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Updated: 6 days ago

Whatever it is


it is not anything that would matter to you it is

not broad and daunting like mountains or sky

not cunning or sweet or childlike it is not tragic

or strange not well rendered or careful or more

intelligent or better informed it knows nothing


about history or logic it is not what it wants to be

when it grows up not what you want to be either

it is not better at remembering or forgetting it does not

choose fancier words or make fine political

hay it does not belong to the club does not exercise


daily does not read the works of proust aloud

does not control its appetites does not have sex

in all of the positions or sing in tune or play

the piano it cries in bus stations and the doctor’s

office it cannot tell just one lie it tells dozens and


all of them are obvious it forgets to wash the dishes

it is too fat for those pants it mutters to itself

in the grocery store it smells funny and other people

look away it is wrong it does not beg it does not smile

it does not say excuse me or may I help it is


the last one picked for the team it is older

than everyone else in class it hides under the stone

unturned it sleeps till noon it cannot speak any

language except television it is the also ran the amateur

mourner the bald one with the small tick lodged


in its ear the leftover ham drying out on the plate

it is the body found when the hotel collapses what

the mailman forgot to deliver it assumes the worst

it is not hungry it is the wallflower at the dance

with the bomb under its dress it cannot change its ways



Self-Portrait as Memorandum


Dear sir I request

attention to whom it

may concern which is

my concern dear sir

dear colleague I beg

a favor I suggest a strategy:


Destroy after reading

in re my thoughts

I attach a graph

kindly do not photocopy

dear sir dear sir

I am your obedient servant:


I beg you to reconsider

do not forward

for your eyes only I request your

presence your signature your

identification code

do not repeat:


Remain prudent

highlight in three colors

file under routine

under top secret under

to be shredded

dear sir:


I lie upon your blotter

fold me

spindle me

you know

they are listening at the door:

 

Dawn Potter is the author or editor of nine books of prose and poetry—most recently the poetry collection Accidental Hymn. A finalist for the National Poetry Series, she has also won a Maine Literary Award for nonfiction and has received grants and fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Writer's Center, and the Maine Arts Commission. Her poems and essays have appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Sewanee Review, the Threepenny Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and many other journals in the United States and abroad. Dawn directs poetry and teaching programs at the Frost Place as well as the high school studio writing program at Monson Arts. She lives in Portland, Maine.





Updated: 6 days ago

Artist’s Statement


I build walls with ripped up cups paper

bags & postcards add charcoal & rage

ink & regret. I hope for the tiger’s

arrival (or owl or lumbering rhino)

to tremble your gaze quaking

color & disclosure. Such a small room

this white page for blue-black & yellow

in teeth & gowns. I put wings

on the tiger. The angel wants grass

beneath her toes speaks on difficult

issues of ascension. She condescends

to the tiger whose earth-muscle

heats this scene. She is the better

hunter. More bitter. Hungrier.


20 Moor Street, 1934


I share this room with Reny

and Wilfred who go to work

before I get up.


This morning I hear Maman talking

to baby Paul through the floor grate

and Papa not speaking English


before he leaves to cut down trees all day.

I like our house even though

my little sister Jo


died here. I like all my sisters

especially Rita and I like this bedroom

full of curse words


and smoke. When I get home from school

I draw stars on the wall behind the dresser

with the soft pencil


I took from the art supplies Sister Francis

handed out. It’s a sin to steal

but I couldn’t help it.


I hum Maman’s floating song

wishing for deep blue and yellow

as I smudge over


the pink wallpaper roses. I draw Jupiter’s

moons like in the book Sister

showed us.


I give the biggest moon Papa’s eyes

sketch stars thick as his freckles.

When the door slams


and onions sizzle and the first step creaks

the stairs I push the dresser back

my sky almost hidden.



20 Moor Street, 1940

Willy and Ikie and Ray serious and laughing

work in the paper mill.


Right now, they’re making a bench

and shelves for the shed.


Me I’m making a new rocker for Maman.

I love how the pine gives in

to the saw the way the plane lifts

yellow shavings


how the wood turns smooth as silk

when I sand and oil it.


