Category Archives: Poetry

Mid-November 2016 by Gregory Luce

Painting by Elizabeth Mayville | Website | Etsy Shop | Instagram

Mid-November 2016

Heavy heart, blustery
day: Idiot wind blowing
down the avenues.

Cold wind hisses, blood-
tide flows out from the center.
Do I need a gun?

Blood runs hot and cold
as clouds drift over the sun.
Make something happen.

Gregory Luce

Gregory Luce, author of Signs of Small Grace (Pudding House Publications), Drinking Weather (Finishing Line Press), Memory and Desire (Sweatshoppe Publications), and Tile (Finishing Line Press), has published widely in print and online. He is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He recently retired from National Geographic and lives in Arlington, VA.

A Suite of Love Poems by Words Dance’s 2016 Authors

Mixed Media Art by Kristin Reagan


Ask me about the summer
I fell in love with someone
more blackberry bramble than girl.
Aching to be touched
but never talking about the thorns.
And me, all heavy handed
and too proud to acknowledge
the things I’d cut myself on.
I dreamt about juice
running down my chin
for months.

Trista Mateer, author of Before the First Kiss

From Henry Miller to Anais Nin

There is no patience in this body.
There is only enormous wanting.
No one speaks of the stunning weight of it—
how desire pulls us through the world
as though our limbs are attached
to the strings of a clumsy marionette.
I am dizzy with this great burden.
How does one live without love?
At the end of each day, you are there
and this simple act saves me.
I walk through a market to pick peaches
and blush at the thought of your mouth.
All lovers tuck small secrets behind their tongues
and go on clicking through the world
as if they don’t know where the light comes from,
as if they didn’t create it themselves out of thin air.
I leave the market and walk quickly through the streets.
I open our front door and drop the peaches to the floor.
A week from now, we’ll find one rotting under the couch
but for now, there is only enormous wanting.
There is no patience in these bodies.

Fortesa Latifi, author of No Matter the Time


We are sitting with our backs pressed against the radiator.
You taste like toothpaste and one too many shots of cranberry

juice. I let you lick the confectioner’s sugar off my doughnut, watch
your tongue as it strips and teases. I applaud. Leave a week’s worth

of tips, etch my calling card into the hollow of your throat
with my collection of baby teeth. Isn’t that what adoration is?

Love to the point of consumption: galactic, entropic, except
you’re the existentialist and I’m the one who waters the plants.

Whatever. I love you louder than creation. Point is, I think of you
in the carpool lane, in the middle of the checkout line with a grapefruit

in one hand and your prescription pills in the other. I want to run a red
light. I think we’re too subjective. The clock strikes March. My feet

are in your lap. You scrape the honey off my teeth with that pole-
dancing tongue of yours. You will never have to go to the dentist again,

you say. I try to tell you I’m swapping spit with the hygienist, except that’s
a lie, and I’ve sworn off lying. You asked me to write you a love poem,

but this is all you’re going to get. I’m trying to be honest, you see.

Brianna Albers, author of Why I’m Not Where You Are

Somewhere in Genesis

             fake this for me

will you pour yourself over me for forty days and forty nights

             will you cover everything that I know

make me gather what animals you will
             but in pairs
so you and I aren’t lonely
             and so they aren’t either

will you destroy everything that hurts
             anyone who mocks us

will you silence those who tell us this story belongs to someone else
             somewhere in Genesis
             or in ancient Sumer
             or in the Epic of Gilgamesh

as far as I know this is our story

this moment couldn’t belong to anyone except you and me

             will you pour yourself over me for forty days and forty nights
and then leave me on top of a mountain

where people will always look
             but in vain

because this moment doesn’t belong to them
this moment couldn’t belong to anyone except you and me

Wesley Scott McMasters, author of Trying to Be a Person

On Our Last Orbit

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we

will grow gray by each other’s sides;

how the winter will be hard on our old bones,

and our sight will blur a bit more

whenever I try to read my latest poem to you.

It doesn’t make me sad anymore:

to imagine us at the end of our road,

our younger years so far

from where we stand now.

I don’t fear losing each other,

at least, not as much as I used to.

You are, and always have been,

such a strong pull of gravity in my life.

Even before we met, every day

I’d watch my body tug closer to you;

the ends of my shirt lifting at the seams

as if some whisper of a ghost was saying,

“Just a little further today.”

So why, at the end of it all,

would the magic end there?

I don’t believe life built the final boundary

to face on our own, when not even the stars know

what it’s like

to have an entire sky


Schuyler Peck, author of A Field of Blooming Bruises


Some people have a softness
that draws water from the earth

Call it dream. Call it flight.
The opening & closing of

your eyelids, like sparrow wings
beckoning the trees.

