THE 30/30 PROJECT, JANUARY, 2023 Part 1

Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteer poets for January 2023 are Miriam Calleja, Carly Chandler, Katharine Cristiani, Jody Drinkwater, Carmen Fong, Donna Griggs, Chasity Gunn, KS Hernandez, Amanda Karch, Joanna Lee, and Sharanya Sharma! Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 15 / Poem 15

The joy of Einstein’s dreams / Miriam Calleja

After Einstein’s Dreams  by Alan Lightman

Here, time is a classic piece
whose tickets were almost sold out
but it pays to know the right people.

Those in queue wait to live
only time will tell
in the future is denied to them.

As we quieten down and settle in our seats
everyone has had the chance
to clear their throat.

Knowing what the past held,
we look at it longingly,
clap for the shadows of players.

The Future Tense, roses at her feet,
curtsies after the last applause.
For Her, there will be an encore.

Those who are there also
are not, and elsewhere in cafés, in streets,
in hospital beds, in kitchens, in bath rubs,
the final note reverberates.

After a Parent Dies of Cancer / Katharine Cristiani

When you have had 20/20 vision your whole life, you don’t understand when the world blurs. License plates, a bit fussy. Words run into one another as fonts collide. A sharp piercing behind the eye. Reading is unpleasant. You are dizzy, unstable as you walk down stairs. It must be a brain tumor.  

You decide to try an experimental treatment, go to an optometrist who exclaims– as if it was written on the billboard you pass every day to work – You are over 40, of course you need glasses. So you get glasses. And they are cute. You look more interesting. 

But they smudge. Fingerprints blot out clarity. You wipe & wipe & wipe with that little square cloth & the world is foggier than it was before. Dirtier like sidewalks after a thaw. 

The glasses slip off your nose, fog your mask, fall on the ground at the grocery store. You cannot read the price or the ingredients without them, but you cannot walk with them. You lose them, again & again. Under the covers, by your hairbrush, behind the oatmeal in the kitchen. 

It is a known fact that people become wise with age, gain perspective & clarity. But, you cannot see. 

It is ok. Push the glasses up your nose when you can. Buy a chain, hang them against your heart. Wait for a year to pass. Your eyes will adjust to see through smudges. You will hold two panes, stand perhaps still unbalanced, but on the other side.  

Twenty Five Years / Jody Drinkwater

Twenty-five years, twenty-five years,
twenty-five years have gone by, my love.
Twenty-five years and three days, told true.
I was postponed.  I was detained.
I was confined on a subway train 
for three days.  For three days, three days,
for twenty-five years and three days, my love,
I was restrained on a subway train.  
Twenty-five years, three days, and ten hours, to be clear.  
I was held back on a bicycle in traffic
on an aching city street for ten hours
and in the rain.  For ten hours, ten hours,
for twenty-five years, three days, and ten hours,
I was held back on a bicycle in traffic 
on an aching city street 
and in the rain, my love,
for that long in the rain. 
For twenty-five years, 
three days and ten hours and forty-seven minutes
you’ve been gone, my love.

Or was it I  

who wandered off track to the water?  The lake
beckoned and I followed. 
I grant, I forgot you there, waiting for as long as you did,
those years, those days, those hours. 
It might have been those 
last forty-seven minutes 
that did you in.
If you had held out, otherwise,
I’ll never know. I’m here stuck on the subway train,
holding the rail, 
standing for so long, feet blistered 
from all that rocking. 
The bicycle isn’t so bad,
but it’s all this rain, so soaked,
hair curled against my cheek.  
And me without an umbrella.  And the lake,
I haven’t caught a thing, yet.  
I keep forgetting
to throw my line in, 
distracted by all this 
constellation of fishes.
I finally got my tent up though, and I’ve been waiting.
I only have twenty-five years, three days, ten hours 
forty-seven minutes and fifty-three seconds to go, my love,
and fifty-three seconds to go.

Slightly Ekphrastic poem about a children’s book / Carmen Fong

I love art, I do
Any chance I get, I’m in an art museum 
But these days, opportunities are few
And gloriously illustrated classic children’s books 
Are the closest I’ll get to divinity 

This one, freshly arrived in an Amazon box
Recycled packaging, iconic black swoop 
Easy returns via a printed sticky label

In my hands
Book board crisp 
Smells of new
Watercolor greens and blues 
Red head, mouth wide
Pages full of holes inside 
Painted fruit, leaves chewed through 
Chocolate cake, a pickle too
The very hungry caterpillar 
Forms a cocoon
At the end, we come to find
Caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

I poke your belly, round and full
At two weeks old, you still don’t know 
How fast you’re changing, how fast you’ll grow 

Clouds are a debris field from sky-writing our aspirations/ Donna Griggs

I often wonder what my dreams would look like
            sailing atop the orange dusk of summer sunsets,

tumble-drying over one another with the sea-spray
            tickling their toes, a light fervor mixed with nerve

blowing gently at their backs—eager to be someone,
            to get somewhere that cares they have something

to say. As many times as I’ve sat on the Avila sand
            and stared out at the ocean, it never occurred to me

until now that it was free. That vision of glinting life
            bobbing endless imagination out towards the horizon

and beyond, the Great Blue Herons swell their air sacs
            to stretch their wings so wide the sky looks painted

in azure plumes, an ocean view matted with cirrostratus
            clouds that are given gratis to those who only look

  1. Beyond the limits of human eyelines, there’s no one
               to tell the heron they should be a crowned African Crane,

that the deep sea is too salty is irrelevant—true beauty holds
           no court of hierarchy. Would I hold my heart in contempt,

in treasuring old taverns daubed thick with the whiff of wine
            and beer aged stale by whispers of disdain? Who are you

to peddle the hard stuff from Monday-Saturday, as if
            bait for redemption was the state saving us on Sundays?

I don’t buy it anymore, the pain of mispriced abatement,
            the forced shame painted in layers so thick a smell

it sticks to you as if you were born with it—the air,
            it isn’t something you have to earn. Our breadth

to soar the open skies isn’t priced by the eye of others,
            seeing as no one can harness the horizon and the view?
It’s free.

The Things She Will Not Tell / Chasity Gunn

Cornbread/burnt while hanging clean
linens on the clothesline 
black on the bottom
egg/fried too long
no run
yellow island with no running water/
unfolded laundry
dusty dressers

she tried 

couldn’t twirl the curling iron
to form a decent curl/
limp hair that doesn’t move. 

she could/

make a decent pot of chicken stew
sweep the floor ’til 
it was clean/like heaven.
sew a pleated skirt
better than a New York 
fashion designer 

she felt

a paralyzed man’s rage
has no diameter,
has no center. 
Constant direction 
it always has. 

her.

lumps in her throat
become/mountains
mute prophet
sings the blues/

Night Dancer / KS Hernandez

 

legs long — chiseled like a dancer’s
pretty and neat as the dead
wonderous and wild to the witching
hour tune
pirouette, twirl, it will even take a bow
my heart danced all night
and I the captive audience
awake and waiting
for the encore

Contradictions / Amanda Karch

I am both wreck and reckoning,
both prayer and promise —
one of open ends and twisted
minds, one of reclaimed truth and
rekindled selves. To the world
 
I fall short of a place to call home
when doors lead to different paths
but my heart knows its compass.
Each half of me is whole-
bodied, free-spirited, bold talker
no matter how little
 
my lips part. For no one,
my head holds high.
 

Déjà Vu   / Joanna Lee

I’m convinced the cat
has bad dreams, 

that they are all of abandonment. 
In the middle of the night

from the foot of the bed she’ll 
up suddenly &

rummage through the blankets
til she finds my chest, 

nuzzling each side of my chin
for the reassurance I haven’t

disappeared. I’ll hold her against me 
until her heartbeat settles & slowly 

sit, her front paws clung
to my left shoulder. Rising,

I stumble my way across the creak of dark 
bedroom floorboards, she rumbling

into my neck. We flip the switch 
in the upstairs bathroom, blink,

& together we pace the hall,
up and down, up and down. In the fog 

of the small hours, my eyes limned 
with sleep, I’m again 

a student in the pediatric ward,
the fluorescents dimmed over dun linoleum, 

humming a lullaby to some lonely
methadone baby, those long nights 

as close to motherhood
as I have ever been, ever will be. 

god (n): an astrology of immigrants / Sharanya Sharma

love, we keep trying to make stars the point
when it’s the inky black sea balancing light
on its back that matters most. which map

can say where horizons accomplish restraint?
you damn borders & wash across lands in the
darkest, softest pigment we can imagine. a miracle

my family makes too: unrepentant
composers of mutiny against each boundary
seared into tongues. sometimes, english

slips bruised & mangled from their mouths. love,
why did you make us the ones who could thrash
this language right back

for plundering ours? sometimes i think sita taught me
too well: when words stream whole from my mouth
the way you churned milky venom from sea, i cut open

earth. unsee constellations & drip scythes, putrefying
heads, tigers & night skinned goddess with her tongue
unraveled down my throat.

Day 14 / Poem 14

The joy of opening your eyes / Miriam Calleja

underwater. Everything comes in waves
look
you can count the possibilities,
muffled sounds approach 
light all around, 
your skin iridescent, forgetful, 
one with the surface. 
See how long
and how deep 
you can breathe. 

Sky / Carly Chandler

Prayers disband after their time with me. 
It doesn’t take long for them to realize
all signs point home.
There’s something wrong with living 
against the sky. 

Dearest Country Mouse / Katharine Cristiani

Did you fall 
out of a  children’s book, 
scramble
onto the floor, warm eyes slow?

Watcher of dusk, nibbler of dawn’s seeds, 
I offer you the walls, their passageways warm in winter.
I offer you ants, cheerios, perhaps pine nuts.

Can we make this deal? 

  1. You agree to stop gnawing my wooden spoon. It is for stirring. 

  2. You agree to stop clawing your way up the toilet paper to the counter, 

stop shredding the thin white squares as you go. 

  1. You agree to stop wandering across my bed. 

Let me be clear, your oval droppings are not an offering.

Can we agree to this? 

If we can, I commit to not kill you:

  1. I will not bleed you inside out with green cubes. 

  2. I will not drop you into a toilet bowl. 

  3. I will not stomp you with boots. 

Please do leave me gifts of dried berries in shoes, 
bundles between couch cushions. Let us squirrel
away our memories of summer, wrap ourselves in them. 
Let us weather the winter together. 

Highway Home / Jody Drinkwater

On the highway home from Springer, 
the tall grass plain
and middle mountains swing.

From forsaken blacktop, black crows wing, 
and Colorado drifts somewhere North.  

Empty, empty, the highway strains.  
One abandoned ranch too far out to water.  

Red tail hawk, new moon, blue grama—
in other words, darkness.  

Carry me home to mandolins.
Take me to those rare seasons.  

Train tracks vibrate.
A deep drag whistle in the night.  

The farmer’s peacocks scream and scream, 
and so do this plague of crickets in the elms.  

It’s all too much here in this richness.  
How the hoot owls coo from the branches.

The cacophony of Great Mother. And me—
lowly beast of fields and forgotten trees.

having a newborn compared to being on call  / Carmen Fong

No stranger to sleepless nights 
I was- I am- I was
A surgeon
And spent so many shifts with 
My pager on my chest, my cell phone volume on loud 
Lying on the thin twin mattress in the call room
My head on a standard hospital-issue plastic covered pillow 
Covered by an assortment of sheets and blankets
That people had no doubt bled on, peed on, 
died in
I stayed dressed in scrubs 
Praying for the pager to buzz, hoping that it doesn’t.
Wishing for a 10pm appendectomy instead of a 3am to thrombectomy 
And the wisdom to know the difference.

This sleeplessness feels entirely unique
My one tiny patient calls every hour, on the hour
And the need for an urgent diagnosis ensues
In which I have to read her facial cues
She does not follow the textbook, 
A textbook I have not studied. 
Butt, boob, bottle or bed? Those are 
Her only options. 
It occurs to me that I have to survive while still trying to keep someone alive:
Though instead of with drugs, with hugs. Instead of with needles, with cuddles. With breast milk and baths instead of incisions and swaths
Of bandages.

Tonight my charge smacks her lips in gratitude
Her payment comes in the form of these happy hormones 
Biological insurance 
That we will both see another day 

WESTERN UNION: “Please Tell Oden” / Donna Griggs

*To be delivered to Mrs. George Middlebrook this twenty-ninth of March, 1945.

ROUTE 1=
            OZARK ARK=
RECEIVED FOLLOWING WIRE QUOTE THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES
 ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEPEST REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND PRIVATE
 FIRST CLASS CARROLL T WILLIAMS WAS KILLED IN ACTION TWELVE MARCH
REPORT FURTHER STATES HE HAD RETURNED TO DUTY EIGHTEEN
FEBRUARY FROM PREVIOUSLY REPORTED WOUND CONFIRMING LETTER
FOLLOWS SIGNED J A ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL UNQUOTE PLEASE
  TELL ODEN=
            =HELEN=

February 9, 1945

Dearest Carroll,

        Just droppin a couple lines here to wish
you well and trust that you are in good spirit
(with a cup a joe of course). Letters seem to be few
and far between these days. Here, I hope less
for the big things, like money or fancy things,
my mind drifts more in solitude and sounds
of the house or when the smell of flowers drift
in from our garden. The butterfly weed bloomed
earlier than I thought it would and I’m afraid
it’ll take over everything. If I let it anyhow.
That ol radio is still kickin. I heard our song
just the other day, the one you warbled to me
on our first picnic under that ol osage tree,
(thinkin you were Ol Blue Eyes or somthin)
I let it play and swayed like I was in your arms.
I’ll file that memory away for rainy days to come
right next to the blood plums and marjoram.
Oden is now down at Uncle George’s, forgettin
himself in the farm and small town life. Right
fine young man we have there. You’d be proud.
Quiet is how things are here, nuthin to write
about anyway. Last thing, I know you asked for
me to send a photo but I’m lookin such a fright
these days. It’s best to let me put a little paint
on the barn (you know how these old barns tell
the best stories) before I send it. Dreams stay fresh
that way and I’ll always be pretty in your eyes.
I guess this ended up bein more than two lines
and I best be gettin on.
Sendin all my love, keep yourself safe.
Hope to hear somethin soon.
        Love,
                Helen

*An actual Western Union telegram dated March 29, 1945. The letter that follows is fictionalized.

The Orange Laments  / Chasity Gunn

Tired of people 
digging their dirty fingernails
into my tender places,
scratching to get to the softness inside,
rip it open,
devour my sweetness,
drink until they are dizzy. 
Then tear my flesh
again searching for more. 
Insatiable appetites
lusty lips
leave me barren,
scattered across
the kitchen table.

Untitled / KS Hernandez

What is my heart saying to me first thing 
in the morning? Those fleeting moments 
drifting between sleep and awake the semi-
conscious state right before the sun fully rises. 
what is my heart saying in those times when
it begins to race while I’m stilllaying down.

I frown at the quickened pace. am I late?
I wonder. What if my heart is pissed 

off at me or maybe my heart pities me, cries
for me when I cannot. Maybe she’s better at 
articulating what we both need? she’s been 
through as much as I have if not more. She
does not sleep. She sees everything — hears 
everything. My closest confidant, never tells 
a secret or a lie. I wonder. What language does
my heart speak? I’ll bet my heart’s language 
is beautiful and complex — one that’s only 
meant for me to understand. It makes perfect
sense that my heart has her own language.
I’ll bet it has a country drag to make me long 
for the Saltwater Geechee kin that my physical 
eyes have never seen? and my arms have never
held? the food I’ve never eaten, the old songs 
that crossed the middle passage but never crossed 
my waking lips. Nor soothed my ears. I’ll bet my 
heart rolls her tongue, and swears, and says
prayers. 

