Weekly Write: Your Mind Tricks Won’t Work on Me, Jedi by Shanna Alden and Erin Schick

Your Mind Tricks Won’t Work on Me, Jedi

There’s a kind of music
often played by the sort of therapists
who think EMDR is a panacea for everything
or by the sorts of “doctors”
who think sticking needles into you
while you consume 5lbs of raw broccoli
will cure cancer.
Slow, beatless, meandering treble
just on the mass-produced side
of spiritual
or soothing
The kind of music some executive
with a bottom line hanging over his head
engineered from a formula
of a thousand songs
someone called “calming” once.
A cacophonic story telling the sick
and the dying that
“everything’s going to be fine”

Every time I’ve been admitted to an ER
I stare in terror
at the curtains in the trauma rooms
usually some sort of pastel gradient
just on the institutional side of
easter egg
or sunset
faded towards beige
from the industrial sorts of detergent
needed to turn a biohazard
back into a privacy screen
yellowed from iodine and vein rust
The kind of durable, stain-hiding pattern
some executive, with a bottom line hanging over his head
engineered from a thousand surveys
distilling down the 5 or 6 colours
people call “calming”.
Rows of visible barriers
between the sick or dying
and the world
a cacophony
of “everything’s going to be fine”.

A story whose moral is only denial.
But the oldest fairy tales,
don’t have happy endings.

Once upon a time,
you will die.
When you die, you will be alone.
Even if you are surrounded by loved ones,
or the arms of a person you’ll call your soulmate
until the very moment you start to fade,
and start to doubt whether souls even exist.
Even if someone dies right next to you at the very same second,
in a car crash,
or an explosion, or holding your hand,
you will still go through death alone.
Alone and dying will be the last things you ever are.

And for so many people
these curtains
are the last image
they’ll ever see.
Swinging softly in the bustle
As calming music plays over a p.a.
In a hospital with a bottom line hanging over its head,
as someone whispers in their ear,
“everything is going to be fine”


Shanna Alden (they/them) is a queer poet, photographer, barista, and bartender living in Seattle, WA with their chosen family and a couple very soft cats. They sit on the board of Rain City Poetry Slam and consistently host weekly poetry shows.

Erin Schick (they/them) is a queer, trans, and multiply disabled social worker living in upstate New York and focused on disability justice and queer liberation. Their interests include the Pacific Northwest, women’s soccer, and sled dogs.

Find this poem and many others in SwEP’s latest release: A Duet of Dying

Now Available!


“A Duet of Dying is a poignant and honest approach to surviving terminal sickness, living disabled, and the constant navigation of the healthcare system of the United States. From honest confessions like remaining with somebody caught cheating “Because I was on his health insurance,” in Why Did You Stay? part 3, to the foreign and familiar feeling of not knowing yourself apart from the “alien” in Pathogen, this collection is a special one for its approach through — and more aptly: with — sickness. Then there is the raw cruelty that is given a voice so aptly in Ringtones into Dirges; here, at last, are words for the battle with collections calls for MRIs and diagnostic tests; those which are necessary to life, but the collected debt of which could easily drive somebody to death. And I think, finally, finally, here is an honest testament — of love, of life (while actively dying), of death (and still living). And wonderfully, a narrative from two powerful queer voices, who offer this bittersweet collection, so purely.”

~Reviewed by Maxine Peseke

As always, we encourage ordering the collection from the authors personally or through an independent bookstore, but the collection is also available through Amazon and other distributors.

Click here to order today!

Weekly Write: “What is Precious is Never to Forget” by Bill Nevins

Publisher Note:

The team at Swimming with Elephants Publications was greatly saddened to hear of the passing of one our authors, Bob Warren. We are dedicating this week’s Weekly Write to a poem by Bill Nevins which honors him.

To learn more about Bob and his poetry, head over to: https://swimmingwithelephants.com/2019/12/18/r-b-warren/

What is Precious is Never to Forget

Eulogy or Elegy for the Living Poet, Ever Near this Poor Man’s Ear

Dear teacher Stephen Spender taught me long ago
“Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields . . .
The names of those who in their lives fought for life . . .
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.”
Soour poet of Litanies Not Adopted singed and signed the air here with his fierce honor
His love of life, of even poor Christ
Whom he saw in every parched or vibrant face he found
In this weary land, in Detroit City, and in this dry desert town.

As Donne told us the toll sounds for each however mean
SoBob preached love too would ring in us every one
If we found that buried note that stream
It might be blood of the lamb, flowing free in our deeds
It might be only buried deep in our unborn seeds
It might need be wrested forth
By words of fire, touch of light, fury, oh cold star- light.

