The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Dogs by Dion O’Reilly


Insides

On cold mornings, as he stropped his blade
on the wand of the whetstone,
the butcher would tell me how he loved
warming his hands inside a steaming beast,
and I, a child, held out for him
the steel bucket for the bull’s heart,
big as a rugby ball, still beating,
its convent of small passages, matrixed
with muscle and stiff fat. I carried it,
with the vast plain of liver,
the kidneys and pimply tongue—
three trips at least—through the wet
vetch and bees, bringing every bit
of this bounty to my mother
to fry in butter—quick—
before the raw power waned.

This selection comes from Ghost Dogs, available from Terrapin Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sunni Brown Wilkinson.

Dion O’Reilly’s first book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her work appears in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Narrative, Sugar House Review, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She facilitates ongoing poetry workshops in a farmhouse full of wild art and is a member of the Hive Poetry Collective which produces radio shows, podcasts, and events in Santa Cruz. (dionoreilly.wordpress.com)
@dionoreilly

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry can be found in Western Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, SWWIM, Crab Orchard Review and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press 2019, finalist for the Hudson Prize) and The Ache & The Wing (forthcoming 2021, winner of Sundress’s 2020 Chapbook Prize).  She also won New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize and the 2020 Joy Harjo Prize from Cutthroat Literary Magazine. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three sons. 

Project Bookshelf: Julie Jeanell Leung

My book shelves reveal glimpses of who I was and who I hope to be, a partial identity, loosely organized, deeply loved. One shelf above a built-in desk in our kitchen holds books from childhood and high school years, books I had when we moved into this house. The small Shakespeare collection spans generations, marking time and transitions, like the collection of black and white photos on the shelf beneath it. When I was young, my ambitious mother gifted me a thick volume of Shakespeare’s works that now features tooth marks from one of my father’s pet rabbits who nibbled on the velveteen cover. Books I bought for my children’s Shakespeare studies (No Fear Shakespeare), and my own copy of Macbeth from high school sit alongside some of the only books I have from my mother, her Shakespeare plays from college, the six-digit dorm number written inside the cover like a secret code.

Covers stand out to me: how I peeled away the purple cover of Sound and Sense during the sophomore English poetry unit, how the bright orange spines on the Penguin editions of Grapes of Wrath and Dubliners are now faded to a strange pale hue. When I immersed myself in a book, I dog-eared the pages and wrote notes, even occasionally drew cartoons in the margins. Books could be so tangible. Raymond Carver, Barbara Kingsolver, and Flannery O’Connor represent my early passion for short stories. Books from a world literature class in high school with a beloved teacher — and his own book published a few years ago — mix with books from an intense Holocaust literature course in college. My published pieces and my MFA thesis are also on this shelf, so high above my head that I rarely reach for them, but I can see them if I look up. 

I started my low-residency MFA program at the Rainier Writing Workshop (RWW) soon after we had finished our bonus room over the garage, and within a few years I had filled the new built-in bookshelves with my new acquisitions and strengthened identity in creative nonfiction. On this bookcase, I’ve also stored binders of notes and a mug from my grad school residencies. Autographed books from faculty members who have passed away — Judith Kitchen and Sherry Simpson — seem especially precious now. Essay collections by Brenda Miller, Dinah Lenney, and Lia Purpura represent the three amazing mentors I had at RWW. The one short story collection is George Saunder’s excellent and haunting Tenth of December. I have also collected a number of books on marine science, one of my passions. For my critical paper project I focused on writing about the natural world, and I loved not only the work of the late Eva Saulitis (whose Becoming Earth shows me how I want to die) but also David Gessner’s humorous writings and Amy Leach’s lyrical Things That Are. Through the years, I have also collected a number of books on writing life and pedagogy, for my own encouragement, and I hope to encourage others too. Books published by friends and classmates inspire me to continue. And I collect vintage books for research including childhood favorites such as a National Geographic series on wildlife and In Search Of titles. 