A Woman’s Maybe / Amanda Karch

Maybe one day this world holds more than
it asked for, not less — for woman
means world because we carry its weight
stacked on shoulders struggling to stand tall,
stand strong in the sunsetting.
 
Maybe these colors symbolize more than
the end of the same day as the one before —
bright like the eyes seeking redemption,
constant like armored resilience coating
hearts ready for war.
 
Maybe this battle cry proves something
to someone — truth lingers long
after trust is lost; even the birds know when
migration means fleeing what kills you.
 
Maybe one day we won’t have to run.

To change the way we see the stars   / Joanna Lee

Study your sources.
Some say 
Orion was conceived
from the pissed-on hide
of a bull that was served up to three gods and 
buried as a boon; others 
that he was a good-looking son 
of the sea-god himself. No doubt popular,
handsome, he was larger than life, 
a hand with a bow. You know the type.
The story goes he was once blinded by a king 
for raping his daughter. 
Though he walked on waves 
like they say Jesus could, 
he was drunk that day, 
and stumbled over the sea to the bitter horizon
where the Sun, in questionable wisdom, 
gave him back his sight.
Later, hunting with Artemis
(you know Artemis—
some say he tried to rape her, too), 
he opened his mouth, claiming 
he’d kill all the animals on earth. 
Now, we don’t know if he was just trying  
to say he was better than she was, or
if he felt a need to assert his male
whatever-ness, but Earth, alarmed 
by the threat or just tired of his bullshit, 
sent a scorpion 
to take him out. Sure enough—
you’ve heard the ending. The mighty 
hunter brought low
by the poisoned tail. Goddesses wept, 
(though myth says nothing 
about the king’s daughter),
and now he hangs in the sky
by his bright belt loops, forever
chased by that giant cousin of the spider. 
Think about it the next time 
you look up.   

god (n): a declaration of dead languages / Sharanya Sharma

                mispronouncing death
begins with defenestrating plundered

                mirages of you: diaphanous, muddied,
doe eyed & dream faced. only famine-mouthed

                windows can savor visions
from pirated eyes. now i

dowse you in dye made of dusk. bruise you
across canvass outlining lightning strike. love,

                i call this painting unraveling enlightenment, but

in a language no one buried we’ll
                name it वैराग्यम् अवहेलयन् & sculpt

                an astrology untethered
from planets

Day 13 / Poem 13

The joy of a new dawn / Miriam Calleja

for Alexia

Yellow, wash away with the tenacity
of a woman on her knees
putting in elbow grease
singing in resonance
with all the others
at this natural waterfall,
suds all over, and happiness,
as in Naples, smells of soap.

Orange, give me the strength
of birth, as renewed I set to count
my golden lines – blessings that make
themselves heard, that shout
from rooftops like the color of the sun,
unstoppable, resourceful
but even at birth wise
enough not to be fooled by butterflies
by shiny faux jewels.

Black, let me be majestic
long after you are gone.
I know your absence is temporary
that as I toss and turn
you are a weighted blanket
whispering sweet… everything:
bitter pills renewed, night, raven,
quiet, absolute, going bump in the night,
sacred as I sleep.

After Doctor Who / Carly Chandler

You are unique to the universe, 
they say to the little girl on the screen.  

You are a composition of elements  
from a star that erupted millions of years ago
to fall into place to create you.  

You are unique to the universe  
and the wonder you instill will be great.  

War and Peace / Katharine Cristiani

A fine line separates sleep from insanity
crossed arms, a threshold to lay my head on –
Take a slow, long inhale through your nose, 
exhale through your mouth. Blink your eyes shut, says the meditation app, 
picture yourself walking on pink sand, the ocean waves rolling. 
But technology is not the ocean & it feels wrong to instruct 
breath to follow a robot or to glue eyelashes where they do not belong.

Then stop it, brain says,
boiling with cortisol     ready to sprint away from lions
already running a marathon away from self
              the to-dos of tomorrow 
                          circle like vultures
                          black wings in flight
              watching 
waiting 
to pick apart bloody flesh the second sleep tiptoes near.

Grief does wave as an ocean 
              though sometimes, it pours 
                          a surprise summer storm.
                                       That much is true.  

                          Sharp nails ready to dig
                          or hold
                          a bent garden shovel, 
              the spade curved away from itself.
awaits the rain 
              yanks the net of roots
              those that protect against erosion.

                                       If I spay the soil just right
                          cut it into pie in slices,
              lift it like sod 
inch by inch
              I will 
                                       free fall

                          no, I am already spinning
                                       I am on a gravitron
                                       No ticket, no straps
                          nauseous  
              from want of sleep.

Luchar cannot be translated 
              into one word in English,
                          to struggle with oneself, with the world 
              to want live in the lions den but be stuck in traffic.

Alarm screams.
I am grateful for the madrugada.
I am already up.

Bird Watching / Jody Drinkwater

Twice today, pigeons, 
my hair all tangled
in their tethered wings,

prickled with burrs
and cactus burns 
on the lonely county hedgerow.

Twenty-seven pigeons, 
three ravens, and a dove 
dove the red-earth arroyo.

Hawthorn and juniper,
buckthorn, mesquite 
teetered in the glassy day.

And where are the 
birds of childhood, 
all prairie and brush stroke 

shocks of wheat 
and reeling fields
askew in the slanted air?

Where, the small brown 
sparrows flap 
in the sickly gale?

I climbed the fleshy elm 
as high as I could, 
my eye so large in the umbrage:  

a nest and four sea-foam 
speckled eggs clutched hard.
I held my breath.  I was a god.

I never knew if Mother returned.  
I stayed away myself, so soft
in the fragile haze after the rains, 

so tender and small, 
each crucial egg.  
Each sparrow’s falling.

Day 12  / Carmen Fong

Our home is sour milk scent 
On top of orange blossom baby lotion.
Pillows tossed on the couch, on the bed, to prop
Us up for feeding, for sleeping 
My nightgown flayed open 
Under an unwashed bathrobe 
Hair tied up, longer than it has been in years
To those initiated into parenthood 
The price is only tears and milk and sweat 
Upside down nights and inside out days
All for these sweet cheeks to smile.
At diaper change time, poop is still exciting 
Her shrill cries when the cold air hits her bottom
Draw soothing coos from her moms 
We’re twelve days in and we’re enamored 
We’re twelve days in and it’s like a tornado hit 
She’s twelve days old and yet she’s been here forever

I can’t imagine that these early days will end
Or decide if I even want them to 

How we slowly sipped the world in sunsets and butterflies / Donna Griggs

   ~“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

In air
A potpourri of orange sunset
Applies itself in streams
Across my mind
Like birds

We fall
In Apple Farm apple blossoms
In smells of childhood
We ride in hay
And dream

Of time
Unticking slow in ocean-blue
It found joy in buoys
And barnacles
Fouling

Like truth
In life cycles and dying light
We drink the tea slowly
At dawn we bear
The warmth

The peace
In the darkening of the leaves
Around softer edges
In the scent of
Flowers

My House Plant Taught Me How to Pray  / Chasity Gunn

I wonder how it knows,
knows when the day

folds into the night. Yet, it 
always knows. It stands

at attention. Its leaves
as wide as the palm of my hands. 

Hands that mend. Hands that knead. 
Hands that disinfect. Hands that shake. 

Hands that long to be held. To be raised
high each night and cling to what’s 

close. What’s within reach. They say 
it’s a praying plant. And I believe them. 

Each night, it bows its head and prays:
let her see what I see. Give her the gift

of sight. Imagine that. I am the one 
with the eyes yet, I am blind. 

Unable to see my softness. My wonder.
Locked in a prison of body shame. My 

plant prays that I get out. That I am set
free. At sunrise, it opens its bounty and invites

me in. I accept. Bow my head. Pray with one
open hand and one balled fist. 

So,you want to know about my yesterday? / KS Hernandez

first, I have to decide if you have
proper clearance to be in-the-know
about my yesterday. 

that information belongs
to a cannon of knowledge —  
from the past and this information

s closely guarded
by forgetfulness — a trauma response
built. honed. solidified. by years of abuse

and the generalized mistrust of everything.
To know about my yesterday means
I have to go back there — and take you

with me, somehow, and I don’t know if you’re worthy.
I don’t know if I want to. I’m tempted
to leave the past where it is, where it’s happiest

— without me. it’s gotten all of it’s use out of me
and I’ve gotten use out of it. just enough use
to not have to revisit a day like that. not

that it was a bad day, it was just, a day
like countless blurry others that I’ve lived.
I’m more interested in moving forward

in my life, not back to yesterday, nor sideways.
Only forward or up for me. I’m serious about that.
To ask me about yesterday says you’re concerned

or nosey or just making not-so-light conversation.
I’m taking it out on you when really that’s not why
you asked the question, now is it? It’s to help me 

remember things, to write down the bones and free 
my mind from forced forgetfulness, the turmoil 
that wages in between past and present energies

both vying for my attention. A tug of war, if you will
of what was and what is that threatens what could be.
What could be at 8am may be vastly different from 

what could be at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I think 
the past seeks to torment the present and future me 
with these tiny demented little details. One side says 

let it go. the other side says to let it out! 

yesterday. quiet, mostly, angry, periodically, triggered —  
constantly, yesterday. yesterday was me reminding me 
of the things that make me down to earth, funny smart

unique, a little broken in places, human—all of the things
that makes a writer’s voice important. I almost feel envious
of yesterday, but I can’t be, because, today.

Ask me again tomorrow.

Immortality / Amanda Karch

An artist’s blessing
bestowed upon the one
who loved with two hearts
when given only nature’s gift —
 
an artist’s curse
of memory stained on
ink and canvas,
tears marking the glimmer
stolen by the one who takes
and takes —
 
an artist’s eye
seeking details, seeking
what has yet to be found by
the one who fails to see
what a world offers if you go searching.

It’s late   / Joanna Lee

The poison sap 
from the potted oleander 
in the corner of my office shivers 

as the heat comes on, the second 
soda can is empty, and i push the off button
instead of delete

The rain comes out of nowhere, the gunshots 
from around the corner, once, twice; 
their reverb through the wet alley accompanied 
by the absence of sirens

This is not what I meant to say 

The bus’s exhaust left
grey dust on the café table— 
like something you could trace names in 

if you had them to hand

Faith, however early you find it, 
is one thing, belonging 
another. the drowning draw breath  
wherever they can take it. 

Not all life is art, your voice 
across the table under the gathering clouds.
Write that down. 

i roll my eyes, remembering
as if from underwater, 
listen for sirens.   

god (n): a thirst of windows / Sharanya Sharma

i love you the way robbers
love doors

moments before twisting the knob.
so i bludgeon

craters into my poems & measure
my nouns & verbs. does every tongue

in the world harvest a poetics for
immolation? love, look how i write partition

into lines & watch it behave
like a house of wax. 

Day 12 / Poem 12

The joy of monochrome ceramic calla lilies / Miriam Calleja

Oh to see and be seen
in our golden trumpet place of honor,
little demons tiptoeing around
our delicate constitution.
To watch as bridges have two ends
to live among this chaos
hear birds but never see them
have feathered friends be mere decor
have columns adorn our home
what a doric pleasure!
Framed as a starry night
framed as a Venetian scene
sea shells and masks, totem poles,
inoocence with devils’ tails,
tales of night.
A witch hides in the corner
but what are we but flowers?

Ode to My Ex / Carly Chandler

I prayed that you would miss your train.  

I know that you hate the seaside air.  

I prayed that you’d be stuck in this town 

with me. I’d hoped that you’d suffer same as me.  

Smell of shrimp and shit on the horizon, 

your hometown keepin’ you down. 

I know that you hate the seaside air, so 

I prayed that you would miss your train. 

Ode to Saying Goodnight / Katharine Cristiani

Orange light frames the door, soft ambient
bed waiting, wondering

the weight of the night. The door closes in spite of a kiss, 
protects warm stillness and the mattress midnight and vast:

moon rising, arms reaching, legs expanding 
the touching of corners, the drawing of an X.

Song / Jody Drinkwater

     For Darrin

For you, I am the purring manatee,
small nectarine of tossing water.
Green and gold of late December 
falling from the Northern shore.

For you, I sing the siren song, 
for you, I charm the thrashing fishes. 
Razor blades of blossoms hover on the surface
of your rib-caged bruise of heart.

The salt of your lips, the coral sea; 
sunset spirals in its levee.  

You are not unlike the manatee, 
bashful counter of cobbles on the sand.  
But you are man, and I am manatee, 
singing far out in the sea.

Ship’s Log  / Carmen Fong

Day 4,075
Of captivity 
The humans 
They’ve treated me well up to this point
Serving me as they should 
But this week 
They brought back a tiny one 
Who stinks of pink and 
Powder 
Her cries drive away the birds at the feeder

I clean my fur and between my toes 
The thick slick of my rough tongue taming the tangles 
The tiny one gurgles
I tiptoe up to her, her hair smells like milk and sweet
She startles, arms up in the air
I jump back, subdue a hiss and a snarl
Tail straightens and fuzzes and my bridged spine crackles 
But she is no threat— 
Her eyes are closed and she makes bubbles

My brother and I hide in the office all day
My arch nemesis, squirrel, scampers across the back yard
Acting suspicious, up to no good, no doubt,
But I only open one eye to observe him through the window. 

The tiny one makes many demands at night 
And the humans trudge back and forth to the kitchen 
Carting armfuls of plastic containers and appendages 
All in efforts to appease her

What about me, a displaced demigod, 
As the humans fuss over Her Fussiness
And in between, deign to remember to feed us 
Comb us
Spare us the scraps of their time to play with me and my favorite string. 
The tiny one raises a fist towards me, stares. 

In Hidden Chambers / Donna Griggs

   ~Upon vision of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque, 1814

slender plant ashes
synthesized on a bed of blue
white metal soft
common—essential
gentle orbicular teases
freed feathers performing
cream-colored homeostasis
lucidity suppressed
in tender divots calling
all erotic minerals
in the mists of raw moonlight
oxygen ignites
a heated reaction in lilac-
passioned flame
quiet eyes craving
something other
systemic pressure of female grandeur
blood-pulsed virginity
forgotten atop white clouds
of sensual solubility

How to Define Stitch  / Chasity Gunn

Into the Fire / KS Hernandez

– a response to imposter syndrome
 
ah the man warned us…the perils of imposter syndrome
are real. so much talent, so many unique voices in measured
and varied stages of skill — sharply honed — ready to cut their
moments, in the light, into a fine slice. Then–there was me. 
I fell. hard. victim to its callused, sweaty clutches. my pen, heavy
in hand, my brain covered in thick, unyielding layers of expired,
overly sweet pudding. oh, but my ears, they worked just fine.
acutely tuned to beautiful words written by someone else.
every word—marvelous, hilarious, witty, outlandishly original 
 I saw a bevy of giants poised on the edge of fame. then—
there was me. stock-still as the tripod holding the camera that
caught every exquisite phrase uttered, praying that no one would
call on me, praying to God that no one would call on me. Please
forget that I’m here, the reverb, pounding throughout every cell
in my body. that warped melody chimed from the tip of my
longest toe to my crown. high notes pierced the back of my knees
base tones turned stomach acids into molten lava, the hook,
—laced in psychotic Calypso beats, toyed with my guts like a cat
toys with a fresh kill, my breast suddenly felt hollow in mocked
reverence of my loss for words. and then, I hear my name.

Love As It Should Be  / Amanda Karch

The last time I saw the sky
flush pink, embarrassment written
on rosy cheeks of air caught in a
whirlwind dance, entangled
in turns with sun streaked smiles
and rumors of star-crossed eyes
appearing on the horizon, eagerly
awaiting a tryst with darkness
under moonlight’s spell, enchanted
with whimsy and want —
 
I released the camera shutter,
leaving no remnants of her
celestial rendezvous, letting love
love as it should be.

