The 30/30 Project: February 2019 Pt. 1

 

TP3030-logo-360Welcome 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 volunteers for February 2019 are Lindsay Adkins, Iris Jamahl Dunkle, Anna Harris-Parker, Ava M. Hu, Manfred Luedge, Jayne Marek, Matthew Mumber, Sol Smith, and Valerie Spain. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and and warm up your pen! To read more about the Tupelo Press 30/30 project, including a complete list of our wonderful volunteer poets and to read their poems, please click here.

Poem 14 / Day 14

code red / by Lindsay Adkins

“Parents gathered at the perimeter, some of them Christians with ash on their foreheads for Ash
Wednesday, some wearing hearts to mark Valentine’s Day.” – The Sun Sentinel, 2/14/18

a father wears his tearing apart
unbuttoned and collared

watches as one mother holds
another to her like a breath

and metals her heart to
drape it around her neck

earlier a priest swept his thumb
across her forehead

murmured thou art dust and
to dust thou shalt return

it must all fold into the ground
paper hearts beating to the concrete

Saint Valentinus wrote to his
jailer’s daughter before he was

killed—but what about his mother
didn’t she want a torn piece of paper

white and unbloodied that said
i have opened a young girl’s eyes

and she saw me
and she is not ash

Day 14: Apocalyptic Love Poem / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

After thirty years, there are zombies, of course.
The kind that have been out in the elements
for so long their limbs, rotted, fall off. We

are quick on our feet and have found shelter,
devised a plan (wire strung with bells) to keep
the starving corpses at bay. But some days

They slip through, blood hungry, eyes slack and dead—
Love, those are the days that swell with purpose.
You have my back and I have yours as we

Slash our way through danger. After, when
we wipe the zombie blood from our speckled
cheeks, we look out at the overgrown road,

the press of dark trees, knowing we couldn’t
make it through this apocalypse alone.

Poem Not to be Read on February 14th / by Anna Harris-Parker

The first Valentine
was imprisoned for
his belief in Jesus
who helped him heal the
jailer’s blind daughter—
a tradeoff for freeing
Christian prisoners.
The emperor
condemned Valentine
to death. Scientists
remain uncertain
what of him is left.

Poem Fourteen: Apparition / by Ava M. Hu

 

Apparition so bright your hands take hold.

Is it possible to trap light between two mirrors?

(of celestial body) obscure the light from or to (another celestial body)

You are dark and clear. The shadow of a root takes hold.

 

Light after light, two invading mirrors.

Are we two moons tied to each other’s wrists?

Empty means spaciousness.

Your hands just like the light from a speeding train.

 

Are we two moons tied to each other’s wrists?

Snow turns to rain. The secret language of leaves.

Your hands just like the light from a speeding train.

Begin symphony, begin wild birds, you.

 

Snow turns to rain. The secret language of leaves.

(of celestial body) obscure the light from or to (another celestial body)

Begin symphony, begin wild birds, you.

Apparition so bright your hands take hold.

TV dinner / by Manfred Luedge

Some evenings after watching
BBC-News while eating our dinner
you curl up on the couch beside me
your feet pushed against my leg
and I get the soft blanket
you like so much and cover you
with its cozy warmth and then
halfway through the plot
of some whodunnit re-run
you fall asleep.

Slowly, so as to not disturb you,
I remove my hand
from the small of your back
where it had been resting
all this time like a deer
or some other wild animal
that had nestled itself
into a soft hollow on the forest
floor for the night.

My wrist hurts a little
from being frozen
in the same position for so long
and as I massage it
to make my blood flow
freely through it again
I forget the TV for a while
and watch you instead.

Your chest and belly
rising and falling gently
with your breath. Your relaxed
face, your fine hands folded
under your head, the whole
amazing beauty of you
and I wonder
if you can feel my love
seeping into your sleep.

Sheepshifter (for Gayle) / by Jayne Marek

Wool colors varied as clouds above Scotland,
dust along streets in Turkmenistan,
heads of grain shining on Mongolian steppes,
lichens of the Peruvian mountains,
the vast parchments of Australia,
or channels of world-traveling currents,

these rainbows of fibers are gray as rain,
beige and golden in sun, white against the wind,
silver shading to charcoal, cream edging sorrel,
white flecked with black, rich browns of soils,
blues that hold the light of late-day sky.

In markets, in shops, long staples of wool
drawn through a shopper’s hands shimmy
and crackle, the tight curls bumping
against her palm, wisps soft or stiff,
and the skeins, light as dandelion fluff
or dense, scented of the sheep’s lives—

drought and wind, the storms or open skies,
the dung and herbs tangled in the wool,
all of the lands, their weathers, their beauties
and harshness, the wool like life itself
binding her forever with its pull.

a love letter from God / by Matthew Mumber

dear creation,

it’s complicated.

i know.

i am in the center

of everything and extend

edges everywhere, forever.

simply put, i love you.

this love is in you,

and shows up as

your every day

life events. nothing

is excluded. words

and mixed metaphors

fail, but I will try: this love

is like a 6th grade school yard

at recess: there’s the grass, dirt,

balls, the bullies, popular

kids, loners on the outskirts,

teachers looking the other way,

ongoing traffic, sky; i

am in all of it, and it is all

the tip of a wave with

depth of a vast ocean extending

back eons, and forward, as

a three dimensional jigsaw

puzzle, constantly evolving

toward me.

everything is bare, protected from

nothing, and

sustained

through all things: limitless

participation. you can never

go off the path.

what is real in all things

cannot be threatened,

and what is unreal is

nothing at all. now and always,

i love you, and you

are enough.

In Your Sway / by Sol Smith

We have a word for when we miss
someone. For homesickness.
For regret.
But what is the opposite?
What is the word that says,
“I am wrapped in you,
I’m not going away,
We are home when we are together”?

Where is the language to express
a longing you’ve already sated?
Gravity, is a small matter. When
I lift a fork, I defeat the pull of
an entire planet smug with life
and written history.
The pull of a kiss you’re in the act of
kissing distorts spacetime
making fabric of your feelings and
stretching it taught.

The jetstream confluence of
our bodies deserves a word that
counters the feeling of longing
by magnifying the necessity of what
we already have.

Don’t say, Oh, you mean Love?
Don’t talk to me of that teenager’s
word of lips and flowers and raised eyebrows.
I’m talking about oxygen relief in
submerged lungs,
I’m talking about waking up from a
continual nightmare,
not pretty things that tickle and delight,
but massive forces that pull and consume
in much more than flames.
Don’t prod at me with your assumptions
that my feelings boil down to a word
overused and oversold,
a coin for understanding that has been minted
a thousand times more than a penny.

Love is part of it, fine, but so is the sky
at night and the draw of an absent
Center where once all matter stood,
the background radiation of all being
remembering when it once belonged
and being the only two in accord.
There should be a word of that.

paper hearts / by Valerie Spain

I don’t want paper hearts
red cardboard and white paper lace
no red roses either

I don’t want to feign surprise
like everywoman
when FTD delivers them

pick instead
some weedy thing
some little stick
that showed it can survive

all its life asleep
and frozen in its veins
waiting for warmth

that would please me more than roses
that little weed
and warmth from you

Poem 13 / Day 13

An Ode to the Mother’s Face at the Wedding / by Lindsay Adkins

for Peggy Lesnewich

She doesn’t want to be seen. No—
doesn’t even know she’s been seen,
between the shoulders of two black suits.

Her dress is out of frame, save one jeweled strap
darting across the light and shadow of her collarbone,
so I cannot speak of her dress, deep teal and ruffled in tiers.

She curves one index finger over her mouth, so I cannot speak
of her pink lips, the gloss she maybe chose
to match her nails. See? I am already speculating,

a poetic habit, a wondering into the tangles of her brown hair,
hidden behind her husband’s face. I’d swim around
for hours, like a kid playing Marco Polo, in all I cannot look at.

But her eyes, her eyes, heavy-lidded, lifted away
from the camera, fixed as planets on what, I don’t know.
They tell me not to look at her, look at that, over there.

She would shift the lens away from her face,
point and direct the photographer. But no,
this is the picture. I cannot see what she gazes at

and I don’t need to. It is beautiful, so beautiful
because look at her looking. And whatever it is,
it calls out and begs to be found in waves, over and over.

Strange Ritual / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

You told me you speak to our dead through scrum
of dreams—how each came to sit at the foot
of your bed to leave their weight, speak complaints
before passing on to the other side

There was no such oracle when you died.
After, we slept fitfully, drowning in
vacuous dreams, under stained-glass light, but you
never rose to the surface of sleep.

Instead, the ruby-throated hummingbirds
fireworked the glass of our windows at
dawn. Or, Barn owls stood vigil on the eaves
at dusk crying out to the dark. Absence

was the only thing let inside to sit
and leave its weight at the foot of our beds.

World Radio Day / by Anna Harris-Parker

Amateur enthusiasts radio
each other by way of ham radio.

Big city stations book shock jocks to host
drive-time hours for FM radio.

Cubicle callers listen at the top
of each hour to win by radio.

A troubadour screams when his first record
plays the air waves of Nashville radio.

Somewhere in Kansas, families bunker
in basements, tune their weather radios.

Something I love about my husband: how
he channel surfs with the car radio.

Poem Thirteen: Decomposition: Notes on Orpheus Descent / by Ava M. Hu

Pull her by anti-gravity, lamplight,

thrust of a buraq’s rising wing-

 

a beggar’s only desire:

the air lifting her up.

 

Urgency fueled by what’s lost

and can’t be regained,

Orpheus digs up seeds,

goes for the roots of anything

who pushes up.

 

His honeyed voice for the sap

of her body rising. The soft

crest of morning.

 

To come close to her

he swells into blank spaces

his sad music taking form.

 

Light must understand darkness.

 

Doesn’t he know even god

would enter the flesh

to be near him?

Photography by Josh Axelrod

* buraq– a creature who transports prophets to heaven

Pussy Willows / by Manfred Luedge

In full bloom down in the gulch
where the sun barely reaches
at this time of year.
Like an assembly of Easter
bunnies discussing their delivery
strategies weeks before the due date.

I left a note telling them
I’m partial to marzipan,
chocolate covered or not.

Spring in these parts
is separated from fall
by a few weeks of rain
the weathermen boastfully
present as winter storms.
No snow. No ice.

I’ve seen Magnolia trees down
town in their full magenta,
pink, and white glory in the middle
of January. Like the planet’s gone
mad. Or maybe it’s just my memories
of the Old Country. There
they show off much later.
Mid-spring, after a real winter.

The way it should be.

