Barbara Young


Water boils cold and clear through gravel sand
somewhere in eastern Kentucky, becomes more,
becomes a river. At the first dam, pools back, fills
the steep round valleys with fish. And sky. Steps down
from corps-created lake to lake, will meet
the bigger Ohio near the navel of waters.
We are in Tennessee; river’s turning into lake, summer into fall.
Sonar could display, below us tied to a snub red buoy,
the bed of Birdsong Creek. There’d have been a bank
here near where it joined the Tennessee, maybe limestone
it had worn smooth, maybe mud.

We’re in a small aluminum boat.
Welded seams a tactile evidence of construction.
It used to be green. A kid painted a name on it
“Green Star” with red paint. Some red remains.
Water, from this and that–spray of passage,
minnow bucket, dripping anchor and knotted rope–
settled in the downward, upward curve
smells algal, minnowish. The rim of the boat,
the gunnel, shines hot in the sun, below the water line
the metal is cool.

In the shallows a heron is fishing. A flock of yellow
like wild canaries. Jets leave contrails. Barges,
yoked in pairs–two, two, two, two, a football field afloat–
are pushed upstream or down and throw a wake wave
that lifts us, crumbs and the tablecloth, goes, slaps
the mudbank island top of a drowned hill. The buoy rocks,
the next up the creek rocks less.

We have lines in the water. We are fishing.

        “Father forgive us for what we must do.
        You forgive us, and we’ll forgive you.
        We’ll forgive eachother til we both turn blue
        then we’ll whistle and go fishing in heaven”
                        John Prine, Fish and Whistle

What can’t be forgotten
while faint vibrations communicate
        by way of steel, monofiliment, and braid
        by fingerprint and wrist, eye and lash
        from twenty feet down deep and murky
the fan of a fishtail

        will the leaves turn next October
        will the clock chime ten or stop at nine
        will the pain return
what can’t be forgotten, forgiven, fishing
oh, fortuna, whirling wheel
is too small.
Process Notes: “‘What Can’t Be Forgiven’ and ‘At the Mouth of Birdsong’ are part of a series in progress: Footnotes to a Photograph of My Father, Fishing.”

Barbara Young is from Nashville, Tennessee. She prefers fishing with minnows, not worms. She likes writing from prompts, and still mourns the website RWP which opened her eyes. Her poetry can be found at FredHerring.

Martin Willitts, Jr.


This light blue-green gemstone of calm waters 
before a ship sails out troweling for fish
will pick up your spirits. Wear it while meditating, 
until you hear buoys where there isn’t any. 

This morning, I drop my net of worries
into the stillness like stones.
Process Notes:‘Aquamarine’ is both a color as well as a name of a gemstone. One of the many things I do is called “gemstone readings” in which each gemstone has their own properties. Also, each gemstone has a connection to astrology and to psychic readings. Furthermore, the gemstones can affect a person’s chakras. I combine this information in my readings, In this meditative poem, I focus on the psychic attributes of the stone and connect it to water.”

Martin Willitts Jr is a Quaker and organic gardener. He has 6 full-length poetry collections including contest winner “Searching for What Is Not There” (Hiraeth Press, 2013) and over 20 chapbooks including contest winner “William Blake, Not Blessed Angel But Restless Man” (Red Ochre Press, 2014).

Will Wells


Once we’re under way, the river guide remarks,
It’s been a banner year for bodies. I found
two boozed-up college boys who flunked the test
on hypothermia, then a rookie
kayaker wrapped around a boulder, neat
as a Christmas bow. If we spot another,
I’ll put it in tow, unless you object….
He brandishes an extra coil of rope,
Eagle Scout of fresh disaster. Though we
came separately, our shudders school like fish.

A blue heron arrows in ahead of us,
skimming the water like an Egyptian god
trolling for souls. The Colorado crooks
a finger and beckons us around a bend.
And there, a doe and her two fawns wade in,
untroubled as we fumble for snapshots.
Relief unfolds like the float between rapids.

But I can’t help asking, What happens if
we find someone? And so, we earn badges
in no nonsense. It should be beached on high
ground and moored to a tree or boulder.
Triangulate landmarks and phone it in.
A shirt can mark the spot, and brush cover
lends modesty and keeps the buzzards off.

After bobbing up in a dead-man float,
the Boston fireman who went for a swim
climbs back on board, cracks a beer, and reflects,
If a fire victim has been charred, it smells
like a cook-out. Droplets on his pale skin
prism into burn the rest of us neglect
to mention. Each calm stretch, we scan the banks.

