Guest Editor: Sabrina Orah Mark

Introducing Sarah M.C. Baugh & Samara Scheckler

In 2015 I turned my garage into The Crying Room, a space to teach writing.  I exposed the beams, and painted the floor the color of the ocean.  In my garage, what could swallow us was also our foundation. We showed our bones to hold ourselves up.  It was where my students would gather once a week to share poems and stories in their most vulnerable states.  This is not where I met Sarah M.C. Baugh and Samara Scheckler, but this is where I began to know them differently, more deeply.  “I have come /,” writes Samara Scheckler, “unmoored.”  “I’m not certain,” writes Sarah M.C. Baugh, “where the bottom is …” The Crying Room is now where my sons are homeschooled, while my students *zoom* in from all over the world.  But when I walk into the garage I can still feel my students’ voices, earthy and sunlit,  reminding me that we must keep telling our stories. 

Bruno Schulz wrote that we arrive mysteriously at certain images “like filaments in a solution around which the sense of the world crystalizes …(and) establishes our soul’s fixed fund of capital …” We are then left with a “single verse” that attaches itself to our souls by a knot that “grows tighter and tighter.”  And we keep working at this knot like an ancient seamstress in an endless fairytale.  I watched Scheckler and Baugh work at their knots with an attention to the past so tender and so furious, I could practically smell the debris caught in the wings of Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History

What are we doing?  Where do we come from?  Where are we going?  How do we get there?  “Can you have a mother and no mother?” writes Baugh.  “It seems like a good time to tell you,” writes Scheckler, that / grandmothers are everywhere.”  Scheckler reaches into her past and finds a grandmother whose mothering cuts through a war, who mothers as she dies, is dying, is slowly being murdered, and she mothers from afar, from the barracks, from memory, she mothers as language goes to ash, and she mothers hungry.  Baugh and Scheckler are distinctly different poets but one thing they have at their center is the desire to heal by reaching all the way into the most wounded wound.  Reading Baugh I am reminded over and over again how much we are like the earth’s surface.  How we are too are “graggs,” how our hearts are pitted by the earth we come from.

If Walter Benjamin’s “Angel of History” is still among us, I imagine he is not flying but walking slowly, hunched over, his wings heavy with the mistakes of our past.  It is a sad angel, but if you listen very, very closely you can still hear him singing.  The poems I have chosen here contain many of the words. 

—Sabrina Orah Mark

Sabrina Orah Mark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland Editions.  Her collection of stories, Wild Milk, was published by Dorothy in 2018. She is the recipient of many honors and awards.





Animal leaving animal leave
this numb rotunda of lead flesh is my very own, I can put a hash-tag next to it and
won’t hide it under a bushel basket in the slightest. No sir.
Can you have mother and no mother? Motherless Mothers of Motherless Daughters?
Anonymous? When I dig down in, under the trillium with the speared
petals, in the soft soil, the deep loam, the pine straw and heavenly light that seeps through the
trees, I don’t find anything at all. No animal leavings,
no sepulcher of the heart, no broken pot. Although once when my family first
moved to our new very very old house we found a dump in the woods made up of arcane
trash. Bottle-glass green is a color you know, and we found that color
in the dump and washed it carefully with soap and put it on the windowsill.
In the backyard there was the unhoused foundation of a long ago home. Stacked
limestone and a slab for a doorstep and an opening for all of us children
to pass through. In the backyard there was a pear tree with a beautiful twist
in the trunk, and speckled green pears that were bland and hard until the day before
they rotted. In the backyard there were chives, and I would cut them clean, the purple
flowered heads bending deeply over my hand.
This could go on—this amorphous love and loss. I could walk farther and farther
in, carefully and with great abandon, as currently I’m not certain where the bottom
is, the water is filled with leaves and caught light. I need a hand
and the only ones I can find are stuck in my pocket or pressed beneath my kneeling
knee or tucked in my bra beside my breast where the skin is warm. Once a friend
of my mother’s told us a story about putting your hands between your legs, at the crux
at the crotch, to warm them when you’ve just come inside from the freezing
cold. I was so ashamed.

