Wednesday, October 12, 2016

洞月亮 October 2016

FEATURED POET: Jacqueline Berger’s first book, The Mythologies of Danger, won the 1998 Bluestem Award and  Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award. Her second book, Things That Burn, selected by Mark Strand, was the 2004 winner of the Agha Shahid Ali Prize and was published through the University of Utah Press. The Gift That Arrives Broken was the 2010 winner of the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Broadstone Press will publish her fourth book in 2018. Her poetry has been regularly featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac.  She directs the graduate program in English at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, and lives in San Francisco with her husband.

You can contact her at


Because the cassettes jostling in the wooden box
as I carry them to the dumpster
sound like horses returning to the stable—
what else can I do with them,
they can’t be recycled and who even
has anything to play them on,
each recorded by my father off an album
before those too were hauled to the garbage—
because replacement is the truest thing we know;
because I can’t bring myself to toss the tapes
so leave them beside the can, hoping someone
will want them; because the next day
they’re gone, and I wonder if right now
that person is listening to them on the last
remaining player in America,
or if, and just as likely, a neighbor
while dumping her own trash dumped the box of tapes,
tidying the alley, each freeing itself as it fell, Hebrew Melodies
banging against How to Belly Dance
before landing on the festering heap,
Noam Chomsky’s 1986 lecture languishing there.
Because the tapes are gone but not the carousels of slides—
how many pictures of flowers and mountains?
Because my father is still a mystery,
though what he left behind was briefly mine,
because I did not want to know my father
or my father did not want to be known,
because the clues solve nothing, so what
can I do but scatter the remains? 

Jacqueline Berger 

Maybe it’s more a sense than a feeling,
or even a scent, unidentified 
weed that smells like curry 
and grew in the Hollywood Hills
where I went to camp and grows 
on San Bruno where we take the dog, 
the smell taking me back.
Nostalgia’s a bad shorthand but it’s something.
Or maybe it’s like lowering into a hot bath, 
the almost sorrow that rises with the steam,
though tenderness is even worse than nostalgia.
I’m off to a bad start, but let’s go with curry
in dry September, what I’m getting at
is how these days and for some time
I feel a pulling away even in the midst.
Driving to work, I’m already done 
with the calendar of busyness, 
people needing things from me, 
have already moved into the spacious years, 
the luxury and loneliness of Monday
and nowhere to be. Even as I’m pulling
into the parking lot, finding a spot,
hanging the employee placard from the rearview,
I’m long into the drifting of its after,
the wet sand of its soft mornings, my old
identity, ambition, unhooked.

And early evening on our walks up the mountain,
past the shell mound, past Owl Canyon,
on to Acres and through the top of town
before looping back to the car, 
the dog is gone and I miss him
who is, at this moment, burrowing in the brush 
or scratching his back against its rough.
I feel death’s empty room,
fluorescent hum in place of the low chant
all life if you listen carefully emits.
Will we get another dog, weighing
our modes of escape against the pinning down
of daily walks, burrs pulled from the tail.
And you too are gone, even in the middle 
of our lives, even as you drive us home,
the dog in the back seat sleeping like the child
we never had. Why do you die first?
How else to keep telling the story?
I’m alone and not young, then old,
the scent of burning leaves or rubbish,
acrid and sweet, spit thickening
in the corners of my mouth.
Is this a feeling that should be treated,
or is it a tapping into?
I won’t call it anxiety, depression,
will call it the open window,
the train’s thin whistle bending into the curve,
is it lament or the physics of sound?
Will call it here and also gone,
it will answer to both
like a dog with a previous owner
who learned himself by one name and then another.
Will call and call but there is no answer,
and that will be the answer, 
the doesn’t matter of its either way.

Jacqueline Berger 



Because the cassettes jostling in the wooden box
as I carry them to the dumpster
sound like horses returning to the stable—

because the clues solve nothing, so what
can I do but scatter the remains?

What is the scale of your simile?  At what point do you introduce another metaphor?

The beauty of what Jacqueline has given us is the quiet noise of cassette tapes rattling compared to a thundering herd of horses.  Just let the juxtaposition of those noises wash over you.  She then threads the thundering horses through the intimate and fragile questions.  