Bob wrestled with God, he did, and surely still does,
and no holds barred.
When and where none but angels saw.
No one won. None lost. The Holy Ghost, Bob’s second, called a draw.
“Why dost thou hide thyself in clouds
From every searching Eye?”
With Blake, Bob challenged the coy deity to Be HERE Now!

I think the sky god only laughed and saw itself in the house of store among the lost,
In the mirror of Bob, son of man, and knew revelation needed no more
Knew no airy sky god need be found when Bob and such walk solid ground.

But that’s just me, agnostic mystic disrespectful American rebel son.
I would not mess with Bob nor Barbara, armed lovers ever, love in arms.
And that warning applies to the god of grief, that holy thief-
-Don’t mess. Best, just bless.
And move along, now, Daddy-O. You done your best and worst.
Bob abides. Bob never hides.
Bob may go, but Bob is here, right here. We know.

Ah won’t Detroit howl and mourn when they hear?
Ah won’t Sonny that strong hero of Motor City laugh and cry for the tall brave man called Whitey X—who knew Black Lives Matter deep in his heart and needed no one to tell him so?
And won’t this second tier rhymester raise his beer, shed a tear?
And won’t sweet Jesus smile to know that Bob is near? Always near.

Bill Nevins grew up Irish Catholic near and in New York City in the 1950’s and 60’s. He moved to northern New England and raised his three children, one of whom, Special Forces SFC Liam Nevins, died in combat in Afghanistan in 2013. Bill has lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico since 1996.



Weekly Write: “Save the Elephants” by Erin Conway

Save the Elephants

Mamá liked travelling. Mamá liked to talk about what to bring,
Or what not to bring.
Mamá grabbed a palm sized ball
Of masa dough ground from Gloria’s trip to the molino.
It tapped and tapped around to tell the story of her hills and nestled village
Monte and cayukos.
Mamá loved to plan trips she would never take
Behind Mamá’s steps rested her shadow.
The elephant’s mother always casts
The largest, the longest
Shadow on its skin.

I was only four when Mamá packed for Mexico City.
I was only four when she did not return.
Ten years later, I study geometry. Gloria counts micro credit.
I study history. Gloria listens to stories.
I study geography. Gloria walks between rural villages.
I study physical education. Gloria brushes toddlers’ blackened teeth
Left by the fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers who headed North.
Spanish. Maya. Large, expansive names.
San Cristobal de las Casas.
All missing paint in lime green.
Yaxchilán. Chipapa de Corzo.
Jungle. Pine trees. Coffee. Chocolate.
Drunk on mist.
¿Y yo?

My skin tone is a blend,
A highland blend of coffee
That gringos drink
In large mugs that are not supposed to have bottoms
In large mugs Gringos find the energy
To step on and over the stones, the stories,
Of our past.
I close my eyes.
I hear Mamá empty frijoles parados into my dish.
I smile and add chilé.
I close my eyes.
I hear Mamá pour coffee into my mug.
I smile and add sugar.

“Where are you working today Gloria?” I ask.
“The woman’s coop.”
“Can I come?”
“Instead of school?”
“I love sitting near the weavers.
Untangling strings. Cutting knots.”

Señoras squint through donated lenses.
Elephants do not have good eyesight.
I know I don’t know the strings’ colors,
My colors, I don’t know.
In the women’s midst, I return to a herd.
But it’s not my herd.
I’m an orphan. I’m homeless.
I’m an immigrant? Migrant? Refugee?

I sit on the front step,
Leaned back against the stones,
I stretch forward. I write.
“Related elephant females stay together for life.
Related elephant families share resources,
Avoid danger,
Care for young.”

The flowers reflect days’ yellow brightness through ever present dust.
Their husbands saw the same
Scattered in corn kernels. Spread out to dry.
Free trade brought new colors in cotton string.
New demand for old traditions. Cheap corn

Mamá had wrapped her faja
Like the ones strapped in these looms
Mamá had covered her guipil in her rebozo.
Inspired by Comandante Ramona
Mamá had boarded a bus to the First Indigeneous Congress.
If Mamá had reached México City, I don’t know.
I watch the women’s fingers.
The women pick up strings and drop them.
If only one string had been long enough
To help Mamá find her way home.

I think of elephant matriarchs.
Which woman will throw herself
On the electric fence?
Or learn to open the gate?
For the rest to escape.
I stare upward, beyond
Barbed wire. Chipped cement. Broken glass.
The sweep of the mountain is also the sky.
The top is not a peak.
There is more room than people would say,
Would want me to believe.
We can all fit on the mountain though I started farther down.

