A Review of Jordan Rothacker’s And Wind Will Wash Away 


A Review of Jordan Rothacker’s And Wind Will Wash Away

By Nate Ragolia

Like James Joyce and Thomas Pynchon before him, Jordan A. Rothacker takes on the epic novel in his masterful debut, And Wind Will Wash Away (hereafter referred to as AWWWA). AWWWA tells the story of Atlanta Police Detective Jonathan Wind, an observant, intellectual, no-nonsense sleuth cut from the same cloth as Sherlock Holmes and Joe Friday.

In Rothacker’s own words, Jonathan Wind is “A dash of one friend, a dollop of another, fold in some traits from Philip Marlowe, a little zest of Agent Dale Cooper, a pinch of K. from Kafka’s The Castle, two cups of Faust, and then stir and forget all of that as I start to see the new creation congealing out of the mess.” And Wind is all of these ingredients and more, fully-realized and alive.

Set in 2003, we follow Wind after a fight with his girlfriend Monica that leaves him frustrated and seeking the affection of his mistress, Flora. Typical of the noir genre, Wind’s future hinges on the power of the phone call. Two calls set up his coming journey: the first, to his mistress, that ends when another man answers the phone; the second, from his partner, calling him to the scene of a murder where the victim just happens to be that same mistress.

Rothacker ups the ante and the energy, revealing that Flora died mysteriously in a hyper-localized fire. While his partner and the police force disagree, Jonathan Wind suspects foul play. At this point, AWWWA makes a powerful leap from crime noir to postmodern exploration. Rothacker’s adeptness at this switch is impressive. He carefully blends philosophy, myth, and religion into his protagonist’s forward-charging pursuit of the truth behind his lover’s death. What results is a mystery on par with Twin Peaks that embraces spiritualism and madness, blurring the lines between superficial realities and those beneath that we’ve trampled through cycles of colonialism, war, law, and order.

Truly, AWWWA is a unique reading experience. Rothacker imbues his book with Tarantino-like dialogue spoken by deep, lively characters. The setting, Atlanta, Georgia, is  a surging, breathing entity, with its twisting spaghetti of roadways tangled up in its own complicated history that is as much Detective Wind’s partner as his home. History, philosophy, and religion are their own characters in AWWWA. Rothacker–who prefaces the novel with his background in Religious Studies–infuses Wind’s twisting mystery with figures from Aztec, Mayan, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other backgrounds. Case interviews result in deep, revelatory conversations that are as instructional as they are entertaining. In short, this novel is deep and rewarding, influenced by the great works that preceded it.

“[Joyce] was my first really profound literary love,” Rothacker said in an interview. “At 17 I was a member of the International James Joyce Foundation. Other than lots of linguistic puns and ‘larding’ the text for my own amusement, what I used from Joyce is that device in Ulysses where every chapter has it’s own theme and governing principle.” Rothacker paces the entire book so one never feels as though they’re waiting in the back row of a comparative religion classroom, watching the clock. Instead, each page commands to be turned, captivating you–and Detective Wind–with Flora’s mysterious death. The result is an engaging story that blends the ordered cleverness of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe with the worldly, thoughtful interactions of My Dinner With Andre. Readers will pursue Jonathan Wind on his search for real answers amid the degrees of unknowable throughout Atlanta and beyond.

This is a story as much about the case of a dead lover as of secret lives, of dark magic or strange rituals. And Wind Will Wash Away is a story about the self and the shrouded mysteries within. Jordan Rothacker is one of the most masterful writers I have ever read, and this novel is an opportunity to enter into a conversation with him that will surely be longer, grow more personal and complex. Treat yourself by reading And Wind Will Wash Away immediately, and take your own journey toward truth.

Jordan A. Rothacker, And Wind Will Wash Away, Deeds Publishing, 2016: $24.95


Nate Ragolia is the author of the novella, There You Feel Free; creator of the Illiterate Badger and Lark & Robin webcomics; and occasional chatterer on music, film, &c on Medium. He is also editor-in-chief of Boned: a collection of skeletal fiction, poetry, essays, and more.

