Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The nine volunteers for February 2017 were Catharine Batsios, J. Peter Bergman, Celaine Charles, Jennifer Stewart Fueston, Stephen Hollaway, Ava M. Hu, Liza Katz, Matthew Landrum, and Clyde Long. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please contact email@example.com 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 28 / Poems 28
If Home is not a Place, but in the Body / by Catharine Batsios
By this time, these things are almost
a mnemonic for something filling:
rice, beans, pepper, water, garlic, salt.
I’ll mix them over the stove; from my mouth
comes the last bit of the soup.
“I want to go home”
What home, where home, why home
how home, what is it I’m almost
getting at—one-ounce jars of introspection spice for soup
that’s too thin, maybe with too much water filling
out taste. I think maybe to reach inside my mouth,
pull out lung, liver, kidney, intestine, add them with more salt.
Leave the heart, though. To my body, it is salt.
It’s not that I don’t live here, I am home,
these pots are mine, French press, cold coffee in my mouth
like rocks from the bottom of the river outside, they almost
seem to be more filling
but I am not making stone soup,
I am the only one making this soup,
a recipe straight from the salt,
and if salt is my heart, then my body a table, filling
the room with its un-finish and right angles for home-
makers at large to admire, almost,
until they see the tag hanging from my mouth:
tongue which forms words my mouth
would rather not, which makes sounds of boiling soup.
I raise my spoon and blow to taste—almost,
maybe more salt
or add stomach, sift soup through the holes to make it feel at home,
maybe then I can tell if this batch is filling
but the pot, brimming with organs is the only thing filling
and boiling over, foaming at the mouth—
I turn down the heat and say you are home
and by now it’s almost true; more of me being soup,
another spoonful, it trickles right through. More salt,
I think. By this time it’s almost
rendered to taste, almost, my stomach swells from the bottom, filling.
I know I could taste the salt, were it not for my mouth,
I hollow it out, tongue flopping into soup, sinking, “I want to go home.”
Again to the Bleak Shore / by J. Peter Bergman
Waking up to the newest of days it is sad
to discover the same day awaiting me,
when all that I really need is the route to be
defined for me, to move me on, to set me free.
Then you are there, and you are glad
to have another chance to simply sing
of this glorious morning and your voice can bring
a melody of the resonance of spring that awaits me.
There’s a tiny gray cloud in the shining sky
that beckons me to its filmy beyond
and though I set my heart against it ‘till my heart is sore,
not the day nor the music, the voice with its sigh,
nor the feelings growing, telling me how very fond
we are, I am swept away again to the bleak shore. It awaits me.
The Café / by Celaine Charles
Empty table at the café
And I imagine
Though it stands alone this moment
It’s worn with many an encounter
Hungry hands with soft caresses
Flirtation swirls her cream and sugar
In hopes another hand
May find a way
To share its shiny surface
Fingerprints beget fingerprints
Little ones explore
A canvas in which to create
Doodles in condensation
Napkin origami, or sugar pack log homes
Color coordinated with imitation sweetness
I wonder who has sat alone
In perfect circles, like stones skipping water…
Do rings assimilate past shiny luster
Are stories captured
Like grains of wood?
So I decide
I move to this table I know well
Analyzed with coffee in hand
Connected with its secrets
For I’ve been this patron before
Each of them
And none of them
My hands rest nervously
Along the edges of my new friend
My old friend
And I await the experience of the day
Zookeeper / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Today the baby is eating the long strands of my hair, like a thrashing
twenty pound marlin, or some deep-sea fish, snagged on a line
as I’m trying to write this poem. He grabs the mouse and stutters
the cursor violently across the lines, erasing whatever it was
I first thought. I bounce him on one knee to the next, his nails clawing
a fistful of skin on my neck, as if he is the red hawk and I his next meal.
He reaches for the stack of neat papers and hurls them to the floor, in full awe
of his catlike paw, like the power of climbing he has just discovered of lifting himself
over the lip of one stair and then crying for rescue, suddenly flightless, a kid
goat on a rock ledge. At night, he is noisy and sightless, a nocturnal intruder, all
restless, fluttering wings. At play, I grab him by his ankles and lift him to eye level,
an upside-down possum. But most of the time he scoots on his belly, pulling himself
by one elbow, a four-limbed snake surveying the world for something
to clog up the long tube of his neck. He claws lampshades with talon fingers, and
crawls under tables, a blue-eyed mole exploring new routes to earth’s center.
At lunch he’s a parrot reaching for crackers to turn over in his toothless beak. When we lie
down to feed, we hibernate, a bear cub against its drowsy mother, drawing his life from my winter body.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I don’t know how to be so many creatures’ keeper, or how to
mother each one in their season. I crawl on the floor or sing bird songs, swinging him
through this bright menagerie, becoming the net, or the cage, or the landing,
the home at the end of migration, the falconer’s arm that will gather him in.
40 Things to Give Up For Lent / by Stephen Hollaway
you ain’t right
we ain’t right
we is right
shuttering a house
shutting a mouth
sitting down south
sitting on poems
shitting on poems
saying no poems
sardines and pickles
sweet baby gherkins
my old gherkin
the desire of youth
the waste of time
needing to give up
Poem Twenty Eight: Fragments / by ava m. hu
I am moon, not moon.
Water fills the sky.
Night fills with stars.
Intelligent universe, you smell of white earth and tobacco.
The way darkness reaches for you.
There is no true meaning to anything except for the meaning you give.
We take in as much starlight as we can bear.
Interior / by Liza Katz
Bathrooms under the eaves. The heater cranks.
The walls can’t decide what color to be.
Still, it’s nice here: mint tea and coconut soap;
a piano, poised and upright in the corner. So easy
for a place to fall apart when granted permission:
If the wood still holds, time can scrape the paint.
Chill can seep through the caulk and weatherstripping,
and it won’t be a travesty. I want to let myself
go, turn and turn with time until I am round
like a compass. From the guts of this house,
mirrors and mirrors. From the piano, a chord
scratches scars into every surface, as if the room’s
axis, the ceiling’s closeness, might bleed them.
Bittersweet Street / by Matthew Landrum
The past goes by degrees––memory overwritten
by remembering. Every evening is another evening
since snow gusted in at a doorway where a woman stood
framed between dark and light, cold and warmth, bitter
and sweet. There was a lingering on the step, cold hands
clasped one last time, a clumsy kiss––all want and not ready.
Her street really was called Bittersweet. Impossible now
not to turn that into a symbol for everything.
Life in a time of lies / by Clyde Long
Collage of autumn leaves, real.
Purple blooming flowers, real.
Baby cry’s chaos, real so real.
Justice, comme si comme ca
Tsunami lies swamp my practice,
silly me expecting candor instead
notwithstanding the liars lie
admonition — if someone lies
do not believe anything they say.
It makes my life a blinding forest,
answers are blacker than night,
burros lined tethered in my hand,
expedition prospecting for truth.
I do not split hairs or babies,
if it’s true it should be believed.
I consider it, reality.
Day 27 / Poems 27
Snake Mistakes / by Catharine Batsios
You like it when you walk down Houston between 1st and 2nd where New York forgets to be New York and missing Detroit doesn’t seem like a snake slithering into its old skin. Your skin used to be cracked tar and potholes and Detroit diamonds and it was breezy like a highway overpass. This city tries to fill you in without consent, some SoHo restoration, faux-noir, drink-your-rent-money-with-a-twist-of-lime kind of fill you in but today someone at the Mercury Lounge soundcheck was tugging at his beard like how you tug at the sidewalk when you don’twant New York to be New York you remembered how good you and your boots have it and something like affection slithered right into you.
Attending the Academy Awards / by J. Peter Bergman
There are those occasions which remain with you
long after they have ended. Did you
watch the Academy Awards, the Oscars, those
golden statues handed out for excellence?
Did you see me there? Me, in the crowds, attired in
tuxedo with my silver curls gleaming in
klieg lights? I’m sure you saw me, but you may
not have known it was me, glorying in the
hubbub of activity and publicity and pomposity.
Oh, yes, I was there. I never miss a chance to
hobnob midst the hubbub of celebrity,
majesty, misery and more. I was sure
you’d noticed me there on the television screen,
just left of Meryl Streep in the lobby, just
right of bearded nobody’s in the theater.
Kimmel said he couldn’t do the show without me.
Did you see me wave to Dawn Hudson when she
spoke so almost eloquently about the industry?
Did you hear me shout my brava when Viola Davis
claimed the prize in daunting red with burning eyes?
And were you ever aware that when the donuts fell
I grabbed a sack, then gave it back when asked to by
stars sitting near me who needed it more than I?
