Timothy Kercher

Today I folded the dough
of a Georgian dumpling fourteen times
to enclose the meat spiced
with onion, red and black pepper,
cilantro, caraway seeds, and salt—
it took three times to get it right
after dividing a large ball of flour
and water, kneading, flattening it
with a roller, cutting out small circles
of dough, forming them
on a crowded balcony above
an eighty-year-old man
chopping wood as a thunderstorm
began. I watch a small fire of coals
where chunks of pork are being grilled
and a wood-burning stove where khinkali
are boiling, and I think about the other night
when I was misunderstood while ordering khinkali
despite being fluent in restaurant Georgian—
the waiter trying to hear English, a message sent
but not received, like this poem. What
I really want to write about is the hike to Lomisa,
a fifth-century church on a mountain ridge
where I lifted a chain between Georgia
and South Ossetia, placing the iron collar
around my neck to feel its six-foot,
two-hundred-pound bulk, forcing
my head to bow—I walked around
the church’s sole column in the light
of the single rock-slit window above
the altar, and what started as half-a-joke
turned into a walk of prayer, my three circles
around the stone column laboriously slow,
the many icons of St. George, St. Nino, and Christ,
a breeze blowing thin mountain air through
one door and out the other, ten thousand
wax candles melting, bending over each other,
some still burning, wavering. After the third
circle, when the weight was lifted from me,
my shoulders and neck rose as if gravity
had no pull, and I understood penance
just a little, the idea of grace
with a chain. And I think of circles
like the fourteen folds in the khinkali’s
dough to cradle meat, know my life
is not about misunderstanding orders,
but about growing old, chopping wood,
about vats of khinkali being boiled
and purified, cuts of pork being barbequed
in a rainstorm, about being flattened
and formed by chains forged
to cradle a man, about perfect
and imperfect circles.

Driving back from seeing Ephesus Neşe Otel
in Çeşme, I say, we are going home for the day,
even though we just moved from Tbilisi to Kyiv
and its coldest winter in decades. I long for
Tbilisi now, but home is Colorado—my parents’ home
where they’ve lived since I was seven. But
there were homes before that, and I’ve lived elsewhere
since, even buying a home in Dolores, Spanish
for pain, which is how I feel when I think about leaving
after just two years. Ah, I’m getting nostalgic here,
and I wonder if in Selçuk there’s nostalgia
for Atatürk’s twenties, if in Selçuk under Ottoman
rule there ever was nostalgia for Efes under
Byzantine rule, a city beautifully carved into a valley,
and if the Byzantines used to hanker for Roman
Ephesus, and if the Romans for the Hellenistic
Ephesus, and so on until the first man and woman
who stepped foot in Ephesus before it was even
a name longed for what this land was before
they ever arrived—this travel and that travel
that opens my heart to the Colorado I had
but didn’t understand when I lived there. Maybe
I will never be home. Still, wanting to feel at home
wherever I am, I build a city with aqueducts,
running water, and temples to whatever passion
I fancy at any particular moment,
and settle down by going to the same restaurant
each night to drink a çay and wait for two
döner sandwiches with chili, one for myself
and one for my wife. In this way, I feel at home,
even in this city we’ve lived in for only three days,
where I’ve established a routine, chosen a store
where I buy Efes beer—knowing
that when I leave I’ll pine for döners and Efes
and will buy one in Kyiv from time to time
to help me remember when I called Turkey home.
Maybe in the future I’ll call it home again,
or only my home away from home
away from home away, and maybe someday
I’ll be able to remember back so far
I’ll remember the home where all this began.

A play by Jacqueline Wright

In memory of Mildred Neil West

Beautiful’s room. Tasha, a 14-year-old girl, is looking up at the stars in the sky. Tasha’s grandmother, Beautiful, lies in bed. Tasha addresses the audience.

TASHA: Beautiful died.
She called me into her room, we were all lined up to say our good-byes at her door. I was the last one. I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I prefer hellos.

She pauses.

I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be generous. I wanted to be anything except what I was.

Tasha crosses to her grandmother.

Hello, Beautiful.

BEAUTIFUL: Hello, Tasha.

TASHA (addressing the audience): She called my brother Flight and my mother Gentle Flower. Me— she just called me my real name, Tasha. That always bothered me.

Read full play

Let me mend this for you, I say to niece,
let me sew our sorrow—Stitch at what we
are left with, let me teach you, where we place
our fingers next to sliver of needle.
Let me show you a woman's strength, already
conjured forth from you at seven years old.
I see it, in your ghost cries for daddy,
in the way you hold counsel at brass urn.

