Saturday, December 31, 2016

Well Here We Are

"Night Travel," by Paula Baader
Well Here We Are

Sky taupe with snowlight and moonlight and cloud
crawling in the window and my son sleeping sprawled across my legs
going nowhere with Peter Pan
who as I understand it as an adult is a great menace
Outside zero bombs flay our neighborhood to its quaking skeleton
The only injury in this room is a cut on my pinky under a bandage
Everything is terrible
Everything is beautiful

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place

My baby breathes on me
and I match his breath

This is a prayer
Right now a man with a gun

is in a building at a university
a few miles from my home

Those on campus are told to
Shelter to Run Hide Fight

My startled heart shudders
and flaps its wings Also now

parents all over the city and 
country whose children are here 

are praying together quaking
in terror but not alone 

Let us all be safe
Let us breathe 

Monday, November 7, 2016



Snail warm in its shell
snug on some rock

brandishing a riding crop
and chanting

Where you live will make your
work beautiful
You need a city city city
What you need is to hurry

I’m not saying to kill the poor thing
but maybe relocate it
Under that bush over there will do

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


"The Thing," by Samuel Bischoff


Here is how I become the beginning of my son’s story
He gets heavier and every day my body is a little less
my own My belly twitches rabbit-like and I think of
the 3D ultrasound where the nurse pointed out his open
eyelids Whatever he sees in that darkness I hope it comforts
him Because we are shaped into humans alone
in a friendly room the self gathers strength One day
he will tell a person that he loves all about his parents
Oh, you would think that coffee and tea were sacred
for how much they dote over it He laughs at us
and how we are What I do now is food chain fodder
for the future This boy will teach me how to loosen
my leash to the self I have always walked in

Friday, September 30, 2016

The baby is a living bedside photo

The baby is a living bedside photo

    in his video monitor, in his crib. She wakes to watch his back raise and lower.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Open Concept

"Front Windows...," by Marine Nyiri and Audrey Anastasy

Open Concept

The dream of every American homeowner
To see across your home in one unbroken
expanse Shore to horizon The home as ocean
As perfect contained realm without fracture
or interruption Here is you cooking
even if you never cook Here is you washing greens
And there are your children playing on the floor
with a single red toy A wooden truck
Nothing is scattered around them No envelopes
on the countertops to tie your bodies to an address
This home is holy Between all of you
lustrous floors gray walls quartz countertop
subway tile backsplash without one fleck of mold
Your kitchen is a train station Is a train to carry you
toward what you see Toward what you almost see
If you just make this place gleam a touch more
maybe you can be the first humans allowed to not die

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sylvia Hotel

Sylvia Hotel

The ivy clad hotel
reddens with the coming cold

There is nothing that will not be changed
once it is touched

Even architecture
Even a hotel crouching on the beach's long hem
as it collects itself from sand into neighborhood

Even by air
as it brings to us what has not happened yet

Monday, August 22, 2016

In the aisles of Target, a voice: I am a bunny,

In the aisles of Target, a voice: I am a bunny,

    My name is Nicholas, I live in a hollow tree, the words rose up from some unseen
    mother’s mouth among the red shelves. Her friend the poet says, can I just gift you with
    this anecdote. It was like some grand narrator.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Day

The Day

Warm gray sky veined with branches out the window on the first day of May as I nurse my son to sleep and I recall a warm storm one evening when I was seven. Porch swing, white eyelet dress, glittery plastic pony in my hand, my best friend next door in her living room watching the Miss Teen America pageant. What I felt as I leaned into the wind: the future is coming, the future is coming, and there is so much I don’t yet know about everything, my best friend, who we would be, how the invisible maelstrom of love and pain and decisions crouched before us all like the horizon, its breath warm on our cheeks.

What is the day.

What is one evening. What is one evening when I was seven, and one when I am thirty-three, and the dangling chain draped between them, a collar brooch. What is the throat beneath this collar.

