The 30/30 Project

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 nine volunteers for September 2016 are Merry Benezra, Lauren Boisvert, Lisa DeSiro, Lori Desrosiers, Alex Vartan Gubbins, Eric Pfeiffer, Gary Thomas, Uma Venkatraman, and Viviane Vives. Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact kmiles@tupelopress.org with your offer, a brief bio, and three sample poems 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.


Day 29 / Poems 29

*

Age / by Merry Benezra

Even the sky grows
older, day by day leaning
farther out. The clouds
bear a deeper bruise-
colored edge; the sun
a painful squint, more turned
against, than toward.

*
*

DREAD / FULL / by Lauren Boisvert

I have been bled dry by words / stuck with pins of words / until my veins are open and yielding /
newborn canyons wet and red . . . . / there is so much that words have done to me / but saved
is not first on the list / although I would like you to think so / words hold my hands over open
flame / gathering ghosts to my fingertips / words make them hang like puppets / like suicides /
words have stuck flowers between my breasts / and called it art / and called it soft / I have told
words to fuck off / but here they are / spreading spaces like loose thighs / making images curl up
and die / like dogs / like desert / I have made words into what they are / witches / sinners /
animals / I have made good into words / and bad into words / and everything in between into
words / what are words if not a kiss on the knuckles before a punch in the face / what are words
if not a switchblade caressing a soft pink throat / what is my word against the word of kings / my
word is dreadful tattooed inside my hollow stomach / my word is falling in love / with itself.

*
*

A Passionate Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Kinship is
important to me. I
reach out to others,
strengthening communities —
teens and adults of all ages —
enthusiastically. I foster
new connections, creating beauty.

*
*

Tether / by Lori Desrosiers

The world
has shrunk
to the size
of my mother
her worry has
me tethered
and I cannot
travel far.
In a dream
thread
stretches
from sky
to ground
enters
the crown
of my head
holding me
down.

*
*

Day 29 Poem / by Eric Pfeiffer

You didn’t know you could
write 30 poems in 30 days.
But now you know you can,
just one more poem to go.

Together, that is the key word,
we had high expectations,
higher than ever before,
we believed in each other.

Let’s gather together
our own best poems,
and share with the world
what we have wrought.

*
*

A Juggler Before the Lord / by Gary Thomas

(after Robert Fulghum)

He has nothing in his hands
nothing in the air apart from the air
except what his hands make us see—

balls and clubs and knives even a chainsaw
rending a watermelon during the sermon
in which words are levitated from the page

to become the morning’s exegesis
from the scripture of midway transformation
the gospel of prestidigitation

as this conjuror in street-motley plucks
abstracted scarves and swans from the sleeves
of his purple green gold hoody to make them

drift and bob on a mirage of Mardi Gras steam—
What we could only imagine is more than we’d seen
before this disclosure was the message—a gift of new eyes

a way to hear silence between notes and motes
a means to hold songs in silences and sleights of hand
a path that tapers toward love encircling all light—

*
*

9+29 / by Uma Venkatraman

You observe, not
just the vase
precariously perched
on the edge
From the corner
of your eye
you watch me teeter

You have seen me shatter
Shards of my rage
have pierced
your armour, you have
smelt blood — your own —
now you want mine

I fight to keep
an impassive countenance
while anger bubbles within
If the volcano explodes
you will claim victory
once again

Familiar demons prod me
to lash out
The deep breath I take
stirs the stillness
tipping the vase over
It splinters on the floor
once precious
now sparkling slivers
marooned on earth

You wait for the eruption

I sweep up the pieces
in silence
cutting myself
on sharp edges

The fury flows
out of me
I feel nothing
I feel free

I win

*
*

Day 28 / Poems 28

*

Immortality / by Merry Benezra

No one said
she would live forever
and this is painful
she wants this story
buried.

*
*

lb28

*
*

A Working Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

My name means lily of the valley. My little boys think I’m
über-cool. To them and to my husband, I
give loving support and care. I’m good with numbers, sharp-
eyed. I have a keen mind and a kind nature.

*
*

ld28

*
*

Matias, Butane Man By Day, Gaucho By Night / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

He begins to tap his canisters through
the streets of Barcelona at 7am.
If he sells his shares by noon, he’ll wake
his mother in Buenos Aires with a phone call,
say he loves her &’ll wire a hundred dollars
the coming weekend, & this Sunday he hasn’t
time for church but’ll pray between shifts.

It is good to be twenty. He can go off
no sleep to pluck Tango through the night
in a park. He’s got stamina like a rider,
descends from the peaks of Pissis.
The wind is cold, but the route is certain.
He stays his fingers on the path of scales
as the audience yells olé! and Arriba!
One time, a man slapped his knee, made
a lasso motion with his arms, laughed hard,
then tossed a 20 cent piece at Matias feet.

*
*

From My Childhood / by Eric Pfeiffer

Behind the thatched house
of my childhood
the orchard overflowed
with apple and pear trees,
with cherries and plums
with bees buzzing
to make everything right.
The flower garden exploded
with tulips and roses,
with corn flowers and iris,
with pansies and marigolds,
butterflies animating
the flower beds.

Then came the war
and it all went away.

*
*

One Poet’s Wednesday Finds Itself Strewn with Hyphens / by Gary Thomas

…where the benefits you’ve prayed for meet the penitence you’ve paid for…
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Ian Fitzgerald, “Melinda Down the Line”)

woke up breathing leisurely—
—for a hummingbird

spotted no post-debate nuclear waste in the backyard
just some spilled birdseed and sugar water

appointed rounds spun and sizzled in the brainpan
stamped their sorry-as-smack track marks on the day’s plans

waved off that grind . . shot up another cuppa joe
started this whatever-it’ll-be-o

on one of those wonder-if wit-walks
into a garden and across some pages

punctuated by shredding of spiral paper
flick of confetti balls toward the neighbor’s cat

by-and-by patio glider permitted take-fives
between couplets cobbled together from trices

attuned to the key of why-not modulating to here-goes
till a landscape of lampblack and river-watercolor

lay on the rude desk . . . refused to change
save for some as-yet-invisible north light

simpler: sat for hours . . . . . wrote a total of five
good words . . .  couldn’t remember which

but one of them had to be tomorrow

*
*

9+28 / by Uma Venkatraman

Here, seasons don’t change.
No switch from summer linens to winter wool.
No spring wafts in, no smoky autumn mystery lingers.
The sun shines every day.
Even the rain seems to pour only to wash the green.
The clouds rumble, sometimes.
Lightning bolts flash down, rivalled by camera flashes
Everyone marvels at the spectacle.
Even though this happens all the time.
Nothing is new.
I’ve lived as me for a long time.
Trying to leave every day at 8.30 am.
Most days I fail.
The morning always spins out of my grasp.
The same bus speeds past my despairing eyes.
I even recognise the people waiting at the stop.
Like Vladimir and Estragon waited for Godot.
Unlike him, the bus does arrive.
Not always on time. Neither do I.
This is routine.
Conditioned by the sameness of life.
I tell anyone willing to listen, “I don’t do change.”
But change obviously does me.
Within, mostly.
Occasionally without.
I count the grey on my head, the lines on my face.
Always increasing.
Inside, restlessness swells, like the waves responding to the full moon.
It hung low in the sky a few days ago.
Something shifted.
Like greatness thrust on some, I now want cataclysmic change shoved on me.
Take away the choice.
I have it now.
So I choose to do nothing.
Control is overrated.
Spin me like a top, so I can let out the high-pitched frenzy reverberating inside.
If you didn’t hear me scream, did I make a sound?

*
*

Day 27 / Poems 27

*

Bell / by Merry Benezra

Her life is a bell clanging,
clanging. Even the
gods find her grating, and
have sealed their lairs
against her. When she looks
into the sky, she sees how it is.
The sky steely, colorless,
or the color of death.

*
*

Rose Nutz and M.E.J. in New Leipzig, North Dakota, November 1917 / by Lauren Boisvert

I.

We are screened in sepia. Twelve shades of gold
painted in yolk. We are two pieces of French bread
leaning against dirty windows. Ground level, basement.
You will be dead in forty years.

II.

I am in my best dress. Close your eyes against glare
but look at me through clenched eyelashes.
I will stare ahead and wait for you to notice
the green of me the black boots of me the pin curls of me.
I am the Lord’s own North Dakota splendor.

III.

What do you have behind your back?
Show me roses, show me a ring with a cranberry garnish,
show me years and years of National Geographic
used to line the cat box. Tell me I look pretty good.
I will show you the scar on my thigh.

IV.

There is a story about two girls and an axe
I am one girl I have the axe sharpening it for firewood
the other is my sister who looks like Lulu Glaser on her postcard
parasol and derby hat she is sharpening her killing axe.
My sister who looks like Bertha Galland throws hatchets like a man
I can shoot them from the air with my father’s rifle.
I who look like no one have asked my sister to throw a hatchet
my sister who looks like Annabelle Moore in her butterfly dress
I have asked her to throw a hatchet at me as hard as she can.

V.

There is the shadow of your cousin taking our photo.
You are embarrassed of him he has mad eyes from the war
he sees ghosts and dead men and trenches always trenches full of blood
you hate him for his misgivings his sweaty palms his nervous tic
but I have seen these things as well and you will never hate me.

VI.

My sister who looks like everyone beautiful threw her hatchet
that is when I saw the ghosts they poured from the gash in my thigh
little drips of white smoke with empty sockets and stretched mouths
they nudged behind my eyes swirling through my rods and cones
like children on a playground until all I saw were ghosts, ghosts.

VII.

My sister will be buried with her hatchets her killing axe
her tarty red lipstick and her book of erotic poems.
I will be buried with a cow skull hiding my face and pennies in my eyes.

VIII.

Let ravens perch upon us now.
We will be bones together.

*
*

ld27

*
*

my cats are fighting one is dying / by Lori Desrosiers

lymphoma slowly eating at him
in places we can’t see and our
oldest cat died last month at 19
having loved and ruled them all

now they bicker, motherless
erupt in screeches, the smallest
hides behind the chaise
we run out and shout hey, stop

try to break up their purposeful
mêlée but unsure what to do
how to undo death and illness
the unbalance created thereby

*
*

Barcelona Pawn Shop: The Dealer Explains To Her
How Franco Stamps Are Too Insignificant / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Tattered, creased, a deranged face
without expression, ink washed,

an obsolete antique, which once
could send letters or tea, is become

a flimsy paper worth less than a tissue
to wipe the sweat from a hot stroll.

The lady shrugs her shoulders, crumples
Franco, tosses him into the trash.

*
*

gt27

*
*

9+27 / by Uma Venkatraman

Not another vegetable
no more talk of meat
I don’t care anymore
what you want to eat

I don’t want to forever
slave over the stove
Or constantly pull out pies
with a tattered, stained glove

I’m not just a homemaker
devoted to the house
I also have to be the
bring-home-the-bacon spouse

When did you last ask me
what it was I wanted to do
I even gave up coffee
as tea was your preferred brew

So many years together
you still don’t know who I am
And why I write sad poetry
Do you really give a damn?

You say I’m always whining
Today I will tell you why
I feel part of the furniture now
That’s what makes me cry

So many dreams languish
in dusty corners of my mind
But duty and responsibility
have me stuck in a bind

I want to spread my wings
break free of the cage and fly
I wish you would understand
instead of always asking why

I wonder how you would like it
if the shoe was on the other foot
If you take charge for one day
I’m sure things would go kaput

*
*

27.
Cadaques / by Viviane Vives

Quique, the day you took the photos in the little Cadaques cove, the wind was biting her eyes. She was 22 or 23, looked like a girl of 16. Ugly, you have the lens too close, too low, and her eyes cry, she can’t stop them, you don’t give her time. It is one of those coves, beautiful turquoise green water behind rocks where you can fuck without anyone seeing you; you loved that. She’s that girl not yet fully grown that makes men mad and doesn’t realize it. Your favorite.

At home, she writes while you draw–facing desks–she’s not yet an actress. She dresses wrong, it drives you crazy, she doesn’t care for hair or nails; being pretty is for others, she is not interested, she doesn’t need it. She wears big glasses for astigmatism and smokes and thinks. She becomes a little more aware of her beauty for you but what matters is that she considers herself an artist more thanks to you (and to the one you hate, him too.) Writing makes her suffer but captures her. Time stops and her hemorrhaging does too. She struggles to believe that she is entitled, free to write if she feels like it. Expressing herself this way was forbidden. Too many nuns.

She has a picture in her mind of someone and herself in that cove. Many years later. When she was with you, the young people her age were not for her. She almost never chose them as lovers. But in her belated fantasy, they are for once the same age. It’s like a film. The colors too. They are both beautiful. Alike in details, corkscrew hair, thin but strong wrists, two friendship bracelets. The skin color is the same, and it even turns the same shade of reddish brown under the Cadaqués sun, their musculature is defined, long. They fit. She writes and he draws, looking at the light and the things it kisses wherever they go, they are obsessed, if they stop, they can’t breathe, they get anxiety. She lets the pen run across the page. Large letters, tied to each other and very ugly. A Moleskine does not last her long. His drawings are large with tiny footnotes.

Blue sea, blue sea, blue sea. Her curls, his blue eyes, their wet skin, smooth and hairless chests. Behind the rocks with the water right there. Their salty skin, their sweet sweat. They are the sea, endless.

The boat where Sió takes pictures of her, to her wrinkled hand writing words against the sun. Reminiscing. It’s a shame that he is an imbecile, and she’s old, and that you’re dead. She’s going to Mallorca tomorrow, just wants to get into the sea, not return to Cadaqués. She’s afraid she’ll never get out again. Best go to Mallorca where everything is old and new at once, and where she has not put anything behind a rock by the sea to love forever.

*
*

Day 26 / Poems 26

*

Boy / by Merry Benezra

Her life is a boy, running
into the crowd to steal something—
a street urchin
barely
noticed, and therefore
never caught.

*
*

An Open Letter to a Cousin Who Has Been Gone for Twelve Years or Please Do Not Try to Talk to Me About This Poem / by Lauren Boisvert

You’d be twenty-four and handsome / probably / you had these horrible glasses / but so did I /
two little bats / blind as river rocks / and just as slippery / I have not grown into my face / so
much as I have forced it to look this way / I believe you would have grown into yours / as a foal
grows into its new legs / I read Slaughterhouse Five for a class / now I am an expert on death /
there is nothing sentimental about me now / I have not thought of you / sat down and really
thought / in many years / years that passed like dog ears folded / unfolded / velvet soft years that
screamed through the birth canal / my memory is slimy with afterbirth / So it goes / you are dead
now but alive sometime else / you are alive on the roof of a shed / you are alive but there is a
hornet taking stock of your brain stem / looking for a place to build a nest / As I have said / there
is nothing sentimental about me now / You wouldn’t like me as I am / I haven’t painted my
hands in clay dust since I was twelve / I have lost our flattened pennies / I haven’t seen a kudzu
bush in seven years / I haven’t climbed a tree / or caught lightning bugs / or had someone think I
was smart / for a long time now / If I had children I would not name them after you / I would not
name them after anyone I know who has died / you are too much for a child to live up to /
because you are still a child / I was still a child / I did not see your body before you left us / and I
do not regret it / even now /

*
*

Hitting the Skids
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

I’m the way of maintaining good
relations, getting nations to say hi
to one another, getting people to stop
fighting, and I’m the skill
of conducting negotiations with no
hard feelings, diffusing any alarm
without causing any drama
even when handling affairs ad hoc
I’m the means of not arousing hostility

*
*

Politico / by Lori Desrosiers

We are the next candidates
the future readers of tablature
fine lookers and sure stalkers.
We are the ones we should hire
for all the great campaigns
faces painted pink and green
like Scotts in battle. Take us
back to where we came forget
the plans repel our shame
and bring to bear renewal hope
to end our constant pain.

*
*

A Chat with the Poet Jose Liñan Navarro, Answering the question:
What to Title the Poem about a Moment’s Instance? / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

“To arrive at any point, we must readjust our sight.”
Said by the poet’s fan to himself.

In a moment’s instance, at the edge of Gracia,
you put on a coat, because leaving the village is like
jumping into a frozen lake: La Vila de La Gracia, Our Island

In an instance, you learn how parks represent the body—
the Arc de Triomf, a structure fully embracing the above:
It Rests Head-Proud at the Gates to Sycamores and Ponds.

Or—in a moment’s instance, we can arrive
where we’ve been & abandon a home we’ve never understood:
Those Walls that Divide Dwellers are Burned

Or—in a moment’s instance, we can find
split seconds to consult about the ghosts
& our skin’s color in a present light:
Brighten, Tighten, The Afterlife is Around Us

Or this—In a moment’s instance, we can see
our palms’ lines, brush their tails to cheeks
of a sexy face, who grabs our view from the darkness
behind the sunrise: Shape Us Into a Plea
for Staying Under the Sheets Another Hour.

No no—this—
In a moment’s instance, the winter clouds
will disappear: Body Heat, A Poet & His Struggle

No no—this is it—this is the one
we’ve been waiting for, the realist of words—
relax your shoulders, exhale, here it is:

*
*

My Last Birthday / by Eric Pfeiffer

Here’s hoping
That my last birthday
Will not have been
My last birthday.

Here’s hoping
That life will continue
Sweet and light
For yet a while.

Here’s hoping
That you
Will stay still
At my side.