Oh, yes, I was backstage when the blond in the
green dress, I forget her name, but she’s no one,
so no one will care if I forgot it, when she put the
envelope down on the props table right on top
of the next one to go out. I was standing there when
Beatty picked it up and grabbed the arm of ancient
Faye, who looks pretty good that way, to go on
stage at the Dolby Theatre and tell the world the
biggest news of the day (after the news that Sean
Spicer was running his own personal sting on his staff
to uncover the leaker, that publicity seeker, who
gave out the news to the news) that the big-time
winner was the musical film that was only a skimmer
in the winner circle thus far. It was me, you didn’t see this,
though, who told that stage manager that the wrong
red envelope had re-entered the show. You know,
no one believed me. No one stopped me or heard me.
So now I’m no hero, just a visiting zero who nobody
ever saw, not you, not him, not them.
Or was I half asleep in the arm chair, thinking
this was my night to shine? And was this your dream?
Or was it actually mine?
Blinded by the Glare / by Celaine Charles
Nothing is real
I scan the headlines
Read the news
Hold troubled souls
With frail hands
A nation hurt
The list rolls on
Santa won’t fret
Not this year
We’re all on his list
For left or right
We’re all to blame
While hatred reigns
It’s time, I think
To rise higher
To seek first without scorn
Smooth the wrinkle
Creasing your brow
Hold my hand
If you travel out
Past the sun
The view is much clearer
Our dots would be specks
Headlines and news
Unnoticed clouds of dust
Blinded by the glare
Of the sun
Supply and Demand / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
In the beginning there is never enough,
the mouth crowing empty and your spent
body unable to produce even the smallest
drop of what is needed.
Next, there’s too much and you’re nearly drowning,
the ache in your chest both visceral and known
when you understand, it’s your heart-duct
that’s brimming over.
Then there are days when supply can’t meet
the hourly demands, no matter how much sleep
or coffee you have mustered, discovering that
demand is unrelenting.
And just when you’ve found the well you have
to give, they need it less. You’ve plumbed a depth
that almost scares you, you wonder what you’ll do
with all that’s left.
Reading the Images / by Stephen Hollaway
Starting out, he would process sixty images an hour:
hold the film to the light, speak to a small machine.
It seemed tedious then, luxurious now.
Today he deals with thousands in the same time;
ever thinner slices flash on the screen and he pushes a button.
The instant he does, another image appears
requiring the reflexes of a gamer.
Weekends he does this fourteen hours a day,
as distant from the patient as a drone pilot.
Nights all images are read in Australia
by American-trained doctors on different clocks.
“Sounds bad as a residency.”
Much worse than that, he said.
“Can’t computers learn to recognize patterns and make the diagnosis?”
Oh yes, soon there will be no more of me.
As a child, I would spend sixty seconds, maybe,
looking at one thing. Who does that now?
How many cross the screen each hour?
A Lucy-and-Ethel assembly line, faster, faster,
and then what? Pie in the face, a sense of the absurd.
It’s the kind of looking machines can’t do
I want to focus on, knowing beyond
diagnosis by type and stereotype.
Go back to the film on the light wall:
look at it for one hour before saying a word.
If you looked at me for an hour, Doc,
face to face, no button to push,
I bet you would notice invisible things
only a stranger can see
who stops to look at things as they are.
Poem Twenty Seven: Valetines (Fragments) / by ava m. hu
Slow moving, slow dancing, you.
Like a deer running for her mate.
Darkness is a ghost reciting love letters.
Pink sakura blossoms sweep across the page.
The difference between wanting and love perhaps, is what you give.
Ah, yes, you-
The heart, a red flower, placed in the lapel.
How you must run for it, like a wolf chasing beautiful shadows across the page.
The author writing us in black lines across the black page, across snow drifting in rivers.
The way maps are drawn of the old world.
Poem 27 / by Liza Katz
They’ve all seen kids like him:
the messed-up hair, sticky fingers
poised over some glasswork vase.
Sand-slicked edges of a costly
mistake. The pedestal fan churning
its breath into him, his eyes tied tight
as a hitch, arms wide as sails. They
recognize the scene: the tilt of the vase
at table’s edge, the pensile graze,
the dumbstruck looks. Still, a surprise
every time. From the glass, a ruse
of sunlight flickers on the floor.
Desire / by Matthew Landrum
I want to dispossess myself of self,
to be neither a ladies’ man nor a poet.
There’s a cathedral at the street’s end.
Its bells ring out every quarter hour.
Inside is vaulted emptiness, ribbed air.
I want to be like that: a vessel so filled
with nothingness that my body becomes
the shape of my being, an opaque shell
transluced by love the way color stains
the images of angels of the transept floor
or the sun ambers a cicada’s cast off molt.
I long to stay awake in moon-cut nights
of honey and mint, of anguished fireflies
and extraneous stars. Even these desires
make me too full to be empty. Every night,
I sleep with the city life coming through
the open window. I sleep like a stone.
Five Minute Drill / by Clyde Long
If we knew the world was going to end in
five minutes every phone booth would
be filled by people trying to stammer out
“I love you.” — Stanton Delaplane, 1972
Political dystopia stalks us,
nightmares a finger twitch away.
Shall we say “I love you” yet?
We struggle to stammer it,
what should we have done?
Global winds blow, we reap
a poison whirlwind sown.
Radiation freeze-frames this
last antic dance.
Last call, throw back
a shot to go.
Our poor babies,
we failed them.
Day 26 / Poems 26
Reflection in the Bar Window / by Catharine Batsios
Kitty O’Shea calls you with a laugh like warm milk,
leans into her first drag, smoke
spreads like nightshade from her
mouth, blooms in your ear, Kitty
O’Shea will make up lies when the day
She sees you through the emeralds
she hangs on her eyelashes, will lean in
as if to touch, take them off one by one.
She’ll put them in her drink as you watch—dry lipped.
Tipping the bottom of her glass,
she’ll tongue them, think of you
as she cracks them between her teeth.
This Charge Will Not Go Through / by J. Peter Bergman
There are safeguards put in place, like there would be
in a military or political coup. . .;
That way anyone can find that they could be checked
when they try to take advantage of you.
Every number on your bank-issued credit card
has a special meaning all its own;
each and every digit tells the company something
through secure lines on the telephone.
Its ridiculous the way we are identified
not by name, address or other information,
but supposedly through coded facts and idioms
we’re assigned through random building-blocks creation.
Sixteen numbers tell us bank and bank accounts.
Four more tell us when its use no longer functions.
Three more digits bring us into focus, seriously,
and a chip now carries lots more odd compunctions.
There’s no hiding in this world of credit-cardship;
there’s no vigil that protects us from disgracement.
So be careful what you purchase; there’s a record
of your name, face, age, religion, your misplacement.
Then there’s your pin!
Evergreen In Captivity / by Celaine Charles
A moment of pause
In a traffic jam
Construction paraphernalia strewn about,
Another new neighborhood goes up
I break through irritation
Take notice of the orange in the triangle of cones
The yellow of the worker’s second skin,
His only barrier against careless drivers
A soldier himself with long brown hair
Instead I connect colors to my surroundings
To appreciate this moment in the day,
Orange sunset on the horizon, melting copper into the hills
Yellow daffodils behind my house, planted randomly, busy squirrels
Brown tree trunks, tall with green needles, reach for skies above
That’s when I find it
An evergreen bent, just at the tip, just at the top
A soldier down
White flag flies surrender,
Like an orca in captivity, his fin curled tight
And it makes me wonder…
Until Evergreen flips his sign
Beckons me forward
I proceed with new caution
Not only assuring safe passage for my yellow minded friend,
But bright orange cones of new homes
Placed side by side in perfect spots
Wrap pictures of homeless bodies slumped together to stay warm
In sticky caution tape lettered in black – crime scene
I drive on into the thick of my day – attention on the road
When I notice another evergreen, bent over at his top
Slouching in his glory, his vigilance in standing tall, humbled
Another soldier down…
Transfiguration / by Stephen Hollaway
Is there another who might surprise us on the mountaintop
or can we be certain that smoke and fire will greet us there?
Is there a chance that fog will lift and we will see
the angel who stopped the arm of son-slaughter,
that rather than demand a voice might say Not necessary?
Even if our friend is flanked by ancient veterans of fire
could it be that we will encounter no destruction
but a blazing face and a voice that says Beloved?
The people cried to Moses Do not let him speak to us
but now he speaks as one of us and we are not consumed,
the finger that once wrote on stone touches our hearts,
the fullness of radiance lives in a human face, weeping
because we do not recognize the things that make for wholeness,
choosing without knowing the predictable vision of a violent god.
Poem Twenty Six: Notes on Orpheus / by ava m. hu
You breathe beneath water like a fish.
Passing through darker doorways
as you go down, the way water
does with other water.
Who regrets the flute who no longer
breathes honey without your lips?
Who can bear the weight
of the heart like you?
The body like a ring fallen in a river.
