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Poems of the Week

Cahal Dallat

The Year of Not Dancing

Hours passed languid as the flap of a hawk’s wing
in a last July before the awkward initiations
of fifteen and lifts to far-afield jiving.

He’d work for an uncle, cutting hay, fixing
shingles with bradawls and hot, smoking pitch —
evenings, hung round with fairground hands

till the sideshows lit at eight. Then he’d sidestroke
from the main pier, alone, on a full tide as far
as the bobbing Perpetua, its line of cork floats

with dock and fairground small as a snow-bubble town,
bull-horns carrying Frank Ifield’s When the angels ask
me to recall out across a calm, irredentist blackness.

C.L. Dallat
…from The Year of Not Dancing (Blackstaff Press, 2009)

C.L. Dallat, poet, musician & critic, (b. Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, Ireland) lives in London where he reviews literature & the arts for the TLS & Guardian, has been a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s weekly Saturday Review since 1998, & is regular house-musician (piano, bandoneon, mandolin etc) at Coffee-House Poetry’s events in London’s famous Troubadour folk’n’poetry’n’jazz cellar-club ( He won the Strokestown International Poetry Competition, & his latest collection is The Year of Not Dancing (Blackstaff Press, 2009).


The journey

Travelling early, we set out while it’s still dark.
At this unblessed hour, we should be wary
of the threat of footpads and of cut-throats,
but we are blithe with optimism, our surprising
sovereigns stinging in our pockets. Our burdens
are as insubstantial as the moon and already
last night has dwindled to a twist of wrinkled
bedclothes. How did we wake so promptly without alarm?
What witchery set us bolt upright in our beds?
Perhaps as the dawn begins to damage
the dark, one of our number will venture:
“Where was it that we were heading? Who has the map?”
Day scarifies the sky, polluting our clarity of purpose.
We will not answer the rank-breaker. We tear off
hunks of bread with hungry teeth. The light comes up
like sadness. We do not want to recognise ourselves

London-based poet Susannah Hart has attended Coffee-House Poetry’s Troubadour readings, classes & courses ( for a number of years. Her work has been widely published in magazines, she was a prizewinner in the 2013 Poetry London competition, & she has had poems commended & shortlisted in several other competitions. Susannah works as a brand consultant & writer, & volunteers as a local school governor.

Dominic Bury

sea lore

Poet Dominic Bury grew up in Bideford in Devon and now lives in London where he works as a copywriter & brand writer. In his spare time he manages front-of-house at Coffee-House Poetry nights at the famous Troubadour cellar-club in London’s Earls Court ( Dom studied Creative Writing at Kingston University & his poems have been widely published in UK poetry journals including Poetry Wales, Ambit and Iota, and in Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt).

Mona Arshi

by Mona Arshi

Never marry an insomniac. You will have
________to mind yourself.
________________Have hem weights
________sewn into the lining of your garments,

cure your skin with almond oil until it’s bloated
________and the pores are brimming.
________________Purchase a large wooden-grained
________trunk and place it near your bed-it’s for

safekeepings. (Obscurely, somewhere deep inside you
________know all this).Very soon
________________you won’t be able to tell
________the days apart, you’ll develop a tic and it will

distill at the centre (within the hive of your other small
________anomalies).You’ll flail
________________in mild wind and when you speak
________minute silver-fish consort in the pit of your throat.

Exquisite wife to the shade: the exact point you place
________your finger-tip on winter mornings,
________________a raindrop will later stop and fret.
________It’s a wonder if you survive at all.

It will all end in the mouth; you’ll blink-
________he’ll stir. You’ll practice lying very very still-
________________peacock feathers
________(your talismans) will blink back in their jars.

…from Small Hands (Pavilion Press, 2014)

Mona Arshi has been a frequent audience-member & workshop-participant at London’s Troubadour poetry events ( A prize winner in the 2013 Troubadour International Poetry Prize & joint winner of the Manchester Creative Writing poetry prize in 2014, her Forward-prize-winning debut collection Small Hands was published by Pavilion Poetry (Liverpool University Press). Mona lives in West London & worked as a human rights lawyer for a decade before studying Creative Writing at University of East Anglia.


This Rain

brings with it the scent of rain-soaked lilac, lemon lily. Bruised

skirts of thunderclouds drop their wet hems over this prairie. It rains

and the ditches brim, rains

and the water rises like ire amongst the willows.