My son does so many things well, even though he has only been in our world for five months. He eats, he grows, he crows and croons his language up into the sky of our bedroom for us to wake to. He lets a sharp tooth within his mouth pierce his gums, he smiles and uses his eyes to say he loves us, he wants to sit up while holding our hands, he has started to roll over. He naps erratically but sleeps well at night. We nurse as the light leaves the room, and when it’s dark, he’s full and asleep. I let him fall deeper into his sleep, into his dreams. I transfer him to his crib, slowly, matching our breaths, matching my movements to our breaths, lifting, standing, approaching the crib and placing him inside, trying each night for the softest descent. Shh shh shh, three times, times nine or ten or fifty, shh shh shh. Let the day fall away from you, sweet baby. Tomorrow there is more.

Our day gets spent. Sometimes it clinks by in pennies, three books read sprawled on an elephant blanket, a granola bar eaten in six minutes, moments laughing back and forth at the joke of how I touch his nose and say boop, a song about a monkey, a diaper, a diaper, a diaper. At some point in the day, I lose a stack of bills, it becomes 4:00 in the afternoon, or I am suddenly washing my face before bed.

Never before him have I been able to wake early without an alarm clock. Now I wake to his noises. I do not go out to work. I do not need to rush to get ready. I change him, I feed him, I let him doze. Maybe I doze while holding him. My husband gets up and we talk to our son. I’ll shower and come downstairs and we will start our day. I will move based on his needs. Son, you are my clock.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Little Voice

"Let Go/Hold On," Athena Petra Tasiopoulos

Little Voice

Human voice why do we hear you inside
ourselves when no sound escapes us

If wind is the thought then the trembling tree
is the throat and the leaves that exalt
in jostling each other are the voice
Even though it sounds like they are saying
shhhhh So that the wind says shhhhh

Am I allowed to have a voice Why
am I permitted to speak

What comes from you is yours
but it is not yours once you release it

Like all creatures
the voice wants to live

Unlike all creatures
the voice can live without its body
No vessel No carton No shell

Snail-soul fly forth as sound
and also as soundless marks
Crawl and scurry and float

Image above by Athena Petra Tasiopoulos

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jitka Anlaufova's Watercolors

Transparent, delicate, flowery beauty by Jitka Anlaufova

Monday, July 25, 2016

Another name for mother

Another name for mother

    is the self elbows itself to make room for someone else.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Strangers have always confessed

Strangers have always confessed

    to her, and now, with the baby, they tell her about their babies, now retired, who have
    babies who have babies. Eighty-eight years old, my husband gone, one of my sons gone,
    just one son left and all his babies here, family means everything. Remember to take    

Friday, June 17, 2016

Terrifying headlines about children

Terrifying headlines about children

    mean that she will never read those articles, never. And then she does, recoiling, wincing,    

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

If she could puree the world

If she could puree the world

    to make life easy for her son, she would, but because life won’t fit into the small, be-   
    smiley faced blender, she plops into it chunks of cooked sweet potato, banana, avocado.
    From now on he will eat what grows in the earth rendered thin, fluid, creamy.

Monday, May 30, 2016

What Is Wobbly Will Right Itself

"Tiny Little Series" by Kate Castelli

What Is Wobbly Will Right Itself

probably What is wobbly will become strong
someday but only if it wobbles enough

I consider several counterexamples
Threadbare fences hanging on by one measly nail
The skinny tree tethered on each side to a wooden post
a family tree come to life
Worse of all the limb shaken from within by illness
not evil (the illness) but cruel and thoroughly despicable

What is wobbly can be steady
See There is my baby son lifting his own head
Raising his own body to sit
Learning how to hold himself

What is wobbly reveals the work
and weight and sway

of the unattached and coming undone

the classification that we all fall under

[Image above by Kate Castelli]

Monday, May 23, 2016

Parenthood is a time of boxes

Parenthood is a time of boxes

    both empty and full. Everything comes to them in a box—high chair, diapers, wipes, car
    seat base, bottle warmer—and is then unboxed. She slices them at the seam, folds them    
    flat, body into shadow, or places them inside each other, nesting dolls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The midday walk brings

The midday walk brings

    purple shutters. A beige house gone blue over the weekend. A grandfather in black and
    white checked pajama pants, carrying his grandson out to collect the mail. They are also
    in the At Home During the Day Club.

