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Red Berry Editions, letterpress








Red Berry Editions, letterpress





       POETRY FOR THE                     RISING TIDE




Jungle Garden Press, letterpress

We believe in the intelligence of tulips. The way they open to the light.

Jane M. Downs






It Is Snowing


I am six, sitting on the living room floor

my doll sleeps in the folds of my skirt


cold rushes in when my parents open the front door

and there she is bundled in Mother’s arms

Mother kneels, places her in my lap

my sister’s little fist grabs my finger

her tuft of hair, almond-shaped eyes

my plaid skirt circling

she can’t stay with us
she is going to a different home


away from my dolls and books

away from me


Mother rises, lifts my sister with kid-gloved hands

a covenant of silence made


Father in the doorway in his overcoat
my sister’s vanishing in the sound of the closing door


snow falling around the house into the room, into my lap

The Blanket

pink blanket, enfolded child

in the crook of my arm


how carefully I’d arranged my skirt

a fan—red, blue, yellow


Mother’s gloved hands
the tender lifting of the blanketed child


the bassinet gone by morning

no image caught in a mirror


I lined my stuffed animals against the wall

sentinels with beaded eyes, the chorus I turned to


when my parents took her away
their wool coats a barricade against the cold


after they left the day began to forget itself

To My Sister


the night my daughter was born
I lay awake in the maternity ward


as she slept on my chest
a tree’s shadow moved over the white wall


a car drove by, radio music blaring

a crazy person outside screaming


like a midnight summer cat fight, the shock

of that scream carried your never-heard cry


my daughter stirred against my chest
her heart the same size as yours when I held you


your shadow followed me to this bed, my daughter’s

warm weight, tears that come with milk


before Mother relinquished you

did she clutch you to her chest?


our mother played Bach and Brahms for me

what did she play for you?




Snow falls on the front lawn, drifts under the streetlight. The Noble fir aglow with colored lights. Tinsel, white-winged angel, a silver bell. Stars against the early dark. 

My prayers answered, a black and white puppy curled

in a wicker basket beneath the tree. It cried all night until our housekeeper took it into her bed. They were inseparable until the dog died of old age. My parents buried it behind the house where woodland and yard meet.


                I don’t know where my sister is buried.

                I didn’t think about it until just now.



Up until the 1980s in the United States it was common to separate children with Down syndrome from their families and society. As a newborn, my sister was placed in an institution near Chicago, Illinois. I was told she died when she was twelve.





"The Sister" poems first appeared in Psychological Perspectives Vol. 64, Issue 3 / 2021



                                                             Painting by Claud Monet



Gallatin, Tennessee, January 11, 1863


Slaughter at Fredericksburg

Colonel Wyman’s right arm shot away


I’ve remained in camp

gaze upon Rosa’s pictograph


late rains have made the river navigable

the dead in scattered loneliness


isolated from the world, the promise of love


River, run north and south

tell me the course we must live


Nashville, Tennessee, September 13, 1863


’Tis lovely Sabbath day. Church bells sound  

heads bowed beside our southern brethren   


we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord


rebel women’s faces powdered with cornmeal  

sons & husbands in nearby graves   


we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord


do our blue coats connote death?

Is forgiveness an empty promise?


