The Literary Project – Volume 6

5 Stories and Poems from Vashon Island Writers

In late 2020, !Attention! Artists at Work announced “The Literary Project,” a literary Flash Fiction/Prose Poetry Project by Island writers. !Attention! Artists at Work is an initiative by Open Space for Arts and Community designed to hire artists during the challenging economic circumstances caused by COVID-19. 31 artists participated in “The Literary Project,” 23 of whom were financially impacted by COVID-19 and compensated for their submissions.

Stories from “The Literary Project” are now available to view for free! We are releasing the entire collection five stories at a time for the next several weeks. This volume features work by:


Amanda Kelly

Kathryn True

Vera Schoepe

Claudia Hollander- Lucas

Kathleen Dowling


Gimme Shelter

By Amanda Kelly


Shield, cover, roof. Shade, defense, refuge. Sanctuary. Asylum. Safe keeping. Haven. Sanctum, house. Port in a storm, bolt hole. Shelter anywhere. Heavy history, ancestors’ stories to carry on our backs, in our blood, both shed and offered and within. You are all you will ever need to make of yourself a home, even now. Even in your sorrow. In the great green growing wide world are homes of stick, branch, mud, fur, bone. And within each, immeasurable seen and unseen lives. I mean, look here past juniper and high cedars through my roof, first shingles and moss, holes where the raccoons got in, where birds once nested. Find your way past the darkened pipe of the uncleaned chimney and into the attic, parasols and torn boxes, nests of insulation and nail-poking boards near the light switch, pull down the staircase, until standing outside what was once my youngest son’s room. The posters, vinyl in piles (each song a home, too). His door shut now, the last headboard my father will ever carve.

Lie down for just a minute. Beneath the first quilt your mother stitched, what you remember of Canada before the move, red, white and blue celebration before the fact, the weight of it exactly right, seams around the edges unraveling, how each child slept underneath it at times, in pairs or alone. The weight of all these things drives you down into deepest naps, where whole days and loves are lived and lost, beautiful and forgotten. The missing is unbearable and yet you will rise as if through water, red light through eyelids before coming to then head back out with aging dog by your side. Past the mailbox, on gravel to wet field and then forest, the branches now red, first nettle, pussy willows and fern then the old growth. Falcon and fungi. Mossy branches and puddle, quiet air, thick with forever.

It will go like this as long as you have breath. And around again. Then faster will come the light in the turning of the year and one day the puddle is gone, the moss translucent and the path is thorns-grown tighter, and so it all spins, in and out, over and year, we circle the sun and the moon circles us and we rise and we rest and we dream and we work and we dream and we rest and we rise and the moon circles us and we circle the sun and the sun moves the named planets and all around that sun a thousand more suns and beyond them still more and then back in again, the rushing blood, heartbeat, the pulsing cells. The way one thing becomes another, and you fall through, rising.


Pandemic Spring

By Kathryn True


For one brief moment, the kitchen smells of lilacs

And I will try to remember (in the branch-bare winter)

How the cherry blossoms were the same color as the mountains

Pinned to a bright, high bulletin board of bird-song blue

And how the rhoddies opened in succession

Seducing bumblebees and housing crab spiders

(cunning mistresses of camouflage)

A pandemic makes one long for the spring while still in it

Hearts aching for the flowers even as they bloom

The maddening cherry petals that produce a most delicate snow

Feather-light circles that will not melt

But polka-dot the mossy patio, deliciously spent


Seafoam Matters

By Vera Schoepe


When I close my eyes,

I see you in the darkness.

Bones turned into blossoms.

Stone melting into flesh

revealing the unavoidable.


Seafoam matters.


The tide recedes to uncover

unexpected beauty.

Emotions are like waves.

They come and go.

What really matters is what chisels the heart,

what stays at the core.


I reach out for your hand

to find mine emptier than it ever was.

My fingers weaving roots with waves.

Still pulling weeds.


I dance in the forest

to the chirping sound of trees

like an angry monster

full of joy and possibility.


My feet burning with desire.


