War Stories

A father’s love is dangerous.

A son would die for it.

He mounts the slab and stretches out

while the old man hones the blades

glinting in the moonlight,

hearts in duet: See, father, see

how I love you?

And when the old man’s hand is stayed and the blade

falls harmless to the earth, they both rise up,

feeling blessed, grateful for their lives,

which they’ll rededicate, they’ll sacrifice, they’ll make

a religion of this.

No end to what a son will take

in the name of that love—

thorns in the skull, nails in the hand.

He’ll drink vinegar and say it’s wine.

He’ll hang crosswise in the wind

for hours believing he’ll wind up

in his father’s arms.

Night comes on. Saturn rises

in his monstrous hunger.

He raises his sons in his clumsy fist,

tears them with his dogged teeth.

Their blood slides down his chin,

he crushes their bones to pulp,

sucks down their hearts and livers and

loves them, oh, man, oh, brother, how

he loves them.

Gail Griffin


Gail Griffin is the author of two books of personal essays, Calling: Essays on Teachings in the Mother Tongue and Season of the Witch: Border Lines, Marginal Notes. Her nonfiction is published in anthologies such as Fresh Water: Women Writing the Great Lakes, Jo’s Boys, Wise Women, and The Intimate Critique, as well as in journals including Fourth Genre, Blue Mesa Review, and Third Coast. Her poetry is published in such journals as Kalliope, Passages North, New Delta Review, and Primavera, along with the anthology Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poets. She has taught literature and writing for thirty years at Kalamazoo College and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.




The Dog and the Calling World

                                          After Hurricane Katrina


A fox trotted along the fence last night,

quick pad of black paws leaving

just enough scent in the dust holding

the dead grass in place for winter

that my dog finds the rusty smell

when he dives for the tennis ball.

I call his name but he devours

fox through his nostrils.

When thin clouds, finished at last

with their short sleep against the mountain,

leave the sky and fall like empty snow

onto the lake’s green plate,

only then does the dog waken to my voice.


Later, asleep on a sheet of TV light,

his legs quiver and a muffled bark

escapes into the news-filled air. The screen

offers a parade of Southern dogs and cats

delivered at last by human hands

from their fled and sinking homes—

the silence of the drowned,

the starved, the four-legged.

In a different city, in a strange bed,

a child calls out in her sleep.

The dog, in a shelter, dreams her voice,

her hands with their scent of dirt and candy.

She is tugging his worn leash or throwing the ball

and he is leaping, leaping.

Lisa Zimmerman


Lisa Zimmerman’s poetry and fiction are published in anthologies as well as journals including The Cortland Review, the Colorado Review, The Sun, Atlanta Review, The Portland Review, and Indiana Review, among others. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks and the full-length collection How the Garden Looks from Here, winner of the 2004 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.




My Mother Confides

When I ask my mother why she married my father,

she says, I fell in love with his Dad, Big John,

you know he was so brilliant and handsome—

I couldn’t have him because he was old, nearly seventy,

and besides he was married, so I thought his son…


When I ask her if she thought my Dad would be like his father,

she says, I thought maybe genetics, you know…

some of that wisdom and strength would be passed on…

and when I say, But Mom, he was adopted,

she just smiles and shrugs.

Then she says, Your father was so funny—

I think that’s what got me—he used to

send me the funniest letters during the War—

he made up hilarious stories, so clever,

he’s very smart, your father, and very funny.

I married him because of that.

She tells me she only saw him once before the War

and when he came home they were married.

I know this isn’t true but it’s romantic and takes the edge off

her falling for my grandfather.

Then she says, You know one thing

that was always good between your father and me,

and I say, No, what? And she says, The sex.

I tell her I’m glad, surprised and glad for her.

Then she tears up, says, I miss it, you know?

He used to enter me in the middle of the night,

holding me like spoons, so gently I hardly even

woke up. It felt like a wonderful dream,

and I miss that.


Toni Van Densen


Toni Van Deusen’s poems are published in MARGIE, CALYX Journal, West Wind Review, Fireweed, and Tiger’s Eye, among other discerning literary journals. She has one full-length book of poems, Moonmusic, co-written with poet Connie Beitler (Wellstone Press, 2000). She edited the Lane Literary Guild’s 2006 chapbook, Dona Nobis Pacem—Grant Us Peace. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.




To Cece, 5

Thank you for The Round Book—

              crayola illustrated,

and specifically dedicated

                                          to me.

I’ve studied both pages carefully.

It tells me that a polka dot is round.

It tells me that a kid’s face is round.


                                          I’m pleased

you’ve become a maker of books—

   the kind of writer who overlooks

the expected roundness of, say, balls

but remains awestruck and busy

pondering makes-you-dizzy

dots in seas of dancing

cloth (like the blue

     polka you drew

on Page One).

You search other kids’ faces

for impish traces like the one on Page Two—

                            a kid with no brows,

grape-pop eyes,

chocolate-drop nose,

                              orange-slice mouth.

Judith Tate O’Brien


Judith Tate O’Brien’s short collection, Mythic Places, won the ByLine 2000 Chapbook Contest. By the Grace of Ghosts (2003) and Everything That Is, Is Connected (2005) were published by Village Books Press. Individual poems are published in Rattle and Poet Lore. She lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.