Olga Rukovets


We were trying
to get to Narnia.

The four of us,
pressed for time,
huddled in a wardrobe

in upstate New York
where we spent summers
away from parents
and stuffy Brooklyn.

We were mad
when the world
wouldn’t move us

and we passed blame
around like table salt.

Our grandmas sat in the other room
in floral robes as fitted as hospital gowns
and discussed our appetites.

Soon, they would call us back
to the old world
for dinner.


Olga Rukovets is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Florida. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Passages North(forthcoming), Jelly Bucket, 5X5, Mixed Fruit, Opium Magazine, The Fiddleback, and elsewhere.
“Dacha” was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired “the quick time and space travel, vividly sketching a recurring moment from a real, felt childhood in just a few lines.”

Charles Tisdale


The family of a 33-year-old Palestinian pharmacist
from Beit Hanina donated his organs for transplant

The Jerusalem Post
June 5, 2001, Tuesday

The Israeli Police investigating
His murder say the shooting resulted
From a dispute with another Palestinian.
I am his daughter. I know better. He was
Delivering some pills for an infection
To the Shuafat Camp. Someone was to pick
Them up at the shop. No one will admit
To anything. There was a scuffle, I guess,
But my father was a peaceful man.

I can’t decide if I should go to school
Next week, after the mourning. The funeral
Is tomorrow at Al Aqsa. I can see
It down there, the golden dome, looking
Like Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac
All over again, the same spot where
The Prophet went away into the heavens.
He was thirty-three years old and this
The eight month of the Aksa Intifada.

She gave me a cup of juice, the nurse did,
But I couldn’t drink it in front of mother.
I brought it out here, on the balcony,
Overlooking the city. We had another
Bombing yesterday. The sun is setting
And I can see it shimmering off the dome
Into my cup into my eyes into the inmost
Part of me. Soon the Adhaan will call out
To kneel for the evening prayer to Mecca.

We rushed to Hadassah because there was
Nowhere else to go and my aunt had been
Having dialysis here. We were not sure
At first, whether the Koran allows such
Cleansing, for even a kidney is sacred.
But father said we must show Dawah
In this, and now for him we must answer.
A woman Tamar came out to meet us
And said she had something important

To ask us. As I am drinking this cup
Of juice I swear a woman’s life is mostly
Spent flowing somewhere, giving and receiving,
In milk, and blood, and honey. A young girl
Knows this before a young boy can even
Think for himself. For me it was last summer
And now my father’s blood––the doctor said
He was brain dead––congealed on the sterile
Bandage, ruddy like the Jordan flooding.

The Jewish woman Tamar was sitting
With us at the table near the snack bar.
She explained how it was the hospital’s
Policy to speak with the family about
Possibly donating organs. At first
My brothers did not know what to tell her.
All the time I kept saying to myself
We must give my father up. And so they
Did, tell them to take away the life support––

The heart pumping machine, the artificial
Lungs, the fluids––so they did tell her
To give my father away. Mother asked
If the hospital would allow his organs
For anyone, and the woman Tamar answered
Her that the authorities never agree
To limit recipients. All she could say
Was that my father was a suitable donor.
That made me think of how a Jew could have

Dawah, too, how they might take from death
To give more life. My father was dropping off
Some pills to stop an infection. Revenge
And Dawah could go together, his love
For me spilling out into the body
Of the murderer. We are Joulianis––
The name he left as mine––his liver now
Probably already becoming a Jew
At the Rabin Center, in a sterile box

His heart rushing by helicopter
To the Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer,
His pancreas in a jar waiting to be
Put in a Hebrew stomach at Ichilov,
One kidney here at Hadassah, the other
They are sewing up now in a little boy
No older than myself. The Koran says
Our men must fight a Holy War. Dawah
Is this revenge I have to spread around

My father’s spirit, the risk a woman takes
When she marries, when she unveils herself,
When she has a baby. The little body
Grows inside herself, half an organ she can
Never give up, half she knows not Mohammed’s
Child, or Jahweh’s, Muslim or Jew, whether
He will heal or kill. The woman Tamar
Insists it is not the hospital’s policy
To give my father’s organs only

To Arabs, and it is easy to see that
Most of their patients are Hebrew here.
But what if when I am twenty I should
Dare to kiss someone with my father’s heart?
Or what if my uncle one day delivers
Another prescription of pills to fight
Off the infection to the same coffee house
At Shuafat and he is shot by a man
Holding my father’s breath inside?