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By Sarah Sarai

When he lumbered in the way of men
who use their hands to till earth,
he knocked rough doorway
to sob at unfairness and
the slaying. Dull, trembling,
he threw down three pelts against
a desert night, and feared heaven’s
white stars. We’ve all killed our brother.
The dead roam through us.
We toss beneath old gods’ blazing navigation.
Cain? It’s morning. He bites a sweet seedy fig.

Today’s poem originally appeared in the Terrain.org and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Sarah Sarai’s second collection, Geographies of Soul and Taffeta, was published this year by Indolent Books. Poet Melissa Studdard called Sarai’s first collection, The Future Is Happy, “a poetry of luminous, brave transparency” (American Book Review). Journals include Painted Bride Quarterly, Barrow Street, The Collagist, Boston Review, Threepenny Review, Ascent. After teaching English at a Catholic girls’ school in Los Angeles, Sarai received an NEH fellowship and used extra monies to move to Seattle where she began writing poetry. She has been Lecturer in comp and lit, editor-in-chief, file clerk for warrant officers, and, currently, freelance editor in poetry, fiction, and pharmaceutical advertising. Sarai has an MFA in fiction from Sarah Lawrence College. A native of Long Island, she lives in Manhattan.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is a vivid and moving reflection upon the slaying of Cain by his brother Able. The Bible’s first brothers, and already one slays the other. But then, as the poet points out, “We’ve all killed our brother.” And while “The dead roam through us,” life–and the poem–insists that we go on. For although in the night Cain “threw down three pelts against / a desert night, and feared heaven’s // white stars,” in the morning light life looks sweeter, even for the damned.

Want to see more from Sarah Sarai?
Geographies of Soul and Taffeta
Poems in Posit
Poem in The Collagist
Poem in Ascent
Poems in Yew

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“Languages” by David Ishaya Osu



i do not chew fruits
that i cannot pronounce


whoever made

my body, first
drank a moon


it is open & close
to fire, it will body
along midnight’s
time you will
cry, she replied


it is written on bodies
that clocks will
not age nor


& shadows
in the attic
are sisters


changes every
body from
lines to
a quiet family


David Ishaya Osu (b. 1991) is an Afo native from Onda. His poetry appears in: Vinyl, Chiron Review, Cutbank, The Lampeter Review, The Nottingham Review, Spillway, Juked, RædLeaf Poetry: The African Diaspora Folio, A Thousand Voices Rising: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, among others. David is a board member of the Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation, and was selected for the 2016 USA Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He was poetry editor for The James Franco Review. David is currently polishing his debut poetry book.

[The above poem originally appeared in Numero Cinq and is reprinted here with permission of the author.]

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By Sandra L. Faulkner

                   for Sylvia Plath (after “The Applicant”)

Can you separate lights from darks,
gabardine from linen?
Too much bother? I cannot care

if your hands are
warm like Georgia hot springs
capable of sparing my feet

the Sisyphean walk over broken
crayons and wine glasses,
the laundry room of dog and dust.

Do you know how to make coffee,
float a river of cream
in my capacious cup?

Forget the sugar and call
my name with an accent auf Deutsch?
But speak only ein bisschen,

patch the noise of domestic bliss
with a steady pour and two clinks of ice.
Will you wait for the repairs,

bury the hamster with the holey
blanket, behind the dying Holly?
Never mind if you dig too shallow,
I want a wife, too.

