2 Poems | Sarah Cooper

2 Poems

by Sarah Cooper


We Thought About It

That’s a lie: I thought about it.

You had cut short on rehab, again,


shown up knuckles freshly scabbed

hands clenched for Dad, again, lost your job,


again. We could smell addiction

on your clothes: sweat, salt,


stale beer. We couldn’t

bandage you or let you slice us.


You slept in the room next time mine.

That’s a lie: you passed out. You had been awake


for four days: roaming town for

oxy, for yourself & finding sobriety,


hating yourself for the reintroduction.

You snored hard, slept for twenty hours.


I thought about killing you once,

that’s a lie. I walked into your room,


held a pillow inches from your mouth,

saw Gunny Bear under your arm


and left a tear on your cheek instead.

That’s a lie: I lay beside you


and whispered: Don’t ever come back,

don’t even think about it.



Always, my mother said,

we bought new shoes

for the kids in spring – their bodies blooming

against ball field backdrops and grass stained knees;

the earth rubbing itself into their skin. Never

did I know those shoes would carry my son so swiftly,


how could I know my husband, daughter and I

would choose cremation for Hank?

That the three of us would sit

at an oval table and sign

forms for his body to burn at 1400 degrees for 180 minutes.


I watched my husband hand the funeral director

a Belks bag and say

“This was a sweatshirt I bought him for Christmas”

and I felt the bag rest on the table underneath my palms

saw the tears crest over my daughters’ lower lashes

heard the papers rustle

in a folder and



Sarah Cooper is a native of South Carolina.  She earned her MA from Purdue University and MFA from Converse College where she was mentored by Denise Duhamel.  Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including  Sun Star Review, Sling Magazine and Cahaba Literary Review.  Currently, she teaches at Clemson University, lives with an orange cat and writes poems on front porches.

3 Poems | Andrea Blythe & Laura Madeline Wiseman

3 Poems

by Andrea Blythe & Laura Madeline Wiseman


Lighting the Ghost Lamps

The luminescent moonlight lilts with hope

as we climb your lamp-lit drive. Please, open your door,

lead us inside the hall, and greet us with dusty kisses.

Our bones are cold. We’re forgetting to bleed. Upstairs

one summer you taught us the ache of want,

the ease of forget in heat. Your porch lamp ghosts,


barely brightens our own whispering ghosts—

our hands tattooed in interstellar swirls, comet tails. We hope

you accept transparency, unveiling space. We want

offerings—guttering candles, creaky chains and doors,

dark shadows, mists—all the artistry of hauntings in upstairs

rooms where curtains skirt the floors to fall like kisses.


Each chilling draft here is more than a draft, a kiss

returned, some years, some centuries late. We ghost,

half-lost, half-wandering in the labyrinth of upstairs

rooms of storage space, beds draped in sheets. We hope

you illuminate the silver key in your heart and find the door.

You are made of bones and air, we of stars. We want


to fall into you, meteor bright and burning. We want

flesh, the electric pulse of hushed, corporeal kisses,

your body pressing us against the frame of the door.

Table-turning in the stage of your room, will our ghosts

flicker like lamps, waiver with the memory of past hope?

Or will you hold us in that glowing space upstairs,


where we once circled you like moons, upstairs

where a telescope waits to see the planets—Venus’ want,

Mars’ fury, Mercury’s need to wander? We never hoped

for eclipse, for the shadowy erasure of your kiss,

for the full moon haunt of lonely hours. We want

to swell into existence, to give up being ghostly,

be what we couldn’t on that blue night. Open your door,


pass through this long hallway of more doors,

and find us gazing upon the moonlight dust among stairs

that lead to galaxy swirls, nebula ghosting

through noctilucent skies. Find our wantings

among your bone-cold embrace, your deathly kiss.

Such travelers as us are encumbered by hopes.


Every door closes upon unclaimed wants,

while upstairs we feign presence, fake kisses,

ghost touch, discover the celestial weight of hope.



