Congratulations to Dr. Bert Emerson!

Congratulations to Dr. Bert Emerson for winning a National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Stipend Award in support of his book project in 19th century American literature and culture!

The Whitworth English Department is so lucky to have Dr. Emerson as a part of its wonderful faculty. Check out the link to the press release below to learn more.

Announcing: The 2019 Chapbook Contest Finalists

Hi blog readers!  The English Department is thrilled to announce this year’s Chapbook Contest winner, Bryn Cavin! Bryn is a junior at Whitworth, majoring in English Literature and Writing, with a minor in Editing and Publishing.  She is a big, big fan of dogs, sunsets, and new adventures. Enjoy Bryn’s introductory thoughts on her work and an excerpt from Racing Our Shadows below.

I have been lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling over the past year, and visit so many museums that I’ve almost lost track. Most of the poems in this collection came from moments in those travels that took my breath away, broke my heart, or have otherwise taken up residence in my mind.  I suppose that these poems are my attempts to put those feelings into some sort of order, to capture them and save them for a time when my memories of these moments have faded somewhat. 

This year’s runner-up is Alexandra Jackson! Alexandra is a senior at Whitworth, majoring in English, Writing track.

Alexandra says that her piece, Eyes That See consists of three interconnected stories that explore the lives of small wooden people, and the Providers who accidentally created them, from multiple points of view. The Providers, for the most part, regard the wooden figures as non-sentient, and have consequently not paid much attention to maintenance, causing the problem present in the excerpt. Enjoy the excerpt of Alexandra’s work below!

I’d found him wandering, and knew it was the end. Months ago, he’d added a scarf to the hat. The crevasse had worked its way down his neck to disappear under his collar. If you touched between his shoulder blades your hand sunk in where he was broken. It must have hurt, but we couldn’t bear to ask. His expression was vague and unrecognizing, with no smile. He looked past me and continued walking. When I grabbed him, he stopped but didn’t so much as glance at me. I talked to him as I guided him back to his house, but he showed no sign of understanding. He was pliant, so I sat him down on his bed and began to unwind the scarf. I set that aside and snatched the hat next, tossing it across the room. I jerked the jacket from his shoulders and threw it away too. His shirt was more difficult to remove. Whenever I raised his arms over his head they would immediately sink back down. I grabbed one wrist at a time, squeezing hard in hopes of some response. Nothing. I kept his left arm suspended with one hand and worked the sleeve off with the other, then repeated the process. When that was done the shirt pooled around his neck in a sad collar, revealing how ravaged he was. Two sharp cuts curled around his side and onto his midsection, nearly meeting in the center. I yanked the shirt over his head, tearing it. The ripping noise was so fitting I wanted to shred it. I tipped him down into the pillow to see the damage. 

“Damn you, damn you!

I didn’t know whether I was cursing him, or The Providers. Either way, I wouldn’t be heard. He followed The Providers as faithfully as anyone, believed in them with every breath, yet he was barely in one piece. A scant centimeter of wood held together below the crack. One shove and he could split in half, but it wouldn’t matter. The crack had finally grown until Finch fell in like a house over a fault line. Whatever he had been was gone. I wanted to shake him, to see if I could rattle any sense back into his placid expression, but doing so would be the end of his body too. If that final break happened, he would’ve splintered into pieces. He deserved better than to disintegrate. 

When I calmed, I made my way over to the pile of Finch’s clothing and folded it while Finch stared straight ahead. I couldn’t do anything for him. I locked his door behind me and left to go find the town judge, Silas, who would know what to do. We went together to find the architect, Johnson. His understanding of wood was greater than anyone else’s. He wouldn’t be able to fix the crack, but he could fill it, and maybe save Finch. The Providers were the only ones capable of real healing. 

We dressed Finch and led him through town to the architect’s garage. Here Johnson had us undress Finch and guide him up onto a table, lying on his stomach. Harnesses used to secure large projects for cutting were tightened around his shoulders and knees. Johnson came over with a large vessel, filled with heated resin. He looked grim as he climbed up to kneel over Finch. We braced ourselves for the scream we’d heard from those others who had needed this treatment, but Finch stayed silent and still as Johnson poured the liquid into the crevasse. He had to heat more resin to finish. Once that was done, we stood together, waiting while the liquid set. It was an amber color and the light pouring in from the ventilation hole in the ceiling made it shine as we gazed at Finch. He never moved, and when the resin cooled Johnson took up his position once more and began smoothing the surface down with his tools. He was familiar with shaping resin to match bodies, able to follow the curves he was replacing perfectly. When we rolled Finch over the resin had seeped through cracks to leave pools of hardened amber underneath him. Johnson sculpted him back together. 