Today’s poem originally appeared in the Pine Hills Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Sandra L. Faulkner is Professor of Communication at BGSU. Her poetry appears in places such as Gravel, Literary Mama, Rat’s Ass Review, and damselfly. She authored three chapbooks, Hello Kitty Goes to College (dancing girl press, 2012), Knit Four, Make One (Kattywompus, 2015), and Postkarten aus Deutschland. Sense published her memoir in poetry, Knit Four, Frog One (2014). She researches, teaches, and writes about relationships in NW Ohio where she lives with her partner, their warrior girl, a hamster, and two rescue mutts.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem invites us in for coffee and contemplation. Welcomes us to a life–a real life replete with a “walk over broken / crayons and wine glasses, / the laundry room of dog and dust.” Lets us in on the secret desires and realities of the speaker, that a “steady pour and two clinks of ice” and a willingness to “wait for the repairs” trumps–or perhaps is–domestic bliss. Imperfection is expected–welcome, even–in this refreshingly honest portrayal of an interview for the role of wife.

Want to see more from Sandra L. Faulkner?
Carpe Noctum Chapbook Interview
A collection of Sandra L Faulkner’s work via Bowling Green State University
Buy Family Stories, Poetry, and Women’s Work: Knit Four, Frog One from Sense Publishers
Buy Writing the Personal: Getting Your Stories onto the Page from Sense Publishers
Buy Knit Four, Make One from Kattywompus Press
Buy Hello Kitty Goes to College from dancing girl press

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A Review of Mary McMyne’s Wolf Skin 


A Review of Mary McMyne’s Wolf Skin

By Jennifer Dane Clements

We remember best that which haunts us. The memories or fears that we carry, percolate in our bloodstreams. As children, the unknown and unknowable facets of the world succumb to dreamscapes of mythical proportions, allowing us to be haunted by things ordinary and alive: the toothy jags of a broken window, an attic portrait with a traveling gaze, the gnarled witch and her warty moral to the story. As children, we await their instruction, understanding that which haunts us to have a strange and beguiling power.

It is with this in mind that Mary McMyne frames Wolf Skin, a chapbook of poems from the voice of a woman whose own childhood was steeped in the twists and vines of the old German fairy tales. Now, grown, the echoes of the tales return to her as commentary to her daily life and reminders from long ago.

The most harrowing of these echoes advises the woman to “Be not girl . . . but wolf.” Those who do not become wolves, speaks the memory of her mother, are little more than dolls, “dumb as porcelain.” As though one’s evolution through personhood is a journey built on unpleasant binaries: vicious or inert, brave or in need of rescue.

In the titular poem, we come to understand the huntsman from “Little Red Riding Hood” embellished his tale of heroism from something more closely approximating a sad act of butchery, his liberated victims still reeling from shock and too disoriented to mutter more than a few words. There were no great thanks or praise, no ceremonies, and the trophy he claimed to have taken from his heroic deed. The “wolf skin” of the poem and of the collection’s title speaks to the assumed persona, the larger-than-life fiction we cloak ourselves in to satisfy some notion of bravery, of gender, of morality.

Childhoods are fascinated with dark spaces and mystery, and lean with curiosity towards danger. In McMyne’s retelling of these familiar tales, we’re reminded of the darker themes lurking behind characters we’ve come to associate with youthful innocence: death, isolation, pain. And so we encounter the wolf lurking at the doorstep where a girl laps at her popsicle, the prince who’s been cursed to live as a hedgehog, the pregnant and yearning princess captive in her tower.

Indeed these reminders often deal in fierceness–how it can be assumed or appropriated, how growth and heroism seem intertwined. And, perhaps most importantly, how these values and lessons transcend and permeate into our time, today, where still we find what’s necessary at odds with what makes for a compelling hero’s tale.

The collection begins and ends with the image of a moth, from the mother’s collection, perfect and asphyxiated, pinned to a corkboard. As an expression of both the fairy tales she illustrates and of the book itself, this image carries acute resonance: delicate, inquisitive, and a tinge darker than people might expect.

Mary McMyne, Wolf Skin. Dancing Girl Press, 2014: $7.00


Jennifer Clements is a writer of all sorts based in Washington, D.C. Her work has been featured in publications including Barrelhouse, Hippocampus, WordRiot, Psychopomp, and on stages in DC and New York. She is a prose editor of ink&coda and writes regularly for Luna Luna Magazine and DC Theatre Scene. She holds an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. Visit her online at www.jennifer-dane-clements.com.

