Can’t Stop Thinking About Antarctica

So I’m on a bad, bad, B-A-D run at the moment, baking-wise.  I’m about at the point where I’m going to take a look at the Yellow Pages for someone who exorcises oven-ghosts. Let’s be upfront: The sugar cookies I just pulled outta there look like deflated igneous rocks.


One of these things is not like the other!


 For some time now, I’ve been mentally mulling over writing something [in the playwriting sense] to do with Antarctica. The day has finally come where it’s time to put pen to paper, and I’ve been researching in bits and pieces. Apparently, I’m required to read a book from 1922 entitled

 “The Worst Journey in the World”  

By a man named  

Apsley Cherry-Garrard 


Cherry-Garrard accompanied Robert Scott on an Antarctic expedition called the Terra Nova Expedition from 1910-1913. In 1911,  he and two other team members ventured out on a trip to collect Emperor penguin eggs. Long story short: They were trapped by a blizzard, their tent blew away, and CHERRY-GARRARD SHATTERED THE MAJORITY OF HIS TEETH BECAUSE THEY WERE CHATTERING SO HARD IN THE COLD.


The National Library of New Zealand has pictures of the Terra Nova expedition on the “Manuscripts and Pictorial” section of their website [here].

 Below: Two pictures. [The captions from the National Library website are included.]


Henry Robertson Bowers, Dr. Wilson, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard before leaving for Cape Crozier, Antarctica, 27 June 1911


Dr. Wilson, Henry Robertson Bowers, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard eating a meal on their return from winter trip to Cape Crozier, 1 August 1911 


 Look at them, in that first picture; they didn’t know.

After, they knew.

Look at the set of Cherry-Garrard’s mouth; look at his hands, gripping his bread. You cannot see his teeth. He is thinking: I have to eat. Is he thinking about what happened to him out there? I do not know. Sometimes, in the wake of the big and terrible, we are only thinking: At least I am warm. At least there is tea.

Later, the depths of what happened get mentally plumbed; or they should. We none of us think enough about what there is to learn after we come in from a blizzard.


Well, Happy August!  

I go back to work tomorrow. My summer break, it is over. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

READER: For the love.


Spring Ice Storm

 The forecast had not predicted it,
and its beginning, a calming, rumbled dusk 

and pleasant lightning, she welcomed as harbinger
of rain. Then as night came she heard the world 

relapse, slide backward into winter’s insistent
tick and hiss. In the morning, she woke to a powerless 

house, the baseboards cold, the sky blank,
mercury hardfallen as the ice and fixed 

even at noon. The woodpile on the porch dwindled
to its last layer, she had not replenished it 

for a month and could see beyond it windblown ice
in the shed where the axe angled Excalibur-like, 

frozen in the wood. Still, she didn’t worry
beyond the fate of the daffodils, green-sheathed, 

the forsythia and quince already bloomed out–
knowing this couldn’t last. But by afternoon 

she did begin feeding the fire in the cast-iron
stove ordinary things she thought she could replace, 

watching through the small window of isinglass
the fast-burning wooden spoons, picture frames, 

then the phone book and stack of old almanacs–
forgotten predictions and phases of the moon– 

before resorting to a brittle wicker rocker,
quick as dried grass to catch, bedframes and slats, 

ladderback chairs, the labor of breaking them up
against the porch railing its own warming. 

Feverlike, the freeze broke after two days,
and she woke to a melting steady as the rain 

had been. The fire she had tended more carefully
than the household it had consumed she could now 

let go out, and she was surprised at how little
she mourned the rooms heat-scoured, readied for spring. 

Claudia Emerson



Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Claudia Emerson, Poetry

At My Leisure

In our front yard, there is a veritable flower stew, at the moment. [Flower goulash? Flower casserole?] Three different bushes have grown together [I think?] and three different colors of flowers are budding from their branches.