Here’s hoping
That more
Is yet
To come.

*
*

Aesthetes and Hoi Polloi Ask How We Are Come to This / by Gary Thomas

We are well met enough at this moment,
Hail-Fellow. Hell, though. How so?
We had this, didn’t we? We came here
to solve some riddle, be amazed without
having to work for it overmuch. We bought
a rainbow bubble on big short credit. Shorter still:
Twenty-First Century Foxed is what
we are. If the path is proletarian, what is it
we are born to? America, we hardly knew:
how are we meant to embrace
if we do not risk release?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..  . . . Meanwhile
and a New York minute later,
meet me under a bridge. There’s work
to do. Infrastructure and all that, and all that
starts by boiling down barricades—don’t get
us started on border walls. Later, maybe,
up on a roof the Drifters promised would be
paradise, trouble-proof, with room enough,
we can rest awhile.
. . . . . . . .. .  . . . Even so, this locus has been left
undone for too long. We live here,
after all, and we all could. Shouldn’ta
took more than we gave, can we agree? Come
on then, call us callow, tell us how we should
meet each morning from now on that’s more
than hellacious. Well? We all have this
coffee shop slum mall intersection schoolroom garden runway valley floor cliff face
it it’s still here up to us to decide what punctuation comes next

*
*

9+26 / by Uma Venkatraman

I am beyond angry
I have become rage
and you mock me
with your oh-so-cool eyes

In the red glow of dusk
I am an incendiary word
away from combustible

You always knew
indifference was the fuel
to send me up in flames
and you toss it towards me
in a steady stream as if
you wish to see me burn

Sometimes I think
your inflammatory smile
has been perfected
to set me to simmer
heating my molten core
and I wonder why
I constantly feel like an inferno

I remember, dimly, a time when
I was an oasis of calm
a placid Bull slow to rage

But even the long-suffering earth
becomes parched when
rain refuses to fall
and the drought of emotion
left me cracked
a tinderbox needing only a flicker
to turn incandescent

So I seethe and bubble
and stew and fume
while the wildfire you stoked
gathers speed, ready
to raze your world

*
*

26.
The Heart / by Viviane Vives

Take whatever you want to your heart, the universe, even your enemy, grab it with both hands and bring it, give it, put it in your chest, your open rose. Part like the curtain of a theater, disappear, become that you’ve invited to your heart. Drops of everything slide down his body. I grab handfuls of wind into my chest, the window that I am opens, I become wind, and later, tree. I do not need him anymore. I can get him in my chest if I want and be him. Yes, that too. All. I shall not want. I look in the mirror and my desire looks back at me; I am, thirty years old, the Rose. I am one of them, don’t you know? And you too, but you do not remember anything. My crown lights up, I smile. Everything is over. The day I know who I am, it all starts.

Those who betray us are simply asking for a blessing, Malidoma says. I know this is true. If you have not been blessed you are damned. And though cursed and possessed by the black and red wind, even so, you have every right to ask to be blessed. The part of you that is true demands as it can, badly, to give you this blessing that I carry with me and protects me from the beginning. It was the pure love of my parents, still intact, and the sheer beauty of my grandfather and my grandmother, Térèse and Pep, who had already gone around all, reaching the other side. Angels repositories of grace that save people, appease them. Flying over the abyss, I dress in white skins, I rip my heart and open it, I become cool breeze, in, and out pour blessings for you and for them.

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

Book / by Merry Benezra

Her life is a book written
in runes, she pores over it
but cannot make it out.

Here the word that perhaps
means summer or else nudity;
this one could be indulgence.

The book is torn, so that
certain pages contain mysteries
half-lost, half-gibberish. Her life,

she fears, will go unread.

*
*

When You Fall In Love With a Fly-Over State and No One Understands Why / by Lauren Boisvert

My pen I stole from the Iowa House
my highlighter is from Blick’s in Iowa City
my laptop is from Singapore but it went to Iowa
I am from Connecticut and then Florida but I went to Iowa
. . . . . . .  and my body came back but my bleeding heart is still there.

*
*

Sitting Buddha
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

suspend thinking and judgment and all that jazz
let words, ideas, images, the entire panorama
of the monkey mind with its razzmatazz
pass by, no need to be involved, see
through eyes half-shut half-open

 / buddha

*
*

Yesterday I met a grasshopper on a bench / by Lori Desrosiers

Looking to rest for a moment between classes,
the grasshopper must have seen me coming.

Since the weight of my body surely shook the bench
she crawled down a bit to avoid my shoulders.

I got up to see her closer, snapped a few pictures
of her yellow and black stripes, twitching antennae,

high back legs, her graceful, long yellow wings.
She made her way to the bench’s edge, and jumped

into the plant behind us, thick with green,
yellow and red grass, it being nearly autumn.

grasshopper

*
*

The D, #4734 / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

To eat camel, you should tagine it
where shisha black speckles the sky
& the full mosques keep the streets empty.
It’s hot over the bowl. It’s hot over the tea.
Even the sea steams a gassy smog
on the shore, impossible to avoid,
so you join it on the Corniche,
where walkers and runners and prayers
find some grass, children with parents
& servants following behind
share this bay, the sun drenching sorrow
brought in by a desert wind,
a lack of oxygen, plenty of conspiracy.
Because it’s about this time on a Friday
the rocking clang of church bells
would be nice, the way they rinse off
a hard week of dealing with customers
that figure you just higher than a slave—
Yes, how the rings would generously slide
into your barely pumping heart—
they could pick you up again in swing—
the silence between gongs reminds you
art and discussion and scientific study
are the concrete beams of the world—
not want, or white robes, or black covers—
Yes, it’d be nice to know the body in public
is appreciated because it lives for love,
and lovers, and to be looked upon by eyes—
that the flesh should be part of everything,
& to reveal it is refreshing, the opening
you feel under the rain after years inside.

*
*

Daily I Walk / by Eric Pfeiffer

Daily I walk
Ten thousand steps
To nowhere just
To clear my mind.

I see
Wild worlds to conquer
As I walk; doubt never
enters my mind.

Then back to reality
Which hurts
In all the hidden places
I never knew I had.

*
*

Not What the Liturgist Read, But the Parables I Heard / by Gary Thomas

You think if you work hard enough, you can fix the precious things you’ve broken—
rather than being careful with them in the first place. —Guillermo del Toro, The Night Eternal

Consider
the lilies
how they feel
when the funeral is over
and life breaks them apart

Consider
the ravens
if they sewed
their coats of many feathers
with neither pockets nor lapels

Consider
your leaders
when they claim
to voice their single truth
as if simple were easy

Consider
your words
for some understanding
in all things that allow
a chance to grant kindness

Consider
all wonders
the poise of clouds
the sky a mirror of bronze
your own living breath

*
*

9+25 / by Uma Venkatraman

Every year
is a fresh diary
clad in a pearly grey
or a rich brown
colours I never wear
But my thoughts
can reside within
on pristine pages
inviting confidences
But I am reluctant
to again share myself

the way I used to
pour my heart out
on to pages
that grew weary
of my secrets
Heartbreaks scribbled
in blue or black
smudged by watermarks
left by dripping tears
woes exorcised
by words and water
teenage travails
on mute sheets

Now those diaries
exist only in my past
ripped to shreds
on a muggy afternoon
drowned in a bucket
of tepid water

No more memories
committed to paper
One murder in a lifetime
is quite enough

*
*

25.
Birds / by Viviane Vives

Do not go to the edge, the dark, stay with me, I will bring you the light of my years spent in beauty and strength, I will take away the grief, I swear, it will be worth it. Even if it was known, even with your discontent and shame, do not go crying into the wilderness tracing tattoos that are not yours, erasing mine.

All the lost happiness, the lost healing for the world; yes, I know it’s the most practical thing. You have no fucking idea of how you’re going to tear. I have practice. I’ll remember the exact moment I felt the story complete, how you looked like a dirty kid lost in the dim light. I will go down under and change the seasons. I’ll think you’re stupid. That you make me nervous. And I you. Terminate.

I wish the wind would stop blowing. I write, I am free, I am free. I free myself. Empty. “So be it.” A whimper over my chest and a quick hand in my pants to the hairs is really nothing. Nothing remains. I offered a prayer, the words came like newly released birds, madly, over this fucking emptiness.

I want a man, I thought yesterday, who does not retire but enters. One who is not ashamed. He wears an antler made of tree branches and becomes one of them. That. Man. Birds flying through the desert.

From your notebook, Bambi: “The wind makes itself visible by what it touches.” Maybe also by the birds that fly on it.

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

Map / by Merry Benezra

Her life, she sees, is a map
with cigarette burns, falling
open at the well-used crease. Ships
cascade off the edges of this
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . map
where hungry serpents
lounge, nothing better to do
than wait for
faithless
men.

*
*

lb24

*
*

A Mighty Girl / by Lisa DeSiro

Daughter and mother of daughters / wife /
art historian, curator, advocate / women’s
rights proponent / environmentally aware /
cyclist / Taekwondoist / kickboxing
instructor / kind / creative / cat person

*
*

Press / by Lori Desrosiers

cold press
press down
hand pressed
cold rain
press room
meet the press
precedent
empress
prestidigitation
stars press
gravity holds
stars up
Earth down
warm press
clouds up
stars up
rain down
hands down

*
*

After Jose Liñan Navarro’s Reading
at Little John’s Bar / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Drink to a new life he says
as he shows me his newborn’s photo.
It is such baby, a perfect happy in the crib.

But tonight is a night to discuss the grave
to those attending. Good living friends.
Torn pamphlets stick to the beer-wet floor

beneath his stool, painted a molecule blue.
A giggling couple passes the door, rain
fills their footprints before he glances back

at his beer, analyzes the foam, a wash
but stuck to a glass the shine of wasted light.
When he reads from a music stand,

he admits the notes make no sense
before, during, or after resonation.
The listeners do not pick up their shoes

at whatever the cost, they prove attentiveness.
The bartender’s interested in sadness
which is taken from a man, who tries hard

to string feeling from his pen
to any frown that sips a whiskey,
the drink that douses the fire.

*
*

Threnody for Blackie / by Eric Pfeiffer

I was clear
Across the country
When I heard
That my old dog had died.

I would not be there
To bury him
And moisten the ground
With my tears.

In Salt Lake City I found
The hotel cocktail lounge
And played sad sad music
For his farewell.

No tears fell
As I remembered
All that he gave,
All that he was to me.

*
*

gt24

*
*
9+24 /
by Uma Venkatraman

If she stood still long enough
I could count all her bones

From the cheeks a Leonardo
could have lovingly chiselled

to the

delicate line of jaw
meeting in a razor-sharp chin

to the

strutting clavicles
creating hollows
for her grief to hide

to the

sharply etched ribs
a child could practice
his numbers on

to the

spindly arms that never knew
a comforting layer of fat

to the

fragile twigs passing for fingers
radiating from a slender wrist

to the

protruding hips
on whose jutting-out edges
you could hang a towel to dry

to the

stick-insect legs that failed
to carry her to safety

I could have counted them all
if he hadn’t smashed each one

All it took him was a fist

All I saw
was a shapeless sack of red

*
*

24.
Albert Redux / by Viviane Vives

You bring me the sadness of the pale ghosts that float over the almond and olive trees of Tarragona that Mercadé painted. Wandering Jews, carry their wise souls and tender hearts treetop to treetop, whispering incomprehensible beauty that no one records. They hide behind poetry and chemistry, sing soft songs, sigh to sigh; they let the breeze rock them to sleep. Their constant tears make white flowers bloom in Spring, when it’s still cold. They travel on the low clouds of the dry fields of Tarragona, then they go to Barcelona, then to Veracruz and always remember how the pines smell and how the Mediterrani shines. Blue and fragile souls, so much traveling, broken minds from waiting for the others. When I left for the USA, although the I-ching told me not to, I did not know these they were your people, pushing me, surrounding me with sea-foam and pulling my boat. I did not see them until you died. Why you never talked to me about Uncle Alberto or the others? They also left, like me. All I know is that they called you Alberto for him and that when you told me, a little smile escaped the corner of your mouth.

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

Instead / by Merry Benezra

If she moves
quickly enough
time sluices
through her;
she outpaces
her pain;
her memories
unreel
into blur.

So she builds
wings.

*
*

Reading Sandra Cisneros on the Beach with a Hangover / by Lauren Boisvert

The sun as a wheel pulsing hot alive
embroidered china blue and yellow.

I rock shut as a clam on a green towel feathered with sand
pink flesh protected in my shell
secret pearl of a peach sticky on my hands and mouth.

Hope for Eyes of Zapata on the back of my neck
red skin plummy and warm to touch.

Short legs short temper
but I am drinking blue alcohol from a glass
and pressing my tongue to salted corn
fingers greasy with butter and sunscreen.

Lemons in my glass last night, lemons and peaches
and whisky fermented in an angel’s mouth
stroke a lemon down my spine to make spots in the sun
I am citrus and blood and all hearts beating.

*
*

A Grown Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Single ladies like me work hard. I’m not
unusual in that regard. Still I’ve
seen more than my fair share of pain,
anxiety, disappointment, loss;
needless to say, I’ve been through a lot.

But I have my family, my friends, my beloved
animals, my house to make a home. I have
reasons to carry on, to continue
reaching for my dreams,
even when times get tough and then
tougher. I am capable. I am
tenacious in my pursuit of happiness.

*
*

at the poetry reading / by Lori Desrosiers

a girl on a girl’s lap
watches a poet
read her poem
about girls and sex
hand on her mouth
shifts in her seat
rises to listen
then we all move
shift in our seats
lean in to listen
try to decipher
layers of meaning
girls upon girls
laps upon laps

*
*

Beginning Day / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

The sails catch a gust
after a placid night:
You become the tiller,
the knots you now sustain.

*
*

I lie awake / by Eric Pfeiffer

I lie awake
Black thoughts
Invade my mind
Will no one help?

Then morning comes.
I spring into action.
The sun is shining
What was that all about?

*
*

The Equinoxics / by Gary Thomas

The two of them are of four minds this autumn.
She is painting the last of the still-life peaches

that fell from the twelve-year-old tree,
is already thinking of the cobbler or tarts
she will build after she scumbles the last Elberta.
He rakes some few freestone leaves into a mound,

scoops them into their compost bin, imagines
how many pink blossoms will shimmer next March.

She regards carpenter bees as they probe for a dead limb
or staghorn fern to burrow into, build their winter nest,
outlast the hard freezes ahead. She wonders if her man
has split enough seasoned logs for their old iron stove.

He feels this summer round a smoky bend, broods
over his shouldn’t haves. She smiles to see him pause.

She hasn’t witnessed that in months. He’s a metronome,
she allows, but he still has some will-o’-the-wisp in him.
He spots her peering at him through the kitchen window,
smiles back his chagrin-grin, their name for his coy shrug

and wide-eyed wince. At once aware of each other’s carriage,
they pivot between notion, token, speech, crossroads, calm.

They breathe. They breathe toward, they breathe amid the inside
they have shared so long as braided thought. Both have their chores
to get to, fears and reveries to spark them passim, raised voices,
commonplace caresses, their minds like leaves and fruit autumnal.

*
*

9+23 / by Uma Venkatraman

A whole heart
or a holey heart
or many holes
left by pieces
snapping off
like bits of a glacier
melting into the sea

*
Within me, global warming
operating in reverse
Each breakaway shard
freezes instantly
They rattle when l breathe
Yes, it aches
the way broken bones
do in winter even after
they have healed
a ghostly pain to remind me
of the time they cracked

Yet that is a welcome agony
for l feel it
my heart forgets to feel
with each piece it loses
A dead weight encased in ribs
meant to protect
a living organ that still beats

*
l feel it scream for mercy
when I run too fast
twisted shallow breaths
squeezing the life out of it
If l don’t stop running
perhaps it will stop
and so too will the pain

*
*

23.
Bambi Redux / by Viviane Vives

You bring me royal Belgian quixotic madness, Dutch mixed with witch, Jewish or Gypsy, or both (fuck you Hitler) and loud voices, strong bonds, resilience from the mountains of Florence. Green eyes and black hair that you wanted blond.

Sight and magic dreams. Mysteries and Templars, fairy tales and castles and ancestors, enchanted princesses, absent princes who seek they-don’t-know-what, we don’t expect them anymore, onward our inexplicable force. The gift of storytelling. To speak with you, even if, or because, you may be dead; the blue lady embracing me until I tangle my curls into hers; birds on my shoulder telling me secrets, deep crowded pools where miracles occur; the lake breeze in the morning opens, turns, me into her, I can fly. You brought so much magic, you broke into a thousand pieces. You were so brave that you knew and did not care. You dress in black, red lips and lace stockings, go out to the street to be free, to yell at the moon.

At first, I did not want all this, I repudiated seeing the death of my friends on walls, dreaming them when it was important, feeling him from afar; now that I’m old, it no longer frightens me, it allows me, like you and your aunt before you, to have them as they come. Something has to give, this overhead, this power, the electric force has to kiss the ground and touch the sky at once.

Talking to you has always been easy, from near or far, living or dead. Except the last years, you forgot it all, gulped the big lie. Or, maybe there were too many trips between worlds. You had been right all along, had you endured a few more days, you would have been in for good. You broke, Bambi. I am sorry. I love you. I do not know what to say. Yes you betrayed me, but nevertheless, I must always thank you. Completely love you, collect the pieces.