The Path of Coding Eternal

Long after their last breath, the faces of the dead still smile from carefully filtered selfies, the duck faces, days at the beach, nights out with vibrantly colored martinis. Their unself still laughs to a joke long forgotten. Their exes still clutch the necks of bottles, their slim waists, the car keys they should never have held. You think it’s weird, the wall-pages of the dead, the tags, pokes, and likes. You think you knew her, even though I didn’t know you then. You were still a dishwasher, while I still kneaded dough for the ovens. I swear I met her at some party, you insist, scrolling through your tags as if you could place yourself there on the night the jungle juice was spiked with more than what could be found in the liquor cabinets. My sister was dead before we started dating, I say as you shake your head. After the party, she whore-walked through the morning, mind twisting with what couldn’t have happened, but did. When she got home, she shut the cats in the bedroom, then arranged the stack of handwritten notes. She blew out the pilot light, then knelt before the oven’s open maw, unsure how else to explain what she carried inside. The timer was set to twenty minutes on the day the woman who came around each week to clean was scheduled to arrive. Did she know that this would be the day the woman would get a flat tire? Before the party, she had tried to erase herself, burning her yearbooks, her photos, her files of taxes and accounting, her memory itself. She couldn’t have known how she would linger, still caught in the friends-of- friends feeds, her history filtering through. Bits and bites of coding call up birthday announcements, anniversary wishes, or party invites—programming still sending love to the lost. Her myspace, the vestibule of a much younger persona, long since forgotten, twitches with life. Her old yahoo email ghosts the group pages. But it’s the video of that night, the way it appears, then disappears from sites, that offers fragmented proof of what she must’ve endured—the twists of flesh, the blood, the sound of them. Why was it never enough? Her last inhale fell to rest, but we read her words that continue clattering through forums and message boards. Here’s another post, you say. I copy it, as if everything can be saved—the parts of herself she hated or the post-party slurs. I watch for whispers of her each night long after you’ve gone to sleep. I would have listened, I say. I would have been the one to hold you. Afraid they’ll vanish like her last breath, I copy and paste what I find together.



The Women of Straw and Branches

Tied to a tree, the jug of mead is beyond the reach of my bound hands.

My maidens lie in wait for a man’s unknotting, to sip from my bloody hands.


How he rippled pride as his savage sword cut the rope in rescue,

unknowingly accepting my draught-laced death from a maiden’s hands.


Some standing as farmers with broken sandals, ploughing land,

eating from iron tables, were kings in disguise, asking for hands.


The plough churned black earth and a princess churned fate,

shaping passion into prophecy for a poor man’s hand.


Bitter Marzanna who plunged the world into a darkness of frost

at a husband’s betrayal. She cupped a season in her withered hand.


Girls enact death and life, drowning the straw figure of Marzanna

in the icy swirl of river, calling for spring with their innocent hands.


Skirts swirl in a sea of red and white in the Beseda dance,

while watchers eat the kolaches in their sticky hands.


We dance and dance, they say of Czech Days, girls

who stand as three, holding leashed beasts in hand.


As small girls dervish old memories in the opera house of hands,

wise men play blythely in a big brass band by breath and hands.


Andrea Blythe and Laura Madeline Wiseman’s collaborative poetry has appeared in Quail Bell Magazine, Faerie Magazine, Yellow Chair Review, Strange Horizons, Rose Red Review, and the anthologies The World Retold (The Writers’ Guild of Iowa State University, 2016) and Red Sky: poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, 2016).

