Jed Myers

Photograph copyrighted by Rosanne Olson

WATCHING THE PERSEIDS, Jed Myers. Sacramento Poetry Center Press, 1719 25th St., Sacramento CA, 95816, 84 pages, $15 paper,

Speaking of independent bookstores, I purchased Watching the Perseids at BookTree in Kirkland, Washington, after attending a workshop and reading given by no other than Jed Myers himself. The poems are about Myers’s father, but they are also about memory and families and music and baseball and our desire to revisit the ineffable past.

Here is the title poem:

Watching the Perseids

The broadcast’s breaking up in static–
solar flares, snow, ozone
fluctuations, I don’t know.

Should I care? I can still play the message
my phone captures one year back–
No Time for Love“–he sings

the refrain in that same boyish tone
I’d heard come out of him over a steak,
or climbing the bleachers to our seats,

my hand in his, before
a night game at Connie Mack. Even
on his way out in the cold in the dawn

to catch the train, singing whatever
he said–his brisk See ya lat-er!
down the steps. See ya to-night!

Singing the tireless dance of his life–
he left no time in it for the quiet
closeness of watching the Perseids

or the river from its banks, the fire’s
sparks disappearing into the dark….
Not until it was near the time

for hospice, to never again know
where he was. Those last hours on his own
bed, I’d lie beside him and we’d sing

whatever old tune came into either
one of our heads. Quiet.
Like watching the tide.

Now, his music is drowning
in surf-sound. My brain’s magic
receiver is shorting out. Or is it

the train I hear, him on it, still
singing, voice going remote
in the clatter and hiss? Has he lifted

the ticket out of his coat pocket,
handed it over to the conductor,
and sat back, softly sounding out

Lullaby of Birdland? I can wonder,
try to hear his voice in the white noise
between my ears, while he travels

like the seasoned commuter he was
to that city past the meteors, out
past the planets, in the stars.


Carol Levin

AN UNDERCURRENT OF JITTERS, Carol Levin. Moon Path Press, P.O. Box 445, Tillamook, OR 97141, 2018, 96 pages, $15 paper,

I’ve crossed paths with Carol Levin many times over the years, often at It’s About Time, a reading series that meets on the second Thursday of each month in Ballard, Washington. Levin is also an editor with Crab Creek Review, so I’ve encountered her at Seattle Arts & Lectures, as well. But her accomplishments throughout the Northwest arts scene goes on and on, and we have mutual friends. I thought I knew her rather well. Then she invited me to visit her and her husband, Geo, at home, and it was as if I’d dropped through a trap door into another level of an amazing and rich life.

That’s exactly the experience one has reading Levin’s fifth book of poems, An Undercurrent of Jitters. In her brief introduction she explains how she was “catapulted” by writing one poem — about not knowing “what my mother wore at her wedding…” — into writing a book of poems all about weddings and marriage.

With so many weddings postponed amid the Corona Virus ban on gatherings, these poems seem especially poignant. They also remind me of something I was told, before the onset of my own 35-year marriage:

“The wedding is just a big party–the marriage should be the real celebration.”


Save George. Save the way he says bow wow
as he greets his crush of dogs.
Save how he rolls on the floor, three dogs
clambering over him licking his beard.
How he laughs and how all four of them
make those snuggling noises.
Save George when he is excited
and lifts his heels bobbing
off the floor, sometimes
drops of spittle sparkle in the corner
of his lips while he tells stories
and can’t talk fast enough.
His cut hands calloused,
raw from working wood.
Save the way he looks at them and shrugs.
Save George who never looks at dirt,
the worst person to clean house.
You can save him regardless–
as you follow him around to find
what messes he misses–
but watch, he can’t pass
the coffee table without setting
each item in the spot
he insists it must be. Methodically
he moves the Deco birchwood box
an eighth of an inch, straightens
the album, exacting edge to edge.
Don’t forget
to save the way he walks room
to room brushing his teeth.
Even if you find the toothbrush
abandoned on the kitchen counter or top
of the dresser, save it.
He is a hugger.
That is the most important thing to save
when the house is burning down.
Save his hugs and how, when he hugs,
he says–that’s nice
I needed that.



A December Miscellany

Where should I begin? (Where does anyone begin?)

This year I’m awash in memories of Christmases past. My three daughters showed up on Sunday to make cookies and help us pick out a tree — just my girls and no boyfriends, which is rare! I always enjoy seeing the whole noisy bunch of them, but it was a joy to see my trio hanging out and talking together. Then — they were gone, leaving a completely naked tree standing in the living room, and a million memories of their younger years bumping around inside my heart. (I decided to feel grateful and happy instead of bereft.)

I’ve also found myself awash in memories of my childhood. For years I’ve wanted to write a Christmas story to share with my family — something about the Port Orford cedar that stood in our front yard. This is me, setting a marker.

And I really, really want you to read this poem, “Christmas Mail,” by the phenomenal Ted Kooser.

Besides, I just spent an hour making one of my favorite quotes pretty so I could share it with a group — and now I can share it with you, too.


The Unsinkable Priscilla Long

If you have been my student or talked about writing with me, then you probably already know that Priscilla Long, author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor and other books, has been my friend for 30 years.

We met while I was studying for my MFA in poetry at the University of Washington and Priscilla, for her fiction MFA. Or, she was supposed to be studying fiction. After taking a workshop with Colleen McElroy, we decided to exchange poetry manuscripts, and we began meeting for dinner almost every week to rework and deepen our poems.

At our table at the old College Inn in the university district, I confessed to Priscilla my very un-feminist craving for a baby and she told me, “For heaven’s sake! If you want a baby, have a baby! Don’t blame feminism!”

When my twins were a year old and I stalled on my Ph.D. dissertation, Priscilla saved me. “Send me seven pages! They can be terrible! Even with two babies you can write seven terrible pages!” She coaxed that dissertation out of me, never rewriting a single sentence, always telling me, “Of course you can do it!”

So, for those reasons and many others, I am very pleased to direct you to this bio, newly posted at History Link, the free on-line encyclopedia of Washington state history.