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

Crisis / by Merry Benezra

Her anger ripening,
pushing against her skin, bruised, aching
like a days’ unmilked cow.

That one, that smirking cocky
jeweled debutante. Now his
wealth and fame appeals. Everything

given to that one. Tumbling
down life’s good current, good things
bestowed by the gods,
like rain.

How
little extra needed
to pluck him
. . . . . . from her grasp.

*
*

lb22

*
*

Caught in the Middle
(a riddle) /
 by Lisa DeSiro

BAD THINGS HAPPEN TOO OFTEN HOW
LONG BEFORE WE STOP FIGHTING OH
AMERICA AMONG ALL YOUR PEOPLE I
COUNT TOO AND I CAN ONLY CRY OUT
KEEP TRYING SHARE SUPPORT LOVE

*
*

Dream while sick / by Lori Desrosiers

ld22

*
*

Brain On Treadmill / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Like curls
After an ironing:
Eradicated

*
*

Summer is Coming / by Eric Pfeiffer

Summer is coming
to an end. Enough
mangoes have fallen,
enough avocadoes, too.

Fall is coming.
October is here.
The air is indulgent.
Birds flying through.

We are together.
Nothing to do
but soak up pleasure
for winter to be.

*
*

Robot Ruba’iyat / by Gary Thomas

(after Wordsworth)

Metallic, were you thinking, not like me?
Built some other way in order to be
of service, some harmless drudge unobserved
until beckoned by listless bourgeoisie—

or autonomous, a label to let
you feel safe and allowed your drab mindset,
to laze and be praised for your lassitude
while I suck up your dreck as you forget

my presence has transmuted your purpose.
Getting and spending, you count each purchase
as gain, lay waste your hours letting me
lead you to what’s less, polish the surface

of your life lived too late, too soon. You are
too much with us, we who are wired, too far
from flesh for your envy, too close to gnats
for your comfort. Who is whose avatar?

What abides in our natures that is ours?
Do synapses’ and circuits’ brief powers
breathe light, pulse green? Were you thinking I might
know if both our souls dream binary flowers?

*
*

9+22 / by Uma Venkatraman

The clouds cast
a strangely familiar gloom
seemingly stolen from
within my unfulfilled soul

The air is restless
with the harried chirping
of the birds
giving a frantic voice
to my unsaid woes

A storm is about to tear
the evening apart
the temporary calm
settles eerily on my skin

The leaves
rustle a warning,
the heat seeping
from the road
traps my feet
in an inescapable lethargy

Heavens unleash
their tears into my eyes
the rain lashes
my upturned face

The wrath of the skies
demands a victim
I am only too willing
to offer myself up

Don’t call it a sacrifice
I am far from being noble
My escape lies
in being consumed

*
*

22.
Lake and Sea / by Viviane Vives

Writing is talking to dead people, your traitors, to curse them up close and bless them from afar. A monotonous monologue you cannot not leave without drugs or alcohol or perhaps music; it’s not funny to hear the same song in your brain for months. You wake up with it, piss with it, swim in the lake with it. Yet, not the least bit of pain today. Warm breeze on my skin, rocked by the lake, no one can cry. There is joy in the water, music, children swimming. Enormous white clouds quietly stroll looking at everything. They help you breathe. Not even the sun is aggressive today. I want to be indolent, but while I swim I think I started this book because of you and almost have not touched the subject. Your letters speak occasionally, hot voices, stirred by love and impatience; with rampant naivete. Such hope. I would leave it there. The beginning of your love. Suspended in time as if it had never ended in cries, betrayal, so much death. The incipient madness is still hope, it remains pure and charming. Nothing else exists. Your love is welling in my heart and I rock it. I do not feel any storm on the horizon. I have found peace. I lay on the deck, and open my notebook:

“December 23, 2012. (It’s summer in Perth.)

Deep in the Sea.

First swim in the sea
The wind keeps blowing
I write about you two
In two languages

Star, sea, goddess
He stumbles
Filled with dread
Total closeness
He must have her
Not become a slave
Or run away in weakness.
Some flee and others fall
Forward and fully only
To really know
Her deep feminine power.
Immense power to one
Who was pretending power.

She’s her own
magical destination
Frees him, delivers him
to his own talents.
Star and human.
Woman and man”

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

Through the Window, Backwards / by Merry Benezra

The heaviness of water:
stopped midcourse,
oars of no use. Poised
on the edge of time and fame.
Colchis in view, Medea
undreamed.
On a still coordinate
under the reeling stars
his men wondered,
Whose magic?

*
*

lb21

*
*

Brother & Sister / by Lisa DeSiro

joined by bonds of love and friendship ~ we
appreciate each other ~ our family is a team
cooperating together as best we can ~ our mom
keeps track of our adventures with her camera

*
*

How My Grandfather Didn’t Sell My Mother to the Yiddish Theatre / by Lori Desrosiers

My mother says my grandfather
often used to tell her
when she sang and danced
at three and four years old
that he would sell her
to the Yiddish Theatre
although in another
version of the story
they boarded a bus
to somewhere in Philly
where auditions
supposedly were held
but no one was there
and so they went home.
She tells me her father
was planning to join also
which would certainly have been
a surprise to my grandmother,
who didn’t know where they went.

*
*

Listening to Spanish Guitar in Chaotic Spectrum / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Formed when Ziryab fled Baghdad
to arrive with the idea of a fifth string
because even a thousand years ago
there must’ve been listeners here
in courtyards whose stone walls echo
the guitar ring through night streets
until a dawn ray closes its wings and stretches
to land on the rain and wind chiseled ears—

Never is there a moment a strummer isn’t trying
to play to a desperate face, wanting a kiss
between chords, always hands inventing notes
for the elements of desire, the intractable
struggle we stare in the eye when an insatiable
scale trickles across the eardrum and assumes
a place to unleash inner chains and guide it around
the four corners of everything bothering, everything
bubbling, what isn’t dancing, what is expecting—

Never are the vines not climbing balconies, wrapping
pergolas, rending themselves into the air where a music
mobiles and flaunts incompressibility, the un-owning
independence of an ineffable exploring sound, an invested
green it can give to humanity in tones, almost like body,
like a ball rolling along before the echo’s inspired to kick
like a jackhammer, pick up and throw it to another
almost-body with anxious notions, open and practiced
pinnacled and plain like a spiral noise in flex.

*
*

The Yard / by Eric Pfeiffer

The yard is full
of butterflies and birds,
like my mind, flitting.

It cannot think
of where to dwell,
but whirring, whirring.

Then evening comes,
redolent with flowers,
still and calm. Exhale.

*
*

Garabato / by Gary Thomas

Scribble your way to me. Pencil me in
by scrawling your way out of this blank space.
Ticonderoga or Sharpie shaved thin—
makes no matter. Show me your voice and face

in your first-draft doodles, your John Keats curls
and whorls, Ulam spirals to show you’re bored,
about to howl, to dance, a chance for swirls
beyond box step or borderline, a chord

played on strings of your creation. Avail
yourself, involve me as your drafting desk,
allow your soul’s slightest whim and detail,
depict a once and future arabesque,

a geometría of our free hands,
una belleza neither understands.

*
*

9+21 / by Uma Venkatraman

Goodbyes are
a bitter pill to swallow
if you cannot avoid
the spot on the tongue
where the ashy taste of pain
doesn’t linger

One by one
they stick in the throat
a story written on each
like a name inscribed
on a grain of rice

If I choke on them
in your presence
the Heimlich will dislodge
hoarded tales of all the
farewells between us
poisoning the earth
with their toxic grief

Don’t think they will make
happy reading
on a lazy summer’s day

Every word will
pierce your skin
Every page will
wound your eyes
Every chapter will
lacerate your veins

You will cram them all
back into my mouth
and never say hello again

*
*

21.
Viviane Cento, for Bambi / by Viviane Vives

You hate me a little
even if you love me.
You did not want me home.

I rented a dark shit-apartment
[“The good thing about hell is
we don’t need a lighter for our cigarettes.”]

You knew how to travel between worlds
Do you know how to travel backwards
from there? Will it be for forgiveness?

I told you not to worry
I saw you leaving in the train of my dreams
but I carry your betrayal on my chest
like a red rose.

Now that you’re dead, I’m the queen
I stand tall as you did
only, I walk slower
I am much taller.
Leaves fall from trees when I pass
to lay my path.
The wind blows before me
and not behind.
Maybe it’s you, blazing my way.

He only wanted to talk
About the forest,
About you.

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

Postscript / by Merry Benezra

How quietly
she lived, after
all of that, arranging
small insects,
rows and rows.

*
*

Ted Hughes’s Women / by Lauren Boisvert

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

A Modest Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Science is my profession, but I also have an
artistic side. (And a tiger on my shoulder.) I like to challenge
myself with physical activities
including: skiing, surfing, rock climbing, 5K races —
athletic? Yes, I suppose so. I’m a black belt in Taekwondo too.

*
*

Redemption / by Lori Desrosiers

At midnight I notice
the stretch between time zones
Hawaii eats last night’s supper while
Ireland is waking to tomorrow.

We live unaware of the curvature of Earth
undaunted by atmospheric shift
unfazed by sunspots or tidal currents
meteors pass and satellites hum
as we sleep unconcerned.

We are a blip
someone once said
in the arc of history
and what we call history
is only the human story.

We look for evidence
of ourselves in our world’s soil
but before that were millions
of years without us
after us is forever time
beyond even the concept of time.

Yet there are good things
legends we have invented,
stories told, art wrought
songs sung for centuries
evidence of our best selves.

Despite our future slumber
in time’s uncaring cradle
this is our hope for redemption.

*
*

Jamon Iberico / by Alex Vartan Gubbins
 
It’s a fixed term in the pen:
birth, growth, eat acorns, fatten,
 
get cured, sliced, become the most
worshipped swine on the shelf.
 
Sandwich artists salivate at glance. Winos scarf you.
Without you, butchers would be out on the street.
 
If Dante had written you in to a Paradiso sphere,
you’d have a field on the moon, flush with pigly delights.
 
No gates or humans. No knives. Just paths
to roam. Rain. Mud to cool your belly.

*
*

O and Where Am I / by Gary Thomas

This morning? On a pedestal, my head
leaking wax under a vermillion airport sky,
I suppose, or beside a tree that’s lost
all its xylem and phloem and will to live
in a colorless world. I might be in Paris,
alone on a street after a monsoon, seeking
anywhere that isn’t a landmark. Maybe
there are mountains too far to reach in a day,
waterfalls so loud I can’t hear them, lakes
that have drowned themselves to be deeper
than ink and paint can say Dada. Possibly
I’m an infant in all this, blood and blue
pigment poured on my hands by those
who should know gentler. It could be
that an urgent ablution in a galvanized tub,
a black slate escritoire with chalk thumbprints,
a narrow hallway with light at both ends
are all the mikvahs I need to set things right.
Stigmata that leak among the lichen on an old maple,
Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer candles with their titian blush,
ancient books bloated with an incense of cocaine and chamomille—
these might just be some mundane but vital reliquaries
to compass me home. And o where is that,
that I might know it? O and what am I this morning
to be blessed by such terrible fluencies,
these awful allures, this curse of could-bes?
Surely some answers reside
in my taking ins and breathing outs
as an afternoon shower swaddles my skin:
O
. . . . O
O
. . . . o

*
*

9+20 / by Uma Venkatraman

I speak to an empty world
apologetic pebbles
slip off uncertain lips
falling into an indifferent pond
a tentative lone ripple
subsiding instantaneously

I am an explorer
in an infinite galaxy
wading through lotuses
their beauty choking the surface
I rip them apart
exposing the murky layers
breeding such
exquisite perfection
l want to swallow the dirt
that will make me bloom

I ingest the wriggling words
slithering syllables
sibilant syntaxes
hoping they will consume
the fear residing in my bones

Now when I speak
perhaps the world will listen
as grown snakes
pour out of my mouth

but I am no Medusa

When you look at me
I want to plant
flowers in your soul

*
*

20.
The Lit Window / by Viviane Vives

A charming plaza in el barrio de Gracia where behind a lone lit window on the third floor of a modern apartment, a nineteen year old girl-woman smokes a cigarette.

Behind her is number one, drinking wine with number two, both sprawled over boxy, bright green and yellow mattresses. She met him in drama class, she made him cry. Made them all cry. Even the teacher–who one day kissed her, just like that–was sobbing at her painful beauty, no, her truth, this girl made her stomach hurt. In the improv, she was dying, she had cancer, she dare not tell her husband. Was he cheating on her? Layer upon layer. She wore mortal fear and pain like a princess her mantle and crown.

“Worst of all is not the cancer,” she thinks, “or even to die, no, it is not being able to communicate. My husband… –She’s annoyed at herself because she cannot remember the actor’s name–anyway… impotence! She suffers so fucking much because she cannot connect with him, NOT because she’s dying” The horror is still vibrating through her.

“How can my little person of nineteen know death so fucking intimately.” She wonders, “the accident?” Maybe. But being out of her body had brought her closer to life, fueling her rage to live. She had not met death while she surveyed the scene. Maybe wasting away in endless casts, month after month, immobile, the metal sticking out of her like a bad Frankenstein movie that made her give out witch spells. (She would repent.)

“Death is just a concept, it can not give you pain” she reflects “if you can get out of your body and see everything from above, as in a film, camera on crane–you do hear everything up close, however–then no one can die, you just leave the body behind and go. I know this so well, yet the agony of this imaginary woman who is dying of cancer and cannot communicate with her husband, how she feels about her own death sentence, is quite real to me.” (She doesn’t know that in the future, both her parents will fight their way through that very scene, to the death.)

Number one is seventeen and has already forgotten all about the class, ready as hunger, even now he feels lonely; number two is eighteen and more responsive than the clouds in the sky to the wind; her little apartment with Vinçon mattresses on the floor that smells of fried onions and wine, understands desperation well, and is very patient. All wait for her to finish her musings. “I’m the queen of the pathetic domain.”

Months ago, when she got the apartment overlooking the lively plaza–that ordeal is another story–she stood here looking out the very window and decided, like some teens will, to understand life only through herself; clutching her tea and her sanity, from behind the torrent of words and thoughts and blows of her father, the nuns of Jesus y Maria, and the Catalan bourgeoisie–who seemed to have missed the sixties, cowering at the swipes, riding the tail of the war–she made a pact with her heart.

She does not write a lot, instead she likes to act, but she always writes something. There always seems to be a man on the edge of her words, about to bleed. “They are just words” she thinks now, “neither they, nor my emotions, are complete truths. The truth is a kaleidoscope that teaches everything at once. You can not portray the truth linearly, you can not take one truth for the other and they do not occur one after the other. All truths occur simultaneously. Like mom says, truth is to be quiet, because truth moves around!”

The boys wait behind her, out of sight, sipping wine and eating spaghetti. Freedom and Janis Joplin. They talk about taking the road through Zaragoza, on their way to France, to go see the moon shine over the Monegros. Moon over moon.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

Window / by Merry Benezra

[Inspired by Alex’s window photo]

She made a window
in her cave.

Through it
she saw her heart; it was beating
backwards.

And everything was falling
backwards—

Jason, un-sailing,
the shore never breached.

Rage
un-weaving.

A parallel universe
of wisdom:

a pair of unsullied
(other)
children.

Too late.

*
*

lb19

*
*

A “Quiet” Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Just because I have a degree in
astronomy and physics doesn’t mean I’m a
nerd. I’m a world traveler and a photographer; I’m
into ballroom dancing; I’ve studied martial arts and I
nearly got my black belt. Don’t under-
estimate me. Shy girls often surprise.

*
*

Missing / by Lori Desrosiers

courage
to confront
our missing history
to step ahead of the line
drawn by sand-capped dunes
hills inhabited by our people forever
minarets in the distance a call to prayer
a likelihood of dark eyes ankle bells
children calling for their mothers
research supplants memory
a homeland never visited
frangipani and jasmine
fragrance uninhaled
unwittingly
missed

*
*

Sometimes, You Must Speak With The Snakes In Your Head / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

I need to say a few things: You’re born with venom. Without asking, you strike my dreams, which don’t reassemble, like your temper. At least your leather skin crumbles like ashen paper, let’s me know where you’ve been, and that you’re fresh. Yes, you’re quick—I’ll give you that. Can catch a rat in pitch black, a baby in daylight. Not like I care, but your blind spot leaves you helpless to gardeners. You didn’t notice I held a knife as you slid over the grass, rattled the cows into a quiet stampede.

*
*

Some Benisons / by Gary Thomas

(for Ken and Patty Jones)

Thanks be to pipe organists who play harp
on slow weekdays and special occasions
and to those audiences who applaud
only at the end of the sonata.

Little by littler coffee cups hang near
the beeping pot like tile bells awaiting
Angelus. In counterpoint, the toaster
clangs to proclaim its own incarnation.

Lights in the balloon city below glow
like rows of luminaria, while stars
stipple the blue-black above, each holy,
each a courier, an annunciation.

Of wings and water features: afternoon
by the still pond and steady fountainhead,
nuthatches and pine siskins clamber from
trunk and thistle feeder to slake and slosh.

Mine are the borderlands, the in-betweens
of grace abounding. Unless I regard
these fleeting beatitudes as they light
like vesper sparrows, each instant is dark.

