Poet Spotlight ~ Nicole Rollender

Nicole has a book coming out from ELJ Publications (a press that I very much appreciate, as they released my first collection, this past October) Louder Than Everything You Love. I suspect it will be amazing, and hope her publisher treats her like the rock star poet she is. Congratulations.



My grandmother saw
the dead. A kind of mingle,

their stories weave
through the body,

speaking the spine: Leave            leave
net of gold   circling, lost

in water   crossing this

I know the doorway: That light
opening to a field

the size of the sea
with the same movement

where souls hang
like fruit, where women

rock bellies of delicate
bones, entire other worlds.

The departed don’t ask
to enter my body.

They just slip in,
to touch again, tea

leaves, moving water,
persimmons, alfalfa.

They string fireflies
back through my skin,

so they only
leave a tiny sting.

Once I found a female moth
dead, her white body

on my sill, dusty
eggs expelled. As I lifted

her body, the wings
tremored, as if she

gave one last push.
These babies

who came early
cusped on

that doorway,
blooming on a half-

lit pond. I saw the faces
of dead mothers

who rocked them
with webbed hands,

a pale circling
until they crossed

over into
my arms. The way

a lover
bent me under

a willow, as if
I might fall.

The way
these falterings

flare and leave a gasp
that scars,

cleave me
to this world.


My Daughter Dreams


a basket of stars that’s lowered like milk
to her window, a mother
who’ll never grow old and will always run
next to her lengthening
shadow, a country where lions
hold lambs’ heads in their jaws as they fall
asleep. Where are you, Mama? she calls in
sleep, as she dreams of green fish
that fly on top of water and songs that start
in ghosted trees and then ache over graves.

She tells me about her dreams before she’ll eat
her breakfast: You were there with me this
time in the land of giants. We killed the biggest
one, tripped him over the sky’s edge.
He fell to the earth and died.
Like we all do – we start in the clouds
as something close to the divine,
and then we’re born in someone else’s blood.

She emerged from me, a bony bird
squalling in thickets of light. She wants
what’s gone when she wakes, a red sky, a sailor’s
moon, ships crowding the shore at a forest’s
edge, a woman rising in mist, winged,
with a sword through her heart. In her dreams,
she wanders without me. How could I not
love her face, her eyes moving under lids
like water, her finger twitch and heart race?

She transforms the earth’s endless night
to running in fields of corn, smelling grass
thrown into the air, a sheep’s low. In dreams,
does she step down into a cathedral’s crypt
to kneel next to a saint’s bones? Pray for me,
and those who are lost, as my daughter in night’s
endless river, turns in her short
life to a hummingbird,
a stone that can never burn,
a farmer who throws the seeds and knows
they will take.



NicoleNicole Rollender is assistant poetry editor at Minerva Rising Literary Journal and editor of Stitches. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Radar Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and others. Her first full-length poetry collection, Little Deaths, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications. She’s the author of the poetry chapbooks Absence of Stars (dancing girl press & studio) Arrangement of Desire and Bone of My Bone, a winner in Blood Pudding Press’s 2015 Chapbook Contest. She’s the recipient of poetry prizes from CALYX Journal, Ruminate Magazine and Princemere Journal. Find her online at www.nicolerollender.com.

Poet Spotlight ~ Jeff Whitney

Recently Jeff released a book in collaboration with Philip Schaefer, Smoke Tones. I have to give props out to the publisher for one of the coolest covers I have ever seen on a book. I imagine the work will be as moving as what is here, so hurry and buy this book.  Jeff starts out the poetry spotlights for our second issue today.



How the tractor belonged to the boy
and the field was sparse with horses.
How he couldn’t spell cantaloupe
or the name of his sister.
How there was wire in his blood,
a few dead-eyed bays, a little glimmer
of symmetry. And after the storm,
how his mother’s night robe
ghosted for weeks in the trees.



Jeff WhitneyJeff Whitney is a graduate of the University of Montana and the author of The Tree With Lights In It (Thrush Press). Along with Philip Schaefer, he co-authored Smoke Tones, which is forthcoming from Phantom Limb Press, and Radio Silence, winner of the 2014 Black River Chapbook Competition from Black Lawrence Press. Recent poems can be found or found soon in BlackbirdColumbia Poetry ReviewPoetry NorthwestSalt Hill, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English.