Another Name for Things

In the barn I find a box of opera gloves, white and soiled and
silk, made for bodies and a time smaller
than our own. They button at the wrist, and even then, even
in my smallness I lament
the size of the tendons and vessels that make us
occupy space.
In the barn is my father’s red Studebaker, 1964.
We drive it in our tiny hamlet’s parade one year, waving
like the queen, like my mother
taught us, a rotation rather than a beckoning.
The elementary school down in the middle of town
hosts a forum on the proposed tire burning
plant. They want to put it up above the trailer park, near the empty
quarry and the road heading out to the city.
My father has me dress as the Virgin
Mary, I carry a baby doll wrapped in blankets, my hair
covered. My brother dresses as Santa Claus. We stand
at the corner where the school driveway meets
the road. Santa wears a gas mask. I wave
at the people driving past, like
the queen, like my mother taught me.

Grandfather Trip

As I fell asleep last night, a dream: Eating slices of the mountain, cut like glycerin soap, with the shine of petrified wood. We stand on the trail turned road and cut, with a paring knife, slices like pound cake. We eat them, they have no flavor.

It is too much to write, yet.

If I told you, there wouldn’t be anything to it, but also there is too much to it, the trees all release isoprene, making the mountains blue from a distance, making the air as we drove up the endless mountain heavier than it fairly should be.

I didn’t find anything out, didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, except that Webb Creek is misty in the morning, that the rhododendrons are like pre-history itself, and that the carvings in the wood in the eaves of my great great great grandmother’s house look like dragon scales.

When we drove up the road that carries the name of an uncle three generations back, an older woman stood out in front of her little home, across the road from a trailer that looked as though it had been thrown by a giant hand, and then scribbled on with spraypaint. She was waiting for her ride and I asked her where his old house was, and she pointed to her left and then I asked if she was a Gragg. She was. Something about the forehead. Or that I can do that, recognize my people, my people that I am not a part of. But then I asked her who she was, and she told me the names of her parents and I didn’t know them, or her.

We find the graveyard my great grandfather is buried in, and it’s not as though it was a mystery. There is a sizable white sign at the road that reads Jestes Cemetery, probably put there by my grandfather’s legitimate half-brother, on the remnants of his family’s land. We turn onto this road and it’s laid out for us, the light turning the corner toward dusk and the red and gold leaves glowing onto the small rectangle of cemetery. The cemetery sits at the mountain’s feet, at Grandfather’s feet, and I should be making this up, because it can’t be. The light glows and there is a tall old tree and a carefully cut perimeter of grass and an old stone crumbling wall and there he is: Jesse. J.W. Jestes with the flat stone sinking into the soft earth, and leaves covering its face. He’s mine, you know? I can’t unstick myself. Around the graveyard is a burned-out trailer beyond the fence that I’m afraid someone still occupies, and an old wooden barn or house fallen down, and another old wooden something that’s slowly sliding into the Wautaga River itself. We can hear it running, beyond the graves. We push into the bracken growing up, with fairy light coming through the white wisps of weeds, and my sweater gets caught on the blackberry cane and I can’t tell you why I feel like crying.

In Johnson City, TN we find the street behind the train tracks that my grandfather lived on when they left the mountain, but the house or building isn’t there, now there’s a park and a homeless man carrying out some ritual on the white metal flowers adorning the gate. We find the house Clostie, my great grandmother, lived in, maybe all of them lived in, later, until she died, and it’s normal and reasonable and such a far remove from Rosborough (from Chickentown) from the Hush Gully that it makes the mountain into fiction. We eat at a diner with Jesus positively everywhere, and I order a bologna egg and cheese biscuit, because I’ve never seen bologna feature so heavily on a menu, and my grandfather made me fried bologna when I was small and he was alive, and maybe this is a regional food—pink fried meat, and here I am with this cork board pulling threads between pins to triangulate the location of a murderer. Trying to find the body. The bologna egg and cheese comes out on a biscuit so fresh it’s steaming, and it’s all delicious. I wasn’t hungry but I’m eating it as though I am very very hungry, and I’m ashamed at the way I make the biscuit disappear while I look at my phone to find my great grandfather in two different states in the same census year.