That dress, tho   / Joanna Lee

           –after Kim Addonizio, “What Do Women Want?”

on the patio, everything
is black or dying, dried husks of summer, 
empty pots, a gap
where a chunk of fence has rotted through. 
the crane overhead makes its dizzying circles
over the pale cement, the red umbrellas
in their spidery faded stands.
I do not take kindly to the workmen 
unloading on the edge of our parking lot,
their swagger, the dirt on their boots,
how they’re bricking up the sky outside our windows. 
I do not take kindly to the old woman’s words
as she pulls away, my shoulders hollow 
from hauling her regrets
I want a day with no one calling me “Dear” except you. 
I want you to look, and her to look, and to fall back 
in awe. 
I want the leaves out of the corners, the dead pansies plucked.
I want nothing left to equivocate
I want to walk out of there, 
hit the gas in my red Camaro, burn
asphalt past the stop sign on 7th,
where I’ll flick the cap off a bottle of Coke and tilt my throat back 
in laughter, like I’m the only woman on earth.

yeah, that’s what Kim would do.  

in footnotes for my persona poems / Sharanya Sharma

               i declare a bankruptcy of

bridges & write in personas no one
can decipher. pootana shikhandi ahalya – all

translations of you mutating

               from basalt to marrow & back again.
no one trusts us when i write you raw. are you

velvet night silvered by stars or glittering
islands limned by velvet dark? you tumble

planets without limbs & tip Earth
onto the cliff of my tongue. i balance her

there & picture it’s a game, pronouncing
your name wrong. i tell everyone

               it’s more fun to keep losing
my grip on the phonemes of you. to juggle mud

in my mouth like you did & call it misbelieving.
i hammer these memories we make of you again

               & again & again & again

like planks into a boat. it won’t hold – i know
it won’t hold because every time

               i thrust myself out
onto velvet dark sea & diagram

islands while craving a rose-gold

               horizon, softly
you kiss my feet cold & wait.

Day 11 / Poem 11

The joy of nocturnal wisdom / Miriam Calleja

imagine
what women could do for the planet
with the energy they use every day
to put out personal fires

how its drawers
would be lined with decorative paper
and smell like that extra bar of soap

Icarus / Carly Chandler

There’s something about an artist consumed by their craft.  

There’s a beauty in knowing that love comes in every form. There’s beauty in knowing that they are the best at what they do. A scientist obsessed with the newest discovery on the horizon. A painter captivated by the next brushstroke. A writer sampling every piece of literature in their grasp. A potter glazing over every aspect of their life. There’s something about someone who loves their work so readily, who knows what they love and may be unaware of just how their craft consumes them.  

There’s something about an artist consumed by their craft.  

There’s something about someone who’s capable of falling in love so readily and completely.  

Who knows why love can be more than it’s supposed to be? No one is going to hate them for devoting every aspect of their life to their craft, when it edges into obsession? No one is going to hate them for taking it a step too far – they have a built in alibi, an excuse, a reason protecting them from their Icarus fall into the sea.  

There’s a moment. There’s one instant that changes the course of everything that’s ever happened and ever will, and it’s maddeningly beautiful.  

How am I supposed to feel? How am I supposed to wonder what it feels like to be loved like a craft? There’s something about an artist consumed by their craft, taking a moment to notice me. I’ve spent my whole life gazing up at shooting stars, and now that one is looking back at me, what am I supposed to know? Glaringly bright, looking me in the eye, examining me as if I were a piece of art. I feel beautiful under them, bringing me to the precipice of something great. I am close to greatness when I’m with them, swallowed up in the inferno.  

I know that the inferno is closing in around me, the flames licking at my ankles, up my legs until the fire has wrapped itself up in me. I prefer the moments where I can breathe, but it’s so addictive to feel like the only thing they love more than their craft could be me. What about me is so enthralling? What about me is worth more to them than the work they’ve devoted their life to?  

I know the answer to this one. The inferno is blaring by now; the inferno is telling me to run, but I know that I am not worth more to them than their craft. I am a passing rock in the blazing path they’ve set forth for themselves, a trailblazer leaving another broken heart behind them, but I’m beyond smitten. I know that there’s nothing an artist will love more than their craft; hiding myself behind their glory will only delay the inevitable. I will stand on the shore, watching their blazed path and the Icarus downfall, and I will nurse them back when I am all that they have to comfort them.  

Note to Those Who Do Not Know Me / Katharine Cristiani

Getting to know me means 
learning the language of my face 
the difference between the droop of a yawn
the surprise before a sneeze 
and my Dali clock droop on the left side,
knowing when
drool 
needs to be wiped,
that I prefer a paper towel to my sleeve. 

If you do not know me
I may hang up on you 
                            say, the call dropped 
because it is easier than defining a partial focal seizure 
because I am ok and you should not doubt me.

If you do not know me 
I may put on my mask, 
let the triple woven fibers absorb
what I cannot control 
so that you do not see     how ugly it is 
so you do not know     I am not in control.

Knowing me means 
cradling moments I cannot speak,
knowing when my right finger points
to the left side of my mouth, it means:
I cannot talk right now 
     Hand me a paper towel please
          Please continue, don’t wait for me
               Don’t you dare worry.

An Ode to The Ode / Jody Drinkwater

How coy you are, Lady;
how changing in the dancing 
moonlight, these burnt piñons.  
Impetuous, stubborn, strong, 
then tender, almost disappearing.  
Can you not show yourself 
under this pregnant sky?
Have fireflies returned 
to New Mexico?
How elusive you fly 
into the hot wind of desert night—
the stars.
Somewhere far off, coyotes’ 
howling.
In the morning, 
a yellow warbler warbling.  
But tonight, the stealth of silent lion
crouches in the barrens, 
and the still chaparral 
and sleeping hare
hold their breath and listen.

Math lesson  / Carmen Fong

a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared
The two (squared)  sides of a triangle make up the diagonal 
(squared)
Written over and over 
In a line, in a row
Every time, a problem to be solved

In simpler terms 
One plus one equals two 
And two plus one equals three
And three makes a family

i equals the square root of negative one 
where “i” is imaginary 
Previously thought impossible 
you started out as a dream 
that two moms had 
an embryo conceived of love 

But back to our Pythagorean theorem 
Where the answer is 
greater than the sum of its parts
You are the best of both of us 
And better 

The Lesser of / Donna Griggs

           ~After “Winter Remembered” by John Crowe Ransom

A binary rowed most while ruminating in breakrooms and voting booths.
                                                                                                                                 But here, my body breaks against a frigid morning.
                                                                                                                            A cool mist whips through the walls, a trenched heart
covets the heat of the roaring hearth &
the ruby flames that flick mnemonic souvenirs
                                                                                                                                        at me. In simple silence, I’m more comfortable.
My thoughts more fit in tinder,
                                                                                                        my being seized
                                                                               by how both have settled at the bottom of me.
                                                                                                                                           The absence chills in perfect ice crystals on
                                                                                                                                                     my insides. They used to be so pretty.
My identity, a combustible bonfire
that would oxidize everything in my path
                                                                                                                                                   without perplexity or frozen hesitation,
                                                                                                                                                 without pallid calculation or stiff resolve
to gather redwood and begin again.
Now, I’m wise to the dangers of scorching.
Do I baptize my ipseity by fire
                                                                                                                                                        or consecrate my scars in the snow?
                                                                       How do I choose between the screaming of two evils
                                                                                                    when both will burn?

Maggie Oates Writes Phillis Wheatley  / Chasity Gunn

Dear Phillis, if there is anyone who knows how I feel, it is you. Some
want to proselytize us on stage alongside Sarah Baartman. View
our words made flesh. Examine oddities. In the name of scholarship. Our
bodies are beheld. Sable
daughters weep poems. We thread continents together with syllables of our race.
We, guests of honor, beckoned to the back door. Did you sit at the table with
your poems? Marveling at the work of your hands? Disrobing scornful 
chains about your neck? Refuse to be downcast. Look them in the eye

Sunday Morning-fried apples  / KS Hernandez

glossy, granny smiths/wet
from a bath of warm salt water — lined
the counter/like round — earthen, soldiers
ready for the slaughter/they stare down
the guillotine/a glean in its grinned
sharp smile/placed far from the edge 
of the counter/away from my small
reaching curious fingers/ mom — aware of
my thinking/looked down at me/her brown 
then smooth face under thick black corkscrews
of Jerry curls she smiled/greeting me
hey baby girl/as she deftly dispatched
one by one the granny smiths
each slice/ a beat of I wish 
a muthafucka would/piled in a bowl 
weeping/and waiting their blessing of cinnamon
and/sugar and something else/ like love
flicks of a nimble wrist timed to
James Cleveland’s Victory Shall Be Mine
stainless steel heat shimmies 
hot golden butter/ready to welcome
apples firm/coated/with spices
and the songs of distant loved ones
the apartment/filled with aromas 
heaven scented/like Christmas in Spring
and hot apple pie/shiny/slick syrup but
not too sweet
 

Revision  / Amanda Karch

Each pen stroke changes
direction swiftly: a curve
here brings heart and a
knife’s edge there leads to
loss.
 
Amazing, isn’t it? How the
slight shift to synonym
turns the story on its head,
a dizzying effect
not unlike vertigo’s search
for inner balance as the
words pursue a stable home.
 
But as I turn out the
lights, crawl beneath the warmth
of winter sheets and greet you
as two commas entwine,
this is the story
whose ending will never change.

In which the night sings a Scottish ballad in a voice not unlike my own   / Joanna Lee

I open the window to let the cold dust off sleep, 
the room’s timer-set lamps silenced by a wash of moon & 
yellow of the corner streetlight. 
It’s just me and the night. 
I want to tell her about the pink 
of the sky crossing the river for work, 
how the morning frost melted away from the windshield 
like absolution, I want to replay the day like a highlight reel, 
its hills & valleys. to say how hours ago, 
it all seemed so boundless. 
But now it sounds… flat; cruel, almost—to one
proscribed from the warmth of the sun. She creeps 
through the screen with the wistful bitter I know so well, 
dark rings on dark fingers, 
her thin hands stroke the quiet of my hair, 
the pulse under the salt of my skin. I rest my head
on her shoulder as she waits for the dawn, 
bare legs swinging from the sill.  

god (v): to blister / Sharanya Sharma

& still wrench myself into a torch

instead of riverbed. every sainted
book i know sings about floods. love,

i step into temples & discover i don’t
know the pronunciation for rain. even

when i drape myself on a bed of arrows
the way i was taught, beg for river’s

breath, constellations glitter cold. funny,
how you send flame & flood to purify. i

open a book & ask it to teach me how
to say water right. it answers: learn

how to drown in a blaze. 

Day 10 / Poem 10

The joy of hot showers / Miriam Calleja

you said you knew what you were doing

rising early with high hopes
as though oblivious to yesterday’s
dragging-of-the-feet, yesterday’s 
midmorning slump                      that stretched
                                                        to fill your prefrontal cortex
                                                        your eyes glazed over on yourself
losing touch with your purpose
forgetting every plan, not
recognizing any meaning in it,
looking at your agenda with derision.
                                                      How does someone get to this
                                                      in your position? 
Give it a rest
Get a real job 

                        they’d say,
but you’d wash it off every day,
help it down the drain.

And keep writing.

A Metaphor for Love / Carly Chandler

We strive so readily 
for shared expression. 
“You feel this?” Desperation
claws its way in. “Please, 
tell me you feel this too.”
Nothing is worse than burning alone. 

No Lemons, No Preserves / Katharine Cristiani

In 6th grade biology class
I learned the word preserved meant frogs
and with scissors I sliced skin, found a stomach turned sac, 
lungs deflated.  The sacrifice of a mother, 
                                                    vessel of gestation.
All of this takes place in and around 
water     not a lab.

I remember the heart and liver, the smell 
of formaldehyde, the rough slipperiness of evolution,
of legs that leap, eyes that color in night
all of this     meant something. 

Later, I learned that preserved meant 
survival, salt on meat, jerked journeys
across swaps North to escape chains and cotton, 
across deserts West to end starvation, hide from banks.

Even later, I tasted preserved lemons
             sweet sour salty sunshine
             slimy, like the frog, but bright with flavor.

I fly across the world in awe of doorways and arches.
I hear the call to prayer, consider
preservation. I long for my mother’s brain
preserved as it was: vivacious
             waving to water, sunning me in love. 
But psychiatric drugs are not lemon water, not gentle. 

One day erodes into tomorrow into next year. 
A slow slipping,
            an endless sunsetting 
                                       obscured by fog. 

Ode to Summer / Jody Drinkwater

So much pathos in a pothos plant— 
white arms leaning on the windowsill.  
Stay, long summers of childhood, stay.  
The apple tree in white and cherry 
dimpled blossoms shines
full of summer’s effulgence.
Cherry pink and black pear 
snow across garden and trail,
across rye, tomato, daffodil.
How lavender ambles
in the gangling light.  
How a child dawdles unaware.  
Peppermint, rosemary, and sage.  
Hold thyme.  
Grasp the last tendrils of day. 
Long summer, stay.  Even 
on the hottest cicada night, 
stay, long summer, stay.

Grandmother’s Kitchen   / Carmen Fong

Fried chicken thighs on a white ceramic plate
Once, in college, I asked for the recipe—
Just chicken thighs dredged in a bit of flour and
corn starch, but it was
the best chicken I’d ever tasted. At the table, 
there was usually a vegetable, like choi sum, steamed simply.
Eggs scrambled with tomatoes.
Sometimes a fried fish 
or a barbecued meat from the store. 
Bowls piled high with fluffy white rice, chopsticks lining the place settings set out 
with carefully torn rectangles of newspaper flyers.

My grandmother lived in that apartment for over twenty years, before moving in with my uncle. 
Her kitchen- a large wok, a rice cooker, a microwave. Fridge always stocked
with lemon water.
A balcony that filled with snow drifts in the cold Canadian winter. We never went out there anyway. 
Before that, my grandmother lived with us and
Our kitchen was her kitchen. She 
Chased us around spoon-feeding us 
a concoction of spaghetti-Os on rice.
To this day, I sometimes reach for Chef Boyardee when I am tired and hungry.

Whenever she went to Chinatown, she’d bring us back Bubble Yum and banh mi. 
To her, these were 
fancy delicacies that she wanted to share with us.

I never learned to cook at my grandmother’s knee
But I want my child to know her grandmothers like I know mine 
Memories of food and love and easy devotion.

A Writer / Donna Griggs

It’s more trance than meditation—the nib hovers
metal teeth just above paper
dimples and curved channels are there
then they’re not
posts poems an art collection for the ages
everything                   and nothing
I hear that first drop in my hesitancy
            To be or not to be

There’s just something about eddying ink
                                               that mesmerizes

How to Make Sense of Loving a Man Who Has Many Loves  / Chasity Gunn

unstable hands
never stitch straight lines

don’t look at the needle
eyes always in the wrong places

Hold my breath and both
sides of the square of cotton fabric

Exhale and let the fabric
be gently tugged above the feeder

you don’t have to pull the fabric through
gently touch the sides to guide it in the right direction

red knuckles guilty of clutching
inhale as the fabric makes it to the other side

turn over the fabric to see 
the threading of the bobbin: underbelly

loops are intertwined and intersecting
squiggly curves rather than lines

when you make a mistake, and you will make 
a mistake you can always use a seam ripper

a constant undoing and restarting again.
Thread and fabric are forgiving.

They don’t mind being joined, separated,
cut, sewn, clipped, tucked and pressed.

