By Sarah Layden

My brain is a box of wires.
Some connect to appropriate
portals, some fray at both ends.
I sort the tenth tragic email update from a friend
to the folder marked Baby. I begin to reply but draw
a blank, I type a few words then backspace the screen
clean. My own souvenir ultrasound picture is taped
to the monitor, little ghost in the machine. Some
machines work better than others. Mine was
broken, then fixed. Now this me-chine provides
sugar and fuel and god knows what else, fuel I
needed but expelled last night, a great
heaving, & I had the presence of mind
to clip back my hair. They say puking
while pregnant is a good sign. It feels
like being poisoned but it’s a good sign.
Best not to think of the emails left
unanswered, the failings of friendship
stretched thin by grief.
This is a moment of being
unwired, unhinged,
to anything but flesh,
to a baby technically
connected to me.
I am the host,
the server, and
the plug
only works
one way.

Back to November 2015 Issue

How to Love Your Teenage Daughter

How to Love Your Teenage Daughter















By Jennifer L. Freed

Start early, while she is still too young to pull
back from your touch.  Teach her
the language of your eyes, your arms,
your wordless hand brushing along her hair
as she slips past you in the morning
bustle of the kitchen.

Kiss her with the breath of onions.
Close your eyes, if you need to, while she leaps.
Hold your tongue.  Bite it,
if necessary.
Cut her food for her, if
necessary.  Know
that it may be necessary,
even though her teeth are strong.

Let her try on your clothes.  Let her wear them
for an hour, or a day, then shrug them off
with a disdainful gaze. Tell her
why they suit you, and
that they did not always.

Tell her you once tried
to make a fairy’s home of forest moss
and garden flowers, and tell her
that you failed.  Look her in the eyes.

Get two pairs of work gloves, two
shovels.  Ask her where to build
a mountain.  Ask her to help.
When you are tired, climb the mountain
with her.  Destroy it with her. Get
the shovels, and build with her

Give her a Swiss Army knife, and
sturdy shoes, an ocean
stone to fit into the center
of her fisted palm.
These will serve her when she leaves
you. Know that she will leave you. Know
that your job is to teach her how,
and to want her to stay.


Jennifer L. Freed’s poems have appeared in Poetry East, Literary Mama, The Worcester Review, The Christian Science Monitor and others.  Her first chapbook, These Hands Still Holding,  (Finishing Line Press, 2014) was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices contest. 

photo: the winding road |

Return to the September 2015 Issue

September 2015 Issue

September 2015 Issue

SEPT 15 Cover 2

Table of Contents


Editor’s Letter: New Beginnings


Essay: When We Were Two by Dorothy Rice

There’s no reliving those days when the clock stopped at midnight and I left my kids, now as old as I was then, to the care of others, while I pounded out analyses for legislation long forgotten or superseded, flew through the capitol’s hallowed halls as if I owned the place, bantered and bartered with a cast of characters who thought no more of me than I did of them. It was the price I believed I had to pay to get ahead.


Essay: Pieces of Him by Sara Tickanen

The nurse was still talking, but I hadn’t heard a word. “The pill that they put inside of you is basically telling your body that it’s time to go into labor. Your water should probably break soon, but if it doesn’t they will break it manually. Things will progress like normal labor… Our son was dead, but I still had to go through labor.


Feature: Postcards from the Sandwiched by Amy Yelin

I’ve been spending the last two years both helping my parents move out of their house while helping my exceedingly anxious 18-year-old daughter get her brain around that she’s going to college. We went to look at schools and she had a panic attack. It’s been a tough process. And I feel like I’m constantly bouncing from one anxiety-ridden thing to another.


Fiction: Losing Hart by Hannah Thurman

“Did you know Elsa is the first Disney princess not to be a teenager?” Hart says, twisting her thumb out of the glove so she can scroll down the screen. “She’s 21. And she’s only the second princess to have magical powers.”


Debate: Should Kids Have Homework in Elementary School?

NO! By Stephanie Sprenger

YES! By Sarah Rudell Beach


Nutshell: Oh, Nuts by Charlene Oldham

The simple answer is that we don’t definitively know why food allergy among children has risen at such a dramatic rate.