Nothing at all happened. We drove on a lot of dirt and gravel roads. We spent hours, and then we saw it. The isolation and the way the road turned again and again and each time it was more beautiful, till the sweet turned sickening. Too much too much.

I’m so tired, I am trying to eat this mountain, and wash with it, and bury it, and make it home, and make it explain language and weather, and the reason my mother is broken and the reason I am a wound trying to pull up its own edges. I want the people to come out of their houses and say to me “I am a Gragg, yes, and you are a Gragg, and this is yours, this mountain. Let me show you.”

I Found Horses

All of the words   relate to horse, in
one way or another,
and the horses when   we were
young, when we would take yours—two—out
in the frozen pasture to run them.
You trained them,     both warmbloods, in Tiond—a dead language—
maybe even a fake one,
and gave them the names of a man in The Bible
and a swamp in Florida you’d never been to, respectively.
We led the larger one, or you did, while I hid in the the lee of a stall,
and you rushed by with the young monster,
grown taller than expected. Sometimes you would lose hold of his
lunge line, and he’d rocket into the   open ring, beribboned
with halter rope and line. We’d have to block the exits with our bodies
so he wouldn’t bolt, but I was afraid of him, I knew he would
throw his hooves at my brain as soon as look at me, so I would hesitate, and he knew
my fear.
Later, contained, our breath puffing out and the crunch and slip
of ice and snow, carrots broken
in our pockets, we’d lead the horses out to the pasture, stumbling in the pitted grass, the holes
Your mother would
drive her white Pontiac Grand Am up the back roads to the barn where you
boarded them, even in a blizzard, the car sliding and sliding on the hills of the unplowed
roads, the snow
packed down, and coming hard. You would commandeer the stereo and ignore her white- knuckle grip on the steering wheel, her
muttered curses, the one moment in a sea of moments when she would suddenly
realize that her hold on mothering you had slipped, the salt  and sand
forgotten around the same time    your dad left home. This
story isn’t sacred,
even though it doesn’t belong to me. It’s just another
story about brokenness, about growing up, about  horses, and fathers that
there. I would cower in the backseat while she drove, knowing that we were about to die
on the fool’s errand of driving an hour
to the barn in a blizzard so you could whisper dead
languages in your horses’ears, spoiled and green and dangerous.

Sarah M. C. Baugh is a writer and portrait photographer born and raised in Central New York. When she was younger she wanted to be a nun, but lost something in the dark. Her work can be found in Gulf Coast and Sand Hills, and she was nominated for Best New Poets 2017 by Gulf Coast. Sarah makes her home in Athens, Georgia, with her husband and two daughters.









Samara Scheckler
I eat toast and read the news

as the ground yawns and
reseals over my head. I fall
for hours and days. I knew people who had been
swallowed by a wave in the gulf, by fog
on top of a mountain bald or by
night and its roiling storm of starlight. But water,
air and evening are ephemeral, are revealed and retreated
in a breath. I fall into indelicate
space, thick as soup and endless. Still falling, I turn
somersaults; head up, feet up, head up, hair
in mouth. I raise my arms and spiral
like an ice skater. Tighter and
faster the world flies by, too fast so I think
about ground and there is ground
cool and firm under my feet.


I rise through the dark. I have come
unmoored I think as I touch
my eyes and see nothing. Heat
pulses and shifts as the press
of bodies. There may have been
others here before.