Monday, May 16, 2016

For every swath of green

For every swath of green

    there should be one red thing. Freshly shorn lawn with its red mower. Red convertible    
    parked under limbs greening up. Cardinal darting in the leaves of the oak, reminding you    
    that here is your heart alive inside you for so short a time.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Here are our bees

Here are our bees

    she thinks, protective of both the baby and the bees.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What is the correct pronoun

What is the correct pronoun
     for her, for me, for the self. These days, she is more aware of the self within her actions.     
    The woman. The girl. The mother. Me.

Monday, April 25, 2016

She narrates her own actions

She narrates her own actions

    as she does them, calling herself Mommy before her son. This becomes her new habit,    
    casting out a net of language into the future to protect her baby, to encourage the world’s    
    softness and obedience. This is the part of hide and seek where the seeker calls out to the
    hider, Ready or not, here we come.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Motherhood introduces her to this new guilt

Motherhood introduces her to this new guilt

    because of all that she cannot do. You are only one body, the body insists, but the brain
    and the heart holler out YOU COULD BE DOING SO MUCH MORE.

Friday, April 15, 2016

One red tulip

One red tulip
    at the ankles of the mailbox. Craning its little, lithe neck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Two Poems and a Collage by Leah Umansky

image by Leah Umansky

Leah Umansky

how did we make that leap
to borrow a moon and make it our own
the heart is exhausted.
and the other-telling is now fire-backed and brim
don’t know where else we can go.

the not-earth is a tender song
(and who will read this anyway)

You, in your station, what notes are you trying to sound?
Me.  My wolf. We hear you.

There is no substitute.  There won’t be anyone to save us.

Sense has ceased.

But, I tell you, we are full of wonder,
literally full of wonder:  wonderful.
And there is wonder inside each of us darkly-pitted things.

I’m trying to get you to look at this life.  At this page. This screen.
This is not a proxy war

It has been so long since a war has been just men fighting.
To live here, in this moment.

Let the training begin:
             First, fight.
             Second, love.
             Third, love harder

We can season this together
things in the wild need salt
Come, let me salt the wounds at your heels

Leah Umansky

I am wonder-led by wolves.
This night-world is our lyric, our pack-song.
We comb these paths for beauty, but I cannot chart the countless devouring of tooth and nail

My wolves are wanderers. I, their huntress.

one stores costumes
one thinks he predominates
one lives a life of wind and waves
one thinks darkness is key
one thinks all is retro
one never leaves me
one tangles light and shadow
one folds fable into dreams
one bites anything that moves
one bites anything indulgent
one suggests ferociousness
one imagines dreaming
one absorbs the hurt of the past
one stories for me
one is mine (all mine)
one thinks he knows a way to better days
one keeps remnants in a hole in a cave

together, we rise our way through darkened rambles and haunted freeze-frames
together, we torch what nips at our ankles, pulls at our hair and sneers through barricades
together, we anchor each day into a new day, a new existence, a new tomorrow

The above poems are published in Straight Away the Emptied World,
and appear here with permission of the author

Read Leah's thoughts On Creativity here

Leah Umansky is the author of the dystopian themed chapbook, Straight Away the Emptied World (Kattywompus Press 2016)¸ the Mad-Men inspired, Don Dreams and I Dream (Kattywompus Press 2014) and the full-length collection Domestic Uncertainties (Blazevox 2012). Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming in, such places as Poetry Magazine, Magma, Faerie Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, The Golden Shovel Anthology, and Barrow Street.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dear sweet boy I want to give you grass