Recently, after spending time managing limited space on bookshelves and making difficult choices, I’ve started accumulating e-books. On the island where I live, it can be convenient and efficient to have a book available at any time to read on the phone while waiting for the ferries during travels to and from Seattle. After some recent purchases over the holidays, this collection ranges from poetry (The Galleons by Rick Barot, RWW Director), essay collections (the enchanting World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukamatathil), and even field guides (What It’s Like to Be a Bird). When I buy novels, I tend to purchase them in ebook form. In recent years, I’ve read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson three times for different book clubs in three different media versions, most recently as an audio book. I read Ocean Vuong’s novel on my phone. And of course essay collections fit well with ferry waiting: Jia Tolentino, Leslie Jamison, Kiese Laymon (which I remembering reading in a zoo parking lot on a winter night while waiting for my daughter). 

Finally I have my most recent stack of books that sits on the carpet by the sofa in our living room, since I’ve run out of bookshelves. I’ve been intentionally reading My Grandmother’s Hands at a slow pace. I am becoming an antiracist, thanks to Ibram Kendi and others. In this picture, I notice I am drawn to secrets and mysteries: The Secret Lives of Color is stacked beside The Secret Lives of Pronouns and The 99% Invisible City. And, of course, I continue to collect stories of the natural world. I love reading about the wild and unexplained and wondering what I will learn and who and what I will become.

The photo of the author at the beach.

Julie Jeanell Leung received her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Bellingham Review, Blue Lyra Review, and Grist: The Journal for Writers. Julie lives with her husband on an island near Seattle where she volunteers as a citizen scientist and counts sea stars on the rocky shores.

Interview with Nicole Arocho Hernández, Author of I Have No Ocean

Nicole Arocho Hernández’s chapbook, I Have No Ocean, constellates around a longing for Puerto Rico, the devastating losses suffered from Hurricane María, and the vibrancy of her people. Hernández writes in Spanglish, exploring themes of colonization, homeland, embodiment, and grief. In this interview, author Nicole Arocho Hernández speaks with Sundress editorial intern Abigail Renner about the possibilities of resistance and the importance of dreaming.

Abigail Renner: This collection is enveloped by a longing for home, for Puerto Rico, for an “an island rimmed with sky, / framed in blue.” What is the importance of home, both in the sense of uprooting and belonging, in these poems?

Nicole Arocho Hernández: In that verse the speaker acknowledges the Americanization of their language, where nostalgia plays a role but, more importantly, the speaker has lost their sense of belonging to their homeland because they have lost their first language. They feel like a “visitor” in their own home.

I have been living in the US for ten years now. I went to Puerto Rico last March after a few years without visiting, and I felt both like a local and a tourist. It was disorienting and familiar. I cried in both relief and despair. That trip was cut short because of the pandemic, and the loss happening there because of COVID-19 is a trauma I cannot fathom writing about just yet.

I think and write about home in a few ways. Home is not just Puerto Rico but also Spanish, my first language, and Spanglish, my current language. These poems are my attempt to hold onto my Puerto Rico for dear life. After Hurricane María, all of us suffered devastating losses. Thanks to colonization, it feels like we lose a little more of Puerto Rico every day. In these poems, my grief, fear, nostalgia, love, and hope came together. More recently, I am thinking and exploring the meaning of home as the body, the one physical space we may truly call ours.

AR: Tell me more about your choice to weave English and Spanish together, sometimes without translation. How is language both limiting and expansive in this collection?

NAH: In Puerto Rico, we learn both Spanish and English in schools by law. Puerto Ricans use Spanish for everyday life, but with the influence of TV, social media, the Internet, and bilingual schools, English has become more embedded in the language and culture. Spanglish feels like my true language at the moment; I feel like I’m living in between languages right now. I am in a limbo land between English (the second language I use every day), and Spanish (the first language I am not dreaming in anymore). It is with Spanglish that I also contest the power dynamics between English, the language of the colonizer, and Spanish, the language of a previous colonizer but accepted as Puerto Rican by our culture.

I don’t think about my language as limiting. I understand that some American readers might not understand everything, but I am writing first and foremost for Puerto Ricans, for all of us who have experienced the United States’ ruthless colonization enterprise. I want my language to express what feels true. I am okay with the possibility of readers having to do a little bit of work to understand my poems.

AR: Throughout these poems you pay close attention to the body—of empire, of water, of the individual, of a people. Can you speak to the collection’s many relationships to the body (or bodies)?