Alone at the stern, one passenger trails
her cupped hand under the surface, opens it
and jerks it back as if the water stings.
The river slips a finger through her ring
which will tumble until rushing current
slows, then find a bed in sediment.

Past the next meander, a sandbar splits
the flow. Posted like a semaphore,
the waiting heron poses all our grief.
We raft on by, married to the moment,
trying to see just what we came to see.
Process Notes: “As described in the poem, the poem describes an actual rafting trip I took on the Colorado, with as much accuracy as possible. I wrote the poem six months after having the experience. Some of the river guide’s quoted comments had lodged so firmly in my memory that I had to write the poem to attempt to exorcise them. Essentially, it struck me as odd that some thoughtless comments by the river guide could warp the entire purpose of the day-long river rafting experience from an intended outdoors idyll to a reflection on personal mortality and the limits of human compassion. The poem has been tinkered with subsequently, to improve individual lines, but is essentially intact from how it originally emerged. It is also faithful to the experience with the exception of the lost wedding ring, which occurred on a different rafting trip.”

Will Wells’ most recent volume of poems won the 2009 Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and was published by Ohio University/Swallow Press in 2010. His latest manuscript, “Odd Lots, Scraps and Second-hand, Like New” is seeking a publisher. Will has been a fellow at various writers conferences including Sewanee, Bread Loaf, Wesleyan and West Chester, and a previous book-length collection won the Anhinga Prize.

Robert Walton


This river slips slantwise
Over snowy granite,
Flows smooth as smoke
Over hidden edges.
Ripples at my feet
Wear capricious jewels,
Mischievous in moonlight,
Like you.
The current’s curves
And star-polished boulders
Blend with the ease
Of long acquaintance -
So our friendship
Has flowed years long,
Though you are a girl to me,
Still a girl.


Breeze off morning rapids
Is a gift trailing scents
Of pine, of lupine,
Of sweet woodsmoke,
But its first touch
Is a blue blade
Pulled by dawn from its sheath of
Photographs by Jonathan Walton. Used with permission.
Robert Walton is a retired public school teacher and lifelong mountaineer. His poems and stories have appeared in numerous journals, including the Sierra Club’s “Ascent”. Most recently, his historical novel Dawn Drums was published by Moonlight Mesa Associates.

Marian Veverka

Tiny leaves have appeared
on the branches of the willows
A haze of green now decorates
the muddy river bank.
We speak few words as we paddle
through the narrow channel-
we do not mention cancer
or the beading of new cells.
You had asked to be kept
informed though you could not
cheat the beastly cells, so
relentless in their onslaught.
Our small canoe keeps pressing
onward.  The waters parting before
us as if they could deliver
your release.

Marian Veverka worked part time at the Port Clinton OH public library for over thirty years. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals and magazines. She lives near Marblehead OH, on the shores of Lake Erie.

Christopher Oak Reinier

They've taken down
the summer dams.
Over-night the river
has returned to its
drained and naked self.

In a dreamscape of loss,
the river’s bed has been
abandoned by water hurrying
away to the ocean,
leaving the dregs of a
false lover's lust.

It is a bed of muddy stones.

Far out on the bereft channel
a silhouetted man bends,
picking up things,
examining them.

I step out across the slippery rocks,
and ask, “What are you finding?”

“Pretty stones,” he says, “Indian beads…
This river’s been running for thousands of years.”

“You’re finding Indian beads?”

“Ah, sure, “ he says,
digging in his frayed pant’s pocket,
extracting a bent nail, a penny,
a paper clip, a common stone…
"Guess they’re in my knapsack”, he shrugs,
gesturing at the pack on his back.

“Okay," I say, sensing it time to wander away.

As I step back across the rocky sludge,
he calls, "I found a diamond once…"

"All right!" I respond,
and look at the muck
of the river bed,

morning sun glistening off
the dying river weeds…

Christopher Oak Reinier lives near the Russian River in Northern California, a river that inspires many of his poems and songs.

Joan Leotta


My father walks into my room
wearing his long tan trench coat.
A finely blocked felt hat
tops his jet black wavy hair.
He tamps down the tobacco 
in his pipe, then turns
to me, his brown eyes twinkling,
his lips curling up in a smile around the pipe.