This Ocean, / by Jayne Marek

this leaden weight against shore, this grip seizing
to crush ponderous ships as if tinfoil,
this killer, stinking of the dead it carries
for thousands of miles, torn cartilage
and backbones articulated against waves,

this thief of shoes, some with human feet inside,
this breaker of boathooks and bows, this armor
against knowledge, sometimes black, so dark
in its enclosing that only eyes that carry
their own luminescence can swim down

at depths that touch the sunken mountains, even
in the valleys, where fissures spew superheated
fluids into this salt and mineral stew,
the odors and moisture of the ocean
reaching inland, up to skim the bases

of cumuli, infiltrating fog, as surfaces
of water and land and sky become one,
the one, essential power, this ocean a home of rulers
of murderous weather, home of monsters
of imagination and of biology, home of terrors

about the unseen and seen, most wild and sublime,
this ocean has consumed and built up lands,
this sometimes calm as tissue ocean, colors changing
under the skim of boats with pale sails,
dinghies and boats and yachts, tall ships,

this sea mesmerizing as exploration, profound
with dangers, unstoppable, its beaten flotsam
rowing along endless ropes of currents,
its violence always at the ready, its clinging
to the shuddering spin of the globe,

its feeding on the world, feeding of us,
its breath our breath, its breathlessness that
of the creatures that live without breath,
the cliffs and strands that cannot resist
making and remaking, making, unmaking

First Flowering / by Matthew Mumber

Always ahead of your time,

is not easy.

Prophets are not welcome

in their home town.

There is danger, risk, in

first flowering.

The Japanese cherry

in my back yard

heralds Spring with impossible

pink fluorescence

in winter surround, despite

perils of future frost.

It shows up,

speaks its truth,

lets go of outcomes.

Shiva / by Sol Smith

In the giant clockwork of reality,
there is crystalline perfection
woven.

That which is in discord and conflict
on one level of our being is in harmony
with another.

The grief, tears, and trauma of loss
find their reflection in the love
we found in another.

A cry of terror or sadness find
an echo in the passionate arrest
of love.

The troddening of humanity,
unjust acts,
a lack of empathy found in powerful places,
are bellows to the flames of change,
fuel the energy we need
to set the clockwork
to a new hum.

her feet / by Valerie Spain

her mother did not like her feet
her own feet
she never commented on her daughter’s

concerning feet
the daughter was indifferent
but maternal antipathy to the subject meant
she never learned about pedicures
foot soaks- paraffin dips-
massages–
had no interest
in painted toenails
winking smartly in gold-strapped sandals

she grew up
simply thankful
her hobbit feet got her
from here
to there

when the weather warms
other women
wear skimpy shoes
blaring brilliant toenails
beringed toes
heels and soles severely pumiced
rendered soft and pink

when she takes her shoes off in the parlor
no one bothers

Poem 12 / Day 12

Sick Day / by Lindsay Adkins

Where did this hand come from, tracing
infinity across your shoulder blades?

It can’t be mine. Or it is possessed
by the church bell signaling noon.

It sounds like all other church bells.

The cars driving by the window
sound like cars thousands of miles away.

The neighbors, fighting about train times,
are the same neighbors in Paris,

fighting about train times in Paris.

But we couldn’t be anywhere
except this room, tucked away

by clock hands,
spinning around a sun

of our own creation.

Day 12: River, Speak / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Perhaps the river, if it wanted to speak would
be deep-voiced, gravel drawled. Perhaps it would
be forgiving as the low fog that scarves
the valley redwoods. Our discretions
mutter – light rain whispering leaves. How we
gathered, scraped, took and re-routed gravel
to cover our driveways and roads. Gravel
that was once rough gutted ground down to smooth—

I like to believe the river would speak
like a silver assassin. Loud and full
as a tide-swell, as a muscle of mud flood
that can swallow a Safeway a whole town.
That could scream out: You don’t know what you’ve done.
In a voice made from the entire sea.

Gentrification (A Newspaper Blackout Poem) / by Anna Harris-Parker

stroll Broad Street

notice

listen

a landmark

sold

no

reverence

inevitable

shameful

stop

be conscious

preserve

awe

Poem Twelve: A Bird That Whistles / by Ava M. Hu

Found words from an article written by Dan Chiasson on Joni Mitchell,

New Yorker, 10/9/2017, and Joni Mitchell song titles

 

Falling in and out of

afterlife, the unleashing

of birds.

 

Almost always about what two

adults mean, or once meant,

to each other.

 

Preening. Shamanic.

Could flower, mid-phrase

into music.

 

Calligraphy of flowers on water.

Patter, to rue, to rhapsody.

 

Wife, muse, siren, or star.

A paper boat launched

in the current.

 

Tea Leaf Prophecy.

 

Waits for verb.

Verse for refrain.

Lover for lover.

Coast for coast.

 

A bird that whistles.

The beat of black wings.

 

The reoccuring dream.

Snakes and ladders.

 

Fate, luck, modulations

of ordinary existence, urge

to get back to the garden.

 

Underneath the streetlight.

The hissing of the summer lawns.

Comes love, we are

the refuge of the roads.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

On the radio, while driving South / by Manfred Luedge

“…and in traffic:
Highway 68 at Mendoza Ave,
there’s a broom in the roadway.
Please drive carefully!
And now the weather…”

No, no. Not the weather.
Who cares? I’m with Dylan
on that one: don’t need a weatherman
to know which way the wind blows.

What I do need to know is
what happened to the witch?
After she crashed and left behind
her broom where did she go?

I’m sure she’s well aware
that parking in the middle of the road
is hazardous and against the rules.
Clearly, there must have been

an accident. Someone ought to look out for her.
Witches are fragile creatures
Not meant to walk long distances.
There’s a reason for the broomshtick.

After all, there’s a reason for anything.
At least one cause for each effect.
If not more than one at times
as the case may be.

I’m not superstitious
and I don’t believe in majick –
So, don’t tell me that broom
could have fallen off
some careless gardener’s
pick-up truck!

No way!

A Second Storm / by Jayne Marek

Snow melted in the false repose of afternoon,
loosed by bare twigs and stiff pompoms of alliums
gone to seed during autumn. Water seeped under a rim
of ice in the middle of the birdbath. Fussing bloomed
from finches arguing over leftover seeds as grass opened
under a bright sky. So tempting it was, to recline
in the memory of fat days, in this bowl of seeming spring,
to ignore the white swaths, lingering on the lawn.

In the sheltered world of my backyard
and behind my window, none of us seemed worried.

So when the gray cloud rolled hard against
distant firs that eagles had abandoned,
and the fence shuddered against bucks of wind,
the small birds vanished into shelter, and I pulled
the curtains against this monstrous remonstrance,
the suddenly frigid air seeping through glass,
permeable and fragile as a wish.

on being a doctor / by Matthew Mumber

its about being more

than just a good

technician,

he said,

after the small

tree planting memorial,

where I had half

cried my way through

a poem written for

his family member,

a patient and group

member who had died,

it’s mostly about

being human.

I caught my breath,

nodded and said,

thank you, out loud,

then under my breath,

deep in the middle

of my chest,

teacher.

Holbrook, Arizona / by Sol Smith

There are only three Wigwam Hotels
left on 66.
We stayed in one in
a town that’s easy to forget when
you’re not there.

The old lady behind the counter
pointed behind her where a
massive, ornate door was resting,
no doorway in sight.
“I carved that myself,” she said, indifferently.
I expressed my surprise, to which
she replied, “You believed that shit? Oh my.”

Our daughters were small then,
lined up like beans,
sideways on one bed,
while we were comfortable on another,
and the dogs crowded each other for
space on the floor. Yes,
this wigwam fit eight, altogether,
it’s circular space coning in towards
our heads when we stood.

What was it about a place like this
that made the ghost less surprising
to everyone but the German shepherd,
who made sure we didn’t get back to sleep?

Between Winslow and Gallup,
nothing stands at all,
except a petrified forest
and fifteen stucco wigwams
at least one of them, forever occupied.

joint custody / by Valerie Spain

after you leave I clean the house
fold laundry
sweep the kitchen
vacuum
dust

arrange the kitchen cork board
in a tidy grid pattern
copy phone numbers
discard unused food coupons
throw away unread magazines

bills can be paid now
phone calls made–
to my parents
I know I haven’t called in a while
to my doctor
I still have that pain in my chest

Poem 11 / Day 11

Jazz Quartet / by Lindsay Adkins

Teach me to fold my hands over my knees,

hold my eyes on the glass of wine, indifferent.

How can I not be amazed each time they

pluck their strings and keys, noodle the sax,

scratch the cymbals and brush the drums

together—that is the thing. That is the good stuff.

They take the stage like a daydream

so blue I could stain my lips with it. And we

are all shaking and tapping now, stitched

into the same cloth we can’t touch but I

know when the bass player will next

run his fingers over the frets. It’s not just

that I’m walking with him—I’m walking

in him, in his gait, faster and faster.

No one knows how or why the tempo

rolls forward, who gave the first push.

Like the Ouija board we played with as girls,

basement sleepovers spent in a time

out of time, hovering with electric fingertips

soft on the planchette. So how can I not be amazed,

as I was then, each time they begin again,

conjure some shade of human that gives us

the sounds we didn’t know we wanted to hear.

Day 11: The Sky above Timber Cove / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

The sky says I am watching to see what
you can make out of nothing; golden throat
breathing above the vast sea, breathing. White
sea birds shattering the silence of days.

Today, gentle reader I am seated
on a cliff at the edge of the blown world—
The muddied path that carried me here was
hedged with salt stained scrub brush was already
printed with others’ desires but I
went on asking with descent. Have you found
your answer yet? Said the sky now gone pink
cheeked with dawn’s arrival. My answer breaks
again and again on the rocks until
its corners soften like green sea glass.

Somewhere, far off the horizon whispers:
where was it you wanted to bury this
hatchet? Your land our mine. The stuck clock of
history. How do we get down from here?
Meanwhile, the birds rise in a cloud of wings.

Morning Meditation / by Anna Harris-Parker

Monday: I abandon a buggy
full of groceries after a glass jar
of Manzanilla olives breaks
in my hand. No one will help me.

It takes thirty miles of interstate
before I realize this is not about
split fingertips, spilled salt water.
This is about .

Details don’t matter. It’s the principle
of the thing. Who do I ignore?
What causes others to walk? Why
are we afraid to ask for what we need?

I return to that market with a mop
for the mess I think I left behind.

House Made of the Rising Sun / by Ava M. Hu

*

Salt waves click in the mouths

of oysters.

*

House made of rising water.

*

Waterlily laid upon waterlily.

*

Light on the shoulders of morning.

*

Our heads press up against the water of our chests.

*

I wrestle with an angel to find my name.

*

When sunlight hits a plant’s leaf

photosynthesis begins.

*

We sway back and forth

the way a river does.

*

The milk of your face bends air.

*

We are created in likeness of being.

*

House made of rising water.

*

House made of the rising sun.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Today, / by Manfred Luedge

Clouds are rushing by my window
as if in a hurry
to find their destination or as if
trying to catch up
with the seagulls and the crows
sailing on the currents below.

And as I sit and watch
and settle into my self
they slow down until they finally
stand still, darkening
like the faces of angry drivers
in a traffic jam.
Birds are rushing for shelter
seeking their familiar roosts.

And then comes the rain.
Softly at first, and then heavier,
harder, and steady.
Warm and relentless
for forty days and forty nights
until the last glacier has melted
washed into the rising sea,
drowning tropical islands
and coastal cities.

And the dolphins surfing east of LA
point their bottle noses at us
and laugh.