I tell you, like mother told me, when we
become blood pricked, we suck in the crimson
drop, take in the taste of metal to rough
nubbed tongue and continue, guiding fabric.
Our hands brown to desert, turn the ravaged
tender—our fingers winded memory

David M. Harris


Barges pass against the cold sky
above the roads on which I cycle,
from Rotterdam to Delft,
to Amsterdam and Beek, almost
silent but for my ticking odometer.
Each revolution marking space,
time, vector.

Each morning I pluck a new town
from the hostel guide and plan my route.
Mail goes only out.


The land bulges with sea-level canals.
Distant barges creep by above my head.
Then bridges fling me up and over
to land, ticking softly,
in the next great green bowl.

Last year, my father’s heart coughed
to get his attention.
Next year, it will stop.
This month I coast the Low Countries.

“October 1979” is in six parts. To read the complete poem, click here.

Corey Ginsberg

Eighteen cracked teeth.
My smile is breaking
apart from my face.
Things seem fine.

Eighteen cracked teeth.
I don’t sleep well anymore.
Since the man on the roof,
the man in my bed.

Since the men
I don’t sleep well anymore.
Eighteen cracked teeth.
Switchblade ready as I count.

feels more real now
that I own a house. It’s his eyes
when I should be sleeping.

No-Grind Bite Guard.
9-1-1 speed dial.
There’s nothing to count on.
My smile is breaking.

They want to put bars on my windows.
Enamel should be stronger.
Programmable alarm.
Any sleep. Anymore.

Still my tongue drags.
Eighteen, cracked. Apart
from my face, my face
apart, things seem fine.

A metronome
of yard sounds synchronizing
every slap snap
of dead
leaves, the drone
of dead sanctuary,
the dead coming back

to rob me. Again
the trees bear
broken witness. Blind
panorama, a stampede
of hiding places. Maybe
he’s watching.
My dreams

still end
in tidal waves.
Like the other
vulnerable nights, submerged
exterior, my body in bed,
seventy percent water.

I had imagined
less teeth grinding, no more
apocalyptic soak-throughs.
But the buoys of ego
sleep are too lopsided
to balance
the subcutaneous

self. The same dry dawn.
The same dreary drag
of tongue over cracked
teeth. The trigger
tempts. The trigger
is just beyond
my grasp.

An interview with Donnie Mather
Kim Weild

I am excited most and come alive most when I am meeting up against an idea that may come from another realm, and in its realm it is fully formed mind you, and I take it to a different context and translate it, or some might say, adapt it. –Donnie Mather

The Adaptations Project, founded by Donnie Mather, is a project that involves working with a rotating roster of associate artists to adapt, or translate, works from media other than theatre into pieces performed as theatre. Kaddish (or The Key in the Window), originally performed as part of the New York International Fringe Festival in 2009, is a play that adapts Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Kaddish” into a one-person show; Rising: A Dance Play, projected to premiere in NY in 2013, uses Yoko Ono’s album of the same name about Hiroshima as a source to create a piece of theatre where each of the songs is theatricalized—a dance theatre scene, a trio, a solo, a monologue. The source material doesn’t have to be a work of art. A Show of Force, conceived and created by Donnie, is devised from the work of journalists and interviews with war heroes as well as work of playwrights such as Charles Mee and William Shakespeare. Behind The Adaptations Project is the idea that inspiration could be found in a coffee cup, or a series of photographs, or a Kandinsky painting, and be the basis for a theatre piece. It gives the artists involved a kind of freedom—a freedom of expressivity. Adapting pieces that fall outside the realm of theatre also raises the larger question of what theatre is in the first place. The process of adaptation involves identifying, working within, and challenging the limits that define theatre; in so doing, there’s a possibility of creating something that is new. Ultimately the process of adaptation and of theatre has to do with telling a story.

To read the interview, click here.

Heather Holliger

You can survive on only ten inches of living skin.
While I count my birthdays, sticking white twist-candles

into yellow cakes, you grow a new layer of flesh
from your cambium, a ring of growth 1/100th of an inch.

In your rings, in your old skins, you’ve recorded the climates—
dry seasons, wet years, temperatures, and you tell us

about soil and wind and bedrock, even about sunspots.
Written in your rings is a story about us; we call it

dendrochronology, as if you were a fossil, or bones,
but no, your needles are green, you make red-purple

flowers in the spring, you are the oldest known still alive.
If I had roots like yours, if I could drink from limestone,

if I could endure through a mere twelve inches of rainfall,
I would make of myself a knotted, gnarled faith, a multi-trunked, branching desire.

