Ava C. Cipri
Fred Dale
Ori Fienberg
INTERVIEW: Marlena Chertock
Elizabeth Hitchcock
Jess Turner
Julie Brooks Barbour
Rachel Nix
ART: Jana Charl
Judith Roitman
Lana Bella
David Adès



Ava C. Cipri



the words will not come

until all the lost mittens are paired
until the snake sheds its skin at the river’s bottom
until the trees uproot themselves
until the bloodhound gives up the chase
until every addict hits bottom

until your flower’s namesake unfurls itself in May
until every child has a full belly
until we dig deep in the earth
until we let handfuls of M&M’s bleed in our palms

until I can forgive what I cannot forgive
until I surrender my claim
until I can talk to the young adult I was,
          who couldn’t face having a child in poverty with no partner,
                     who couldn’t take the bus alongside other single mothers
                     hauling strollers to wait in the welfare lines
who saw no choice, but to be pro-choice
who’s AA sponsor laughed at the thought of her carrying you to term

I carry the weight of you        each year you grow    
        those last moments        your heart beating
        on the monitor I could have run
        out of the room in my paper gown

out the office, down the stairs past the swarms of protesters
        taken flight, you and I, we could have
        found a small space in this world to call our own

Fred Dale



that’s coming, is a dark imprint of our official trail marker,
the sign, a kind of rope that guided our walk day by day.

It materialized on fence posts in the distance, across vast
meanderings of sheep and cows, at the drained corners
of wheat fields, bomb testing sites, cliffs like hand cut cake,
and against rising streets in old vacation towns, places where
people are willing to walk a mile or more to find an ocean
for their children, the cold choking waves, a rocky shelf
on which to unspool their progress under the concave blue.

In its trampled nature, the acorn sleeps jumbled on its side,
but as our sign, it’s upright—the seed, a Fabergé egg, a silo
in a wooden cupule, its stem below, veering to the left, a thin
cartoon beard. My wife says she sees a penis, and every time
she’ll look there, she’ll think of penises, and I’m thinking
this tattoo idea keeps getting better,

but it’s time for the marking, the black light poked into my
right forearm, the spot where my Grandfather had a heart
installed when he was young, a dagger daggering through
the tied, misshapen muscle, a tear drop of blood off its tip,
closer to him in the end, than his wife, plotted a few aisles
to the west in Greenwood.

This acorn will rise to the surface from where it has always
been. We are inked already. Our idle apparitions just out
of sight, under the smoke of our inner workings, veins
of pictograms, next to (maybe) a bluebird, or a skull of ants
that remain hidden, uncalled—the acorn forever telling
where I am and where I’ll be, free of the stem one day,
buried and scavenged, a place on me she’ll not touch again,

a tree in the skin waiting. 

Ori Fienberg



Because she was not one for making idle requests it seemed odd for her to say "When the tree
springs from your head, I get the apples," still, he readily agreed to give her whatever fruit might

Weeks later, when the first roots crowded the follicles of his head, he switched to a clarifying
shampoo. The roots thickened, and soon there were nearly as many leaves on his head as hair.
She spoke to his hair. She encouraged him to shower more frequently, and take long walks in the sun.

When his head blossomed, he sneezed for a week. Bees who approached him became overly
enthusiastic.  She stroked his head, while jotting down details in her notebook, as the first
ponderous fruits formed.

Marlena Chertock talks about embodied poetry
and writing On that one-way trip to Mars


Please describe your journey toward writing poetry that reflects on the experience of living in the body. Have you always written this way, or did you come to it over time?

I've always been writing about my body in some way. When I was first learning how to write short stories, I created characters who had my same bone disorder or elements of it. They weren't always me. But when I wrote stories completely focused on disability or the body, they were lacking something that I think poetry offers.

It’s easier for me to describe the experience of what it’s like to live in a body, a different body, through poetry. I can use breathing space, line breaks, and various shapes to more accurately explore my voice, pain, movement, and inflammation. I don’t always set out to write in specific forms, but sometimes a couplet or prose poem works best to clarify a feeling or experience.

What’s worked for me is radical honesty. That may be impossible or not work for others. Poetry enables me to distill clear, visceral depictions of my bone disorder. Through my writing, I try to embrace all my body has done and can do, even amidst all the pain.