Or what if the little boy with his kidney
Should prophesy the end? I am trying
To think Dawah is not a golden dome
But the Jordan flowing like a girl I am
Hoping all are doing well with healthy
Organs as many as the stars of the sky
And the sands along the seashore. I am
Hoping the parts of five Jews will not find
It so hard to make peace with themselves.


Charles Tisdale has published poems in more than eighty reputable magazines such as The Antioch Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, The Notre Dame Review, The Tampa Review, and The Denver Quarterly. He has won an Honorable Mention in the Nimrod Pablo Neruda International Contest, and has been long listed in several others. He has written several poems set in Middle Eastern Countries based on newspaper articles printed in the Jerusalem Post. He won the Antigonish Review Blue Pelican Contest in 2012 for one of these, “Awrah”, whose speaker is an Egyptian young woman. The poem here being published by The Breakwater Review, set in Israel, is a companion piece. Charles Tisdale has conducted seminars in Disease as Metaphor and Metamorphosis at UNC Greensboro. He also teaches Latin and Photography in a rural Charter Middle School.
“Dawah” was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired “the sharp, clear-eyed narrative … a fresh, complicating perspective showing ‘his liver now/Probably already becoming a Jew.’”

David Moody

Tonight Nobody Goes to Bed Hungry

The way he tells it, doctor meant soldier
stocked on supplies. This is dinner on the porch

again. Melons from the field.We call it a diet

when food comes to this. Truth is we lose
weight. Truth in the way his spine accepts

the lean. It starts with the give of scar tissue,

shrapnel shaped, in his lower back,
and the lift of hips slowly from the lawn chair

set underneath a fresh insect bulb, its glow

a jaundice on the cantaloupe rinds, his grunt
and the internal network of pops

before his body locks and is upward. No,

not the cane yet, and he repeats his mantra—
tonight nobody goes to bed hungry—

by touching an ear to the porch screen,

opening himself to the metal rain
of wings and beetle pincers thrumming

their bodies against the tin mesh, safe

in their carapace, blindness, and shells
black and no thicker than a .45 casing,

the kind without tracers—loud but unseen.


Despite that Syzmborska Never Danced with My Father


David Antonio Moody is a writing instructor at Arizona State University and also serves as production editor for the Cortland Review. He has edited for Southeast Review, Juked and Saw Palm. His poetry has appeared in SpillwayStreetlightEleven ElevenArtful Dodge, The Carolina Quarterly and elsewhere. Recipient of a 2014 AWP Intro Journals Award, David studied creative writing at Florida State University where he performed in the Jack Haskin Flying High Circus.
Both “Tonight Nobody Goes to Bed Hungry” and “Despite that Syzmborska Never Danced with My Father” were chosen as finalists for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. In “Tonight Nobody Goes to Bed Hungry” judge Jill McDonough admired “how the body rises up from the page and becomes real, felt, and heard.” In “Despite that Syzmborska Never Danced with My Father,” judge Jill McDonough admired “the smart attention to ankles and M-1s, and knowing lines like ‘I’ve learned to distrust the end of this poem.'”

Liz Solms

Jungle Room

Fruit bats hang upside down
on each blade of the ceiling fan
like gargoyles come alive
in hourly spasms.
They make great sleep shudders,
one after the next,
the fan slowly turning on the lowest setting.
The bats are their own best partner,
sleeping inside their own embrace.

Drought time in Jamaica.
It’s a trick. It’s not going to rain
here, just over there. So close I can feel
the vapor, close like someone
staring at my face to wake me up.
All I get is the smell
of boat gas on freshwater—
childhood summer smell,
fragrant and noxious like most memories.
The drought’s not a dream but
in the early morning when my thoughts
are shapes, I forget the drought’s still here.

When my brother was a toddler and not as sick
(as he would get),
and not in a murky heroin world across the country
on a brown couch in a brown room
that I imagine as his dream pit,
he put his plastic action figures
on the ceiling fan in the master bedroom
of our holiday home in Jamaica.
It was a time of unrest on the island
and at night young boys with yellow eyes
and old guns against their bird chests
guarded the house.