Spotlight Poet ~ Alina Borger

This high school teacher loves writing and reding, she recently had work appear in Mom Egg Review and best of all, here at Wherewithal, which is why she is our Spotlight poet of the week!

The Burn Circus

Orange-and-white striped
sawhorses blockade center
field, dandelions and
goldenrod juicy underfoot.

For a limp banner of small,
square flags, clothesline’s
strung between poles anchored
in cement-filled barrels. People
tamp out cigarettes on that
cement. And someone scratched
Jackie luvs Tony 4-eva
on the rusty container.

They’re not interested
in Jackie and Tony. She
wants to hold her wife’s hand,
glances around them uneasily,
points to the sign instead:
The Burn Circus, it reads.

Men fill canteens with kerosene,
women line the perimeter,
smothering blankets in hand.
A lanky, shirtless man
pocked with pink-stripe scars
swings two ropes; hoops
and batons lay in intervals
around the ring. When sunlight
retires, the man ignites
his ropes, twirling them
freely, dancing through them,
a teenage immortal in ecstasy.

Not being burned, but watching
fire swirled and pivoted through
night sky—stalwart blanket
holders nearby—they’re safe
enough to nudge each other, gesture
subtly with a nod, even grin.

A girl joins the man in the make-
shift arena, hair tucked under her
charcoal grey cap. Snaking
herself into his ropes and out
again, she smiles mysteriously,
lifts one hoop, and throws
up,             up,             up. It, too,
ignites suddenly—whoosh.

They gasp: the crowd, the couple.

On landing, the fiery ring doesn’t
respond to the baton—it rolls toward
the waiting perimeter. But the blanket
holder cringes,

steps aside.

An onlooker yanks off his jacket; one
swift flick extinguishes everything,
.          like goldenrod at a campsite,
.          like cigarettes on concrete,
.          like hand-holding in Missouri.



Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 12.12.49 PMAlina Borger is a writer and a high-school teacher in Iowa City, IA. Her most recent work appeared most recently in Kindred, The Mom Egg Review, and Brain, Child. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s cheering for soccer matches between her two boys or curling up with a good book and a mug of chamomile tea. You can find her on Twitter @AliBG or online at http://www.alinaborger.com.

Poet Spotlight ~ Brendan Constantine

We end the spotlight of poets in our inaugural issue with Brendan Constantine.  I cannot say enough nice things about this man and poet.  He is a teacher who reaches out to children and elders experiencing Alzheimer.  He is a poet who has honed his craft and knows how to hold an audience with his readings/performance of his work.  It was an honor to have him as part of our first issue.

And this is Brendan’s birthday week, wish him the best of birthdays.



Show me two fountains, I’ll die
of thirst between them. I have
a hard time deciding, even which
things to neglect. Some other day,
I bought ten peaches and a girl
asked if I wanted a sack to carry
them home — actually she said,
Would you like a plastic bag, one
that’ll still be here long after you
and I are soap? Or do you wanna’
hold’em to your chest and run off
like a pregnant horse from a fallen
city? — and I cried into my sleeve
because I wanted both. There used
to be a fountain where my people
drank from the mouth of a marble
lion. Some said the water was like
a roar, a long roar you could take
into your own throat and swallow.
Others said it was only the river
you’d expect to find inside any lion.
Every year a few of us drowned
in the act of choosing a side. One
morning an army stormed the town;
they found the streets empty and
the cemetery full, but for one man
standing in a plot, waving. Help,
he wailed, Do I look like a roar or
a river? The invaders fell back,



Whatever gets between us and the sky
becomes the sky / It’s how we start to
wish on the flicker in a smoke alarm /
how sometimes the bed seems hidden
under moss / We sit long after the lamps
go down / The park so dark / the moths
dive at our phones / It makes sense to
laugh down the street / The street waits
its turn / then rolls out its black receipt
for things we don’t remember / We
can’t read the numbers / What we owe
is somewhere behind those trees in
the wallpaper / or way the other way



Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 10.34.23 PMBrendan Constantine’s work has appeared in FIELD, Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, Poetry Daily, and Hotel Amerika among other journals.  His first book, Letters To Guns (2009 Red Hen Press), is now taught extensively in schools across the nation.  His most recent collections are Birthday Girl With Possum (2011 Write Bloody Publishing) & Calamity Joe (2012 Red Hen Press).  He has received grants & commissions from the Getty Museum, James Irvine Foundation, & the National Endowment for the Arts.  He is currently poet in residence at the Windward School and conducts workshops for hospitals, foster homes, & with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project.

