Winter Quarterly 2017/2018

beware the feather boas by Panika M. C. Dillon

my hair is a cloak               room, come hide with me.

let’s put on other               people’s sleeves. let’s leave

our fingerprints on               their sables & tweeds.

we’ll turn out all of               the pockets & steal

their change. ready for               the gum-ball machine.

I’ll keep the silvers       here, behind my ear.

I’ll drop in a dime     & pull out your tongue.

Born in Fairbanks, AK and reared in Austin, TX, Panika M. C. Dillon received her MFA in creative-writing poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Oranges&SardinesCopper NickelBorderlandsthe Diagram and others. She toils as a political organizer in Central Texas and legislative reporter in the Pink Dome.

On why poetry matters:
not everyone can play the piano. it was either this or a fumble in the alley. the world is out of driveway kisses and this statement is NOT microwave safe.

Pachydermianism by Jennifer Martelli

The Asian elephant has a blue jewel-tone diamond on the gray sky of his forehead. The jewel may change color–amber, ruby red,

green–but never its shape. The elephant is not wearing the jewel, anymore than we wear a birthmark, or the color of our eyes, or

the heaviness in our hearts. The elephant may be a cow. The elephant may be African, lucky enough to have ears shaped like her

continent, so she’ll never get lost. The diamond may be a diamond formed by squeezing coal for a million years or formed by a child’s

pointer fingers and thumbs touching, pressed up to the gray
stormy-sky-forehead of the elephant. The elephant never forgets

anything: the day she’s meant to die, where to visit friends who’ve gone, when the oceans were made.

First appeared in The Chiron Review


Miss Ice River by Jennifer Martelli

He signs: I saw her hooves. Signs: I crawled across the ice. Signs: rope.

His right hand warm with signs while the left strokes
the brown velvet fawn with chandelier crystals hanging from her pelt.

The smoke from his breath as he signs and the smoke from the snout
of the fawn who will not leave his hand or his side. Her apple eyes.

Smoke from their breaths across the river and under the bridge.
No sound: not his idling truck, nor the oaks’ crack, or the frozen lake’s cut.

Signs: I name her Miss Ice River.  Signs: Farewell.

First appeared in Pittsburgh Poetry Review

Jennifer Martelli’s debut poetry collection, The Uncanny Valley, was published in 2016 by Big Table Publishing Company. She is also the author of the chapbook, Apostrophe and the chapbook, After Bird, from Grey Book Press. Her work has appeared in Thrush, [Pank], Glass Poetry Journal, The Heavy Feather Review, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. Jennifer Martelli has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net Prizes and is the recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant in Poetry. She is a book reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, as well as a co-curator for The Mom Egg VOX Folio

Poetry is important to me because its rhythms mimic the tempo of a heartbeat, or better yet, blood flowing through veins. I think that’s why many of us respond to poetry in a physical way; why it gets us in the gut, why poetry can be gut-wrenching. Poetry can reveal the layers of the mundane. Without poetry, I’d just be sitting on a barstool, smoking, with a pile of scratch tickets.

Irina Ratushinskaya, Soviet Dissident Poet and Novelist, Dies at 63 —The New York Times, July 15, 2017 by Wendy Drexler

I read your obituary, four brutal years
in a Gulag prison where you wrote your poems
on a bar of soap with a burnt matchstick,
memorized them, then washed your hands
and your poems down the drain.
Despite the freezing, the hunger,
the forced labor, sharpening your mind
on a matchstick.       What strength to write
of the first beauty you saw in captivity—
frost on a window: only ablue radiance
on a tiny pane of glass. I, too, see that
adamance, that everything is attached to everything:
the frost to the glass; oyster shells to a rock
they can’t be pried from; the moon to the sky;
the ocean to its wave; your bar of soap,
to the burnt ash of the match: long enough.

First appeared in Muddy River Poetry Review

Wendy Drexler’s third poetry collection, Before There Was Before, was published by
Iris Press in March 2017. She’s also the author of Western Motel (Turning Point, 2012)
and the chapbook Drive-Ins, Gas Stations, the Bright Motels (Pudding House, 2007). Her
first children’s book, Buzz, Ruby, and Their City Chicks, coauthored with Joan Fleiss
Kaplan, was published by Ziggy Owl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared widely in
such journals as Barrow Street, Ibbetson Street, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Salamander,
The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Worcester Review, and
the Valparaiso Poetry Review; featured on Verse Daily and WBUR’s Cognoscenti; and in
the anthologies Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and Burning
Bright: Passager Celebrates 21 Years. Her website is


In the Braille Garden    by Mary Makofske

Not where this language grew, but where each bed
is full of flowers notable for scent:
Heliotrope, fringed iris, hyacinth,
but not the rose whose fangs would be a threat

to those unwarned by sight. Touch is allowed;
winged twigs of burning bush, furred leaves of lamb’s
ears and the peonies’ silk petals crowd
forward like cats starved for attention.

Each plant is labeled with a metal plate.
Because a few whole leaves are snipped, the black
words rough as bark must urge the blind to Taste
the lemon balm and mint. I’d like to ask

What is this bush, this vine with scarlet blooms?
My blind hands stumble on their coded names.