With a tentative step I trip
over a click, click, clack. Who is
that? I ask. It is
the rabbi, sitting in a pile of
old bones, too dark to see. I
should have known he would be
here. What are you
doing? I ask loudly. I am
assembling the face of god, he
replies through
the insufferable darkness. We make
no introductions, because the rabbi is
busy and besides, I know
him well. How? I ask as I feel
his hand in mine. We recall the
desperate grip of bereavement, the scent
of shaving cream in the tiny bathroom
under the stairs. I want to take
his hand, hold it, kiss it and press it to
my cheek, but the hand has become
a tile, cold and square. My fingers
trace four rounded corners. I
count to four, and the tile is
gone as the click, click, clack
resumes. The rabbi considers
his puzzle, they are white as a wisp of cloud. How
can he know anything in the dark
with air so heavy. I want
to ask the rabbi what is
burning, but without
light, backwards and forwards move
in the same direction and the smoke
rises as the rabbi. My eyes


sting. I turn away, run
into a door and fumble the knob
open. The air tastes like babies. That is
how, even in the dark, I know I am
in my own house. My shin collides
with the couch and something
perched on top scratches my arm.
I test the object gingerly. It gives
a little then springs back
into shape. A traveling basket, perhaps. I
search for a handle and gently
crack the lid. The basket
emits a peal of laughter, a throaty
haze of daybreak and a soft breath before
I drop the lid back in surprise. The basket is
filled with walking. I am filled
with walking. A tear slides out
of the darkness, carrying
the scent of wood fire and challah and the
dry brush of a kiss. I have heard
of this place, I think.


as the walls of my house begin
to crumble. Tiles fly past like tiny
missiles. In one great burst
of light, I see the rabbi suspended midair
amid his brilliant clatter. The shatter
of mountains and time, the mingling of old
world citron with dusty red
blankets before darkness flows back in
as ink spilled across the paper. Drowning
in buckets of ink I cross
oceans of ink like all of our ancestors. I try
to draw a straight line but the ink spares
nothing its inky blackness
because in this place there is
only page and ink.


Moment and Monument

She carried peace baby until he was
big enough to walk. Then she dressed him
in a stiff pair of white booties as people did
in those days. Peace baby held fast to her and his
smooth soled shoes rapped like tiny boots across the floor.
Before peace baby, there had been
a fire hot enough to melt the world. Before peace
baby, she had crawled on her knees, choking and sputtering
into a clearing, a hard square of
earth that rustled with ghosts
of leaves and fireflies. Her peace baby
was caught by a nun, there on the smoldering
crust, encircled by ash
trees. The nun named peace baby Ash but she
may have said Ask in her haste. And the nun
marked the new mother on the forehead to anoint her
Grandmother’s Grandmother. She
had not expected to receive
a new name. Grandmother’s Grandmother tasted ash. There
would be no ceremonial fast and
peace baby Ash or Ask began immediately
to demand milk from Grandmother’s Grandmother.
Early fingers of dawn find his yawning mouth
full and she nurses him until
coils of dusk wrap the day. The stiff white
booties grow tight as peace
baby Ash or Ask practices steps, arms thrust
into the air for balance. Grandmother’s Grandmother tends
his bare feet and worries about fire. Thinking
of ancestral runners, she discards
the outgrown shoes and teaches him
to spread his round little toes in the dirt. He moves
like a tracker. She crawls along beside him
quietly covering his trace. Then she washes
his feet, rubbing skin soft with
ointment. She trims nails, files callouses
from heels. She stalls for time. The tiny shoes
remain as they are now
coated in bronze. After turning
the shoes over in her hand, she sets them heavily
on her writing desk and steps back. A bronze
baby wobbles unsteadily in the little shoes that once belonged
to peace baby Ash or Ask. Flickering slightly,
the bronze baby throws back his head and laughs.
As Grandmother’s Grandmother prepares
an evening meal, the house
fills with pot sounds and onion
spray. The bronze shoes sit on a square of
counter. The bronze baby
propped in the shoes watches as she
cuts pats of butter into the noodles.
Now Grandmother’s Grandmother carries the shoes
from room to room. Once
she showed the shoes
to peace baby Ash or Ask. With passing
curiosity, he tapped the metal
laces that would never tie or untie.
The soles would not protect
him. In the evening, with peace baby Ash or Ask
tucked neatly into bed, the bronze shoes
sit beside Grandmother’s Grandmother.
She counts her breaths.
Grandmother’s Grandmother loops embroidery
thread through the blanket. Her mind
wanders as her fingers depict
a world on fire and the blanket
glows rusty orange and charcoal red. A slight aroma of
ash rises from the fiber. She
swaddles the bronze shoes in the blanket and
Grandmother’s Grandmother carries the weight
of a baby in the fiery bundle. She pushes
a cart with one hand, gathering
soup cans and potatoes. Strangers nod
at the blanket. She moves up and
down the aisles, clutching the blanket, sharing
a look of concern with a fellow shopper.
By now, of course, peace baby Ash or Ask is
nowhere to be found. Perhaps he
borrowed a horse to ride off
into the sunset. Or maybe he wore a
trench into the scratch of earth behind the house.
That was doubtful, of course, since peace baby Ash or
Ask only moves in one
direction. She parts the curtains to look at the empty
road. That may be his silhouette on
the horizon, cresting a low hill. A gentle breeze
rocks the limbs of a nearby pine and its shadows
glaze the road. Her arms feel tired. As the bundle
wriggles she drops the curtain to secure
the blanket closer and sinks heavily
into a chair. Somewhere in her memory
a body lays quietly in a blackened clearing. A leaf
flutters back and forth. The body
turns, releasing a heavy breath. Back
and forth, the rocker creaks
across bare oak planks.