Then the final line puts us at a funeral.  No sound.   Simply ashes.   Look through your poem.  What is the scale of your word comparisons?  A music box against a calliope?  Look at your efforts.  Look at Jacqueline's.  Write your poem.  Cut apart a cereal box and write it on the inside in Sharpie marker and nail it to a telephone pole

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press September 2016

FEATURED POET: Jerome Gold PhD—is the author of fifteen books, including The Moral Life of Soldiers and the memoir, Paranoia & Heartbreak: Fifteen Years in a Juvenile Facility. Russell Banks said about this book: “I’ve finished reading Jerome Gold’s terrific book cover to cover without a break… It’s a powerful and very tenderhearted book without a soupçon of sentimentality. Unforgettable!” Mr. Gold’s novels include Sergeant Dickinson, about which the New York Times Book Review said: “[It] belongs on the high, narrow shelf of first-rate fiction about battlefield experience.” He has published stories, essays, reviews and poems in Chiron Review, Moon City Review, Fiction Review, Boston Review, Hawaii Review, and other journals.

He is the founder and editor of Black Heron Press.


We mowed down the forest with bulldozers,
cleared the red soil of everything that grew.
All that soft wood, all those porous stalks,
those ropey vines and spiked leaves—
In two months, we burned everything that fell
and that was everything.

One day in the middle of this a man
running from fire of a different kind came
out of the shade of the remaining trees.
He wore the classic black pajamas
and an expression of bewilderment.
He ran back into the forest, and out again.
The place where he could hide was gone.
The place to which he had adapted his life, focused
his memories—gone. What must he have thought?
Had his wife given birth here (there had been a village)?
Had he met here with others to plan an ambush?
Did he call out the names of his parents, his brothers?
You might say his death was a result of his
failure to adapt to a changed environment.

In those days we had all gone feral.

—Jerome Gold

                                   for Roy McCready

From the ground I might have seemed
an angel falling out of orbit
or a tiny meteor aflame
spinning on it lopsided axis
arc-ing downward to a terrible rendezvous.

Inside, beginning to burn, I sat,
unable to reach an ejection handle,
anticipating the melt and crackle of my eyeballs.
My brain, working at light’s speed,
fastened finally on the solution to my problem:

I would ride the plane into the sea,
the sea would douse the fire,
I would climb out and be saved.
I held to this desperate idiocy for an
electric moment’s fraction before my plane exploded,

loosing me into hot sunlight
where my parachute snapped, rippled,
opened and set me down in brine
that doused my burns. The helicopter
arrived before the enemy and I was saved,

though somewhere in the tangle of shouting and harness,
drumming rotor blades and lathering water,
and the fearful hammering of cannon
I lost my Navy-issue .38-caliber

as I healed in hospital in San Diego,
the FBI, in a confrontation classic in irony,
dispassion, and the agency’s determination
to extinguish evil in all its guises,

accused me of stealing with the motive of
profit, or nostalgia, or
providing aid to the enemy.


accused me of stealing with the motive of
profit, or nostalgia, or
providing aid to the enemy.

Gold provides us with an ironic punchline too outlandish to make-up even for a fantasy prose writer. It is also given to us, not in a heavy handed fashion, like too much syrup on some pancakes.  It comes from a bare knuckled, witness style of poetry.

We saw much of the same thing with Crysta Casey's poems.  Although our passion and emotion can enter into the writing of a poem, there is something to be said for the dispassionate observation of the event that adds power and meaning.  Hemingway did it for prose about war and in places T.S. Eliot did the same, although there was still a sense of style and flair with Eliot's work.    

Write two versions of your next poem.  Write one full of gushing emotive adjectives.  Write another as if you were a dispassionate robot observing the event.  What shifts do you have to make?  Scribble your poem on a napkin at breakfast in the coffee shop.  Stuff it in your pocket for later.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

