Poet Spotlight ~ Libby Swope Wiersema

Libby Swope Wiersema is a beautiful woman with a beautiful heart, plus she can cook Italian food most notably. What is there not to like about this woman when you add how she turns her words into poems that match her beauty. Recently her chapbook has come out from Finishing Line Press, The Season of Terminal Cold . If you have not bought it. . .let’s get on that.


God sweeps you up from sleep,
encloses you in his bleeding palm,
the sufferings of your body
an excuse you’d never use
to miss your sunrise prayers.

You say it’s not a choice.

Light pokes its fingers beneath your door
and draws the listeners – I am one, Daddy.
You chant my name, for God surely does not know it.
I may be your greatest sin: a lesbian
loosed into the world, a disease
that carries the side effect of love.

What a complication.

I hear your God-bargain, your prayer
for me to unchoose who I am
so you will see me, restored and unbroken,
in another life.

But, for now, this life.

I smooth the ointment on your feet,
feed you curds of soft egg,
wash away your incontinence.

You touch your head to mine,
sing the songs of my childhood,
share the stories of a life
that will soon be shed.

At night, you place your palsied hand
in mine, and I close the gentle vice
of my fingers around it.

This is what we choose to do.



LibbyLibby Swope Wiersema is an editor and writer living in Florence, South Carolina. She earned an MFA from Queens University in Charlotte and has had work published in Main Street Rag, Kakalak, Birmingham Arts Journal, River Poets Journal and others. Her first chapbook, The Season of Terminal Cold (Finishing Line Press), recounts the experience of her mother’s terminal illness and death. With the recent passing of her father, she continues to use writing as a tool to explore the complexities of loss.

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.

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.