Dear sweet boy I want to give you grass

    so I bring the window down into the car door, so I bring you out into the green world.
    Together we will inhale the carroty perfume of growing, of tending, of cutting.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Already with you there are good old days

Already with you there are good old days

    And there is now. Back when you slept on my shoulder. Back when you were a quieter,
    more fragile version of yourself.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The faucet. The pipes in the shower. The window

The faucet. The pipes in the shower. The window
    yawning open. The furnace gulping as it wakes up. The awake birds and the sleeping    
    ones. The whining brakes of the garbage truck. These are things she mistakes for her baby

Friday, April 1, 2016

Beauty clutches in its teeth

Beauty clutches in its teeth

    that thing which is its opposite. Another way of saying this is that whatever can be ruined    
    is beautiful.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Everything beeps when it is finished

Everything beeps when it is finished
    in this house. The washer and dryer sing an ice cream truck tune, the coffee beeps, the    
    rice cooker beeps. These are also voices inside the house.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Now it is Saturday

Now it is Saturday
     Now you see a magnolia tree and its pink flowers for the first time. Now it is Easter. Now it is     
     Passover. Now it is now, over and over.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Constellation, (Natural Symmetry)"

"Constellation, (Natural Symmetry)" by Hannah Luxton

Friday, March 25, 2016

Each day I am writing a new story

Each day I am writing a new story
    but each day will also become sewn together in a larger story, and each year that book
    will be sewn between empty covers that grow fuller, fuller, fuller. And a shelf awaits. And
    a whole library.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

All from love, and no fear

All from love, and no fear

    is what Elie Tahari tells the fashion designers on Project Runway. I watch episode after
    episode while you nurse, while you sleep. Teach me about stillness.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Taking you into the sun

Taking you into the sun

    I learn how strong the light is, how strong the wind is. Mommy: a shield.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The streets all end in leaf

The streets all end in leaf
    in our neighborhood: Palmleaf, Littleleaf, and our street, Starleaf. If the streets are
    branches, the houses are leaves. If the streets are leaves, the houses are its veins, its
    across-the-palm creases.

Monday, March 21, 2016

We’re going around the block

We’re going around the block

    and as we pass a thing I share its simplest name. A tree. A pond. A bird. A rock. I ask you    
    if you see them. This is my way of giving them to you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

No one sees any of this happen

No one sees any of this happen

    except the mother. Except the baby. It is unremarkable, but there is beauty there. The    
    house grows up around them, a pumpkin, a carriage, a hollow tree.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I live in a hollow tree

I live in a hollow tree

    So says the book that the baby loves. Not for what the words mean, but for their sounds.    
    For the way his mother flutters her fingers over the pages and says wwwwshhhhh to    
    make the snow tumble.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Naps are lilypads

Naps are lilypads
    for the baby, his brain. He will hop toward who he is becoming, hour by hour.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The baby sleeps two hours this afternoon

The baby sleeps two hours this afternoon

    so that inside himself his body can grow. These two hours will not be remembered. He    
    will not look back on them fondly, because he will not look back on them at all.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The day she comes home from the hospital

The day she comes home from the hospital

    Full of bruises and stitches, she stubs her toe on the changing table. This is the first new    
    injury after he’s born. It surprises her, that this hurts a little, like before she was a mother.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

We cry for the refugees

We cry for the refugees
    Only after their children drown. Only after we see the photograph.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

She Didn't Remember Remembering That Song

She didn’t remember remembering that song

    but while kissing her baby son’s toes, she starts singing, Kookaburra sits in the old gum    
This is how we know that music and time are both made of fishhooks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How will I get through this time

How will I get through this time

    Because it will end. As will the ember of all that you experience, your very ability to    
    experience in and of itself.