What we say and do not say. The heart

incandescent, riverine with distance.




lilt like this: sound

of droplets from leaves


gift   gift         gift



(Shortlisted for the International Salt Prize for Best Individual Poem, 2012

Published in The Salt Book of New Writing 2013, UK.)



Jenna Butler is the author of three books of poetry, Seldom Seen Road (NeWest Press, 2013), Wells (University of Alberta Press, 2012), and Aphelion (NeWest Press, 2010), in addition to a book of ecocritical essays, A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail. When she is not in the classroom as a professor of ecocriticism and creative writing at Red Deer College, she works as a beekeeper on her off-grid organic farm in northern Canada. Her new book of essays on women and beekeeping, Revery: A Year of Bees, is forthcoming.



The hand that draws the bowstring has faith

that the deer will die. The longbow bends,

the arrow points, the deer stands frozen

in the curious pose of prey before its doom.

But Zeno suggests that once the arrow flies,

it covers half the distance to the deer’s heart

first, then half the distance left and half again

and again and half again so the deer will live

and the arrow will never find its one true home.


A woman’s faith is different than a man’s.

She believes his strength is bowstring straight,

his heart like longbow yew, flexible but taut.

A man believes that he is not a beast–

until the string snaps, the tortured bow splinters

and his fist is arcing through the air

toward the faithful face of the woman who believes.


The hunter doesn’t love the prey.

He’s filed the razor edge of the arrowhead himself.

And even Zeno had to eat.  Is there faith enough

to believe in a universe where that fist still hangs

in the half-space in between, and now, a moment later,

half again?

(originally published by


R.G. Evans is the author of Overtipping the Ferryman (2013 Aldrich Press Poetry Prize) and the forthcoming novella The Noise of Wings.



under drying skies, north,

passing fields

the summer has been too wet

to turn brown,

i wait for God

to appear, for poems to rise

like mists, for some sort

of ever


that doesn’t sting.

croon to me like a wild road,

sunlight spider-webbing

across a cracked windshield

across strange arms

across a morning we can all afford

to spend and live

and live.


Joanna Suzanne Lee earned her MD from the Medical College of Virginia in 2007 and a further MS in Applied Science from the College of William and Mary in 2010. Her ppoetry has been published in a number of online and print journals, including Caduceus, Contemporary American Voices, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her second full­-length book of poetry, the river and the dead, is forthcoming in 2015 from unboundCONTENT. She is currently serving her third year on the James River Writers Board of Directors, and, under the big bright umbrella of Richmond’s River City Poets, she makes possible a wide range of poetry happenings from Shockoe Slip to South of the James.


Vital Desert Lesson Number One

Nothing can be more useful to a man than a determination not to be hurried. – Henry David Thoreau


Living on beans and bread

in an abandoned cabin no larger

than a tool shed, I’d be happy,


I once said. If I could just remain

immobile, silent. No place to go,

I’d read Dante’s Inferno and ponder


the nature of mass movements,

the building of Babel’s tower,

the steam locomotive.


Dawn and dusk I’d thank sun and moon

that I’d escaped the grinding bustle,

that nothing disturbed my dreams.


Oh, I know it all seems too idyllic,

but one vital lesson this desert’s teaching:

let nothing rush me—not the heat


I try to keep out of, not the man

behind me in the traffic jam

fidgeting with the folds of his gutra*


while he beeps and speeds past me

one nano second after the light changes.

Inshalla shall be my mantra,


the camel my choice over the Arabian horse—

let her carry me ever so slowly

over the course of the dunes as the wind


plays its favorite tunes on them.

I won’t be rushed into talking too much

or too soon, and when I do speak,


my words will flow slowly and sparingly,

like the wind whispering

to the date palm and sidra tree.


*white head covering worn by many Gulf Arab men.


Diana Woodcock’s first full-length collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Poetry Prize. Her second, Under the Spell of a Persian Nightingale, is forthcoming from WordTech Communications. Chapbooks include Beggar in the EvergladesDesert Ecology: Lessons and VisionsTamed by the DesertIn the Shade of the Sidra TreeMandala, and Travels of a Gwai Lo.  Widely published in literary journals (including Best New Poets 2008), her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Award. Prior to teaching in Qatar (since 2004), she worked for nearly eight years in Tibet, Macau and on the Thai/Cambodian border.