Liz Solms lives between Philadelphia and the island of Jamaica. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Post Road, Wasafiri, The Village Voice, War Literature & The Arts, and the Naugatauk River Review, among other publications. In 2014, she received a Pushcart Prize nomination, and was a finalist for both the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, and Glimmer Train’s New Writer Award. She holds an MFA from Bennington College.
“Jungle Room” was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. Judge Jill McDonough admired “the way ‘the smell/of boat gas on freshwater’ evokes childhood, memory, and connects us to ‘the vapor’ of almost-rain, and of loss.”

Elizabeth Kaegy

Still Eyes Sleeping

The fish lies on his side in the shallow, glass rocks
his eyes gathering the white frothy film of disuse

To this day I hate the smell of mums
they’re the scent of seasons passing
in a vibrant, blooming finale ended by wind gusts
its fingertips covered in frostbite.
They are the smell of funerals in autumn.

I reach into the water,
the other fish scatter like a whirlwind of fallen leaves
my fingers, looking faintly grey underwater,
wrap around the still swimmer
his gills are stiff but opened wide
still red and alive-looking inside.

There are mums in every shade here
some arranged as tall as I am in my fourth autumn
they smell like an aneurism,
a sudden, silent, crimson burst.
I stare down at his eyelids from Dad’s arms
and wait for them to twitch like eyes do in sleep
and I wait for his chest to rise
like chests do when someone naps
even when they’ve fallen asleep in a satin-lined box.

The fish swirls in the toilet’s flush
and for a moment he looks alive again,
swimming in tight, fast circles
but with a sudden gurgle he’s gone
and his eyes, too, are still.


Elizabeth Kaegy was raised in Illinois in an old farmhouse surrounded by open fields and filled with books, old maps, antique painted china, and her plastic watercolor sets. She graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in May of 2014 with a Graphic Design focused Bachelor of Fine Arts and minors in art history and creative writing. She is a graphic designer, watercolorist, quilter, cartographer and published poet.
“Still Eyes Sleeping” was chosen as a finalist for the 2015 Peseroff Prize. In “Still Eyes Sleeping” judge Jill McDonough admired “the close attention to color, scent, and season to bring memory alive on the page.”

Quinn Rennerfeldt

In which, an apocalypse

Maybe when we die, the first thing we’ll say is, “I know this feeling. I was here before.”
-Don DeLillo, White Noise

Hands are held
or pocketed; there is less
looting than one might expect.

Cars are left to litter
the highway’s otherwise
naked shoulder, one truck’s motor

throating along
as its battery drains
beside us.

The end might have started
months ago with an underground
sound, or that smell

we failed to notice last fall,
honeyed and wet with something
bleach-clean beneath it.

But our last day arrives
with a feeling of fine fabric
ripping open as easily

as water sluicing beach sand
and the sky seems to catch
on the ribs of our

eyes, flattening
to a hard-tack ceiling
above us.

Some report rapture or
déjà entendu, but most wait
with the hungry pluck

of a newly-minted mouth
ready for its first introduction
to this milk-weighted breast.


Quinn Rennerfeldt earned her degree in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her recent works can be found in Bird’s Thumb, Sassafras Literary Magazine, and Slipstream. When not reading or writing, you might find her running the streets of Denver, searching for strange bugs, or spending time with her daughter, husband, and ornery cat.
Poet Jill McDonough chose “In which, an apocalypse” as the winner of the 2015 Peseroff Prize. She admired “the tenderness of this imagined universal ‘last day’; no one ever imagines ’there is less/looting than one might expect,’ and now we see that we should.  Terrific attention to the smell of its starting, ‘honeyed and wet,’ as well as ‘bleach-clean’—here we have a hopeful apocalypse poem: a whole new take on the genre.”

The Peseroff Prize


“Whenever something new develops in poetry, many will argue, ‘That’s not poetry.’ Think of the reception of William Carlos Williams . . . spoken word poets, poets who incorporate graphics, poets who write in code so robots can read them. It’s all poetry.” –Joyce Peseroff

Breakwater Review is proud to announce The Peseroff Prize: publication and $1,000 for a single poem. The Peseroff Prize honors Joyce Peseroff’s work as a poet, teacher, editor, innovator, and mentor. She helped found the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, served as its first director, and retired from teaching in 2014.

Submit up to three poems and a $10 entry fee from Jan. 1 to May 15. There are no restrictions on length, content, or form: “it’s all poetry.” Submit through our online submission manager; all submissions will be considered for publication. Winners will be announced in September.