Across the Vista of Water, a Pretense of Spring /
by Jayne Marek

sparkles orange on mountains, crisp as cutouts of themselves
against gold sky that belies the truth of overcast. If only

the brutalities of winter were an illusion, or as prettily distant
as ranges, as the multitudes of peaks for which I know only

a few names—Pilchuck, Glacier, Three Fingers, White Horse.
Binoculars bring the colors nearer to the eye, sharpening

the faint purple veins of glaciers and the magnificent cut
of these great stone torsos. Always there’s danger

in such exaggeration. To follow the vision up into the rocks
will drop ice and freezing air into the body’s core, a betrayal,

once again, of the body by the eye. My reach is not
my grasp. If the ambition of the mountains is to remain—

which they will, and they won’t, in the grand scheme—then
this false bloom of evening along the ridges, or inside

my mind, is just one frame of a season not always true
to its own colors. Remember, this view lies behind glass.

on being a parent / by Matthew Mumber

I’m not sure,

all of the time.

 

always an edge,

boundary, challenge

without answers

 

sometimes, I long for the days

of dirty diapers, more like

mowing the lawn,

unkempt, then beautifully landscaped

addressed, cleaned, finished for now

 

I watch my children

achieve, struggle, fail, play,

study, learn, compete, grow,

relate, travel, smile, cry

and wish I could make it all

fair, meaningful, nurturing

honest and true

 

in the middle of the night

when the phone rings

I want to be

strong enough

to stand with them

hold whatever comes up

without the need to fix

“Images” / by Sol Smith

The word “Swift”
Has always been a bird,
Wings back, diving quick,
Determined, single-minded.

And ever since I could talk, “late”
Has been a sailboat,
Bathed in moonlight,
On a small but distant body of water.

I’m trying to think of more
But this task has created disruptive
Associations that aren’t fluid,
Like forcing images into a shape they don’t want. Quick associations
should keep it going:

“Fluid” is a faucet.
“Image” is a Polaroid.
“Task” is a horned water buffalo.
“Shape” is a foam triangle being pointed at by Grover.

“Disrupt” is the violent
Ripping of a white cloth.
But not just any cloth, a special one;
You have made a child sad in the ripping.

off her game / by Valerie Spain

as a child
she had known
confusing
but not
brutal

perhaps
he hadn’t either
except
like her
when he was too small
to say no

she was
always wrong
he said
he was right

but she
was never sure
which one
or when

no one
least of all her
knew

or maybe
it was
least of all
him

Poem 10 / Day 10

Ring / by Lindsay Adkins

I take it out of my jewelry box, the ring you gave me on my sixteenth birthday, the rectangle amethyst flanked by two rows of small diamond chips. It was yours first, but you said it didn’t fit anymore (arthritis had knobbed your knuckles) and we had the same birthstone, so it could be mine now. I push it onto my right ring finger, but can’t get it all the way down. Too much salt. Or, I’ll have to go get it sized, have them cut the gold band, solder in a small bit of metal, make it bigger, expand it. How I wish I could have done the same with your years.

Day 10: Parable / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

We begin walking up the path again.
Memorizing cities. Or that’s what I
thought—all that you touch, you change. Felt like a
fairy tale. The falling boy. Thieves paid us
another visit. I should have known then.

The house felt freer and more spacious. I’m
going north to find the nightingale, wren.
Slip out at half past three to shape god. A
man of many doors. Wisps of stories.

I ran outside to see what was under
the cloud. A dead body. None of us knew
how far the tunnels went. A few blocks. House
a ruin. Did fire draw them out? Put clothes
in a salvaged pillowcase. Call my name.

In Praise of Reading / by Anna Harris-Parker

“When I discovered libraries, it was like having Christmas every day.”
—Jean Fritz

My mother makes an excellent gifter.
Of all the things she’s given me,
I value my love of language most.
She introduced me to the library:
Gibbs Memorial, our home branch.
Beyond the glass front doors, the space
unfolded like a cardboard refrigerator
box—the air conditioning on full blast
to combat the Georgia heat.
The adult section stood straight ahead;
children’s books shelved to the left,
across from an open floor where librarians
read aloud on summer Monday mornings.
Typically, we didn’t linger
in public long enough to use the restroom,
but I kissed that right wing water fountain
so often, I always had “to go.”
This palace: one of the few places
Mom let me and my brother wander
unsupervised. I ran my fingers over
every surface: hardback spines
and patterned carpet tiles.
At the circulation desk, Mom never said,
Too much or Put that back—not even
when I grew older and found myself
in the young adult stacks, flipping through
a copy of Say Goodnight, Gracie
by Julie Reece Deaver, who taught me
about loss and love. Because of that narrative,
I began looking for novels with empty
checkout cards. I longed to be someone’s first.

Poem Ten: Afterlife / by Ava M. Hu

*

Let these birds go.

*

My dress laid white

on the landscape.

*

What’s empty is full.

*

Are we as fragile

as breath on glass?

*

The silence of the earth

moves beneath you.

*
Silence. Static. Silence.

*
Curvature. Vantage point.

*

Language of the unseen world.

*
Shadows of birds against trees.

*

The tide of the white dress.

*

How slowly the earth

moves beneath you.

*

The river snakes

beneath ice.

*

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Get me a ladder! / by Manfred Luedge

The Romans had their limes Germanicus,
Northern demarcation of the empire,
limiting access for barbarians
with a ditch and a mound, reinforced
with palisades and punctuated
by wooden watch towers spaced
to allow for visual contact. Every
so often a garrison. Did not
keep the Vandals from sacking Rome
or the Visigoths from finding their way
to Africa…even the Scotts simply
lifted their kilts and leapt,
feet first, across Hadrian’s Wall
and onto the Empire’s soil.
Hail, Cesar! became: The hell with Cesar!

Not to be outdone
Chinese emperors lined up,
dynasty after dynasty, to build
and rebuild and extend
the Great Wall, visible from outer space,
though they themselves
never made it that far.

They rather buried alive
thousands of peasants beneath;
a sacrifice meant to bring
good luck. Not enough to fend off
the Huns and Mongols
who simply raced their horses
round the perimeter,
founding their own empire
on both sides of the pointless
wall, good mostly to boost
tourism. Marco Polo came
and took a long-lost selfie
with Kublai Khan.

There’ve been walls
around castles and Medieval towns.
They all did a so-so job
for a while and furthered
the engineering of catapults
and ramrods.

My favorite wall was built
by Pink Floyd.

Mother, did it really have to
be so high?

New Friend / by Jayne Marek

We stood on the back porch
at her house, our talk just turned

to an awkward leavetaking.
Snow rimmed neat heaps of wood chips

around some just-greening stalks.
From a line of willows came a flat sound

like the resistant creak of a leather glove
pulled against another gloved hand.

Tree frog? I asked, disbelieving,
in February?

A Steller’s jay, she said,
and pointed to a feathery outline.

And sometimes, yes, there are frogs.
We nodded.

We had said
what the bird told us to say.

sharing / by Matthew Mumber

she stopped crying

as if remembering something

long forgotten

“what better way to go to heaven

than to have loved and been loved

so deeply”

sharp smile on tear streamed cheeks

like gentle spring rain

on a partly sunny day

like the slow cancer rooted

in the healthy soil of her body

so full of life, death, mystery

peacefully wild

unrelenting

Reading a Book of Poems by Mary Oliver / by Sol Smith

If I’m completely honest,
I want to copy her.
But I shy away from honesty,
Repelled from the thought of
Being nothing
But a filter of better ideas
And expressions.

So I refine this.
I want my words to shake
With sympathetic vibrations,
Ringing back chords that
She struck
On her typewriter,
However long ago,
Sitting in a room lit by
A square of natural light
Falling on her shoulders like
A nostalgic rain.

And I go, “There. An image.”
But, if I switch back to that pesky honesty
I feel like I barely managed
To filter what someone better might have thought,
If he felt the same way I do
About Mary Oliver.

so much lovely / by Valerie Spain

so much lovely
mixed up
with so much sorrow

every bit
and piece of memory
bound up
one with the other
and the next

at the gathering
comments–
knowing smiles–

weeping alone in the bathroom
voices seep under the door
shit is everywhere
and yet–

hot water streams from the faucet
the dispenser if filled with pink soap
a clean towel hangs by the sink

Poem 9 / Day 9

Birthday / by Lindsay Adkins

My first breath has come back to my lungs,
on some old northern breeze swept
over the mountains. I don’t remember

giving it to the air, but I know it is mine—
it feels like your hand on my back.
What throats have held it since I exhaled

thirty years ago, when you
were the only person world I knew.
I have always been wrapped in

skin and bone that belong to you.
I only needed to breathe
after I closed the door on your body.

I’m sorry, for kicking out your water
a whole month early, onto the doctor’s office floor.
I’m sorry I had no hair or eyebrows or eyelashes.

I’m sorry I angled myself to sit on your cervix,
my legs folded to my chest, the one who would
never crawl, only stand.

But I’m not sorry for dad, filming his entire drive
to the hospital. I’m not sorry that I fit in your
father’s palm. I’m not sorry for hearing your voice

and your mother’s voice, together
in the waiting room, and wanting to bleed
through the generational boundaries.

I’m not sorry for how
she must have held your hand
before everything else.

Day 9: Under Campestral Skies / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

On days when the sky splits like a wide field
about to burst into golden mustard
blossoms; memories push up—rogue bulbs whose
white fists pulse like neurons electric reach.

When the field of her brain was tilled bare my
grandmother spoke only in verse. Her windows
framed the slow sea. Her voice rose like a moon.

Years sew and turn a field once thick with rye
fallow and pocked with gopher holes. It took
less than an hour for my mother’s mind
to lose its moor and drift off. Until she
looked at us with ravenous eyes from a
far meadow we would never find. Deep in
the woods – an exhalation of soft, green grass.

And us, left standing under all this sky.

Prayer for Uncertainty / by Anna Harris-Parker

Notes on the Lovers of Valdaro / by Ava M. Hu

The “Lovers of Valdaro” are a pair of human skeletons that were discovered by a team of archaeologists at a Neolithic tomb in Italy. For 6,000 years, two young lovers had been locked in an eternal embrace.

 

Fresh blossoms have gone.

We lay hip bone to hip bone.

 

Our braille story, the bark

of our bodies co-mingling.

 

Tumbling chime of a river

close-by. We lay down.

 

The world beneath

the world close by.

 

We lay to rest

among scattering

birds.

 

The earth heavy

with sweetness.

 

We remain huddled,

close together. Face

to face.

 

We were never afraid

like Orpheus.

 

Our hands remain clasped

never looking back

from first light.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Mindfulness 1 / by Manfred Luedge

Be mindful.
Keep your mind empty.
In a state of Non-Meditation.

Open as a parachute.
Only there’s no guarantee
of a soft landing.
You might get stuck in a tree, too,
and dangle there forever
like a modifier.
Misplaced,
in a clinch with a cliché.

No wonder happiness eludes you.

Mindfulness 2

Like the other day
as I was getting ready to leave
my office. I picked up
the bag I use to carry
my I-PAD and a notebook
and the latest issue of the New Yorker.

Going for the door
I suddenly realized
I was missing my keys.
A quick scan of my desk
turned up nothing.
Patting my pants:
nothing in my pockets either.