Monday, March 7, 2016

One day, you’ll wish for this back

One day, you’ll wish for this back

    is what every mother she knows passes along to her, their voices pinched with    
    clothespins clinging onto sheets that balloon and billow and jerk.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Smash Cake

Smash Cake

When you wake up how are you changed
little boy What ropes and pulleys are now joined
in your mind and swaying For each new ability
a new rung on your inner monkey bars Your voice
which comes spilling out of your smile Your small
smile And later your grin The anemones that your hands
become fingers curling in and blooming out How must
it feel when suddenly movement or sensations are newly
available to you An unfamiliar room you find yourself in
that you yourself are building This is why children
love blocks Love tinker toys Love joining two hard bits
that seem unchanging to make a changed third thing
Baby if you will build I will bake you the warm bricks
and hand them to you like cupcakes Bang the world’s pieces
together sweetie Slam your eyelashes up and down
Let your drawbridge mouth release horns and horses
and also mandolin-strumming pacifists who will never
hold a sword

[image above by Lynn Basa]

Friday, February 12, 2016

Poetry/Art Collaboration by Joy Sullivan and Kristin Calhoun

Poems by Joy Sullivan, art by Kristin Calhoun. An absolutely beautiful project! These pieces and more will be on display at EASE Gallery in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the exhibit "The Game Show," centering on collaborative works.


Tongues lap at open air
as we, sad animals of salt,
move towards the altar
sloughing strands of hair, sweat, skin,
the residue of bodies.

Show me holy.

Bone angle and bent exuberance,
the wafer beneath my tongue, fit of little
disappointments in my fist.

The chalice awakes, its open mouth
as whole and dark as your mouth,
a black-eyed susan toppled from the sun.

I turn and taste the drought.


When you meet the Beluga of your grief
in the open ocean, do not pierce or pet it.
Do not ride or tame it.
Do not feed it anything other than yourself.
Instead, let it roll you in its mouth,
mold you with its gargantuan tongue.

Let it swallow you whole.
Arrive like Jonah in the soft underbelly of lament,
in the whale of your own sorrow, drown.
Settle among the tattered fish, the carnage,
the fishermen's hooks carved into bones of rust.
Push your hands into the raucous heart,
feel it beat wildly against your palms.

Begin to crawl.

Up the colossal throat and past monoliths of teeth,
climb out like a hymn. Rise like a stupid miracle
flung upon some sun-fragrant rock,
shocked and land-hungry, wet with whale spit and resolve.
Cup your hands to your heart---full now with the sonar of sadness
Remember how it propelled you, breathless, towards the shore.


In autumn, I eavesdrop on winter.
I ruddy my cheeks up and go out.

You were my little shark,
cool beside my body, sluicing for blood.

Yet I remain unbroken, innocent as a goat,
clenched white in the lemon trees, sleeved in snow—

these are the shining days.



Joy Sullivan is a poet and educator living in Franklinton, Ohio. Currently, she teaches Creative Writing at Columbus State Community College, Columbus Academy and Thurber House. Joy earned an MA in Poetry from Miami University and her academic work reflects an interest in social justice, community development, and creative education. Her most recent publications include Periodisa Publishing, Boxcar Poetry, and Mirror Dance. Additionally, she currently serves as the Artist-in-Residence for the Wexner Center's Pages Program. 

Kristin Calhoun is an artist and illustrator living in Columbus, Ohio.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"Shiver & You Have Weather," by Matthea Harvey

"Sleeping Beauty," by June Sira
Shiver & You Have Weather
In the aftermath of calculus
your toast fell butter-side down.

Squirrels swarmed the lawns
in flight patterns. The hovercraft

helped the waves along. From
every corner there was perspective.

On the billboards the diamonds
were real, in the stores, only zirconia.

I cc’ed you. I let you know.
Sat down to write the Black Ice Memo.

Dinner would be meager &
reminiscent of next week’s lunch.