We speak two tongues my brothers

and me. Spring-summer-fall


we plant and build with our Papa

still strong at fifty


who works the night shift and grows

heritage roses.


He sings while he weeds. Our hammers echo

down the tight-built street.


Fences tilt toward the river like thirsty horses

and houses lean


toward one another shrugging as if to say

it’s pretty good here. It’s okay.



23 Campbell Street


Asphalt siding and backyard garden

across-the-street Maytag-in-the-yard and down-the-hill

railroad tracks milkweed

and marshmallow


fluff one uncle in the-house-behind another one

up-the-hill half-finished cigarettes

French swear words

and JMJ for JesusMaryJoseph


in cursive at the top of each school notebook page

Little Women and Gulliver The Hardy Boys

The Green Fairy Book and

why don’t you go out and play?


I want so much from the past and isn’t a house a harbinger

of future endings like a child’s

drawing with a lopsided porch

shutters and smoke


curling from the chimney? This is where I live

I tell my teacher or I tell myself

in past tense as I write

another poem titled “from”


or “home” this house a grayscale memory

like a church like the ring

my mother gave me

like a doll’s house

in which I make the tiny plastic mother and father

look at one another make them see

their kids as something

other than


little blue boy and little pink girls in their upstairs

rooms open to the backyard

with always the chance

of falling.


My parents sing in their separate rooms

my mother’s sadness an heirloom

on the sideboard my father’s

yearning a garden

hoe. I renovate the toolshed paint the kitchen

tangerine add a library full

of questions and soft chairs

for the uncles.



[application]

transport


Everywhere fill-in-the-blank

petitions full of expected data-

bank designations both words

& numbers—d.o.b. height

gender citizenship—all of it

folded to fit into little boxes for

job apartment loan visa

only the smallest spaces [as

usual] not quite enough for

your favorite color your

grandmother’s raspberries or

where your mother kept her

cigarettes. No confessional nor

the clouds you especially loved

when you were nine. All data

flash-fed into squares even

your face bright little blur

almost unrecognizable closes

& opens new countries as you

fold into your seat on the train

cross borders stamped

admitted & welcomed at last

into a final box even this one a

bad fit mahogany or cedar

some elemental wood with

satin & polished brass sliding

into earth.


 

Jeri Theriault has received 2023 Maine Arts Commission Literary Arts Fellowship, the 2023 Monson Arts Fellowship, the 2022 NORward Prize, and a 2019 Maine Literary Award. Her poems and reviews have appeared in The Rumpus, The Texas Review, The Atlanta Review, Plume, and many other journals. Jeri’s poetry collections include Radost, my red and In the Museum of Surrender. In 2021, she edited WAIT: Poems from the Pandemic. She lives in South Portland, Maine.https://www.jeritheriault.com/





Updated: 6 days ago

The Setting Sun


You offered me Africa

Made of biscuits

Pomegranate and lemon

I broke off a brittle piece—maybe Somalia

Who knows?

It fizzed on my tongue—

Like so many bitter memories of myrrh


You offered me India

In a cracked bone teacup

Steaming and green,

Unstewed like a Lady in Grey

Who summered in Shimla

Dining with a Maharaja on a Saturday

And beating her servant girl on a Sunday


You offered me Jamaica

Bawdy yet triple refined

To remove all the brown

And sweetly saying

Small up yuhself

While cutting it’s eyes

And leaving duppies in the dregs


You offered me Malaysia

The trees gently scarred

And listing

Like the rubber planters

In the Long Bar

Crunching on peanuts

And bouncing shells on the floor

Little explosions for others to clean up


And then you asked me

What I offered you

Even though we both knew

It would be easier to list the things

I took and would not give back

So I offered you a setting sun

Saying things disappear at night

Yet always knowing it would never be enough



Self Portrait with Joy


At the beginning of the workshop / a young woman reads someone else’s words on aging / and he says / I love that you let yourself laugh / and I think / yes of course you do / we who know / know / we

can’t let ourselves laugh or cough / without tensing our only supple muscles / to stop the leaking


Then he reads his own work / a long list of images / which he calls poetry / and I think / no it’s just an excuse / to air your sex life in public / as he pronounces / pickled / and gluttony / and fritillary / words with lots of tongue / as if he is showing us women all the things / we didn’t realize were there


But we have always lived in a world / where they find more and more ways / to erase a woman / size

zero dresses / or rating our hotness in chili peppers / like we are menu items / making us believe / we should burn our wrinkles / rather than our bras / their economy of beauty / only wanting to keeps us poor and invisible


Then he talks about the importance of endings / and I think / no shit Sherlock / but I smile like

peroxide / and wonder / what do you end on / or do you even get to the end / and what would that feel like coming out of your mouth / a waddle that thinks it’s a swagger / just like him?