My search grew more desperate.
Did I leave them in the car?
But then, how did I get into my office?
Okay, maybe in a drawer somewhere.
Open. Nothing. Close. Open.
Nothing. Close.

And then I found them.
In the same hand that
all this time
had been holding my I-PAD bag.

Heirloom Tomatoes / by Jayne Marek

In the sterile dimness of Safeway,
yellow and red-black globes.
Suddenly a fragrance of dirt and tomato vines
comes to memory. A sense of heat, too,
so humid I imagine a turtle basking on a log
by the creek near the grandparents’ farmhouse,
where the sun was hard and hot as a razor strop.

I favored the tomatoes bright as a fresh egg yolk,
with odd blemishes and a taste of minerals
that made them perfect. As she hoed, back bent,
in faded apron and straw hat,
I picked the beans for supper, pulled off
ears of corn. In the shade of the kitchen stoop
I’d shuck the ears into a bucket,
still sweating, palms aching
from the miseries of my August visits.

The house, always hot, full of the dust
of a man’s searing voice. She grew African violets
in her pantry window, soft things, too timid
to stretch out their necks. I recall their golden centers,
violet and pink petals, hairy leaves,
lined up on the old white sill
like faces of the gone children looking up at her—
her back turned to the rest of the house.

Swimming / by Matthew Mumber

other worldly, gravity free
embrace, full body immersion,
timed breathing, breath hold,
the flags, lane lines and
lane markers on the pool bottom,
there’s a cross close to the wall
so I don’t forget to tuck, roll and turn,
toes touching a hard surface.
all is a muted wave
when it is going well, the flow,
the pace, the dismissal of pain,
pushing every last bodily part
to touch the wall
on some distant future shaved date
just a little
faster than ever before.
the days, seconds, yards
dark hours training,
others wearing the water cocoon
help me think
I am not crazy
while swimming, especially
on a long distance set
when the pace is just right,
there is a groove that cannot
be surpassed, perhaps its just brain opioids,
though it feels like arrival.

Math Lessons / by Sol Smith

Addition was easy,
kids joining apples to form
larger numbers.
Subtraction was like a magic trick
that was simple to perform,
taking cookies away from bunches.

I remember the exact moment
that I logicked out multiplication.
It was like zooming out, making all
the numbers I thought were huge
suddenly very small.

Division?
Multiplication’s subtraction.
A course in fairness,
and I indulged in equal sharing happily,
until they took away those
comforting remainders.

My fourth grade teacher one day,
exploding at our lack of attention,
held up our math book
like an angry minister wielding a Bible,
and exclaimed, “You think this is hard?
This isn’t hard. This isn’t even math!
This is arithmetic. You’ll find out what’s
Hard.”

Arithmetic: the word painted a picture
as clear as tropical water in my mind
of tinker toys doing acrobatics. Defiant,
I refused her warning and my attention
did not improve that year
or any of the next.

“Solve for X.”
It was an eye-opener, for sure.
When that challenge surrendered,
it made me feel so smart.
Yes. Abstract mathematics were my domain.
Then: “Solve for X and Y.”

…Fuck.

And that was the keyword as
Algebra, dark and lurking,
grew out of the hallways and crawled
into the classrooms.
And suddenly you’re graphing
things that don’t make sense
and slopes are discovered
and hanging on through math
class becomes bobbing and weaving
away from jabs of attention
and peeks at the answers in the back.

Geometry held out an olive branch
in the form of thoughtful visuals
and clear strains of logic
making me feel like I was sipping tea
with Aristotle, discussing the noble
triangle.

Then, came Algebra II.
Picture, in your mind, the emoji
where the eyes are closed and the mouth
is a straight, flat line.
Parenthesis and brackets
surround numbers and entire alphabets
of integers.
A blistering procession of lost numbers,
trapped in the alphabet with no way through
except my pencil.

It was all too much when
Statistics invaded and bent the lens
of every percentage you’ve ever
heard on TV, like if suddenly you learned
that Mr. Rogers were twins and the one
not on TV were standing on street corners
telling you that feelings aren’t nearly
as manageable as his brother made them sound.

Surrounded by students now,
I’ll hear them complain about the maths
in their lives and the lack of practicality.
And it troubles me to imagine
so many humans
so willing
to let others
know how it all works
and surrender
themselves
because hard things
can be hard.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Phosphorescence / by Lindsay Adkins

Too much gin on this linen-draped island,

the plankton must be drunk with it,

wet glow in the curl of the waves.

And we are glowing too, warm and sweaty

as the sagging midnight oak leaves.

So we belong at the shoreline

with the other algae. We shed

our clothes quick as children—

we have been promised salt magic.

Darkness everywhere, blue as a bruise,

our blood rippling just under the surface.

The water is cold when we wade in,

but we need to bathe in it, this light

that moves with the slips of our hands,

the push of our feet. We tip our heads

back, our hair feathered out with glitter

in the surf, brine on our lips. The planets

have come down to earth, and we

swim in the sky, all laughter

and elbows, our corners igniting

as we tread, in and out. Little bursts

of yellow-green show us our skin.

I cup my hands, pool the sea between

my palms and bring it to our faces.

For a moment, before they fade out

like embers, cozy in my hold, the

plankton shimmer and I cradle

the stars that have for so long

cradled us.

American Sonnet / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Time wants to show you a different country
where a young woman, clutching her children,
doesn’t scream because she is running from
guards in riot gear. Time wants to show you
a different country
not one clouded
by the sick yellow of tear gas. Time wants
a cool river shadowed by trees. Time shows
a current that flows, that eddies out. Time
was different: children who swam the river
together wove Spanish and English words
into a raft. Time crossed borders under
water, holding its breath. Time please show us
a country where mothers holding children
in diapers, don’t have to run for their lives—

Business Vision / by Anna Harris-Parker

He followed in his father’s footsteps,
making the business of vision his life

work. His first office stood on Harper
Street—an old, brick building

with little rooms to house cat-
eyes, squares, aviators, wayfarers,

readers, and rimless, too; a lensometer
and pupilometer, dyes and patterns

for lenses (glass, plastic, progressive).
It’s where his first born took her first steps,

tip-toed down the hall. Later, she hid
beneath exam tables, rolled over long sheets

of bubble wrap, leftover from frame
shipments, with her father’s mint,

leather stool. Pop! Pop! Pop! He gave her
her first job at fourteen: filing exam charts,

copying prescriptions, making change
and learning to balance the ledger—

a pattern of pluses and minuses
she still recalls. That summer, she watched him
`
fit a sickly toddler with blue, doll-sized
spectacles. He slipped on a surgical

mask and latex-free gloves before tucking
the curved, rubber temple behind each ear

of the child whose face filled with delight
at the foreign, yet familiar sight of her mother.

This is what it means to make people see:
to give the gift of memories.

Notes on The Nest / by Ava M. Hu

The music of a branch

as it hits the earth.

 

We orbit. Weightless.

Caught mid-air

by a brown bird.

 

Centripetal. Magnetic.

Force who summons

the body follow. Do you

lean into it?

 

Your hands, the weight

of the heart falling

in it’s hypnotic whorl.

 

We call to it. We coax

it. We sing to it.

 

We call it home.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Hunger / by Manfred Luedge

He didn’t bring a lunch
and there’s no fast food joint
or deli for miles around.
I share one of my sandwiches
with my helper right here
at the job site. He takes a bite
and folds the slices open:
No mayonnaise and mustard.
No pickles, onions, and tomatoes.
No lettuce either. Just
a couple slices of cheese
on buttered toast.
You really mean it when you say
“have a cheese sandwich”
don’t you? He grins.
I nod, “it’s food, isn’t it?”

I remember our parents admonishing us
to clean our plates
because of the little children in Biafra,
In Bangladesh, in Eritrea,
with their distended bellies
contrasting almost grotesquely
their skeleton limbs.
Eliciting an overload of emotions.
And we would be rolling our eyes
and be ashamed at once.

We understood even then
in some vague way
that our parents had suffered
their own hunger
toward the end of the war
and in the first years following.
Some of my memories
revolve around playing
in the bombed-out ruins of my city.
Years later, my country long
prosperous again, as I arrive
here in the promised land
I’m shocked by the opulence,
the abundance, and the wastefulness.

How jealously this wealth
is being guarded.
The wall surrounding our hearts,
already spiked with shards of glass,
in need of barbed wire rolls
and shouts of “Lock them out!”

Dwindling Cat / by Jayne Marek

These days she twists her head
when she looks at a toy once favored,
her cataracts shining like
enormous tears.

Still knows her name, still scampers
in an odd moment, but as if
she’d been stuck with spurs. Turns to lick
the hind parts that hurt.

She flows to avoid our hands,
shifts awkwardly on our laps.
At rest, stares across the rug
for hours.

I wish for the hummingbirds to come
sip at the window feeder unafraid,
inches from her nose,
as happened once.

Perhaps she thinks about that
now, with night coming on.

from 32,000 feet / by Matthew Mumber

the light of the sun
is alive, conscious,
sees us all as rocks

someday we will let
loose this cumbersome
carbon, join shining

Soap / by Sol Smith

The wallpaper in this little alcove
Is pink, with carefully arranged flowers,
Creating lines going from the ceiling,
Past the counter, to the floor.
The sink warms up fast,
I’m thankful.
I note the light-purple shade of the
Soap before I place the smell.

Two obvious thoughts hit me:
The soap is lavender.
My father is dead, and
The soap is lavender.

out of my mind / by Valerie Spain

she said
it was clear you didn’t want to sit next to me
you didn’t ask me anything about my cancer treatment
she said
you’re friendlier on the phone

she’s my mother
and she’s onto something

he said
stop thinking about it
honestly when I’m not with them
he said
they’re out of my mind

he’s my brother
he lives five minutes from our parents
and he’s onto something

for days after the visit
every time I call
she lets my father pick up the phone
he talks under duress

I think I’m onto something
but she’s sure

Poem 7 / Day 7

Upon Being Asked Where My Poems Come From: A Litany / by Lindsay Adkins

The turtle-shaped sandbox in the backyard
of our old house, next to the swing set.
Especially when water from the sprinkler got in,
and left dribbled trails of dark grit near the edge.

My rock collection, the amethysts and tiger’s eyes
inside the opaque, sectioned containers still
on the floor of my parents’ basement. My dad
wants to know if I’m ever going to take them.

The corner behind the headboard of my old bed,
where I used to fold myself up and read
after crawling on my elbows under the boxspring,
my hair tangling in the curved wire frame.

From the back of my ex-boyfriend’s Jeep,
where I always felt too small.
From the American Eagle dressing room,
where I always felt too big.

From the bark of: the willow tree in Nana’s backyard,
the oak in my best friend’s front yard,
the pines my brother and I used to climb,
the pneumonia I had when I was six.

From the grocery store, the balcony of an
empty theater, the Q Train when it runs via the R,
Ms. Rovelli’s fourth grade classroom, the pantry
of my first apartment, the inside of my brown boot.

Water, wine. Water turned into wine. The book
of Genesis. Genesis—with Peter Gabriel. The back
of my underwear drawer. The empty pocket
of my husband’s jeans. My husband in those jeans.