UnWelcomed, UnAskedFor | Lisa Marie Brodsky

UnWelcomed, UnAskedFor 

by Lisa Marie Brodsky


UnWelcomed, UnAskedFor

Part One: Owls

(after “Threshold” by Olena Kalytiak Davis)


UnWelcomed & UnExpected, you say he stepped into your house

Past a litany of items on your fridge:

             photos of summer vacations, your “well-appointed LIFE”


My mother’s unWelcomed men walked the fork

that led one way to my room, the other to hers


I believe

at the age of three

I heard. Something. Because I awoke

with a yawp


I think I heard (both?) men and now at thirty-eight

I can’t un-

hear them


Part Two: Egg Skins

(after Davis’ “I Had a Ski-Masked Rapist in My House”)


              It’s crazy (I’m not kidding) how many women have the

snood and wattle hang over them in middle-nights

              It’s wild (I’m not kidding) how many don’t tell, don’t whisper

or vomit it into the bathroom toilet, don’t write it down


They take the wrestling

the big yolk-wide eyes, sheet stripped off

like egg whites, themselves


Mother’s red heat boiled just beneath her skin

as the knife pressed into

the soft, chewy dewlap of throat


             Tears leak through women’s thin scrim

             screams and obscenities many don’t consider

                                         Pr(H)im proper appROP(E)riate


Once (un)handel(ed), once the discordant cacophony is over (confused) (finalized)

I think we’d agree the toilet is the best place to toss


the underwear— peeled orange rinds torn into shrapnel,

(violent/violated/violet) bruises blooming on neck, arms, wrists— a sick souvenir


Best to spit out their words of deserving/wanting/asking for it


Flush the It right down.


Lisa Marie Brodsky is the author of “We Nod Our Dark Heads” (Parallel Press, 2008) and “Motherlung” (Salmon Poetry, 2014). Her poetry has been published in “The North American Review,” “Mom Egg Review,” “Diode Poetry Journal,” and is forthcoming in “Linden Avenue Literary Journal,” “Indicia,” among others. Lisa is at work on her third collection of poetry,departing from her usual style of work. She risks sounding insane with every submission, but takes delight in discovering new creative avenues to explore and new genres to twist. Lisa works as a Job Coach for adults with disabilities and also moonlights as a Creativity Advocate for writers in need of a cheerleader. More info can be found at www.lisamariebrodsky.blogspot.com



Orooj-e-Zafar is an award-winning spoken word poet with numerous publications, more recently at Quail Bell Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, Eastlit August 2016 issue, DERANGED anthology by Picaroon etc. She has also performed at many open mics in the city as well as the 5th Islamabad Literature Festival, and been a TEDx speaker at TEDx PIEAS 2017.

Rowing| Kevin Zepper

Rowing by Kevin Zepper. Cover
Rowing by Kevin Zepper

Kevin Zepper teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He is the author of four books of poetry. Part of his creative time is devoted to performing collaborative poetry and music with his musical partner and colleague Terrie Manno. They call themselves Lines&Notes, performing at art venues and colleges. Zepper’s recent photography credits include: Inscape, Minnesota Portage, Barking Sycamores and other local publications. He loves New Mexico and collecting rocks and was once a contestant on Who wants to be a Millionaire? (nope, he didn’t win)

Editor’s Note| Katelyn Dunne

                                                      “hark, now hear the sailors cry,

smell the sea, and feel the sky

let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”

― Van Morrison

            I’ve never seen the ocean.  I’ve never seen crabs roaming about dunes with pinchers that seem like the monsters hiding in childhood closets; I’ve never seen dolphins off in the distance and imagined them as mermaids singing a siren song, irresistibly reeling me in. I’ve never tasted the briny salt in the air.

But I live near Lake Michigan. Even though it’s only a small fraction of the size of an ocean, it’s always seemed endless to me. As a child, I’d go out there, feel the burn of glassy sand between my toes, look at the sun glittering and dancing upon the skyscrapers and water. In the summer, I’d hear the rumble of laughter and music coming from the groups of people littering the beach. In the winter, I’d collect beached seashells and algae and stuff them carefully into the pockets of my puffiest purple coat. I would wonder what it would feel like to run out into the cold water, disobeying the “Do Not Swim” signs, and embrace the rush of torn plastic and ice.