Thomas J. Erickson

Nausicaa wasn’t supposed to play
with the servant girls but she would
sneak to the river to find us while
we washed the clothes.

I chased the ball into the woods and
from a pile of leaves a man appeared—
naked and dirty, his hair full of brine.

We all ran and hid except for Nausicaa.
The sun on her raven hair, her silver
arm band, the ruby rings on her lily hands.
The man kneeled and asked if she was a goddess.
We took him to the river so he could bathe.
Nausicaa had us lay out a clean cloak and tunic
and a golden flask of olive oil.

When he was done, we were surprised
he looked so handsome and strong. Nausicaa
told him to go to the palace, and to enter
the megaron and ask for her mother, the queen.

That night in the great hall, I filled
the cups with wine waiting for Nausicaa’s
call. When the bard sang of Troy,
the man wept and revealed that he was
Odysseus. His tales of the war wrapped
the room around him.

The man kept glancing at the blushing
Nausicaa who caught my eye and smiled.
I trembled as I filled her cup. My hand
brushing hers—smelling the hyacinths in her hair.

I prayed to Athena
to hold back the horses under the ocean
so that dawn would not come,
or at least so that night could linger.

Thomas J. Erickson

At night after our ritual
entwinement I move
from you decrementally.

My bedboat breaks away
and the currents carry
me past charnel beaches and
fallow fields

To the temple of Janus
to offer a husk of a poem,
you evaporating
from behind the ink.

In the morning, when
the warmth of your body
draws me back, I will begin
to remember your name.

Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson

The house emerged from under
dust covers.
A museum of purposeful chairs:
the overstuffed green variety,
Nan’s highchair with stenciled flowers,
straight back kitchen chairs.

Plates still out, dusty by time.
The weight of years without
hands to clean and dirty them.
The curtains repurposed as
fractured calico floor scraps.

Even after washing dishes in the brook,
hanging our coats over the windows,
we cannot stay.
Our life here an unconceivable one.
Those memories of beds and forks,
must have belonged to others.

Strange filters around the distant fights
and sherry-filled parties.

Two days later—the comforters restuffed with hay,
the albums dusted off, books breathing again
—we return to the woods.
The house a monument, a museum, a library.
Not needed, and not ours.

Caitlin Elizabeth Thomson

How strange it felt, to pile leaves on top
of my wool sweater. Tie orange sleeve to orange sleeve
before laying my head down.
My brother covered my body with leaves and needles,
so I could be nothing worth notice
and warm. Food was hard to find
before we discovered roots for winter,
rosehips for spring. In the summer and fall
bounty overwhelmed us. The longings we once held
for mattresses, refrigerators, lamps,
replaced by lakes and loons before the sun rose.
Knitting scraps of wool into sweaters.
Praying every day, earnest words
to the God we could all now feel coming.

Laura L. Snyder

After an overcast day of mist and wind from the intertidal coastline, our faces were wind and sunburned after gathering sweetgrass for basket weaving. I staggered up the riprap with a heavy, awkward bundle of rush slung over my shoulder, and there it was. How could I have walked by it this morning? Like a plank to the face, certain senses are impossible to ignore. My teeth clenched, and both nostrils flared before I could breathe through my mouth. Otherworldly while it lived, now a couple of weeks dead, this ten-foot enormous black soap-thing was barely recognizable, stranded on the high reaches of this strip of beach in Hoquiam. Back at our cars, I asked the other basket weavers if they had seen it, but they were too tired to care. Their minds were on beating the traffic to get back to Seattle. It was a door set in my path to another world. If I had been alone, I would have fallen, like Alice. Among the muck of old marine oil and sand, dried green algae, twists of decaying rope and bleached bones of trees, I leave this messenger to the rough benediction of rain off the gray Pacific, the lapping tides.

David M. Harris

Deep into sleeptime, I kept my promise,
wrapped her in blankets, and woke her
into the cool night. I stood, waiting for our irises
to bloom. And the sky revealed itself.
I turned my almost-too-heavy bundle
to the east, and pointed. But in the time it takes
to turn, meteors vanish. Look, point,
turn, never fast enough to see
the brilliant flash on the sky. When she had missed
enough for one night, she had me
carry her inside, too sleepy
for disappointment, to the warmth
of her room and guardian bears. Another year,
another swarm, with me—or with some boy—
a candent slash across the belly of the dark.

©2009-2019 Labletter LLC. All rights for individual pieces reserved by contributing writers and artists.