Sandy Fontana

Fireflies like loose jewels shaken from the boots
of Zeus envelop me under this full moon, float
and bounce. Midnight wander on a summer solstice
eve around the old asylum grounds, and sky trips

heat lightning like cupped hands lose water, a voice-
less glimmer over the cemetery. Sunken, the name
plates here mimic stepping stones that in a misplaced
memory once led somewhere: a screen door, a pond.

Under the witness moon, a boy I knew hanged himself
in a barn; eastern sunlight, he’d told me, heals plants,
heals people. This solstice breaks like early morning gloam.
The way, during an eclipse, day tinkers at becoming night

this night has an inkling of day, an idea of luminance.
I imagine, as the moon dissolves in my throat, I learn
about phases, the pull and draw of the tides, about
hiding in the blue sky and being called a lesser light.

Sandy Fontana

Today means nothing even though birds clatter
at the rafters; like fists through starched sleeves,

they carry chaff and string to weave nests. Five
robins plash and lift from the rain puddle where

the sidewalk dips to collect rock, cradle mud—dust
in midsummer. I wonder: why bother with bitter

or ebullient, everything made-up in the made-up
world. Sun hot through this prewar window-glass

illumes its waves and bubbles as if time’s literal
breath were trapped here, enough to charm me

out of a sense of loss. These months, collecting
unemployment, I’m spoiled and broke, whiling

my time watching the backyard bloom a field
of violets, clover, wild strawberries. There are things

we don’t see that we think don’t exist: child labor
in the twenty-first century. And if we think of it we

can’t hold it long. And if we think deep and wide:
kings and slaving children and profiteers all equal

on the spirit level. I experiment with looking past
actions. I experiment with neutrality, the impersonal.

But how do our minds reconcile the patterns they see?
I want new vision, my eyes a Kirlian camera recording

haloes of energy, crowns of glory. There are things
we don’t see that exist. The ancient Romans buried

their children close at hand, under their houses’ eaves
to subdue, to placate the children’s rising ghosts.

Donna Vorreyer

There has been a small fire, burnt
tar-paper in a wastebasket, an accident
of no consequence, really—a thimbleful

of water tamed the blaze—but somewhere
buildings are burning, and I feel it is my
fault, like I have called the flames from

the cold sky with my witchcraft of longing.
I watch a calf being birthed in a pasture
surrounded by high red cliffs. I boil fresh

eggs still warm from soft underbellies
of chickens. These things are pleasant, yet
undeserved. At night, I sit with my books.

Somewhere, a fish is being angled for
off-shore. The hook in its mouth makes me
seasick, metal taste rising in my throat

like an anonymous threat. I keep changing
my address, shift from hotel to rooming
house, just to avoid the hook, the reeling in.

Donna Vorreyer

Through the years, back and forth like a pendulum,
we dance in a peculiar rhythm. We are attached
to each other by some stiff piece of wire—when one

moves, the other responds. We miss each other like
a sun and a moon never fully risen at the same time.
I have rooted myself here while you wander the roofs

of the world. I wanted to live burning, burning—but
I have settled for straddling the fence, content with
my wife, my books, my dinner parties. You live clumsy

and magical, tucked into rose-colored mountains.
Now I live in the castle we vowed to tear down, so
throw stones at the windows for me. This is only one
of many times that we will break.

It is September of 2012, at a hostel in the center of Medellin, Colombia. I am writing my graduate thesis after a year in London at the Central School of Speech and Drama. I skype with a colleague who is volunteering for The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, Palestine. She is teaching voice for their acting program and mentions that once her time is up, they want to continue to have voice training.

“Are you interested in going to Palestine for three months?”

My gut says yes. But I know I cannot afford to volunteer.

I know little about The Freedom Theatre. Part of my desire to go is precisely that—that I don’t know—that I would learn something new. The Freedom Theatre offers to pay me a stipend equivalent of what Palestinians earn. They offer to pay my travel and housing during my stay as well.


While preparing for the trip I learn that The Freedom Theatre works towards creating an artistic community in the northern part of the West Bank. They offer a space in which children, youth and young adults can act, create and express themselves freely and equally. They offer a chance for young people to imagine new realities, challenge existing social and cultural barriers, and bring positive change to their community. I read about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I read fiction and nonfiction. I try to prepare myself, but the truth is that even after reading articles, novels and essays, I still don’t really understand what the conflict means.

Read full essay

An interview with Holly Simonsen

Photos of the Great Salt Lake, Holly Simonsen

Photos above and quote below by Holly Simonsen  

Working with the Great Salt Lake is a landscape of lines. There are wake lines, wave lines, debris lines; and the landscape can be read just like a poetic line. Moreover, because the line is physical, you can inhabit the line. You can be physically present inside of language.

To read the interview, click here.

: here is the oil drum of my failure,
the slick, the seep.
Here, I have come to lay it down.
A harvest would be good only for asphalt
and anyway, this is a place for walking;
I will take my 80 steps alone.

Here is where I come to lay it down.
Here, lay it down:
the kitchen furniture from your childhood,
your horse’s bit,
all your lumber and sinew.

We only partially erode – the metal will corrugate itself, the wood splinter,
the diagnosis yellow
and curl.