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Hala Alyan and Elizabeth Cantwell: A Conversation


Hala Alyan

HA: Elizabeth, I have to start by saying how much I enjoyed this collection. I’m so curious about the process of writing it. Did you start off with a particular image that later shaped the collection? I ask because the repetition of dreamscapes was haunting and contributed to the book as a whole having an otherworldly quality.

EC: Thanks so much, Hala! I’m glad you asked about this – you’re absolutely right that the repetition of the dream world came from a specific image/experience. When I was in elementary school, I began having a recurring dream – the one outlined in various iterations in the book – that really haunted me for a lot of reasons. In the dream, my little brother and I were outside, having a picnic, and he’d always ask me for something — another half a sandwich, some more lemonade, a napkin, something that got me to stand up and walk away from the picnic blanket. And I’d be walking away, getting him this thing he needed, and I’d turn back and see some sort of small animal crawling over to him through the grass. A kitten or a fawn or a puppy or a small chick. And he’d get this huge smile on his face — I think I started having this dream when I was about 10 years old, which would make him 6 or so. And I’d just know in that dream second that something was very wrong. This is also about the part in the dream where I’d become aware that I’d had this dream before and it was happening again. I’d start running back towards the picnic blanket, to tell him not to touch the animal, it was a trap, but it was always too late, and before I could get there the tiny cute thing would transform into a tiger, snatch him up in its jaws, and take him away. And I’d be running after them, that slow awful impossible run you do in dreams, and I’d know I couldn’t save him, and I’d wake up, out of breath, having failed yet again.


Elizabeth Cantwell

Later in life, when my brother began struggling with drugs, alcohol, and a series of stints in jail, the dream came back to me, and seemed somehow prophetic or real or upsetting on a new level, and I knew I had to write about it.

Your book, too, has a lot of dreams in it — and I wonder, because I so clearly had a concrete dream I was playing with — are the dreams you talk about in your book real, or do you sometimes invent dreams for the sake of the device of having a dream? I’ve definitely done both, in the past — I’d love to hear more about where those dreams in Four Cities came from, or just what the device of the dream means to you.

HA: Oh, wow. That is such a poignant and heartbreaking image to have had to return to nightly. Yes, there’s something prophetic about it, and also something tragic in how you were doomed to forget each time, doomed to have it happen all over again.

I’m so fascinated with dreamwork, in life and in art, and I find that many of my poems actually begin with a certain image or symbol that first came to me in a dream. I’ve certainly played around with dreamscapes in writing, sometimes recreating them faithfully, sometimes inventing them entirely. In Four Cities, the dreams I allude to were real. I go through periods of my life, depending on what is happening in my waking world, where I will dream lucidly and, more importantly, remember my dreams very vividly. While writing FC, this was a period of time when I was dreaming very intensely, carrying those dreams around with me daily.

With the collection I’m working on now, a very similar thing has been happening. For the past year, I’ve been remembering my dreams in very intense detail almost every night. And so snippets of them have reappeared in my recent poems, sometimes without me even realizing it’s happening. While it’s not the same dream in different iterations, as in your case, they are often the same themes and images: of drowning, of not saving the ones I love, of new cities that I have to explore on my own.

Has the dream stopped or changed since you wrote the collection? And what was it like to write about something so distressing, so elusive?

EC: Well, that specific recurring dream stopped in early middle school, so I haven’t had it since — if anything, I was surprised to find it bubble back up in my memory when I began to deal with my brother’s problems as an adult. As for what it’s like to write about something distressing and elusive — isn’t that what all writers do, all the time? We’re all obsessed with our own obsessions, writing to purge some elemental horror from our deepest selves that is, in the end, never completely rooted out. Even the poets whose work on the surface seems incredibly calm and self-assured and placid — I’m thinking of Merwin, maybe — once you dig in, it starts to become obvious that there are terrible repetitions and anxieties and dark rooms hovering underneath.