Clackity-Clack: A True Enough Story ~

for Covid-19

By Claudia Hollander- Lucas

Sometime in the 1970s, an ailing amusement park maybe in Ohio offered a grand prize of 15,000 dollars Cash to the person who could ride their antique roller coaster the longest— hundreds showed up to win on this Belle Epoch state-of-the-art curvaceous coaster its thrill of brisk turns the harrowing plunges on wooden skeletal teeth Clackity-clack Clackity-clack.  Up–Down–Around In–and–InNer for more than a month   Many dropped out the first day    More and more over the month     till there were five contestants who Remained who Refused to Give in Give up Exhale Release, even Swallow. They had Slept Eaten  Washed  Shaved  and Held sun-burnt Fists to the rail all this time in Cotton-candied seats with Black flies  Mosquitoes  pitted Hunger and all the rest.

Relatives, Complete strangers, Sticky children, showed up to offer Foam pillows, a Gigantic cinnamon Teddy, Melons spiked with lemon-aid or gin. Evening vigils Candle-lit prayers for Each dire mission, for All people’s deliverance, humanity’s Dwindling reserves. Some threw eggs  Drunken insults  Called them Horny Bastards. Mirror-glassed reporters began to shove meshed silver mikes into each un-tempered compartment—— Why Don’t You Go Home?!   Ned needs to buy mom a Wheel-chair vehicle   We need the Down Payment on our First Home My husband’s kidney transplant!

Day and night  Up and down  Round and Round  for another Seven Days  Clackity-Clack Clackity-Clack No one holds onto bars anymore  No one shaves  or bathes  Some forget to wake or sleep.  The crowd grows Disconsolate, despite Colossal Rainbow Balloons, the Bottomless Caramel Corn, the Cheery Banners that flapped insistent overhead in the Muggish heat. Hourly, a band of Stilted Clowns would discharge Fiery Diamond rockets for the crowd’s delight.

By Day Thirty the judges Have to Meet. These Top Hats decide to Call a Truce  Call it a Tie  Give it all Up————no no No more Clackities.  They throw each contestant a Fluffy white Towel and Declare in One Voice that All Five (bedraggles) are Winners!  They will Split the grand prize Equally and that Every One is to Go Home  Go their Own Way Not to Complain, or—Speak to the Press. Finally they present each winner with Free Entry Tickets to the Opening Day Roller-Coaster Ceremonies the following year.

So you might ask…In the end, was it all worth it— did Any One Win, did EveryOne Win, or Did they All Lose?  You may be Think-ing…How much can a person Endure? How long can someone Hold their Breath? Dig in their Heels. Not swallow Water? Who must bear Witness to all this Clackity-Clack?  The band of Roving Clowns ask the crowd: Did Anyone Notice those Banners Flapping so Close overhead?

The red wigged clown reads a banner…


Most will settle

for Less than they Want

or Deserve


The green wigged clown reads another…


The Poor Have

Resources Too


then a third clown strains his neck to decipher…


No door Closes

that doesn’t

Open Another


My Garden of Rocks

By Kathleen Dowling


This stone smooth and cold and heavy in my hand.

I could smash that window.

The one I look through every day to see my garden of rocks. The rocks that I picked myself. Hillsides and pits of gravel. Beaches with miles of mudbabies lustre shining just under the water’s surface breaking on my feet bare and blue in the numbing bay of stone and kelp and things unseen.

Just for my garden.

Each one round or flat or made of white like ice that glows surrounded in the garden by beautiful rocks. Each placed with intention these months of growing my garden by my window.

My garden nurtured by wind and rain and silt that slides into spaces, hugging my rocks.

Little sand cradles.

Through my window, their fragrance soft with salt and dirt fills my nostrils. I inhale. I smell the pink and grey in the marbled chinks of their hardness.

These stones of home from here and there my home and others from homes far flung flinging rocks into the ocean to be washed up again at my home. This island of rock.

And planted in my garden.

Wild things peep and creep, push upwards from under their lids stone heavy in the garden reaching out for the sun that quickens. They grow. But my rocks – no. Flourishing only in their repose.