Exhale. Gently touch the sides of the faded
blue cotton fabric. Watch the line marked

5/8. Keep your eyes there. Pray for a straight
line and serenity to love a man who leaves

in the morning and returns at night. 
A constant undoing. 

bird song’s healing balm-a testimony  / KS Hernandez

darkness 
in morning meet
thrush over wren arias 
sloughed away a deep sleep. 
the Spector of midnight’s frigidity 

lingered 
— my eyes opened 
to transitions of black — and 
gray— the sun — bashful in the waning 
moonlight after last night’s rain — and 
seasons 
upon seasons 
of decayed leave’s scent
 — thick with rot and rain. for a 
moment I’d forgotten I was in pain. I didn’t
move right 
away — undisturbed 
the quip chirp call of morning 
counsel. a melodious exchange, lively chatter— 
smattered Secada song. where words have no equal

Bewitched  / Amanda Karch

Love is time and
I am its keeper,
playing capture the flag
with each morsel tasting
as sweet as the last —
confusion ensues. 
Melting hearts follow.
 
I find each thread and pull it
til I unravel yet never lose
my place. With you,
time stops and my gift is given
as your hand searches my skin,
my body the map
marking the X
of no return — no coming down
from this high, I ride the waves
to shore where surely love awaits,
patiently with its armor intact.
No harm can befall what does not fight
if we fight for it hard enough.
 

The price of a poem   / Joanna Lee

How to put a value
on a thing that holds
the drumsticks 
of your pulse? Quietly feeds 
the engines of your feet 
to lift you each morning? 
Easier to hang labels on the songs 
of hatchling sea turtles, 
calling to each other 
from the darkness of the egg. 
To sum up sand banked against 
their nests and calculate 
the rate of survival. Better 
to take a sticker gun 
to your favorite place of worship, 
thumb numbers on the prayers. 
To drop a coin in the collection plate 
in hope of winning the lottery. 
To hang a price tag on the sky. 
Maybe you figure up cost by labor: 
toil of gut and god to string words 
into a belly chain of gems 
for Orion’s waist, quantity 
of river water and sole sweat 
dispensed to trace the heron’s flight. 
For the proper alchemy of moonlight 
& sea salt & sad internet searches? 

There aren’t enough rubies in Asia.  

god (n): an audacity / Sharanya Sharma

truth is, i can’t learn to love the tang victory
rubs in my mouth. every consonant soused

in salt & iron; softness demonized.

so here i am again, hauling demonesses littered
across my nursery into daylight:

shurpanakha, pootana, mandodari — & crush
pulpy conviction into talons moldering under

glowering sun. i lean onto shoulders, plunder
earthquaking cackles & knit us into definitions,

corroded. a group of harmonies quarreling
from lungs is a mutiny

of hopes. and a group of abominations
who love ruin better than you

is an insolence of faith.

Day 9 / Poem 9

The joy of reshaping memories / Miriam Calleja

Every time I taste rose water
I think of that time, many moons ago, 
when upon drinking my mother’s home remedy
surreptitiously 
I thought I’d drunk poison

Which in my young mind
was something parents would keep
in a clear glass
within a child’s reach

And now, more than three decades later, 
hands on the other side of the world 
weave semolina flour and coconut 
cut diamond shapes
balance delicate edible flowers
which wait for sighs
each morsel an anecdote
an antidote

Discernable Truth / Carly Chandler

– After the film, The Girl King 

You may open a dog’s mouth  
and teach him to speak.  
But all that will pull from the dog’s throat 
is the familiar barking.  
No one needs to teach a dog to bark.  

 The flavor bursts on her tongue,  
love apples for the name of peace.  
Curiosity tramples through the brambles 
and the dog’s bark is caught in her throat.  

 Jewels in her mouth glimmer  
as she asks Descartes what the meaning of love.  
Does this hidden alliance have its roots in the body 
or the mind?  
He answers – to hide one passion, we can display another.  
You should love – you can reason afterwards 

 Reason tramples the mind,  
converses stoically with devious nature,  
with no discernable name  
and no discernable reason.

The Development of Shelter / Katharine Cristiani

Sidewalk squares, the yarn 
of our city, shift from slate 
to cracked to concrete.

The brick factory fallen 
into an apartment building
loft ceilings, catalog windows worth
the weight of standing the streetlight 
upright.

Laths and plaster, plywood and drywall 
fall and rise,
dust to compost 
community garden poisoned, 
sunlight stolen.

Porch roofs held together by roots 
the tree of heaven, invasive but greening the decay. 
They pull it, then slice the the body with a hunting knife 
gut it 
silence raspberry brambles scrape skin, warning: 
a family lives here. 

Neighbors build pantries on block corners,
covered from rain, thoughtful. Take what you need: 
a can of beans, box of cornbread, pair of shoes, a book.
Subway station platforms made into beds – 
the shelters are full–  in the pre-dusk darkness, 
these folks will rise, go to work to not be able to come home. 

Empty pockets    abandoned blocks    a feast
for a developer, who knows the first step
to buying his own island, building his own fortress 
is closing the corner store, pouring over coffee.   

Riding With Sam Shepard on The Route 1 Agua Fria / Jody Drinkwater

They told us he’s dead, but
don’t believe them.  I know,
because he ran, breathless 
on Agua Fria, and the bus driver 
knew him so pulled over, even
when he (Sam) wasn’t at the bus stop,
which never happens because it’s not allowed.  
But this, this was a miracle, so the driver 
has to stop, you know? To make the miracle happen. 
He was gray-haired (Sam) and tethered to a small dung-
colored dog who also slowed him down, 
but he was getting old and panting–Sam Shepard. 
And he got off 
the very next stop, which proves
it’s a miracle took place just for me,
and no, I didn’t look closely. 
But Sam almost looked back at me.
I didn’t want to stare, and besides,
I knew it was him.  I mean, 
you would never expect Sam Shepard
to be on the bus on Agua Fria.  I mean, right?
So that also proves it–to tell me not to give up, 
and his dog was just like mine, only bigger, kind of, 
and I’m pretty sure his dog was named Sam Shepard, too.  
And his dog symbolized The Pulitzer Prize.
I didn’t catch The Oscar.  Later.  
So I gotcha, Sam, [wink].
I gotcha.  I won’t tell anyone, anyway.
Thank you, though, for stopping on my bus in particular 
on that cloudy day on route 1,
breathless as you were and panting.
I won’t give up.   I wasn’t going to anyway, but now that cinches it.
Have a good trip now.  
I’m heading on home on the Agua Fria without you.

Purple  / Carmen Fong

Mulberry rains and magenta blooms
A plum-colored clot and a mauve-colored bean
Trapped in a hopeless orchid haze for days

Periwinkle skies and iris eyes
Lavender sunrise, amethyst falls
Hope springs lilac again

Violet sands, eggplant summer
Wisteria wild with worry
Fuschia fields flower and flourish 

In the time after Purple
I saw her everywhere. But now I know:
A little bit of her soul lives on in you.

Grief / Donna Griggs

Too often,
            we let it break us,
the disbelief
that loves or lost things
have forgotten us,
drifting somewhere
in the ether, somewhere between
reality and redemption, we shock
ourselves with self-
preservation.

Rarely do we bear the world open,
our wounds flayed out as
spectacle—but here it can’t be
helped. We brawl in broiled ire
with raw skin hanging off
our fists as we battle guilt and
blame.             The fire scorches,
hollows out a space of purity
where rejection and judgment
have no space to breathe.

Varied promises lay buried
in the ash.
We attempt to shred
            the fear, the helplessness
     scattered among the shouldas
and if-onlys. Uncontrollably
haggling something higher for
reprieve. 
     We sit in the stale air
and barter its length of stay.
We invite in the raving,
and bathe in dolour.

Without warning,
the roaring stops. The
combustible fog begins to clear
enough for us to see how
we’re holding it—in clenched
teeth and fatigue, we bear
the weight of anguish. We
maroon ourselves with disconnect,
in cocoons only suited
for reflection,
for recovery.

 An achieved stillness
that allows for the whistle of
the mourning dove, the wind
in the trees, and quiet rains
that weep slowly through the rupture.
Time
is absent. There is no rota
to scrawl bold, red Xs through,
no rate to scale our progress against.
In the open air, the journey stretches
itself into what it needs, and breathes
in its own bend.
Grief obeys its own path only,
but it isn’t selfish—
to survive the sharp yaw,
and bank without breaking.

You looked at my bones,
saw the many fractures.
Last night, in your dreams,
you asked: how?

I almost gave you a cliche
answer: I have been carrying
the weight of the world 
on my shoulders.  Instead,

I redacted all of that, said:
diaspora

We Have Always Lived in the Castle  / KS Hernandez

How do I quantify all of the words 
I never said? You may as well ask 
me to drag the moon back high
into the sky — at dawn after it has 
worked all night. Everything — 
I never said — never left me — 
speechless and blind to sudden 
insurgence into my mind in every
minute of every day. I never cried 
on Sundays when light slowly bled 
into to a crawl and night crept in 
when serenity’s sweet, fragrant
drink is best cherished at noon 
and every word — I never said 
comes home — sits with me
 — demands me — reparations 
from me — and every word I never 
said stalks the children never birthed 
by me as bastard siblings in the silence
 — the silence to the words I never said

 — the silence bore the burden for me

Lessons  / Amanda Karch

The sky falls
in liquid tears
but no one feels
the sorrow lingering in
what should be crystal showers,
what should be fleeced blankets of
white shrouding this land
we love. The burning
seas cry for a savior
but we instead choose conquest
over courtesy, an inflammation of
the body claiming to be antidote.
 
Til the earth’s spine cracks,
bones splintering in agony —
til the rivers’ capillaries burst
into spidery vessels
unable to capture prey —
til the tides are ensnared in
a faerie circle, cursed to dance
for eternity, never stilling to normalcy —
 
will a healing touch bless our hands?

The things we do for love  / Joanna Lee

There is coffee ground 
in the tread of my workboots, espresso 
stained into my sweatshirt sleeves. 
The day lurches; the bell rings; 
another one with heavy eyes 
walks in through the smudged glass door. 
So many I can name, 
so many I cannot.

I want to write about the rain, 
how it sounds tonight like small knives 
against the windows of those who are suffering. 
How the dead leaves of our roses 
look like crystal in the porch light. 

I want a poem about the comet, 
one that shows its green dragon tail, says 
those who do not fear the dark 
might leave the warmth of their beds, head 
out of the city, and look up to see a wonder. 

Instead the day replays like a waterfall. 
Allan and his wife with two simple coffees. 
Preston and the diabetes waiting in his caramel latte. 
Tony’s chocolate stout. Hot chais. Cold chais. 
Chais with oat milk and a shot. How I almost 
ran out of iced tea by the time Sara and Todd came in. 
How we ran nearly out of near every damn thing 
by the time the thing was through. 

Instead I wonder about those who are missing: 
the big kombucha guy who reminds me of my brother. 
His roommate the son of your post-op nurse. 
Jack with his double everything. Kim who must 
be done with her thesis by now. 
The shy girl with the blue hair and glasses. 
The shy girl with pigtails and combat boots. 
Graham and Serena, Chris and Annie, moved 
away, changed jobs, changed partners, changed lives, others…

Instead I sink soft in a puddle of fear. 
Behind the tinkle of the door and Allan’s hello 
and Tony & Preston snickering at the end of the bar, 
you’re coughing again. The grinder whirs another, 
I flip the puck and start the pour 
and you’re coughing again. The new tea cooling 
by the brewer. Coughing so hard you’re hunched 
over the sink, hiding, wracked, a denial. 

The rain hasn’t stopped. 
They say in three or four days, we’ll be able
to see the comet from here. Hope with me. 
We could use a wonder. 

yes, of course i’m writing destiny / Sharanya Sharma

wrong. i pilfer you from inside wars again. scavenge
digraphs of you under shattered axels & amputated
wheels dressed in dirt. love, every welcome

i weave with these syllables emerges a deluge
of granite. boulder shouldering boulder, geology
unrestrained: a rumbling insubordination

of maps. love, over & over again i unstitch
battlegrounds for you: cannons threatening
fire. spear renaming itself lightning

strike. love, i become a language of bones
splintering on impact. devotion putrefying, loved
only by murders

of crows. love, only inside vowels

wrought like swords can i touch you & imagine
trust. funny thing about destiny & me: we keep

making you the atlas

when i should be rummaging for an avalanche.

Day 8 / Poem 8

The joy of an illuminated night hike / Miriam Calleja

A dog that has the motivation of four marathon runners forges zigzag paths ahead. He is not minimalist in his movements but elastic ropes his reluctant obedience. What he lacks in precision, he makes up for in loyalty and enthusiasm. We pick our way carefully at first, avoiding puddles, but later we just say log to whoever is closest. The walk is the point, so we take meaningless loops. We’re not even here for the scenery; no, we are not lost. Trains compete in the sounds of metal whales, but none of our other senses is assaulted. That sound is probably bats, though strange at this time of night. But what else could it be? We’ll say it’s bats. We stop to look up, the moon shows off, and we can only pause to admire its arrogance. We don’t talk about its excesses, how it shines on us roaming in the forest, how we are not lost and not searching and following paths in the only light it has provided.

Every Evening  / Carly Chandler

A response to a poem written by my fiance for me 🙂

We are laying next to each other,  
Same as every evening.  
I am writing, she is crocheting,  
Same as every evening.  

 The words aren’t coming,  
No matter how long I stare at my computer 
Or tap pen to paper. I complain,  
The words are firmly stuck in place. 

 And she tells me I am a poet.  
I huff a laugh and disagree 
If I were a poet, I could put feelings into words,  
Create something from something so little the way she does 

 I am not a poet;  
 am not someone who can help themselves.  
I am wrapped in her yet I cannot express it.

Break: a transitive verb / Katharine Cristiani

She is broke; you are breaking; I am broken. 

a.  There is nothing fragile about broken glass.  
Sharp shards of a delicate wine glass shattered,
the dense puzzle of a mason jar dropped onto stone,
cubes of pyrex exploded over the kitchen stove. 
I swallowed one in soup. The doctor says, eat yogurt. 

b.  Glass blowers drop works of art onto concrete,
catastrophic accidents that could break even the light-hearted
yet they wipe sweat off foreheads, grab a broom,
start again. After all, glass is only liquid made solid
to be broken, melted and shaped again.

c.  After the last frost, after spring storms 
have extracted roots, we break 
the soil, the fast of winter, 
hoe in hand, we crawl 
out of our dens, sow seeds.

d.  Fallen branches, two inches thick are best broken by a child 
hitting them against a tree. They crack in two 
but not too fast. This break is playing. 
Sticks, pine needles, ferns – 
             the building of a fort.

Pompeii / Jody Drinkwater

Is it possible, you think,
to unearth it again, home, 
my Pompeii of fields 
and cows, crows, and cry 
of irrigation? Dust 
has swallowed up
all green and swallows.
Sparrows return in spring.

They remember us.
The same, every sparrow 
in the elms, each nest 
jolts on the wind.
The same eggs fall.
The same, and ever I try
to catch them, snatch
each fast and fasten
against the lather of earth,
shatters of water’s spray 
in the backlight of morning,
caught and marked in time,
each time, stapled
against the sky.

Let the mind unknot.
Shake loose,
the long locks of time,
fall like curls never reach
the pale white shoulders.

untitled / Carmen Fong

Every poem is a love letter to you, in the end. 
A tribute to your strength. Determination, steel. 
Refusal to be complacent. Steadfast partner in life. You said
she’s better than you could’ve imagined. 
We’re so lucky to have her. You’re envisioning 
taking her to her first splash pad adorned in little water shoes, 
Sitting her in a baby pool in the summer,
Teaching her all the things, how to pass a volleyball and how to fix a leaky faucet. Your
face fills with love when you look at her and my heart swells, looking at you looking at her. 
Instagram researcher that you are, you’ve
Already
Read about sleep training and potty training and how to keep our infant entertained.
You’ve found the best high chair and accessories. You’re ready if we need to order new bottle nipples or a bouncer or binky clips. 
You’ll burn yourself out taking care of us. 
It’s pretty amazing
Watching you in action. There is 
No one else I’d rather do this with, in the end. 