The music of your bones,
startling spring from the earth,

the dazzle of your smile
drawing honey from the bees.

You are kinder than the cruelest thing
that’s ever been done to you.

You are softer than the tender meat
you were bruised into becoming.

You are so good, bad people would
break every hard word over their knees

to keep you from falling on yours.

You are so good, lazy people would
line up to be the coffee-mug at your mouth

if it meant another hour of ease.

The religious talk about the second coming
& you talk your shadow into starlight.

If you asked the clouds for shade
the sky would split itself like apple.

If you asked me to cut out my heart
I would do it with my own knife.

Natalie Wee, author of Our Bodies & Other Fine Machines

As the Sun Bid Its Cordial Goodbyes

You as the sun, you as hot-hearted hinge for far too many boxes & not enough doors, not enough ceaseless opening, you as harness, as endless channel of life, as listen— if I could finally step out from behind all these clouds of metaphor I might ask if I could have the key to your unlocking. I might ask if I could see you tomorrow in all your brand-newness, in all your rising to the center of my sky to woo the weeds that keep us grateful for what is. Here’s the dirty truth though, poet can hide on cloud nine because she likes the air there just as much as she likes to lie low bathing in a tub of her own secrets, she likes to smokescreen, to domino, to dig up what flasks in the dark & pass it around the table like a plea or a prayer or a farewell wish, what she really wants to say is this— come bottle up with me, come garden out the gloom so we can hold it up high & laugh about how fuckin’ wretched is it to just be some days, come dusk with me, come night & dream & love & bliss, come Hollywood ending with me, come credits with too many true loves to name, look— I know you’ll always be danger, I know you’ll always be this unreachable star bound by the blue of midnight & daylight & the luster of all those other stars but you, you as constant, you as fail-safe & feverish & true, you are the warmest part of my day, even still.

Amanda Oaks, author of When Minerva’s Knees Hit the Ground

Thanksgiving Exeunt by Rodney Wilder

Painting by Elizabeth Mayville | Website | Etsy Shop | Instagram

Thanksgiving Exeunt

Is this the year it finally tired
of the fictions seasoned over its gristle?
Because turkey and aroma have never been
such unveiled sacraments, mouths
straining to carve grenade…teargas
where wishes would shawl with poultry.

There never has been room for indigenous skin
between tablescapes,
but Standing Rock is coughing something
acrid and black across these platters,
and where’s the throat glutted enough to not
notice this shameful resemblance? Revisionism

                                b  u  r  n  s
beneath the firebrand-coils
glowing molten to show the pyres lying no
outgrown cinder in the reciped script of tradition;
they are here, today. Their smoke,
a stolen mist sicced on nations once again
told their place and gifted with wounds to prove it.
Disneyfied renditions of theft and beheading wax
translucent today, as this country
once more assumes ownership of soil that, if
it could be bought, already has been by
the ancestral bodies returned to its inertia.

But the water-cannons come,
an inhumanity true to the day’s predecessors in
the morbid fork it foists on those only offered water
as weapon or as petroleum backwash. Neither
option spoken without a throat of funibrial wood

insinuated behind it.

And we are seeing now that glint of westward teeth
our need for clean hands would deem
a younger country’s problem.
What necessity, this sickly river,
the stink of these white-diverted waters.
What justice, these hypothermic proponents of
not swallowing what Bismarck knew a poison
and was weighed American-enough to be listened to.
We are seeing the colonial dream’s misbegotten admen
twist their tongues toward treatied waters, laws
tossed overhead like overgnawn tibiae while

the White House chooses its side. A pardon
wings our country’s preference across the lawn,
as the fable’s cornucopia-knolled legacy
             s      t      r      a      i      n      s
to stave off the wake
of this squandered mercy,
the allegiance of its brawn.

May our entrees continue to sour.
May our traditions bitter, our dishes
burn and burn further until this chosen sleep
doles no more the kind of comfort that thumbs
for a bloodline to snuff,
that ladles coincidence over the history retching our
bloodiest tendrils back atop a tablescape
tidied of their upheaval.
When a people
as intimate with this land as to
know its sustenance something holy,
when they can call a water source sacred and not
get proselytized by the pepper-spray response
of a more suicidal theology,
when survival stops being read like a temper tantrum,
when we can prioritize compassion over profits,
we will have a day that deserves the joy we’ve twined
to our complicit celebrations.

Then, this sleep might actually be the peace
pretended by these blood-drunk solemnities.

Rodney Wilder

Rodney Wilder is a biracial nerd who bellows death-metal verse in Throne of Awful Splendor and writes poetry, with previous work appearing in FreezeRay, Tales of the Talisman, and his first collection of poetry, 2012’s Ars Golgothica. Currently writing his fandom-fueled followup, he likes nachos and analogizing things to Pokémon.