I’ve never read a book structured like this! The way this book is arranged like the solar system seems to be a reflection of the far-flung territory and subject matter that it covers. Can you say something about the process of ordering the manuscript and what that was like for you?

On that one-way trip to Mars was really fun to arrange/rearrange! It didn’t start off in that solar system structure, at all. I think it went through several other arrangements (more chronological or sections). But slowly as I was piecing the manuscript together, the poems seemed to be broken into chunks of emotion, theme, and voice. Many of the poems dealt with space or space exploration in some way. That happened before I came up with the ordering idea, because I’m very inspired by nature, space, and the unknown.

I wasn’t writing to fill in each planetary body of the solar system. But once I had that form, I went back and rearranged or added poems where needed. The photos in front of each section are public images from NASA. I started thinking of it as my own version of the Voyager mission (the Voyagers were launched in 1977 for flyby missions of many of the planets in the solar system, and they’re still traveling out there in space now!).

I’m working on several other manuscripts now, and it already seems like my process has been very different for each. Assembling poetry is a difficult, time-consuming process. There’s never one right way!


Purchase On that one-way trip to mars
from Bottlecap Press.


Some themes that echo strongly throughout this book are that of the unruly body, specifically the body with a disability and the woman’s body, and the way these two realities impact / are impacted by the ideas of connection-disconnection that ripple throughout the book. Can you please talk about these themes as they relate to your work? Feel free to reference specific poems!

My poetry focuses on chronic pain, disability, and how to remain strong in the face of bodily challenges. I was born with a rare skeletal dysplasia that’s caused more mobility issues as I’ve grown older, so I have a lot of material to work through in my writing. For me, writing is cathartic. It’s a way I can understand (or try to understand) my pain. Most of the poems in On that one-way trip to Mars dealt with disability or pain in some way, even if it was not always completely obvious. Many of the space poems included a sense of sadness that people with disabilities may not ever become astronauts or explore the stars. (Some of these poems include: “On that one-way trip to Mars,” “Application to NASA,” “Short curve,” “Short curve II,” “Scoliosis,” “Crumb-sized,” “Body remembers,” and “A speck of pain”).


If I didn’t have a bone disorder
I would go to Mars
and never come back.

I would go to Mars,
send an application to NASA,
tell them my coding is so-so,
I’ve never peered into a robot’s circuitry
but I’d like to learn how.

I would go to Mars,
someone who has to
look and write and revise
to understand. Someone who believes
there’s other life out there,
not because of scientific proof
or a god told me, but because I want
humanity to feel less lonely.

I would go to Mars and send back news
of the Sols. I’d create the first
Martian newspaper, publish
the first book of Martian poetry,
paint the Martian soil with my words.

I would go to Mars if I wasn’t too short
for NASA’s height restrictions.
I’d tell them you can fit more short people
into a rocket. Don’t worry
about my bone deterioration rate,
I had arthritis at 13. Walked like an old lady
at 20. It’d be nice to float
and give my bones a break.

I would go to Mars
if I didn’t have bones
clicking against each other
if I was a jellified blob. If the genetic
letters within me
didn’t spell out feeble,
different, unfit for space travel.

A lot of my work also explores gender, sexuality, and feminism. I have several poems describing periods (“On it”), a historical period piece (heh) where women throughout history experience menstruation differently (“On it II”), and in my newest collection I have a piece titled “It should be called womenstruate.” I feel very connected to periods and my body as a woman. I believe in self-love, and that comes out in my poetry. In On that one-way trip to Mars and forthcoming Crumb-sized, I also explore bisexuality and queerness in various poems and extended metaphors (including in: “Star searcher,” “Bedroom constellation,” “I want to date an astronomer,” “Exhibit exploration,” and “At 13 I lived in the forest”).

These themes commingle and also have their own poems, in my work. I can’t separate the fact that I’m a disabled bisexual woman -- not only a woman or someone who’s disabled or queer. I’m all three, at the same time. This reminds me of when we fill out census forms -- people aren’t broken up into categories in real life; we live in the intersections. And that’s how I try to write my poetry.