洞月亮 August 2016

FEATURED POET: CRYSTA E. CASEY(1952-2008) was born in Pasadena, California. She graduated from The State University of New York, Stony Brook, in 1976, where she was one of the founding members of The Women Writers Workshop. After college, she became the first woman hired by the City of Irvine, California, in Parks and Maintenance. In 1978, she enlisted in the all-new voluntary military, serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as a journalist, then as a self-declared “Resident Poet” until her honorable discharge under medical conditions in 1980. She moved to Seattle, Washington in the early 1980s, where she studied with the poet Nelson Bentley and collaborated with Esther Altshul Helfgott on the It’s About Time Writers Reading Series. Her first collection of poetry, Heart Clinic, was published in 1993 (Bellowing Ark Press). In 2004 she received a Hugo House Award from Richard Hugo House, and, in 2006, she was a finalist for Seattle Poet Populist. In 2010, Floating Bridge Press brought out a chapbook of her work, Green Cammie. Rules for Walking Out was the last manuscript Crysta completed and approved before her death at the Seattle VA in the spring of 2008. It was published by Cave Moon Press in June 2016. Crysta’s papers are housed in the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

Check out her latest book @ Cave Moon Press


In a loosely-tied robe, the man with stump legs,
in a wheelchair, his gray hair pulled back
in a ponytail, swaps tales with another vet,
peanut butter in C-rats and M-16s
that clogged in the mud. One old man says,
“I don’t know nothin ‘bout Vietnam.”
He’s from WWII, lost on a long shot,
still betting the Kentucky Derby
that afternoon on TV. The nurse
on the night shift tells me about neighbors
who make too much noise getting drunk,
letting their kid jump on the floor.
“Shoulda never bought that place
near the airport. When planes take off
going north, the house rattles
and I wear earplugs.”
The vets in the smoke shack
stare at the sky with lost eyes
when a plane flies over. A man says,
“They’re going to remove half my face.
It was always my bad side.” Another says
he has a cowboy hat like that other vet
from Idaho, but he doesn’t wear it.
“I think I’m being punished,” says the old
man who asks for a light.

—Crysta E. Casey


Last night I performed
a miracle. I poured
the bottle I had left
down the drain. I turned wine
into water.

—Crysta E. Casey


I turned wine
into water.

The subject slaps us in the face more than the arrangement of the words.  We are hammered not by a certain meter or form.  We are hammered by a glimpse into the pain of a veteran.  So, since she set us up with that premise, the use of an ironic allegory at the end functions beautifully in this piece.

So, as you write your poem, what are you relying on to drawn in the reader?  If you lean on the accoutrements, then you have a challenge.  The reader has to be along for the ride, much like a fashionista needs to understand what is happening on the runway in Paris.  

In any case, write your poem.  Push the subject.  Accoutrements end up a dash of salt, in powerful poems.  If you are going to push the form, push it to the edge.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

May, 2016

FEATURED POET: TOD MARSHALL grew up in Kansas. His book Bugle (Canarium Press, 2014) won the Washington State Book Award in 2015. His other books of poetry include The Tangled Line (Canarium Press, 2009), and Dare Say (University of Georgia Press, 2002). He has also published a collection of his interviews with contemporary poets, Range of the Possible (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002) and an attendant anthology of work by the interviewed poets, Range of Voices (EWU Press, 2005). He lives in Spokane, Washington, and teaches at Gonzaga University.  He is serving as the poet laureate for the state of Washington from 2016-2018.




I don’t know what that sheriff thought of me
(shirtless, eight, holding the sheet metal screen
door, bracket and chain to keep it from swinging
busted in the last storm), as I lied to him

again when he asked if my folks were home,
except that his face showed he knew how things
would end up for me. “Come on, I know they’re home.”
The a/c labored in a window, evening

cicadas made racket.  Behind me, the TV
that was on when I answered the door, clicked off.
“Who turned it off?”  I looked him straight on. 
“My little brother,” I said, just as he

toddled in diapers from the back of the trailer,
and we stood side by side, guarding that door.

(First published in Crab Creek Review)


Most of us know only smoke:  dirty gauze, grey
weight on each cough of an hour.  Red eye
of the sun lingering, that slow arson
plotting with lightning, both hiding in clouds,
and worse:  most of us have occasionally cursed
the haze, rubbed watery eyes, mumbling my day,
my breath, my unburnt minutes.  We’re like that.  Try,
instead, to feel real heat, to hold hands open

and near hot embers, blue propane of a grill;
to see meat slowly sear, grease sizzle
into cinder. It’s okay if you fail. 
Just try.  And try, too, beneath blue skies when wind
clears smoke away, try to recall the blackened land,
and maybe try becomes a small act to heal the abundant ash, the pain.