When he was finished Finch still just stared. He was lying on his back, gaze directed at the hole in the ceiling. It was a familiar posture; his gaze being directed to the sky looking for any glimpse of The Providers and their huge eyes. He’d only seen them once, when he was new. His own eyes had met those huge colorful orbs above us and latched onto them, watching them open and close. I’d thought the regard was mutual, that the eyes had met Finch’s with respect despite the blankness they must have seen in comparison. He’d felt a connection. We must have both been wrong. Finch’s devotion counted for nothing, yet even now he seemed to be staring up at the sky waiting for the gaze to reappear.


Chapbook Poster

Whitworth University is holding a writing contest in which students will submit 10-20 pages of original writing in any genre, or combination of genres. These writers will have the opportunity to compete with other Whitworth students, and submissions will be read by our award-winning guest judge, Amy Leach!

Amy Leach is the Author of Things That Are, and as her work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature WritingA Public Space, Orion, and The Gettysburg Review, among other journals. Leach holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and has been recognized with the Whiting Writers’ Award and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Award.


Submission Guidelines:

Students should submit 10-20 pages of original writing in any genre (or a combination of genres). These entries do not need to be formatted like a chapbook and there are no restrictions on subject matter. Students may enter more than one manuscript if they wish.

Each student entry should include a cover page with their name, manuscript title, phone number, email, and major. The student’s name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript.

The deadline to enter work is 5pm Friday, December 1 at 5pm and entries must be turned into the English front desk.

The first place winner will receive $100, a small print run of their book, and a spot as the featured reader at the annual “Script” reading. The runner up will win $50.

2015 Poetry Contest Winners Announced

In celebration of Whitworth’s 125th anniversary, students were asked to write a poem of exactly 125 words, including the words “pine,” “cone” and curtain.”

1st Place winner Sandra Tully is from western Washington and is currently a senior at Whitworth. She is an English/writing major and also a Computer Science major.

Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Tully’s poem, “Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her”: I can envision the master himself nodding appreciatively at the poet’s whimsical but humane explanation for Mona Lisa’s smile that almost isn’t.  The reference to da Vinci’s ingenious flying “contraption,” the artist’s care in his desire to hide the “tea stained tinge on her two front teeth” and her damaged incisor cracked “into a thousand tiny triangles” speak to the centuries that separate us from the painting itself.  Yet the recognition that she might have wanted “to show a subtle streak of rebellion” and his efforts to coax a real smile out of her as well as his compassion in masking her physical limitations speak to our shared humanness across the years.


Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her


not to smile, still she turned the corners of her mouth

just enough to show a subtle streak of rebellion.


Perhaps he made her laugh,

recounting the time he tested his own contraption;

catapulting into the cold night air,

and waking up shivering and naked in a field

surrounded by cattle beveled, staring,

like the slanting surface of a cone.


Perhaps he would have seen it then,

her two lips parting like horizontal curtains

revealing the fall from a pine tree that

fractured her left incisor into a thousand tiny triangles.


Perhaps he waited for her amusement to fade,

slowly concealing the tea stained tinge of her

two front teeth until all that was left

was the lingering remnant of delight.


10262049_766898803340337_3865761703545282024_n2nd Place winner Leah Dassler is a freshman marketing major with a Chinese minor. She hails from Denver, Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and going on adventures with her family. At Whitworth, you can usually find her having random dance parties with her friends or exploring Spokane. In her spare time, Dassler loves to read and write poetry because poetry often presents truth in its rawest form.

Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Dassler’s poem, “Navigating Red and Black”: I am drawn into the mystery of this poem–and its puzzling, even disconcerting message for me.  Since the author clearly cares for the companion(s?), does the incurred expense “in red and black” refer to a connection (or connections) here at Whitworth?  As the debit/credit ledger theme is carried on in other phrases (“numbers corralled between parentheses/To ignite finely-kept balance sheets” and “gypsy tendencies unaccounted for/The ones tensioned between red and black”) is it rather a paean to the necessity of repeated forgiveness in the constant human struggle upward toward authenticity, both for ourselves and for those we most care about?  What is the poem urging me to consider in my quest for self-knowledge as that quest both connects me to others and also creates pain for those closest to me?  That is the disconcerting part. . .