You talked about lucid dreaming, and how that seems to be something important in your writing process sometimes. I definitely had the sense of the kind of surrealism that comes with the not-dream-not-awake state in a lot of your poems. But you ground that surreal dream state so clearly in place. In “After Thunderstorms in Oklahoma,” which I love, you have the reader set clearly in one place (Oklahoma), which then morphs into a memory from another place (Ramallah), which then becomes a surreal forest and the space of dreaming … How did you deal with the ways place can be both fluid and concrete in a collection of poems that so clearly relies on place for structure?

HA: I love that description of the “dark rooms” that hover within. It’s so accurate. Yes, I think a lot of my work plays with that space between reality and surrealism, particularly because I’m so fascinated with how that space intersects with one’s sense of self. I think physical place (i.e. cities) play such a prominent role precisely because place, in my experience, is both fluid and concrete. In titling the collection Four Cities, I was aware that, in reality, I was actually encountering dozens and, of those dozens, each one was further quartered and slivered because I feel like I have many versions of every city I’ve loved within me: there’s the streets, the physical scents and sounds, but also the different selves I wanted to be (or discarded) in those cities, not to mention the ways I recreate those cities in memory and in dream. So I think that I dealt with that messy contradiction of fluidity versus concreteness by allowing it to exist, rather than trying to tidy it up.

There are certain images that flitted throughout your collection: those of fire, creatures, water, doors. One of the things I enjoyed about the book was how you were able to return to the same elements without it ever feeling tired or repetitive. It was always with a renewed vigor, what felt like a fresh pair of eyes. Could you speak a little about that?

EC: Oh man, the former selves. So many of them, strewn all over. That makes me think of your poem “Push,” which I read a couple different ways – both as a conversation between cities, and as a conversation between different versions of the self in those cities.

And yes! Images. I’m so glad to hear they didn’t feel tired or repetitive. I do think that’s a very real danger of writing a book inspired by a recurring dream — by the end of the book there’s a risk that the readers are going to be like “Okay, seriously, we’re doing the tiger thing again?” I don’t know if I had a real strategy to keep things from feeling redundant other than trying to be true to the feeling of the recurring dream, of déjà vu — you know you’ve had this experience before, but because you know that, the whole thing feels weirder and more unsettling, not ho-hum.

The thing I noticed almost right away in your collection, as far as images go, is that your poems are very busy. You’ve packed them full of objects, things, adjectives. They feel very dense that way. Image density is something that scares me sometimes, but you pull it off really well–how did you find yourself navigating that as you wrote?

HA: What a perfect way to describe it: how the feeling of déjà vu only makes you more unsettled.

alyan_final-250x386I’m an adjective addict. I’m like a cook who oversalts every meal! When I gave my first proper piece of fiction to a writer friend of mine, she said, “Cut most of your adjectives and adverbs. Then cut some more.” In fiction, I think that sort of language can easily stifle the reader, but in poetry it feels more allowed somehow, more forgivable. It’s one of the things I love the most about poetry, how you can take a single tiny thing—a moment, an object, the arch of a lover’s eyebrow—and meditate on it.

I think how I write is very much a reflection of how I think; my mind is always in a state of buzzing, trying to consider every possible angle and incarnation of a thing, always making room for more. My poetry ends up dripping with images. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I think in the past year or so, I’ve tried to see what kind of poetry I can produce with a more minimalist approach to language. It’s been quite a challenging, if at times rewarding, experiment.

My favorite line in you book (my heart!) was: “I’m always opening the door to the same threat/over and over/and every time it looks like love.” It stunned me. So honest, so raw. It got me thinking about the different ways we love and lose, and of course about the way something that appears to be love in the recurring dream (deer, rabbit, etc) ends up being a threat (tiger). Can you speak a little bit more about this idea? Did you intend for it to have so many different meanings?