Maenads, or monk, unravel yellow string.
This way there is no mistake.
There is no look back.
Poem 26 / by Liza Katz
In the house of the sick the furniture
. . . . . . . . folds in on itself, white
and spare: the pull-out couch,
the card table, origami comforts.
. . . . . . . . Fluorescent light starches the rooms.
You vanish TV dinners, plastic forks.
In the house of the sick
. . . . . . . . everything you touch, even
the touch, itself, will disappear.
Nólsoy / by Matthew Landrum
We followed the footpath, a thin lip between the cliff
and mountain. The ocean below us roiled grey,
reflectionless. Storm petrels reeled in the open air
beneath our feet. Puffins dove into the chop and returned
mackerel-laden to their holes in the rock. One false step
away from a hundred foot drop to sea-crags. We could die,
I said and looked as far over the edge as I dared.
Then we die, you replied. Then we die.
While Inspecting a Mound of Dog Excrement, I Consider Presidents, Pestilence and Alternate Facts, and Wonder Whether the Breeze I Feel has been Generated by the Combined Force of Our Forbearers Spinning in Their Dark Underground Boxes, Or If Perhaps I Have Fallen into a Deep Van Winkle Slumber and Will Wake to a Brighter Day / by Clyde Long
gray turd beards grown long —
springtime sunlight surprises
— thank you Robert Okaji for the title
Day 25 / Poems 25
VII. More Tigers / by Catharine Batsios
She gave you a rough-cut turquoise pendant, and someone else gave you those amber, glass, and black/ochre painted beads so you made a necklace that you wear when you want to feel like a tiger swimming. It wraps around your neck three times, and you feel powerful like the time you heard the old-school poet say that Scorpio women should wear amber to balance their energy, like the time you made it in the downpour from the train station to the corner store in time to fix your hair in the reflection of the cooler just before he drove by to pick you up, like the time you hung out the passenger window going down the highway to pull debris caught on the antennae: someone steadied you, wrapped three fingers around your ankle, you were beautiful and dangerous.
Mind Fluc. . . / by J. Peter Bergman
Is it fear of nothing?
Or is nothing what I fear?
Explanations come too easily,
they ease my presence here.
Please no presents any more
no more pleasing me; it’s queer.
And I don’t believe in fearing any
fear I used to fear.
it’s all wine babble
like some cool scrabble
where there’s words instead of letters.
look its fine jumble,
spare the blind mumble,
give a shot to all your betters.
Drop those caustic fetters,
give a damn about those “crazy” netters
coming for you with the nets;
see how bad the whole thing gets
when you resort to babble.
Have some crumbs of loving?
Or some loving crumbs worth having?
Explications solve catastrophe,
when they’re looked at casually.
Get a grip on causally.
Put your trip on pause-ally.
Be manhandled forcibly
to understand the understanding
understood by standing: laving.
Wash pain out,
won’t you wash pain out
it’s your one main out
from haphazard forms of living.
All words are
simply, all words are
pimpley, cowards are
where you’re heading without giving.
Drop those caustic fetters,
give a damn about those “crazy” netters
coming for you with the nets;
fingers fretting on the frets:
guitaring gets the pain out.
This Boy / by Cerlaine Charles
Like the day, he is light
Tromping through the world to say hello
He pulls you up with both hands, “Let’s go!”
“Live life, each day’s a gift!”
And he runs long journeys and hurdles snowy mountains
Sparing no one in his path, because
He is light
Like the night, he is reflection
The moon shining through that spot in the blinds
Catching your eye,
To seize that last breath before you fall asleep,
“There was good in this day, don’t forget you are loved,
Remember tomorrow is new.”
He is reflection
The light of day – my sun
The reflection of night – my moon
This boy —
My reminder to laugh at everything, with everyone,
To live like this could be my last day on Earth,
To love myself, and anyone under the sun and moon.
This boy is my breath
Birthday Debt / by Stephen Hollaway
We are so indebted to each other
that by one reckoning we are broke.
By another, we are rich with borrowed funds.
What do you have, Paul asks, that you were not given?
Is there beauty I do not see with your eyes?
Is there a moment of peace that does not rest
on the deep ocean’s floor of contented love?
I owe you fifteen hundred Saturday nights
I spent wrestling with a text instead of you.
I owe you the freedom to unmask
after decades of playing the unpaid role
you never really chose.
I owe you a thousand songs
I could not have sung,
and a hundred wounds I could not have born.
In one deposit you stand radiant on a balcony in Birmingham
awaiting our first child.
In another you stand bloody-shirted in a Jersey mall
holding our second after the first of many falls.
You walk with me in Paris and Florence and Barcelona,
taking in Santa Fe, Kyoto, the Taj Mahal,
and the long silences of yellow-green marsh.
Memories are no longer credited to your account or mine,
everything part of one pool of tears, one treasure chest,
treasured tears seeping like ground water
through fingers clasped to steady each other,
hangs grasped in walking prayer.
Poem Twenty Four: Fragments / by ava m. hu
Your hands crease paper, their shadows shifting from the shape of a starling, to the shape of
Tell no one the secrets of our names.
How to hold the body still on canvas?
My clavicle bruises the white skin of the moon.
Carbon and oxygen, stone skipping on water, miraculously, reaches the other side.
There is no beginning. There is no end. Repeat.
Who will trace our outlines, and steal us from the book of the dead?
Is what is to come for the living?
Must we learn what the living do?
My pencil drawing of a small house built with soft talismans to bring in the light.
Poem 25 / by Liza Katz
You came to me
like the frenzied
fiddle of a basement bar band.
A shadow, the blade of a hand.
Where there should
have been a light, instead:
the analytic eye
of the camera,
glare from an ill-placed glass,
the rim of stars that lingers after the flash.
Zuhause / by Matthew Landrum
On another continent than yours, snow is falling,
huge flakes just starting to stick to drab December –
chain link fences, banks of leaves in gutters, the rooftops
of neighboring houses. You live on a street I’ve never seen
though once you pointed it out to me from a hilltop.
Right behind the smokestacks of that factory, you said.
I imagine it post-industrial, working class, residential,
picture the Frisian pastry shop you talk about,
the coffee stand where they know your name
after mornings of purchase. Is it snowing there?
Will you wake tomorrow and turn from the warm body beside you
toward early Berlin light through the hoarfrost on the windowpane?
That home of yours – what is there to say?
If the heart were smaller, if imagination had no hold on it,
if a single life could satisfy all our loves,
then we would have been luckier.
To the daffodil bent by rain / by Clyde Long
You bided time damp and cold
in a tomb of dark earth
worked by worms
beetles tickled you
a bulb hibernating waiting
for the world to turn.
Sun warmed you
your green arms grew
through soil to air, to sky.
You joined comrades from below
a forest reaching upward with you.
The blast of yellow exploded,
a million ripe suns, a galaxy
a feast to the naked eye.
Your bloom’s aura beamed
an equinox share of night and day.
No laments that rain’s weight
bowed your head at last.
Day 24 / Poems 24
VI. Remember: This Is How You Know / by Catharine Batsios
Once you all got back to Lansing from that party at that loft way north suburb of Detroit you had to stop and change because that backless dress was as sticky as the coffee table you slept on and you walked into her room which looked like yours which means she didn’t have a bed but ergonomic piles of clothes, and somehow you had to find an outfit because hangover, diner breakfast, more water, you’ll only take a second you swear. By the end of the month you’ll be the only one from that car left in Lansing as all three of them drive off on the same day, as if to draw and quarter you, as if leaving behind the errant kitchen knife or blanket won’t cut or smother you as their tail lights move further into the horizon.
“Facebook: Karen Lee Added a New Photo” / by J. Peter Bergman
You’d think we’d been long-time best friends.
The message reads like we were, sort of.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I do truly like her.
But that’s really where it all ends.
In my life, as the e-mails just pour in,
five or six hundred new ones each day, sort of,
I’m faced with confronting one seeming to psych her
yet making me feel slightly foreign.
It’s a shame how this chills me to mewling.
There’s the waste of good-atmosphere ether.
All those photos and messages glutting the room.
Karen Lee out there; image unspooling.
Should have looked at her photo, I know it now,
but its too late for me to regain that queer ether,
so I sit here at one ay-em, deep in the gloom —
while Karen’s been dragged through my mind’s grit, now.
Well, that’s honestly where all this mishagash ends.
She moved four hundred miles to the east, really.
Friendship never recovers that first sense of feast, really.
And it isn’t my fault that we aren’t best friends.
My Blessing / by Celaine Charles
Light glimmers as I make my way to the clearing,
Pushing past tree limbs, speckled with green dots, tiny buds folded in prayer.
If I could step faster across uneven ground, littered with debris of fallen seasons, I would.