*
*

9+19 / by Uma Venkatraman

When you left the last time
I straightened my hair

Twisted in the curls
I saw your fingers

trapped by lustrous locks
A memory I had to chisel

out of my mind
with countless fingers

of the best tipple scattered around
in bottled grief

That was the time
you didn’t want to be free

As the sun tried to find
a sliver of light between us

you pulled me so close
I thought we would be splayed

on the horizon in streaks of red
We lay in the burning shade

of our passion, burning up
in the silvery cool

of the harvest moon
beside the heaving sea

My uncut hair has grown wild
with waiting, its linear ends

piercing the earth as my roots
winding their way into my molten core

and the re-emerging ringlets
reach out to draw you back

*
*

19.
Death and the Moon / by Viviane Vives

If I brought him home he would not stay long, he rides motorcycles, paints with light what I write with words. We look at each other like into a well. A deep blackness. We lie in bed with open eyes, motionless as if not human, tears cascade on both sides of our face. Wet ears. We hear distant voices from the sea, our real sisters. Yesterday, I blew my nose into a sock. No one knows. They don’t want to know.

I read about the death of Duras. Her face turned-off, her young lover waiting for something, writing her words, marrying someone. The pain is not even his. They planted perfect energy into the world together, made each other happy; now he is condemned to never forget and she is dead.

By the dying lake in Texas, black scorpions share my bed. I hear you again and again, my sea, singing a lullaby to my foreign cradle, my dry coffin. I’m dead. My stupid lover hides in the shadows of the gothic chapel with his lack of balls. Part of me hopes this is not true, his talent still hits me like a wind out of nowhere, in the face, tearing tears.

I see you too, uncle Albert Farrés i Blasi, watching the ocean. Not the sea. And crying. I’m on my way. I spent hours reading their letters and I’m full of their love, their lack, their obsession. I know how things end: both die crazy.

Haunted until his death, banging on her closed door and calling her name, the pearls in his brain make him run around in circles like a dog. She locks herself up, her delicate senses blasted by the crudity of doctors and by his fear, finally spilled over.

She is crazy too, in the middle of the bed, not eating, she cannot keep down. There are a few small men, Jews, around her, to distract her. She brings in so much magic that it broke her into a thousand pieces. She’s so brave that she knows it and does not care. She gets up, dresses in black, red lips, and lace stockings, goes out into the street to be free, to yell at the moon.

I did not want all this, I repudiated the death of my friends on the walls, feeling him from afar, dreaming them when it was important, but now now that I’m old, it no longer frightens me and it allows me, like my mother and my aunt before me, to have them as they come. Something has to carry this overhead, somehow, this power, the electric force, has to kiss the ground and touch the sky at once. Yes, we also perish like Duras. You are left here to cry.

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

Fleece 
/Please / by Merry Benezra

Golden Fleece. Fleece.
The Golden Fleece. Please.
Fleece of gold. Please.

He nipped and nipped
at her with three words,
like a rat at her ankles.

And she forbore. How else
had she tamed
her menagerie of familiars?
You let them bite
until they see its futility.

*
*

Let No More Life Divide What Death Can Join Together / by Lauren Boisvert

Let us play the penny dreadfuls
at our little theater on the corner
. . . . . . . . I will be the wolf who rends the gentle maiden
. . . . . . . . if you will work the blood pump from underneath the stage.
We two will shock and devour
becoming beautiful names in the space of a night
. . . . . . . . thee and me
. . . . . . . . and our recollections.

*
*

A Single Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Can make a difference in the lives of many —
as I hope to do with my students,
teaching them how to think outside the box.

Feminist, activist,
unapologetically speaking out against
narrow-mindedness, I’m not afraid to
give my opinion.

*
*

Gardens I Have Not Grown / by Lori Desrosiers

Baldwin, NY 1982

My ex grew corn
in the tiny back yard
just a couple stalks,
also peas, tomatoes,
basil, rosemary,
pumpkins, squash.
The time we left
for a few days
brought the baby
with us to Quebec,
a Chinese gentlemen
from down the street
had found our garden,
and we found him
on his knees,
pulling weeds.
Told him to please
come back anytime,
he beamed.

*
*

Night / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Because I want
a simple moment,
I listen to a flutist
decode the sky:

heaving bats,
the cold’s debut,
a cat, an old man
napping.

*
*

Caspar Milquetoast Contemplates Audacity for Next Monday (after H. T. Webster) / by Gary Thomas

Heedless I greet
the precipice. If opera
means collection of work
accomplished all at once
to an unwieldy and unsure welcome—
five or six mornings our only commas in a life too often spent
in a search for what was assumed to be safe—
I hereby unstrap myself from my favorite
chair, arise and walk through any picture
window I can find, seek out a cliff,
a curb edge, a fringe I’ve never
known or primed myself
to suss out why, and hop
off. I only hope I may
abandon all blandness,
vault as Parsifal might,
enter an amphitheater
where my timid soul
could sing its aria
into courage
bel canto.

*
*

9+18 / by Uma Venkatraman

Some days just fall into place
sleep relinquishes
its hold on you
the minute the alarm trills
The perfect outfit preens
in the wardrobe
to grab your attention
The make-up goes on flawlessly
on the first try
The toast pops out
just the right shade
of golden brown
and the coffee hits
all the right notes
The bus trundles up amiably
after you stroll to the stop
The train pulls into the platform
just as you reach
the top of the escalator
The lights turn green
when you want
to cross the road
You’re at your desk
before the boss gets in

Then there are the days
when you wish it was winter
and you were a bear

*
*

18.
Shanghai / by Viviane Vives

Jagged English. Shards of language that I pile at your feet. Don’t go. Your chauffeur’s is throwing white mad birds at me, they light up the bedroom through the windows you designed, drive-by the last of us–the last of your goodbyes and the last of your love. The dog is very sad. What am I doing writing in English, living in America? Meet me in Mallorca, think only of the Harvest Moon tomorrow when you get to Shanghai.

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

However / by Merry Benezra

His slight hesitation
in asking: all she had ever
wanted, dreamed.

Placing himself a quarter-
inch below her. She called it:
congruency, fate.

Need.

*
*

lb17

*
*

A Local Boy / by Lisa DeSiro

After working several years in
construction, I switched careers —
enrolled in school, became a medical assistant.

Family can be the people you choose to have
around you. I have a
realistic outlook on life. I have
integrity. If a friend
needs me, I’m there. And I won’t put up with
any bullshit, either.

*
*

Grateful / by Lori Desrosiers

Children’s voices interrupting my writing today
a beautiful nearly-fall morning in Massachusetts
downstairs neighbors probably trying to leave
someone doesn’t want to listen voices raised.

I got to Skype with my grandson this morning
he is two and a happy little guy talking about laundry
their new place has laundry a basement a yard
my daughter glowing with love for him delightful.

We have tried to black out the past the bad times
abuse anger feelings of doubt ineptitude
for years she and I were not close and yet
with time and healing things are good now.

Grateful for making better choices since
for the change of seasons for learning to speak
for what I believe for being true to myself
grateful for my children finding their way back.

*
*

Senses / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Choose one, let the body
merge it’s energies
into an eye, an ear.

You might hear
a meteor, heating
over the earth.

*
*

Left Behind / by Eric Pfeiffer

you were
the world to me

left behind
an ocean of grief

*
*

Rubella Shows Up Anyway / by Gary Thomas

In this season of parasites under glass, we
favor indoor parties, shuttered windows,
our own company. We like to think
we are accommodating, but she pushes.

When her voice has ratcheted past sonic,
past ultrasonic, she figures she has gotten
her point across, then forthwith forgets
that end or ruddies waters elsewhere awhile.

She and her Teutonic cough, her ochre eye shadow
and sultry insistence upon your heat—are you half
in awe, the other half succumbed to her promised
seductions of ice chips and flat ginger ale?

Like Lucy, always a lot of ‘splainin’ afterward:
exploding bread loaves, Vitameatavegamin overdoses,
and what appear to mashed grapes engrimed
into wood paneling, footwear, and undergarments.

For all our balms and milquetoast unguents
posing as stern resolve and proximal tough love,
we are her hosts, she our unremitting tenant.
Face it: Little Red ain’t goin’ anytime soon.

*
*

9+17 / by Uma Venkatraman

To be seventeen again
feel the first stirring of love
unfurling like a rosebud
seeking the warmth
of the sun on its petals

To feel your heart race
like a steed at full gallop
Melt into a gooey mess
like chocolate left out in the sun

How could he not see
the longing in your ardent eyes
How could he not hear
the call of your heart, pure as a
bluebird’s summer melody

With all the reckless ardour of youth
your seventeen-year-old self
believes it is just a matter of time
just some more waiting
before he will tune in
to the song you sing

he chose to sway to a
different beat, and your heart
broke for the first time

You patched up the cracks
and moved on. You loved again.
Just never the same way again

*
*

17.
Fremantle / by Viviane Vives

for Kirsten Miles

Many of my lovers have been artists. His weren’t. La bourgeoisie. Mine obsess over “the” work (well, D. concentrates on whores.) Me, I focus on this book, a mess in several languages that blinks back. I rub my eyes, I feel like a jerk, Kirsten emails me to try “centos.”

“as water weeps
as the wind weeps

your name sounds
more distant than ever.

If only my fingers could
defoliate the moon!”

(Lorca)

Is that one? I’m losing my house for the fiftieth time, Kirsten. As I pack, move back, and cross continents–may the gods hold her during the crossing, my computer with the scars on her face–I will write sprawled over boxes, over some airports and many bars, breathing my own sweat (“you don’t smell like kin.”) I will save the file every day; hang it, hidden, on face.

“Why was I born among mirrors?
The reaper is harvesting the wheat
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea (?)”

(Lorca)

It’s harvest moon today. I take a picture. Walls of aluminum in the port of Fremantle are etched, by the shaft in our hearts, with the names of those who came to Australia. I search with my fingers the sharp edges of the letters for names of errant Catalans who can’t look back, as Albert Farrés Blasi, as Viviane Vives Begliomini, the same long stride across time, always feeling the breeze, never able to return, for wanting to change a rhyme.

“I will make a ring of it
Empieza el llanto.”

(Lorca)

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

Power / by Merry Benezra

Cat and dog-whisperer, horse-
whisperer. Ibyx and drakon.
Whisperer.

But when Jason smiled, his
eyes were molten lead. His teeth
were suns.

*
*

Pick Your Scabs, Throw a Party, and Kill Your Parents / by Lauren Boisvert

Cut the sleeves off your shirts. I will
Kill the messenger of God. I will kill
Everything that lies to me. About myself
I can still look around and walk upright. Not for long
Will I have a good funeral. For my mother
I hope I make it out alive. Even though you have raised a sociopath
I can make myself look like a moron. With a cigarette
Burning up plastic flowers. Make a halo
Of smoke and bloody towels. I have no thoughts
Except what about the handprints. I left
The parties with a knife in the back. Never survive
Walking down the stairs. With my mind
I forgot. The point
Is this it?

*
*

Fiddle-dee-dee
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

I fly the confederate flag
I’m a classic with a female anti-hero
I depict an awful battle hard won
Many love me and others can’t stand me

One of my themes has to do with the law
of the land; the literati
like to analyze what I represent
I stir up issues about history, race, and wealth

I make some people upset
I make some people laugh
I show what some don’t want to see

I was the most spectacular thing they ever saw
in 1939; the paparazzi
immortalized those women and men
who brought me to life word by word

*
*

To My Poets / by Lori Desrosiers

You have poems
that make me want
to quit writing.

Your language so
rich, sound strings
pure music.

Your work makes
me feel like a hack
but I don’t care.

Your words stoke
my desire to
split my lines asunder

to listen anew to
the frantic buzz of cicadas
the hiss and slap of waves.

*
*

The Luthier’s Hands / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

He spends hours in the workshop
lost in clamps and taper pins,
eyes behind a magnifying glass
to confirm measurements
so fingers can swift positions,
accurate with modest intentions
to ring out a secret message and be
heard by an attentive audience—
This wood is like bones,
you must mix the varnish
according to its age, he says,
as his hand runs down the spine
around its waist to the bridge,
rests index where the strings
are the right stiff to bow, where
finger tips he imagines like a sparrow
on spruce branches, hopping,
one leg lifted, a wing in mid-fluff—
& as it sings, its notes release
the needle tension fashioned
by the sound post, tuners, the tree
it was formed by, the wind when it fell.

*
*

Successful Aging / by Eric Pfeiffer

We who can laugh at ourselves,
whose poems write themselves,
we are the lucky ones.

We go
Where the day takes us.
We like where we live,
we know who we are,
we are not alone.

Our days are sunny,
our step is light;
we don’t at all mind.

*
*

S or S:  A Travelogue / by Gary Thomas

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

9+16 / by Uma Venkatraman

Cocooned on the top deck of the bus home
lulled by the gentle hum of the engines
I drift into a different world
where in a still blue sky the moon glows
proud of its pearly fullness
Dusk dips its brush in earth’s deep hues
sprays red streaks as though someone
splattered the sun across a vast canvas
and its shards took on a starry glitter
rivalled by streetlights
turned on by an unseen hand
casting shadows that bleach the colours
from the leaves on the trees
and the clothes on hurrying forms
and the lines on the road all fade to black
like a curtain falling on my life
Perhaps it will end in the third row
with my many bags mute witness
to the discovery made by the driver
when he trudges up the stairs to clean up
the mess left behind by unruly teenagers
He will reach out to touch the slumped form…
I am jolted awake when he says,
“Miss, this is the last stop”…

Some dreams don’t wait for the night

*
*

16.
The Innocent / by Viviane Vives

When two innocent love, the land is purified. The air lowers and breathes life. The earth rises, bringing peace. Do you remember?

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

Mirrors / by Merry Benezra

There are no mirrors.
The stream moves too
quickly. The ponds are murky.

Disappointment is her mirror.

*
*

When Working at a Theme Park Sucks the Life Out of You: A Fall Themed Cut-Out-And-Keep Guide / by Lauren Boisvert

lb15

*
*

A Woman of Heart and Mind / by Lisa DeSiro

Always learning
new music, I am
never lacking in activity.

My passion is collaboration. I’m
open-minded, enthusiastic. I love
sharing stories by
singing. I love life.

*
*

Day at the Poetry Festival / by Lori Desrosiers

the poem I wrote for the scavenger hunt
is rolled up, a small scroll on white paper
a young woman comments, I found your poem!

we visit Emily Dickinson’s grave
her monument topped with mementos
several stones, a couple pens

open mic in the homestead garden
I read my hummingbird poem because
I think Emily would have liked it

my mentee reads his newest piece
the audience erupts in applause
I share the thrill, a witness to hard work.

*
*

Fish Market Cleaner / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

This isn’t a business
for pot stirrers or sommeliers
who’ve made it in Bordeaux or Paris.
This is for the wide legged
who can stand firm
through a wave of hungry
coming in at end of day:
stomachs talking, mouths open.
This is for those with hands
that’ll clean spine, liver
rind and scale, pearl eggs
under fluorescent bulbs
lining the stalls from entrance
to exit, where a gutter stops guts
from spilling into a street with soles,
a smell that penetrates the nose
without warning, leaving shells
and low tide so present, you’d
reminisce your first glance
on the Mediterranean—
that sea with a million stories.

*
*

On Retirement / by Eric Pfeiffer

my work is done
all my appointments
and my disappointments
set aside

turn the page
close the book
I’m coming home

*
*

The Blue You Get / by Gary Thomas

That blue you get
when you abrade your eyes—
first to exile an itch

and then to make pinwheels,
checkerboards appear inside
folded shutters of skin—

is not the blues, that music
born in mud and awareness
your feet are embedded in mud,

or the blue sky uncluttered
by contrails, or the blue shirt
you wear to weed the garden.

Anywise, in some ideal distance
you’ll glimpse sapphires in the corners
of both eyes, or all three

and know the spectral laughter
of all blue, the primary speech
of Allsouls letting you in on the secret.

*
*

9+15 / by Uma Venkatraman

I hold a river in my eyes

With the translucent beads
shimmering on my lashes
I sew the years of waiting
into a liquid tapestry

I search for the shadow
of your steps but the sun
glints in limpid pools
obscuring my vision
So I look in my heart
for the monsoon winds
heralding your return

But it has been
an arid summer
with an unrelenting sky
cruel in its clarity
Doubts cloud my mind
their dark mass traps
the rain that begs to fall

So I will let the dam burst
and drench the parched soil
though the salt in my tears
will stop the earth
from turning green

*
*

15.
Thousands of Images / by Viviane Vives

I remember every picture I’ve taken, every photo I’ve seen; they join the slides of my life inside my brain. Thousands of images. My son says I’m in the spectrum, he teases me; his long strong arms, his poet hands, hold me when we walk down the street in Newtown, he’s so tall now; he guides me; as a cow to the slaughterhouse, wherever, as long as something surrounds me completely, I let go. I don’t think, I feel. At nights, my husband turns around, because he feels it or I because I ask, and also folds his arms around me, making sure there are no gaps. A pillow or two hold my chin and belly. I can sleep.

Too much freedom.

I see you from the neighboring house, looking for me. Insistent, a palpable desire in your gait. You look inside the window–that’s the image–capable long hands, dirty nails, over your brow (“wrinkled foreheads rule” “my luck”) making shadow for your eyes to see; impatient, hair clean, for once, and wet. Skateboard in your left hand, the backpack, I see you perfectly. Your determination is also mine.