Once the flowers go away, the bushes will lapse back into the nuclear-level ugliness that is their lot for 11.5 months out of the year. For now, when you walk down our block and look upon them in the bright-hot middle of a summer’s day, the bushes are idiotically, extravagantly, recklessly beautiful. They are spending it all. They are filling their Ferrari with a million dollars and pushing it off a cliff into the ocean.

I am just saying.


This summer has passed soooo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o quickly, I think! Says me. I do not know why.

At the moment, I’ve been off work for over a week, and won’t return until next Monday.


1. Not working
2. Can indulge penchant for night-owlishness
3. Seems time enough for everything


1. Loosened grip on the ropes of life is disorienting
2. Sometimes lots of time to think about Things is not so good
3. Desire level to win lottery, spend life eating candy bars unreasonably high


Speaking of candy bars–I bought a candy bar at Trader Joe’s last Friday? The packaging said that it was 73% cacao super dark chocolate, and normally your average dark chocolate Hershey bar has like -23% cacao, which renders its taste less “cacao” and more “half-eaten jelly doughnut”. When I clapped eyes on the candy bar–for the record, I was there to buy vegetables!–I thought: “This is the sort of chocolate I should be eating always! No chocolate is EVER dark enough for me! Also I fight bears!”–sort of a chocolate-machismo thing.

Well, lemme tell you: It was a real struggle, eating this candy bar.

“BLAR,” said my taste buds, when I took a bite. “Do let’s mash this up in a bowl of sugar.”


Further research revealed that Japan has an incredibly detailed chocolate classification system. Buh? The American FDA specifies four types of chocolate–milk, sweet, semisweet, and white–and Japan has at least twelve, by my count. Japan: Apparently BANANAS for chocolate classification!

One of the classifications is something called “quasi chocolate”.





You know what’s terrible? White chocolate. That is some terrible stuff, white chocolate.


I also learned this weekend that I apparently stand in direct opposition to both God and man, due to my extreme distaste for graham crackers. Why did people start eating graham crackers, ever? Unless the graham crackers have been ground into some sort of “dessert crust”, thusly neutralizing the flavor of the graham crackers in their unaltered state, THERE’S THE DOOR.

Well, now you know how I feel about it!


Hey, Pitchfork ended up being pretty nice!

Look what a nice time we are having!

It was very HOT, however. See how my hair is stuck to my forehead like whoa?

You can’t have everything in this life.



When I hurt you and cast you off, that was buccaneer work:
the sky must have turned on the Bay that day and spat.
We’d tarried on corners, we’d dallied on sofas, we were
in progress, do you see? Yet stormcloud bruises bloomed

where once we touched. The walls swam under minty fever;
we failed to reach the long, low sleep of conquerors.
Since I played wrong and you did too, since we were wrong,
we need apologies; for your part in this sorry slip of hearts,

you should walk on Golden Hill at night alone; for mine
I will hang with my enemies, out on the long shore,
our brigand bodies impaled on the horns of our failures,
the cold day casting draughts through our brinkled bones.

Roddy Lumsden


Filed under Poetry, Roddy Lumsden


On the morning of the Fourth of July, I purchased a small packet of “colorful smoke bombs” at Target. Since the city of Chicago does not allow its citizens to purchase real fireworks–a memo which, based on the yearly volume of spectacular city-wide neighborhood displays, hundreds of individuals do not receive!–we are forced to purchase items like colorful smoke bombs; items which a baby kitten could safely consume in its small dish of milk without undergoing bodily harm. 

I got carded.

CASHIER: Yeah…They just started doing this a few days ago.
CASHIER + ME: [roll eyeballs all the way into the back of our heads until our whole eyeballs fall out of our heads]


I cannot purchase spray paint in Chicago. I am carded for buying a paper smoke bomb the size of an unshelled walnut.  I pay extra taxes when I want a bottle of water.



Oh, and sparklers! I can’t buy those, either.  Sweet, sparkly focus of a million childhood memories: Now I am a woman grown, and I cannot obtain you.