I would run, skip, fly to this place I know well. This secret place that knew me before I knew myself.
Finally, breath heavy in my lungs, I find my Oak surrounded by Pine and Cedar, much older than the ones standing in cloak of this spot.
And I wait.
The hum in the air announces the time like a trumpet only I can hear.
Buzzing bees unite as one in my hair, like a halo from above,
Filling me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes with song. A melody I can’t quite make out, not with human ears.
Still I wait, absorb each new beat like rain in a dessert. My mossy eyes shut tight against the brilliant glow, rising like curtains against the glare of the outside world.
There it is! First tiny sparks snap at the surface of my skin,
Until the tap tap tap breaks ivory surface, pushing further into my bloodstream, forcing its way into every vein and artery, meandering throughout each of my limbs.
I’m filled in ciphered symphony.
I wonder if the wrens hear my song? Does the chipmunk bicker at its disturbance? Though I take no notice, my eyes fill with blue oceans, a turquoise so radiant I could lie down in the summer sky of it all.
Finally, each note wanes into soft pulses until I fall to my knees, caught in the grassy knoll of the clearing.
The glimmering light looks like sun again, the same one from before. The same one I hope to see tomorrow.
And I give thanks for my blessing.
The Uses of Memory / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Science says we’re always living
in the past — the brain receives
its messages some infinitesimal
quanta past the point
they’re taken in.
So when I run
my fingers on the wicker seat, sliding them
along the reeds, by the time
my mind’s weighing them as twisted rope
or stiffened braids,
sensation’s in the past.
There can be no in-the-moment, no one-
ness felt that isn’t but nostalgia for an instance
just brushed past and out of reach.
Chimayo Altarpiece / by Stephen Hollaway
Circus-poster color surrounds Jesus on all sides
as if the bright red blood running down his chest
and his scarlet shins would be less noticeable
if orange-striped curtains were painted behind him.
He hangs in a proscenium from a Punch-and-Judy show,
provoking the hope that the Puppeteer might soon reach down.
Whether the riot of oranges, blues, and greens
signify joy or playfulness or is simply
the available language of folk art I cannot tell.
It is the opposite of Eisenheim
and the stone-cold carvings I am used to,
as if a New Mexican heart had transformed prayer
from somber reflection to outrageous hope.
The stage where Jesus hangs is surrounded by gold brocade,
Spanish and royal unlike anything on the altar wall,
under a green-and-gold clamshell a framed veronica,
his placid face like a photo at a wake.
But outside the gold rim the entire wall
startles with color from a children’s book.
In the corners slim columns run ceiling to floor,
at first red and blue barbershop poles, clockwise,
then a stack of five multicolor blocks,
then the barber pole counterclockwise.
On either side of Jesus are window panes
opening onto the absurd, or some carnival,
stripes of red, white, orange, blue,
each filled with scallops or squiggles or snakes.
Below that a stalk of wheat on the left
and grapes on the left, the first intelligible sign.
In the upper left a crudely drawn cross
holding a big red heart, marked with a black X,
topped again by orange curtains and a frame
that suggests a window looking out.
The top left panel contains under orange curtains
a black abstraction of four crosses meeting at the center.
In the center, directly above Jesus, is one more cross,
with a whip and crown of thorns at its base.
Instead of Jesus on the cross we see two arms,
one bare, reaching from the left, dripping with blood,
one black-robed from the right, forming an X
and both showing palms pierced and bleeding,
arms, it seems, of pious penitents
who imitate Christ by sharing his suffering.
And yet this life comes wrapped with birthday paper,
a wall grabbing your attention and saying
Welcome to the party, child,
as only outsider art can, sincerely funky,
two hundred years before irony.
Poem Twenty Four: Fragment / by ava m. hu
Carbon and oxygen,
stone skipping on water,
the other side.
Poem 24 / by Liza Katz
Turn the carrots, browning in the oven.
Stir the broth until a fleet of gulls
lifts off the bay, sensing dusk and the coming
swell of the tide. A confident gray cat
touches down in the middle of the street,
stares down every car. Skim the foam,
add salt and pepper, stir again. Out back,
the pre-fab sheds and tire swings, the porches
overlooking the bay, and the town it made.
Portland / by Matthew Landrum
Summer leaves us with knee-high thistles
and fox-tail thickets to snag in shoelaces
and burr sheep’s fleece making it unshearable.
At the field’s edge, the wrecked barn lies
in rain and wind, sheet-metal siding rusting,
curling up at the corners. Through the window
of its fallen wall, there’s a view of the dark earth.
Rickets Redux / by Clyde Long
skies killed children
from rickets before six,
coal smoke and fog
defeated the sun.
For this new regime
coal smoke is okay,
business is good.
Sickness is deserved,
Children will pay.
beams Vitamin D,
Day 23 / Poems 23
V. Remember: Photo Albums of the Old Greeks were Roasted Peppers / by Catharine Batsios
Whose aroma filled the house even if they weren’t cooking right then. Men with rolled sleeves sitting with women whose olive and gold necks from the village broke waves and rode trains to gather in their restaurant’s dining rooms on Sunday evenings;
Ripe, flecks of light like a bowl of strawberries sprinkled with sugar from my Yaya’s fingertips.
I take her hands which are wet and delicate and wrap myself in the skin of roasted peppers
Two Blue Berries / by J. Peter Bergman
They swim in the box, the last two berries,
blueberries cherished for so many reasons.
[Anti-oxidants, with a light crunch, a spry
surprise in the mouth-tingle arena,
an allowed fruit, bought in bucket-sized
packs and eaten gingerly with the fingers.]
Fruit has been banned for me: nothing citric,
nothing pectin, nothing with high levels of sugar.
I was expectin’ when I reached my doddering years
to be surrounded by fruits of all genres.
My mistake. Instead an almost total break from
the lush life I’d led all these years.
But blueberries are allowed, and I like them
just as they are, plain, washed, still in loose form
in the box that they came in.
So I nibble late at night while
old movies are on, or old series, or
new things that make me feel younger,
at least something I can tolerate.
As I watch I pluck blueberries out of
plastic packaging and dream of an
orange, a pear or a plum.
I rarely succumb to
my previous nibbling
but keep two blue berries for
sometime, much later,
when I have a craving for
something I’m missing. That
is who I am now, the
guy with the sugar fix, light fix, though
nothing too costly or dangerous –
simply two blueberries
ready for munching when
I need their crunching to keep me
unblue; they’re the glue to my past
when my present is pleasantly sated.
The Apex of Living / by Celaine Charles
The apex of living
As we trudge
Like little ants
Down carved paths,
Because we know the way.
We need not think
Deep thoughts buried
Behind Saturdays stolen.
Yet our subconscious
Ventures off route:
Because life is lived
In cartoon dreams…
Postpartum / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
The first thing you want is to remake their world.
To offer it to them whole, unspoiled, like a new box
of crayola, like a green light on a dock, like a disembarking.
First, you remove the flags and turn the ships around,
unfurrow the cotton fields, unshackling anything and
everyone that has ever been bound. You rip up
the cornrows on Plymouth plantation, lift the anchor
of the Mayflower and erase Bradford’s compact from
its parchment, unstir his ink pot until it returns to its elements
and can be laid down in the virgin dirt. You run
a comb through New England’s forest hair until
the Indian wars untangle. You bleach the smallpox blankets,
unspool the English language off of Squanto’s tongue and
he unknows its cadences and cannot be of service to the arrival
of the ships. You consider severing the land bridge if
it will spare the undulating soil another colored ounce of blood.
But how far can you go back? The earth turns over on itself
with each erasure, you pausing, here, and here, to ask,
have we unmade enough? New sand stretching down some
shoreline, undisturbed. You set them down. They walk.
Sabbatical / by Stephen Hollaway
Any absence is an opportunity for the waters to close:
your lucky rock skipped across the tops of waves
drops unseen and there is still the tide.
The notion that no one will sit at your desk
is soon dispelled: there are replacements.
Do not fear that others will see they can get by:
they already know: they have been abandoned before.
Once you were not here, and you will be not here again:
study the water’s surface, the evidence of wind,
the sand that blows on beaches and deserts
and then is still. Even these words will be stilled.
Fifteen hundred sermons live only in your files:
not even you agree with half of them.
Notes of as many meetings are already shredded,
projects ran their course, institutions collapsed.
Only the secret files of poems still speak to you
as the one thing you did for no one else.
You hope that in the Cloud someone has stored
kindnesses you have forgotten:
treasure in heaven is in other lives.
There is nothing else after your absence:
trajectories changed, hungers awakened,
some few with a knowledge of steadfast love,
some few words remaindered on a heart’s shelf.
Poem Twenty Three: Fragments / by ava m. hu
House made of rising water.
We are light
of our chests.
with an angel
to find my name.