we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord


work of crushing rebellion goes on

eight-hundred freed slaves join our lines


we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord


hours sad & sorrow, my heart choked    

bless our Maker, pardon our sins  

Nashville, Tennessee, September 13, 1863


Strolled Acklan Place 

Mr. Acklan owns

            6 large cotton plantations

            1100 slaves 

                        850 freed by joining our lines


a Rebel rich & influential

if poor his property likely taken or destroyed


so it goes in this world 

            the rich protected & buoyed up

                        made richer by the world

the poor man goes down, kicked still lower,

            a millstone around his neck

                        forever keeping him from rising

                                    to injure the rich




The Right to Mourn

Civil War Courtship Letters

     Each of the poems in this manuscript is composed of words

and phrases from a specific letter written by my great-grandfather, Everell Fletcher Dutton, to my great-grandmother, Rosina Adelpha Paine during the Civil War. At the time of these letters, he was a major in the Union occupation army in Tennessee. He later became a general, once sharing a tent with Abraham Lincoln. The poems in this collection are based on those leading up to their marriage on December 31, 1863. Titles are the location where he was stationed and the date when he wrote the letter. Although I’ve never translated literature into English from another language, I believe the experience of writing these poems must be similar to what a translator experiences. I had to select words and images in a thoughtful way, always looking for his intention. At times what I chose found its own form. Other times, I imposed form to reinforce meaning or add variety. My collaboration with his words created a third language with which to convey emotion, meaning and love. 




                                                                                                         photograph by Luke Lynch

     The Slaughter Pen at Stone River National Battlefield, Rutherford County, Tennessee

Ev Photo.png


                                                   Everell Fletcher Dutton 1863


                                                   Everell Fletcher Dutton 1863

Works in Progress


jane CU in living room.jpg

                                                                                   Photograph by B+



Jane M. Downs grew up in Geneva, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She made her home in in Kensington, California for forty-five years. In October, 2020 she and her husband moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  She has a B.A. in English from Syracuse University and a M.A. from Mills College.

Ms. Downs is an editor and writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. After leaving her position with the University of California Press in 2007, she cofounded with book artist Marie Dern Red Berry Editions (2007-2017), an independent publishing house for letterpress and trade books.



​Ms. Downs’s poetry, fiction, essays and reviews have won prizes and appeared in numerous publications including: After the Eclipse, Alembic, Asheville Poetry Review, Bangalore Review, Borderlands, Cimarron Review, FIELD, Folio, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Healing Muse, Kestrel: A Journal of Literature and Art, Like a Second Mother, Marin Poetry Center Anthology V and VI, The North American Review, Phoebe, Poetry Flash, Ninth Letter, Psychological Perspectives 50 and 51, The Dos Passos Review, Quercus Review, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Rhino, The Reprint, The South Carolina Review, So to Speak, Spillway, Stand Magazine, Star 82, Stickman Review, Review and Westview.

The Sleeping Wall, a novella, was a finalist in the 2010 Chiasmus Press book contest.

It won first place in the 2012 Fiction Fix novella contest and was published by 

Fiction Fix in 2013. 


April Elegy received Special Merit recognition from the 2011 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest sponsored by the Comstock Review and was published by Kattywompus Press in 2012.

She has been the featured poet in Psychological Perspectives and was the subject of a "Cross Tie" profile, West Trestle Review. She was one of seven poets whose work was featured in The Book of Now, Poetry for the Rising Tide published in 2012.

Her broadsides and chapbooks were letterpress printed at Jungle Garden Press in Fairfax, California. They have been acquired in Special Collections by the John Hay Library at Brown University, the Shields Library at the University of California at Davis, and the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.

Featured Poets


Nancy Whitley is a photographer and fiction writer. She says, “This is my quest: to discover the Illusion, the reflection, the bare truth; to see the beauty, the irony, the puzzle. And always, the detail. Photography and writing are both about capturing the detail.”










Night was falling. I entered the room. On the table the bowl. The day's sky held by the sun.   











Everyone at the funeral wore black. All around them a storm was gathering. The sky turned indigo. A sliver of sunlight challenged the dark.









Together they tend the roses.  So many years married. The rose's perfume enfolds them.


I kissed your still warm cheek

Held your still warm hand

After they took you away,

I went to the sea

Walked aside the restless tide

Raised my collar against

The wind swept chill

Picked up cold stones

As smooth as your cheek

                                               Nancy Whitley

IMG_3078abw with prose web_edited.jpg

Prose by Jane M. Downs



For any inquiries, please contact me via email at:

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