Dorty Nowak


Your breath evaporates.
I rise, a creased traveler
damp as my pillow.

And yet, how morning
sunlight scrubs the kitchen,
brightens a scarified table

where a delft bowl, once
crisp blue, holds mandarins,
bulbous as tiny pumpkins,
glowing like harvest moons,

a gift from a friend who
hoped they’d bring good luck
and better times ahead.

Coffee hums my veins.
My nails bite loose flesh,
rinds curl from my fingers,
the broken wedges spurt
liquid sudden as tears.

I suck each section dry
until there are no more.
The day begins to ripen
and bit by bit,
I forget.

Passion Fruit

                                                                  after “Snowdrops” by Louise Glück

Do you know how to care for me?
You know what grief is
so you understand
the instructions of mourning.

I did not expect to break
free from the thicket
lacing my cindered heart,

after so long, learn how
to thrive in winter’s chill,
to grow again, to love

the explosion of these passionate
flowers, so purple,
so profligate,
rising from an embrace of thorns.


In all that is forgotten,
the elderly woman left alone,
a house abandoned to decline,
there is patience.

In fallow fields waiting
to be tilled, or the arms
of walnut trees flung
from earth to sky,
there is hope.

In the silence that dignifies
a body after death, the robin
gone limp in a cat’s jaws,
there is mercy.

Where is God
if not here.

Dorty Nowak is a poet and writer living in Berkeley and Paris whose poems and articles have been published in the U.S. and France. She has curated collaborative projects involving writers and visual artists from around the world and was a founding board member of the Oakland School for the Arts. A former educator and corporate consultant, she holds a B.A. from Northwestern University, and an M.A. from The University of Chicago.

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