Do you think George Washington would be happy, knowing that I’m not allowed to buy sparklers? 

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Was it for thus that I forded the Potomac?


For about two years now, I’ve said, “I’m not going to Pitchfork again. They shall have to line Union Park with cupcake-bearing bald eagles. I shan’t stir one step.” And then…I go. I thought that when I said it last year, I meant it; meant it in the way that you mean the Pledge of Allegiance.  But I guess I didn’t, since here I go, there, again.

It’s summer, I think. You forget your need to be out in the summer sun while you can, at such events, such festivals and fairs, until they’re upon you. Then only the heedless could turn away. “I would rather sit at home in my snowsuit,” you might as well say, and you wouldn’t say that.


New in the world of poetry: A new poet laureate! Yoink! W.S Merwin!

You can find two of his poems here, in previous Wheat Dear blogs:

The Nails”


I enjoy W.S Merwin greatly, but I will miss Kay Ryan, poet laureate before him. [Click here and you shall see what I wrote about Kay Ryan, back when.] She is a magical lady, and sees clearly.

If you have the time, and the inclination, you must and must read a piece she wrote for “Poetry” several years ago [here]:

“I Go to AWP”

AWP is basically the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference [something-or-other]. Kay Ryan went to their conference in Vancouver in 2005, and then she wrote about it; what she wrote about it is earth-shatteringly high on my Favorite O’Meter.

It’s got to be good, to register on the ol’ Favorite O’Meter. Sehr gut.


She writes:

“Make mine the desert saints, the pole-sitters, the endurance cyclists, the artist who paints rocks cast from bronze so that they look exactly like the rocks they were cast from; you can’t tell the difference when they’re side by side. It took her years to do a pocketful. You just know she doesn’t go to art conferences.”

I love.


Anywho, W. S  Merwin.

W.S apparently lives on the edge of a dormant volcano on Maui. [What?] From the New York Times:

“Although raised in the Western tradition, he said he feels more affinity with an Eastern one, ‘being part of the universe and everything living’. With that exhilarating connection comes responsibility, however. ‘You don’t just exploit it and use it and throw it away any more than you would a member of your family,’ he said. ‘You’re not separate from the frog in the pond or the cockroach in the kitchen.'”

These are the kinds of things I don’t need to know about the people whose writing I enjoy.

 [I am a jerk?]


Katie and Bridgid and I kept e-mailing each other lines from “The Nails” for a day or so, but I had to stop, eventually; there are only so many lines you can send your friends from “The Nails”, and receive from them in return, before you start crying your eyes out.

We’ll close with another Merwin poem. 

It gets the job done.



Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W.S Merwin


Filed under I Do Not Know, Kay Ryan, Poetry, W.S Merwin

My Life Is Not That Hard

What a very exciting day you’ve had, federal goverment!


Second Amendment.


We will see what happens, won’t we?

We will see.


My roommate and I are in the process of attacking our overgrown, but promising, backyard.

Last weekend, we headed out with spray bottles of Round Up, cutting shears, garden gloves, well-trained lizards, et cetera. Lord Almighty! Has anyone been in our backyard– in the yardwork sense of the term–since Egypt’s Third Dynasty? We do not think so.

For instance, what?

What is that? What in the name of God is that?

Jessica, hacking away with might and main at a stand of weeds so robust that they could have been mistaken for sapling trees, suddenly came upon these:

 1. Put them in an aquarium?
2. Ask them to tell my fortune.


Each tug at the soil unearthed a fresh wave of insect life, which ranged from mildly off-putting to arm-thrashing shrieky shrieks!


We discussed the fact that we were single-handedly destroying whole ecosystems, but Jessica pointed out that we were the ones paying rent.


Inside the apartment, progress. On Saturday, I opted to stay inside and put together the extra bookcase for my bedroom, purchased at Target some weeks ago. It had been leaning against a wall in our living room, eyeing me with silent reproach every time I made my way past it. “Feckless layabout,” it would have said, if it could speak to me, and I’m not saying it couldn’t.