This is the past, Austin has gone mad: the artists will flee. Even so, I learn I will be back in Texas, hills, lake, keep writing in the heat, the drought, the cedars; all I want is to bring rain, light and constant rain, like in Ireland, not Texas rain. I will, you’ll see, and when you come to me, I will have a blanket of fresh green leaves.

You are happy with her and her dog, in Venice Beach. (Always dogs, we kiss them daily.) A video with Lana del Rey, I know what you feel, I know what you see. How your heart beats. Exactly the same place, in front of Ozone street, where I am rich–my shitty TV show–I rent a loft to see dolphins in the morning and make love for the last time, no particular reason except that it was over and that was that, to Robbie, who is now married to his lover and lives in Manhattan Beach. The year is 1991.

I am not wrong. Lessons of gold from my little voice. I loved him and I loved his lover, like a cat, and she cried. I will never forget her alabaster skin, her perfect breasts; I wore my black wings of freedom. What you feel, what I felt, a few months later when I melted; the clouds took me and penetrated me. Among earthquakes. I walked along Venice Beach, smiling at the sea and the whole world. The dark alley was unseen. Happiness. I can understand it forever. Hear me, World, you were perfect in 1992!

You too, you are very happy today. With your girl and her dog and your thousands of images. Earthquakes. Get out of Los Angeles, my heart. Bring her if you want. Forgive me. Forget me. It’s all ok. Even if her skin is rough.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

Drakon/4 / by Merry Benezra

A princess, yes, whose hair
was never combed. Lonely.
Different. The rivers and woods
seemed friendly, certain clouds
almost maternal, certain days.

You ask how witches are made.

*
*

Dog’s Mystery Illness Solved by Extern or Neena Golden is a Golden Girl / by Lauren Boisvert

Neena Golden found a tick behind a dog’s ear
while prepping for euthanasia.
Neena Golden saves almost-dead dogs so maybe she can save me.

The dog’s name is Ollie but that is not important.
The dog is from Oregon but that is not important either.
What is important is the vet had never seen a case of tick paralysis before
and Neena Golden found it on accident.

Neena Golden has blonde hair like honeyed wheat.
This is not a love song to a girl I have never met
but only an ode to an almost-dead dog and someone who happened to be there.
I need someone who happened to be there.

I imagine myself on a green padded table, the kind with straps and wheels
and there is a cotton swab at my elbow stinking of ammonia.
I imagine Neena Golden standing at my head haloed in yellow foil.
She takes off my makeup with sweet hands. She smells like roses and clean linen.
She brushes my hair until it shines like smooth chocolate, parts it in the middle,
tucks it behind my ears, and saves me from my own self.

*
*

Middle-of-September Song
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

My annual collections of ephemera
are these leaves like album pages, in situ
I offer costumed children trick or treat
I cast a melancholy spell on some of you
I give the air chills; I put a gleam
in the eye of the harvest moon

*
*

The Night You Died / by Lori Desrosiers

ld14

*
*

“Footprints don’t abandon your feet.” / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

“No dejan huellas tus pies.”
Lines from Ángel González’s “Forest”

For a date tonight, he’ll wear the polo shirt
washed so many cycles its white collar looks
like a stormy sky. Maybe, it’ll invoke
her memory of a warm city rain,
make her open up her heart
during cups of vermouth.
She’ll want him
to engulf her story,
& he has a place for it
inside an empty meadow. He’s starving
for a straight razor to dull by caring words
from her, who met him after he tripped
on the doorway to the café around
the corner of his home. It was
the way the waiters rushed
to pick him up, their
extended arms
and expressions, like they’d
been lifting him for years
and needed another
to take their hold.

*
*

Morning Respite / by Eric Pfeiffer

We lie with our cat,
kneading, needing.
Once fearful of
proximity, faces;
now fearless,
purring, kneading.
We are enjoined
to join morning peace.

*
*

A Way Out of No Way / by Gary Thomas

Somewhere between the spiral and the steamer trunk,
after all his compartments and pigeonholes shrink
to dots in the ceiling tiles he has counted too many times
too many weeks, he remembers to breathe as he’s been taught—
spider-slow from the bottom of the one-point to the dome
of dreaming. He recollects shodan means first step
no detonations, some indecisions, then decided joys withal.
This reminds him of waves and troughs, bowing to sign
please and thank you, that gratitude can be the beginning
of service to any who might need to be reminded, Breathe.
He smiles to know his portion of open light can begin
this way, even in the blast radius, and enters the circle
with a simple step turn.

*
*

9+14 / by Uma Venkatraman

It’s been a scruffy-boots-not-sexy-stiletto
kind of year
A health-scare-leaky-roof-will-I-lose-my-job
kind of year
the planned-a-great-trip-but-fell-through
kind of year
An if-you-do-this-I’ll-do-that
unfulfilled-bargains-with-God
kind of year
a God seemingly too busy upheavaling (what-the-heck-be-ungrammatical
kind of year too) many lives
But it’s been worse for the world
One-natural-disaster-after-the-other
kind of year
one-horrifying-atrocity-after-another
of-the-type-humans-can-inflict
kind of year
Yes, it’s been a poster-child-for-Murphy’s-law
kind of year
Perhaps next year will be different
and it will be Murphy who will have
a why-aren’t-my laws-working
kind of year

*
*

14.
I Like Cinnamon / by Viviane Vives

Fuck you, Bambi. I like cinnamon. And summer kitchens. And people. Even if they break my heart. I still look for you, I should look for my sister. The one in the blue dress with the flowers you think is corny. I will put cinnamon in my food if I please. Go away, I don’t want to talk to you today either.

I hope it’s true, who would have thought! She’s good, she’s loving, she can cook! She likes dogs and cats and never steals my things. She likes to talk about fairy-tales; she likes me. She’s joy and she’s mad (a healthy mad.) We live with laughter and secrets to the ear and shared houses. Silliness. Soft smiles. Instead of moonshine, she fills me with gifts. She comes over on my birthday. With cake.

I see you, Pilar? Lola? Wearing the blue dress with white flowers. Yes, it’s a little corny, but you look angelic. A Doris Day film (¡Por Dios!”–Shut up, Bambi!) You like what I write, my crap. You have a dog that loves me, like all dogs. He puts his head on my lap, looks at me with intensity and love so I do not get lost anymore. He tells me: “stay forever.” I give him a kiss on the snout.

My new old sister looks at us and shakes her head a little because she knows what I have been through. The sun comes through the window and cleans, cleans, cleans; everything is light and smells (“a lot…”–Shhhhh!) like cinnamon. She didn’t get a facelift either, the light preys on our foreheads, but we know we are beautiful, if a little fat. Today I’ll search again online, or maybe I’ll finally dare to ask my cousin or my aunt. Or not.

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

Drakon/3 / by Merry Benezra

Dear Princess:

Yes, I like to say that
love
is a “present-tense
verb.”  If he is not there
for you now—
opening doors, bringing
flowers, all those
nuzzly little things—
well,
forget he ever landed
on your beach.

Godlike men choose
Aphrodites.

Look in the mirror
and judge for yourself.

Listen, if you think you can
“win”
his love
by helping him perform
some crazy-shit task
he’s casually dropped
on your tender ears (killing a drakon,
for example)

run.

*
*

Interlude for Echo / by Lauren Boisvert

Narcissus says “Nobody is more beautiful than I am”
and Echo says . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  “I am.”

*
*

A Charitable Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Kick-ass instructor, accomplished
athlete, skilled doctor —
though I am all that, I’m
humble. And playful,
young at heart.

Caring for people,
helping their confidence be
uplifted, encouraging them to
accomplish their potential — I
nurture and inspire with
generosity. As I will for my baby.

*
*

Cricket / by Lori Desrosiers

ld13

*
*

Courtyard Carrer de l’alaina / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

this is a two-table space to listen:
dry-leaf rustle’s becoming winter,
couples click their heals in dance
on sidewalk, and a violin strings-out
as birds bend through air.

this is where you sip Valencia water
to travel to mountains
without picking up your lean
from a wall, spray-painted in red.

this is where flags drape balcony railings,
vines swing in sea-winds
wedging their way through skinny streets.

this is where the old speak Spanish
whenever strangers pass
because Franco-habits are hard to break.

*
*

Poetry Boot Camp / by Eric Pfeiffer

Thirty poems
in thirty days
seems impossible,
say the recruits.

They struggle,
They meditate
They pray
They don’t give up.

Almost finished.
Proud inductees.
Proud poets
In poetry boot camp.

*
*

Priority Seating / by Gary Thomas

The rectangular blue sign
with symbols for
. . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . Disabled . . . . Expectant . . . . Elderly
blazes above her head
as she texts
and reads, texts and reads
as a white-haired Asian man
enters and stands next to
her as she texts and reads
and does not look up as
she listens to whatever
enters her ear buds as
others ignore what I see obliquely
from eight feet away:
a rail-thin teenager chrysalized
inside her deco stud Uggs
and XXL hoodie
inside herself inside
this chockablock BART car
hurtling to Dublin, which
barely halts to let some leave,
others enter, but the old man,
the teen, and I remain as I
wonder why she won’t
do what the sign exhorts
and vacate her seat for him,
as I mull why such meager regard
for the ache of others,
the arena of others?

One stop before the end
of the line that is mine,
the old man puffs out
the energy that enables
him to stand and scuffle
himself to the doors about to
slide to their sides. Just as
the train totters to its full stop,
the girl removes her ear buds,
pockets her phone, grabs
the metal pole to pull herself
erect, and I see for the first time
the convex reason for her heedless
languor pressed against her midriff.

In a month or so, if she rides again,
she may wear her own commuter
in a sling or mei-tai and attempt
a conversation. I suspect she would
be a good listener, polishing her
peek-a-boo and scrunch-face smile
all the way, and would not notice
as I exit in shame.

*
*

9+13 / by Uma Venkatraman

All you’ll see are my boots
standing as though my feet
are still weeping rivers of sweat
Yes, I melted
like the chocolate I once left out
on a sunny ledge
The way my insides turned to jelly
when I was kissed
for the first time
and the moment I held my
newborn squirming bundle of joy
But this time, it’s just the heat
liquefying skin and bone,
muscle and flesh
I feel myself dissolve
as though someone just said
“Beam her up, Scotty”
I hope I am in a better place
But my boots still have
many miles left in them
for the right pair of feet
PS: If they fit, they’re yours

*
*

13.
Pages / by Viviane Vives

I leaf through the pages of my memories quickly, before I run out of time. Beauty, beauty is all I seek. Invisible only because we did not climb high enough. We were a hair away. The white dove is always there, poised, wanting to be caught, but she can only drop so far; I climb up, dragging all of my desire with me, to bring her to my chest. We may ask your god to come down, however, and he will; heed the consequences.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

Drakon/2 / by Merry Benezra

Your wild hair—matted,
torn,
blacker-than-despair.
Your tear-
pitted cheeks. Your dark mouth,
Medea, a wound opened.

He was tired of you before
he had you.

*
*

lb12

*
*

A Woman of Substance / by Lisa DeSiro

Even-tempered and kind, I help kids
learn Taekwondo. (I recently
achieved my 2nd-level black belt!) I’m
intent on staying fit, healthy and
nimble. I try to cherish
every day, rising to the challenge.

*
*

Tonight’s Phone Call (Mom at 92) / by Lori Desrosiers

My mother asks
if she lives to
a hundred do I
think she will have
a chance to gather
the family
to say goodbye

or if she will die
in her sleep
without the chance
for us see her off
so to speak

as if she were
heading to Europe
on a jet set plane ride
where perhaps
they might serve
pâté with baguettes
or tea and biscuits.

I don’t know
what to say.

*
*

Into the Jungle for Avocado / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

You pass through the market’s threshold,
and aisle freezers waft a nip through your shirt,
sweat soaked by an August heat fitting for cerveza
& chips with guac. You ignore the stew meat,
poultry, eggplant, because anything requiring stove
would only make you rant about the swelter.
The once undomesticated, but now captured and sold
flowerless fruit, still argued as a vege by some,
slumbers like giant water droplets between potato
and pear, with a hue of hazy blurple, like a night
without moon, or even a hope for stars. & without
hesitation, you finger for the perfect supple,
tender but not yielding to a pinch, searching
with lust to discover the right ones to bring home
and mise-en-place on the counter, then remark
how majestic they are and how cunningly you
discovered them in the produce corner,
where a hint of flies can be spotted.

*
*

Fragments / by Eric Pfeiffer

I don’t remember anymore
A time when I was whole
Only fragments remain

*
*

A Human Psalmody / by Gary Thomas

Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.

—Charles Wesley

Like as not, Chuck Wesley would not divine
his own words indwelling the hymns we sing
in current liturgy. Paraphrasis
of psalms, let alone interpretation
of scripture, is hard to wedge into Praise Tunes.
O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing—even
that—cannot be upswung as the “rock-out
anthem” the choir director would like us
to Like on the Facebook she imagines
our sanctuary to be. “Rock-out” as
a phrase she believes still has currency
notwithstanding, a plain itinerant
Anglican preacher might well be appalled
. . . . . He speaks, – and, listening to his voice,
to hark the drum kit and Telecaster,
. . . . . New life the dead receive;
kazoo and cowbell, tuba and shofar
. . . . . The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;
making a cacophonous joyful noise
. . . . . The humble poor believe.
in what might be confused for waltz tempo.
Still and all, perhaps the simple pastor
would see this as proof of Methodism:
giving voice to a prevenient grace
abounding, serving people because
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling gets loud
sometimes.

*
*

9+12 / by Uma Venkatraman

It’s the light I hate
its intrusive fingers
poking through the crevices
to where my insecurities hide
The naked beam
pins me down
My fears wriggle out
prodding holes
in the threadbare cloak
of confidence
holding me together

hiding the scars
camouflaging the flaws
I cannot bear to look at
for they slash at my skin
with sharp edges of failure
puncturing the hope
that clings on
with bloody fingers
crushed by life’s
hobnailed boots

*
*

12.
Step-Nation / by Viviane Vives

She can hear the noise inside him, the chatter of people talking, the sound of the river in the background, the splashing, the noise of the water in his ears. She feels the booze dulling his senses, the pot lifting him off the ground.

He is late.

She barely exists. Not in the slightest edge of her people’s mind in Catalunya. Not sheltered in her canyon, curled up under the blanket on the couch, now that it finally rains and winter begins. Tomorrow is her birthday, but no one in Barcelona will think of her.

He will forget.

Yesterday, she met a couple at a bar, when she said she was a Catalan they did not know what it was. Barcelona, she had to say, everyone knows Barcelona. Being a Catalan is strange in Texas. Step-nation indeed; had she lived when her uncle Albert did, she would have been killed in the war or she would be Mexican. Not a communist like him, but a beautiful anarchist corpse, better than this half-ass death.

Life also weeps too slowly for him, this they have in common.

She’s been longer here than there, dissolving like a sugar cube in coffee; the smell of pine, the sway of the Mediterrani, and the pearls of Catalan in her brain are suspended in the air, waiting. Unless the old voices continue rumbling down the white walls of Pedralbes, she barely breathes. Here it is, finally, silence, as her mother had wanted it: “All shut up, please.” With a French accent. It’s raining, curled up on the couch with her notebook and huge laziness, she feels a hole in her chest where her country and her sea should be.

She listens to his river.

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

Drakon/1 / by Merry Benezra

No friend, no honeyed
cakes nor words. She aches.
Arm outthrust, at him,
a wand of spiky juniper.
The berries lit like poison globes.
He dreams of teeth—his teeth,
strewn around like seeds. A robe
of dripping fire. Dead children’s
clotted hair.

*
*

lb11

*
*

A Woman of Many Talents / by Lisa DeSiro

Movement therapist /
elegant dancer / lifelong
learner / yoga instructor /
academic / violinist / singer /
naturopath / highly sensitive /
intuitive / imaginative — all of these
elements embody who I am.

*
*

ld11

*
*

Confession of a Crooked Politician / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Dogs of Beirut,
I don’t know if you’re wild or owned
or have a yard of bones to return to
to stretch out your backs
on grassless dirt with broken glass,
pressed into the seams—
I don’t know the streets like you,
how security tucks their fingers
trigger-close, anxious to flinch
at a wrong look or suspicious noise
or even a militia aiming—
I don’t need your nails or fangs
for fashioning prey to squeeze
into a hole, then cover,
because other dogs seek blood
in winters scarce of meat—No
I don’t know these things, but I watch you
from a balcony, feet away from your trot
between Bliss and Sadat Street, the stairs
empty of food, always chemical clean,
and I must express, Dogs,
I don’t want your coats to dirty
where I set my wine glass,
I don’t want the sickness you drag
on your hair tips because you didn’t wash
after fish intestine, then left the spine
on Tayouneh circle’s gutter, the one
which blew up years ago—
Yes, I don’t know the soles
of this city like you,
but don’t come yipping,
trying to smell me—human
with a nose smaller than yours.

*
*

I Want / by Eric Pfeiffer

I want to write
a poem every day
for the rest of my life.

I want to connect
With you and you and you
Before all time expires.

God, I want to write!