Blue, the green of grass.
White, the water spray of clouds.
Gloria’s heavy feet climb.
Others feel her trail in their soles.
Like elephants, I lean forward on my toes.
We refuse to be on our heels.
When I stand on tiptoes, I know
The mountain is not so high.

In the evening,
We turn beans from parados to colados to volteados.
“The thicker the better,” I say.
“But less to go around,” Gloria reminds.
I was only four when Gloria kept me.
I was only four when Gloria became the leader of our orphan band.

Gloria shows me nothing directly.
Instead she shows me
Hooded sweatshirts, holy cards and birth control.
I eat my supper alone. Flip cable channels.
I trace my finger along the tortilla
Wrinkled, elephant, skin.
I dig through the garbage
Between two fingers gently, I hold buried papers
With my elephant’s trunk

$2,000. $8,000. Mexico.
Petitions. Protests. El Salvador.
Felony. Theft. Guatemala.
Muertes. En camino. Honduras.

Night steps forward.
I fall asleep and dream.
Baby elephant. Orphan elephant.
Surrounded by lions. Far from home.
Baby elephant. Orphan elephant.
She screamed to keep the jaguars away, for the family to accept her.
Baby elephant. Orphan elephant.
She wrecked her vocal chords.
It was her voice,
Or, her life.

I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees at UW-Madison. I began my professional career as a bilingual teacher in the Madison Metropolitan School District, but this work stems from my desire to seek a deeper understanding of my students and foster intercultural connections in the field of education. I accepted a Peace Corps assignment in Guatemala. For the past ten years, I worked both teaching and training teachers in Guatemala, including Atitlan Multicultural Academy, and most recently I worked as the Director of Literacy Staff Training and Curriculum Development with Child Aid. Previously, working in education in Guatemala, I currently work for UW-Madison, Division of Extension. My literary efforts focus on diverse books initiatives. Publishing credits include Midwest Review, Sonder Review, Vine Leaves Press, The Hopper, Cleaning up Glitter, Kind Writers and Adelaide Literary Magazine. I manage a blog and website, http://www.erinconway.com.



“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2020 Anthology.

Click here check out the 2019 Anthology:  Trumpet Call; a Swimming with Elephants Anthology available for only $12.95.

Weekly Write: “The Sunflower Song” by KilhaPoetry

The Sunflower Song

I dreamed that I stumbled upon a field full of giant sunflowers
And lay my head there down to die.
While the heavens gathered up all their stormiest rain clouds
That fell from the tubular sky’s.
Too great was my sadness to fight.
Too lost to the tragedy now begun.
Alone in my field full of sunflowers
With no life to wish to carry on.

I dreamed that the earth consumed me.
My wretched body decaying outwardly in.
Until there was no memory of my presence or being
And no one could remember even who I had been.

I dreamed that sunflowers grew wilder and strong,
Their mighty stalks growing thicker with height.
They grew into the horizon and up into the sky’s,
There petals looming with grandiose might.

Cocooned in my deathly slumber,
From the peace in which I now lay.
A curiosity stirred awaking a part of me,
A part no earthly death could just wash away.
And deep in that place of unexistance,
deep in my transient state,
I felt such heavenly beauty
Breath new life into the loneliness place.

Adrift on the wings of salvation,
With courage retuning and restored.
I marvelled at the world so vivid and true
With enough beauty and love for us all.
Now in my field full of sunflowers
that mourned for the life I couldn’t save,
I dreamed of a love to unfold without tragedy.
Without fearing loss or fear itself to be the reason for blame.

I dreamed that I died in a field full of sunflowers,
With such beauty that I had never seen.
And deep in my field full of awesome giant sunflowers,
I’m rebirthed each night in my dreams.


MMKilha is a London born poet with Egyptian and English/Irish heritage. She started writing when she was very young as a way of processing and surviving an abusive environment. She says, “I started writing because I couldn’t talk about what was going on. I wasn’t trying to be creative, I just needed a way to communicate”.

She has continued to use it as a method of reflection ever since. 

With a back catalogue of work big enough to fill her garage, she only became public in 2017 after a friend encouraged her to overcome her insecurities being dyslexic and having ADHD.

She says the impact of writing means she no longer feels the need to apologise for herself; “If people like the work that’s great. I’m over the moon when my words speak to another person but if they don’t, that’s fine too. Since being open about these issues I have received so much support from other dyslexic writers who tell me how much my honesty has meant to them.”

MMKilha is currently in her final year of her Masters in Childhood and Adolescent

Psychotherapy working with children from abusive backgrounds to help them make sense of their own stories though creative interventions. 