NAH: I am invested in the body’s role as the first homeland, the physical space built for us to live in this world. While writing these poems, I kept thinking about our bodies as extension of the bodies all around us, natural or not, and their interconnectedness in the trauma of colonization. In the chapbook, I have a visual poem where the shape of an eye manifests as I write about the anger that comes with desperation, resignation, and fear of a natural catastrophe. The eye is looking at you, the eye is your own, the eye is that of the hurricane, the “I” is all of us.

Then there’s the thousands who died because of the criminal negligence of both local and federal governments. The historical bodies killed due to colonization. Our bodies of water, our land, being defaced because of predatory industries like big pharma. And there’s the bodies created for or participating in revolution, like the guillotine brought to protests. The bodies putting everything on the line to make a change for Puerto Rico. With a chapbook, it is hard to include all of bodies I am writing about, but I tried to include as many as possible to show how much irredeemable damage has been caused to Puerto Rican spaces of living.

AR: Thinking specifically of the poem, “Rompecabezas / It’s puzzling, isn’t it,” how do you conceive of a poem’s form and employ the space of the page, in both fragmented and sprawling ways? 

NAH: That poem, which closes the collection, goes full-on Spanglish and almost stream-of-consciousness. I wanted to express the intuitive language, imagery, and memory that came to mind as I wrote about my nostalgia, grief, and longing for Puerto Rico. I used all kinds of approaches to form to find meaning in language, or erase it, and see what was left from that wreckage. Some poems need that breathing room the white space gives. Since this poem maps my complicated feelings while writing about Puerto Rico, I wanted the reader to have room for pause and transition from section to section.

Form is something that I usually think about when the (3rd? 10th?) draft’s language is finally falling into place. It is an exciting time for form in poetry, where all kinds of forms are being revitalized, invented, or broken to create new ones. I am currently delving more into visual forms, which is reshaping how I think about poems as pieces of art and their “container” (not so much as something that helps deliver the meaning of the poem but something that creates meaning along with the poem).

AR: Many of these poems are about Hurricane María and its devastating aftermath. In “Since you never ask,” the speaker poses the question, “Is there a storm worth embracing?” How might you answer this?

NAH: I mean, there are all kinds of storms we face on a daily basis, right? Here, I wrote of a literal storm, powered by climate change, that then brought many other storms with it. I think internal storms, like mental health struggles, should be considered seriously and taken care of appropriately. But then again, each person knows themselves best. There is not a clear answer.

I don’t believe that all strife is positive or can lead you to grow and be stronger. Some storms are out of our control and can kill us. Some storms are caused by the powers-that-be and they may not care if you die from them. Those are the storms we must fight against with our lives on the line. So that those coming behind us don’t have to fight the same storms again, in an endless cycle of pain and death.

AR: In the very center of “Maybe the thing I trust the most is my anger” you write, “It’s scary to let yourself be feral.” How can letting yourself feel anger and grief be a process of transformation?

NAH: First of all, anger and grief go hand in hand and may not lead to transformation. And that’s okay. Feeling them is the important part. We should always strive to feel, even if it is agonizing. It’s the only way to heal, isn’t it? But some of us don’t have those skills. I think before talking about the transforming power of feeling anger and grief, we need to address the need for emotional intelligence, of processing emotions, in all of us. Something that late-stage capitalism would rather have us not know.

I’m also thinking about the psychology of the colonized, how this prevents us from feeling anger towards the colonizer. Here’s a quote from journalist Benjamín Torres Gotay’s essay “I’m Quite Comfortable” about María: “Dumbfounded by such an unexpected turn of events, people could only react with statements of shock, like “I’m quite comfortable,” “receiving nothing would have been worse,” or “they are doing what they can.” (…) The ugly, unpalatable truth that we were abandoned, that we were forgotten, that we were not important to the US government did not fit, could not fit, in the minds of most people in Puerto Rico. It was unconceivable for them.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane María, my family was not dwelling on their emotions. They were not processing their feelings but just burying them while trying to move on past the disaster. This is a self-defense mechanism I know very well. It took three years and another disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic, to get me writing about the trauma of Hurricane María. It took that long to start processing the almost 5,000 deaths, the murderous mismanagement of the government, and more. It was also a way to not think about the unfathomable loss happening in real time. It will probably take me years to write about what we’re living in right now.