EC: I feel like we should switch brains for a day in a sort of poetic Freaky Friday. I tend to be extremely wary of adjectives and I try to use only the most minimal and obvious and simple adjectives in my poems … But I really admire poets whose poetry encompasses a wider range of vocabulary and does so while sounding authentic. I would love to stay simple but also get better at describing images. It’s hard. I agree that the idea of meditating on a single moment is what’s alluring about poetry, but the closer I get to something the harder it is, for me, to accurately pin it down with words.

Which maybe speaks to that line you’ve pulled—the more starkly face-to-face with something I am, the easier it is to fail to see it for what it is. As far as what I intended thecantwell-cover5-250x386 line to mean—I actually remember writing that whole poem very quickly without thinking too hard about it, like walking really fast out into the ocean before your brain can tell your body it’s too cold and you have to stop. I try not to mean anything when I write. The poems I draft when I’m trying to mean something feel horrible and cliché and labored. But I can feel it—after the fact—when I’ve written something that’s managed to mean a lot of things successfully.

Don’t you think, in addition to those ideas about loving and losing, or loving the wrong things, that love itself is a threat, even the truest love? There is absolutely nothing more terrifying than the vulnerability you have to take on in order to really love someone. Nothing.

HA: Yes, yes, yes to poetic Freaky Friday! It’s interesting to me that what we’re essentially talking about is restraint: of self, of language, of self-censorship. I resonate with that idea of stepping into the ocean quickly before your mind can stop you. I feel like that’s what writing is for me in general, always trying to stay ahead of myself, or rather the smart-alecky part of myself that likes to clear her throat and say, “Well, actually, that’s a bit trite, isn’t it?”

I completely agree and would add that the truest love is often the biggest threat. To love is to yourself in something else, even if it’s just the tiniest inch of yourself, and that’s always daunting. Writing about love—as authentic and pure as it might be—is equally scary, because you are simultaneously witnessing and making witness out of the world, putting that process on display. I think there’s something remarkably brave about it, particularly when we’re talking about loving the wrong things.

My final question is about what comes next. What are you working on these days, what’s been effortless about it, what’s been particularly tricky?

EC: That’s a great question! I’ve actually been working today on a document currently titled “new manuscript” so … I guess I’m working on a new manuscript? I’m not really sure what it is yet, but it’s something. I think it’s about halfway done. Maybe not quite.

The things I’ve been writing in the past year or so haven’t been as united in theme as Nights I Let The Tiger Get You — I think that manuscript is really almost a story, and is certainly something you can read chronologically and get a cumulative understanding from. I’m doing more standalone poems right now, rather than working on a more project-oriented manuscript — you know, those manuscripts where it’s like “Every poem is title after a fast food meal!” or “It’s one poem for every day in 1943, but told through the eyes of a dying cow!” I kind of wish I were more project-oriented right now, because in a way that makes your task easier, but I just haven’t had the ability to make myself buy into a uniting theme yet. I bet if someone else were to read these poems, they would immediately identify a few obvious threads tying everything together, and probably I will eventually give all of them to someone I trust and make them tell me what I’ve actually written. But at the moment I’m just writing what I want to write.

What’s been effortless about it? Um, nothing? DO YOU WRITE EFFORTLESSLY? Give me the secret!

I am mostly joking … I guess I do, as I mentioned above, find it effortless to write a poem once I’m in the right headspace and can kind of just open myself up to whatever is going to happen on the page. But, mostly, this “book” (if I can even call it that yet) has felt a lot harder to work towards than Nights. Finding the time and space to get into the poetry mindset feels nearly impossible. I’m not in grad school anymore, I don’t have a stipend expressly for the purpose of writing poems, I have a full-time job that frequently requires night and weekend commitments, a 3-year-old who is currently crawling precariously on the couch behind my shoulders and shooting a Kylo Ren Hot Wheels car across the windowsill … My life is really full of a lot of wonderful beautiful things that have nothing to do with words. And that’s been the challenge and the inspiration for me lately—finding ways to shape this weird and boring and mundane and transcendent life into poetry even when everything about it resists poetry.