So what if I sat on the sectional?
As always I was beside myself.
[Image above by June Sira]
[Poem via Poetry Magazine]

Monday, January 4, 2016

On Creativity: Wendy McVicker

I met Wendy McVicker in 2011 (I believe it was), when I moved back to Ohio. She came to read for Paging Columbus, and I immediately enjoyed her work and warm, playful artist's spirit. Since then, I've enjoyed following her poetry and creative projects, which often draw inspiration from other forms of art. (I especially enjoyed visiting Wendy and Becca J.R. Lachman, who is also featured here on The Storialist. Together, they run this wonderful radio show out of Athens about poetry, and were kind enough to feature me!) Her new chapbook, The Dancer's Notes, is no exception--I found it engaging, full of empathy, humor, and joy.

Here's a little exchange we had about her work (my question is bolded, and then you'll see Wendy's response). Be sure to keep reading after our mini Q and A--you'll find a poem from the book, and Wendy's bio below.

Q: The poems in your chapbook, The Dancer’s Notes, seem to be studies of movement and stillness (often within the same poem). How do you relate to these concepts as you write? Do you feel active/physical while writing? Or still?

A: Movement and stillness: the teeter-totter where I have spent my life trying to find balance. I was a bookworm growing up, but always took long walks, and played for hours and days in the woods with my brothers and other neighborhood kids. As a philosophy student in college, I took dance classes to get away from the desk and the library. After graduation, I debated grad school in English versus more dancing, and then followed love to Europe, where I had to learn to live in a new language: dance became my means of expression, while my love of language was stirred every day as I became more nimble in French.

Poetry is another way of seeking balance on this seesaw. Although in love with words — or maybe because I am in love with words — I am fascinated by and drawn to silence. My first “adult” poems bloomed in the silence of Quaker Meeting, after I had returned (with my love, and a toddler son) to America, and my mother tongue. Silence is where I find the words, and it is the setting for all the words. I think that this is why I like to have a lot of white space in my poems: the silence that surrounds the words is always present.

In much the same way, dance is born of stillness: each gesture arises from stillness, and there are no movements that are not the intended gesture. This is the goal, at least, just as the poet’s goal is to have not a single extraneous mark on the page.

I sit (or lounge) to write, in any number of places, at home and elsewhere, but I do take frequent breaks for fresh air and moving. I once lived by a long bike path, and would take lines I was working on to that path, and murmur them to the rhythm of my walking. I know writers who listen to music while they work. I can’t do this: if there’s music on, I have to get up and dance.  But then dance circles back to the poems and the poetry practice. In The Dancer’s Notes, I try to find words for this dance of the spirit — sometimes they come from stillness, sometimes from movement. It is a dance that never ends.

a poem from The Dancer's Notes

Big jump up

A fence, or stile
A river rock sunken
in the grass —

Leaping, once, as a child
she crashed
into the top rail —

pain, bright
firewheels splashing
in her skull, the vast
black sky and her mother

chiding — she
who hesitates is
— Now

she leaps and clears
the other kneeling
in light, and her heart
too lifts —
a big jump up —

her face spangled
with gold

About Wendy McVicker

Wendy McVicker is a Teaching Artist and Literature Field Consultant with the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning program. She has always tried to balance writing and moving, contemplation and action. At Webster University, she studied both philosophy and dance, and her life in poetry is paralleled by her life in karate. She lived in French-speaking Switzerland for seven years, and her response to returning to her native tongue was to dive into poetry. Her poems have appeared in small journals online and in print, and in the anthology A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford (ed. Becca J.R. Lachman). In addition to offering poetry workshops and residencies in schools, galleries, libraries, community centers, prisons, and hospitals, McVicker performs with instrumentalist Emily Prince under the name another language altogether, often with dancers and other musicians. The Dancer’s Notes (Finishing Line Press, 2015) is her first chapbook.

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