Poem 23 / by Liza Katz
And she’s up all night for the water truck
And she’s out all day on these parched clay hills:
The ridges of the hills, the folds of the face,
made strong on a feast of floating gardens,
Aztec sun. And they’ve paved the volcanic soil,
shunted the currents underground, used
their prehistoric bones as an art piece. She waits,
the truck shambling down streets lined with
cactus, with brush, like some overgrown beast.
Copenhagen / by Matthew Landrum
Orange rain swept the pavement
of the anonymous street outside
the hotel window. Borrowed linen,
borrowed time — the warmth
of a bed. An enormous wind
freighted dawn-fire across the city,
lit wet pavement. Love lodged
in us as a foreign body.
Beware the Dungeness crab roll / by Clyde Long
Tasty crustaceans are finally in season after
last year’s banishment for warm water toxins.
Crab lust was unabated during the hiatus,
clarified butter and brioche rolls went wanting.
Crabbers almost lost their boats, traps were
moth-balled, the little industry clawed for survival.
This crab season even before the storms
the toxins were certified gone and NorCal’s special
Thanksgiving fare got the green light.
A flotilla of crabbers stampeded dropping
traps like breadcrumbs helter-skelter, and
in no time carapaces and claws were on ice
near and far, in meat cases and restaurants alike.
Cracked crab and crab rolls grace menus
again and diners salivate like old times.
The memories of before beckon, how sweet the meat,
the unsalted butter and crusty sourdough,
maybe Napa chardonnay, maybe a dry martini first,
with cloth napkins that can’t possibly keep up
with messy crab fingers and brioche roll mayo.
Into this regained realm I entered today for
lunch with a dear friend, to feast and catch up.
Amid our talk we finally attended the menu — a new
item jumped out at me, it was easy to decide,
warm Dungeness crab roll, brioche bun. Midday,
I settled for iced tea but the fuse was lit.
Little did I know how the fuse was lit.
After lunch feeling well-fed I took BART
to San Francisco for a late meeting. It went well
until I started to feel trouble — crab trouble.
You see, crabs are wild critters who have their
own problems besides entering into baited traps.
Nothing is without risk in life, not even lunch.
The fellow in my roll had a surprise for me.
My lesson was learned like doom coming home.
The crustacean inside me raced the subway
and lucky for me there were no train delays.
I’ll spare you the rest but today’s word is “beware”,
beware the crab roll, beware crabs cracked or whole.
As Dirty Harry said, “you gotta ask yourself one question:
Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?”
— for Mike, who warned me
Day 22 / Poems 22
IV. Remember: The Feel of Cold and Cigarettes / by Catharine Batsios
Standing in the entrance, I saw that the light in your room was red and you sat brooding under it. A few steps in, I remember the way walls showed everything that we did there—whether it was a dent from moving in, the cracked stains of beer bottles being launched from the couch, the smell of your smoke, flumes of lost conversations or the constant reverberation of music that lingered—like fingerprints from unwashed hands.
I walked into the crooked-frame window of your dilapidated hut; being above ground and going below, down the stairs outside of your half-basement apartment. I followed the sidewalk to the dead end where all the leaves collected to hide from winter claws.
It was the feel of cold and cigarettes cutting off my breath before I could completely take it in.
Sugar Rush / by J. Peter Bergman
Sugar rush swept me to Morpheus,
where I became much more Orpheus.
Under the thrall of the Dream-God
I could reflect on how odd
life was streaming.
Eating too much white rice sucrose
I dreamt that I was King Teukros,
first of the God-Royal Trojans,
who could reflect on the cogents
from “cogere,” Latin for something compelling
like sugar rush swelling the orbs of the brain
narrowly containing marginal reasons
for swarming the seasons
and pushing the dreaming
of Orpheus following, hopeless, his mission
to be the first human to make the transition
and bringing back his Euridyce divine,
once in a dream-state, this sugar-rush mine
left me there sullenly scheming.
There in the arms of sweet Morpheus fine.
My sugar-rush brought me dreams of divine.
Shaking the sugar from out of my mind
what was I left here to find
but a poetry rush – unredeeming.
Apologies / by Celaine Charles
A simple word
Across my tongue
A simple word
A simple word
In healing salve
A simple word
And still, I’m sorry
Unease / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
February shouldn’t be this warm,
the wind kicks up the buried sparks
and twice this week the sky is filled with ash.
Green shoots of daffodils peek through,
arriving early like uncertain guests
as brown grass withers, dry and snowless.
Somewhere in the arctic, ice sheets calve
into the sea. Frost said ice or fire end us,
but what he meant was both of them
will turn us out eventually.
Locating the Center / by Stephen Hollaway
Dad took me to the center of the universe
when I was twelve. It was in a town called Tenri,
near Nara, inside the largest religious structure in Japan,
built by the largest new religion.
It was new in the sense that Christian Science is new;
a nineteenth century female prophet
began a common sense faith of joy and kindness.
But inside the massive church, as they called it,
was a column eight feet tall, on a triple base,
with a flat stone on top to catch heaven’s dew.
This was the center, they told me.
This Kanrodai was a divinely ordered pillar,
a model of the axis of the world,
which marked the Jiha, the point where creation began.
This is every person’s home, for the Divine Parent
birthed us here, and we long to return.
I made a cardboard model of the pillar
for a school project. It seemed odd
that people could identify a center.
Moving each year between nations,
I had no geographical center. My bedroom maybe.
My center was a girl named Debbie, or the Beatles.
What would it mean to say this is the center?
It’s an old idea, older than Eden,
that the starting point was the center.
In this wide world there had to be an axis mundi
and chances are it was not far from home.
It was the still point of the turning world
but also the place of beginning,
the navel of the world, the ompholos,
umbilicus mundi, as if the divine
had given birth and only this small scar
was there to remind us.
For Shinto it is Ise, for Aztecs Teotihuacan,
for Jews the Temple Mount, for Catholics Jerusalem,
for Muslims Mecca. Arab scientists have proven,
they say, that al-Kaaba, that black cube,
is the center of the world, with real science.
But then there is the marker at the Jet Propulsion Lab
in Pasadena saying a spot on the floor in the center.
There is a concrete circle in downtown Tulsa with the claim,
shared by Philo, Illinois, and Wallace, Idaho.
Piety turns to fraud, mocking, and marketing.
But why this urge to say this place I stand
is the center of the world?
In an expanding universe there is no center
and no place of beginning—or ending.
What is man? And are you mindful of him?
I make my world small to find myself.
I put boundaries on my universe of concern
to stop feeling I am peripheral.
I draw a circle of sand around myself,
a mandala not of earth but consciousness.
I am that pillar where life began
and I am creator of my world.
You, source and maker, displace me at my center,
replace new myths with old reality,
shatter the fundamentalism of self and its absurd stories,
that I might be a planet around your life.
Poem Twenty Two: River Fragments / by ava m. hu
The way a river does,
the way the channel
ribbons across your face,
moving towards or away
from the source, the way
we sway back and forth
the way a river does, the way
a river cuts deep, the way
your mouth opens slightly,
the way, however wildly,
your hands like rivers flow
over me, eventually towards sea.
Poem 22 / by Liza Katz
If I am like water, I cannot be contained:
The bay bleeds boats’ exhaust, grime
from the city, into the Atlantic Ocean.
Carries glass bottles from the Prohibition years,
broken into sea glass, picked up by the tides.
Birds rise as one white cloud when the sandbar
disappears, leaving tiny sandstorms,
clutching at their debris.
After a storm, tiles from a sunken kitchen
surface. Whose walls, countertops, were they?
The first warn weather days bring the menace
of crowds: Everyone’s hosing down their cars,
drinking beer on porches, pushing strollers.
I’m pounding these trails to contain myself:
If I am like these, I cannot be contained.
Characteristic / by Matthew Landrum
A fog came up while we were shooting pool
at the bar. I drove you home under streetlight blur,
the headlamps of oncoming cars float flaring,
luminous fields in a greyscale world;
I could barely make out the winding turns
of your neighborhood. Overfamiliarity hides the world,
wrapping everyday loves in mundanity.
I lose sight of you. Character becomes characteristic —
the slow curve of your jaw, how your glasses
leave a ring on the skin beneath you eyes, your way
of looking for the last word. Alternating dark
and light — you in the passenger seat and the world
appearing and disappearing in the dense fog.
I could have kept driving all night, each apparition
new for the first time: house, car, stoplight,
lake, hospital, street sign, lover.
Alone in Supermax City / by Clyde Long
“Hey man, leave me alone you know” —
I start to pace back and forth like a dog
who yearns to go outside my palms and feet go moist.
I see through a crack in the wall a plane flying over.
Entombed in this cell 24/7 all I touch is concrete.
I read, it’s all I can do, no people near me,
only Shakespeare, the Constitution, toothpaste tubes.