*
*

The Daily Whelm / by Gary Thomas

So sure, the pain as we breathe out cinders
one spent bullet at a time, one instant
fidgeting upon another until

stick figure residue and flash dried pulp
are sour-mashed, desiccated, hard-pressed.
Such rude pages fold themselves into what

we have convinced ourselves is vital news
because there are words and we are creatures
who crave succor, reassurance we are

better for reading what pain some others
put others or themselves through, the latest
record in a sport no one will recall

a year or less hence, what triumph of some
human spirit can excite us for days.
All this will be ousted in undue haste

by fingers repurposed as digital
styli chattering on a slate-black screen,
desperate for what we can repost next.

This just in: Kim Jong-Un Bans Irony.
Trump University Students Export
Bootleg Irony. Truth is Just Beauty.

*
*

9+11 / by Uma Venkatraman

Heavens rumble. Is it your anger
that reverberates, dad?
I remember dark clouds
descending on your face
steely glitter in your eyes
threatening to rent me
my spirit plunging
like those flailing rag-doll forms
falling from a burning building
death a bolt from blue turned grey skies
How many souls drifted up that day
their grief stoking your rage
I imagine you railing
against the injustice
though your unbelieving heart
would never enter
into a debate with God

So many ways to die
I am grateful you weren’t
struck down by hate

*
*

11.
My Time Has Passed / by Viviane Vives

It could be someone like my father, my lover, or my best friend; they leave, abruptly. They have their reasons. I try this one on inside the green car, the glare of their absence as blinding as the white wall, almost too much to take. My own presence wanes, then waxes, then disappears leaving a strange flare behind. At the the curb of the ghost house, the girl watches-on: “what hurts is not the absence of them” she whispers to my shadow, “but the reigning in of your love.” Still, a nagging sense that my weakness for truth is my pitfall, their truth moves from here to there, as it suits them; I’m witness, my time has passed, I just wish they were polite about it. (A poem in 30 minutes, the timer in the oven rings for the okra)

*
*

Day 10 / Poems 10

*

Notebook Collage / by Merry Benezra

a small wind chime swallowed by the wind
a good soaking
a bug, large and fast
The hopeless but charming many-paned broken-crank windows that opened out and allowed unfettered air in, replaced with sliding glass half-screened, almost airless.
recalculating loss
thump on the door
I fight my ignorance and my inaptness all the way through.
I hope you don’t mind my thinking out loud. It actually calms me.
And I wonder too how old I really want to ever be, and if that shouldn’t be my choice.

*
*

lb10

*
*

A Modern Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Singing is my passion — jazz
and classical. I’m versatile, whether
reading charts, or performing opera or
art song, or improvising vocals with words.

Babies? No, but I have my pair of puppyboys
instead, and they bring me joy. And I’ve
embraced a much greater responsibility since
life took a tragic turn for my family — as
aunt & uncle, my husband & I now guardians of our
nieces. I’m strong. I’m a survivor of major
surgery and loss. With courage, I’ve
kept on; with grace and style. My body
is scarred but my heart is whole and full of love.

*
*

Coffee Table by the Window / by Lori Desrosiers

Plastic solar sunflower wobbles, clicks
obscured by mahogany elephant.

Sun in slat-shaped patterns over
ivy, Christmas cactus’ red bloom

a purple pen, a book or two, paper clips.
Below, a wooden floor, hiding place

for grey and orange cats, dust bunnies
the occasional crawling insect.

Casually vacuumed now and then
smell of oil soap, dust, sun, home.

*
*

Anchovies Can Be Sexy / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

The oily fish scent which follows you to bed
as you make love, salty like sweat of afternoon kissing,
runs lips to neck, chest to belly, where aggression
is licks, born from a steeping brine, soaked in salt,
then laid on toast with tomato for the nearest cry.
I’ll admit pizza’s a waste for these juicy cuts,
but if they mix with the meat, it’s nectar
on the way in to the mouth, it’ll fool the tongue
a remoulade’s blended with the dreams of mermaids.
You must believe you’re the only slippery fin under
these sheets once a desert, but now a place to sleep.
Cooking classes begin with lonely stares then travel
to an apartment for four arms to learn over a stove.
They try to measure the exact slurp with a spoon
but realize breaking the step-by-step is a louder shuffle
than the neighbor’s boots in the stairwell after a day
of sinking into the shores of hail and mangled nets.
When they hear the roasting through the walls,
smell the sea under the door, a mix of sand and danger
of sharks in the shallows, they’ll whisper to each other
how they saw a water trail from the Bay-With-One-Palm,
which hangs over the Captain’s boat in the night
like Medusa’s hair, snaking into the hull and cabin.

*
*

How Did We Get Old? / by Eric Pfeiffer

A summer ago, or many summers,
We played without a care.
We were ambitious, joyful, happy;
We were invincible, immune.

Along the way we lost momentum,
Recovery was slower than before,
New goals reluctant to emerge.
We lost touch with what was new.

We grew in girth and wealth and reputation.
Our children married and had children.
To us we hardly seemed to change.
Somehow we thought we might escape.

But no, alas:
Time gnaws at its roots;
Without its roots the tree must die.
How did we get old?

*
*

A Ten-Second Tree / by Gary Thomas

Not what I purposed. What transpired instead
was what I should have prepared myself for:
a collapsing obtuse triangle of
wobbly flesh and wonky bone. Succinctly,
I could not manage that simplest marrow
of Beginners Yoga poses: the Tree.
Vriksasana, I was told, should align
my spine, allow a balance I have missed
all my life, strengthen my stance, and of course
straighten my breathing. I watched actively,
attentively, all sans expectation
of consequence. I stood slowly, drew breath
as if from some wellspring of my atman
yet unaccessed. I found a small cluster
of pushpins in the wall in front of me,
searched for a center, lifted my left sole
languidly, breathing even more slowly
until I felt the curve of my thigh just
below my knee, and—remained. Respire, said
a voice, and I felt myself rise, subside.
My eyes, I registered, had closed. I was,
it came to me, at tree-angle, and I
laughed just enough to lean, twist, bend, look down,
and my tree was felled. The sense of failure
arose, as it always has. Its cousin,
fear of more failure, sidled up to smirk
and tighten its talons in the places
where poise and grace had hinged just ten seconds
before. Of a sudden, unbeknownst and
mindful, I exhaled Next time, Eleven,
stood slowly, drew breath, felt my spine attune.

*
*

9+10 / by Uma Venkatraman

The air has the stillness
of the breath
that catches within me
wanting to trap
your scent in my veins
The storm hovers
beyond the horizon
crackling anticipation
sparkles in my eyes
Jagged nerves jump
as a bolt of desire
strikes inflamed senses
The wind pauses
in my tresses
to stir a stray tendril
with teasing fingers
Then you touch me
the heavens open
and I drown in your arms

*
*

10.
Cold Cigar Smell / by Viviane Vives


My father is dying of his black pearls but wants me to drive the car around so that the battery will not die. I have the brutal thought that the battery will live and he will die, but I love driving his car and I give myself to it, even though I know where I will go. The luxurious Rover leads me to Pedralbes.

Parked in front of our old house, inside my metallic-green magic carpet, sheer cost is such an invisibility cloak, no need for a spell; some children, two, arrive, dropped off by some mom, not theirs, from doing some kind of sport, I’m sure, probably tennis or polo, it’s what we do; I pray that when they open the gate and walk up the grey steps, the god of the house, in all its blackness behind the white walls, will not swallow them as it did us.

I want them happy behind the windows that proclaim the love of my father for my mother with their fleur-de-lis, one-by-one, oh-so-hollywood, where maybe each scream still bounces off the walls desperate to get out. Their love should have never died, maybe it didn’t, just waits for death to live again, but does the wind that began here continue to trace swirls around the feet of these new children or has some new powerful magic calmed it down?

I don’t know what I feel. I do not feel anything. The gate closed, I just look at the wall that remains white and huge and that still continues down the street haltingly, as immutable and silent as ever. At the end of the wall, where it ends at the garage, my ghost is still sitting, waiting with a stiff neck for the door to open. The front door never worked on those days. That should tell someone something.

I blast the luxury radio and let the music speak and think for me, fill everything. The car smells like cold cigar, makes me think of fuchsia curtains in the room where she abandoned him for years. For this very reason, cold cigar smell.

The car purrs, the music screams. In a few weeks, he will die; she will die in three years, and that’s not what I expected, but I should have. The little whores will stab me in the back and disappear. And only I remain.

Is war is something like this, Uncle Albert? All of us are there; then, somehow, you lose them in the struggle, you don’t know how, but when the dust settles, there is no one. Only the music in the car that purrs.

*
*

Day 9 / Poems 9

*

Cloud Country / by Merry Benezra

I know a river that breaks its banks,
scours and scraps
surging toward something vast,
then into cloud country, as wisps of nothing
. . . . . . . lumber lightly by—where
stars, over crinkled earth, seem almost to
. . . . . . . . . hover over us in a sexual
. . . . . . . attitude, whatever we want—
that lie.

*
*

lb9

*
*

Welcomed Home after Bidding Farewell
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

I took the money and left and every step
I took led me farther away from all I’d held dear
I took chances, so many places to go
I took my time, squandered
took everything in stride, pro or anti
took advantage until I fell so low even a humble pig
took pity on me; then I decided, no more drama
took myself to task, headed back, grateful

I’m taken in my father’s arms and he forgives
I’m taken by surprise but humbled too
I was taken for dead but now I live again

*
*

Considering the Rate of Exchange / by Lori Desrosiers

Born and raised in New York City
I don’t live there anymore.

Traded city life, its crowds
its parks, its hustle and rush

for crickets, birdsong, grass
quiet nights, old trees, a yard

soft streetlights instead of neon
majestic turning of the bowl of stars

roadside stands’ sweet corn, tomatoes, squash
maple trees with taps, sugar houses with pancakes

red barns below orange mountains
winding road signs warn of moose

long drives, eye out for bear and deer
slow food, farmers’ market apples.

I have a grandson in the city now
we see him maybe every other month.

His other grandparents are there.
Have I traded his childhood for love?

*
*

The Human Body Weighs
The Same Dead as Alive / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

This isn’t an option for us.
It was contracted at birth that we move
our limbs with ease, then after suns and moons
a button switches off the flow

and on submissive inspection:
The feet are reduced to a swell.
The neck releases its grip on shoulder mass,
because all that hunching

has deformed the punch and thrust
from when we were young
into a flowerless plant
in the bed of a blooming garden.

It is the wind’s push
that cannot persuade it alive,
nor a fire when its flames expand
the holes recently surfaced

because incineration is swifter than bees.
& though water’s the alchemical medium
included in all matters’ arrangements,
its system has spent its aqueous renewal,

melted or iced, or deadpanned when the level
rises above the mouth and nostrils–This
is when the gods remove the mind’s synaptic flickers
to all warning structures, and we watch their hands

reach into our chests without listening to at least
a whisper of our objections against how their nails
dull-pierce the epidermis in a slow entrance.
If my mouth had notes for this opening,

they’d be minors of the 9th and 10th tones
below the bottom line, above silences left off the page.
But my lungs become clogged, and all I know is:
Oh, how sterling the fish are; Oh, how marvelous the fins.

*
*

Love Song / by Eric Pfeiffer

Sometimes I feel
I can walk on water,
sometimes I feel
I cannot.

Sometimes I feel
I can fly like an eagle;
sometimes I feel
I cannot.

It all depends on you,
my beloved,
my guiding star,
my true North.

*
*

gt9

*
*

9+9 / by Uma Venkatraman

Is it temporary
this empty rattle
of vacuous words
reverberating through
the chasm carved out
by meaningless utterances
Undecipherable signals
formed by unhearing lips
vanish into
bottomless depths
swallowing the sounds
and the silence. Let us
exult in the absence
of syllables, wrap the
alphabets around
our restlessness
Feed the stillness
make it permanent

*
*

9.
The Shitty Poem / by Viviane Vives

I’m tired today, I’m the captive audience of frantic dancers surrounding me, here by the digital fire, with the last tribe; my flesh decides to take a vacation as my knowing unfolds inside my DNA like a strange flower of peculiar scent. It gets very tiring when everyone pretends that no one farted, and since I’m crouching, like I should, no one really sees me as they whirl, even if I can clearly see each one of them, like it or not. Mostly not.

This man here, just a few months ago, cogitated how he did not enjoy his girlfriend in bed. They broke up, he felt free, even proudly approached biker girls from California at Jo’s. He wandered the wide open field of his life, for a few weeks, didn’t feel up to the task, and when she came back, all business, with a choker for his neck and a silver ring for his finger, he said yes, and yesterday, they married. It was the best day of his life.

That other one, I know him well, he is dead afraid of his own darkness, even if his darkness is truly splendid; he married the one that always smiles, hears no one, and pretends there is only light. The baby that ties them together swings between glitter and and gloom until she goes mad too. He will grow fat and numb. I don’t know what will happen to his wife. Have a baby boy? No sé, that type of girl is a mystery to me.

That lady there, is convinced she can see the future, the hearts of men, women, and who should they marry. She paints the prettiest of pictures of fated love. She doesn’t know shit. Bored, getting old without a flower, wastes her life away for fear of not being good enough, her mind fucked up by the drugs, makes the weak ones believe they need someone, when she needs to fill up.

I did all these things. I am he, her, he, her, and her, I still crouch here, looking at myself, with nothing to offer but my DNA flower whose scent no one likes, my piercing finger, and a shitty poem that is not even a poem. (No mistakes were incurred in the writing of these lives.)

*
*

Day 8 / Poems 8

*

Rhyming Self-Portrait / by Merry Benezra

My heart beats backwards, the sound
a soft pencil makes.

Early to wake, my dreams burn
like filament, leaving their traces in the air.

I have followed a trail of inky words, crumbs
no bird would ever take,

but I found sustenance there.

*
*

Simulacra and Simulation / by Lauren Boisvert

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

An Independent Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Given my current circumstances, do I ever
wish life had turned out differently? Maybe. But
even after everything I’ve gone through, I have
no regrets. I made the choices I thought best —

Single mothers have to. We’re taking
care of others while trying to
hold on to some sense of
ourselves. What the heck is
normal, anyway? A straight simple path? More like a
zany zigzag! I’m resilient, determined. Opting for the
easy route isn’t in my nature. And I’ve found
it’s not impossible to have a little fun along the way:
traveling, gardening, dancing, playing banjo. I’ll never be bored.

*
*

Ceremony / by Lori Desrosiers

ld8

*
*

Morning Coffee with Milk
in Barcelona / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Café con leche in Spanish.
Café amb llet in Catalan.
Whatever language I sip in
my heart is on.
The day is bright,
like krypton.

*
*

For Boots / by Eric Pfeiffer

When I knew that my old cat was dying
and had only a few more days left to live
I spent every precious moment
holding him, holding him close.

After I buried him below my window
I planted flowers over his grave.
They bloom, they will bloom forever
as will my love for what he gave.

*
*

A Casino in Gomorrah / by Gary Thomas

Strands of stale smoke leak
from half-pinched Camel straights,
permeate every pore and orifice
of the room, then contort their tendrils
into grey-suited pallbearers
thin as penny handles
levering customers into the decibels
that emanate from Hades’ latest machinery.

Patrons hoist their grimy glasses oozing
every viscosity alcohol has to offer
into the carpet, the table, the air.

Eyes stall at half-staff, are squinted
shut or open like a tribe of bushbabies
cast in the remake of Clockwork Orange.

Sweat-slicked coins and paper pass
from hand to hand till they convert
to chips the color of greed and gamblers’
greasy lies dressed up as jackpots’ best bouquets.

In the middling distance a familiar whirlwind
prepares to erase all this, leave what’s left
as it once was: red dust compressing itself
beside a savage river carrying its wild news
to the next horizon.

*
*

9+8 / by Uma Venkatraman

The mind breaks free
from the numbness
of waiting
wrenches itself
from the quagmire
of doubt
taking flight in search
of clear blue skies
unmarred by unhappy grey
wide open spaces
unbound by grim walls
painted a pretty pink
unable to mask
sometimes ugly truths
Reeled back into reality when
the doctor says, “I’m afraid…”

Escape is temporary

*
*

8.
One Wall Inside the Other / by Viviane Vives

In a little corner of Austin, by the river, there are two stone walls, one inside the other, where all came crashing down. I do not know if those magical salamanders that they so wanted to protect are now buried under so much shit, but it all fell down; the pecan, the other pecan, the leaves–not the walls–and there is only a turtle now, walking as slowly as our story.

You want to step on my face. I know that we are no longer protected, that we missed each other, that we drowned. I hang from your angel, or your demon, the one that floats half a meter over your shoulder, he comes down and helps me climb, never to come down; just like in the dream I had, the one you did not want to hear; except in the dream, you climbed with me. The sweetness fills me and I go crazy, I do not return. I stay between dimensions. We are the same, you hate to hear it, maybe I’m wrong, wrong as fuck, but your demon-angel loves me so much, and I love him, that he always obeys me. If I ask him, he leaves your shoulder and sits on my belly.

You look at me with hatred, you want to throw sticks and stones down the spring where the salamanders maybe still live. You think your freedom lies behind the turtle that crossed our way when it all came crashing down; you get around her, walking backward while you look at me, like you do before a worn down queen. You leap following your stones and your sticks, and when you are safe, or so you think, you run away without looking back, my Indian blanket tied around your waist.

It’s not your fault, it’s your people’s.