He steps back into
a poorly lit hallway I do not know,
removes his coat and
sits in an orange plastic chair.
Coat on his lap, 
he draws softly on the pipe
and nods at me.
Cherry tobacco smoke wafts toward me.
He’s waiting for me, 
as always.
Through theatre classes
piano lessons
dance lessons
patiently enmeshed in his own thoughts
without complaint.

Suddenly I wake. 
I am at home. No hallway. No chair.
No cherry tobacco.
No trench coat or hug.
Only the smell of coffee.
My father smiles from his photo.

Some say dreaming across the Styx means
Charon will soon come for you.
I chuckle as I prepare 
to face my day.
No fears.
Instead of Charon,
my own beloved father 
waits patiently to 
ferry me across the Styx
in his white 1960 Thunderbird.
Process Notes: “This poem was actually inspired by a dream about my father who crossed the Styx himself in 1988. I began to think about the old saying that if you dream about someone dead it means you are going to die soon and decided I did not agree with that, nor did I think I needed to fear death, so I wrote this poem.”

Joan Leotta’s artistic goal is always to show the beauty of the ordinary and encourage the audience. She now lives in Calabash, North Carolina with her husband and has published several books (fiction and non-fiction) and many short stories and articles. Her blog on writing and performing is at

Kristina Jensen


an irresistible urge to defy gravity
presents itself where water meets earth
low tide means high rise for these little guys
in their hard round black suits

spiral doors shut tight until
the salty sea inches up the river
the common cat’s eye slithers its way up
and above, wanting to be, it seems,
the highest of them all

on TV, I see people in Asia climb
a mountain of stairs into buildings that stack
children’s blocks against the night sky
it a fine thing to be living highest of them all
but what will happen when the tide comes in?

Process Notes: “‘low tide means high rise’ was inspired by two observations coming together at once: first, I saw these wee shellfish (called pupu in the Maori language) piling up on top of each other when the tide went out one day. Then later, on the same day, I saw a program that showed row upon row of very tall apartment buildings, in particular, one couple who were so happy to be able to live on the top floor. Climbing social ladders of sorts.”

Kristina Jensen is a ‘poet afloat’, freelance writer, musician and home school parent living a life of voluntary simplicity on a boat in New Zealand. She is an enthusiastic advocate of spending as much time in nature as possible. Her poems, articles, essays and stories have been published in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

Ann Howells


Trees crack, take out our lines,
leave us blinded and mute,
feeling on Grandpa’s rolltop desk
for kerosene lamps—
a company of reserves called up
in times of barometric unrest—
when the needle falls,
and our unease is measured
in inches of mercury.

Growling northeast wind
pushes tide, drives whitecaps,
nips heels, herds them inland,
onto the beach and into yards.

We are in a waterglobe
shaken by an angry child;
horizontal sheets of water—
blend of sea and sky—close over us,
deep water engulfs the road,
divides our island.

During brief lulls we discern,
through grey-green troughs,
the pale profile of our boat
and naked pilings—
sentinels derelict in duty,
for the pier is gone, lifted,
ripped away, dashed against rock,
debris to be gathered from sand—
a weed and driftwood edging
that will diagram a high water line
six feet from our door.
Process Notes: “‘Nor’easter’ is a repeated childhood memory, as storms roared up the river and we hunkered down. Being as rural as we were, every storm knocked out both phone and power. Our house was on one of the highest points of the island. We never had the river inside the house, but it came awfully close sometimes.”

Ann Howells’ poetry has appeared in Calyx, Crannog (Ire), Little Patuxent Review, Magma (UK), Sentence and Spillway among others. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community, 501-c-3 non-profit and has edited their journal, Illya’s Honey, since 1999, recently taking it from print to digital ( One chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing (2007) and another, the Rosebud Diaries, was published by Willet Press (2012).

Dah Helmer


Buried beneath the roots,
the nether-region is a river
of dust, glass shards,
seashell pieces, aged minerals.

I hold a handful of soil
and hear the dead, like cattle 
herded together. They walk
barefoot through the dust.

Having forgotten the lilt
of their voices, I place my ear
to the earth, to the past, my heart
pounds like a wet mallet.

Death stands before us, behind us,
collecting the flying embers
of each life, and the days become
shut down by spent time.

At the end of every season
is an urgency: the harvesting
of old age, the dehydration 
of gods, miracles, twilight.
Dah Helmer is the author of two collections of poetry from Stillpoint Books. Dah’s third collection is due for publication in 2014, also from Stillpoint Books. Dah lives in Berkeley, California, where he is currently working on the manuscript for his fourth book.