John Hoppenthaler

Some Men 


Men who’ve kissed with passion the full lips

of women they didn’t love, men


who’ve grown too reticent for the confessional,

who’ve cleaned public restrooms,


wiped menstrual blood from their walls, who’ve written—

then scrubbed off—vile graffiti from the rusting doors


of shithouse stalls. Men who’ve grown

enormous with disregard, rolls of it bellying over


their wide belts. Men who’ve been barbers

of the dead and were happy for the work,


men who’ve become what they’ve microwaved,

who overvalue the quality of their erections


and fawn over them like the town’s new Wal-Mart.

Men who look awful in suits, who’ve been there


and back yet grew impatient, men who go to wakes

to keep up appearances, who’ve made a deal


with God but can’t remember the terms, men who are old

pros when it comes to hospitals and cracking


jokes at the nurses’ expense, men who’ll be at

your funeral, who’ll kiss your widow with passion


and keep everyone’s lips flapping. Men who’ll move

in and disinfect your bathroom, who’ll trim nose hair


at your sink, conjure mythic hard-ons they’ll purchase

at Wal-Mart. Men who’ll kiss your wife


damned hard on the mouth, take off her dress,

and have your Sunday suit altered and pressed.



From Domestic Garden, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2015


John Hoppenthaler’s books of poetry are Lives of Water (2003), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008), and Domestic Garden (2015), all with Carnegie Mellon University Press. With Kazim Ali, he has co-edited a volume of essays and interviews on the poetry of Jean Valentine, This-World Company—Jean Valentine (U Michigan P, 2012).  For the cultural journal Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, he edits “A Poetry Congeries.  He is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at East Carolina University.



The Bride

I met her on her wedding day
Walked up to her, and smiled,
No one ever talks to the bride
I thought it might be interesting to try something new,
Break tradition
Henna patterns wrapped around her wrists climbed up her arms
Spreading blossoms on tender flesh
Her lips were a wilted crimson
Tilted ever so slightly to the side,
A perfect almost smile
The first thing her mother taught her was to wipe the tears before the blood dries,
Shredded knees heal, but shame never fades away,
Don’t climb trees or ride bikes,
That’s how little girls lose their virginity
She sat on a porcelain throne beads and bows holding plastic flowers to the arm rests
“are you alright?” I asked
“I shouldn’t cry” she said, fingers catching tired tears
“it’s fine to cry, you’ll be happy later”
“I shouldn’t cry”
“how long have you known him”
“I don’t”
She was 17 years old, just graduated high school
Her parents sent her to college because and educated girl can earn a bigger dowry
But this mister didn’t mind a country girl
He grew up with her father
Didn’t need an intellectual, just someone who could feed the kids while he raised them
She was a mail-order bride and her father licked the stamp
I cried
How many weddings have I been to?
She just got off the plane twelve hours ago,
Barely left the airport and they already started dressing her
No time to take measurements so they pinned satin to her skin,
Tucked her in to the time tested wire frame
Our ancestors welded
If you put a girl in a steel corset you’ll never have to hear her scream
And she was gorgeous
You could put anyone in her dress and it wouldn’t make a difference
We were guests of the groom and this was his wedding
No one knew her name
She only spoke Arabic
No one knew her name
She danced until the tears came
The middle aged used-to-be brides
Explained it away
“she remembered her mother” they said
“brides always cry when they remember their mothers”
She’d have her fifth child by thirty
My parents protected me, from all the broken men
And their flesh-eating fingers
Said one day I’d find someone who could cook as well as my dad
And who was almost as smart as my mom,
Who’d hold me so close that I could breathe in his memories
when my parents about the bride and all we could do was hold her hand
It killed me.
Tonight he’ll crush the henna blossoms on her wrists
With the same hands the man next door threw at his wife last Thursday
The same fists that taught a daughter to keep her mouth shut
He’ll flatten the ridges of her spine
And she’ll hold her tongue
Bite the screams as they come
Wipe the tears before the blood dries
No one ever talks to the bride