Poetry: In the Absence of My Son, By Christine Poreba


Poetry: How to Love Your Teenage Daughter by Jennifer L. Freed


Poetry: The Photograph by Laura Snell


Motherwit: Warts & All by Sharon Trumpy



Cover art: By LuLu Blaquiere

“The symbolism of elephants is magnificent and strong. I wanted to depict the special relationship between mother and child through this symbolism.”

In the Absence of My Son

In the Absence of My Son

images-6By Christine Poreba


A white fluff drops onto my arm

and a wind from inside the wall of me

almost pushes me over—


because the errant milky puff reminds me

of “danaliah,” which my son loves for me to pick for him

on walks, so he can blow and blow the seed pods off.


But what has dropped on me

is not a dandelion and my son is not here and the wind

soon carries the mystery gossamer away and I am left


to go back to my room to study his drawing,

bold circles dashed in waxy streaks. In my solitude,

the world seems to be moving in slow motion,


nobody else to determine what comes next.

The quiet is too quiet but then I can’t get enough,

but my arms are bearing a wilderness.


Our goodbye was saved by his being two

and not yet bearing the weight of the knowledge of time,

making this hug and kiss goodbye for him no different


from any other. I, on the other hand,

went out on the porch and wept, leaning over the railing

to wait for one more glimpse of him


over the mountain with his grandparents,

on their way to pay homage to “the broken boat”

he’d been telling everyone about the whole vacation.


Every time we walked up close, there was no

avoiding the fact that the boat was really a charred stack of logs,

remains of a ski lodge burned down last winter.


But the illusion for him never seemed broken.

And why shouldn’t one thing become so easily another?

The old ski lift, then, a seat from a Ferris wheel.


Which I can almost see turning as I wake this morning

to a room of gorgeous light, to acres of silence, an ache but also a dream

of unsharpened pencils being sharpened.


Christine Poreba lives in Tallahassee, Florida with her husband John and their now three-year-old son Lewis. Her first book of poetry, Rough Knowledge, will be coming out from Anhinga Press this fall.

Return to the September 2015 Issue

The Photograph

The Photograph

SEPT 15 The photograph ART

By Maura Snell

Hey, you, in your tutu,

tulle-decked and plump

with the pots of geraniums

leaf-licked and blooming about you.

Hey, you, there, squat on the cement step,

fingers wrapped in fists, bare toes wiggling,

where did you go little girl?

You surged, opening

the way a new bud might

when placed in water and sunlight

in a fast-frame unfurling.

Will you remember me when I’m dust?

I can feel how the concrete must have made

your bare skin itch, the leotard, thin

against your tiny bottom pressed down

into rough cement,

already a eulogy.

You’ve disappeared into gawk and glasses.

But sometimes, when you’re not looking,

I squint at you and can still see in your profile

that baby girl,

gazing up at me as she squats

among the geraniums.


photograph: Werner Images

Return to the September 2015 Issue

Book Review: Instant Winner

Book Review: Instant Winner

By Beth Eakman

Carrie Fountain, Instant Winners coverI teach college writing. A little-known associated liability is that a lot of people feel compelled to show you their work. A significant number have performed poetry aloud on the spot. As a consequence of the last two decades in this profession, my default setting is to brace myself for some serious discomfort. This is especially trying when the writer is a colleague.

So, imagine my relief, when several years ago, I went to hear my colleague Carrie Fountain read poetry from her first collection Burn Lake the 2009 National Poetry Series winner. Clearly, Fountain’s work had been pretty thoroughly vetted and had received the stamp of approval from luminaries of the American poetry world. In the past year, in fact, Garrison Keillor has discovered her poems and has read three on his NPR program The Writer’s Almanac. Still, as the result of many years of reading and hearing less-than-lovely writing, the good stuff surprises and delights me every time. This time I felt physically moved, swept away.

And with her new poetry collection, Instant Winner, Fountain has surprised me, again. In the years since Burn Lake, Fountain has become a mother. Like Burn Lake, which critics often lauded for its strong sense of place (Fountain’s home state of New Mexico), Instant Winner gives readers a strong sense of a very different place: motherhood.