Navigating Red and Black


In red and black I incurred an expense

One unrepayable


You hurdling up over stairs the way you do,

Insisting the summit must be just

Past swirl-bound mist


Can’t you see as I, from the base, do—

The best climbs lack steps entirely.


To make one’s own way

Beyond pines

Toward sunlight patches


To uncover souls in places where we thought only fog existed

Along the cone-covered way we wander


To disentangle names

from numbers corralled

between parentheses

To ignite all finely-kept balance sheets


This is the path we are meant to stumble upwards

Side-by-side navigating the misty curtain split in two,

Top to bottom


Seven times forgive

These gypsy tendencies unaccounted for

The ones tensioned between red and black


Congratulations winners! Thanks to everyone who submitted, and to our guest judge, Arlin Migliazzo!

Summer 2013A_Migliazzo_5x7 (1)Arlin C. Migliazzo is professor of history at Whitworth University where he has taught since 1983. He received the B.A. from Biola College (1974), his M.A. from Northern Arizona University (1975), and the Ph.D. from Washington State University (1982). His publications include essays and articles on ethnic studies, the Pacific Northwest, colonial South Carolina, church-related higher education, the history of evangelicalism, and comparative democratic development. He has also published some of his poetry in Script, the Whitworth University literary journal.



Kristin Bertsch (’17) wins Founders Day scholarship 2015

The Whitworth Founders Day Scholarship is an annual scholarship that recognizes two students with high academic achievement who have made innovative and realistic proposals for strengthening an aspect of Whitworth College. The scholarship was established in 1999 in memory of Whitworth College’s founder, George Whitworth.

This year’s winner, Kristin Bertsch said the following about her plans for the next semester:

During the Spring 2015 semester, I and twelve of my closest friends (or so we will be after three months sharing hostel rooms) will embark on a quest through England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, learning the lives of the people in their respective geographic contexts. Our learning will enable us to use art, history, economy, and literature as frameworks for understanding the unique and intertwined cultural histories of the region.This blog will function toward two ends: firstly, to keep those at home abreast of the happenings on our journey; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, to awaken us all to the beauty of life as it manifests in underappreciated ways. This blog is for me, as a way of recording my adventures. This blog is for you, so that you might feed your own soul which pines after the beauty of life. This blog is for whatever goodness can be derived from it. I hope My Awfully Big Adventure will speak to yours.
A native of the Spokane area, I am currently in my second year of study at Whitworth as
kristinan honors student of English Literature, with special focus in Women’s Studies, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Art History. My participation in the Britain and Ireland Semester Program is generously sponsored by Whitworth University, the U.S. Department of State, and the Benjamin A. Gilman Foundation in partnership with the Institute of International Education.
Congratulations Kristin!

Congratulations to our 2015 Chapbook Contest Winners!


Congratulations to Dana Stull (’16), the first-prize winner for the 2015 Chapbook contest, and to Annika Bratton (’18) for an Honorable Mention!

Dana (above) describes herself as one who “writes, reads, bakes pies, pickles and preserves, speaks goat, takes names, and is currently developing a stand-up comedy routine.”

Here’s what our guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr., had to say about Dana’s manuscript, the girl who says nothing:

“I was a bit torn on this decision at first. the girl who says nothing in some ways lacks the range of some other manuscripts—an experimentation with styles, forms, lines and line breaks, and sound necessary as the true voices and chief concerns of young poets begin to emerge.

And yet…the girl who says nothing resounds with a maturity and sense of purpose beyond expectations. It is, quite simply, the one chapbook that haunted me long after I’d read all of them. These terse, focused poems left me no choice but to reckon deeply and personally with this girl who says nothing, and, by extension, with the terrifying distances between how things ought to work and the realities of our world.

The ‘incident reports’ are particularly effective. Told in an alarmingly clinical voice, they remind us how the stories of the most vulnerable are so often mediated—shaped and controlled—by those in power.

In addition, many individual lines reverberate despite the tight spaces of the poems: ‘she is crossing the small bridges/in me.’ Indeed. That image accounts precisely for the way this character, and these poems, get under your skin, how they disturb and finally transcend niceties on the journey toward truth.