What about you? What’s next on your plate?

HA: Okay, I laughed aloud at It’s one poem for every day in 1943, but told through the eyes of a dying cow. Well, whatever form your New Manuscript winds up taking, I’m eager to read it. It sounds like these new poems are taking root in rich, evolving, honest soil, and that’s always a refreshing thing (as a reader; it’s hard as a writer, I know).

I’m working on a collection very tentatively titled “The Twenty-Ninth Year,” which is about, well, my twenty-ninth year. I turned thirty in July, and the year leading up to it was such a strange and difficult and marvelous one. Of all I’ve written, these new poems are probably the most easily “traceable” to me, in that I basically turned myself into a subject of study, and am trying to do it as authentically and unflinchingly as possible. Sometimes, it’s nothing short of impossible. Sometimes, it’s healing and good and I feel cleaner after the poem. We’ll see what the manuscript as a whole looks like, once I start stitching it together. That’s usually my favorite part.

This has been so wonderful, Elizabeth! I can’t wait for your new book. Thanks for letting me into your (lovely) mind.


Elizabeth Cantwell a high school teacher and poet living in Claremont, California. Her first book of poems, Nights I Let the Tiger Get You (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), was a runner-up for the 2012 Hudson Prize; she is also the author of a chapbook, Premonitions (Grey Book Press, 2014). Her work has recently been published or is forthcoming in such journals as The Los Angeles Review, PANK, The Cincinnati Review, and Hobart.

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner and Columbia Poetry Review. Her poetry collection Atrium (Three Rooms Press) was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry. Four Cities, her second collection, was recently released by Black Lawrence Press. Her latest collection, Hijra, was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and was published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2016.

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By Sarah Marcus:


The moon was a sliver of itself
the first night I thought of you
combing a new year’s honey
through our hair.

We are taught to repent, but
it’s a poor translation,
for Teshuvah is to return
to ourselves,
to come back to who we really are,
to return
to an original state

where we have nothing
but possibility laid before us.

And it is written
as everything will be:

someone’s grandmother’s hands
smelling of cinnamon and clove,
a testament to a world
created as an expression
of limitless love,
of refinement.

The Rabbi says that when you share your words
you are sharing a part of your soul. Each moment
has the potential to be deeply spiritual, my children,
stand in the hugeness of it all.

Autumn has lingered years
for your arrival,
each leaf turned
in anticipation,
even the branches
held their breath

              waiting for us to ask the right questions,
                      for us to stop looking to the sky.

Today’s poem originally appeared in the Green Briar Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Sarah Marcus is the author of Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight (2016, GTK Press) and the chapbooks BACKCOUNTRY (2013) and Every Bird, To You (2013). Her next book, They Were Bears, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2017. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press, a spirited VIDA: Women in Literary Arts volunteer, and the Series Editor for As Is Ought To Be’s High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race. Find her at sarahannmarcus.com.

Editor’s Note: But this is so much more than a Rosh Hashanah poem. This is a poem of the sacred and the secular. Of belief and being. Of awareness and action. This is the moment when memory becomes contemplation, when contemplation becomes questioning, when questioning demands more from us. Yes, this poem is stunning in its imagery and lyric. Yes, it is evocative and moving. Yes it is visceral and philosophical and spiritual. But it is so much more than that. For while “we have nothing / but possibility laid before us,” the very leaves hold their breath “waiting for us to ask the right questions, // for us to stop looking to the sky.”

Shanah Tovah u’Metukah to you, the faithful readers of this series. May the new year be sweet, and may you be the change you want to see in the world.

Want to see more from Sarah Marcus?
Spork Press
Nashville Review
The EstablishmentHuffington Post

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