Of veneration in a wasteland,

something will be left to lick and kiss.

snow blind
hominid blind,

and so to lose
any estimation
of wingspan

I cannot see you for what you are, angel
for what you are not, angel

until before me,
your death
imprinted into snow     :         flopped dance, flipbook, cinematic

junk bird, you’re everywhere
even as I lie

to measure the length of one body
against another body


                   look what my reverence has ruined –

                                             soot soot thurible
                                                     lo, terrible winter


landscape of swelling slits: sky and salt
between an inland sea

water evaporates like water
like two is one is three, four

a woman on top of a woman
each within a horizon, which is

the beginning of counting:

heaven from earth

and other difficult distinctions,
salt from water, another

body from water,
sea from inland sea,

independence from supplication

in every body live two urges: flight and death

touch the place they manifest;
there is no more beautiful bone

Get on with it now
y’ auld blatherskite.
Aren’t we that sick of lookin’
at each other for forty years.
Twenty thousand cups of tea together
         to flood the vale of Slievenamon
         boiled spuds chomped
to feed a legion of Black and Tans.
A bit of quiet ’t wouldn’t be a bother.
’Tis your moanin’ in Belial’s night
I cannot thole.
Hurry now.
               Tear through the blue light.
A lamb needs to be suckled . . .

Dig the peat from beneath
his ragged nails and file them smooth.
Air the upper room, the crocheted spread.

’Tis a pity to bury him
in his store-boughten suit
when the Devlins down the lonen
go threadbare through the bog of a Sunday.

        I can no thole your tears, child.
                          ’T were no saint he.
His long silences hogged my light.
Dust on chintz curtains. Draw well
water for tea. Fetch a porcelain cup.
     Arra, Cushla, hush,
                            save a sup for him.
’T weren’t it he that was always starved
                                        with the cold.

A full-length play by Sheila Callaghan

Editor’s note (revised April 2014): Everything You Touch was originally commissioned by True Love Productions and premiered at Boston Court Theatre in Pasadena in April 2014. A full-length play written in three parts, the first of those parts, as presented below, was published in the 2013 edition of The Labletter.

Playwright’s note: Throughout the play, the CHORUS OF MODELS will be used as furniture, wall-paper, lamps, decor, often in a humorous way. But let it be noted— when not parading around the imagination of JESS or in a literal fashion show, they are ever-present objects, to be objectified at will.


JESS appears in her office. She clutches a LARGE SCRAPBOOK. It’s chunky, filled with scraps of fabric, drawings, pieces of metal, etc. She is lit by the glow of her computer screen. LEWIS hangs over her shoulder. Both wear drab clothes. They are colored sickly beneath the fluorescent lights. THE MODELS are the desks, the chairs, the bad art on the walls.

JESS (to us): I hit the down arrow on my keyboard hard several times. I am aware the force of my finger is excessive but I am still meekly satisfied by this minor gesture. With my other hand I raise my coffee mug to my lips, knowing the coffee is terrible cold and also knowing it was terrible when it was hot. The wetness reminds me I am not made of pixels and page hits. I am capable of feeling wetness. I am human. [to Lewis] Okay. The overview is fine. The ‘scope of work’ is fine... You spent a lot of time on this.

LEWIS: Yeah.

Read full excerpt

I can hear their eyes following me through
the mist. The scale-skinned escapees
from eras past. I envy their endurance, their
desire to thrive far surpasses my own. I whisper
a tentative welcome. Search
for the response . . .
Blinkety Blink.
Blink Blink.
Blue Blink.
Blink . . .
[a long uninterrupted silence ensues]
Blink. Blink.
Back Blink.
Blink Blink Blink.
[a distant clock clicks . . . once . . . twice]
The brilliant lights of my phantom fellowship bless
me. I wade deeper
into the water


Albert Pertalion

Tannic water

Sky-scraping cypresses

Lofty limbs

Cathedral light-columns

Dropping moccasins

Alligator nostrils

Pirogue and paddles

Fly rod and spinners

Black gnats and cat-gut

Green trout


This poem is about a swamp where I fly fished into my twenties. A true swamp, it nevertheless had an open feeling. The light coming into the darkness was like shafts of light in European cathedrals. The water was dark, but not muddy. The green trout were really small mouth bass, but the locals called them “green trout.” Moccasins would plop off a limb and aggressively swim toward the pirogue we fished from. I killed many with the paddle. The fly bait was a wet fly (black gnat) we used with a very tiny spinner and trailing a sliver of cat-gut. No fly fisherman ever uses a spinner except in the Southern Louisiana swamps. The most an alligator would let us see were two black nostrils, just above the water line. After we cooked the bass late in the day and ate them, we took small wooden stools down by the water, sat, listened to the silence.

Madiha Arsalan

Damask waterfalls cascaded down
the windows
to a jigsaw puzzle
floor of wooden blocks

that kept me busy on melting summer afternoons.
Outside, the challi waala1 hailed
for us to come out and buy his
cobs of

I walked out to the jharoka2
and looked down at my grandfather on his wicker charpoy3,
shelling green peas
into a silver bowl that tossed

the Indian sun back at me,
wrapped in a starched dhoti4
which he favored over the suits
that were choking

inside the many closets
of this haveli5,
one of several that he gave away.

He pointed at the clouds
and told me they were
ras gullas6 that day.

That was the summer he taught me


is learning how to sleep under
a shimmering patchwork comforter
of sky.

That was before
I learned that I still carry the ache of a Bhangra beat7
inside the throbbing dhol8 of my chest.

1. Literally means “one who sells corn.”
2. An Indian/Pakistani-style balcony.
3. A bed used especially in India consisting of a frame strung with wicker or thick cotton tapes.
4. Sarong-like garment worn by Indian/Pakistani men.
5. Indian/Pakistani-style mansion.
6. Indian/Pakistani confection made of milk solid balls boiled in cardamom-flavored syrup.
7. Indian/Pakistani drumbeats that originated in the province of Punjab.
8. Indian/Pakistani-style two-sided drum.

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