
dans le creux de la paume –

toucher familier,


Her wide hips remind me
that I was born,
because in photos at twenty
they are still narrow
and slim.

Bending over
and planting roses
she gathers immense joy
from the dirty pebbles
and the new petals.

I hold her basket
like a daughter should
and almost pretend
to smile and be grateful
for the fresh, ripened tomatoes.

Is it with age
that happiness can be found
in growing mint
and drinking ice water
that has collected tiny bugs?

My mother shares soap
with a man who is not my father
but a good man,
waiting inside
to make our sauce.

The basket is now full
and since her joy
takes up the whole garden
there is no room
for my joy.

But she says daughter,
you will have your own life,
and your own garden,
just pray for rain,
and grow your vegetables.


Ses hanches généreuses
me rappellent ma naissance
– dans des photos d’elle à vingt ans
elles sont encore étroites
elle est encore mince.

sur les roses mises en terre
elle recueille une joie immense
des cailloux sales
et des jeunes pétales.

Je lui tiens son panier
telle une fille dévouée
et réussis presque
à sourire de gratitude
pour ces tomates mûres.

Est-ce avec l’âge
que l’on trouve du bonheur
à faire pousser de la menthe
à boire de l’eau glacée
où surnagent des petites bêtes?

Ma mère partage son savon
avec un homme qui n’est pas
mon père, un homme bon,
il attend à l’intérieur
de préparer notre sauce.

Le panier est plein
la joie de ma mère
remplit le jardin
plus de place
pour la mienne.

Alors elle me dit : tu sais ma fille,
tu auras ta propre vie
et ton propre jardin,
prie pour qu’il pleuve
et cultive ton potager.


No one is here, just me,
alone. I close

my eyes and try
to remember your face,

its light, your
fingers, their light

touch, your laugh,
the lightness. I recite a prayer

that is my own:
May we live

a thousand years together
in another life.


Comment prier
pour toi ? Personne

ici, moi
seule. Je ferme

les yeux, tente de voir
ton visage,

sa lumière, tes doigts,

ton rire,
la légèreté. Je récite une prière

qui est mienne:
Puissions-nous vivre

mille ans ensemble
dans une autre vie.

Today’s poems are from Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads, published by Recours au poème éditeurs (2014), and appear here today with permission from the poet.

Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads is a bilingual collection of poems by the American poet Dara Barnat, translated to French by Sabine Huynh. Dara Barnat explores migration (between New York, where she was raised, and Tel Aviv, her adopted city), the experience of being an English-language poet in Tel Aviv, intimate familial relationships, her father’s long illness and passing, as well as secrets, history, and memory. Loss is certainly at the core of the poems; although she succeeds in guiding her readers to comfort, even joy, with wisdom she has learned from enduring grief. In the last poem of the book, the speaker addresses her father in the afterlife, and they are both happy to be “alive.” This exhilarating vision demonstrates how Walt Whitman informs the poet’s elegies. She imagines herself walking down the street with Whitman. It is also not surprising to encounter Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost, since the power of Dara Barnat’s poetry resides in its capacity to observe our solitude with grace and honesty.

Dara Barnat was born in 1979. Her poetry appears widely in journals in the United States and Israel. She is the author of the chapbook Headwind Migration (2009), as well as poetry translations and scholarly essays. Dara holds a Ph.D. from the School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University. Her dissertation explored Walt Whitman’s influence on Jewish American poetics. She teaches poetry and creative writing.

Sabine Huynh was born in 1972. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), has authored poetry and prose books (novel, short stories, academic book, literary essay, diary), and has edited an anthology of modern French poetry, which were published by Galaade Editions, Voix d’encre, La Porte, éditions, Recours au poème éditeurs, E-Fractions Editions, among other French publishers. She writes in English and French, translates daily, occasionally teaches creative writing classes, and regularly contributes to the French literary journals Terre à ciel, Terres de femmes, and Recours au poème. Her website:

Editor’s Note: The opening poem in Dara Barnat’s debut collection begins, “Please know that taut, / invisible threads / tethered us / to those years.” Threads that bind the speaker to mother and home, to father and illness, to time, to what comes into being and what inevitably slips away. And so Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads invites us into a deeply personal yet resonant world of life and death, love and loss, relationship and the human experience.

Nestled within the honest, reflective, beautiful lyric of these poems are the moments poetry was made for: “maybe / we should part now, because oceans / dry up in time, / even the whitest bones / turn to ash.” Equally powerful are so many of the poems’ closing stanzas and end-lines: “daughter, / you will have your own life, / and your own garden, / just pray for rain, and grow your vegetables;” “May we live // a thousand years together / in another life.”

Throughout the book we are welcomed into a private, sacred space. Into kitchens and gardens, hospitals and homelands. We are invited to bake bread and receive intimate moments like sacrament. Crossing the wide span between memory and horizon, Taut, Invisible Threads is like a migrating bird that “fights the seasons, / and lands wherever / there are seeds, / water, and soft earth, // until it arrives.”

I wish that I were well-versed in French and thereby able to comment on the translations by Sabine Huynh housed within this moving bilingual collection. Falling far short of that wish, I can only say that I have had the pleasure of hearing the translator read some of her poetry translations aloud in French, and it was a transformative experience. Her voice is emboldened by its quiet humility, and the passion she has for translation is well-known amongst the numerous writers who seek to have their work translated by this gifted writer and translator.

I have had the pleasure of featuring both Dara Barnat and Sabine Huynh on this series, and am thrilled to see these two incredibly talented writers and translators brought together in one stunning collection. This book—and this collaboration—is a gift to the poetry world that should be read, shared, and celebrated.

Want to see more by Dara Barnat?
Buy Des liens invisibles, tendus / Taut, Invisible Threads from Recours au poème éditeurs
Dara Barnat’s Official Website
Dara Barnat’s Official Blog
“At Least Forward Now” in Haaretz



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