AR: Empire and colonization are such driving forces in these poems. How do you imagine a decolonized Puerto Rico, or even a world without empire?

NAH: I don’t know if full decolonization is possible. Our language, our culture, our way of life has been colonized. These changes have been happening for more than a century with the US, and many centuries before under Spain. I believe that one day Puerto Rico will not be property of the US Congress. What will our freedom look like? I’m not sure, but it will be a lot better than being one of the oldest colonies in the world being led by a Fiscal Control Board appointed by the US government without a path to self-determination. The local government must change, since it is so entrenched in the colonization enterprise. Some think that being a state will lead to decolonization, but that is a terrible misjudgment. Look at Hawaii. How their culture has been erased by the American empire.

AR: In “Lx Guillotinx,” you write, “everyone / teaches lx guillotinx / that a human being’s warmth / is worth more / than blood money.” Thinking of the revolutionary act of reasserting one’s humanity in the face of oppression, can you speak more about the importance of ongoing resistance in Puerto Rico? 

NAH: Puerto Rico’s resistance has been happening since the beginning of invasion. It happens every day in smaller and larger ways. It was thanks to all of our efforts, be it in the streets protesting, donating to organizations, sharing what’s going on in social media, that Ricky Roselló was ousted as governor in 2019. Boricuas who value our island and want to see it free continue to fight for an independent future. There are more of us than what the media portrays or what unbinding referendums show.

AR: In “Reversing grief” the speaker says, “How dare you take us from dreaming.” Tell me more about the significance of creation, invention, and dreaming in these poems.

NAH: This line talks about dreaming for all Puerto Ricans. In this poem, the speaker refuses to give in into the grief that swallows you whole. Here, grief becomes the fuel for anger, which becomes fuel for radicalization and, thus, change. I think dreaming, envisioning a Puerto Rico that takes the reigns of its future and its possibilities, is essential. In my poems, I don’t want to write about trauma and its ramifications without also bringing forth the joy, love, music, tenacity, and history of my people. Puerto Ricans are creating new ways to survive every day. I want to celebrate this survival, the beauty of facing calamities without giving up.

Download your copy of I Have No Ocean for free here!


Nicole Arocho Hernández is a poet and translator from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She has a BA in Writing from Ithaca College and is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Arizona State University. Her poems have been featured in Great Weather for Media, the VS podcast, Variant Literature, and The Acentos Review. Her spirit never left Puerto Rico. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @nimaarhe.

Abigail Renner is a junior at George Washington University studying English and American Studies. She is currently a writing consultant in her university writing center, where she loves unearthing writer’s voices and reading across a myriad of genres. She dreams of living on a farm, filling her shelves with romance novels, and laughing with friends over cups of peppermint tea.

2020 Best of the Net Anthology Released from Sundress Publications

Sundress Publications is pleased to announce the release of the 2020 edition of Best of the Net. This year’s anthology, the journal’s 15th anniversary edition, includes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction selected from the submissions of over 375 journals and over 2500 entries. The judges have selected 32 contributors to include.

This year’s judges were Jasminne Mendez, Sarah Einstein, and Matthew Salesses.

Jasminne Mendez is an award-winning author, playwright, poet, performer, and educator. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally in literary journals and anthologies including The New England Review, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, The Texas Review, The Rumpus, and others. Her first multi-genre memoir Island of Dreams (Floricanto Press, 2013) was awarded Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards in 2015, and her second book Night-Blooming Jasminne: Personal Essays & Poetry (Arte Publico Press) was released in May 2018. Her debut children’s book Josefina’s Habichuelas is forthcoming with Piñata Books an imprint of Arte Público Press in 2021.

Sarah Einstein teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the author of Mot: A Memoir (University of Georgia Press, 2015) and Remnants of Passion (SheBooks, 2014). Her essays and short stories have appeared in the Sun, Ninth Letter, PANK, and other journals. Her work has been reprinted in the Best of the Net and awarded a Pushcart Prize and the AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

Matthew Salesses is the author of three novels, most recently Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear.