In his review for The New Yorker, June 2, 2014 Dan Chiasson, reviewing Rachel Zucker’s latest poetry collection, wrote: “Motherhood isn’t war, madness, or addiction, but for a writer it can be an adverse condition, undermining the very work it inspires.” Chiasson notes that Zucker, like other contemporary poets writing about motherhood (Louise Gluck, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich), grapples with the fragmentation of time caused by constant interruption.

With Instant Winner, Carrie Fountain’s poems join this conversation. But her poems are less fragments than fever dreams, prayers murmured through the din of chaos. Take: “Giant dumpsters” make “insane thuds… tossed back to the pavement by the trash truck” and wake the baby.

In “Poem without Sleep,” a poem that feels deeply personal to me as a mother and writer, she inhabits the space between the hyper-attentiveness of new motherhood and the inability to focus. If other poets present the unquiet mind of motherhood as collage, Fountain offers a roiling kaleidoscope. “All the things that could happen to the baby came to me last night as I was falling asleep,” it begins. More and more “children of mine….push through” the space between wakefulness and sleep, ending only with the arrival of daylight.

And now, here’s the morning.

Here’s the tree flickering
behind the shade, dumb tree

with its one arm raised to the sky.
Here’s the silent tipping into another day.

And now, finally, finally, the baby, blowing
her famous raspberries down the dark

static hallway of the baby monitor. And now
she begins to whimper. And now she cries out.

And here I go to her, thank God.
Here I go to help her little life.

Fountain’s poems reach through the mundane experience of the physical world in search of the sense of transcendent divinity that comes with motherhood. “I want to describe/ the baby for many hours to anyone/ who wishes to hear me. My feelings for her/take me so far inside myself I can see the pure/ holiness in motherhood….”

While taking the time to read poetry might seem like an extravagance for exhausted mothers, I would argue that its ability to capture the transcendent in the sensory experience of the physical world is in fact economical. Some poems are playful and downright funny (“All I want to do is go home and take off these pants….),” others solemn and profound, prayers and chaos and beauty. (The ominous whine of dying batteries in a child’s toy invokes “…the sound/ of a planet falling/ through one universe/ and into the next….”) Each poem can be read in a few stolen minutes alone, but digested and savored for a long time after even while among offspring.

Whether she’s writing about the desert southwest of Mesilla, New Mexico, or the strange new landscape of motherhood, Fountain’s celebrated sense of place challenges us as readers to truly experience where we are right now as home, to stop the clock and appreciate the only reality that we have, with our eyes and hearts open and our senses engaged. The poems of Instant Winner capture the complexities of motherhood and life and present them with reverence, as gifts.

Beth Eakman teaches writing at St. Edward’s University and lives in Austin Texas with her husband and two teenagers who provide her simultaneously with inspiration and interruptions. Visit Beth at, or on Twitter @BethEakman.

We Count to Three

We Count to Three

By Kim Farrar


My daughter has been crowing like a rooster

for thirteen years, and then asking, What does a rooster say?

Some days her charms are irresistible


And I cock-a-doodle-do in response, like a mate

lost in a cornfield.  This is wrong

according to Overcoming Autism.


I should redirect the conversation

to something in front of us,

make her touch the carpet and say soft.


When she was born, her father

held her up and her mouth made a perfect

O, as if we had some nerve


plucking her from that dark warmth

into fluorescent light.  She scored

well on the Apgar, and without knowing


I rejoiced in her future

all she would learn, every cloud

I could show her, who she might become.


In the park there was a stone frog

that spouted a great arc of water,

but rather than flit and dart


with the other little girls who giggled

in their ruffled bottoms, she’d squat

by the drain and listen


to the dripping echo in the deep

metallic well.  Today she’s a good swimmer

and at the public pool she blends


until an honest boy asks, What’s wrong with her?

I explain as best I can then he disappears

among the swarms of screaming children.


We count to three and go under.


Kim Farrar is a poet and essayist living in Astoria, New York. Her poetry has been published most recently in Alaska Quarterly Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Rhino. Her chapbook “The Familiar” was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011.

Photo by Scott Boruchov

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