Here in this American gulag I yearn to see
even a plane above, any hope above.
My brain waves hum like the fluorescent lights
that never go dark. I hear screams, my screams,
a man being buried alive.
“Hey man, I gotta straighten my face” —
There’s nothing living here. Not a blade of grass
grows in this gray isolation.
It’s been built by malignant powers
for malignant ends ever more popular.
“Don’t lean on me man cause you can’t afford the ticket” —
there’s no birthright to be human in this place,
not here in Supermax City.
Day 21 / Poems 21
III. Warm Weather / by Catharine Batsios
There are black sequins in the closet, A-line impulse buy from shoulder-stitch to hem you just wanted to fit into this city, rather wanted this city to look good on you, for once. It does. In August some journalist prowling Union Square took your picture ‘cause your style was on point. The camera was so uncomfortable because he’s chatting and you talk with your hands and extra chins don’t look at the tooth gap and coffee stains. Warm weather means you spend a few weeks thinking about people on the train looking at your leg hair and being disappointed every time you pass a window or a mirror that calls you out on meaty shoulders but you don’t shave, and don’t have room in your head to think about sweat stains in 80 degree weather. It’s only February, though. You were supposed to have more time to make it before the grass in Union Square was for sitting again, you were supposed to have it together enough to be one of those bad bitches wearing heels in Manhattan, you even bought the teal lipstick for those black sequins in the closet, but scuffed Docs and pocket change for a cup of tea will have to do.
Second F– Anniversary, a poem for February 21, 2017 / by J. Peter Bergman
One hundred and twenty-five years ago,
when Millay wasn’t even a day,
she was already writing new poetry,
saying things in her own special way.
She was working with words categorically
and addressing her thought-birds historically.
As they fluttered and flew
she told all that she knew
but she never named names metaphorically.
She wrote lines that went something like this,
And she finished each one with a kiss:
“Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand, mwah!:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand, hah!”
Shown to her doting, poetical mama,
Edna waited for her approbation,
and when her mother had choked back her sobs
she spoke out with motherly moderation:
“Don’t give up your day-job, baby.
Don’t grow up too fast.
Poetry’s a fey-job, baby,
and its spirit doesn’t last.
Take a breath and look around.
See what else there is to be found.
Save your poems for your missives of love;
give all that poetry one grand shove;
find your own way in this big, big world,
but never, oh, never show rhyme-words unfurled.”
Then she fed the Edna a second fig
and said: “at least wait until you’re big.–
happy birthday, baby.”
The Way of the Writer / by Celaine Charles
Writing is a journey
Leads you down a path of secrets yet to be
Writing is a pathway
Venture along to find hidden gems
It’s not a videogame!
Writing is a blessing
Where I wait in anticipation for inspiration…
To inspire me, to impress upon me,
To runneth over like a forgotten bath,
Words that emerge through my fingertips… perfectly… the first time.
Why do I wrestle with it longs days?
Why does it haunt me when I’m driving down the freeway – no pen in hand?
Why can’t I take a shower without it? Damp post-it notes don’t post,
Don’t stick, don’t hold water-edged shorthand.
And they don’t remind me of what I was remembering
To begin with.
So I don’t write. I won’t.
I scroll through Facebook, the stupid waste that it is
And there’s a post from Pacific Northwest Writers.
Fine, I’ll read it, but I’m not writing.
It’s a video – even better,
I can listen, I can watch,
And my own brain will have to shut up and shut off.
George Saunders, author.
I’ve never read one of his books, but he has something to say about story telling.
And maybe I want to know… for later. I’m not writing anymore.
He says all the right things,
Things that motivate me,
Prompt me to jump up and write.
NOPE, not gonna do it.
And then he hits me with,
“It’s your own discontent with it (your writing) that in some slow mysterious way urges it to higher ground.”
I believe I heard that right – write.
That’s all it took before he right-hooked with some final phrases,
“Keep yourself mystified.”
“Do something beautiful.”
Am I back to my pathway? My journey?
Whatever it is, I have to write now.
And it will probably suck.
Until I feel urged
…to work with it, to question it, to figure out what it’s supposed to be…
In the middle of what I don’t want it to be,
So it becomes what it needs to be.
This is evidently the way of the writer.
Tiffany Window / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Epithalamion for a cousin
It was first in your mother’s tall
green house you learned the way
a brush can shape the air
and light, and hold them still in time.
It was in her too-small kitchen
you learned how space is mutable,
and bends when making room for
more than tables are first set for.
How over lifetimes, careful hands
can fasten the most needful things
with mortar between bits of broken,
so when light intersects each singular
bright pane, these fragile pieces bound
together paint a brighter beauty
on the world outside.
Now, I watch you on your wedding day,
a maker, standing laurel-crowned
by light that’s streaming through this
old church’s stained glass windows
and imagine you’ll carve cracks
in this wide city, making space for love
and art to fill, the way your mother
worked each spring to plant bulbs deep.
She knew how to shape the light
she found around her, and left us
patterns we can work with now,
surrounded as we are by beauty’s shards.
Arkansas 1961 / by Stephen Hollaway
There was a music when the dime hit bottom
in the Santa-red Coke machine and a bottle dropped.
There was more barbershop music
when the shoeshine man spit on white men’s shoes
and cracked his cloth. Perhaps there was a music
in the chatter about Cardinals and Kennedys
but at nine, and an outsider, I could not hear it.
I heard the blues in the obvious:
the man on his throne waiting with his can of black polish
could never share a Coke with me
or get his hair cut here, or say too much.
I chewed the wax bottles I found at Ben Franklin
and spat them out, then emptied the sour sugar
of a Pixie Stick right into my Coke
to see if it was true what they said.
It was true.
Poem Twenty One: Fragments / by ava m. hu
in my memory
As if trees
The way light doesn’t hold
on for long, the way I saw
your hands rise and fall
like a seabird.
The way water runs
from one body
to the next,
the way a river
can never say no
to the sea.
The way you can put
your smallest finger
on two merging
I believe everything
you say, as if
there was a tiger
in the moon.
There are a thousand words
for snow, the same as
the words I love you.
Poem 21 / by Liza Katz
A woman fell down through a chemical burn
in the ozone layer, the only separation
between her and the planet that swallowed her.
Drifting with her now, the troposphere,
ultraviolet light, remnants of a cloud. A life built
on water, made one with the condensation.
And when our houses fall into the sea, that’s
where I’ll find her, unnamed and unremembered.
Paint by Number / by Matthew Landrum
Here the tourist view of Berlin –– clay-tiled roofs built close
to the water, a lone barge cutting its way toward a bridge,
the ever-present television tower’s spindle needling the sky ––
looks like nothing more than a topographical map,
but following simple instructions will turn the scene
to living color. Dab in the different blues of the twilit sky
for one, two, and three. For four, fill in the purpling
in its eastern edge. Be gentle for that. Sunsets here
are open mouthed. With five and sixes, capture the water,
a confluence of browns and greys. Use seven to swirl
the gold reflected lamplight and headlight on the water
(the landscape is taking shape now against the white backdrop).
Silver in the orb and scepter of the television tower
regally lording over the city with eight. Keep inside the lines
so as not to lose the definition of the carmine roof tiles
of nine or blur the green verge of river tree for ten.
A peach eleven cuts the middle horizon’s twilight,
widening off to the west. Twelve’s flat blue-grey
finish off the edifices of post-war buildings.
Add a few dots of thirteen’s dire red where sports cars
cross the bridge (the picture is nearly complete).
Only there’s no color value equal to the heart’s intensity
so leave the girl in the foreground blank.
Sentience of flowers / by Clyde Long
Some people now believe that plants are sentient.
This proposition has profound significance for
Buddhist belief that sentient beings must not
be violated by us, must not be molested.
Not even ants may be trammeled; carry the spider
from your bedroom, shoo away the fly,
spare the stinging yellow jacket.
So these leafy beings with tastes we can smell
are sentient, upon study they react, remember,
adapt, communicate. Can they plan, and if so
what should we fear? Do they feel pain
when picked, suffer thirst during drought,
foment revenge? Are they innocent, can it be lost?
Or are we imposing human order again
in abstractions like longitude and latitude,
we who never made a root grow or flower bloom?
Day 20 / Poems 20
II. Almost / by Catharine Batsios
The air in Murray Hill is big. You can see individual drops, but they never quite make it to the ground. On Lex and 38th some Australian tourists were looking for 8th Ave, and you told them to go west, the numbers get smaller toward the East River until they’re just a bike trail of chewing gum and bird shit. The air in Murray Hill is big and it stays on your skin as you leave a wake from the corner to the bagel shop. Just the bagels, please, don’t say shmear, you’ll get farmer cheese at the market opened at 7am, you were already on the train from Harlem by then. 9 mos in the city, without a job, with insomnia, and the feeling of almost every time the city gives you something like the air is so big in Murray Hill, and traffic is slow, stop-motion, you would think delirium if it weren’t for the smoke coming from your mouth in regular plumes, faster than the crosswalk counting but slow enough for you to make animals out of the shapes in white and gone. One foot out the door, almost, your books are already packed, almost, you have a room in Detroit when you want it, almost, but the air in Murray Hill is so big.