I study the handout / his photo as big as a vulture / all about finding joy and stolen delight / and I think

I might write a metaphor / that death is gone / but then on an impulse / I take my pen / and poke out his eyes instead / and I realize / he is right / in the end / it is the little things that bring me joy



The Defenestration Of The Right Sort Of Woman

Of course it would be a chattering man that said my heart would hurt / yet He knew I had the height / and there were always marks to be had for dignity / but then Gabriel / nice in profile because of his wingspan / found out I was not the right sort of woman / so He found another / as easily as picking an unbruised apple before the fall / sealing her curves into a beautiful closing / and turning her into a

lovely sphere / bellied out a bit / white lead on her face / under painting the background / to lift her smiling from the canvas / the only mystery why she agreed

And as for me / I thought what a lucky escape / but of course they had other ideas / always keen on labor / they labored their point / they valued virgins / and only a certain type of woman was worthy of motherhood / until / with their popularity waning / they tried to quilt the light with my bones / insisting they had reformed me / and never realizing / when you cut a design / it’s always what you leave

behind that’s important / so I left my name on their lips / and refused a hand built deaths by stained glass / so they hung me out to dry like a new moon / or the oldest question / just so you could all weep more gracefully



Counter Plot


I dream about Darlicks—just like when I was little

(Is that how you spell it? It seems unlikely—a mishmash of darling and licking)

I’d hide behind the settee

And peek at Dr. Who

A black and white hero

To woo wooh me in my moon waking hours

Giving me night sweats and time traveling explosions

One night—sure my parents were exterminated

I knew the only way to survive was to play dead

I ran into our box room

And draped myself over an open trunk

The metal latch like a gun in my back

Or the fastening of a bra

And I waited….wild on the inside

Dad found me and took me back to the safety of my sheets

And my sleepwalking entered our family folktales

Told and told again like Sunday school parables

Of Dad escaping the pit and his once coal black hair

Of Mam’s martyrdom, destined to bake endless Welsh cakes

That nobody ever ate

And of my brother who kept sticks and stones

In his pockets like treasure

I wonder if I dream about those fancy washing machine villains now

With their buttons and gleam

Because there was never any blood or mourning

Just like in my new space—this final frontier

(although there are plenty of night sweats and the odd explosion)


I Google the name

And find it came from the spine of a book

A book of wonders—The Encyclopedia Britannica

The writers (men of course) used the scrapings—the dal–lek

But they never peeled back the covers

To find the wild inside

And I find I am more disappointed by this than almost anything else I know



V for Victory


From my window

I get a sense of chimneys

Buildings like cake crumbs

A blue corner of sky

Or maybe a trick of the weather

That unlocks a door in me


On the verge of abstraction

I try to turn my eyes brown

Because water is not just one color

And you never know

What happens in a covered gondola

Until it’s too late


After I dragged

All the white of my palette

Into the unjoyful mess

My fingers in the paint

Coming away smelling of geraniums

And laden with traps


Once at the shrine of Mary Magdalene

A priest contemplated my bare legs

I flicked him the vees

And it felt like a victory

I find myself

Thinking about that all the time

 

Adele Evershed was born in Wales and has lived in Hong Kong and Singapore before settling in Connecticut. Her prose and poetry have been published in over a hundred journals and anthologies such as Every Day Fiction, Grey Sparrow Journal, High Shelf, Tofu Ink Arts Press, Shot Glass Journal, and Hole in the Head Review. Adele has recently been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net for poetry, the Staunch Prize for flash fiction, and her first poetry chapbook, Turbulence in Small Places will be published next year by Finishing Line Press.





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