My astronomer forgets
to eat dinner,
the gaseous stars fill her up.
If I had 62 percent
more gravity, would she revolve
in my downward force.

She scrutinizes starlight,
it keeps her up at night.
Presses her face to scoped pinholes
to see tens of trillions of miles away.
She names constellations
and ones that don’t
exist yet. Name me tonight.

My astronomer spends eight hours a day
filing amicus briefs, neverending
paperwork. On the margins she sketches
hab designs and orbital transfer equations.
She’s grounded, always dreaming ways to escape

her atmosphere. My astronomer
looks for quirks in the light,
impossible bends that reveal gravity,
another planet pulling light close. Closer,
bend into me.

My planet hunter, star searcher, my multiverse
muller whispers how much she'd weigh
on Mars as she lies awake.
How much would we both weigh?
She tracks the waxing moon
in her skylights. Track me waning
as she sleeps on cloudy nights.


You mentioned you have a new collection, Crumb-sized, coming out soon. Can you say something about this collection, including to what extent it relates to material from On that one-way trip to Mars?

Crumb-sized, which will be published in August by Unnamed Press, is another look at my body, what it’s like to live with a bone disorder and chronic pain. My second collection of poetry embraces my crumb-size. This is a book about overcoming the challenges you were born with. The poems explore life with a rare skeletal dysplasia and use natural and space imagery to quantify pain better than the 1 to 10 scale. The themes are similar to my first collection, with expanded pieces on aspects of identity, including femininity, sexuality, and more.


Please share with our readers a list of 5-10 books you think we should read right now.

I can cut it down to 11.

1.     Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (also everything else by him)

2.     The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

3.     Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith

4.     Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

5.     anything by Sharon Olds

6.     Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral

7.     Beauty is a Verb: The New Disability Poetry edited by Sheila Black, Jennifer Bartlett, and Michael Northen

8.     Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias

9.     Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

10.  Accessing the Future: A Disability-Themed Anthology of Speculative Fiction edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad

11.  Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction edited by Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach 

Some Rogue Agent fans are just beginning to explore what making art about the body would look like for them. What advice would you give to someone just starting down the path toward writing poetry that features the body?

Know that your body is valid. And all bodies are different, so just do your best to describe your experiences. There is no right or wrong way to create art or writing about the body.

Writing about bodies, about your life, is often looked down upon by the literary establishment, considered “women’s writing.” But we all are bodies. We all experience life through our bodies, and some of us, a large minority, have disabilities, illness, and chronic pain. These lives -- our lives -- are valid and real and deserve to be shown in writing and art.

Start creating. And keep submitting. You will get rejected, but that is just part of the process. The world needs more diversity and representation. So stay persistent. As I wrote in my editor’s note for the recent District Lit Disability Issue, “keep sharing your truth.”


Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She lives in Washington, D.C. and serves as the poetry editor of District Lit. Marlena is a graduate of the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House and uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Breath & ShadowThe Deaf Poets SocietyThe FemPaper DartsWordgathering, and more. Find her at or @mchertock.

Elizabeth Hitchcock



Ice sounds of December, distant through summer streamers,
hydrangeas strung in the crooked doorway
between your bedroom and the kitchen table...
three green legs, one oak unstained.

You will not disappear.

That's when burrowed in the down
dreams of a park underground, the season lost
in a town- brimming with ambulances blue-winged and witty,
speeding between parkways. Lovers kiss there
in the cave where men disappear.

Uncertainty: sunflowers brought in the tide,
floating above sand they ask do you still love?
The reassurances you tell yourself pushed aside
to warm pools, where crabs stretch claws
toward the rising quarter moon.

You take pictures of the moss
no one will see, tread twelve years ago
by a girl, pricked toes bloody
lying between damp logs or at least
as far as you remember.

We were sleeping in the frozen house
where your father died, his paintings still hung
oil on canvas shrines. As I curl against you
the bed where your father fell backwards,
left arm stiff, right hand on his chest,
is downstairs remembering
when you wandered in two days after Christmas
and found the body.

Jess Turner



Sappho, I need a visit.
I am desperate to fall
in love with violets
just like you.

But I call to the carnivorous.
Then steep in the spit
of what consumes me.