The turtle and I, with my demon on my belly, with her fallen tree, walk the circular walls in our in-between, we can see your mad dash through the desert, no angel by your side, no open sky, with my womb pulsating on your temples while you burn a hole in your memory.

I see you married in the desert in a house with wheels, with a fat woman, with two fat kids, but you do not care, a brush and a canvas are tied to your neck and that’s all you want. I ask: “Is that all you want?” And you say yes.

And so it is. I am only this book even if I would trade it in for one day of my beauty. I would use it to seek you, rip your from the arms of the desert, the rocks, the fat woman, but it would not work. It’s not my age, nor my flesh, nor my gray hairs, not even her; what separates us is that my mother muttered a spell of freedom over me: “La petite est comme l’eau ….” while yours choked on a rosary. I am free water, kid, what separates us is your fucking slavery, for all your running through desert and your hanging from mountains, nothing is where you seek it, god moved it a little bit before you got there.

I dream again, we’re here a for a moment, just for tasks; your journey through the desert doesn’t last long, even if it is forever, and one day you also remember that we came to free our brothers and sisters so they would not wait behind bars not realizing that the cage is open wide. You will want to step on your own face, that day.

All fly away, but not the turtle and I, we stay between the two stone walls, one inside the other, in the dead corner of Austin, by the cold river. Between one dimension and the other we disappear until the spring covers us during the next flood and leads us to the sea, to the islands, without moving a muscle of the face you wanted to step on. They will be so surprised in Mallorca when they see us come back, isn’t it little turtle, after so many years?

*
*

Day 7 / Poems 7

*

Lethe / by Merry Benezra

Elusive, sleep. The dark is
too extreme.

Dour night, a stilled machine,
erasure of line and color.

My bed a ledge
or pallet, borne aloft

high above some river.

*
*

lb7

*
*

September 7th, 7 Years / by Lisa DeSiro

Just remember, when you think of me today: I
understood my situation. I wasn’t afraid to
die. I had faith. And I was tired of
illness, fatigued by fighting. I wish it hadn’t
taken so long, at the end. It was the absolute
hardest thing I did in my life.

*
*

poem written when
in too much pain to write / by Lori Desrosiers

ld7

*
*

At the American University of Beirut’s Beach
After Two Years in Qatar / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Beneath our feet,
the mossy carpet drops into waves.

The roll unburdens our bodys’ weight
like a buoy unchained. As we drift

into the froth of Poseidon’s curls,
your blanking eyes tell me you’re back there:

The gates. The slaves. The pay, good
enough because we had a plan to escape.

I can’t tell you how many times when we made love
I tried to push your screams out of that place.

Travel shows became our altar: Thank you, Rick Steves,
for your impeccable articulation of T’s,

your romanticized shots of Venice—
when I was there, I drowned in sweat.

Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for drunk food—
we had to buy a license to drink and eat pork.

We look back at the shore and wonder if its real:
splashes of porcelain walls, Tuscan tile rooves, the trees—

green up the mountain, like fresh asparagus, wild in zigzag,
then burning under a sun through a break in the clouds.

I see you’re searching the weeds for a ring,
which slipped off your finger because you thinned.

I know we’re in over our heads here, but a kiss
would let us taste this salt for the first time.

*
*

In Praise of / by Eric Pfeiffer

I sing this song
in praise of
the creative and the curative
nature of nature:
colors, designs,
me, you,
and all living creatures,
sunrise, sunset,
thunder and lightning,
peace and excitement,
tranquility and love;
above all, love!

*
*

Recaps and Denatured Alcohol Satori / by Gary Thomas

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

9+7 / by Uma Venkatraman

Sound waves navigate
lump-littered flesh
rebound off white spots
on a dark mass
Device glides silently
on gel-coated skin
ignoring pings of fear
echoing through the heart
Sinister clicks
at random intervals
hover ominously
in the stillness
My frantic mind
conjures up
the pretty lace bra
I chose in the morning

*
*

7.
The Cities and the Dead / by Viviane Vives

“”We inhabit the cities of the dead and their ideas inhabit us every day”
― Jorge Majfud

My Uncle Albert tells me: “There are dead in every city, Viviane, and if you’re lucky, you leave them behind every time you leave, but where most dead are, Viviane, is at the bottom of the sea and floating in the air between Barcelona and Veracruz; one million.”

There are, uncle, many more. Do not forget all the dead souls, souls of the living, all died a little then; we were born from them, half dead, without knowing why or how. A bad history lesson in school is not enough to explain what remains inside my blood, whispering betrayals to my ear.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

The Gift / by Merry Benezra

They gave us trees:
their slowest thoughts.
As artists
create vocabularies, this
gesture of theirs is supposed to mean:
solace.

*
*

LB6

*
*

A Renaissance Woman / by Lisa DeSiro

Multi-faceted, that’s me:
introvert / creative / animal-
rights supporter &
activist / liaison for
nature & humans / choir
director / organist / vocalist /
artist / photographer / traveler / & more

*
*

side-effect of short-term memory loss due to aging / by Lori Desrosiers

you dream memories now
the one where you drive across the Tappan Zee
and a man in a car is following you
so you turn into the Irvington Police station

or the one where you are dancing with Walter
even though he’s your friend’s husband
and you don’t kiss him
because you don’t want to

or the one where you are visiting Jane down in
Shank’s Village in New Jersey where you first met
and you fall in love with her little girl Ellen
whose name is my middle name

you can’t remember anything new
whether you took your insulin
where your husband is

when he goes to the doctor
or the store
or the other room

*
*

An Afternoon with Mr. / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

It’s as if his feet always walk parallel with clouds,
as if shadows cast by the round of his shoes
oval under the wooden floor until the upside down
corridor becomes right after a bottle of wine.
The red, he argued to a pigeon once, gives him gusto
to set the world how it should be, like stepping onto
an elevator and making it take him home just by
pressing a button, like opening his apartment door
with a piece of metal, uniquely cut to his corner
of the world, where there’s a single room with a table,
a bed, two chairs, a window facing an interior wall.
The red on the bricks is calming, He recalls often
his brother said a few years ago, his last visit.
Tonight, he’ll paint over a photo he found in his
dad’s belongings, to bring its moment up-to-date,
where a family is posed in front of a pastoral church
without a tree or electric lines. There’s no caption
that labels the year, the faces, or even the reason
for the gathering. He doesn’t know if anyone is
an aunt, uncle, or some distant cousin, who might
now have kids. Maybe, he’ll get to know them
in the image he’s doing over with a paintbrush.
Maybe, he’ll paint the sky the orange he understands
in the fall, after the leaves dry, after squirrels
disappear into their knots of the trees.

*
*

I Garden / by Eric Pfeiffer

I garden
by myself
yet never feel alone
among the strawberries, the roses,
the sunflowers.
They are my kin, they comfort me.
Like me, they like to eat
and drink. Yes, drink!
And when the day is done
we bid each other
sweet dreams,
until the morning comes and once again
I garden.

*
*

Crazy in the Knees / by Gary Thomas

Remember
it was elation
brought you here,
jolted you, nethers
to withers, until
surrender was your
favorite word. Now
euphoria is tempered
by laundry, hours
of indecision, doubt
like spider cracks
slivering a windscreen.
So crazy,
you hear any teen or twitterer
toss off as this year’s Uhhhhh…—
as if the remarkable is no longer
worth a salient remark or reflection.
But no matter. What’s still got you
yearning for, shaking about,
searching after, and yes, even
mooning over, you and your knees
know what’s what. Such lunacy
runs through your entire innermost
like the earth’s own occasional tremors,
like the first time all your cells knew joy
and remembered.

*
*

9+6 / by Uma Venkatraman

Mile after mile
of staccato rhythms on sand
leave breathless strands
of stray thoughts, stranded,
knitted by the wind
into a wispy memory
wafting beyond azure waters
to nestle in dark strands
drifting across your face
Restricted ruminations rush out
on constricted breaths
to lift the veil
on your shuttered sight
so I can drown in the echoes
of chocolate depths

*
*

6.
Handfuls of Sea / by Viviane Vives

I want to grab you, Mediterrani, by the handful and shove you onto these pages: green, yellow, sky, clouds, even the jellyfish. I am a clumsy bear locked up for too long, I’m blind, huge, desperate; how long have I been without my sea! I’m stunned. Indian ocean, you rescued me; your delicate long arms in two thousand and fourteen rocked me, gave me precious sweet kisses on each my eyelids, kept the sharks away; filled my dying lungs with your pale blue color, I cannot believe it exists! You covered me with your white sand so no one could see me and so you could caress me, you asked me not to give up, that one day I would return.

I bring you, dear Mediterrani sea, an enormous kiss from the ancient, silent land, dignified and friendly, she remembers the stars; she whispered a blessing to me: go back to your sea-mother, beautiful goddess, raise your feet, raise your legs, lift your arms, lift your soul and drop down onto your original sea who waits for you in Mallorca. Forget Cadaqués and forget Austin, forget his curls and his wrists adorned with leather, forget his strong knees and his perfect mouth kissing you like one who covers you with seaweed and clouds; as familiar as you, my love, my sea.

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

Category / by Merry Benezra

A city of clouds
and below,
a milky tide plows
the beach.

I’m searching
for you in the pitiless
wind.

Death is a denial of
category, you said—
and found
a foothold in the sky.

How wrong you
were: in climbing
up,
you fell into
my past.

*
*

10 Facts about the Poet You Will Never Hear Anywhere Else / by Lauren Boisvert

  1. I hold the record for eating the stars.
    My photo is on the wall. I won a t-shirt.
  2. There is nothing down past the depths of my eyes
    except for dust and empty beer cans.
  3. My secret to kissing is a clamshell tongue.
  4. I am an agate waiting to be broken.
  5. If I ever hold my hand over open flame
    know it’s only because I want everyone in the room
    to think I’m a witch.
  6. Everything I do is because I want everyone to think
    I’m a witch.
  7. I cry tears of crystal and purple glass.
    Collect my sadness in a jar to display in the window.
  8. If a Sorry ever falls from my mouth catch it
    before it hits the floor. It is my only one and it likes to escape.
  9. I have never loved a boy as much as I have loved them all.
  10. I like to die, but I am not very good at it.

*
*

Every Little Bit Helps
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

I am the effort that precedes the outcome, the toil
that keeps every body busy with a plethora
of purpose, whether paid or unpaid, every job
big or small, every task on every never-ending to-do
list, working hour by day by week by year

*
*

the ghost of our intentions / by Lori Desrosiers

when what we meant
hides behind what we say
when the parental dictum
it’s not what you say
it’s what you do
confounds the tongue
when every time we speak
the burden of composition
follows the flap of lip
despite our best efforts
to make speech rational
and the ghost of our intentions
lingers in peripheral vision
like the flash of light
from a torn retina

*
*

Next Time, You Can Kill the Cockroach in the Kitchen
with Vogue Magazine / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

. . . . . . It didn’t know you’d hunger for the same fruit at 1:03,
give in to the craving you’ve gutted for that purple honey bite,
. . . . . . even though an extra ounce will puff your cheeks
for a week, make you hide from mirrors.
. . . . . . It didn’t know that when you saw each other
your veins would frighten and rise like tributaries,
. . . . . . a livid liquid on forearms and neck, the inner thigh
where you have freckles like Orion’s Belt
. . . . . . and keep stewed away under jeans or a long skirt.
Maybe that’s why when it saw you, it haywired
. . . . . . like an old man caught with his hand in the cookie jar,
unwilling to accept he’d have to abandon his chomp
. . . . . . as you unloaded half a can of poison onto its path,
holding your ground like deflecting the attack
. . . . . . of a Death Stormtrooper onto your toes,
the way it punched its armor up and to the left
. . . . . . as it climbed the cracks to where a fig had fallen,
which funneled it to my place of defense abreast the fridge,
. . . . . . where I got it before escaping into the vent
by bringing down the world of 68 pages,
. . . . . . a solid binder, the cover of a pale face’s fuchsia lips.

*
*

I Want to Be / by Eric Pfeiffer

I want to be
small, unimportant

without a name
nothing at all

*
*

Flags of Voidoidia / by Gary Thomas

Blue, of course, for fidelity
or fraternity—I always forget
the distinction. Yellow somehow
as warning or evocation
of the sun. Green, I suppose,
to remind us of lives lost
or life still present in the hardiest
weeds. Red these days for all
of us still able to drip or gush
through most days. Orange
or gold to instill acumen
within the citizenry via
ongoing acquisition. Black
is simultaneously the absence
of light and the fusion of all
spectra, not unlike our future
plans. White’s an absence,
naturally, not only a reflection
of what was once an unborder,
but an enfolding and unfurling
of what is yet to be chronicled.
Salutes are optional, as is,
apparently, standing for this.

*
*

9+5 / by Uma Venkatraman

Feelings, living and
dead, pleached
the way our hands
once were, before
calluses of
uttered lies
sprouted, untrimmed,
burrowing into
the fabric of years
woven together
Hedged in, we strain
to shear suffocating
strands, so we can
grow again

*
*

5.
Spica / by Viviane Vives

I tell the girl. “I’ve lost him, my girl” and she answers: “How can you have lost anything if with nothing you came and with nothing you will go?”

– “Why did he not come?”
– “Why did Dad not come?”
– “The fear”
– “That.”

She forces me to go look at the moon and listen to the owls.

– “Look.”

Saturn, Mars, and Antares form a triangle through which I can travel tonight. Spica is to my right. She’s two stars and they are so close to each other that we see them as one, they distort each other and there’s actual stardust between them. They are young, they are wild, and travel fast; it will take them a long time to calm down…

– “Spica?”
– “Hermes Trismegistus, writer and magician, possibly a god, gave a secret symbol to Spica, it would seem it was important to him…”
– “He also wrote the Aesclepius where he describes the art of imprisoning the souls of demons and angels in statues with the help of herbs, crystals, and smells, so that the statues could speak”
– “Yes. But I’m not a statue, nor you are a witch, do not tease me… I just want you to notice how these stars alter each other because they are too close, too alike. They do not know how to leave each other, but they do not have a coherent, clear path. ”
– “I have told him this several times, but he does not pay attention. He’s scared of the idea.”

We both think “puto miedo,” at once.

– “What I mean is, have you told yourself?”
– “Fucking hell.”
– “That.”

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

Everything Not Sheltered is at Risk / by Merry Benezra

Feral night on padded feet: roaming
through the back yard, it cast
a shadow on my dream and woke me.

Turgid, pewter-colored sky. Its
brooding gaze, where once, a wild scattering of stars.

The gaping night a stream I’m bound
to cross, black water to my hips. A Mississippi, centuries wide.

Blind and patient—this is how I ford the night.
My dreams are small.
The night a keening wolf inside my room.

*
*

LB4

*
*

Nearly 3 years old / by Lisa DeSiro

Clear-eyed and open-
hearted, I face the world with
innocent curiosity. What awesome
adventures await me, what heights will I
reach? If I believe in myself,
anything is possible!

*
*

Zeitgeist / by Lori Desrosiers

“No man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit.”
– Hegel

According to recent DNA studies
each woman carries the suffering
of her mothers and grandmothers.
My Jewish great grandmother’s
fear of the pogroms, her hunger
for love, for knowledge, for freedom
she passed to my grandmother
my mother and to me – some fears,
but also a willingness to take risks.
We inherited her love of music, her
singing voice, her sense of humor.
My family became musicians,
engineers, film makers, teachers.
This came to pass not just for family
who came to America but also for those
who stayed in Russia. They achieved more
because the spirit of the times changed.
My daughters’ voices, their writing
and music belong to them, to me and
to the spirits of the generations.

*The idea of Zeitgeist suggests the individual
rides the tide of time. Inventions happen
because it is time for them, so if Darwin
hadn’t been born, the theory of Evolution
would still have been postured.

*
*

Dead Wind & The Clock Tower’s Night Chimes
at Placa de Gracia, Barcelona, Spain / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

I’m not saying the chimes are not musical
or its notes don’t wash over the night chatter
of caña drinkers and new lovers in the square
who leave a white noise of ring and sputtering speech
on branches of a few trees shedding a hot summer,
I’m not saying the clang hasn’t entered my blood
to make my body younger and float above my bed
as the older couple in the lower apartment sleeps mad,
I’m not saying the quarter-hour ping hasn’t fed my fingers
to reach you on the other side of the pillow
where your eyes are covered by fluttering lids
as you deepen your exhale into French-kiss dreams,
I’m not saying the minutes between gongs
has cleaned the wine splattered walls
back to the color of sea shells and melancholic winter,
what I’m saying is a zephyr through the windows
at this time, when a dead heat’s supposed to be cool,
could climb between the sheets with us and take off
this constant sweat, blow through our ears
as if an ocean wind has come here for us,
brought us a cave in the rocks from a forgotten cove.

*
*

The Book Club Ladies / by Eric Pfeiffer

The book club ladies listen
to hear if someone else was moved
the way that they were moved.
They smile, a barely smile
of recognition that makes them feel
whole. Their eyes meet.
They share.

They are sisters,
sisters for this night,
and worlds apart
in other ways.
Now is what matters.
They share
and they are whole.