This is too long, I know.
But don’t worry.
This one came
from you.

Sonnet as Dialogue: The San Juaquin Valley / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

First, it was a sea between two ranges.

Blue eye that still sits under the valley

Snowmelt combed good soil from the Sierras.

Pumps feather out water through the canals.

Heavy rains washed down fertile tops of hills.

Until the blind eye sunk in its socket.

And so the sea was filled with rich soil.

Promises sewn like seeds from fairy tales.

What died in the sea: plankton, diatoms.

Canals run dry. Crops shrivel on the vine.

Became deposits of oil. Then the soil:

Even a sea can be depleted. Sunk.

Tilled. Divided. Parceled out into plots.

An eye can’t see when it’s under the ground.

Late for the Lord— / by Anna Harris-Parker

What my husband says
each time a Chevy,
Dodge, or Ford forces
us to jump from black-
top to the shoulder
as we walk our dogs
on Sundays and pick
up trash in the ditch:
Chick-fil-A cups, Bud
Light bottles, broken
cable zip ties from
the paper route. I
tell Caleb about
a recent story
on Fresh Air, when Terry
Gross talked with David
Sedaris who walks
West Sussex, where he
lives, collecting so
much garbage the county
named a truck for him.
Caleb tells me not
to get my hopes up.
I won’t. I don’t
expect that much from
our small town. All I
want is a little
genuflection as
our neighbors speed past,
straightening their ties,
writing out their tithes.
Of all people, they
should know most of God’s
work happens outside
His home.

Notes on a Fallen Branch / by Ava M. Hu

This sinking boat

possessed by air.

 

Knower. Master. Possessor.

 

Snowy thread

as it unwinds.

 

As far as the sound

of a falling branch travels.

 

Liminal. White-eyed

angels. The music of the branch

as it hits the earth.

 

Heaven. White world.

Us, in our boat of glass.

 

No one knows the sound

of a branch falling

when there is no one

listening.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

A blank page / by Manfred Luedge

And a deadline. The stuff
nightmares are made of.
Or rather, an open word document
with nothing on it
but the pulsing little line of the cursor.
Aptly named.
Because watching its rhythmic beat
all that comes to mind
are expletives. Bleep.

Maybe another coffee would help.
Maybe the birds on the wire outside my window…
Can I squeeze meaning out of that image?
Anything?
Why write if even birds on a wire
don’t inspire?

Sometimes I think
my computer hates me.
I sit in front of it and feel
this immense hostility.
The narrow eye of the cursor
slanted vertically like a demon’s,
winking at me full of contempt.

Teasing me to write something,
anything.
Come on, you oaf,
open one of my apps
and I show you creativity.
Come on, I dare you!

And then I push the power button
and go outside
and watch the crows harass a buzzard.

Lake Easton State Park / by Jayne Marek

1.

Alone, I leave my car
under parking-lot trees
and walk the aisle between bushes.
It’s mystery, how late light
drips from a holly stem
while crowds of leaves
already have their coats on
as if a performance’s last notes
were spinning echoes
into the balconies
of the velvet forest.

2.
Woods open to a lake
with swimming area stitched
by a string of buoys. Sky
reflected in minuscule puckers,
the meniscus boots
of water striders. They skate
in random fits
then speed away. A handful
of shadows scatter
silver coins
across the shallow bottom:
brava!

3.
Further along the wet edge
of the lake, prints
four inches across,
an inch deep in sand.
Like blossoms, petals evenly spaced,
four shaping each circle. Rounds
within rounds. A solo dance.
I stretch out my stride
to match the cougar’s,
my shoes two feet apart.
The houselights of afternoon
still on,
as if for an encore.

golf lesson / by Matthew Mumber

golf

not about

score ball grass contest

pursuit clubs honors

sky flag hole cart

sand tee sunshine

golf

about one thing only:

find

what

it

is

for

you

Billy Collins / by Sol Smith

I just finished a book
and I’m writing a review online
that should manifest in the eventual reader
to things: the first is that I’ve absorbed
a brick of cultural construction,
and the second that my own taste
and knowledge didn’t let it baffle me,
as I am an experienced culturtarian,
a writer myself.
I poise my thoughts.

I want to be able to say,
“Billy Collins is a one-trick pony.”
But, if that’s true, it’s an excellent trick.

His poetry is so playful, it’s like watching
someone juggle tremendously
or watching a dog catch a frisbee
that you’re sure he will miss this time.
He sets the words down
and they dance
and he smiles at you.

The fact is, even with my guard up,
my hair stands on end.
Even with my gatekeeper of
pretentious preconceptions,
he’s managed entry through his
wooden horse of words.
And for all this, I love him more.

Maybe I should save this review
as a poem of my own.
As a child tries out magic tricks
For days after seeing them performed.

the chain / by Valerie Spain

the goat is tethered in the bare
and rocky place in the meadow
the goat has made it so

green is just beyond the goat’ s reach
every time the man clips collar to chain
the goat immediately goes to the end of it

and the man always grabs the chain
close to the stake
and jerks it hard
making sure there is no give

Poem 6 / Day 6

The One Where Great-Mémère Tells the Priest to Go to Hell / by Lindsay Adkins

This is not the poem in which she asks you
to leave, gestures to the door with a half-raised arm.
In this one, she raises both hands and screams
va au diable, doesn’t even give you the proper verb conjugation
for your revered status in the French-Canadian parish. Because
this is her kitchen now, connard, and yes,
she answered when you knocked, sat you down at the table.
Maybe she put her apron on and made coffee. Maybe she offered
you what little cream she had, taken from the top of yesterday’s
milk. And maybe you took it, put your hands out
like they do for you, to receive the body of Christ.
Because that’s really what this is about, isn’t it?
The exchange of bodies?

How nice, she must have thought, très charmant.
The priest has come to visit me. Il m’a choisi.
She probably called in her children to say hello,
whichever of the nine were home, the boys with
black hair waved and crazed across their foreheads,
the girls with hands lowered and folded, hair wrapped in buns.
Yes, nine.
And I wonder if any of them heard you,
when you explained that their drunken father
had been to see you about un petit problème,
when you wagged your finger at her underperformed
wifely duties,
when you sermonized on the beauty and purpose of
the marital bed. Did I mention
it was nine? Do you know how that carves away
at a woman’s body, like soft wood? At a woman’s
household budget—because there are still lines
to be crossed, numbers to be crossed
out? Pushes her to look down
at the cracks in the floor, ask the butcher if
he has any horse meat in the back?

This was before Margaret Sanger had everyone hot
with control, so maybe she didn’t
have the words, my father’s mother’s mother.
But this is not that poem.
This is not the one that tells of her rubbing the hem
of her dress between her thumb and forefinger.
This is not the one where she gets up and creaks
the door open, politely tells you it’s getting late—
a defiance in her small time that likely made you
clear your throat, shake your head, baffled
as a swallow in winter.
This is the one where she has the words because
I have the words,
and it is almost a century later.
I have the words,
and you can go straight to hell.

The Dream-Time History of America / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Is clouded by dust is tin rot mended
fenders and ruts that suck tires. Is heavy
load gone sag. Is hope printed on flyers.
Is a worn map laid out on a warm dash.
Is suitcases stuffed with what’s left. Is chairs
splayed, everything tied on with twine. Is miles
floating slow. Is the desert of mute dry
air. Is steady rise into granite faced
mountains. Is the valley planted to its
brim with crops. Is you may be hungry but
you can’t eat what hangs from the vine. Is barbed
wire rolled out. Is signs screaming GET OUT. Is
finally, a small shack. Is mud puddles
you look into trying to find the sky.

At the Farmers Market, Study in Short “i” / by Anna Harris-Parker

Spring wind drifts in—thin
chill. Brick grids slick with
silt. Dill sprigs fringe, mint
twists. Skinned fish: lift! sniff!
Kids clinch tinged bills, thrift
with wit, wish. Lists drip
implicit, script ink.

Arrow / by Ava M. Hu

Collect grains of the world

and gather them in a boat.

 

The tide, gold earring,

the bones of the alchemist,

letters from mother to father,

salt to preserve the body in.

 

Air possessed with survival.

The boat reaching for air.

 

Is god the universe

and everything in it?

 

The seed of death inescapable.

 

Would we kill ourselves knowing

we want to live?

 

Shoot this arrow.

Remove this arrow from me.

 

The cosmos is eternal.

 

Let this wall of breath

breath you.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Picture of my grandson / by Manfred Luedge

(getting his first taste of kraut juice at six months old)

What on earth is this?
This is nothing like the sweet
milk she gives me usually.
This is awful!
I don’t know what to say.
To think that I’ve trusted her
completely, unconditionally.
And now this!
If this is how it’s going to be
from now on I’m calling
the whole deal off.
I’m rethinking my decision.
I tell you I just might
have to go back to where
ever I came from.
Look at her smiling behind the camera
mumbling something about acquired taste.
Can’t she see that this is enough
to make a big boy cry?!

And here am I, the adoring Opa,
tears streaming down my face
from laughter
and I’m thinking one day, boy,
I’ll tell about your mother’s first
encounter with kombucha.
And the battle of wills that ensued.

She won.

Art Print / by Jayne Marek

Staring into the night, wakeful again, I plan an image

to print from linoleum blocks:

in the background, I want an ombre effect shading

from light blue to purple, framed by the rectangular edge

of the printer’s plate.

My fingers against bedsheets

imagine the soft weight of damp Rives paper,

torn into rectangles and waiting wide-eyed

on the studio table.

Spreading dollops of blue and purple

printer’s ink side by side

on a glass slab, and rolling the wide brayer across

in one direction only, squeezes the inks together

to create the color gradation.

 

Bedroom light sinks from navy to gray: the moon

must have gone behind a cloud.

One works from lighter tones

into darker ones. Over the delicate blue-purple,

smooth as ripening grapes,

I imagine a boss of bronze figures,

a nearly transparent scarf

of elongated shapes:

leaves, salmon, birds, feathers

that twine upward in a ladder of yearning,

in parallel, the pattern of all life.

A multitude.

 

Time settles for an hour on the vision.

These images must be delicately carved,

the hints of veins, scales, rachis and barbs.

Add an outline of a beetle, a hint

of shine on its outer wings.

 

One overlays the final image in darker ink.

Mine will be a stump, hollowed by age, open

like a broken cup.

To cut this, use a broad gouge

on a new lino block. Dig away the background I don’t need.

Treat the folds of tree bark like drapes,

closely channeled, comforting.

Print this block first in shimmering amber

like sap, like nourishing syrup.

Print again, this second layer

in soft black, not quite line up with the amber shape.

One need not register everything perfectly

when one creates.

I am half-dreaming now.

The colors will speak for themselves.

Joshua Tree National Park / by Matthew Mumber

i normally don’t do this

might not tell everybody

but you are just so nice

and you asked in a good way

so i will tell you my secret

 

Look all around you:

 

what is covered

will be uncovered

what is uncovered

will be covered

and so on

and

so

on

“Amarillo” / by Sol Smith

A hotel parking lot,
lined by a low wood fence.
A sharp wind brings
the thick smell of horses.
No sounds, that night.