Toothless / by J. Peter Bergman
Caged panther, pawing at the bars he cannot breach,
pacing in an awful, tightened space.
Reaching for the sunlight dancing on the floor
and throatily sounding anger with each pace.
Mindful of the keepers who release his lumps of meat,
moistened with the milk of human kindness,
the panther rarely ceases in his madness, as he walks
the miles to where he came from in his blindness.
But he has been rendered toothless through imprisonment, the years
between his capture and his vigil taking so much toil.
Toothless is the panther who is worshipped by the crowds
who come to watch his anger ever roil.
Pity for the animal who never will be saved, alas,
whose beauty in its wildness would be savored.
Single is the captured who is toothless, unprepared
for worlds so different, limited, unflavored.
Atopic Dermatitis / by Celaine Charles
My skin doesn’t fit today
It’s two sizes too small
It’s grandma’s sweater
Stitched too tight
Shrunk to fit
Like a second skin
It’s science fiction fibers
Among microscopic threads
Stiff and wiry
Pricking each pore
It’s arduously sunburned
Stretched taut around
Clicking in sockets
Course and fine all at once
Fingernails to scratch
To shred and tear
It’s melted candle wax
Blistering, melding against
The face that begs
And it hurts
Until it feels so good
You might expose open veins
Qualifications / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
For Presidents’ Day
Have you curved your hot palm around
the soft crown of a newborn’s head? Have you walked
alone in a pine forest after rain? Have you stood
in the middle of soft lit bridge at dusk watching
the sun slip into the mirror of a river? Have you given
up your seat on a train? Have you shoveled out
the dirt under a tree to bury a long-loved pet? Have you
danced? Have you lifted your hands out of the dishwater
and smoothed the watery plump of your fingers
against the towel tied at your waist? Have you leapt
to catch a foul ball in your bare hands? Have you hitchhiked?
Have you watched another person lost in thought at the sound
of music in their earbuds, or at the burst of starlight
overhead, and seen the way their eyes move, the way
their body sways in rhythm like your own, and known
they are as alive as you, whole and present, integral, and
are sharing time with you like a common loaf of bread? Do you
get weak-kneed by certain strains of music or by pop songs? Do you
carry a line of a poem written on a scrap of paper and folded
into a pocket? Do you put down the top of your convertible
on a summer day? Have you dropped flowers onto a casket?
Have you held a gun? Have you held the door open for a date?
Have you swum naked far out into the green-smelling dark
of a middle American lake? Have you changed
your baby’s diaper at 3 a.m.? Have you been in love? Do you
chew your fingernails, drink bourbon from a plastic cup, smoke
too much, gossip, binge or purge? Can you cry?
In Search of Empty / by Stephen Hollaway
If the desert is empty as mystics say
what am I looking at? I don’t see empty,
it’s life in another palette. Your eyes adjust.
This is where I learn my inner emptiness, they say,
but everywhere I look yellow and pale green
are standing against a rust background even in winter,
ravens make insistent plunges from the turquoise sky.
If this were the Sahara of only sand it might work
but the high desert with white-bearded peaks,
yellowed aspens against snow, above spruce and pine,
does not work like that.
I know nothing about empty. Everywhere there is life
and fullness of being, even when I still monkey mind
with chant or song. In that opening when distractions
are pushed aside rushes everything, a voice sings
the whole earth is full of glory. The trees clap for joy,
the animals march in as in a psalm about provision.
Everywhere there are lists: Whitman, Ammons,
long litanies of apparently created things.
But there is no void. Nature abhors a vacuum.
In Georgia O’Keeffe’s museum a movie runs constantly
of the view from her front yard, time-lapsed
so you can see the clouds move. Even the light
on the adobe rising and falling has its own life,
the unchanging mountain is full with existence,
made solid not by wonder but entirely without me.
Small shrubs fill the patio like survivors
in a random pattern of two-dimensioned sandstone.
One tree and the grass beyond, knee-high, quiver
with wind. Snow falls in a brief scene
followed by rain carrying it away and dripping from the spout
off the near-flat roof. The clouds do not stop racing
until the camera goes black with night, sleeping,
but you know that even in the dark the clouds are racing,
like my mind, too fill to ever say empty.
In a group of paintings her own private mountain Pedernal
looms like a god, forever and overseeing
not overlooking the range of color at his base.
By his lights, everything flowers briefly,
the flower fadeth, all flesh is grass,
but for us they last a season,
long enough to fill the golden chalice of sight.
The mountain’s name is Flint, the hardness which anchors
the soft foreground, blocked in one view
by a single spring cottonwood, filling half the frame
in another with a mosaic of rust and amber and forest green
nearer against a beige background of once-volcanic clay.
If there is emptiness here, it is only that the painter is silent.
She says nothing and by her silence signals
that she gives what she sees. It is her vision
but she is painting not a vision but the world as she sees it.
As it is, I think she would say, the reason
I left New York for the desert,
the still spot from which to view the solid glory of being.
If I am to see God it will be in the midst of things,
not in a monk’s cell but in living cells which are life
in all their variety and mutability.
It will not be apart from wonder at the world
but in the center of it, holy, holy, holy,
“every common bush afire with God.”
In the ancient plaza there is no stillness or absence.
Three native men in hoodies beat a drum and chant
for tips. Native women sit under the porch
of the Governor’s Palace with blankets on their thighs,
ware spread at their feet on other blankets,
wielding pointers like teachers at blackboards.
Children chase pigeons and each other, one tries a new harmonica.
Bright sun shines through cottonwoods still adorned for Christmas,
ready to fill February nights with bright reminders of cheer.
Vanity, one might say, commercial, another,
but everywhere I see fullness of life.
A man older than the Beatles performs their songs
from under a baseball cap. The bells of St. Francis sound.
Kids do cartwheels in the gazebo.
A passing puppy attracts a crowd of strangers.
Faces come and go, as they will, all flesh is grass.
I could look for empty in each one and name it
but this too is vanity. This is the city
in the center of the desert. Do you want me to withdraw for this?
I will pray in the midst of the plaza
where random humanity distracts and reveals.
You say I do not want to be alone.
So it is. Seekers of empty make solitude a virtue
but there is the prayer of plentitude as well,
prayer to the one not only apart but present,
radiant, overfilling, from whom there is no escape.
Poem Twenty: Revise / by ava m. hu
We all have the same red blood.
The weight of the body
cast off, and still drawing
spirit from the body, and then
suffusing the flesh with soul,
as if something as ineffable
as that could be explained.
Can we know the weight of birds
as they lift off?
What rises, and never falls?
The way heat rises, the way
I can’t turn you off.
Are we just like snakes endlessly
eating our tails?
If we had no eyes, would there
be nothing to see?
At the beginning and the end
of time, the weight of birds
as they lift off.
If we have no ears, will there
be nothing to hear?
Gravity minus gravity.
If there were no air, would there
be nothing to breathe?
The way heat rises, the way
I can’t turn you off.
Prima materia, this turning
of lead to gold. Perhaps the art
is in simply, the man himself.
Poem 20 / by Liza Katz
A woman fell down through a crack in the ice:
a floating encampment, the only separation
between her and the sea that swallowed her.
Drifting with her now, the Gore-Tex jacket,
the radio, the paraffin stove. A life built
on water, made one with the rising tides.
And when our houses fall into the sea, that’s
where I’ll find her, unnamed and unencumbered.
The End / by Matthew Landrum
The last day will be attended by the smell of cooking.
Bacon will sizzle in cast iron with grease to mix with flour
for white gravy to top the biscuits cooling on the kitchen table.
There will be no trumpets, only someone playing Wildwood Flower
on the hollow-body Telestar taken decades ago as collateral
from my aunt’s husband. He defaulted on the loan,
his marriage, his young two children. They are grown now
and have gone on to get divorces of their own. Their births
and weddings are memorialized in the photo album on the mantle
along with pictures of the bouldered wreck of Herschel’s car,
plowed head-on by a semi. There will be no tearing of steel
or rending of skies. A slow dawn will seep through lace curtains.
Down in the hollow, the fox will nose the garbage barrels looking for bones.
The air-conditioner will still sit stolidly in the yard, weeping orange rust
from its vents, perhaps with a few more shotgun holes.
Here, a comet attended my first kiss
while states away cultists ate applesauce laced with poison.
We’ve seen what comes of these ends before.