Originating from the war-town region of Darfur, Emi Mahmoud is currently a senior at Yale University. A Leonore Annenberg Scholar and Global Health Fellow, Emi studies Anthropology and Molecular Biology at Yale in the hopes of one day alleviating structural disparities on maternal and child health in disadvantaged communities the world over. Outside of academics, Emi is involved in the Yale Refugee Project, contributes to an international research initiative, and teaches spoken word poetry on campus and in various communities in order to equip youth with the power of voice. Having just returned from the National Poetry Slam, Emi will be competing at this year’s Individual World Poetry Slam in October. Dedicated to the growth and spirit of poetry, Emi has begun collaborating with various artists from Connecticut to her home in Philadelphia. Her aim is to use poetry and other mediums in order to explore the full extent of human expression.


Rachelle Linda Escamilla


Father took a hand saw to the rain
gutter, but doubted my garbage bin would

How do I explain that there is no     water?


The bin filled in five minutes and we bought three more
no fancy DIY spout nozzles, just hacked gutters, trash bins
and screen for the worms/leaves/debris


I’ve watched the fog, but it’s more than fog –

I’ve watched the ocean’s selfie, haha, an imprint of itself: imagine the Pacific
CRASHING against rock, the spray, the sonic boom of it all, now imagine that spray
collecting – grabbing on to each other and pulling the marine layer from just above our
heads and running, like bodies screaming for justice on the highway, for the mountains.

I’ve watched the fog crash over the Gabilan range, flooding the crevices of the chaparral,
giving the wiry blue oak a breather from the bleaching sun It looks like a tsunami he
said after he gasped at the sight from the west.


So the fog is water and it waters the grape vines
taste that smokey, cigar, leather jacket she said as she poured the Pinotyeah, that’s from last year’s fire.


it’s enough to make you sick with lust.



Rachelle Linda Escamilla is from San Benito County, California which is one mountain range in from the Monterey Bay. Her first book of poems, Imaginary Animal won the 2014 Willow Books Literature Prize in Poetry and has been nominated for a PEN Open Book Award. She is the co-founder of Mainland China’s first creative writing program, the founder of the Poets and Writers Coalition at San Jose State University, and the curator for the Epazote Reading Series. Contact Rachelle through her website:

Devi Lockwood photo

Rest Stop

We are all the year’s worries
tossed into the dark dustbin of the sea.

Swirling plastic returned, reared on its haunches.

Let’s live slow and die when we do.

Below the mess, kids are walking home from school.

Gash the screen door to let the bugs in––
let them pinch my skin.

I’ll coo investment tips in your ears.

Anchor me to the all of our lives
nestled in the hollow of this lake.

Unbuckle my seatbelt. Unfasten my tongue.

Devi K. Lockwood is a poet / touring cyclist / storyteller currently traveling the world by bicycle and by boat to collect 1001 stories from people she meets about water and/or climate change. You can keep up to date with her travels at


For Emmett


And if you are a boy, you might imagine the hairline that crawls backward without resistance.


The barber was a good barber. Give him a blade

and his grandfather emerges from the palm, like

a slave that was a good slave, raking the weeds

back until all you see is a shaven field of grass,

ready for eyes to bear witness to this marvelous

thing. The barber might’ve talked to Emmett

about his grandfather, the hands that grooms the

America black folk always attempt to believe in.

I’m sure Emmett would’ve cracked a joke, light-

ened the mood for the body to settle in and humor

toughens the skin, I am told. I know he could not

have bled even if the razor wished to carve more

than the patches of wool, resting on the head like a

dark field of grass after dusk.


And if you are a girl, the eyelash might attract your gaze; the beauty in its submissive tilt.


He was a beautiful boy, a lark in the jungle, calling

for a brother or two to share a flight with but wings

don’t work in these southern woods. Flight, like a

myth, are debated for the body. The sky don’t hold

what is too heavy for it and he ate much. Thick and

sturdy as a stump in the plains. The earth here be

coated in wood chippings. The Axe’s swing at what

grows and he stay tall and some forest-like beauty

brews within him like he’d live forever in his vanity.


And if you are a man, you may notice only the blood that lacquers the wounded skin.


We fight like lions, teeth misplaced in the knuckle.