World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017)

Mary Makofske’s latest book is World Enough, and Time (Kelsay, 2017). Her book Traction (Ashland, 2011) won the Richard Snyder Prize judged by David Wojahn. She is also the author of The Disappearance of Gargoyles and Eating Nasturtiums, winner of a Flume Press chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East, Asheville Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, Calyx, Earth’s Daughters, and other journals and in eighteen anthologies. She received the International Poetry Prize from Atlanta Review and 2nd place and two honorable mentions in the Paterson Literary Review Allen Ginsberg Awards.

Why does poetry matter? A few weeks ago, I fractured my arm and was in pain. Suddenly poetry began flitting through my head, lines I had once memorized but thought I’d forgotten. A nurse of words, a poultice of rhythm. Poetry matters because it speaks to us beyond the jabber of the everyday. Because it enables those of us who write it to delve below the surface, discovering what we did not know. And, as Dickenson said, because it is “my letter to the World / that never wrote to Me.”


Watch Dog by Susan Cavanaugh

The few leaves
that fall in July
bake into the shape
of cupped hands
on the scorched pavement
that look like the hands
of your dead and mine
that cause my lumbering dog
to step gingerly around them
that cause my confident dog
to turn back often
to see I’m still here
at the end of her red leash
that cause my dog
who often ignores me
to check on me
as if there is something
wrong something different
here today something perhaps
dangerous     strange

After Susan’s early success as a poet (Yankee, Painted Bride Quarterly, publication of her chapbook, 1994, “The Good Sense of a Bird”), she is back from a 2-decade hiatus.

On why poetry matters:  As Donald Hall put it when he selected a poem of Cavanaugh’s for a Yankee award, “Susan Cavanaugh remembers and preserves, which is one of the purposes and functions of the art of poetry.”


Nature Hike at Ship Harbor Nature Trail by Clarissa Adkins

Go, knock through wood-thunk roots of the forest floor
while your own springs branch your own tree
and believe Earth’s soily preparations:
foliage backdrop of dark wet sedges,
hush-green, nearly-ripe, wild patch hummocks,
red leaves scalloped by zig-zag and smooth,
and your ache that ferns can soften sun
into such a lenient lantern.

Exhale to pine-ocean music when inhales are sweetest,
cross needled mist to mossy stretches near marsh,
feel a foot wedge freely between the veins for safe leverage.
Here, be too old,
and here, be too young,
to wonder, if anywhere, ever,
there was a nature hike beyond nature.

Clarissa is a co-author of “Chair Yoga for You, a Practical Guide.” Her flash fiction appeared in Nailpolish Stories: A Tiny and Colorful Literary Journal and her poetry in Writers Against Prejudice. Currently, she is working on her MFA in poetry with Lesley University’s low-residency program in Cambridge, MA. Clarissa teaches yoga and high school English in Richmond, Virginia.

Poetry matters because it can uniquely express how we are together in our aloneness. This depth of connection is an endless comfort.


Marquez Night  by Lillo Way                                                                                         

 Stained tea towel, charcoal bleeding into mustard,

an umber edge holding the grime design together,

hung askew over the oven door handle

in a garbage-rank closet of a flat

in the poorest street of an old town – that’s what is

the yellowish thing that calls itself a summer sky

hanging a few meters above my head

and low pressuring me to fall into love

in the time of cholera where I become

the sinking stinking still air, where I am

the last bird not to die in the fetid drying river,

where I hear my ghost-voice calling

like a manatee mother to her missing children

late in the last night of a landscape scraped empty

of trees and their shadows, moonlight staining the river

yellow, the banks yellow, the only boat yellow,

the moon itself the final exit – small round aperture –

through which I will, watch me now, escape.

– first published in Poet Lore

Lillo Way’s chapbook, “Dubious Moon,” is the winner of the Hudson Valley Writers Center’s Slapering Hol Chapbook Contest 2017. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New Orleans Review, Poet Lore, Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, Madison Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Poetry East, Roanoke Review, Flying South, The Meadow, among others. Nine of Way’s poems are included in anthologies. Her full-length manuscript, “Wingbone,” was a finalist for the Barry Spacks Poetry Prize from Gunpowder Press.

Why Poetry Matters: Without losing the primary function of language – to communicate – poetry extends language into realms beyond that function, by using words as paint, as musical notes, as dancers’ movement. It is an art form whose medium is words.


Domino by Tara Betts

The uniform black freckles
appear on each half. Dots lined
to build labyrinths of multiples.
Hidden possibilities cradled in palms,
you attempt to watch what’s played,
plunk down your last, start again.



Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit (Trio House Press, 2016) and Arc & Hue (Willow Books, 2009).  Tara is also one of the co-editors of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century (2Leaf Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in POETRYAmerican Poetry ReviewEssenceNYLON, and numerous anthologies. Tara holds a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University and a MFA in Creative Writing from New England College. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.

The gift by Sean Lause

The day my mother dropped a net
of oranges on the kitchen table
and the net broke and the oranges
rolled and we snatched them,
my brother and I,
peeled back the skin and bit deep
to make the juice explode with our laughter,
and my father spun one orange in his palm
and said quietly, “This was Christmas, 1938,”
and he said it without bitterness or anger,
just observing his life
from far away, this tiny world
cupped in one palm,
I learned I had no way
to comprehend an orange.

Sean Lause in an English teacher in Lima, Ohio.  His poems have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Another Chicago Magazine, The Alaska Quarterly, The Pedestal, Illuminations, European Judaism, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Sanskrit and Poetry International.

Poetry matters because it helps us imagine other worlds so we can learn to make this one our own.