The critic R.P. Blackmur wrote of poetry operating at a high level, noting how it ‘not only expresses the matter in hand but adds to the stock of available reality.’ the girl who says nothing has added a rich and subtly textured experience to my own stock of availability reality, and for that I am grateful.”

stull poem

Annika Bratton (’18) describes herself as “a first year student from Banks, Oregon, right between Portland and the coast. I am double majoring in Peace Studies and English and minoring in Environmental Studies. When I’m not studying or writing poetry, I enjoy dancing, hiking, going to the beach, and attempting to solve social justice issues. I am beyond excited to have received such an honor in this competition.”


On Bratton’s manuscript, Bowman states that “the poems in Becoming radiate with an attractive zeal, physicality, and longing. Though they sometimes risk abstraction, they nonetheless provide a space where joy and pain coexist in a creative tension.

I came to a nearly instant trust in the poet’s voice, which is clear, inventive, vulnerable, by turns earnest and ironic, but never dull or stilted. And the poems are consistently invitational; one becomes less a reader and more a participant: ‘Hold every echo in the cavern of your lungs,’ the poet bids us. The brand of partaking described in Becoming isn’t for the faint of heart—this poet is all in. And so was I.”

Here’s “Jewelry Boxes,” a poem from Becoming:

she wrung the light
out of a bulb
but not before a kiss of shattered glass
and chemicals.
children take longer to die
and less time to be alive
when mousetraps are baited with
hollow models and the expectancy
of manhood.
can’t see how many heartbeats
a day makes;
her heart
beat so much faster with
the light stuck in her palms.
she sewed a necklace from her teeth,
presented it to collarbones on one knee.
my heart can’t stop flashing traffic lights
so i had to uncap my brain.
the rocking chair can’t sway
the weather-vane
enough to birth some lightning,
but it keeps a kite in its lap
just in case.
she melted some crayons
for the waxing moon
and fingerpainted a new skyline
from all the blood in her mouth.
Thanks to Thom Caraway, Annie Stillar, the Whitworth Department of English, to all of this year’s contestants, and to our 2015 guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr.
Daniel_Bowman_Jr_author_photo - large
Daniel Bowman Jr. is the author A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country (virtual artists collective, 2012) andBeggars in Heaven: A Novel (forthcoming 2015). His work has appeared in The Adirondack ReviewBooks and CultureThe CressetThe Midwest QuarterlyRio Grande ReviewSaint Katherine ReviewSeneca Review, and many other journals. A native of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York, he lives in Hartford City, Indiana and is Associate Professor of English at Taylor University.

2014 Poetry Contest Winners Announced

For this year’s poetry contest, students were asked to write an abecedarian.

Dr. Richard Strauch, our faculty guest judge, was so taken with the task that he contributed his own verse to the mix:

Abecadarian poems have to

Be among the most

Challenging structures to negotiate, for the

Danger is one of pedantry: how

Easy it is to lose sight of the

Forest of beautiful language for the trees of the rules.  Yet

Good poetry acheives both; indeed, Igor Stravinsky’s words

Have equal meaning here: The more I constrain myself, the more

I free myself.

Just as I found myself looking for adherence to rules, so I

Knew a good abecedarian poem would

Let me forget the rules and simply speak to


No poem emerged as one that should be out of contention.

On the other hand, each

Presented itself

Quite individually, in its own voice,

Reaching out to me.

Selecting one winner, or even

Two, proves to be a challenge.

(Uff da, I would say, if I were Norwegian, and not so

Very German, as I am.)  Nevertheless, I am always so impressed

With Whitworthians’ work (sextuple-U!):

Excellent, and

Yes, literary Pirates trump

Zags any day of the week.

shannon ritchie

Shannon Ritchie (’15) has won first prize and a $50 gift card to Auntie’s bookstore for her poem “Cloud-Watching.”

Shannon explains: “I’m a junior English writing major/math minor who will be graduating in December. It’s easy to identify me across campus from my hot pink Doc Martens, faded bomber jacket from the 80s, or my flamboyant My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic backpack. Next summer I will attend a Masters in Teaching program with the immediate goal of teaching high school English and possibly mathematics. However, my true aspiration is to eventually become the quirky creative writing teacher of a misunderstood junior college – and own pet seahorses.”

Dr. Strauch had this to say about Ritchie’s poem: “I was intrigued by the two poems that used the abecedarian form to evoke childhood – the ABCs are so elemental (and elementary), and the pairing of form and content seems a brilliant wedding.  What I loved about ‘Cloud-watching’ was that a set of lines that seemed at first contrived held the key for me: Is ‘simply existing’ an illusion?  I can look back to an idyllic childhood and see the extent to which my life, too, was defined by order, rules, structure – and at the same time, this is the tension of the abecedarian poem.  The language is evocative (I don’t know why, but it put me in the mind of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville 1915), and as the poem called me to remember my own childhood, it also invited me to re-examine it.”