This is a distant memory,
stepping on the scrubby grass
that surrounded the asphalt,
looking up at the moon.

And I loved you even back then.

sous chef / by Valerie Spain

I’ve lost interest in cooking
the process has become
utilitarian
everything held
in a single bowl

but I still make comfort food for my grown sons
meatloaf, applesauce, soup

not chicken thighs
sautéed cuban style
in lime juice
with a pinch of–
that’s their father’s thing

we were prep cooks to his diva
always cleaning up after him

Poem 5 / Day 5

Ode to Trees / by Lindsay Adkins

for my mom

Their naked branches throb like soot arteries
against the blue dash of winter sky.

The bark—gullied and pocked as our own faces,
all the way down to the roots, their grip on our path.

It is no wonder she used to cry whenever the neighbor
got out the saw. Each falling, a lost metaphor for herself.

She knew the dead ones had to come down,
find their place with the firewood on the porch,

so we learned to scrape twigs and look for green
before picking branches for forts, like the one

my father and grandfather built out back with
dried out logs leaned against a low-hanging bough.

After she told me about sex and babies, a stiffness
that burrows into the female slackening,

I was so frightened I cried, imagined two bodies
knocking together in the dark, limbs in a storm.

But I still told my best friend, whispered behind
the oak in the yard because already I was learning

to hide my body. I cried, too, on the day we moved
from that house. I knew the family moving in

had two boys who would play in our fort.
I pictured them laughing inside, the light

slipping in through the cracks between
the angled branches and glinting on their teeth.

She folded me into her arms, and my brother
slid open the screen door, went outside

and peeled the fort apart until it was two rows
of dead wood, resting in the leaves and grass.

Golden Shovel – Mezzo Camino / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Dawn let loose in screams of golden light
even as the moon hung fulfilled behinds
screens of clouds. Mist hangs as day builds. Hot
air balloons bloom against parapets of
mountains, still blackened from last year’s fires.

At ground level, the cars hum with fret and
fumes. Their metal bodies stilled on asphalt.
Engines killed. The only sound a hawk’s scream.
Yet, the past knows to follow the river
out. Floats the brackish toward what it sights:

A bay that opens into a vast and
unknowable sea. What will dredge up? Lights
blast, sounds roar. But we can’t hear or see it.
Not even, the green that’s covering the heights.

Gratitude for Gwendolyn Brooks / by Anna Harris-Parker

In between Animal Farm,
A Separate Peace
,
Mr. Lloyd’s tenth
grade English class
read a thick
textbook—slick, burgundy-
bound with gold
script: American Literature.
One third through
(I remember this
because I broke
the spine so
pages would stop
flipping over.) on
the left side,
one eight-line poem:
“We Real Cool.”
I read it
over and over,
in love with
its precise images,
its striking sound.
I didn’t know
The Golden Shovel,
what it meant
to “thin gin”
or “Jazz June,”
but the words
in my mouth,
on my ears
felt delightful. I
even loved how
the language looked
on the thin,
glossy paper: neat,
permanent, powerful.

Notes on the Ark / by Ava M. Hu

If we sink beneath

water, will we remember

our names? Hold the boat

 

steady. Jewel of

the river rising. Even

the gods were afraid

 

of rain. Hold your breath.

Put your hand in mine. Will you

sing into my mouth?

 

+’Sing in my Mouth’ taken from Talking Heads, “This Must Be The Place”

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Camping / by Manfred Luedge

The tents are double covered against the elements
with tarps in stark contrasting greens,
blues, and browns. They’re grouped randomly
on a first come first pick basis.
Their entrances facing this way and that.
Nothing like the carpeted homes of Bedouins
ordered by the rules of tradition and status
around a cherished oasis.
Or the teepees of the Lakota
for the great summer meeting set up
in circles by clan, by band, and tribe.
Facing East to greet the rising sun,
adorned with paintings and symbols
telling the passersby who dwells inside.

Nothing like that here.
The ramshackle tent city is nestled
in the hollow behind the local discount
department store and enclosed
on one side by a freeway on-ramp.
On the other side a levy keeps
the San Lorenzo river at bay.
Four Porta-Potties sit on top.
So much for the services provided
by the City for its homeless.

My next camping trip will
most likely take me somewhere
up in the Sierras by the side
of a glistening lake with shade
from a stand of Ponderosa pines
shielding me from the midsummer heat.

Far away from the sirens of cops,
Medics, and firemen.

Running Your Neighborhood (for Beverly) / by Jayne Marek

Jogging together, we make the knee-joint turn near the high school,

where fanciful animal and human figures painted on a wall

dance with us the length of the block.

 

Students made this mural as a gift of imagination, blue sea stars

with big eyes, boats taking off into air, purple octopus,

a smiling pink sun, gold basketballs in flight

 

from one hand to another. The vibrant pictures stream like a movie

as we stride past, breathless from running and talking.

For years we’d had to run alone with our thoughts.

 

Now, as we jog, we recreate what we have found in our journeys,

sketching aloud the figures in our lives: the vibrant colors

of people we love, the hurt people

 

or those with pointed teeth, or those whose ships have lifted away

into space. We pass the wall, the joy of storytelling, joy of

our friendship, step by step into the rest of our lives.

Have a Blessed Day. / by Matthew Mumber

the nuns told us

Latin is not dead

I never listened

took science instead

wish I

could go back

take Latin, learn how to

type, turns out they are

practical things

 

sometimes a word evolves:

it’s origins lost,

depth drowned in a teaspoon

 

superficial

how are you? fine

how are you? well

becomes

I am blessed

have-a-blessed-day

 

bless began as prayer,

some sacrifice thrown in, to sprinkle the altar

with blood, some say, to wound,

in some middle aged cathedral it became

anointed, exalted, more like bliss

 

looking back, many times my wounds

somehow have become

achievement, joy

vulnerability

strength

the broken bone

healed back stronger

 

I struggle with saying it out loud

though, that I am fragile,

wounded, that the seeping blood

of my injuries becomes mysterious fuel

for future flowering

 

wishing blessings on another seems

potentially punitive

even more fraught to say that

I am exalted, favored, saved

above all others

 

So

I am fine.

I am well.

All is grace.

Have a Blessed Day.

May life

build

not break you.

Three Senryu about Love / by Sol Smith

It’s not that she’s sad
Because that would be better
She can’t feel anything

“I don’t care if I die”
She calls down the darkness and
Cloisters in despair.

My light won’t tarnish.
Don’t change. Don’t even feel better.
I will still love you.

vows / by Valerie Spain

a garden hushed and filled with guests
waiting to feast on a bride vision
of spun sugar tulle and sequins

guests walked many paths
performed many rituals
before entering this place

even the obviously broken came and walked among us

we all went home in the dark
letting the darkness embrace
every longing
every chronic sorrow
every piercing joy

Poem 4 / Day 4

Blue / by Lindsay Adkins

short waves

fibers of light

particles scattered

partition the ocean

wavering light over

the ripple effect

the water cupped in the ocean

not in my hand

not in the fibers of my cut-off jeans

but yes

my cut-off jeans

fibers short

like paper

dyed for an artist

to draw

on the cotton sky

scattered

a scattering

the skat of a jazz chord

the heron in name only

wading in the rippled marsh

hoping for the sky

to bleed into his feathers

ice and chill but somehow

the hottest part

of a flame

the lick

with the most oxygen

sucking up the wick

the newborn iris

that cannot see

the color of blood

inside the vein

my eye

the shortest distance between

it’s okay and

knowing it isn’t

the difference between

all those particles

scattered in space

and us

blinking like an iris

in the dark knowing head

of the universe

Walking In the Anthropocene of Grief / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Wind pushes me forward under skies wide
hang, carrying windchimes, the far-off song
of a bird I cannot name. Finally,
a break between storms. Along the wet path
to the woods, a few daffodils take their
yellow stand. When I enter the crows mark
my trespass. Path hedged with miner’s lettuce
and mint. (You could survive for months here if
you had to). Pass through the threshold of two
moss-covered bays. You can hear the creek before
you see it. It’s milky water curving
in an S over limestone. Waterfall
raging against the unbearable quiet
of grief. Then, sun cuts through the tangled hair
of bay branches to golden everything.
Even as the winds push me home, that roar,
that moment of golden light follows me.

A Poem is a Living Thing / by Anna Harris-Parker

for Spring Dory Robinson

like the tiger-striped swallowtail
that feeds on the purple Joe-Pye

weed potted on my patio,
the sand dollars my toes dig for

around dawn on Jekyll Island,
you—once. Born of spontaneous

generation, a poem’s cells
are its sounds: alliteration,

anaphora, consonants and
vowels. Each line, a stimulus

sparking various responses
dependent on the break—end-stopped,

enjambment. How I prefer to
think of you: continuous life

span, but orbiting another
biosphere—safe, away from here.

Magnum Opus / by Ava M. Hu

The sun is like your sun.

 

Water tangled inside water,

the magnum opus defined

as chaos among branches,

heaven to earth, earth to body.

 

What conceives itself

also gives birth:

milk of nebulla, salt

of the philosopher’s stone,

 

mercurial, dew, fog,

the Holy Spirit rising.

 

Elemental as stars on your eyelids

if you squeeze them closed tight-

 

the primitive answer:

go towards it, everything

who reaches for you,

everything that brings the light.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Sitting safely / by Manfred Luedge

On top a cliff
overlooking the ocean from inside
my cozy car. Rain pounding down,
flooding the windshield in sudden gusts.
I feel the brute power of the sea
surging up the beach again and again
each time reclaiming another load
of ochre sand it once dumped here,
as if for good.

Like a caged animal, clawing
at the enclosure that’s meant
to restrain it,
the beast roars.
It hurls huge branches, logs,
whole tree trunks with their root balls
washed bare and tangled
like Medusa’s hair.
The waves retreat
briefly exposing the washed-out beach
naked and vulnerable
sucking back some of the debris
they just delivered.
Then the beast rears up again,
ready for yet another assault.
It’s heavy rhythmic breath
going in and out
long after we sighed
our last.

Roll the Car / by Jayne Marek

windshield view yanks to one side, disappears,
axles toward the stars, wheels freed of weight, spinning
just past the goddamn bridge, slick as a lemonade glass
that slipped from a hand and fell, fell, spinning,
fell under the bludgeon of winter deep deep star cold,

cold clamping on ankles freed of pant legs that rise
because the body is upside down, axles toward the stars,
stars spinning, and for a moment freedom freedom
hanging from the shoulder belt, seat belt, pressing
the body with its surprising weight shifting

in the moment the beginning, down the bank
of frozen night, now eyes close so there’s only
a thud on one side, then overhead, a pounding beginning
as the car’s freed weight comes back, spiraling,
thud thud thudding, the cold ankles hanging in a bubble

of air, keep the air, wait for air, the grip of seatbelts
too tight, hold tight, eyes tight, thinking of the surprise
of it all, of cold ankles as the focus of the night
now still against the hard shoulder of ditch, on one side
stopped in the frosty grass, just visible

like shocked stars looking through the unbroken windshield

ode to sabretooth ranch / by Matthew Mumber

sink down deep

into desert sand

until infrequent rains

can not wash me away

 

exhale

until I breathe out

no more

 

let earth breathe

through me

let sky

be mind

the gullies

my gut

sagebrush, heart

 

just begin

see what happens

forget yesterday

release

plans for the future

even let go of this moment

 

May the wind

take my breath away

and inhale through me

reborn

Tucumcari, New Mexico / by Sol Smith

A road sign pleads, “Tucumcari Tonight”
and most of the times I’ve seen it,
it’s hard to disagree.
Try and imagine, building a town
on the idea of impermanence,
or settling there to make a living on transience.