​Democracy to Come, or The Politics of Optimism by Alex Lenkei

Paintings by Elizabeth Mayville | Website | Etsy Shop | Instagram

​Democracy to Come, or The Politics of Optimism

erasure poem from the transcript of Donald Trump’s November 8th victory speech

Alex Lenkei

Alex Lenkei is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., with a Bachelor’s degree in Literature. His work has been published in Vagabond City Lit, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Sun & Sandstone, Words Dance Magazine, and Rising Phoenix Review, among others. His writing explores themes of language, silence, solitude, and the human condition. He writes at

The Roughest Language by Elijah Noble El

Painting by Elizabeth Mayville | Website | Etsy Shop | Instagram

The Roughest Language

It’s your name that comes up with the blood. Half a cough, half something that’s going to kill me one day. This, I know. This, I knew when I first laid eyes on you. I knew that love would be the thing that ends me. I wanted it then, a tongue that slid like a blade.

All I noticed looking down the sink was how the pain settled. All this blood. All this I miss you settled at the bottom. Empty and the begging like mementos, laid on the bathtub. This hope staining my hands with black, rubbed off on you, on the four walls, on everything I tried to keep from coming down. Nothing saved us in the end. Not the marriage, not the children, not anything that we thought would.

They’re so young now that we can still pass me off as the uncle, as the family friend that comes round. I look my boy in the eyes and see how he’ll grow up to be just like another man. My daughter enters the room, a walking memento, a love story that breathes. She has your smile. She has your smile, baby, and that shouldn’t hurt like it does.

Nothing like the years we stuck it out, huh? Nothing like the nights we left the day feeling like heroes. I remember your hand in mine as a declaration, as the beginning of spring. Like morning, like light, I remember you like one might god.

Countless nights writing you letters. Countless nights thinking I was still a hero, that I still could save everything. Drunken stupors. Drunken “I know I’m not him. I can never be, but I try for you.” Countless “You said you’d choose me in every life.” Countless nights just trying to stay alive.

Driving down the highway with our hands out the windows, the wind on our face and laughter there. We lived good. We were good. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know which way the wind blew, but it took you from me in the night, and a cold winter began.

It clogs the drain when I open my mouth, all this blood coming out. All this giving up settled at the bottom. All this come back to me. I’ll never know why you gave up. I might not live that long. I’ll never know why you chose him, when you had a good home right here. Just know I love you when the days begin to forget me, when the grass grows tall.

You once taught me that we were put on this earth for light, so know I forgive you in the next life, and I’ll find you there. I’ll find you and I’ll choose you, like now, like always. I hope you’ll remember me as a good man, as someone with a good heart. We can open our eyes and try again. I’ll take your declaration and smile.

I hope you smile then too.

Elijah Noble El

Elijah Noble El is a twenty two year old actor and writer from Livonia, Michigan. The author of The Age of Recovery (2015), a debut full-length poetry book, he is also the co-founder of Girls Don’t Cry, the film division of the literary magazine Persephone’s Daughters, a magazine aimed at empowering women who have experienced various forms of abuse and degradation. In 2013 his short story, “Oblivion,” received the Award of Excellence in Literature from the Michigan PTSA Reflections. He co-wrote the play Off with Her Head (2013) which won the Special Award at the 2014 Lansing State Journal Thespie Awards. He also wrote the short film, Dog-Faced Honey (2016), which was nominated for Best Writing from the Top Indie Film Awards. His work has been featured in The Rising Phoenix Review, Straylight Magazine, Hooligan Magazine, Persephone’s Daughters, Exist Magazine, Soul Anatomy, The Odyssey, L’Éphémère Review, Erstwhile Magazine, and elsewhere.

Bilingual by Jesse Cole

Photography by Maria Kazvan | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Flickr


I want to know more. I want to memorize
the equation of your cupid’s bow
and translate it to Spanish,
to Latin, to Elvish.
To astronomy. To autonomy. I want to listen
to my instincts: Howl. Twirl.
Flirting with the moonlight, starlight,
near light, far light,
I want to be a nursery rhyme
whispered between silk sheets.
I want to be where your skin and the nighttime

Jesse Cole

Jesse Cole is a Michigan native who received her BA in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she also studied Spanish and philosophy. When not writing, Jesse can be found reading, listening to music, playing charades, or going on midnight car rides on Midwestern backroads.