I opened up the box, tremulously, and removed the insides.


–Wildly inexpensive bookcase=hilariously shoddy materials, which appeared to include spit as one of their properties. By the time the screws were completely screwed in, for example, nothing remained of their original topmost surface but a silvery gouge.

 –No upper body strength

–The common sense God gave a mongoose

–Zero concept of spatial relationships

I sat on the floor with it for hours, while the buttery blue sky went by in the window, curving my arms and legs around the corners of the bookcase as though it were a recalcitrant child, and about to wriggle out of my grasp in an international airport.


Finally, it was done. I got to my feet and flipped the bookcase over, and set it upright.

I had put the bookcase together with the unfinished surfaces facing outward.


My life is not that hard.


There are a lot of bunnies in our neighborhood right now. Sincerely–they’re everywhere, cotton-tailed and jumping. Jessica and I have a running dispute over what to call this phenomenon.

JESSICA: Bunny Parade!

The choice is clear.


In Doubt, Recalling Cordelia

I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.
Or one hundred-eighty swallows turning south,

or the hen-and-chickens clustering on the garden wall.
That is not all: I cannot tell you all

the scroll of steam uncurling from the tea
might say about what is, or what might be

the common bloodline of this apparent world.
Its speech is locked away, a furled

flag of an antique country, since just a minute ago
was autumn, you saw it, the gold funeral fires, the smoke, and now

come these white billions, already, each irreplacable flake,
and there is just too much to say for them–to say it would take

a tongue as old, as young, as Alexander, for too much goes
unnamed, unnoticed, more is coming, it snows

and snows all day and night and buries all the words.
But we are still responsible for them all, responsible for the birds,

the burning leaves, the climbing vine, we are the only ones
who can say just what it is we saw. And progress swells, a new scene runs,

and still we drop our lines, forget,
the silence piles up in drifts, we let

the words get lost, the tongue stalls–
How can I say how I love you? The burden of the old tune falls

out of my mouth like a stone. And do we name them cursed or blessed,
who love according to their bond, no more, no less?

Leon Weinmann



Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Leon Weinmann, My Roommate, Poetry


Full disclosure: I’m feeling a little bit sick at the moment, sitting here writing this. Fuzzy and hurty and throat-achey and floaty. Not enough to hie me to my bed, but just enough that this blog might end up short, sweet, and sounding like something out of a fever dream. If I start telling all my secrets in a state of delirium, I’ll know it’s time to pack it in.

My roommate, bless her boots, fetched me orange juice and chicken noodle soup, both of which I am currently consuming as though they are the water of life. She is a good fetcher, that one.


I never call in sick to work. Like…ever. If I woke up missing most of an eyeball, you’d be hard put to it indeed to convince me that a trip to the doctor and a day off  might not run me amiss.

ME: But who will do all the things?


On Saturday afternoon, I babysat for a good chum of mine. He on his scooter, and I on my two feet, made our way to the Old Town Art Fair, stopping during our journey as necessary for puddles that looked good and splashy, or curves of sidewalk that looked extra scooty.  Also Italian ice.

If memory serves, this was the last time I was at the Old Town Art Fair:



When we reached the entrance of the art fair, my friend and I had our hands stamped with a broad, blood-red stamp, which later–embarrassingly–I would forget about, and which I would re-discover out at dinner some hours later, when it looked very much as though I had pressed the top of my hand to a red-hot stove! Ha ha!

ME: No, I am not a child!

Anyways, we started wandering though the booths, scooter in tow, surveying the work, discussing Art. At one point, we examined a display of what I’d call “reptilian pottery”–glazed sculptures and suchlike of turtles and lizards, and so on. One of the pieces was a bowl with two salamanders entwined around the top. We agreed that this had “cereal bowl” written all over it.

Walking back through the crowd, I heard a woman sigh, and say:

“I wish I was talented.”


Madame: You have only to find your medium.