MMKilha performs independently on the London spoken word scene as well as with the @Poetical_Word collective  poeticalword.org providing them with a vital Therapist in Residence service for their outreach programmes.

For a selection of her work or to get in contact she can be found on Instagram @kilhapoetry. 

Please feel free to get in touch.



“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2020 Anthology.

Click here check out the 2019 Anthology:  Trumpet Call; a Swimming with Elephants Anthology available for only $12.95.

Weekly Write: “Treehouse on Mars” by Karen Poppy

Treehouse on Mars

When we’re born, and old enough,
We’ll build a treehouse
On Mars, just
Like one we heard
Our parents’ parents built
To play in as children on Earth.

Our Martian colony
Will have no trees.
Only small plants
For consumption.
No birds singing in branches.
No sun shining through leaves.

We’ll build our treehouse,
Not in a tree, but on
An artificial resin trunk.
Ancient song of birds
Will filter in from speakers.
Pink glow will light our days.

When we’re born, and old enough,
We will learn of trees.
How they lived and
Burned with finality in
Forests and jungles
Of memory and loss.

New trees never could
Meaningfully replace
Old-growth in locations
Strange on our tongues:
Africa, Brazil, Colorado,
Tongass, Siberia, Indonesia.

When we’re born, and old enough,
We’ll live on a planet
Far from scent of real resin, pine.
Far from sound of wind through woods.
Far from shade of towering canopies.
Far from trees’ majestic heights.

Never will we have memory
Of vast Amazonian wonders,
Jungle animals, forest animals.
Just pictures, holograms, stored DNA.
Koala, Orangutan,Giraffe,
Lion, Antelope, Gazelle.

When we’re born, and old enough,
We’ll live here, born here
Like our parents.
Tell stories in secret
Of how we want to
Rebuild Earth.

Although we’ll know, like
Our treehouse, our dream
Is not real, and never can be.
The trees and animals, gone.
No matter what we’ve kept,
What we’ve stored.

At this point, even our own
Existence is hypothetical,
Since life on Mars cannot
Likely occur, be sustained.
Right now, humans have to start
By trying to save Earth.

As we say what we fear,
Our voices stay stuck, unheard
In a distant, probably
Impossible future,
Like roots dead or never born:
It is too late. Too much is lost.


Karen Poppy has work published in Blue Unicorn, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, ArLiJo, Wallace Stevens Journal, and The Cortland Review (Best of the Net nomination). She has a chapbook forthcoming with Finishing Line Press, and another chapbook forthcoming with Homestead Lighthouse Press. An attorney licensed in California and Texas, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.


“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2020 Anthology.

Click here check out the 2019 Anthology:  Trumpet Call; a Swimming with Elephants Anthology available for only $12.95.

Weekly Write: “I Wear My Grandmother’s Necklace Two Days After I Call the Suicide Crisis Line” by Auden Eagerton

I Wear My Grandmother’s Necklace Two Days After I Call the Suicide Crisis Line

I’ve never liked my neck much in it, but it doesn’t matter.
I’d rather feel you beating against my throat when I walk
than my hands against the soundproof glass,
miming an SOS to the praying mantis on the other side.
The night I called from an empty classroom,
I dreamt my throat was stuffed with long yellow feathers.
I split my arms till they became wings,
did a danse macabre off the tallest building I could find.
Anything, anything to stop my headless shadow.
The next day the sun shone as if I wasn’t
a crater with a body, hollowed out
by foreign palms searching my wounds.
They left the pulp on a conference room table
for me to scoop into a mason jar.
It’s sat on my nightstand ever since,
muted buzzes coming from under the lid.
Today I revel in our shared names,
try to handle myself the way you held
the fledgling in the front yard,
make myself believe I deserve cupped hands, soft edges.
Above all, that even betrayed by my own scent,
you would have loved me anyway.

Auden Eagerton is a non-binary poet located in Kennesaw, Georgia. They received a Bachelor of Arts in English, as well as a minor in Film Studies, at Kennesaw State University. Their interests lie heavily in studying American literature and poetry. In addition to publishing their own poetry, Eagerton aims to one day become an editor for a literary magazine and be involved in both sides of the publishing process. Their work has been featured in Exhume Literary Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, LandLocked Magazine, Across the Margin, DASH Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Digging Through the Fat/Digging Press, and is upcoming in peculiar, The Meadow, and Kudzu.



“Like”, “Share”, and comment on this poem to nominate it for the Annual Swimming with Elephants Publications 2020 Anthology.

Click here check out the 2019 Anthology:  Trumpet Call; a Swimming with Elephants Anthology available for only $12.95.