Read this latest edition of this annual anthology at www.bestofthenetanthology.com

Sundress Reads: Review of Swan Song

A collection’s opening line is inevitably an invitation and prophecy. The line that opens Armen Davoudian’s Swan Song (Bull City Press, 2020) reaches out, then spirals in on itself: “All over Sofeh Mountain, sensing life, / garlic escapes its winter sleep in scapes / we cut and bind together in a sheaf, / the skinned cloves sticky to the touch like lips, firm but fleshy, reeking as though alive.” Davoudian places us above life and in the all-encompassing atmosphere. Then, we are transported downwards before landing at the collection’s subject, the “we” that is constantly subject to redefinition. A single line stretches to accommodate all of these scopes, shrinking to the level of the individual clove before blooming into the conclusion that it, too, is alive.

In this poem, a jar of pickled garlic bridges the speaker with past harvests with his family in Iran. Inside the jar, the “broken heads” of garlic are “new with loss.” Showing the jar to his audience, Davoudian asks, what does it mean to be steeped in loss? How does loss “soften and age” us? The jar temporarily seals what cannot be contained, what must spill over into the collection’s following poems. The opening line’s promise of perspective is fulfilled.

In Davoudian’s search for homeland within loss, magic emerges in the meetings of two people. In rhyming couplets, “Coming Out of the Shower” is set in a family bathroom, documenting what it means to share space with others. Davoudian shows us the simultaneous closeness and questioning—“What else will you love me despite?”, the speaker wonders of his mother in this coming out poem—that arises from the compression of space, both of the physical bathroom and the constrictive rhyming couplets of the poem itself.

In “Rubaiyat,” “friendship lessens” between two men who become lovers. The third stanza is the only one that does not allude to their romantic relationship; instead, Davoudian describes: “You dunk a graham cracker in your tea / too long, then pour the thin sludge down the drain.” Writing of the undefined amount of time it takes for the graham cracker to dissolve into the tea, becoming transformed into an entirely different state of matter, he articulates the porousness of relationship. The speaker undergoes the same change; the poem ends with a recognition that the two individuals are as inseparable as cracker and tea: “I shut my eyes. You’re in my head.”

A later poem opens with the meeting—“the famous confluence”—of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Davoudian employs a classic move, winnowing down to a localized detail: “You wore your jacket tied around your waist.” Of all his richly textured images, this one, unexpectedly small, has stuck with me the most: the simple connectivity of the jacket’s two arms, bound together into confluence.

Throughout Swan Song, Davoudian shifts between English and Persian forms with a fluency that allows for skillful clumsiness. He sequences the sonnet, the rhyming couplet, the rubaiyat, the ghazal; his poems are often sparse, consistently mindful of space.

Describing a German language immersion summer camp, Davoudian declares, “I’ve vowed to unlearn English / for six weeks.” Deployed with a mastery so self-aware it ushers in humor, the line break captures Davoudian’s relationship with the English language and its traditional strictures. 

This playful undercutting—a wry nod to the inevitability of existing in English—emerges again in his interpretation of formal rhyme schemes. “Coming Out of the Shower” yields imperfect juxtapositions like “I’m coming out” / “I knot” and “forget” / “despite”. 

These themes coalesce in one of the collection’s most striking pieces, “Persian Poetry.” Again, it invokes declaration as its opener: “I teach Robert Lowell to undergraduates at an elite institution.” The speaker’s colleagues discuss art in highfalutin terms: “Englishness, paradigm shift, other-ness—”. And yet, Davoudian is forthright about his own place in this system: “I study English poetry / because Persian would have been too obvious.” This poem follows one entitled “Alibi”; a word hanging over a piece called “Persian Poetry” yet written in English.

By the end of Swan Song, Davoudian’s twin subject matter of home and language become intertwined; both notions are constrictive yet permissive, structures which nevertheless allow for space.

The sonnet “Ararat” opens with the speaker leaving home, turning into a bird in flight. “This is where I live now. Should I cry?”, he wonders. The answer comes at the poem’s final line, delightful and wholly unexpected, made sing-songily serious with an internal rhyme: “Coo. Caw. My house is made of straw.” 

There is no right way to feel, Davoudian concludes. But throughout this collection, with “Coo. Caw” as an example, he gives us an approach: one that necessitates moments of levity, of wriggling in and out and between languages. 