Every step I’ve ever taken in Tucumcari
has take place in between worlds,
off the map of my regular living.
On one end, I had said goodbye to someone,
and whoever might have been waiting on
the other side, wasn’t expecting me for days.

Being in Tucumcari is like stepping
back stage,
walking off the page,
Every moment takes place outside my reality.
There are signs that this isn’t life,
of course, like unreal
blue skies; a shade and temper that wouldn’t
happen if I were somewhere actual.
But I’m not saying it’s perfect, or even
pleasant a lot of the time. It’s just
that whatever happens to a character in a book
when you flip a page
might happen in Tucumcari. A breath,
a respite, a glance at the audience from
behind the curtain.

Something else about Tucumcari:
I can never tell which stage of my life
I happen to be between.
I know I was there when I was a tenth
of my age, looking up to my parents who were then
younger than I am now.
Sometimes I’m there as a newlywed,
or a new father,
and at least once totally alone and without
any context.
But I can never tell which time it is.

Tucumcari is a key change, a costume change,
a sea change in the tides of my life.
There’s a motel on 66 where, I swear to you, they
know me by the sound of my voice,
so often I have switched tracks of my
reality.
Crisscrossing my life, a window through
which I can see who I am becoming
but not quite who I am.

my son running / by Valerie Spain

he’s a miler

running away into his own life

she would never catch him to her chest again

the way she did when he was small

when he ran to her

when he loved her only

arms outstretched

wanting to be caught

 

she always caught him

 

in his sophomore year

he ran the mile in four fifty two

no one could believe a kid

who barely completed a sentence

could run like that

he became a star

 

of course he never had to prove that

to his mother

 

just before the last lap

he rounds the bend

behind the frontrunner

 

she jumps

at the gun’s report

 

the last lap

she’ll never catch him now

he sprints to the front

like when he was small

everyone screaming

when he loved her only

everyone on their feet

when she gave him her heart

everyone cheering like crazy

and knew he would give it back

almost as crazy as her

Poem 3 / Day 3

91 North Billboards / by Lindsay Adkins

It’s all some kind of hope, isn’t it?
That’s what I tell myself—but sour,
like going through the Taco Bell drive through
at 1 AM, swiping lip gloss over your pout
before you get to the window, the blue glow
from the Marshall’s sign across the street
guiding your fingers over the bow.
Some kind of hope, these raised hands
down the line of highway: Don’t let opioids
have the final word, says the first. Then:
There is evidence for God. Then: Play
Mega Millions. If I won Mega Millions,
that would be evidence for God, I think.
But tell that to the strung out high school student,
nodded off in his bedroom, his biology
textbooks still in his back pack.
Some kind of hope that has nothing to do
with the human body, a mental holding
of flesh and muscle and synapses. Opioids don’t
have any words, and that is the point: no one has
any words, so why should our vices? I can’t forget
what he told me, about the Friendly’s in Holyoke,
how they come down 91 from Vermont for that good
inner city shit, then shoot up in the bathroom
before going back north. He said they keep
the needles behind a tile in the drop ceiling
over the toilet. And I went afterwards.
I ordered my lunch, took out my laptop,
amazed they had WiFi. But I looked
at the bathroom door the whole time I ate.
When I was finished I walked to the back,
knocked, went in. I stared up at the ceiling,
the neon light making my eyeballs pulse.
I wanted to stand up on the toilet seat,
push the panels aside, see if he was right.
But I couldn’t. I peed. Flushed. Washed my hands.
Then I ordered a sundae. Hoped for fudge hot
and thick against the vanilla brain freeze I knew
was coming. And the idea of it was
almost better than rubbing it
into the roof of my mouth. Almost.

Day 3: Imbroglio in the Key of Sleeping Beauty / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

To tangle like the blackberry brambles
that hedge our country road. Old aerial
photographs reveal the berries advance
while we were sleeping. Seeds of invention.
Just as he had cured the potato of
blight, Burbank bred a blackberry hearty
enough to withstand mold and rot. Difficult
to predict what this land will do when you let
it. Low fog at dawn. The soil rich with
limestone. Scatter a few seeds and they flourish.

In the summer, we are fat with it. Fingers
stained and sticky. Our bellies full. But each
winter, the berries gain ground and further
encroach our way through. In winter, rivers
that we scraped and re-routed for gravel,
swell above their banks and swallow our towns.
Winds gather. Sparks shave off into the night.
Hills covered in ruby embers.

When will we stop wanting more? Dawn breaks
The redwoods hang with thin wisps of fog. Rain
glistens over fields pulsing with the sudden
bloom of yellow mustard. How could we not
love this land for what it was? We’ve buried
ourselves in the brambles of our own desires.

Old friend, / by Anna Harris-Parker

I fear we’re on the other
side of our time together
now—me not knowing your age
but reading your white whiskers,
the soft knots on your belly
as my warning to pick a
plot in the field you love to
run. I’ll stand over you, sing
your dog song: Rescued from a
Carolina campground, old
friend, the shelter named you Mooch.
At first, you didn’t eat much
for me, old friend, but assumed
the role soon enough. We’ve shared
steak and ice cream too often
to count. Old friend, I need one-
thousand-one more walks with you,
sniffing for pee-males as our
old neighbor would say. Do you
remember how you used to
welcome me home? I’d kick off
my heels, drop my bags and fall
to my knees so you could reach
my shoulders—one paw on each
side of my neck. I miss that,
old friend, as much as I long
to comb sand and stickers from
your thick, blonde fur, or pin you
between my feet, trying to
trim your nails. You weren’t made for
confrontation, old friend; you’d
bark but keep a safe distance
from danger unless the threat
were a fly. Then, you’d circle
each room, pausing only to
cock your ears and listen for
the buzz, its new direction.
Up you’d jump to catch your treat.
Good boy! A very good boy.

After women poets from the Tang Dynasty / by Ava M. Hu

The moon is round.

 

In winter, I miss

peonies.

 

Their fingerprints

the shape of the moon.

 

How many moons until

we become immortal?

 

Splashing sound of water.

The splashing sound

of your face.

 

How can a man walk

on water without

believing he can walk on water?

 

You and I sink beneath water.

 

And still, the flower floats on water.

The flower the shape of the moon.

 

Move your bed towards the window.

Sleep facing the stream.

 

Put your fingers over

these words, the little stars

of this poem.

Photography by Josh Axelrod

It occurred to me / by Manfred Luedge

Those who died did never ask
for my approval or permission
as far as I remember.
They leave and we are left
to tidy up the messes,
take care of things, make
loose ends meet.

Starting from the bottom up
my list includes my pets:
Max and Toby, to mention
just a couple of the cats,
and Kayla and Merlin,
the mighty Malamutes,
and all the fleas that died with them.

The top of my list
includes of course my Mom,
my sister, Angela, and Hans
who once had been my father.
My grandparents, maternal,
whom I never met
and the paternal ones
who knew me as a baby.
And all their kin,
their friends and enemies,
their pets, their cattle, their horses,
their flock of sheep, their fish
and fowl and all the animals
they ever hunted, skinned, and ate.

And with them all their parasites
down to the fauna in their guts
and the uninvited flora
in their armpits and their groins.
All of them dead.
Decomposed, digested, and regurgitated.
They’ve left us long ago
and never asked
before they died
for permission or approval.
Instead they simply up and left us here
patiently, reluctantly,
waiting our turn.

North Beach (for Kathy D.) / by Jayne Marek

So beautiful and rugged all at once:
below the sandstone cliffs and windswept fields,
the ocean and land struggle in their dance.

To watch the king tides rise in winter months
invigorates, intimidates our souls.
Our world is rugged and beautiful at once.

We, on the shore, admire the persistence
of waves surging, the rocks half-concealed,
as ocean and land struggle in their dance.

Even the wreckage—empty crab shells and stumps,
twists of bright netting and kelp the sea unspools—
seems beautiful and rugged all at once.

The sweep of spray away in its sequence
turns to reach back, lifts up on its heels,
and ocean and land struggle in their dance.

Each season, all year, we find significance
through the tensions that such power reveals:
so beautiful and rugged all at once,
the ocean and land struggle in their dance.

connected / by Matthew Mumber

the finches frequently sing
while I fill their feeder

my favorite is when the song
of the birds is silence:

revere everything
largest scale to tiniest detail

be aware
just for fun

then fun becomes my food
and I am filled

Dinkey Creek / by Sol Smith

When you stand on a rock
In the middle of Dinkey Creek,
Your voice rides the rushing water,
Joining the tumult,
Projected by a hundred copacetic
Polished stones,
Ushered by the hallway of
Towering pine,
Speaking easily to an audience
A hundred yards downstream.

The audience in my mind as I write
is my dad
And my golden retriever,
Both of whom loved the Creek
In a way that only those perfectly
At ease with the world they inhabit
Love a natural scene, as if
It sprang forth from their serenity.

Stepping off a rock,
The ice cold hurried water
Devours you fully.
How is it, my kids wonder, that I
Can hop right in this freshly melted snow,
When I avoid pools in May
And sometimes late June?

They can’t understand how
I want to be held by the peace
And comfort that embraced my dog,
My dad,
As my staccato yelp
Rides the water easily
One hundred yards away.

whenever they asked / by Valerie Spain

when my breasts were young
and heavy with milk
my sons grew round and fat

when they were sated
I pulled them away
still oozing milk
milk dripping from the corners
of saliva shiny mouths
tiny sea anemone lips
still puckered and sucking
lost in dreams of rivers of milk
flowing from the warm round plastic fullness of mother

milk they could have
whenever they wanted
whenever they opened their mouths
and asked

Poem 2 / Day 2

Freezing / by Lindsay Adkins

You think you know the icicles now,
what it’s like to be stopped mid-reach,

to be jealous of the snow and its surrender,
the way it uses the cold to push its falling.

But the winter was never an excuse,
this sorry lack of heat. Water freezes

at thirty-two degrees—at what point
does the human psyche freeze?

What is the temperature for this,
the lacking for this? When he left

you cleaned the apartment. Washed
the floors, scrubbed the sink and toilet,

the slow drip of bleach on tile. Take
the dirt and grime and put it

in the trash, under the sink,
where you won’t wonder at its origins.

His hair is on the ceiling—how
did that even happen? Why

can’t you look up without thinking
of him? Tonight he took your hand

and placed it on his neck—you danced
at the bar. No one else did. You

were embarrassed. The waiters
apologized, walked around

your swaying figures. Sometimes
he reaches for you and it’s okay,

grabs onto a falling you didn’t know
you wanted. You didn’t want

to know how it feels to hold onto
nothing but the scrape of air, how it feels

to brush your teeth with
melted icicles and frosted grass.