To the Names Written on the Rocks by Rachel Litchman

Photography by Maria Kazvan | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Flickr

To the Names Written on the Rocks

This time I go to the ocean
and your names are tied together in
white infinity. Whoever you are, graffitied

onto the rocks beneath my feet, maybe
you understand this. Maybe
you were there when she jumped

into the water. On the construction
cranes, singing, a man washed
the city windows

while below you,
a soaked body dripped
against the rocks. When her neck

snapped, the blood-red washed
the pair of boat shoes
a man had left

by the water. I couldn’t tell you
why the colors were colliding. I kept saying
please, who is it, but there was

so much pushing
away. Hands against my shoulders.
Hands against my chest. Hands

dipped into the sea around a silver
locket while the waves broke
over you, while out on the water,

a woman stood
spooning her mother’s ashes
to the wind.

Rachel Litchman

Rachel Litchman is a high school senior at Interlochen Arts Academy. She is the recent recipient of awards from the Luminarts Cultural Foundation, The Offbeat Flash Fiction/Prose Poetry Contest, and National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Other work has been recognized by The Glimmer Train Press Short Story Award for New Writers and can be found in The Whitefish Review, The Mud Season Review, and Persephone’s Daughters. She currently serves as a poetry reader for the Adroit Journal.

reluctant lovers by Zoe Christopher

Photography by Maria Kazvan | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Flickr

reluctant lovers

our longing
draped in veiled
it snickers
we gasp
we blush
and fidget.

(i said forget me/ call me
said i loathe you/ meant I love
please go now
don’t leave)

we skirt liminal land mines
like fireflies
shed our thin skins
naked and shy
they gasp
we blush
and shiver.

(you said come now/meant go
touch me here/ not here
said forget this
meant please

fearless and foolish
our hearts
do their bidding
they sing
we weep
we blush
to forget.

Zoe Christopher

Zoe has been writing all her life in an effort to understand what she’s thinking. Over the years, she’s put food on the table as an ice-cream truck driver, waitress, dental assistant, counselor, astrologer, art installer, bookseller, breathworker, and trainer of psychospiritual crisis support. While raising her son in California, she earned her Masters degree in psychology, and she’s part of the SF Creative Writing Institute community in San Francisco. She avoids talking so much today by using photography and the written word to say what’s left of her. :

Dear Crime Shows by Kelsey Taylor

Photography by Maria Kazvan | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Flickr

Dear Crime Shows

Thank you
for showing the world
a glamorized version of trauma.
For making rape
a fun mystery
for viewers to solve
because bad things always get fixed

on TV. Failing to accurately portray
the nights without sleep,
the triggers. For every trauma casualty
has something that will bring up an unwanted
flashback that places us back
in time, even if just for a moment.

It took me years
to stop scanning
the lettering on white vans, to stop
my heart from racing
anytime a floorboard creaked.

A friend of mine says
she wishes for a more tragic life
one with stories
of sexual or physical abuse
because that’s the way you help
people. That’s the way you get
people to listen.

She did not know
that most victims
spend our whole lives
in silence. Too afraid to speak
for it’s only real
if we can say it out loud.

People like me don’t
confess. Don’t admit
to what happened. I spent years
of my life learning
to not talk. Learning to
forget. I forgot how to speak
with any substance. Forgot
that I wasn’t supposed to
remember, this is the part you don’t
tell your viewers.

Actors solve crimes
with easily packaged evidence
that always adds up,
always points to someone, but

real monsters aren’t caught
within the parameters of 42 minutes
they hide behind
disguises like father
or brother

and most of us wait
our entire lives
for a verdict that never comes.

Kelsey Taylor

Born and raised in the PNW, Kelsey Taylor is a former figure skater, with a fear of falling, who has traded in her skates for poetry slams and leotards for leather jackets. She has been known to sticky note peoples cars, climb up 50ft of sand and occasionally post videos on Youtube under the screen name Kelsey1393. She holds a Creative Writing Certificate from Berklee College of Music; convinced she was going to be a singer, but along the way she took a detour in writing workshops and never looked back. Kelsey runs a fiction writing group where she is the youngest member.

North by Ashley Loper

Photography by Maria Kazvan | Website | Etsy Shop | Facebook | Flickr


He tells me he wants to see Alaska.

Later, when his body is ravaged by mosquitos 

I make salves of beeswax and spruce pitch,

later still, when snow carries the weight of its own being

I explain that in this country

warmth is a luxury. It has to be earned.

He does not want this Alaska
but this is the only Alaska I know.

The ice on the river is the thickest it’s been in years.
Meanwhile, his blue hands, my red thighs.

This heart ringed by frostbite.

Ashley Loper

A fan of dark fruits, dark chocolate, and dark, rainy days, Ashley Loper started birthing poetry like gentle rabbits out of her body at a young age. Her poems draw inspiration from the natural world, the human condition, and all the equal measures of brutality and softness that exist in between. What she lacks in logic, she often makes up for in parable. You can find her literary best friends at