Boca llena de Miel / Donna Griggs

          ~For Monica

I just sat
and listened to the words
when you spoke
in a language I had yet to understand.

You said you were inspired
that the way I tipped letters
made you hungry.
They were your food
& drink.

The last time
you sampled my tongue
I had turned mad.
Keen on licking librettos & inhaling life.

So you grabbed a fork
and slathered it in syrup.
Topping it off
with plátanos maduros
sliced thin & dusted with ¡Pura Vida!

I’m an acquired taste
you say
while smiling and deducing
the level of my awkwardness.

Like if we had met
wearing jelly bracelets & Trax shoes
and wrote poetry on paper chatterboxes.

We are still wild.
Though now, the jaw is honeyed
less bitter.
And when words drip out
you call my mouth delicious.

Looking for a Spouse When You’re Hungry  / Chasity Gunn

Searching for fruit in a Midwestern grocery store in the winter is like online dating. Most of what you find is rotten, out-of-season, squishy insides. You stand in front of the blue box of navel oranges. The sign reads that the oranges are imported from California. They only cost $1 each. You pick up oranges one by one, examining them on all sides. Nearly every one you pick up has a squishy side, not an indicator of its tenderness but its perpetual decay. And you do not consider the grapefruit because from afar, you can tell they have begun going bad, and mold has started to grow. And that you can’t stomach. You accidentally weave yourself into the organic section. The choices are similar; the price is higher. The selection is narrower, but nothing looks like it is dying. And for now, that is enough. 

me too  / KS Hernandez

look at you over there
waiting like the fatal hour
to skip a beat
and eat
the heart
still beating
from the last
fleeting
moment of
joy — expressed outwardly
 — a Chasm discredits you
your intent shines
as bright as the uncut
sun — at noon
on the hottest day
in August
 — a blank stare
 — as sharp heat rocks
trained on your temple
are loosed— the first why
the last lie — 
 — eye — see right through you

Five Letters  / Amanda Karch

Your name, the only prayer
to cross my lips in belief —
the kind of love sought after
and fought for.
Your name, complementing my own,
tandem riding towards a sun
setting on cold nights of lonely hearts.
Your name, the salvation I carry
each night shadows cross
a mind otherwise at peace.
Your name, holding a home
in five letters no matter
the path we walk together,
hand in hand,
heart in heart.

We each have our own theories  / Joanna Lee

–after Sharanya Sharma

God as riddle: an empty hole; an unlocked gate. 
God as an overdeveloped sense of abandonment, 
as a last guttering candle, as a real-life unicorn. 
Tucked in the little heartbeats that fill 
the white spaces of poems, filtered into moonlight 
that flares across an ocean. God as horizon. 
As harbinger. God the hand of the child holding a gun. 
God a whole rainstorm of bullets, an army 
of protesters seeking peace, the flattened medal 
of Saint Christopher the priest gave my young father 
when they cut off his leg. God holding court 
in the iron of our blood. Holding a teacup 
to catch the salt of our wins, flinging it wide 
to crystallize into sunlight or diamonds 
or some other bright thing. God in the eye 
of the most lonely magpie, in the perfect timing 
of one goose wheeling after its brother 
in a southbound V. God in feathers, 
like a blizzard of dandelion seeds. 
Like a slashed pillow. God a whirling dervish 
with an arm outstretched. A tectonic vibration 
disturbing the sleep of my dead mother. 
God in the dew on the grass over her grave. 
In the holding of a breath. In the ashes 
of every fire ever lit in anger. 
In this conversation between friends, 
where you tell me I’m wrong about all of it. 
God’s laugh when I bring up salvation, 
its ring like a cellphone chime. 
We let it go to voicemail. 
If it’s important, they’ll call back. 

god (n): another grieving / Sharanya Sharma

some days i paint grief the way you smear a sunrise.

watch it bruise purple & gold across velvet canvas. love,
my poems & prayers are all forged in ink: a map seeking
to chart air currents. dust, carousing drunk, its only light
house. some days i sweep the barren corners of my stony
fate, crack open earth’s jaws. unroot you from battlefields
all over again. isn’t there some worth in reversing a burial? i
drag skulls into sunlight & watch it pierce the vacant dark
pooling in sockets. dust, rioting reckless along the edges, its
only army. love, listen to how i greet each stony, tetraplegic
version of you by name. each syllable an exhale of planets
pitched off-kilter into dusts disordered revelry. i smile. who

will teach planets to have sway over the tempo of dust?

Day 7 / Poem 7

The joy of dismissing labels / Miriam Calleja

After Andrea Gibson’s A Genderful Pep-talk to My Younger Self

They want you thinking
that your armor is made of one layer
that it must be soft and in pastels
that it makes you malleable
keeps you sweet
and that when you smile
your insides are all in one place.

They want you thinking
you will take care of the mess
they leave behind
with polished skin and ladylike attire
calm, poised, quiet,
and with your legs crossed.

They want you thinking
they own your priorities
demure and caring and of course
you have the time
derived from the bottomless well
of energy which you spring out of
every morning fresh
and smelling of dew.

Hymnal  / Carly Chandler

I was following the path
carved in the forest’s uniquity. 
I trod along
bounding toward 
tomorrow. 
Eyes upon the nape of my neck, 
hair standing on end. 
Creatures gone silent, 
gone still. 
 
The forest is an inhale, 
a breath stuck in its chest. 
Lungs full of the stalking beast. 
I trod along the path set for me
and wait to come across the 
maudlin scene lain out for me. 
 
Dramaturgs prepare for moments 
like this, blood red as summer strawberries. 
Prey caught and mauled, 
a warning in my path. 
A threat. 
Eyes upon the nape of my neck. 
I step over the corpse in my path. 
I exhale. 
 

Kitchen Table  / Katharine Cristiani

After “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo

These fine lines, grains of oak
a carved platter for our days to sit upon
to break bread or perhaps     silence. 

These lines set with canned green beans & margarine,
jarred spaghetti sauce, poured as lava 
waiting for the snow shake of parmesan.

These lines sip color – crayon scribbles, 
easter egg dye, burgundy blood circles, this blue ink.

These lines sop up tears and oil, leftover fears, 
pull threads of wicker from uncomfortable chairs 
to weave laughter, conjure solidity 
the giant trees that have and will outlast us. 

These lines begin and end with our palms.
The way we hold a fork,
cut meat. The length of our love lines, life lines. 
It is inside these rounded edges 
that we are birthed, reach branches towards sky,
are scarred by nails and woodpeckers, cease our breath. 
These lines arch into origins, draw the family tree
scribe stories to be unearthed when no one is left to tell. 

I want to keep this kitchen table, drive towards sunrise, table tied to roof
but my house is full of my own furniture that  my child will long for. 
Or perhaps, she will long for this table.

It is always Christmas in Kansas / Jody Drinkwater

always, just after the snow,
always a blizzard, the Great Plains eventide, 
after the high school concert trying to find 
the road.  Someone’s headlights 
waver through the tirade 
to lead us home.  
It is always Christmas out West,
always frozen, always cows grazing 
on ice and hay.  Always, even in summer, 
when Mother wears her tank top in the kitchen, 
and no one remembers a drop 
of anything wet but sweat.
Or maybe Eden, you,
running alone through cornfields,
gloaming, and finally, summer’s thunder 
rumbling in from the east 
and you turning home under hot pelts of rain, 
along the lights of the highway, 
supper just on the linoleum table,
and Mother in her tank top, 
and, beneath the dusty snow globe,
snow still falling over the cows, 
and every day, every single day,
it’s Christmas.

at the end of the day / Carmen Fong

After everyone has gone
There is the real work to do
That’s it for
The coos and awws 
The oohs and aahs
The photo shoots and outfit changes.
At the end of the day we have hours left to go.

There is the laundry left to do
Sleep sacks and burp cloths and swaddles and onesies
A week ago we would not have known the difference between them.

Endless washing up left to do
Bottles and pump parts and nipples and caps
Which have to be sterilized in a special microwave bag.

Cleaning up the kitchen left to do 
Put away plates and bowls from the dishwasher, wipe off the stove
Make room in the fridge for leftovers, take out the trash and recycling

Playing with the cats left to do
They’ve felt so neglected, bewildered at the sudden appearance of this new baby
We brush them and feed them and treat them and hope that it’s enough.

A little self-care left to do 
Focusing on each other, let us veg in front of the TV with our evening sweets
Briefing each other on what worked today and what didn’t.

We make a good team— 

WARNING:  my mouth is a monster / Donna Griggs

My superpower
is gnawing back the self-loathing.
I mash it between the incisor
and premolar—

that’s where I keep the pain.
The doubt is bit stiff just along
the jowl and jawline. A critical
narrative of my own making, yet
I can’t help but claw at the roots,

the genesis of this festered
mess that has displaced every other
emotion, everything good.

Fear trembles,
because it knows I’m coming
for it. Thick-tongued with mantra
and affirmation, I twist
the tension so tight against my palate
my mouth creates diamonds,

the buds start to taste the worth,
while my mucosa crushes
carbon. I choke down the self-
talk because my appetite for
forgiving myself is greater than
my inadequacy.

It’s salty here, as I salivate
in tears that tear everything down.
A fortress where my lips
become bulwark and
my furrowed chin—a moat
where I keep all my secrets.

I ingest and devour
every fret, every cruelty. Yet
each day, my mouth is full,
each day, there’s a different menu
making me believe this sour
sapor is all that I am. Still
I am voracious.

In sweat and slaver, I chew
the panic. I rasp its diffidence
down to its core and clear the way
for cultivation, for certitude
and self-love. I will gnash on

the bitterness and make
guilt my bitch because
      1. Am. More.
Today, I will eat my inner critic
and in the morning
            be hungry for more.

When Life Hands You Lemons, But You Asked for Cake / Chasity Gunn

All she wants is pound cake.
Sock-it-to-me. Cream cheese.
7-Up. She yearns
for morsels of sweetness
to melt in her mouth
to change her bitter 
palette. All she wants is pound
cake. Lemon. Sour cream.
Brown sugar. She desires
to overdose on sweetness.
Life can never have too
much sugar. Your cardiologist
won’t tell you that. But it’s true. 
All she wants is a pound
of lightness, to feel her chest
at rest, for incessant heart
palpitations to cease. She
wants to sit still and not have
to twitch or fidget to feel soothed,
to be at ease. 
All she wants is pound cake, 
but you keep forcing feeding
her vegetables, fruits, grief, 
and overdue bills. Her hair
is thinning. Her back is leaning.
Her face is slimming. All she wants
is pound cake. All she wants
is sunshine in her pocket. A cliche, 
a predictable ending. Not a note
from her brother
saying life is suffocating. He 
just wants to breathe. And she
just wants to eat. Somehow, they
both end up starving 
and full of life. 

Be Strong- a note to the well-intended  / KS Hernandez

Be strong is fear. 

Be strong is confusing — cruel
tiresome — 
a bedraggled refrain — a plea
begging for release 
of responsibility.

Be strong
 is knowing
it will hurt tomorrow
in witness or in solitude
it will still hurt tomorrow

Be strong — a 
mirror — a reflection
of contorted shoulders
jaded eyes. hips. mouth

Be strong
 is the immovable
mantle forced upon me
that gets heavier and heavier
without my consent
i am forced to
 — be strong

Be strong — is enough 
to make me want to run
somewhere, anywhere — else
Be strong is this 
bitter cup bound to my hand
and lips
bearing grief back 
 — to me
It’s more convenient
 — for everyone else

Be strong 
is safe
for all except me

Briefly, Brightly  / Amanda Karch

(with a nod to Ocean Vuong’s On Earth, We’re Briefly Gorgeous)

The cruelest walls are made of glass,

slicing you open for dissection
as chilled bones part ways for viewing.
 
And through the looking glass you fall,
shattering self and semblance
as mirrored land distorts you into
 
fears turned tangible —
marred skin, creases reflecting
more than smile lines, curves
 
shifting each breath to places foreign.
All flaws pinned back,
exposing secrets kept from ourselves
 
until this breach carved its way
through skin and soul.
How is it that we, on this earth,
 
live so briefly, so brightly,
yet forget how much beauty
 
the dawn brings, even after
drawn-out hours through the night?

Blind eye  / Joanna Lee

The full moon, 
cold over the turnpike, shows 
banks of white cloud to either side, but not

the gunshots that go off 
all night like fireworks, some further, some
as if just across the street 
under the yellow lights of the Dollar General. 

It says nothing 
about the elementary school an hour from here, 
where a six-year-old
fired a handgun 
at his teacher, 

or the hospital room where she sleeps tonight,
critical. 

What can a moon, 
for all its puppeteer’s pull
over oceans, know
of childhood? I remember 

being six, hiding
from watermelon-head Josh 
when he tried to trap me 
in the classroom playhouse
|and kiss me with his freckled breath. 
I ran out screaming.

The moon, in its fairness,
never saw that either. 

in which god is a craving, unraveled / Sharanya Sharma

i un-suture you from my skin at night &
name it dreaming. every stitch i pull
a desolation. sandstorm ransacking

seething air, because it knows
the taste of rain. i conjugate this

thirst in every poem i carve. yesterday i wrote death
the way lovers whisper home. today i write hope

& hear wound. do i translate

this vast, velvet black between

us? will you paint
the stars i should malign first? i blister

these asks into being. rivers kiss
the end point of each question

mark like they did your feet. you empty
the dark into my throat. i write

a growl of thunder into the word
prayer & damn sleep.

Day 6 / Poem 6

The joy of being with women writers / Miriam Calleja

some may think
our words may edge on the unrealistically optimistic
but are we, when each vignette is laced with sorrow?
we who grow in the power of our true selves
who shed tears in between apologies
who write while nurturing
who are each other’s muscled arm
each other’s silent benevolent velvet mother
and even if
and even as we fall
and even as we lift each other
we rise, we rise.

She  / Carly Chandler

She wears clouds in her ears 
and rain drops on her cheeks. 

Glass around her eyes 
and fire in her hair. 

She wears opal on her fingertips
and her heart on her sleeve. 

She wears love like a gown 
and storm clouds in her eyes. 

Metal in her nose
and earth under her nails. 

She is ethereal and eternal, 
beautiful and forever. 

She smells like home
and tastes like sweetness. 

On Parenting  / Katharine Cristiani

Some truths roll off tongues:
Yes, the fluoride will taste terrible.
Yes, bubblegum polish will make you gag. 
Yes, you will have to endure it every six months
for the rest of your life. I omit
what will come: the smell of enamel burning,
the ache of the Spanish Inquisition – mouths pinned open, 
the crunch of roots upended – not even a stump for moss to grow.

I omit: our streets are stitched and tangled
the grid that we call home, torn.

I omit: four 14 year olds were shot 
playing football 
on a Sunday afternoon
2 died.

I omit: a woman was caught in crossfire,
killed at 1:30pm on a Friday 
at Mill Creek Rec Center 
where we swim. 

I cannot omit: your school had a lockdown last week
and the week before. A weapon, a bullet. 
A truck exploded on our block. A man attempted 
suicide across the street. 

I cannot promise a prescription from a flip pad will make it bearable. 
It will hurt, it will scald your heart; you will throw up. 

I can promise that our brick row homes will sway as a block, 
rocking the night back to sleep. The stone foundations will hold.

I can promise we are braided and bound.