Sunday, at the White Elephant Shop for Children’s Memorial with Laura.  That place was packed to the rafters with sugar-goodness, although the pricing of certain items certainly seemed dependent upon a coin toss and a benevolent God. Decanters, couches, Wally Lamb’s “I Know This Much Is True”: In the tradition of the best thrift stores, this place had it all.

The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was this:


There’s nothing like the dead-eyed stare of a doll-heap to put you off your feed for $5 vases, and make no mistake!

Then there was this:


I think it’s time for me to go to bed, don’t you?


Gute Nacht, meine Leiben. 

That means “Everybody put on your sleepytime pants!”


After Visiting Hours

“All unnecessary weight is eliminated…Even the brain cells needed for song are lost and replaced seasonally in some birds.”
-All the Birds of North America, p. 63

At midnight, in the sunroom of the ward,
when you’re locked in your pajamas, stupid
with heartbreak, and your throat a frozen stream,
you’ll read how birds in winter lose their minds,
or lose that part that urges them to sing–
each glad cell dying in the blood, until
they know no love but the sparse, sterile seed,
the bitter pills that flatten and preserve
their thoughts against this thoughtless cold, this dark.
And yet they seem at peace with this: they love,
they turn away from love, they wait for love
to come for them again, and trusting, sing
the song they knew was gone for good–I knew
you’d come back, I knew it, I knew you’d come.

Leon Weinmann


Filed under Leon Weinmann, My Roommate, Poetry

Moved, Moving

I’m a’writin’ this at the dining room table in my very-new apartment, into which we moved one week ago Sunday! Sunday: the Lord’s Day, and also a day for pulling up stakes, and driving boxes full of butter knives and ELLE magazines down the road. 

The day of the move was hot as a char-grilled lambchop, and by the end of it, Jessica and I were no longer quite certain how we were functioning–moving our arms and legs in tandem, for example, or speaking in grammatically correct sentences; sentences whose structure did not resemble a flattened Ziplock bag full of applesauce and concrete aggregate. [You know?] She explained to me that our frontal brain cortexes had shut down, and that we were operating solely from the “reptilian” section of our brain, and acting on instinct alone:

We spent four hours in our old apartment at the end of the day, cleaning and scrubbing and leaving things in readiness for the occupants to follow; that is how our mothers raised us. [Not all people’s mothers have raised them similarly, we have found.] When we were through, I went through the apartment and switched off all the lights.

Then I walked back through the empty rooms to the kitchen–our beloved kitchen, to which no other kitchen I will ever kitchen-in for the rest of my days shall ever measure up, if it speak with the tongues of men and angels–and stood in the backdoor frame, and then I cried.


The night before, I’d found an old wallet in a box. Wallets are not generally shrines to memory, but this wallet was like WHOA.  Why–I felt like Howard Carter, discovering Tutankhaumn’s tomb!


I cannot begin to detail the trip-to-days-gone-by evoked by the contents of this wallet; suffice it to say that a cursory examination would escort you from a very special balloon delivery in October 2006, to an interview at the Goodman in 2007, to a tattoo parlor in 2008 in three short moves.

ME:  I need to lie down.


Our new apartment is a treat, and we’re already terribly fond of it. We’ve even obtained a fish to join us; I inherited the betta fish from the four year-old class at my place of work.

I’ve been wanting a fish since 2005, or thereabouts, but I always lived with individuals who owned cats, and so getting myself a fish never seemed feasible. Now, thank God, there are 0% cats on the premises [no offense, anybody ever]! 

The name of the fish–bestowed by the four year-olds– is Dark Fury; this is apparently the name of a character in a movie all the kids are liking these days. And who am I, to alter such a name? Nobody, that’s who.


“Hello, Dark Fury!” we say to our fish, when we happen to be walking by.


A week-long issue here on the new homefront–resolved only this past Friday, thanks to the intercession of an exterminator–was ANTS.