Swan Song is available at Bull City Press


Claire Shang is a freshman at Columbia University, where she is an editor with The Columbia Review. She is a writer of poetry and creative nonfiction, and a reader of mostly everything. Her work has appeared in or been recognized by Peach Mag, No, Dear Magazine, and Smith College.

Meet Our New Intern: Shannon Wolf

Growing up in a tiny cobblestoned town in England, I dreamt wistfully of America: living there, going to school in lockered hallways, maybe even becoming a cheerleader. Everything seemed brighter and louder there—perfect for a girl who was shushed every time she removed her head from a book. Yes, I read the obvious paperbacks: The Saddle Club, The Baby-Sitters Club, and, perhaps a little transparently, the 1980s Scholastic collection, Cheerleaders by Caroline B. Cooney. And so my English days were filled with books that acted as a buffer, a hold steady until I could escape this funny little island and make it to New York or wherever. Every Christmas, I absorbed Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March into my soul, sitting with my back against the cast iron oven in my mother’s kitchen, sure that somehow, one day I would be an American writer.

In my early twenties, I flew back and forth to New York and Pennsylvania, attending writing retreats and pouring away paychecks in indie bookstores. I never expected that landing a temporary gig as a nanny would finally get me to the United States long-term, or that after meeting a boy from Buffalo (and marrying him) I would end up in Louisiana, pursuing my joint MA-MFA at McNeese State University. I still read Little Women every year. This year, I found a vintage edition of Little Men with ornate illustrations in a bookshop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi—I lost my breath when I saw it and fingered the scarlet binding all the way home. Next year, when I graduate, my husband is shipping my book collection from England. I’m counting the days. 

I’m not an American quite yet but I keep my sweet little green card tucked safely in my handbag beside whatever book I’m devouring each day—today, it is Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Yesterday, it was Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. When I’m not teaching English composition to Louisianan undergrads, I’m revising my novel, working on my poetry collection, and soliciting submissions as Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review.  Lately, I’ve been working on my literary citizenship: expanding my roster of book reviews out from my little Instagram grid (@helloshanwolf) and into literary magazines like Prairie Schooner and Bridge Eight.

In December 2020, I was honored to be a resident at the Sundress farm in Knoxville, and I continue to be impressed by the work that this team has been putting out into the world. The Wardrobe (their manifestation and promotion of women, non-binary, and genderqueer writers) is so special. The Sundress team’s every impulse serves to foster brilliant work and nurture creatives at every turn. So I’m thrilled to begin 2021 as Sundress Publications’ social media intern. I’m no American cheerleader but just watch: I’ll shake my figurative pom-poms for every title and every event. I can’t wait to get to work. 


Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review and she also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Ghost Dogs by Dion O’Reilly


Why Did I Call My Pig?

I watched my mother call her,
watched my sister too.
My father tried to catch her.
She was quick, my piebald oinker.
Her squeals greased the air.

She knew the jig was up,
ran to the farthest corner, down
by the creek and the steep ravine,
hid in shadows under oak trees,
rooting prickled leaves and acorns
with her wet ringed snout.

My huge baby, companion
on aimless teenage days
when I balanced on the fencepost,
listening to her belly-deep rumble,
stick-scratched her itchy,
thick-skinned back.

The butcher with a rifle,
stood impatient by his Chevy truck,
its hook and chain ready
to haul the limp sow up,
to scrape the skin and slice the stomach
in a thin red line, bowels spilling
glazy as moonstones.

Forgive me. To show off my small power,
I called her—the one she loved—
and she came running.

This selection comes from Ghost Dogs, available from Terrapin Books. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Sunni Brown Wilkinson.

Dion O’Reilly’s first book, Ghost Dogs, was published in February 2020 by Terrapin Books. Her work appears in Cincinnati Review, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, Narrative, Sugar House Review, New Letters, New Ohio Review, Rattle, The Sun, and other literary journals and anthologies. She facilitates ongoing poetry workshops in a farmhouse full of wild art and is a member of the Hive Poetry Collective which produces radio shows, podcasts, and events in Santa Cruz. (dionoreilly.wordpress.com)
@dionoreilly

Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry can be found in Western Humanities Review, Sugar House Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, SWWIM, Crab Orchard Review and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press 2019, finalist for the Hudson Prize) and The Ache & The Wing (forthcoming 2021, winner of Sundress’s 2020 Chapbook Prize).  She also won New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize and the 2020 Joy Harjo Prize from Cutthroat Literary Magazine. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three sons. 