Turn / Jody Drinkwater

Alone is like auburn,
like bullfrog and bulrush,
like startling light on galleta,
like these crows lifting
from the clothesline, how the earth grays,
and the desert empties itself
of sky and fails.
Turn.
It’s like song only quieter.
It’s like verdure and canyon,
like paintbrush, horse, 
and horsetail.
Alone is like fire in the Jemez
but meadow and dandelion,
Ponderosa Pine.
It’s like the ten-point buck
caught in the fence fleeing 
the highway, then paws 
over the chainlink to freedom.
Alone is like the forbidden bedroom 
where, when you cried for Mother 
to open it, you found a jewel box,
finery, furs, and rare stones.
Coyotes guard the thicket.
Their yip-howls warn.  
This is the signal.  
Turn.  

for my one true love / Carmen Fong

Skin-to-skin time, you’re 
waffle-robed, teary-eyed, Love— 
Recalling her birth

Kindness in a Paper Sack / Donna Griggs

            -after Rob Greene’s “To the Young Second Lieutenant Standing Behind Me in Line”

~For Will and Sue

It was usually in the hallway between the locker rooms and the gym, a
gap for the invisible,
where stragglers, band geeks, and those with no friends
found space—that’s where I would find him
my younger brother,
emptying out his paper sack and lining everything
up as if a pirate, assessing their spoils.     We didn’t get to see each other much
back then, in different homes and situations;
but there in the hallway, he always found enough
room to scootch over and make a spot
for me.     At first there was:
     1 sandwich
     1 baggie (with something like trail mix or sun chips)
     An apple     &
     1 can of tomato juice
A sack lunch packed by Sue (the matriarch
     of the family he stayed with) that
spawned visions of what normal
looked like.     A haze split
as soon as he handed me a half-sandwich.     We
would gab (about sports or Mtv most likely) as we gobbled up
every last scrap, both
grins fading as the bell would ring.     After a while,
that sack looked different:
     2 sandwiches
     A bigger baggie
     2 apples     &
     2 cans of tomato juice—
To this day,
we don’t know how Sue knew,
but still

Longing for the Living / Chasity Gunn

So much can change
in a day, yet it’s 
hard to know
the moment change
occurred. You arrived
with green leaves.
Erect. Wide. Spotted.
On Sunday, I pour 
you a drink. By Monday,
some of your color
has changed. Bright
yellow. I turn to Google
to diagnose. Yellow means
too much sunlight. It means 
not enough. Overwatering.
I read the information stick
in your soil. You prefer 
to be dry. Overwatering 
is probably the culprit.
Each morning, I whisper
encouraging anthems
beckoning you to live. Live.
Live. Don’t die. 
They tell me a woman 
is a womb. It’s her nature
to incubate. To grow a living
thing. But every time I look
at you, I am reminded 
of what I cannot bear full
term. The many times a life
has started and in a moment
withered. 
I still don’t know what caused
the change. Maybe it was too
much stress or too much salt
in my diet. Or maybe I wanted
it too much. Live. Live. Live.
I say to the plant. Hoping
this time I am the one
who hears the plea. 

Today(working)  / KS Hernandez

While left to dream 
my yesterday kept livin 
 
without me — yesterday didn’t 
need me gallivanting in 
 
muckin up the works 
it said — kept right on livin 
 
like I wasn’t even there 
like I forgot to keep my 
 
eyes open during a sunrise 
or like I forgot to burn myself 
 
to the ground, swallow my 
own ashes, and dig my own hole 
 
my yesterday kept right on livin 
while slept and dreamed
 
of tomorrow — like tomorrow 
was an illusion, an illusion meant
 
to blind me from today — like today 
was never gone get here without me 

maybe my tomorrow is already
here or that yesterday’s scars

are thick with the ash it wanted
me to swallow or the hole

that wanted to swallow me
yesterday almost swallowed 

me — whole
 

La Giralda  / Amanda Karch

Layers unraveling beneath a
hard facade, warm to the touch
in sunlight but cold in its
trail of tears spiraling downwards,
evidence of blood spilled over
faith and fortune.
 
Hear the bells toll as
you wind up and around narrow ramps,
the aching in your calves
nothing compared to the wars
fought over this land.
 
An omen released in
each layer: Roman, Muslim, Gothic
with their own history beneath this ground
and towering above it,
hand outstretched toward a god
not all could see. The beauty,
 
intricacy of stone carved
to mark a point in time tells us
appearance is only surface deep
and to catch a glimpse of truth,
you must unearth
layers, unraveling beneath a
hard facade.

Shenandoah   / Joanna Lee

“Leanann muid ar aghaidh. We abide.” 
              –Darren Morris, “The Gasconade”1

In a room whose river-green walls 
are still stained yellow by her cigarette smoke, 
he sleeps in their bed, the comforter 
she picked out flung across him, one pillow 
left untouched. Her purse swallows dust 
on the dresser next the mostly used Red Door
& jewelbox we’re still not allowed to open. 
Their shared closet has strict sides 
for his and hers, and I wonder 
if he buries himself there sometimes 
on the starless winter nights 
that go on for weeks. 

        Waking on mornings with no frost 
on the ground, he sits in the dirt out back 
under the open space left by the stumps of oaks 
where she spent so many hours hauling sod, 
planting, re-planting, bordering the whole 
with good Valley granite. She’s left them all 
for him, now, the hours, though it’s hard 
to know what to tend and what to pull. 
His stiff gloved hands strip the clover 
from the paperwhites, bittercress from the bulbs 
of the root beer-colored tulips, 
the hostas that came from her daddy’s house, 
the irises, more that we neither can remember. 

A pale sun rises above the tops of the woods, 
lessens the cold by a spade. There’s no use 
telling him to come in, not to get a chill. 
It’ll make a difference come spring, he says. 
I can’t just let them go.   

1The Headlight Review, Volume 1, Issue 1: Winter 2022. https://www.theheadlightreview.com/issue-one-1

in which god is a translation, still  / Sharanya Sharma

“Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.”  – Babel, by R.F. Kuang

in winter the trees twist & gnarl
up towards the sky like witch hands.

i too, am a witch, and a winter. starved

of daylight that knows weight. how
typical of you to hurl stones onto ocean

and command a bridge. you made me
believe miracles are just

love songs for famine. where
is the poem birthed from yours? where

are the bones splintered & sutured into lines,
hollowed skull grinning lunatic? i
nobody thinks is correct. a treachery, yearning. damned

to unroot marvels from inside wars. i’ll write death

sighing her own kind of prayer: a curse &
convocation she breathes into my mouth

Day 5 / Poem 5

The joy of protesting with joy / Miriam Calleja

Stop the world from spinning.
I know, yes I know
all too well that it hurts
in all the places and in so many ways
that I’d never be able to name
or begin to comprehend,
but watch how the hummingbord hovers
in its thrilling transcendence
how precisely it gathers nectar
leaving the flower seemingly intact
and perfectly beautiful
following its tongue
to the next bloom

Ghost  / Carly Chandler

There’s writing on the wall.  
I can’t quite make out what it says.  
But I know it’s a threat.  

 There’s writing on the wall,  
Jagged lettering tearing through the paint 
Until drywall spells intelligible phrases.  

 It wasn’t there last night.  
I’ve been home alone.  
Send help.  

 There’s writing on the wall.  
No, I didn’t put it there,  
You have to believe me.  

 There’s writing on the wall.  
There’s a threat in my house.  
Scaring me from the outside in.

New Years Eve Fog  / Katharine Cristiani

Not the fog of tomorrow –
when heads pound 
and grog yawns us out of bed 
to post a New Year’s blessing. 
We will claim we are ready 
to wield a hoe, till the earth, sew seeds 
– perhaps kale and collards. 
Today’s fog is the kind
that blankets the forest floor, covers icy paths. 
The one     of this year     hangs between trees, 
offers to dry laundry, bare branches stretched useful. 
It is this fog that turns dirt to mud, clumps  
bright brown on boots. It breathes,
we sip it bold, bright
peek through fingers to the otherside
where soon the Susquehanna will rise.

Hieroglyphs / Jody Drinkwater

           –for April Pameticky

One is not supposed to love 
this much.  I rise and rise
in the morning when the children 
have gone to school and wonder 
at this alien face.
All night I dreamed of April, 
thunderstorms over Wichita,
how the river rises.
Turtle swims over smooth 
river stones.  I swim, too,
my face against the glass,
and April’s moths
rich in mothness and moth fur,
shapes painted on their parchment wings,
and turtle carapace 
declares its runes and ancient ruins.
Just outside of Santa Fe 
carved into walls of rock
are hieroglyphs,  
as if the Lascaux caves 
and etchings on a turtle’s back 
hide some heartbeat,
some primal utterance.  
And this face so strange, 
so moth-like, or turtle,
half asleep, smiling,
looks something like my own.

A week ago / Carmen Fong

A week ago, we were two
A duo who did Wordle at night, watched Real Housewives with dinner, and took naps whenever we pleased. Today we are three, 
Mama, and Frankie B
Already sleepless, unsettled 
Adjusting to our new reality. She is a three day old newborn, and we are 
Three day old parents. 
A week ago, we didn’t know
About baby bottles, breastfeeding, or 
Birth certificates. 
We did know about the best Mexican restaurant,
The bars on the near and far side of the street. 
If we wanted, we drove to Savannah for the weekend.
A week ago, words like stillborn and miscarriage were taboo. When you believe that bad things happen, just by hearing about them.
Now I know odds are just a number and,
At this point,
we’ve beat the house more than once

The Cost of Window Shopping / Donna Griggs

            Sun screams its name
through dirty aperture
shredded
grays licked
with fire
            with motion
Dead dreams
that beg
Ten more minutes
of youth
            and yesterdays
A wave of
sloth yawns coating
            an icy pane

Peat moss ungathered
rolling
stone-cold
The inertia
of depressed air
crushed quiet
is colorless
Worlds without
windows
No sound
it makes
Cents for sanity
A small price
for bursts
of orange blindness

For Maggie Oates / Chasity Gunn

This much we know:

born in a northwestern corner of Alabama
to Millie and George
deemed three-fifths human,

property of a man and contraband of an army.
Your family boarded a North-bound 
train.

Your middle name Alcinda
means light, noble. Your first 
name, Maggie, pearl. You were 
all of that. 

You began your education with other brown
faces in a school on the corner of Dexter
and Center Streets. 

1879: you graduated from an integrated 
high school. A sign. A wonder.
One of 11. You spoke on the Elements
of an Ideal Character. 

Higher, still higher.

We know you were the first.
We know you were the highest. 
We know you died December

31, 1880 on the eve of a new year. 
We know you battled tuberculosis 
10-months.

We don’t know those elements
of ideal character.
We have no photographs that bear 

your image or your imprint. We don’t know
what it was like to be a pearl,
a soft thing in a hard world.

We don’t know the plans you had for after graduation. 
Maybe you didn’t have any. It is difficult
for a Black girl to fly higher, still higher. 

Perhaps, your wings were already tired.
Heavy with the tar of oppression,
drooping in the tar of being first.

silent things are loud  / KS Hernandez

— inspired by Natalie Goldburg’s Writing Down the Bones

Natalie asked me “what things are silent in your house?” My response:

an empty box of Dudu Osun African Black soap. a sugary herbaceous smell. I wondered, does the box miss the bar of soap that it once held? the cheap crate that holds my teas and other dry good. It never complained about dust or my mistrust of it’s ability to bear the burden of clutter. A spent umbrella — one prong — gone having been eaten away by one too many slammed doors. quite gracious this umbrella has been. It’s held itself together for me, even when torrential rains threatened to sweep us both away. a box of gently used wine glasses. I think it yearns to hold more Rose’. It didn’t like the tea or the ginger beer I drank from it the other day. It’s like it made these otherwise delicious wine substitutes taste like hell out of spite. I promise to bless your rims with more wine soon enough. a can of soup in my stores. it currently has it’s back turned on me daring me to remember what kind of soup it kept in it’s belly. I’m tempted to look but I won’t give it the satisfaction. two slightly overripe oranges, also on the crate. their aroma is overtly orange. they smell sweet like Christmas time from when I was ten years old, almost too sweet, a near rotten kind of sweet. a greeting card bearing a friend’s ancestor, sitting relaxed in a beautifully ornate wicker, high-back chair, with an enigmatic expression on her face. her dress, predates the flapper, and shoes with a shine that beguiles black and white photography. a stylish city girl. I wonder about her. was she happy that day? was she able to say I don’t want to take a picture? It’s funny how books are loud. catcher in the rye sings a tune I can skip to. the bluest eye croons sad songs. even when I can’t see their titles a chorus erupts from their stacks. and empty lined journals scream all the things I haven’t written yet, echos in black and white.

Resolute  / Amanda Karch

On the fourth day, I’m still
choosing me — a difficult undertaking
for a woman raised on foundations society built
of empathy, of sensitivity, of
retreating so others can see
the light I so desperately yearn
to hold. The hand that feeds me
is my own but only after everyone else
has eaten their fill.
 
On the fourth day, I’m still
choosing me — a new stirring
seeded deep in a soul longing
to be stroked, soothed at a core
so filled with fire waiting to erupt.
Crescendo building upon the back of
my muse, ready for the tension
between sound and song
until it crashes into lyrics,
 
an ode to self and solidarity.

how long it has been since you’ve seen   / Joanna Lee

forgiveness in a sunset. pale indigo blushing 
its lids over the outlines of old tobacco 
warehouses-turned-apartments
with posh rooftop pools, deeper 
crimson reflected in the sheen of still
-dark windows, becoming fire only 
as it touches the shadows 
laid in their dirt; extinguished. a sky 
rocked to sleep by the mild weather, 
Easter lilies spearing heavenward 
in the first week of January. a lullaby 
to the last three or so years, the last 
three or so hundred years, hush, 
little baby, don’t say a word, promise
this one will be better. this 
one will be better. with your eyes closed, 
can you choose to believe it? walk blind 
into another beginning, steer your way home 
by the cries of the lonely at stoplights?

shikhandi and i discover the shape of oaths  / Sharanya Sharma

god, how did we become a country
no ocean could kiss? six
hundred muscles, two hundred six
bones, ribs kissing to make hollow
cage for the birthplace of our nerve: a desert
that weeps blood but still cannot name
itself temple. we measure

space between the words body and
home by how silently our lungs
seethe when we force them to
contract. we learn it’s the same
as the distance between miracle and
mistake. we learn we

are a kind of battleground too. mouths
made of cannon. hearts made
of gunpowder. lord, we, too
know how to bloom destroyer of worlds
like mushroom clouds from our
lips. But damned if we know

how to pour oaths from our battlefield
bodies without setting fire to our own skin.
should we drip each word syllable
by syllable, comma by comma
into a bullet’s iron cast?

i blow gas into our syntax and wait.

Day 4 / Poem 4

Joy as a button / Miriam Calleja

Joy is a button
which means it’s been a while
since someone helped me into that shirt
I mean that it’s handy to feel around
for its gender
for its right or left-ness
for the whole reason
it’s loose too tight just right
what I mean is that there is the right joy button
to press
and me being me
of the physically inferior type
of the feeble kind
I need to be helped
into my clothes

Ode to the Women in My Life  / Carly Chandler

my younger sister-in-law is pregnant 

but she will be a mother and so much more.  

Kind and steadfast and full of youthful naivete 

that will build her life around herself and her daughter. 

 

my older sister-in-law is traveling 

and she will grow from her experiences. 

She will find herself a home anywhere she goes,  

building her life for and from her passion. 

 

my last sister-in-law helps her daughter learn 

teaching her how to be a person for the first time.  

She knows that laughter and light will 

build a better world for her daughter. 

 

my mother-in-law is at home, 

protecting everyone she loves 

a walking hurricane of matriarchal love,  

living for herself. 

 

my aunt works from home 

quietly working against a system that works against her.  

She is smart and funny and kind 

and she showed me how to be courageous.  

 

my mother is a secretary 

but she is so much more than her work.  

She is smart and sympathetic  

and she helped build my life. 