Away meant simply existing

between happiness and myself.

Coloring outside of the lines I

daily sketched freedom into my routine,

earning a name for my construction.


Fridays brought kite flying in the

garden. Watching patterns

hurry away from grounded life,

I always felt completely

justified in my desire to be.


Kenton lived three houses down

Lincoln Drive. We would pick

marionberries together under each

new moon celebrating adolescence,

optimism our only language.


Pies required precision, intentional

quietness. Windows cracked, scent

reached to the outdoors inviting

seasons to stay. Baking meant

that neighbors may stop to say hello.


Under umbrellas we defied the

varying seasons. Resisting any

warnings I reminded Kenton:

x-rays had shown that all

young people were missing, like

zoo animals, the will to be.

dana stull

Dana Stull (’16) won second prize and a $20 Auntie’s gift card for her poem “Brittlebush.” Dana explains: “I write (poems and comics) and read (everything) and make pies (my favorite being rhubarb).​”

Of her poem, Strauch said, “Psalm 119 is, of course, one of the more famous abecedarian forms, though that is lost in translation. What would an abecedarian psalm in English look like?  What if David were living in the American southwest? There is a beautiful trajectory to this poem, a sense of advent, a quality of light triumphing over darkness. An empty dance gives way to an excess of joy. This was a poem upon which I found myself meditating much as I would a psalm, and which drew me in by the way that the language of confession and praise engaged all of the senses.” 



All of it—the quiet

bloom that stuns,

calls me out of this empty

dance. I stood there, asked

everyone. A quiet

flight, the space between

God, my



I asked; demanded



love, held blind in

me. I stood there, gave

nothing. Then,

overwhelmed, my hands


pressed with morning—

quilted in a strange

rescue. He breathes,

tremor of ground

underneath my feet. Gives

voice to me, this

excess of joy, called out


zenith King.

erin kreycik

EL major Erin Kreycik (’15) received an honorable mention for her poem “On Being Trapped In the Royal Court Theatre.” Strauch claimed, “This poem really intrigued me. It may be due to my discipline, but I found this poem to be one of the most musical in quality – reading it aloud enlivened it more to me that simply reading it on the page. There were several turns of phrase that caught both my ear and my imagination: ‘a thousand things that ran lapping down the aisles like dark light’; ‘rows of handkerchief voices’;  ‘No-sleep Xanax churchhood.’ This is a poem whose meaning is not readily apparent, and yet I have the feeling that, as with a great piece of music, the longer I live with it, the more it speaks to me.”

On Being Trapped In the Royal Court Theatre

(after Beckett)

All you want at first’s it all. It. All. Like

boards, like blue. Like creak—

creak. Carpetless. Slow.

Don’t ask what it is, or why. It. All.

Every face. You, too.

First this. You call this a face?


Go out. Come back in again.

Hush. Hush. Listen. Don’t stop.

It. All.

Jesus Christ this spotlight never stops. And your voice


knocked over a thousand things that ran

lapping down the aisles like dark light.

Mother. Ghost of your child-self –

nave, altar, His arm, His gushing heart.

O holy holy. Under and over.

Piss in the bedpan she won’t have emptied – not

quite                                    yet.


Roaring up the aisles, you a tiger’s wraith, prowling

shroud. You the woman in white. Soon.

Too soon. Not yet. Up. Down.


Voices, rows of handkerchief voices. You jump

when they call you woman. No-sleep

Xanax churchhood, head a prayer-book, how many shoes?


You hated carpet. Had to hear them. Step. Not. Step. Yet.

Zone of fracture. Till the lights go out.


Thanks to Annie Stillar, Thom Caraway, and Laurie Lamon for their help with the contest. And high-fives to Dr. Strauch.

Rich Strauch

Richard Strauch is professor of music and Director of the Whitworth Wind Symphony.  In addition, he teaches music history and applied low brass, and is second trombonist in the Spokane Symphony.  His area of research is the impact of religiosity on the aesthetic and reception of late 19th century music.  He holds degrees from Wheaton College and Yale University, and is in his 17th year of teaching at Whitworth.  He is married to a poet, and has three children who are also poets.




Congratulations to the 2014 Chapbook Contest Winners!