*
*

Ernst and the Orange Garret / by Gary Thomas

To get there
he needs to tug a shabby ladder
from the belly of the pyramidal attic
he sublets from a leery old couple.
Once atop and ensconced,
he can only stand upright in the very center,
only write poems in a silence
that leaks from musty beams
and daddy longlegged windows
as opaque to him
as why he wants to remain,
needs to be as close
to her Marina del Rey townhouse
as Stanyan Street ever gets.
He painted the walls
of his self-imposed cell
Hazard Orange, Julius Orange,
1970’s McDonalds Orange
for the illusion of sunlight,
the pretense of purpose
through high-gloss concealment.
He writes angry love poems,
outraged pastorals,
stick figure sonnets
he fans into holocausts
of lost syllables eroding
to cinders and motes
to target his eyes, his breaths,
the gaudy darkness he claims
is his
above all.

*
*

9+4 / by Uma Venkatraman

I-n-h-a-l-e
suffuse perfume
of exquisite pain
into my veins
E-x-h-a-l-e
how not to let
vision of dark eyes
out on a sigh
T-w-i-s-t
tie yourself up
in memory knots
of entwined limbs
R-e-l-e-a-s-e

*
*

4.
White Doves in the Basement / by Viviane Vives

From the inside, the walls of the house melt, dream by dream. So white she is, so chic, so taut. The house of Bambi and Alberto. Where white doves think themselves invincible but gradually lose their light and grow easy to trap. White doves don’t die on the tree anymore, but in the basement of the house and the smell climbs up. I do not see any shoulder where death came to cry, but if it helps, my tears are salty and daily. Fresh. My tears always hope. I am a bottomless pit, not a cave, my mouth has learned to bend backwards and slurp life mixed with ashes. I think it was the day Bambi whispered in my ear that avi had died. When your protector prince decides to leave the ballroom, and you are nine, you stay numb and waltz loneliness. I wrap myself in shades of dark blue silk curtains with a Piaf background. The image of the hands of my grandfather tattooed on my chest. Lit cigarette and all.

 

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

Red Shift / by Merry Benezra

Memory, massing
like clouds in a deep distance,
looking small, because far.

A girl who said, Let’s
pretend we’re naiads. Then,
rain. Spring rain

that drowned the afternoon, so
indoors, our dolls got married
to movie stars. Linoleum.

Catechism. A child’s clutch
of pansies. Taffeta. In my mirror,
I can see the vanishing point.

*
*

LB3

*
*

A Woman of a Certain Age / by Lisa DeSiro

Leadership is my specialty. But there are
other sides of me: singer, teacher,
runner, yogini, literature-lover,
newly-inducted citizen, friend,
arts advocate, sister, daughter…

Journeys I’ve taken, heartbreaks I’ve had —
all have shaped who I am
now. This is me, taking the next steps,
eager to move forward.

*
*

Famous Last Words / by Lori Desrosiers

When my Grandpa Jack was dying
my mother Blanche drove her car
down the Jersey Turnpike to his side.

Ahead of her car, the ghost of Grandma Bella
who had died a couple years before,
flew across the road, beckoning Mom to hurry.

When she reached the hospital
she spent a little while with her father
then left the room to get some water.

When she came back, the doctor told her
Grandpa Jack had passed, and he had
a funny look on his face. “Your father
had some last words. He said to me,”

When the revolution comes, I’ll get you!
My mother and her brothers just
smiled, shrugged and said, “That’s Pop.”

*
*

Red Sauce from Scratch / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

The Aztecs cultivated and named the “tomato,”
Which means “fat water with naval.”

It doesn’t matter how to pick a living thing from its vine
when its final moments will be on a metal surface,
simmering to the pulp: skin softens, flesh relents its structure,
remodels into a heated burble, popping and frothing
because oil has its way with solids when at a temperature
not even alkalines can take, those earthly core born –iums,
starting with stro- and bar- and rad-, those two letter initials
we wish we could use in Scrabble but stay on the table,
because H2O and Octene are like lava, a longevity dream
in the form of a flowing red sauce whose taste can kill
after it settles on angel hairs, which, to all diners, creates
that slippery slurp, a full to the lip but proud gum-smacking
of Andean fruit, still holding water from the peaks.

*
*

After Eighty / by Eric Pfeiffer

All my life, like you,
I’ve waited, waited,
endlessly;
but no more:
Everything is now,
everything is yes;
no more waiting
after eighty.

*
*

GT3

*
*

9+3 / by Uma Venkatraman

I taste green
in the scent of rain
the metallic tang
of your purple rage
gasping in the clouds,
like you left Sam,
his life ebbing among
shattered bowl shards
when your storm was spent
I buried him in the garden
his gills inhaling
the fragrance of death

*
*

3. Moissac / by Viviane Vives

Moissac is a sacred place in the middle of a river that flows pristine on the other side of the Pyrenees, it is an ancient house full of ancient secrets, it is a huge room where she looks out the window to see the river and the river only. A magical boy on each side. To the left, to the right, the river flows, makes circles around them. The moon shines on the bed posts, where number one is water with her. Slow, fluid, eternal, they disappear in the bubbles they create with this river and with that moon and number two cries like water. Because he feels it and because he is cold. The poster bed is a boat in which they sail for the other worlds without getting lost even a little. Complete. Free. Three.

It’s cry all day, next day, time to love number two more. Lole and Manuel wail from the boombox they carry, as they dance on top of the table and the French, who are surprised by little, feel the hair on the nape of their necks stand when they see her dance, this girl of the terrible curls; how openly the sweet boys that love her, and each other, cry. “Todo es de color” in the gray village on the green river. Children of Catalunya in France swim for life and dance for love.

*
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

The Weight / by Merry Benezra

Half-memories of sleep
(which I taste as gratitude)
then
the rain that has retreated
or
the riddle of fresh snow.

Somewhere a horizon—
proof of this earth—
bunkered down behind those trees.

The day a self-replenishing
banquet. The day that lulls us
with repeating tropes. The day
a twittering branch.

After sleep, that animal
thing, everything congeals.

*
*

Messages Heard Through “Evenflow” / by Lauren Boisvert

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

Hidden in Plain Sight
(a riddle) / by Lisa DeSiro

I make minds and hearts take a leap
I set thought in motion, like a domino
tipping over, and I help eyes to see
I may be strict, then reward with a treat
I can be earnest or aggressive or clever
or I can choose to remain a mystery

*
*

tale of the cuckoo / by Lori Desrosiers

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing
– W. Shakespeare

the most evil of birds,
the cuckoo lays its egg
in another’s nest
the hatchling then
pushes the host’s eggs
out of the nest
propelling them
to the ground below
the host parents
feed the cuckoo
like a parasite growing
larger than they are
but they keep on
feeding the cuckoo chick
until it fledges
finding another cuckoo
to mate with and
repeat the cycle
this forced adoption
is it all that different
from children misplaced
by war, drugs or poverty
who must grow up
in the arms of reluctant
parents not their own
or the acceptance of
bully boss or politician
by a reluctant public
forced to obey
watch their children
wrenched from their arms
turned into soldiers

*
*

Moka Pot Brewing
Can Get You Through / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

A meteor cannot reach the earth
Without burning at 3000 degrees.

It sails in from some galactic explosion,
probably crimson and furious
off a planet that’s been spinning
for hundreds of thousands of centuries,
only to end up earth-bound,
that blue marble with a single moon.
Its energies in funnel syncopation
with brown matter at boiling capacity,
unobserved when above the burner
but recognized after traveling up
the metallic tube, a cross between
a siphon and a thin tepee
where each aerated molecule spills
through the top’s opening, out
into the great cylindrical collector-sphere.
This is when your body whiffs the magic
of tropical rain into soil, into stalk, into
flower seed, into cherry bean into
the grind on a Thursday-afternoon-
post-ten-hour-shift because a friend
needed you to cover for him. This
robusting time of your hypervigilant eyes
and shaky hands as the stars are out,
of you anticipating to speak in exhaustive tones
with faces you can barely put together, becomes
languid limbs pushing blood to a heart so tired
that your eyes droop every miniscule moment
your nose distances from the cup.

*
*

Dying is Nothing / by Eric Pfeiffer

dying is nothing
like I thought

no cymbals crashing
no illuminations

only deep
imperturbable sleep

*
*

When You I / by Gary Thomas 

Decades back you heard it in some psych class
maneuvered to curtail stress and assuage
your fellow students: the beige I-Message
that allowed the prof to feign real concern
disguised as Good Orderly Direction
and assertive non-aggression. What I
hear you saying, you’d say, is that conflicts
like this one should be tabled until we
all have time to consider a proper
resolution and you’d think This here’s bushwah,
Brother. Thus the Seventies became us
now in our near-seventies as we try
not to hurt one another any more
than we have already. So I say,
When you decide in company what we
will do next without turning to me, I
feel invisible and/or absent. Such
faces as we have these days are saved. Gears
shift. Passive voices wax into active
listening, alive as any sigh just
about to suffocate two candles set
on a supper table. We are well past
the affective domain by this time. When
you ask for the safety matches, I reach
into my pocket. When you say Strike, I
add Anywhere.

 

9+2 / by Uma Venkatraman

Golden, like the
hopes we bathed
our first steps in
The liquid, now
mocking in its glitter
I cloud the clarity
with a splash of doubt
You try to rid it
of its opacity
Opposite routes, but it
still tastes like tea

*
*

2.
Under the Pecan Tree. / by Viviane Vives

Disenchantment? Fright? Treason? Loss. Damnation. Una-ttainable.
Is loss an emotion? Desolation. That! Forgotten. Left behind. Pain is pain is pain.
But what kind? Forfeit. Relinquishhhhhhh. In-contestable.

Yes, I held something that came from the stars. As with any stardust, of course it became dust. What can one possess, truly? What belonged to me, or you? Was it important? Is there something of ours, only ours? It is said that all important things cannot be possessed and cannot be lost. They always existed, they always pierced us, they always blew our minds.

We went hiding under the pecan tree, one for each of us, on opposite corners of my lost yard, where all the leaves fall, the squirrel cracks up, and the hawk watches like he cannot believe us. Never mind the oak. The oak was too big, too old, too true. “(Too” does not make sense anymore.) It was nice to see you breathe it.

The heart is certain, like a stupid child, of something that doesn’t make any sense to me, nor you. Whatever this is, nothing real can be ripped away. Go ahead, take the step. Nothing changes. You shall take nothing away from me.—

 

Day 1 / Poems 1

A War Here Once / by Merry Benezra

Harbinger of rage, the cocktail hour
when mothers and fathers jam the levers
of time.

And she wondered
how she would construct
a childhood
from these materials.

Sputnik hemming the horizon,
airplanes, shedding the sound
of themselves
tearing the sky.

Standing too near the fire, she became
the fire
she feared.

With the slippage of age, the days
pushing toward death—
here on her bed,
with its nestling quilts: not even a
beautiful cat
at her feet.

*
*

Ginnie Springs in the Afternoon / by Lauren Boisvert

The night is black and tepid
but I am driving my car going 85 on the highway

Daylight was 100 degrees
but the springs were 72.

*
I saw a pregnant woman among the mangroves
belly wide as a planet
. . . . . . . all in white crowned in magnolias.
She poured water from a copper cup
over her stomach and I thought,
. . . . . . . . . . . . the water is so cold
. . . . . . . . . . . . your baby will come out a nihilist.

*
Between wolf and dog is the space of an hour
and in the hour are all things spun from silk
. . . . . . and bad directions.
Wolf goes one way . . . . . . . dog another
they loop around and raise cat from the crossroads.

*
I am floating and the water is brown
. . . . . . brown as an egg . . . . . as hawk feathers.
I hit my toes against hidden shoreline rocks.
The sun wheels and pulses . . . . . my sister holds my ankle.

*
The baby comes out tan skinned
and her parents are happy.

*
*

My name has 13 letters and my birthday is May 13th
(or: One line short of a sonnet) / by Lisa DeSiro

Let me
introduce myself: I am
someone who loves to
ask questions.

Anger is an emotion I prefer
not to feel; but,
naturally, it happens sometimes.

Dreaming is an activity I
enjoy very much.
Smiling at strangers
interests me, to see how people
react; quite
often, they smile back.

*
*

I miss you while you’re still here / by Lori Desrosiers

lori1

*
*

Day Wandering at Vltava River Promenade:
They Walk Between Us / by Alex Vartan Gubbins

Push our hands away: talkers, rushers, lovers.
We break our clasp for them, again and again
and again. For them we stop our tonguing ties,
the chats that pull us in knee-knuckled,
knocking shins on sidewalk under rain, under
umbrella, around trees like islands. Our feet,
lost rudders in ocean current, wandering like
Magellan. We are two masts on different
waters bound for desire filled warmth beyond
the map, bound for blues that stretch until our
sterns have run aground on a shallow that
wasn’t sketched by the map-maker, who I know
is you, because when you slip in by my side,
dropping anchor where our bows nestle
the cove, you bring hot-cocoa, with a cookie
I never knew existed.

*
*

Primum Non Nocere / by Eric Pfeiffer

What if
writing poems
is not the best
use of my time?
Consider this:
it does no harm.

Cats, dogs, elephants,
all are intelligent,
yet none write poems.
So let me write
my poems. Sometimes
poetry heals.

*
*

Staying Lost / by Gary Thomas

You could like being lost
once you’ve come this far —Sekou Sundiata (“Dijerrido”)

It was like this—
two trails diverged
in a pine-green glade
and I took the one
less littered with horse
manure. Colorado
offers its manifold
passages for those
who wish to walk
from park to tundra,
and I was on one
of those. Intent
on the eventual,
I neglected the current,
the process of sun’s
and wind’s story,
what the aspen grove
with small grey birds
inside had to say.
By one choice I was
lost, by another I lost
the point of it, by then
I commenced to simper
like some Rocky Mountain
idiot savant who just caught
the punchline to the Cosmic Giggle.
By this means, I found
a way back, listening
to the commonest of
sounds—this grasshopper
whirring his own way across
the trail, that flicker keeping
her drumbeat steady in the
nearest bristlecone, my feet
crunching ineptly on the
duff and granite. Once
I could see the spot of light
I had started from, I stood still,
looked at it long and easy.
I spun all the way around,
still lost, now liking it, far
from where I had decided
I was headed. Like that.

*
*

9+1 / by Uma Venkatraman

Morning breaks
into my coffee cup
Brew made bitter
by dregs
of last night’s fight
Heat of your words
still linger in each sip
I should have picked tea
and read the leaves
to reveal tomorrow

*
*

Talking to Mom in the Bathtub / by Viviane Vives

I love talking to you when I’m in the tub, Mom. You sit on the toilet to smoke and talk and laugh, your mouth wide, breathing fire, while I feel so good in my water… I have not even started writing about you. It’s going to destroy me. I hope not, I never want to stop telling things, I hope this is your heart, beating through every word. How pretty you are on my mind right now, your delicate energy suspended over me, as if I were a stroke on one of your paintings. Ana met your lover while walking down Rambla de Catalunya the other day, he sent her a book, on page three, there is a picture where only your back can be seen. We both said it’s so you, the gesture of your arm as you sign the painting, your neck so fine, and your Marilyn hair in a low bun like you always wore. The embroidery on your ivory shirt looks like a tattoo in Sanskrit under the nape of your neck that would say something like “too refined for this world.”

You became saturated and overloaded quickly and then you fuddled, but within the peace of your nest, the warmth of a hearth that you passionately adorned with many delicate and precious things, your were the light of the world. All the moths came to you, but did not burn, leaving invigorated, all who were drawn. You looked in their direction and they felt real, at last. When you managed to focus, you had the energy of a goddess, Mom. A sweet one. Your made sense on it all, you saw the way before them like it was a movie you were watching. You gave them silky and timely advice, always had a word full of light to give away like a pearl, unique and personal. There were not many because you could be a surly recluse, so jealous of your time always (I understand, now that time has begun to run also for me.) All adored you, they still cry.

Suddenly, depression would grab you as a monster by Goya that ate you, in black and white you cried for days and we knew to leave you alone and to wait for the light and colors to come back. The bicolor monster became later a ghost of pale-red fire, and the black thoughts real characters that you saw and talked to, or even some that you became yourself. Jesus, Marguerite Yourcenar. When it passed, you would tell me, only me, the witness, the keeper of secrets, who you had been.

One day, from the USA, I had a dream, I wrote this down:

My Mother’s Fire
I dreamt of my mother fighting a ghost of fire.
I saw her dancing to that faint red wind.
I saw her trying to put him out with her fire.
I bathed his feet with water, I thought of blue
But my mother to the fire wind danced
He wove a love song for her and filled the room.

The day of your first attack. You told everyone that you had eaten some mushrooms from La Boqueria that were bad. We believed you, we always did. Surely there were many more “mushrooms” of which we knew nothing. I understood my dream. From then on, every time you came back you stood a little further. (It hurt so much.)

Notebooks with notes on little men, Jews or Egyptians, secrets that you discovered. Just me and your lover did not fear your travels. You were our shaman caught in-between while visiting worlds, like you had always been.

From your notebook:

“…To flow, first, diluted in sensation or idea, or taste, whatever. Be feeling, be the sea, be a flower, enter, live from within, be, not being here. And then be here without being. Lose myself to better find myself, and better lose myself. I am, then I’m not, always so contradictory, but it is the way I could find to live it all passionately and then walk away, and come back, always come back, until I go crazy. To think, to wish to think myself to confusion and to stop thinking only to feel until I faint. They said, “and ambition?” Ambition? Ambition! I’m free to ambition my freedom…. “