(First appeared in Elizabeth Austen's blog)


Shakespeare had stage blocking to get the attention of the audience with contrast. Sometimes it is the subject matter that shocks, like with farmworkers in Steinbeck's novels.  What does the poet have?  Not that much. It has to count.  

Note that Tod's first poem the screen door and diapers on his brother rivet the reader. Those tiny details are counterweights to whatever the sheriff is bringing to the front door.

What does your screen door do in your poem?  Notice there is no waxing eloquent in Tod's poem.  The moment is left with the eight-year old.  Economy of image and word.  

What can you cut out?  How can you focus your image?  Catch up to Tod around the state.  Write your poem.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

洞月亮 April 2016

FEATURED POET: Michael Daley— was born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He later took vows and prepared to become a Catholic priest. Upon leaving religious life, he was wild in the streets, protesting wars and seeking a life of experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts and an M.F.A. from the University of Washington. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Hudson Review, Ploughshares, New England Review, Rhino, North American Review, Writers Almanac, Raven Chronicles, Seattle Review, Jeopardy, Prairie Schooner, Cirque, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cascadia Review, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of Empty Bowl Press, publisher of the Dalmo’ma series of anthologies among other titles; former Poet-in-Residence for the Washington State Arts Commission, the Skagit River Poetry Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and a retired English Instructor for Mount Vernon High School. His reviews and essays have appeared in Pacific Northwest Review of Books, Raven Chronicles, Port Townsend Leader, and Book/Mark Quarterly Review. In addition to seven chapbooks, he has published three full-length collections of his poetry: The Straits, To Curve, Moonlight in the Redemptive Forest, and a book of essays: Way Out There/Lyrical Essays. He has been awarded by the Washington State Arts Commission, Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, Fulbright, and the National Endowment of the Humanities; recently, Pleasure Boat Studio published his translation of Alter Mundus by Italian poet Lucia Gazzino. Of a Feather has just been published by Empty Bowl of Port Townsend, a division of Jack Estes’ Pleasure Boat Studio, New York City.  Look for his work in the upcoming Cave Moon Press Anthology Footsteps to benefit homeless veterans.

Michael Daley-Site

“Society is like a stew. If you don't stir it up every once in a while 
then a layer of scum floats to the top.”—Edward Abbey

The Senator was protecting, like a she-bear, 
that revered Dr. K., whose damned body, 
well past ninety and rotting in his slippers,
shuffled into the Senate to advise a subcommittee
underwhelmed by chanting protesters —
a Greek tragedy, his body wheeled in 
from a movie set—Dr. Strangelove.
The Chorus chanted names of countries
where Henry’s legacy arose, where 
countless human animals boiled in
or fled our poisons, our strafing, 
boots we crept in to make them safe.
When they chanted the name, “Vietnam,”
the Senator cried out. Once I had assumed 
he spoke with my own heart.
I lied to myself that he knew the city streets,
could have been my classmate,
might have walked the old neighborhood,
struggled with us, knew what work is. 
I blinded myself to his history of privilege.
He’d been chained to a wall in the prison hut, 
so why bow to this war criminal, 
frail seer led to testify before Creon
while the Chorus in pink was ushered offstage?
They may have felt it savage, compassionless, 
to hiss at the defender of détente, intervention,
hemisphere hegemony, and overthrow—once,
the brain of Nixon, our blood line to the Hapsburgs. 
When the Senator spewed his regal curse, 
no one spoke. Protestors had defiled his hall,
calm proceedings gave him meaning, 
an imagined hurt to Henry was a breach. 
But the Senator hurt me, ratted my trust. 
Not by sicking his slick and frothing dogs
to slime the staircase, but he whipped me 
with my own guilt, that beautiful 
inward machine. Pop indoctrination 
and other Media distractions halted, even
the Prisoner of War unmasked as drone
of the dictator class, outraged, was silenced
for the moment, and those clowns, the Chorus
whispered: “War Crime War Crime War Crime.”
Picture her swept into the arms of the suited guard, 
the Code Pink girl who rushes Henry
shaking like Voodoo her shiny handcuffs, 
the nauseated wife behind Schultz
flanked by two daughters in a trance—
the girl shoved away, pumps above the wreckage
of Kissinger her scrawled sign: “Cambodia,” 
the Senator cursing her, cursing all of us
dredges up from his own inmost filth:
“Get out of here, you low-life scum.”