Famished for the meat that crowns the plates. I heard

that Emmett’s snarl slips between the trees. The finger’s

claw clings to skin and he’s Bear-like. Plump and

swollen, gliding through the space with a bag of fish

in his mouth like a king on this side of America. Here,

the bullet flails and fails to miss what it wishes to split.

Boys eat well. Mothers feed wise. Ripe and ready, the

boy makes a good feast for what can swallow him.


And if you are a woman, you’d recall the nail collecting earth, like a shovel would for its grave.

And if you are a grave, you’d know how much you hunger for what does not know how it ends.


Nkosi Nkululeko, poet and musician, hailing from Harlem, NY, has performed his written works in venues such as Apollo Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Oxford University and others. He has performed for National Writers Union, Lincoln Center and Urban Word NYC. He was on the 2014 Urban Word NYC Slam Team for BNV(Brave New Voices) and the 2015 Urbana-NYC Slam Team for NPS(National Poetry Slam). Nkosi is a 2015 nominee for the American Voices Award, a Callaloo Fellow and has been published in Junior Scholars’ Schomburg Review and forthcoming in No Token, The New Sound and is anthologized in great weather for MEDIA’s, “Before Passing,” their 2015 Anthology.

Amorak Huey


Your breasts at the surface of the roiling water. The smell of chlorine
and desire. We divide and assign the space between us.

Your specialty is keeping score, mine is pretending not to.
We are not supposed to stay in water this hot

more than 15 minutes. Plenty of time to pretend
we could not drown here or anywhere

in the middle of our own lives. Three walls away
our children dream of life without us,

your parents sleep with their television on. One of us
slides closer. One of us places a finger in the other’s mouth,

one of us stands, dripping, to reach for a towel.
The tub’s motor falls quiet. The air suddenly cold

against overheated skin. Absence swells to fill absence,
water closes in over the holes our bodies once filled.

Amorak Huey is author of the chapbook The Insomniac Circus (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2014) and the forthcoming poetry collection Ha Ha Ha Thump (Sundress Publications, 2015). A former newspaper editor and reporter, he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. His poems appear in The Best American Poetry 2012, Gargoyle, The Southern Review, Baltimore Review, Stirring, and many other print and online journals. Follow him on Twitter: @amorak.

Jen Stein

The Size of Things, Decreasing Scale

1) An invitation
2) The gap between the door open and latched
3) Your open hand resting on my hip
4) Kittens past weaning
5) This human heart quickening
6) A young fist full of garden dirt
7) The curve of your lips
8) The tip of my finger brushing your ear
9) Flat headed worms aerating the soil
10) An avian heart beating
11) Your pupils grown wide soaking light
12) A bean seed to be planted
13) My pupils when fixated
14) The distance between your thumb and my neck
15) Bristles on my paint brush, dried slate clinging
16) Strawberry seeds set to germinate
17) How close my lips hover above yours
18) Capillaries dilating
19) Rushing red blood cells
20) A droplet of sweat drawn from the pores
21) The width of a strand of spider silk
22) The wavelength of an x-ray
23) The distance between nuclei in a white dwarf star
24) Any hope that the children will sleep for just fifteen more minutes

Jen Stein is a writer, advocate, mother and finder of lost things. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where she works in family homeless services. Her work has recently appeared in Rogue Agent Journal, Menacing Hedge, Luna Luna Magazine, Nonbinary Review and Stirring. Upcoming work will be featured in Cider Press Review. Jen is currently serving as assistant editor for Rogue Agent Journal and for ELJ Publications. You can find her on the web at

Sara Biggs Chaney

Letter from the Back Porch

Quiet things are passageways
to other quiet things.

One cracks, another grows.
Grass gives up to dust.

Somewhere, clocks advance
while other clocks reverse,

the hissing continuous,
a slow release.

I would never ask you
to come back

as I don’t contain ideas
like come back

or I,
or you.

In the space below, snouting
visitors, they come, they go.

Something scrapes and once–
the hollow beat of dancing.

Sara Biggs Chaney received her Ph.D. in English in 2008 and currently teaches first-year and upper-level writing in Dartmouth’s Institute for Writing and Rhetoric. Her most recent chapbook, Ann Coulter’s Letter to the Young Poets, was released from dancing girl press in November, 2014. Sara’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in RHINO, Sugar House Review, Columbia Poetry Review, [PANK], Juked, Thrush Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. You can catch up with Sara at