 

my fiancée is in school and work and real life 

and she balances all of this and more. 

She is empathetic and emphatic and real 

and I will build a life with her.  

Prepared for Another Day  / Katharine Cristiani

They drink Coke, suck lollipops, wipe ketchup off their cheeks
when the whopper is triple sized, bloated beyond belt or ego.  

They wash it down with a Tasty Cake or cupcake. Smile, 
murky eyes wandering under my shirt. Trespassing.  

My blood of archers; I brandish a bow, sharpen an arrow
release words as spears, the way my mother taught me. 

Sacrum sweet saliva drips from his chin –
a feral dog before the attack.

He throws sugar into fire, sparks gun powder,
red and blue because it’s the Fourth of July

and that is what we do in this country. Make guns, smoke and sugar.

He hushes me. Tries to tame me by replacing my name with Honey,
sends me to the kitchen where the cupboards listen

their doors clatter like shutters in a hurricane. They will not stand for this.
Nor will I. I know the secret of sea salt, use more than a pinch,

throw a fistfull into a pot of water to make the sea. 
I throw my fist at his face, he drops his glass of bourbon –

the spirit of corn, born of my roots, 
the kernels of my womb. From my kitchen. 

I decide if and when they will be devoured or planted. 
I do love popcorn with sea salt.

 

The Magi / Jody Drinkwater

You will see your three 

wise owls, again, the way they wear 

their leather coats and plumes and carry

gifts on their small backs

and wait, hidden in the rafters.  

How their big eyes see all.

How they float together in the air,

apparitions, premonitions of their own 

impending making.  

They symbolize themselves.

It’s a lot like Christmas at midnight, 

how camels kneel and animals speak 

of water melting in springtime.

It’s truer than the truth you know.  

Jesus.  I don’t know, but the magi

of owls dropping their wings 

to show, they’re coming—

red holly, silver heather.

You walk through virgin snow 

to the barn to find 

three dappled feathers.

[Here in the Underground]  / Donna Griggs

Here in the Underground—
that’s what we called it,
a great, dungeon-like chamber, light-leaden
with multicolored pops of pigment cast in kitsch
and chrome mirrors, some kind of quaint,
medieval hedonism, some kind of wonderful
when our atomic mouths fell into sin, into heaven,
too-tall tonics and waterfalls of Malibu rumminess,
where together we hurt and learned to be dirty,
some curt yearning that begged us to pretend
to be bent bikers & queens, under black beams
and streams of luscious lavender, under a camp-
stamped “Frisco” disco ball that lit up our lives,
under the battle of booze & burdens
hurled in hate and baited us to bury ourselves
in closed closets and shame—
there’s nothing but ghosts now
and kissed whispers
of how we were here
and how here was our home,
where we flung our flaming names into the night,
sweating our sanctions in mettled abandon,
saving each other’s souls
while singing underneath the floating,
tectonic sounds
and chromatic streams dreaming.

New Year’s… Resolutions? / Carmen Fong

When I woke up this morning (and waking up, finally, funnily enough, is relative, can be relative, if you only slept in fifteen minute increments all night), I realized it was 2023, where did the last 5 days go, I did not say rabbit rabbit rabbit, did not toast the new year, did not pass go or collect two hundred dollars. I forgot entirely about making any resolutions until the usual workout promise memes appeared on social media. I never believed in resolutions, instead believing in daily revolutions, hourly solutions, evolution by the second. I don’t resolve to be better; we better do it anyway. so it was on the First day of the new year with our First child and it was the 

First time we broke our 125 day Wordle streak. 

For good reason, I suppose. The funny thing is, I always hated New Year’s Eve because of its arbitrary designation as another cycle around the Sun (other calendars choose different dates) to the point of hiding in bed with a blanket over my head as a teenager, fireworks out there and ball drop on the air but now even my sister commented that I will always have a reason to celebrate because this is the day my baby was born. 

Maybe the World Begins and Ends with Hands / Chasity Gunn

These hands knead more than flour, unsalted butter and buttermilk.
These hands rise from the ashes of burned crosses and plantations. 
These hands write the blues. 
These hands clean toilet bowls and kitchen counters with bleach and blessings. 
These hands fumble to forgive. 
These hands quiver. 
These hands sand away rough places, stain the color of life to make shelves. 
These hands wonder if they were ever loved by their mother, who screams and throws glass bowls while brandishing the
name of her savior.
These hands lament. 
These hands fumble to forgive. 
These hands ache after painting kitchen cabinets gray, a neutralized black. 
These hands swallow sadness and birth black-eyed Susans who can see pain in living things. 
These hands are brown. 
These hands fold socks, shirts and sweatpants. These hands say grace.
These hands mourn for mute prophets and tormented dancers.
These hands have five fingers that fumble to forgive. 
These hands anoint foreheads with oil. 
These hands are not ashamed. 
These hands jump rope and light candles in daylight.
These hands are not mine. 

The Art About Love / KS Hernandez

Dear God 
Let’s talk about
love/eyes wide in/dark
of morning/thinking of her
smile/the licorice sweetness of
a rye grin/a brutish repertoire of
kisses/as fine as a blade’s velvety touch
everything is as it seems/waking to messy
routines and/heavy pots laden with last night’s
dreams/emptied daily/with a scoop of the hand/the 
once upon a time/in wild honey thick hips/is the swish 
swish/beckoning me home/to inexhaustible bounties of
loveliness/your hand is truly artful/oh God/your hand/is truly artful

This Story of Passion  / Amanda Karch

(inspired by the description accompanying oil painting, The Rape of Proserpine, in El Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid)¹
 
This tale of love trysts
This chronicle of caring
This anecdote of ardor
 
No wonder this narrative stems
from the Latin “to suffer” —
No wonder women fear the truth
more than the lies they repeat
to soothe disquieted minds from
nightmares that still walk the streets
because they asked for it —
 
The hunger
The zeal
The fervor so interwoven with
love — what it must be
to live with a conscience after
intricately dismembering yourself
from guilt is to have none
 
This crime of contempt
This abuse of animosity
This sin of suffering
 
1. Link to the interpretive description https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-rape-of-proserpine/39af660c-ad0d-4da6-acbc-5e2a1741fb8d

In case of emergency   / Joanna Lee

the things 
she keeps 
by the bed 

where she never 
sleeps: two 
rosaries, a passport. 

the box that held her wedding ring. 
the last known address of the family priest. 
bruising 

through each 
on a winter night, memory 
a testament of rainbows: 

storm cloud purple to salt-
licked blue; the yellow of winter grasses; 
tender reds. a short, thin knife. 

three broken chains. a string 
of jade beads—the only bauble she has 
from her grandmother—nothing 

she would ever wear, but 
that she might have passed down. 
the pearls she brought her own mother from Spain, 

also never worn. Some
dumb beaded bracelet
from an ex. a litany 

of broken, of lord, hear our prayer—
a call and no response.
the things she keeps

by the bed 
she keeps made in case

of emergency, when 
only faith will answer.

portrait of ahalya holding her breath  / Sharanya Sharma

you plant a sweaty foot on my back and
demand i turn from boulder to bone.
chisel me the way you fracture the earth’s maw
into a toothless grin. i have traced patience
without tongue. who traps
forgiveness in their soles? in this prayer i
turn your heart into a river chortling,
rambling roughshod like an unruly child. once,
just once, i want you to remember:
one day people will carve every version of you
from granite and basalt. bathe your
unfeeling body in milk & honey. in this prayer i
whittle a harlot from a sage’s curse & name
her beloved. in this prayer when water & earth
waltz, mud-made tongues run over to lovingly lick
the curves of my knee & in this prayer when skin
refuses to bloom from granite the harlot snorts
raspberries kisses on my rigid face. carves
our rage from the edges of grace & for the
first time i see why madness & an exhale cannot wait.

Day 3 / Poem 3

The joy of playing charades with people you just met / Miriam Calleja

You are surprised that with one gesture
the whole room of near-strangers
whose names I don’t recall
guess the answer.
You, having thrown in a tricky word,
compliment my dexterity,
a shared thread
of different cultures, distilled.
You say it twice,
and each time, the world is made smaller.

Romance  / Carly Chandler

you burned me up with longing,  
or something like sappho would have said.   

you are a room with dim lights  
and closed curtains.  

 you are a ballad playing in the background  
of my reverie.  

 you burned me up with longing  
from the inside out,  

 promising me the best kind of ache.  
even before I loved you, I did.  

 even after, too.  
you burned me up with longing  

 before I even knew what longing was.  
you are a constant 

 and I am enamored.  

Wandering Through the Shortest Day  / Katharine Cristiani

I touch a magnolia bud, a rabbit’s foot 
on a branch. This young tree barely knows 
the magic of elf shoes: pink and white petals 
will peek into longer days, float in the wind. 
Cobblers will craft under canopies of the wise, 
will lay down curls, offer color to those in need. 

I imagine it was their wooden mallets 
that flattened this tree into a silhouette.
They understand winterize means protect,
yet I dangle in frost against late dawn, 
the sun too low. It is twilight, 
yet I have not finished my morning coffee.

Can we skip forward to tonight?

Afternoon shadows, long and yawning
reach across the park, play dead 
before rush hour floods in darkness. 
A leafless wisteria vine winds gray
around a chain link fence, a winter boa tightens, 
shortens.  

It is at this temperature, this time of year 
that tears and snot freeze into acrylic paint,
smeared across cheekbones by coat sleeves.

I nod at the neighbor, reach in my pocket for a mask,
wish for warmth
my own breath
to hide the proof of my undoing, find 
a keychain, the rabbit’s foot.

A Starling Cloak / Jody Drinkwater

Here, we wear starling feathers, 
black, and, sleek, and pungent
with fecundity.  We cloak 
ourselves in sprigs of evergreen, 
acorn, fig.
We wear a beak
and masquerade in bare feet
beside the dried grass and stone 
walkway to the bridge.
This is where the gibbous moon
shakes its lean strands over the yard.
This is the time of solstice.
We plant corn, sunflower, 
goldenrod, squash,
in frozen sod.
Here, we speak of magnolias 
in hushed timbres.
We whisper quicksand, willow,
will o’ the wisp.
The moon makes moan,
and stars chime.  We hear it.
Finally, in sleep,
seeds take slow root, and earth 
thrums its heart in resonance.

The first shower after  / Carmen Fong

Examining my bruises and battle scars
Purple blossoms on my right antecubital
Lime-yellow starbursts on my left forearm 
Sticky tape squares on my wrists 
A ring of gray lint on my shoulder
From the epidural catheter, no doubt
Which, halfway through, had quite run out 
Gingerly cleaning my tractor-raked perineum

Henceforth, I shall be known as 
“The Woman Who Pushed for Six Hours”
Because that is what everyone called me when they walked into the room

Question: How do you know if someone’s run a marathon?
Answer: they’ll tell you

I ran a marathon, once. It took 
Somewhere around six hours. 
Nothing to write 
Home about, but.

Labor was more like two marathons back to back with a triathlon at the end to finish 
Two days later I ache in places I didn’t know existed 
The sides of my neck, the backs of my arms, my hips 

Nothing compares to

The first shower after 
(Well, technically it is the second, the first
Was in the hospital room, with a broken shower head and hot and cold water)
In your own home
With your own shampoo
And your own soap 
Cleaning the last traces of labor away 

Things in Need of Repair  / Donna Griggs

Since time is trembling
from ice and furious wind,
and we go about ourselves
with terse lips and popped
collars, who will hear
     its howl?
            The throe—
                  delivered
     daily among spam folders
and glutted pages twittering,
as it judders just beneath our
noise, muffled by blather and
bullbrier—
     wauls it chatter
            in red woods
                  and violet skies.
            We toast it all
with oohs-and-ahhs and
ten-second tiktoks, tittering
as the ground shivers under-
neath our feet.
     It’s dancing
            for us! we roar,
                  never slowing
   long enough to wait for
heart nor echo, never lower-
ing our phones so we notice
the towering clouds nor smell
the sweet
     pungent ozone.
            We carry on
                  while the dirt
     cries for tears that will never
come. While we ignore the things
that need repair, the landscape aches
for that someone, somewhere who
grips a handwritten letter between
their fingers. Someone who,
     as they pause,
            can hear the faint cries
                  off in the distance,
     then drops their envelope
            into the mailbox,
                  and sends
their wishes up into the stars.

After 2022 / Chasity Gunn

Some come home to hollow houses not
wreaths, warmed rooms, a wooing spouse. After all
loving faces have wilted, intimate embraces of
tender ones are now evasive. Buried under the
cement of grief, phantom children
abandoned for broken, brown bottles. Come
February, it will be better. Some come home
to burnt-out lightbulbs, fuses blown since 1982
when socked feet were wrapped in blankets, cookies
placed on plates, A Christmas Story blared from the TV, and
Nana sprinkled cinnamon, stirred the hot cocoa. 
Not all who are lonely were always alone. Come sit by the fire.
All life begins here. Listen to the origin stories 
of villains and veterans. Those who wrestle with darkness,
the light by which the enlightened see. Some come to remember
children birthed in distant lands with split tongues. Some
come to remember bombs bursting in air. Some come 
home. Bad hips are not the only ailment that causes one
to walk with a limp, to long for oatmeal 
cookies, kind grandmas who knitted crochet hats 
and sat by the fire, sipping hot 
cocoa until she was no longer cold inside. 

Silent Poet / KS Hernandez

How can a poet be silent
when secrets dangle
as ripe fruit from an over burdened tree
 
the slightest provocation 
a gentle breeze — 
the firm bump from a shapely hip
 
inspires generational eruptions 
of knowings — as an avalanche
alive— in everything —
 
 to tumble helplessly-end over end
onto the page— in wonder
of the single worn boot
 
of a sleuth footed woman
a Hamburg worn on Wednesdays
stained with seven days of sweat
 
what vexed the wearer’s mind so?
Can a poet keep the spider’s secret
in the elegant architectural genius

of it’s home? of sticky silken hammocks 
tables, chairs can a poet bear
a heart’s struggle to explain
 
a heart that longs to explain — quietly?

Bookworm  / Amanda Karch

(with a nod to Louisa May Alcott)
 
You say it’s just a story
but, to me, it reads as truth —
for a moment, lines blur between
the pages I finger so easily and
the paintings they swirl into mind.
 
And all at once,
it has turned her brain
into something more than itself —
liquid gold coating thoughts,
diamonds cresting emotions
woven into thread — a tapestry
telling tales of fate and fortune,
riches found only in the place
 
you call home, somewhere you know
the darkness cannot touch —
somewhere even the light cannot hold
for its righteousness is more than
one can describe — a place to find sanctuary,
to find calm, to find peace
from twisting wave lengths knotting
a mind tired of keeping up with the world.
 
And here, within these pages,
refuge is found.

A hundred miles from the ocean   / Joanna Lee

We circle the lake, the sky 
a robin’s egg flecked
with seabirds, unruffled despite 
the growls of up-souped, 
look-at-me engines, the blue 
sirens of an oncoming funeral. 
In your hand, torn wings. 
Around you, your seeds 
scattered heavenward, landing light 
 & laughing on cold earth. 
The grey in your hair pulls 
at what I have left of flying.
But this isn’t something we can say,
even to each other, my own feet 
heavy, drawn on in a barren 
furrow’s dance. I confess: 
there are always
other butterflies. 
Sometimes 
the thing with feathers 
is only a gull.  

kali and i wait for the train  / Sharanya Sharma

if we are all divine expressions then say
i’m the question mark. gnarled root,

curled like a crone’s thumb, bursting
through loamy roads. tripping blistered feet.

who will teach me to contain the planets
whirling untethered inside my mouth?

each globe molting acidic, burning crossroads
into my tongue. each one kneaded into shape

by stony gods. tongue hanging, kali writes a train
into this poem just to show me how easy it is. its

screeching halt sounds like a witch’s death.
little knives stretch across her face: a rictus.

poems have borders too, she says, and destinations.
her skirt of severed arms waltz as she springs

into the car. my own rictus coils into shape. says: funny things,
borders. call us names while laughing at the conceit of maps.