The Drowning Gull’s first Sea Salt issue explores these feelings. Everyone who has touched water has been irreversibly touched back by it. They get swayed by the current; pulled in my its song. We all are lulled by the same waves. We consist of water, like Mary Ellen Talley’s Body of Water describes; and Lisa Marie Brodsky’s poem, Sleep is an Isthmus, hauntingly alludes to the fact that we are always drawn back to it.

I’d like to thank Tiegan for her endless effort to The Drowning Gull. Without her, none of this would be possible. Ben, Shonavee, and Rebecca (the latter two people, unfortunately, have discontinued their work for us) also deserve our gratitude for the effort they have put into this first Sea Salt issue. Thank you to our contributors – without you, there would be no issue!– and also to anyone else who submitted work (your effort and trust is valued!). Everyone who reads this issue, and everyone who continues to support all of us here at The Drowning Gull on our literary adventure, receives our hugs. Enjoy!

Blessings to all of you out there,

Katie Dunne

Managing Editor

One Set of Prints For Two | Rick Kempa

One Set of Prints for Two

by Rick Kempa

For Claire

In the winter of your first year we camped by the ocean. You would sleep beside me in the tent. Towards morning, but still night, you’d roll over, let out a cry. I’d take you outside to give you some fresh air. You liked that, fell quiet, turned your head towards Venus above the bluffs. You’d be perfect­ly alert. So I’d wrap you in your blanket, hoist you on my back, and we would walk.

It was chilly; you huddled close. I walked as briskly as I could, navigating the black clutter of seaweed and wood. My feet sank in the soft sand, the muscles in my calves and arches ached. I headed over to the water side, where the sand was packed, stripped bare, the going easier.

There, the beach abruptly fell off towards the water. The water, a body more or less in place, loomed up across from us, its surface head‑high or higher. We watched each wave in turn advance, drawing the wash from the last wave into itself, steepening into a black wall, until the crest began to froth, the spume to race along it like a white thread unravelling, and the water‑wall would collapse. The tremendous thump of each part against the sand, the shock felt underfoot, the explosion into foam, the giant tongues hissing up the bank towards where we were, wiping out my tracks.

You began to utter marvellous cries. Your feet braced on the pack’s frame, your knees against my spine, you lurched from side to side, or way over forward or back, your little arm and forefinger extended, shrilling your delight. At what? I peered after you. The stars, twice as bright in that atmosphere. An air‑bubble in the sand, into which perhaps you saw a ghost crab disappear. A trio of pelicans above a breaking wave. (Their cries from that other side seemed to mimic you.)

After a while you grew quiet, attentive to the rhythm of our walk. One motion described us. Your muscles slackened, head grew heavy, thumping on my shoulder with each step. You would rest for a moment, jolt awake—like me, always fighting sleep—rest some more. You became small, your legs drawn up, shoulders hunched, hands tucked between your belly and my back. I swear you grew lighter, once consciousness had left you.

And I felt lighter too. Walking the long border, night and day, earth and water, the vast inverted curve of beach, the cape where the cliffs stepped forth to take their punishment, the next cove, the next cape, as many as I wanted. At each cape, I’d pause. The boulders that had fallen from the cliffs lay piled on the shelves of rock or rooted in the shallows, and the water beat them, and the water broke, not them.

For once I had no purpose, no one thing to head for and surmount. I was alone and with you, your small breath, my one set of prints for two. Before us and behind us, embracing us, the mist that seemed to breathe light, that was the light, was rising from its sleep to take the sky. I thanked you for waking me. I did not want to turn back.

Rick Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming–a long day’s drive from sea salt–where he teaches at Western Wyoming College. Rick is editor of the anthology ON FOOT: Grand Canyon Backpacking Stories, (Vishnu Temple Press, 2014) and co-editor, with Peter Anderson, of Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon (Lithic Press, 2015). His latest poetry collection is Ten Thousand Voices (Littoral Press, 2014). Other work of his can be found at Blue Lyra Review, Buddhist Poetry Review, Ducts.org, Hippocampus, and Watershed Review.  www.rickkempa.com