Sundress Announces the Release of Nicole Arocho Hernández’s I Have No Ocean

Sundress Publications announces the release of Nicole Arocho Hernández’s I Have No Ocean, a chapbook that conveys a vivid Puerto Rico set against the backdrop of Hurricane María and the resulting devastation and displacement. How do we make sense of the senseless when home lives in a land that “swallows birth’s / breath” And how do we reckon with violence, with death caused by both colonial and natural destruction?

The poems in this chap read like prayers for the unmoored, where “in the eye of the storm, no one / waits for whimper. Everyone / expects song.” Our speaker admits, “I believe in judging the living and the dead. / I believe in the spirit / of many hells.” There is a dichotomy in these poems, a mirror reflecting the pain of the island—one that stares out at those who caused it.

The longing is palpable: “I have no ocean / I have no tongue. I write with spilled wreckage.” The search for an answer to this ache runs deep in these pages. There is a wonder at how an identity is formed, “the white birthed the colonia / the colonia birthed me.” But what truly makes this collection shine is the way that Arocho Hernández flips religion on its head, using prayer to condemn the government’s response to Hurricane María: “Guillotinx / You who never sleeps / I want you to spit / My pain on / Uncle Sam. Please grant me / This prayer.” It is through this intentional deconstruction of language—alluding to the French guillotine used in past Puerto Rican protests, reflecting the sharp edge by which governments fail their colonial enterprises, and christening her people’s demands—that allows Hernández to both recognize and reveal the diaspora of her inhabited, inherited, political, and cultural position.

Read I Have No Ocean for free today!

Nicole Arocho Hernández is a poet and translator from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She has a BA in Writing from Ithaca College and is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Arizona State University. Her poems have been featured in Great Weather for Media, the VS podcast, Variant Literature, and The Acentos Review. Her spirit never left Puerto Rico. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @nimaarhe.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


SONG IN A BOX

Piano with a house inside
traveled across the country
to be played by my father
at midnight. Note-ghosts
floated up past the sleeping dog


to my room. My father and I
weren’t speaking, and the box
my grandmother kept
her hairpins in was more lost
than ever. She was born


in the Third Ward, Newark.
At sixty, began to play
and let nobody hear
but my grandfather. Then
she died, and the sound


was stored in a box only Myer
could find. He died too
and the house was gone,
except in the piano
sometimes though hardly


anyone played. Hear it talking
fadedly of the footshapes
left in her stockings,
those letters we never saw,
of their old whites and blues.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Animal At Your Side by Megan Alpert


SEATTLE

Sometimes I get so wrangled the only thing that calms
me is a deer turning into a tree. Or hands with a ring
on them I can just see through the dark. I manage
a glass of water and a small resurrection of my sister.
Under the ceiling of clouds, we manage occasional
speaking. Our troubled spills. Our restless bowels.
We raise children shaped like clouds who do not notice
out loud. Who manage our silences. Who go on, without asking.

This selection comes from The Animal at Your Side, available from Airlie Press. Purchase your copy here! Our curator for this selection is Shannon Wolf.

Megan Alpert grew up in the suburbs of New York City and has since lived in St. Paul, Seattle, Boston, Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador. She is the recipient of an Orlando Poetry Prize from A Room of Her Own Foundation and residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Studios at MASS MoCA, and the Marquette Chamber Residency. As a journalist, Alpert has received fellowships from Foreign Policy and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has worked as a sandwich maker, bookseller, child caregiver, ESL teacher, journalist, and editor.

Shannon Wolf is a British writer and teacher, living in Louisiana. She is currently a joint MA-MFA candidate in Poetry at McNeese State University. She is the Non-Fiction Editor of The McNeese Review, and Social Media Intern for Sundress Publications. She also holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Her poetry, short fiction, and non-fiction (which can also be found under the name Shannon Bushby) have appeared in The Forge and Great Weather for Media, among others. You can find her on social media @helloshanwolf.