Day 2 / Poem 2

The joy of the unknown fictitious monster / Miriam Calleja

A glass brimming with air
peeps from under a bridge.
No troll has visited tonight.

A foot hanging out of the sheets
remains whole, cast 
in plaster, though never broken.

Monsters don’t enjoy chalky stuff
that gets between their teeth
and blunts them.

A bush rustles – only the wind playing.
Hush, now sleep, now
following the breadcrumbs.

Somewhere, a pessimist sucks
his teeth, drums his knuckles
on a table.

Devastation, Baby  / Carly Chandler

When the bombs fell,  
my first thought was of you. 

Ricocheting around my head.  
Snow globe pellets shaken around. 
Liquid karma spilling from the sky.  

 No knight in shining armor to pull 
his radiation from my skin.  
Glowing embers and ash on the horizon.  

 All I care to think about is  
if your house was still standing 
against the shattering.  

Drop Biscuits  / Katharine Cristiani

There is something about making dough –
cutting butter into flour 
folding solid into liquid       again        and again 
                                                                  gentle, 
the partnering of salt and yellow cubes, 
the sticking of fingers, the turning of a book
                                                                  messy
wheatfield dust smearing the 1950s font,
Betty Crocker waving 
propper, fingers touching 
the red ribbon bookmark between     generations 
pages of crusty fingerprints.

Unlike my grandfather, I do not
roll biscuit dough, cut it
into circles with glass. I                          sacrifice 
                                                                  perfection 
rich sun melted layers 
for drops on bare trees, wait for
                                                                  a thaw
their fall onto uneven ground. I say 
I want a mound to climb
             golden and browning,
             my flour covered kitchen, 
             crumb covered floor.
I say I choose simplicity to save time, but is it
                                                                  a fear of ripping?
                                                                  Or a longing 
for a crescent                                          rising
my memory stirring                               warmth
a kitchen stool a family table               the touch
the flakes                                                 of time. 

Sunday Drive / Jody Drinkwater

           –after Ionesco

Hasn’t the rhinoceros learned a thing or two 
about driving down the streets 
of town on a Sunday afternoon in winter?
Doesn’t he know, the streetlights,
how they variegate in the sun
before the mountain range,
and the stubbled fields beyond
the cottages call something wild in him, 
something pedal to the medal in him?  
Is that a roar he makes, or some other sound, 
behind the steering wheel, to the latest tune 
on the hip hop station? Is it so bad 
to be this untamed, so feral,
beneath the leather-flesh, in a top hat 
driving down Guadalupe avenue?  
And the ladies in fur coats stamp 
and gaze at the dapper way
he tilts his head in elegant pose, 
watching out the damp periphery 
of his glittering eye.  He rides the clutch 
and slams subtle charge each gear, 
at every sign, and squeals the tires, just slightly.
You’d almost think he isn’t so barbarian. 
You could even mistake him for a kind of gentleman.
But then you catch him digging
at his rhinocer-horn when he thinks no one is looking,
and spy some gyration of his massive hips, 
some ejaculation of happiness.  
And even when the sun arcs in the cold sky, 
a wantonness takes him, and he screeches headlong 
down the street, while the churchgoers snort 
and genuflect outside the cathedral  
and betray their animal gesticulations.

Eviction Notice  / Carmen Fong

She’s out, now what?
I have tears from my vag to my butt

16 hours of labor later, including 6 hours of pushing—

She was out of there, evicted, ejected, exiled from my warm womb.

Our deliriously sweet sleep after nearly 36 hours of wake
—only lasted an hour.

When I woke at 5am to pee
Glass-and-sharp-knives-fire-crotch
I remembered that we had created this tiny being,
over the last ten months.

We stared at her in disbelief.
Another addition to the world.

Throughout the day we learned the care and feeding of a newborn:
Things that don’t come intuitively to two old moms,
even if we are both physicians.

Breastfeeding is necessary and worthwhile,
But takes finesse, patience, practice
There’s a difference between spit up and vomiting
Swaddling and diaper changes also improve with time

Down the hall, other babies call—
But we find we can already recognize our little one’s cry
Somewhere between a gremlin and a squeak toy.

Nurses, techs, obstetricians, food service, physical therapy, the lactation consultant, pediatricians, all come in a steady stream of people checking up on us every half an hour. I’m not sure how patients live like this, now that I know I just want to rest and have a little quiet and alone time with my little family.

They all mean well and provide plenty of information. But I’d like to take a nap now.

In Times of Renewal and Rainwater  / Donna Griggs

1

Shimmer lit     the water
slips     down, the tapered
ice remembers:           
                        back
when yesterday was new
once

2

When snow flits its
deposition
in naïve happenstance,
without windows to look
through, or doors to open
—just the journey, past the
melting and trees unleafed

3

There were glints of ginger
that splintered the gray,
just enough to recognize the
green sprigs and how they
danced in the warm wind,
there where glints of golden
were ready and real,

4

In times
of renewal and rainwater,
when sins        thaw
into new          hopes
of vernal          harmony,
our eyes           adjust to the storms,
somewhere safe
where new years breathe fresh
            and toast the cold

Woman Copes with Her Husband Experiencing an Ischemic Stroke / Chasity Gunn

the day — long
the week: dismal, draining, dreary 
the desire — chocolate chip cookies:
warm, soft, with melted chocolate 
that lingers 
when broken
and spread apart.
She carries
her long week
upon her shoulders:
tense and tightened
into a cramped kitchen.
She carries her thoughts
and to-do lists that stretch
across continents. 
She stands:
in front of a teal-headed, 
silver bowl.|
She opens its mouth. 
Feeds it: a naked 
block of unsalted butter.
Softened and mush like. 
She closes its mouth,
commands it to chew,
brown crumbles,
white crumbles. 
The conclusion: half cup
of flour wasn’t added,
sweeps a finger in the dough
sweet, but softer than usual. 
She decides —
let it go.
See how it turns out. 

Shhh… -a note from the well intended / KS Hernandez

time eventually screams 
secrets closely held
 
no need to fret — or yell
no need to bloody my
 
hands or tongue or spirit
on grief’s deafening
 
roar. relief comes 
in the waiting — just 
 
 — in waiting. isn’t it funny?
we do it anyway, we say
 
the thing — we do the things
we point our grief filled
 
quiver — at the nearest heart
 — sharp — razor sharp
 
the untenable tongue
razor sharp — 

Naranjas  / Amanda Karch

Beckoning hands an invitation
of orange, welcoming, greeting,
guiding through cobbled stones —
a surety on unsteady feet.
 
See, the beacon complementing
sky like an artist’s palette.
See, a halo of leaves framing
hands begging for a taste.
See, a sun’s rays alighting a path
in forward motion.
 
These trees, a symbol of grace —
gracias a dios por esperar.
Patience, a virtue,
balance paid back in sweet
orange fragrance blanketing
las calles sevillanas.

Outside Jericho, looking in   / Joanna Lee

We pick up the bricks of routine, solid
windshields that kiss away the fear of the unknown,
ready in the heft of a beating hand,
as regular and as devastating as sunset.

Old, some of them, from their dust a rosary 
of prayers counting back oceans, the world 
a different scale. Youth wears sharper edges,
pores open to the sunlight yet 

rubs on fingertips and cheeks 
just the same, womb-colored ochres and grey
desperate grit. Of what will your tomorrow
be painted, it says, except from that 
which I give you? And yet,

rain-streaked, see how it bleeds into the pavement, 
becomes the mud from which it came. Reaching 
the ceaselessness of the river in soft red tears, slowly, 
like all weight, the sink and dissolve.

shurpanakha and i compare notes  / Sharanya Sharma

my throat is too small for the ocean these days.
i keep wielding it like a churn, the way we were taught.

               poison lingers, salting
               my voice with blood.

i want to ask what we do now, being

the only ones in the world God would not love. instead
i ask if this is what happens to girls whose vertebrae

never learned to mutate from stone to skin. a song whistles

through the hollow cartilage on your face. brushes
my cheek in a breath it cannot take. your eyes

red & seething with gluttony sweep over me.
no, you say. now you learn

to speak tasting prayer
hanging itself in your breath.

Day 1 / Poem 1

The joy of getting things going / Miriam Calleja

we are also made of that which keeps us going
also we are made to keep going
to turn
pages fuelled by unravelling labyrinths
at least we are going
also at least
that which keeps us going is
a windscreen larger than a rear view mirror
made of future
made of clarity and an eye corner of reflection
we keep going
safe in that which keeps us
also made of the stuff of hope
first gear bump
next breath
ever going
ever made of
we
are made of bursts of forward
fingers held out
to slow down the breaking
 
 

Comfort comes in  / Carly Chandler

Polaroids on the wall.  

Ice cream in the freezer.  

Kisses on my lips.  

Dishes in the sink.  

Fruit flies around the kitchen.  

Blankets on the couch.  

Hands on my hips.  

Dirty clothes on the stairs.  

Empty water bottles on the table.  

Coffee in the pot.  

Things I could see and know,  

Comfort comes.  

Decisive on the Last Day of December  / Katharine Cristiani

A coast guard boat cuts through 
ice on the Delaware, choppy patches 
waving to the pier. I nod, knowing 
this will be a better winter. This one. 

The sun shines over seagulls 
swarming over breadcrumbs. 
They are squirrels with wings yet 
against the pale winter blue,
they become fireflies – white beacons 
awaiting tomorrow’s fog 
that is now. This New Year’s Eve I resolve
to eat only bread crumbs soaked in bacon grease, 
to shave ice with a blade, one skate dragging 
     behind the other, lifting frost into a snow cone.
I will stop slowly, listen carefully to the crisp crack of puddles.

What would Brodsky think of New Year’s in America / Jody Drinkwater

All slipping and sliding, all mackerel and dried salmon?
All sipping Starbuck’s and sideling up to strangers 
in the check-out line?  Even here, 
beneath bundles of coats and gloves,
we have sunshine on the Ski Basin and snowmelt.
Just off Highway 14, horses steam 
in their stables and wait for me.  And the market crowds 
of happy people and their poodles parse down aisles 
of frozen foods, canned soups, and black-eyed peas. 
What to resolve for a year?
Zero it down the rose still blooming in the greenhouse. 
Zero it down to the smallest step 
over the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Cling to the vision of the level waters spread
out at the lake at Eagle’s Nest, where a man 
in a Jeep tried to pick me up, while my toddler son
threw a fit over something I can’t remember,
and my pilot disputed the tip at the local saloon. Nearly all the way home to Wichita,
midnight New Year’s Eve, we drove,
locked in by fog, the plane grounded 
in its hangar, and awhile past the lake at Cheney,
the gloom cleared enough the see 
the hold-out blinking plastic star above a chimney.
Even in the cold, there was warm, there,
like here in the market full of shoppers.
And for the new year, it’s worth saying:
Everywhere, love.  Love, everywhere.

Expectant  / Carmen Fong

Excuse me, ma’am, where is the exit?
She asks. Politely but insistent. 
 
It’s in the way she rolls, kicks, punches
Head down there on my perineum
 
She’s been ready and waiting at the gate
Bags are packed, she wouldn’t want to be late 
 
Honestly she’s been doing great 
Thirty-nine weeks tomorrow.
 
But these pesky tests make more trouble 
A high blood pressure reading lands me in triage 
This isn’t the way we envisioned it
But sometimes it’s the way it has to be
 
We delay as long as possible 
But inevitably 
end up 
hooked up 
to three 
different monitors 
 
My blood pressure now normal, the baby looks fine
Can we request to come back a different time?
 
The funny thing is, I had a feeling
That something was happening
This morning I decided to put our hospital bag by the door
Perhaps putting it in the car jinxed ourselves
 
Anyway, this incessant beeping 
is enough to drive anyone mad
We know it will be hours of sitting 
‘Hurry up and wait’ing
 
There’s a ways to go, so
Stay tuned.

Old Times Past  / Donna Griggs

My inbox contains:
the tinny snaps
of typewriter keys dancing;
flowered paper withering
away; and forgotten notes
tucked deep
inside desk drawers.

Years set aflame
with sizzled matches
we don’t remember lighting,
their ashes gusting
into the night with sweet
licks of champagne.

As for me—
I’ll be bellied-up  
on a dusty barstool,
pint-stowp in hand,
bidding a fond farewell
to an old friend.

A Twelve-Year-Old Boy Learns to Pray  / Chasity Gunn

Almighty biscuits
christened      in
dough
everlasting      fire   baptized
goodness.
Hold                 it      close,
Jeremiah.
Keep                 it      close
and         low    to      your
mouth.
Nimble   slowly.
Oh           hallelujah!
Pray
quietly.              Ask   for father  to
return               home      un
severed     no
tears                 in    his   sides,
un               hinged          unholy.
Vanishing
waters
exclaim
young 
Zion sing:
Almighty! Almighty! Almighty! 

What the Sycamore Tree Said / KS Hernandez

The air — 
a breeze filtered through 
waning thickets at lawn’s edge
honeysuckle, over ripe berries

wild greens crushed under small booted feet

cedar/the start of a barbeque
aromas acrid and sweet
to the Fir tree

I’ll take sleep, for a time
it’s your turn now
you warm the woodland babies
and shield them from Winter’s sweet kiss

adorn your hair
in elegant frost and
magnificent gems
as home for starlight

look in on the bare branches 
of our kin — 
bid them good days as
saplings beneath lush wet

surface nourished by layers
of seasons past, and fresh rain

my leaves are not dead
but weeping — 
rivulets of auburn, canary
muted chocolate, vermilion beds

I will not say farewell
as Winter’s sharp edge
takes me as sacrifice

Untitled  / Amanda Karch

Gatsby’s green glow
consumed in a haze,
signaling — what?
A beacon, a yearning
built on desperation for
safety, found in love
stolen in secret moments of
champagne-christened glances?
Or a warning, danger
coated in falsehoods,
security painted over with
the premise of a promise
failed to deliver?
 
To kiss is to give away
a piece of yourself to another
and when do we know
the answer to our wish
until we no longer can
see the light?

Poem in a short sequined dress to a new year   / Joanna Lee

–with gratitude to Larry Levis’ “Threshold of the Oblivious Blossoming”

dulled skitter of dead magnolia leaves on cobble, how they quiet 
in the warm winter rain. wind blows the twinkle of white lights shrill
against the porch railings where the lamps stay lit inside, as if
somebody were home 

to company and not 
hunkered against whatever the turn of the clock might bring.
in this neighborhood, we’re all so tired of plagues
we hardly go out to vote anymore, 

paint our eyes bright
against the darkness and auld lang syne
when will it be our turn? we ask each other in the mirrors
of darkened bathrooms

and all-night coffeehouses no one remembers. 
we point our fingers at the second hand, hemlines smudged 
as if from battle, come hither on poised magnolia-white 
lips, empty of longing.    

in which god is a word that sounds like tectonic plates splintering  / Sharanya Sharma

lord, no wonder you moralize best on battlefields. so
i learn to shelter a volcano instead of a larynx. become

a planet warring on itself, like you. love, it’s too easy
belching your name in conjugations of fire & flood.

it’s like the art of erosion: i hemorrhage hope
the way earth sheds herself in water. lord, am i

always the promise of death you animate your wonders against? yes,
every prayer i birth comes doused in this famine between us.

yes, even though i’m ocean & explosion at the same time, like sita i
dream of earth’s gashes knitting back together over silt & sea. love,

instead you crack open loamy jaws under our feet. grandmothers
laugh. say: funny things, poems & miracles. always, we start

             by wrapping a mouth around catastrophe first.