It seems like a good time to tell you that
grandmothers are everywhere. click clack cluck. Right now, one
taps her pencil on the table. She has poured glasses of milk
for everyone, but it is much too early
for dinner. Dear daughterwhowillnotbe, the grandmother is
decorated with a scent of powder.


A grandmother wakes
in the middle of the night with police dogs
snapping at her champagne heels. Echoes
of steel toed boots march the room. So the grandmother
rises and slides down the hallway, filling cabinets
with china, an ossuary of scapulae splayed as
butterflies in flight. As pelvic bones blossom it becomes
difficult to move, daughterwhowillnotbe, without
bumping into a grandmother or shattering
one of her bone plates.


Grandmothers bustle around
our pantry gathering buttons into jars, a clatter
of colors. And they cultivate
lettuce beds and rubber band balls
so they can say “Don’t worry. We have
enough.” Homegrown can
almost touch heaven.


My closet overflows with clothes and
grandmothers, and grandmothers look on
sternly as I shoulder the heavy door to
shut it. “What should I preserve?” I plead, but
they all have gone into hiding.
And so, meticulous as a paring knife, I slice
knots of thread. Alone, I
shave delicate flower sprays from a
handkerchief decorated by someone else’s hand. RR
in curly loops. RR. They laugh
as tangles unwind in blue snips
on the floor. The flounce of a skirt in the half-light
reveals a curious grandmother peering
from behind the door. Grandmothers are nothing


without memory. This silken scarf had been pinned
to the beach as a chuppah, with women arrayed
underneath. Someone smashed a glass
of grandmothers into shards as wet sand
dragged down the hems of all of their white
dresses. The scarf snapped in the wind, keeping time
as voices collapsed into seafoam. Singing
grandmothers polish beads to glass. They admire
their collections, ropes strung long, low and
knotted. Swinging watery jewels, hundreds of grandmothers
dance their small mincing steps. The jealous
gulf tries to secret the scarf in her huge grandmother
bag. She could hardly help herself, so perfectly
did it match her sunset hue.
Daughterwhowillnotbe, anxiety weighs heavy, like a descent
down the steep staircase lined with jars of decisions
made. Hopes lost. Specters that whisper
a captive prayer. Grandmother’s
dress form lurks in the basement, emerging from the
shadow to strike terror in your stern little soul. Here
we are, dear one, back in the house of grandmothers and
scratchy coats rummaged out for the early snow. One for
each of us. Hopping along in the deep footprints
of our grandmothers, we draw figure eights
around the dormant pear tree. I am terrified
that I could lose you. As if all is not
eventually lost. Thread draws tight
around your waist and I watch your body
flicker like a filament given light
too long. I take you firmly
into my arms and advise you
to get more grandmothers, daughterwhowillnotbe,
to make something of yourself. We will all be
grandmothers, someday. We will
all be. Being all. But first we
must be. I squint in the wavering light.