Poet Spotlight ~ Martin Ott

Little known fact, unless you follow Wherewithal on Twitter, Martin Ott was our very first acceptance ever.  His poetry has been featured in many places, and his books: must reads.  His latest book of poetry is a collaboration with John F. Buckley, Yankee Broadcast Network and is available now!  Take a look inside this book at amazon.com.



The dead do not have their eyes
on the living. They remember glass
doors blocking their rise and borders
beneath beds and silkworms for hands.
The gravel diaries are passed stone
to bone, organs groaning into the past.
The dying do not divide their limbs
for the dead. No abyss or submarines,
no buttons pushed or soldiers clipped.
zippers for flesh, bitters straight up,
no communion for the conscripted,
the horizon an amputated kite string.
The living do not display callouses
for the dying. Catastrophe is not physical
the way a man forgets to crave ovens,
sour in heat and disdainful of lovers.
What do you wear for your embalming?
The box feels absolutely nothing inside.
The dead and the dying and the living
stop lying to the anonymous blossoms,
make amends to Orion, string olives
into rosaries and fling rice into eyes,
flee wings and mysteries, the vying
and the denying…oh so trying.



Martin OttA former U.S Army interrogator, Martin Ott lives in Los Angles, where he writes, often about his misunderstood city. He is the author of 4 books of poetry: Underdays, Notre Dame University Press (2015), Captive, C&R Press, and Poets’ Guide to America and Yankee Broadcast Network (2014), co-authored with John F. Buckley, Brooklyn Arts Press. In 2013, he published The Interrogator’s Notebook, Story Merchant Books. He blogs at writeliving.wordpress.com 

Poet Spotlight ~ Jennifer Bullis

See why Jennifer Bullis was a Saturday Poetry Pick by reading her poem from our inaugural issue below.

Amanda Bubble Worries About the Food Chain

I get it: your reply to my prayer this morning to protect
those ducklings following their mother across the intersection.

When you said inside my head, Don’t worry. I made extras,
you were telling me it wasn’t actually my business

who you create to be food and who you create to be food later.
So it was sort of a bonus, I think, that you let me

see the crows and gulls pecking flattened yellow fluff
near the median on my way home this afternoon.

I get that those babies are being transubstantiated
right this minute into crow muscle and gull wing:

flesh reduced to nutrients sublimated to flesh.
Just how far, may I ask, are you in on this? Do you

so adore what you made that you want to gobble it back up?
Fleda Brown calls you “The uncontrollable,

wild heartless heart that loves us,” that gives the quail
its next life in the flesh of the hawk that eats it.

So I understand the food chain isn’t a hierarchy of links,
but a multi-species ribbon, round and continuous,

ends joined in a snaking Möbius. Or maybe an Ourobouros:
one of those serpents consuming its own tail.

Here’s the thing: I still shiver when I notice the wind
wolfing down clouds shaped like pull-apart biscuits.

**With a line from Fleda Brown’s “Learning the Crawl”



Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 11.06.33 PMJennifer Bullis earned a Ph.D. in English at UC Davis and taught community-college writing and literature in Bellingham, Washington, for 14 years. Her poems appear in Iron Horse Literary Review, Natural Bridge, Illuminations, and Cascadia Review. Her first collection, Impossible Lessons, was published by MoonPath Press in 2013. In 2014, her manuscript “Amanda Bubble Is Nearly on Fire” was a finalist for the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award

Submissions Closing!

You only have 4 days left to find a home for your poems at what we are predicting will be the best new Poetry Journal of 2014, Wherewithal!  The submission period will close on September 30th and then we begin the process of amazing you with the inaugural issue that so far includes, Richard Garcia, National Endowment of the Arts and Pushcart Prize Winner; Gillian Wegener, Poet  Laureate of Modesto; and Erin Elizabeth Smith, whose poem, “The Cartography of Alice” we are giving you an excerpt from below in hopes of motivating you into SUBMITTING right now!

The Cartography of Alice

I can almost chart the distance to her,
those tangled surface streets of vein,
this woman a starred city,
an atlas ring of interstate.


It is nearly too much,
the way she leaves each day—
hands fishing in pockets
for a thing she never finds.