I try to steady, Sappho—
sleep on my stomach
with a stone over my heart.

Still I burn endlessly,
with my howling hands

Sappho, I house a rooted fever.
I know you understand how
this lives in my body.

I do not long
for lilies—
I want their thrashing

And with a mouthful
of water, Sappho,
can you still sing?

Julie Brooks Barbour



Not wanting to put myself in the way
of anger or sorrow, I close another door
on the world. Every day I shut out words, 

faces, and bright florescent lights. 
Behind these doors is a hole. It's dark
and mine but it's a catch-all—it sees

everything, hears every voice. 
It can't speak—no lips or tongue, only teeth, 
which it hasn't used. In the center

of the hole, a throbbing that does not
bleed or weep—an ache
without infection, protected by doors. 

No one gets in, but anyone can listen
and hear nothing. I keep this place
so silent you'll never know I've gone. 

Rachel Nix



My sister wishes for a little girl to stand next to her son,
to have my eyes & her curiosity. Sometimes I want to see

how far my car can go before turning around all because
I miss someone or some thing. She says I have hips meant

for birthing, which I could take offense to if she were
anyone else. If I were anyone else, the idea of being

someone’s every morning might be everything. Nothing
might be what I’ll grow used to. My sister holds her belly,

her son inside, waiting for his life to begin; I look at maps,
wondering where I’d feel at home & if I’ll ever learn

my way around regrets. She worries about shelter & how
to keep my nephew safe; I spend too much time thinking

about tattoos & how they’ll keep me in my skin. My sister
is content planning her life for others; I become too distracted

trying to escape the boundaries I belong to. She knows
I have a name for a daughter & the eyes to watch her grow;

I cannot be sure I have a place for one.

Jana Charl



Blue Inside.jpg





Artist statement:

Fascinated by the challenge to capture the human form and psyche, I stylize the curves that define and distinguish women. By concentrating on the minimal, yet still recognizable form, I strive to express universal experiences as well as personal associations. Often representing words with graphic bars, I place the focus on the visual experience, allowing for varying descriptive interpretations by the viewers. Incorporating sewing, knitting, weaving, and found objects adds another layer of texture and meaning.

You can contact Jana Charl at, and updated information about Jana’s projects can be found at

Judith Roitman

From Invalid
DAY 1.


     Foot lifted eye

                        flourishing ankles

                                                       left in


                                                metal gripped

                     noise following


                              the needle packaged

                                                            night pain.

Lana Bella


I would like to be the air/that inhabits you for a moment/only. I would like to be that unnoticed/&
that necessary
. ~Margaret Atwood


Everything that happens, happens
to ride the flutters of wingbeats, 
eternally here. Fendered and pale,
the girl wears long beaten path
to water, fingers tune the air's tender
strings, dull eyes grind the sky into
breaths of a thousand oceans.
Carrying them on currents by which
she swirls the spent lagoon deep,
like sinuous turns of gossamer
veining in a glass jar, making dark
toss about the weightless silhouette.
Then she must be bold, moving
the way a wraith takes to haunting,
arrested so that she is a giver of light,
and life, in whispers, in invocations,
where each caress remains on her lips
as nocturne holding taut the world.

David Adès

For Sarai


Lifting my little girl in the darkness of my room,
to take her from my bed to hers,
I am in my own cocoon – outside the night

is full of unseen stars, the streets are white with snow,
street lamps cast their hazy glow – and
she is buttermilk sweet, she is sleepy warm,

she is rag doll heavy, arms hanging limply by her sides,
she is an even breath, a still pond, restful —
reminding me of nights over fifty years ago

when I fell asleep in the back seat of my father’s car,
nights driving around looking at Christmas tree lights
or visiting relatives in Klemzig, nights when

I was overtaken by sleep, to feel myself lifted gently
into my father’s arms, strong then, embracing,
letting me yield into them as into slumber,

feeling at home in the world, loved, protected,
that I was where I belonged, feeling a long lost bliss
that I wish my girl will one day remember like this.

Issue 29 Contributors


David Adès is the author of Mapping the World and Afloat in Lightas well as the chapbook Only the Questions Are Eternal. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, won the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's International Poetry Prize and had poems shortlisted or commended for several other prizes in the U.S. and in Australia. He lives in Sydney, Australia.

Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of two full-length collections, Haunted City (2017) and Small Chimes (2014), both from Kelsay Books. Her most recent chapbook, Beautifully Whole, was published by Hermeneutic Chaos Press in 2015. She is co-editor of Border Crossingand Poetry Editor at Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and teaches writing at Lake Superior State University.

A three-time Pushcart Prize & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks, Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016), has had poetry and fiction featured with over 380 journals, 2RiverAcentos ReviewCalifornia QuarterlyComstock ReviewExpoundGrey SparrowIlanot ReviewNotre Dame ReviewPoetry Salzburg ReviewSan Pedro River ReviewWaccamawWord/For Word, among others, and work to appear in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever-frolicsome imps. 

Jana Charl explores different media and techniques around testing the boundaries of what defines contemporary art, especially the blurring of the traditional lines dividing craft, commercial and fine art. The key themes weaving her artwork together are feminist issues, female identity, perceptions of women's roles, and gender relationships. Her work is collected globally in both private collections and part of the Yuko Nii Foundation (New York), Brooklyn Art Library, Museum of Nova Gorica (Slovenia), collections. 

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized (Unnamed Press, 2017) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press, 2016). She lives in Washington, D.C. and serves as the poetry editor of District Lit. Marlena is a graduate of the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House and uses her skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain as a bridge to scientific poetry. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Breath & ShadowThe Deaf Poets SocietyThe FemPaper DartsWordgathering, and more. Find her at or @mchertock.

Ava C. Cipri is a poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art. She holds an MFA from Syracuse University, where she served on the staff of Salt Hill. Ava’s poetry and nonfiction appears or is forthcoming in CimarronThe Fem, FRiGG, Literary Orphans, and Noble / Gas Qtrly, among others. Her first chapbook Queen of Swords is forthcoming this fall 2017 from dancing girl press. She resides at: and tweets at @AvaCCipri.

Fred Dale is a husband to his wife, Valerie, and a father to his occasionally good dog, Earl.  He is a Senior Instructor in the English Department at the University of North Florida, and is pursuing an MFA at the University of Tampa, but mostly, he just grades papers.  His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Sugar House ReviewCrack the SpineChiron ReviewDunes Review, Clackamas Literary Review and others.  

Ori Fienberg's poetry, essays, and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in venues such as Essay DailyPANKDiagramMid-American ReviewSubtropicsBOAAT, and Passages North. A graduate of the University of Iowa's nonfiction writing program, Ori works to promote academic integrity for the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, and lives with his wife, and dog, in Evanston, IL. Links to more writing can be found at  

Elizabeth Hitchcock is an Alaskan-grown poet based out of Reno, Nevada. A recent graduate of Beloit College in Wisconsin, Hitchcock graduated with a triple major in Anthropology, Creative Writing, and Critical Identity Studies. You can find her work in Common GroundReviewFurrow MagThe Linnet's Wings, and The Columbia Review, and upcoming in The Fem Lit Mag. Currently, Hitchcock is crafting a collection of poems on dreams and dreaming.

Rachel Nix a native of Northwest Alabama, where pine trees outnumber people rather nicely. Her work has recently appeared in AntiphonHobo Camp Review, and Words Dance. She is the Poetry Editor atcahoodaloodaling and can be followed at @rachelnix_poet on Twitter.

Judith Roitman’s work has most recently appeared in E.RatioThe Writing DisorderYEWEleven ElevenOtolithsHorse Less Review, and Talisman. Recent chapbooks include Slackline (from Hank’s Loose Gravel Press), Two: (ghazals) (from Horse Less Press), Ku: a thumb book (from Airfoil Press), and Furnace Mountain Poems (from Omerta). Her book No Face (First Intensity Press) appeared in 2008. She lives in Lawrence KS.

Jess Turner has a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Chatham University. Her poetry has been published by The Minor Bird, The Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, and Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Besides poetry she has interests in food studies, hiking, music, and the French language. In the next couple of years, she intends to begin an MFA program with a focus on poetry. She also plans to teach English abroad in Southern France.