Across the lake in the darkness
is a light where a man sits at a table
eating a breakfast of oatmeal
and writing his first poem of the day.
When he looks into darkness
he knows the giant cedar is out there,
and the lake—last night a tub of dull moon—
hasn’t dried up, or changed
in any way apparent or important.
He sees one light, only this one,
where someone at a kitchen table
(with oatmeal, and scribbling)
doesn’t trouble what lies
in the dark between us.


From Michael's last poem we question the role of the poet.  When he writes in the third person the reader is forced to sit at the table next to him and watch him scribble his poem.  So it begs questions. What is the color of Michael's shirt?  When you sit the reader down at the breakfast table in prose lines they start to look around the room and wonder.  Is Michael's oatmeal instant?  Does he use Folger's coffee, like your grandmother, or Starbuck's blend?

In the end, does your poem make you the lead singer of an 80's power ballad? Does your voice carry the poem or is it the images that carry the poem?  Michael has put us in the middle of that question but like all master poets he ultimately points us back to the words. The last line makes us forget that we don't care that he might wear a green, plaid Pendleton shirt with his DeKalb baseball cap tilted just a bit so he can concentrate.....write your poem.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

洞月亮 Cave Moon Press March 2016

FEATURED POET: Betty Scott is a poet and essayist. In the 1980’s she wrote a bimonthly column about family life for The Wenatchee World and this began her writing career.  

She was born in Santa Barbara, CA, and earned a BA in English Literature from UCLA, a teaching certificate from Central Washington University and a MA in English with a writing emphasis from Western Washington University.

As a longtime board member for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Whatcom County, she provided education and support for people encountering the complexities of our costly mental health system and for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. 
A former instructor at Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College, Scott devotes her retirement years to writing and editing. She has several manuscripts waiting for publication. 

In her collaboration with singer, songwriter JP Falcon Grady, Scott searches for social systems that lead to nurturing and protecting children, adults and the earth. Together they perform poems that support bio diversity, as the earth’s blue print for its land, air, and water.  Beneath human constructs of science, politics, sports, philosophy, business, and religion is an abiding energy, a living spirit, often described as love, faith, forgiveness and generosity. In her poems, Scott imagines how a diversity of human responses can lead to a healthier planet. When they perform together, JP Falcon Grady sings the italicized parts of her poems. 

An Earth Year Blessing was previously published in Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington, edited by Luther Allen & J.J. Kleinberg. 
The Playground was presented to participants at the 2013 Chuckanut Writers Festival in Bellingham. 


No man a salt shaker
No woman a sugar bowl

To pour, use up
And put out to pantry

No more darting of eyes
Or senator sneers

When Mama’s Boys pilgrim
To Great Mama’s pastures

To dance, step by step
With maternal wisdoms

To tango and waltz
Arms and heads in precision

Each footfall a grace
Restoring Earth’s faith

Mama’s troupes swaying
Singing and praying: 

Single Mama, Widowed Mama,
Earthly image of Great Mama

Hallowed be your name
Holy Sustainer of Life

Your people tend on you
Beloved Great Mama
On earth as we hope in heaven.

Betty Scott


In writing, it’s a well-known fact: 
letters are lizards with legs and tails
syllables bite like alligator teeth
and words blossom like magnolia trees.

No lie: in swamps and fields, the wind strokes
and ripples the tiniest wild flower
that under the light of a microscope
lives as complex as an orchid or rose.

It’s a fact: the cells of grasses and leaves
resemble living streams and arteries.
In marshes, hollow reeds are fiddle strings
that shadow the shallows and hallowed-winged.   

It’s the truth: people swarm, sip, and worship
our playgrounds during festival seasons 
as the heirs to brass notes float, fall, and rise
beneath the gumbo of moon and moonshine.

While the infinite and minuscule breed
while lizards, swamps and birds battle to breathe
the heated U.S. is rooted and twined
to nature’s rhythms and rhymes. Who rests?

Betty Scott


It’s the truth: people swarm, sip, and worship
our playgrounds during festival seasons 

As Daylight savings pops up and people swarm malls like ants on a doughnut where do you find yourself with the poem?  People who love words find time and watch the people in the mall.  What do you do?  Is there just that one gesture?  That one phrase?  

We have cell phones to take pictures.  We need poets to write the words.  Write your poem!