APPARENTLY, Chicago is currently suffering through an ant epidemic of epic proportions. Ground zero: Apparently OUR KITCHEN!

Jessica was home when the exterminator made his visit. She heard him utter the following:

“Oh my GOD!”
“I haven’t seen this in a LONG TIME.”

Comforting, ain’t it? As we said: It would seem that  there is no “sensitivity training” at Exterminator School! It sure seems like a no-brainer to me.

PROFESSOR EXTERMINATOR: Next up, we’ll discuss the inadvisability of making your client feel as though their living space is one step away from being reclaimed by a horde of insects with a raging taste for human blood!

Thankfully, they’re gone now. See ya, suckahs!


Something I learned during this process from a colleague who’d had an ant problem in years past: THE QUEEN ANT IS REPUTEDLY THE SIZE OF YOUR FIST.

Sweet dreams!


It has been raining off and on and off and on all weekend. Nothing can make up its mind. Half-an-hour ago the windows were being battered in the downpour; now, when I turn my head to the right, I can see the sun hitting the tops of the trees across the street.

The move was all-consuming for some weeks, and now it is starting to be done. There is still much to do, in the way of unpacking; by and large, though, peace is being established. A peace I would like to last. Summers are deceptive in that way.

There are some very big things coming, I know.


Summer Solstice

I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the convenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence.  Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.

Stacie Cassarino


Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Poetry, Stacie Cassarino


After weeks of mulish, drizzled, ofttimes-gray-but-sometimes-sun-shiny weather, summer decided to show up this weekend.

SUMMER: Hel-lo!
CHICAGOANS: If I wanted to live on the equator I would move to the Batu Islands!
SUMMER: Hahahahahahahahaha!

No, but seriously.

This morning I wanted to unwrap a package of Toll House cookie dough, lay it on the sidewalk out back, and let Mother Nature take her course!



I went to see Midlake at Lincoln Hall last night with Jessica, Kimbo, and Jessica’s friend Greg. It was lovely.

Kimbo took a picture:

As of last night, I have concluded–once and for all, and for all times–that I am an old woman. It is not that I was unaware of my old-woman tendencies prior to this point; I was aware, all right! God help me! Last night, however, I lost count of my mental utterances of the words “Hush up there, you young two-shoes and shavers” or “Kids today, with their cell phones”, et cetera.

I am a subdued live music-goer. I stand and listen. I do not begrudge my fellow audience members their conversation, their shrieks of approval, their swivels. I do begrudge them their Volume 20 chitchat during a slow and soulful number I’d like to appreciate, ’cause why are you here, exactly? I must be missing something.

Don’t you mind me! I’ll just be over here in the kitchen, canning my famous nettle jelly* for your ol’ Grandpappy.

*No such thing


It is interesting, too–and wholly unrelated to age–to note how a song that melts one person to the ground leaves the person standing next to them untouched.


A little less than a week until we move. How much have I done in the way of packing, you ask? I blush to answer. I think I ought to go ahead and tackle the books, first. They are many. I shouldn’t even be sitting here writing this–let’s be frank. I should be sorting flatware.

I started to go through a few things at the end of last week–drawers and the like–and have already located items, hidden away for various reasons at various times, which have rendered me emotionally useless for whole half-hours after they’re unearthed.

“This,” I say.

Then I have to decide whether or not to throw it all away.


Hunger for Something Easier

I suppose now you’ll deny it all:
there was no wild pig in the woods,
hair up on his back like barbed wire,
eyes sunk and runny in crusted tunnels
along the snout. And we didn’t run
through red brambles, banging our legs
against stumps until we flung ourselves
into the thorny arms of an apple tree.
You’ll say we didn’t stay shoved up
against the bark breathing bright spice
and pitching green fruit to frighten away
the pig. You’ll never say you were afraid
or that I held you and you held me
and we crouched on the thin branches
until night slunk in, and a hunger
for something easier turned the pig away.

Rachel Contreni Flynn

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Filed under Poetry, Rachel Contreni Flynn