Stones. Solid and stone same as I planted them. Nothing to pluck. Nothing to prune. Nothing but to lovingly tend my rocks that need no love but I love them more for their love is enduring. Endless. I cultivate endlessness.

This with my hands created and crafted with nubby nails dirt covered and stiff from picking just the right rock for my perfect place. Perfection.

Seasons of leaves falling falling acres and barrels my stones play hide and seek and I can’t win try as I might. I sweep I rake. I gingerly peel each wet leaf exposing again rocks that glisten and gleam and glow. Stones that shine and shimmer and brighten my grey days blind me with blackened brilliance as I lift and lay lift and lay in another way that pleases me. Placed perfectly.

Darkness drops with tiny ruptures piercing the ink of night studding my garden stones with fairy light. Fairies will dance on my garden of rocks that I made with my self with my heart with my love.

I will dance too.

Serene and strong, potent with life and enchantment. My garden of rocks through my window I won’t smash with even one precious stone I see them. Still.

Goodnight sweet silent gems. My stones. My rocks. Sleep softly in your garden of peace rooted with miracles and wonder.


About the Authors

Amanda Kelly is an award-winning poet, essayist, activist, yogi and mother of five beautiful (and grown) children living on Vashon Island in the Salish Sea. Her small but mighty communications agency is dedicated to making change in the world through bringing reciprocal relationship into all aspects of living.  Deeply interested in the intersection of science and the sacred/magic/god/spirituality, Amanda is an observer of the mysteries continuing to unfold in the Anthropocene. Her most recent work can be found in Pivot & Pause: A Poetry Anthology of Resilience, Remembrance and Compassion edited by Azure Antoinette.  Follow her on Instagram @amandac.kelly

Kathryn True is an island-based writer, naturalist and photographer who likes sharing tiny wonders she finds on island beaches and along forests trails. She volunteers with Vashon Nature Center and belongs to an island haiku group. Kathryn seeks inspiration among the trees and from the Salish Sea.

Vera Schoepe’s lifelong mission is to co-create inclusive, cutting-edge community-centered cultural and artistic projects that encourage dialogue through innovation and creative collaboration.

Long-time Vashon islander, Claudia Hollander-Lucas is a multi-disciplinary artist specializing in handmade books that combine object, image, and text. She is a poet who creates multi-genre fascicles, books, collages, broadsides, and journals often in response to Place and Idea.

Hollander-Lucas has taught in the arts throughout her career at various colleges and universities including the University of Colorado  (Boulder), Seattle Pacific University, and Cornish College of the Arts  (Seattle).

Hollander-Lucas has exhibited her work extensively-including the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, Whatcom Art Museum; at Lisa Harris Gallery, Silverwood Gallery, Valise Gallery, Vashon Center of the Arts, Portland Art Museum (Maine/ Oregon), Museum Of Fine Arts (Boston), Denver Art Museum, Rutgers Museum (New Jersey), Emerson College (Sussex, England), and University of Vladivostok, Russia.

Her book arts can be found at the New York Center for the Book, the University of Washington Allen Library (Seattle), University of Puget Sound Collins Library (Tacoma), and Emerson College Library (Sussex, England). Her artwork is included in numerous public and private collections including the Safeco Collection (Seattle), City of Seattle Public Works Collection, the Sea-First Collection (Seattle), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), Portland Art Museum (Maine), and the City of Somerville (Massachusetts).


In my mind’s eye, I sit at my lacquered desk the size of a small room, in a silk full-length lux robe the color of rubies; a crystal goblet of the best cab sauv in my hand. The fire roars in the hearth. I sip. There is a soft scent of oud and wood smoke in the air as I pen the final paragraph of my next soon-to-be-global-best-selling novel.

My mind’s eye has always been a kick in the pants.

My name is Kate Dowling and I enjoy the experience of writing. My most joyful moments in my professional life happened when I was consumed with painting pictures for my readers. Whether celebrating the season with the newest fanciful Frappuccino flavor description or breathing life into how-to resource manuals for big business, painting with words makes me happy.



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