Hearty congratulations to Rowanne Fairchild (’14) and Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), the winners of this year’s chapbook contest.

rowanne fairchild

Rowanne Fairchild (’14) won for her fiction manuscript “Refraction.” Guest judge Esther Lee called “Refraction” “a poignant story about a narrator whose empathy for a childhood friend serves as a reminder to us: that to honor those who have been traumatized requires a refusal to forget them.”

Rowanne is a graduating senior from Whitworth’s English department. “Refraction” is her first published manuscript. An avid traveler, she draws inspiration for her writing from the places she experiences and people she encounters. She enjoys telling stories, and loves being able to communicate with an audience through writing.

You can read an excerpt of “Refraction” below. Rowanne wins the $100 prize and she’ll be the featured reader at the Script reading on May 9. Thom Caraway & Co. will design and print a small run of her chapbook.

Big cheers also to Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), this year’s runner-up.


Of Kaitlin’s poetry collection, “After Babel,” Esther Lee said, “These poems feel like tiny leaves in your palms. Their meditative power begins to accumulate and reveals an intimate address and vulnerable questioning by the speaker.”

Kaitlin says, “I grew up as a quiet person who read all the time, and somehow became an extroverted person who talks all the time. This combination leads to being very open about inward thinking, which is what I explore in my writing. This manuscript deals with how much communication is strangled in any relationship, which I hope comes across as ironic considering I am trying to communicate something to you, the reader.”

You can catch more of Kaitlin’s poems at a reading on Sunday, March 30, at Jones Radiator.


Thanks also to the 2014 guest judge, Esther Lee.

Esther Lee has written Spit, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011) and her chapbook, Blank Missives (Trafficker Press, 2007). Her poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Lantern Review, Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Salt Hill, Good Foot, Swink, Hyphen, Born Magazine, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Indiana University where she served as Editor-in-Chief for Indiana Review. She has been awarded the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and Utah Writer’s Contest Award for Poetry (selected by Brenda Shaughnessy), Snowcroft Prize (selected by Susan Steinberg), as well as twice-nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She recently received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah. She began teaching as an Assistant Professor at Agnes Scott College in the Fall 2013.

And now, the samples! Here’s a look at Rowanne’s “Refraction”:

I traced my way back from the crossroads after school and managed to find the house without much difficulty.  I stood on the edge of the road and watched the piece of glass flash in the sunlight.  After several moments I crossed the ditch and made my way back until I was crouched by the wire mesh.  With a cautious hand I tugged on the screen, but was still startled when the boy unfurled from the shadows under the porch.

“Hi,” I whispered.  I lowered myself to sit cross-legged.

He looked at me and gurgled.

“What’s your name?  Do you have a name?”  When he didn’t answer I remembered the story I’d learned in Sunday school last weekend, about a boy who was made a slave and then became a prince.  “Can I call you Joseph?  I’m Jacob.”

Joseph’s eyes were blank and he stretched his arms out towards me.  He was wearing my socks on his hands, and had his thumb jammed through the hole where my big toe used to fit.

“Yeah, those are socks, they usually go on your feet.” He inched towards me and I saw he wore a thin t-shirt and a pair of tattered pants.  Grime was ground into the fabric.  His clothes hung from his emaciated frame and trembled as he shivered.  His feet were bare.  His hair was so filthy I couldn’t tell what color it was.

“I’m ten.  How old are you?”

Joseph’s face was empty, blank.  Like Mama’s garden before she planted daffodils in the fall.  He looked maybe eight or nine.  He made a noise in the back of his throat and tried to push a socked hand through the mesh towards my lunch pail.

I unscrewed the cap and pulled out a crust that was left over from my lunch.  “Is this what you want?”  I extended it towards him and suddenly the sock came off, he snatched it with dirty fingers, stuffed it past cracked lips.

He gulped and then looked at me as if waiting for more. He reminded me of the stray mutt I used to feed scraps to when he would follow me home from school.  He went mad from a coon fight three days before Dad was drafted, and Dad had to shoot the dog from our back porch.

I felt heavy, like a rock that was being shoved into motion and yet still wouldn’t move.  “Sorry, that’s all I have.”

And enjoy this poem from Kaitlin’s “After Babel”:


We fishtail apart across ice,

careening legs and arms cut

up with each other’s words.

I try to get to you with language

but malfunction use my hands

to sort out the air but slaughter it

like a nightmare try to pick up

a mouse but squeeze too hard

apart. There are so many things

I want you to know.