I see Grandmother lying quietly, face
drawn and youthful. Stingily
I guard moments in the doorway. A
rubbish pile of biographies, newspapers folded around the puzzle, road maps wringing tropical heat,
the carroty smell of brisket, an orchestra unrolling scratchily from the turntable, dancing statues,
sweet noodle kugel, the bootie of a baby girl, yellow roses and whispered counsel, schnapps, waves
lapping a ship at its moor, quiet evenings, held hands, quiet evenings, held hands quiet evenings,
held hands, quiet. No


paintings grace these walls.
Daughterwhowillnotbe, our room is nearly
empty now. Only a bed, two blue blankets,
a flat sheet and a fitted one,
a pillow in case and
a window brimming with
tree branches, dark and overlapping, precariously
dotted with grandmothers who
patiently swing their stockinged legs
through the air, back and forth
like pendula.


Rudl. Honig-Sternheimer
Camp de Gurs
Ilot 1 Bar. 15
Basses Pyr.
Summer 1941
My most beloved children,
How long
until my letters reach you? The
barracks turn into ovens
midday and the summer dress from Aunt Paula never
arrived. My mouth fills with wool and Grandma
sleeps. Does your wristwatch
keep good time? My dear good boys, please
send a photograph. We have
no cocoa or fat but the war
will end. Do you
hold your pillow at night when you think
of me? When I lay down I
say to you dears, good morning. I hear the mourning
dove, calling outside your window. And
with her little black eyes, I peer in, under
your covers, where your gentle breath
rises and falls. The air is chill and I
pull the blankets to your chin.
My lovely boys! Every day is soup but
last week we had two potatoes. Everyone was thrilled. Your
first summer gone, I preserved
gooseberries, cherries and plums. The apricots
did not bear but we were
rich. Boys, write
to Washington! Perhaps Uncle Heinz can
help. Send cakes and a visa. The consulates
here are closed but a Swiss bank may be safe or
a Quaker company. We turn to
ink but my mouth waters for
packages from Portugal. Packages come even
by telegraph. Packages overflow with cocoa, fat, chocolate and babies. Comissão de Assistencia aos
Judens Refugiatos, Rua Rosa 12,1. Lisboa, Portugal.
This camp is full
of letters. Everyone
paces the road. Up and down, they
walk, their dusty mouths
form a perfect dry oh.
My dearest, words
are ash. One cannot write everything.
There has been
no coffee. My only
dear children, I weigh 106 pounds
like a young girl. The body
tolerates bread when it is dry but the heaviness
of prison cannot be measured. I would
say goodbye to Father’s grave. I would wash
your hair in the basin and kiss
your forehead, a dusting
of talcum power on my lips. One has
very little time. Study
diligently and be good.
Dearest ones, I am becoming
paper. Today I happened
upon a discarded scrap. It appeared
to be printed with railroad ties. It
screeched, the sound of metal on rail and was
so heavy, I could not carry it
alone. I noticed a woman
who clutched a clipping of apron stripes
in her fist. They looked like
peppermint and my mouth watered
for a lick. Pieces of paper stick
to sugar. If there were trees, paper
would be pasted to the sap. If there were
mattresses, they would be stuffed
with paper. Papers chink the thin
planked walls, rolled tight and high as a man can reach. I
pluck one torn note. It reads on the front
in hasty pen still there are friends and on
the back, the image of a ring with a bit
of finger. Otto never wrote, but sent a likeness
of his blackened cook stove. Our bodies
are stacked in a litter of words, limbs askew. I capture a few
here in graphite but mostly words creep, wild and unspoken
into the dusky corners where light is extinguished. Stay
healthy, my dear good boys. Be heartily greeted and kissed
from your always loving

Samara Scheckler is a postdoctoral fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. She isolates with her partner and two boys in a snowy little apartment in Somerville.