How We Speak to the Dead / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

Fanned fingers of oak trees sing the dark
language of winged bodies, of ruby
throats against sun’s noon glare. Their tiny bodies
winging air. Now my heart cracked open. Sky
slung winter-low. Closed. I can’t decipher
the code from ground level. Somewhere, far off
the egrets are gathering. Dozens of
their stark white bodies float in the fecund
water of the rain-swollen Laguna,
their cries boiling with desire. Silence
will not save me
. Now in the aftermath.
Now in the gold-plated light of day done.
When she could no longer speak, I combed my
mother’s hair. Only the birds know this language.

Elegy for the New Year / by Anna Harris-Parker

February already,
I sigh, watch the sun settle
between the trees in the yard
framed by the bay window in
the kitchen trimmed with pink and
red paper chains. I own more
dishes than wishes—my one
resolution (Be present.)
a memory already
despite the bangle I bought
stamped with my most desired
mantra.
The calendar year
begins with promise enough:
yoga and dog walks, new books
and homemade bread, early to
rise and earlier to bed
until intentions begin
to feel like more decisions.

Perhaps setbacks are the point.
After all, today is when
we put faith in a fortune
telling rodent to know what
to wear, when to plant. Often,
he predicts an early spring.
Often, he is wrong. Seasons
for rebirth arrive in time.

Notes on Water Walking / by Ava M. Hu

Moon crossing water.

Wind, witchcraft,

the rising of waves.

 

Beginner’s mind water.

Walk on water water.

The water whose devotion

knows no end.

 

Does the salt from water

hold you?

 

Atoms bond to form

groups called molecules.

 

Magnets sort mirror image

molecules. Historians point out

sea-walking myths are common

in many cultures.

 

Splashing water, shy water,

the water with many mouths

and many songs. Are we

the water washing

the feet of the saint?

 

The levitation miracle, otherwise

called walking on water, is not unlike

the illusion of a chariot riding water.

 

Do you reach your hands out

to lift the feet of the god?

 

Should we all live in salt

waiting for him to rise?

 

Water holds the reflection

of other water.

 

Nothing has meaning

except for the meaning

you give it.

Art by Josh Axelrod

The fig tree in February / by Manfred Luedge

Last Month,
two, three weeks ago,
its twigs and branches stood
spike-like and grey against
the cloud-covered winter sky.
The compact discs strung up
to scare away thievish Blue Jays
and Mocking Birds, swinging in the wind.
Twisting and turning and casting
their rainbow reflections against my window.

They have become more numerous
than the few remaining leaves,
five-fingered, yellowed and browned,
holding on against all odds,
defying the season’s wind and rain.
And here and there
some small fruits still are
growing in the crook
between a branch and the stem of a leaf
like bubblegum ballooning
from the lips of a second grader
laying a snot-nosed claim
upon the future.

And now in February
the tree has gone completely naked,
stripped of the very last leaf.
Branches stark and barren
with only a handful of green
and shriveled figs clinging
to fading memories.

Pointless like the testicles
of old men, stubborn in their insistence
that there is hope, that
a new spring is sure to come.

For Francine / by Jayne Marek

At evening, you could walk into the desert with your son,
a grown man, who in the horizon’s halo seems both tall
and fragile, as if he were still seven years old,

whose voice outlines the scorpions that come
out of hiding in the comfort of starlight, tells the lives
of families of burrowing owls, sand sifting

from their wings. The mineral scents of this valley
make a tea of the air. It’s hard living in desert
extremes, love and fear, as the creatures here know.

What has happened to them in the past
twenty-four hours brought them something
that shapes their spirits to the outlines of cactus shadows

on pale earth. You could keep going forever toward
the mountain ranges in any direction. Talk has disappeared
into the tent of desert night. You will both be fed
and sheltered in your going.

looking for a sign / by Matthew Mumber

not much company on the rural road at 4 am,
heading to the airport to catch a west bound flight, a few
cold cars easing on by, traffic lights green, all else black.
some signs stand out: one by the YMCA: Exercise
Your Heart On Many Levels, lit up billboard bright 50’s man:
Parents: Your Job is To Protect and Not Serve Us, and then
bigger, bolder: BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT JESUS
IS ALIVE. phone music set on random, impossible
falsetto: in the words of a broken heart, it’s just
emotion taking me over, tied up in sorrow
lost in my song
, I remember the need to hydrate,
open up my silver cup and grab a fluorescent
green tea packet: Pure Green Tea Decaf and begin
to open it up, careful not to tear the attached
message holding the string. It’s important to me.
Closer to the city now, cars pile up in flocks jockeying
for left or right position, in front or behind the cargo
truck. Red light stop. I grab the tea tag torn from the bag,
and squint to read in the rosy reflected light:
Live by consciousness, not emotion.

“Soft glass” / by Sol Smith

An early light is woven
By the sound of waves.
Bare footprints lapidate
Wet sand, erased, repeated.

Alone, bent down,
She examines a handful
Of sand, rescuing soft glass
From a dark forever.

The shapes her body makes
Against the lightening sky
Last as long as the feet
Lost in the sand.

grey / by Valerie Spain

the house was not a home when I arrived
and though I loved
the wood floors
kitchen cabinets
high ceilings
all the walls were grey
thick- bland- weighty

and the steps–
I looked up at all the steps
two sets of steep
and narrow
steps
and I felt old
older than i was–
am

my youngest says
home is a place to make memories
but he is rarely here to make them
he drops by
sleeps over
on his way
someplace else

Poem 1 / Day 1

Paper Birds / by Lindsay Adkins

Fold yourself against me like a paper bird…

– Josh Ritter, “Baby That’s Not All”

They peel out of the tree bark at dusk,
wiggle the sunlight from their creases.
Their flight: the sound of pages turning,
plumes, bright streamers flitting in the wind.
Each joint is a bend, a tuck, a gathering closer,
so after they land on the telephone wires
they check their feet for tearing.
We can see our hands, then,
if they find a rip in their design,
how they pull at it
with their origami fortune teller beaks
until the talon comes clean off,
drifts to the grass like confetti.
Who made you? we wonder,
though our bones know the answer.
The answer is in the way they blow
down the street with the plastic bags
and onion peels and strands of hair,
searching for our words to fill their bellies,
or the way they hover around our heads
like paper crowns, blessing us with
their permanence, begging for some
friction in our vocal chords
so they may fold their bodies
into our arms,
sing our own songs back to us.

Circe’s Broken Sonnet / by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

The horizon of my exile was a
dull line until the ship arrived, until
the hollow-eyed men spilled forth from its belly
reeking of rotted wood, their skin grayed from salt’s
stain. I was in my stone house; hadn’t heard
winds untethered rage or the way the sea
swelled against the bedrock of my island
when I heard the knock and opened the door.
I poured my loneliness into brimming
golden cups—I was surprised his force.
Cold wall slammed against my back, his hands closed
around my throat. Do you blame me for what
I did? I found my voice. Spoke the spell, turned
the men into what they were. I never greeted another ship.

Seeing a Bird’s Song / by Anna Harris-Parker

after a photograph by Mikhail Kalinin

Perched on the limb of a wind-lashed tree,
the Eurasian Blue Tit puffs his tune.
Tee, tee, tee drifts through the air—lazy

S of breath. He is hungry and cold—
his forest frozen, stripped of spiders,
caterpillars. Young still—judging by

his breast’s soft yellow—he calls his flock
of family: tee, tee, tee. He will
not flee to a neighboring city

as his elders did a century
ago, opening foil seals on glass
milk bottles with their black beaks, nesting

in letterboxes or fashioning
a street lamp shelter. Instead, he waits
in the woods for someone to venture

toward his frame, cupping an offering
of trail mix—a small thank you for this
snapshot seen and shared around the world.

Notes on the River Styx / by Ava M. Hu

Murky, inexplicable, black river,

sleep, ghosts, eyelids must be covered

with gold coins to pay for the miracle,

the enchantment, death, sleep, witchcraft,

immortal, black, river, place a coin

in my mouth, the ferryman

 

bound for eternity-

Photography by Josh Axelrod

Last Stand / by Manfred Luedge

The day Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull
raided Custer’s Last Fruit and Veggie Stand
he swore revenge eternally.
Didn’t realize he’s finished.
Never a hero in the history books
of any nation,
what with Wounded Knee and everything.
It’s like building a career using My Lai
as a major reference.

Or a three-foot steel fence
somewhere in the middle of nowhere
with your name on it
in 28-point block letters in gold
painted on it.

Not even the coyotes
will lift their leg
to something like that.
And they’re not picky about
where they go at all.
I know. I’ve watched them.
But even they draw a line
somewhere.
And that’s that!

Night Herons in the City: Chicago, 2013 / by Jayne Marek

How could the night herons ever come back?
to this noisy place…

Gary Snyder

Miles from Midway.
A park with monuments
smells of bird crap. One heron
glides down low,
banks into clamor,
greedy bills, evil eyes
when I look up.
One’s dead in the grass,
a skirmish of feathers,
bones. A napkin
flaps across my shoes toward the next tree.
Here come some bicycles.

Fierce enough
to watch their kin
rot below,
those gunsight eyes
watch the squeaking children’s bikes roll past
under the trees, heads arced
as toward prey.
Who’s to say
they wouldn’t eat us.
White spatters across trampled
city-green grass.

a poem a day for one month / by Matthew Mumber

only 28 days

in February

some combination of words

my only tools

 

a locksmith

seeking verse

that will release

a fragile buried part

inside

 

pray

that I am up to the task

may

a lucky breeze

blow away

my halo with my cares

may a gentle sea

drown my reputation

 

we begin together:

listen

allow

 

what is felt

as each tumbler falls?

one step closer

to open

 

just a little to the right

will not do

nor just a tad off

to the left

 

connect

gentle gentle

align

mercy mercy

 

click, click, click, fall

you

click click fall

are

click fall

loved.

Write Something Beautiful / by Sol Smith

I used to stay up late
Writing in a yellow clearing
Of lamplight.
Or sit alone among the other
Poets and novelists in
Classrooms or cafes.

All that time, it turns out,
Was a youthful attribute.
Writing now is a between activity,
before or after something else
That is cut a little short.

And it’s not that I’ve given up,
So much as taken more on,
Staying up late with her,
Transmuting alone into together.
Together into everything.

And with her lips,
With her eyes,
Her fingers,
And the very tides of her body,
She urges me:
“Write something beautiful.”

covenant / by Valerie Spain

I take milk and apples
eggs and cheese
from the refrigerator
and leave the doors open

I pour tea at the counter
put dishes in the sink
while refrigerator cold
meets kitchen warmth

my father–ever impatient–
on seeing an open refrigerator
which he called an icebox
would yell–close the door!
then slam it shut himself

the lights of this silver box
stare in alarm
double doors flung wide
like the ark of the covenant
the only revelation here
leftover soup and stale cheese

but even now
it is a delicious transgression
so many years later

how quickly ghosts
take possession of a moment
and reveal their effect on a life