The arm-chair where my grandfather had his heart attack and sat
for hours with the news playing as he slowly passed
will still be sitting before the television.
The news will play like any morning. There will no rising
wall of fire, no sign in the heaven, no wind
or whirlwind, only the tick of the wall clock
and the clang of china as the table is set.
This house has seen so many apocalypses,
it will hardly notice one more.
Zealandia / by Clyde Long
You a continent below the sea
daughter of Gondwana
sisters Africa, Australia, Antarctica.
Scientists have studied you
measured you in bathyspheres
traced your contours, tasted your rifts.
Coy for so long, now you are famous —
the youngest continent, the thinnest.
Vast as India without human infestation.
It’s said that within your land
pigeons feed on cabbage trees,
peanut worms inch above abysses.
Sun daily touches your peaks.
Millennia are mere moments,
you breathe in geologic time.
Day 19 / Poems 19
I. The Metrograph / by Catharine Batsios
The theater is something well-designed and thoughtful. It’s on the LES, (Ludlow and Canal) if it weren’t for a black awning with METROGRAPH in art deco lettering protruding from the building, you wouldn’t know it was there; the rest of the block has no signage other than a few NO PARKING barricades and brick/metal/graffiti. Once inside, you’re greeted by a smallish woman with horn-rimmed glasses and a necktie, she’s selling tickets. Off to the left there is a bar which was probably installed in the 1940s—serves tea and coffee—a waiting area with french-style sofas and mismatching end tables. You look around, and the whole thing feels very sparse, contemporary & noir, like maybe the proprietors found the original furniture in the basement and brought it out so that the silver dessert cart will get some use again as it displays for movie theater candy. There are only 2 movies playing on a given day, and maybe 3 showings of each, more on weekends. If you are too cagey to stay downstairs, or curious, or hungry, you can go to the other end of the lobby and climb the stairs to a mezzanine lobby which has a full bar, limited seating for breakfast lunch or dinner, a reading nook where you can browse and buy something from their collection of books written about film, biographies of writers and actors, or something genre-specific. There are two sitting areas with worn but elegant leather sofas. There are tables and antique mirrors & you think you’ve seen this in an Ingrid Bergman film. At some point, a woman with a tea-tray filled with candles in glass dishes will come by and put a candle on your table. The lights will dim as you finish your drink & it’s time to enter the theater. You turn a corner and go through a discreet door into a black vestibule lit with a single desk lamp on the floor with a single floor-length mirror leaning against the wall.
The Schnook / by J. Peter Bergman
He wants it all but simply has no method for
fulfilling his mission of insatiable need.
He’s devoured “the book” with its weathered, or
its dated, information and its choices only make his brain bleed.
He’s a sucker in the making,
so ripe for simply taking
and along comes that old nemesis the very bad seed.
He’s open and available for conning and conniving
with wide-open eyes that never see the dark horizon.
He can taste the offered love and he can seem to be surviving
as he stretches out his open hands, with dreams to keep his eyes on.
His heart is over-aching,
his hands are ever-shaking
though the dream is sweetly dangled, it’s been angled mesmerize’n.
If he ends up taken, losing money, losing passion
it can take a long, long while before he opens to the chances
that a realistic romance can be found, in any fashion,
so he loses all his dreams and hopes regarding circumstances.
He’s a sucker without juices
with his heart-blood in the sluices
who should not have custody without shored-up recognizances.
You’re the schnook, poor kid.
Re-read that “book,” poor kid.
Retreat and reconnect with truth forgotten:
half the world you meet is rotten.
Take the bait, but leave the hook behind. Poor kid.
Don’t give your heart away and lose your mind,
you’re really not the stupid kind,
you’re just a dreamer learning how it worked.
So schnook, you’ve done it once, now never again be jerked. . .
But you probably at least will be one more time.
You’re the schnook.
The You in Me / by Celaine Charles
The day you came
For the Heaven, I finally knew
To be there
The shape of your eyes
Fed me, nourished me
Seeds grew in my soul
Winding up the gatepost
A garden of familiarity
To walk like me, talk like me
Stand taller than me
To become you
Separate from me
And I weep
At the you, you have become
Now I stand proud
In the shade
Of the us
Under the Heaven… you planted as a seed
How To / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Don’t start with a thought, start with
your tongue. The tongue lies waiting, start
with a lick, or a grip of teeth across lips,
or the kink in your shoulder, or the dull thud
in your head not yet dimmed by the coffee.
Start in your throat and the way the air slides
down it, the way the rough buds of your thick
organ of speech lay waiting in the cavern
of your jaw for something to say.
Don’t start in the brain, no one can crack that geode
open, no light gets in through the skull. It’s the blood
that carries the light inside, and blood runs
just under the surface, under the scrim of your skin
like a whale turning belly up, just under the rippling tensions
of a blue horizon. Start here. Start with the image
of the whale diving under your skin, circumnavigating
your body, migrating in its immensity between the cold pole
of your brain and the warm nest of your heart.
Start there. Watch until the whale breeches,
whole and unutterable out of the poem’s ocean,
humming a language you could not invent,
but which you have just recently learned to sing.
Fool / by Stephen Hollaway
My little brother used to warn me
I was in danger of hell fire
when I called him a fool.
Jesus said so.
I’d call him a fool in Japanese then:
We lived in Tokyo, so everyone knew what I meant.
Over time I found other ways
to undercut my brother
and learned not to call people fools out loud.
But now, old enough to know better,
I have no other word for That Fool.
Whatever Jesus said, his own scriptures rant about fools:
“Better to listen to the quiet word of the wise
than the shouts of a foolish ruler.” (1)
“Better to be a poor child who is wise
than an old and foolish king who will not take advice.” (2)
Not just kings, of course. Fools are everywhere—
a type against which to define the wise.
You could say the teachers of proverbs were elitist,
despising those who run their mouths,
but the wise, they say, are the opposite of arrogant,
less sure of their correctness,
slower to argue, quicker to learn.
“Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to advice.” (3)
“The vexation of the fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.” (4)
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing personal opinion.” (5)
There are no stories in the Bible
of kings being removed except by God,
so the wise must have suffered
and suffered fools if not gladly, grimly.
And yes, I’m told it is undemocratic
for the wise to want more say than the fools,
which is why I’m having second thoughts about democracy.
It’s wrong, I’m told, to feel superior
to those who refuse to take advice,
who despise learning,
who have never doubted their convictions.
But I have some old Jews on my side
despite what my brother said about Jesus.
If I declare the king a fool,
these days I am not questioning God’s assignment,
I am questioning the people.
If the Silent Majority have always been fools,
where does that leave us?
I want someone to show me the wisdom of the Common Man.
Neither poets nor the wise are unacknowledged legislators
if no one reads them,
rendered powerless by wars of rumors,
drowned out by the father of lies,
outvoted by self-interest,
the definition of sin and politics and the market.
I want to live in some other kingdom
not ruled by fools but by the just and the kind.
That has always been the dream of the wise
or, some would say, of fools.
Poem Nineteen: Notes on Looking Back / by ava m. hu
I live in an unbreakable house,
like a seagull displaced in the trees,
these years, like apples passing
from the hands of mother to mother,
like the milk of stars floating into still water-
Can we take turns on being the dead?
Can we switch places with animal
spirits and become the moon?
Are sleep and death twins?
How does death come into the world?
By the bright faces of flowers who
turn towards the dark, by the memory
of you spinning me round and round,
was it a dream that the darkness took
your hands, like a sail in wind? Was it
a dream when the yellow lanterns of daffodils
If we never looked back, would we
never know how to return?
Again and again, Orpheus knocked
on the door of his beloved, the same
way the sea beats on the shore, the same way
renunciates throw the pearls of the body
over the edge of reason, if we spin round
and round, letting the tails of our skirts
wrap around us like the pink morning light
as she wraps herself around the trees,
would we find out then what divinity means?
Poem 19 / by Liza Katz
A woman fell down through a crack in the sidewalk:
parched clay like porcelain, the only separation
between her and the ground that swallowed her.
Drifting with her now, the empty cistern,
the sinking city, the folds of the hills. A life built
on water, made one with the ravines under the roads.
And when our houses fall into the sea,
where I’ll find her, unnamed and unnumbered.
Farm Psalm / by Matthew Landrum
Praise Him in the false spring,
in the blue-blessed sky blush
of February sunlight. Go forth
bare-armed. Catch the roosters
that torment our hens; draw
a knife from earlobe to throat
and let the dark arterial blood
spurt onto winter-brown grass.
Pry the nails from barnwood.
Caulk window. So many tasks
have been waiting on the weather.
Praise Him in all of it. Praise Him
for it is impossible not to do so —
not that we are ready to praise
but because the heart cannot help it.
Garage Triage / by Clyde Long
Button’s pushed, door rolls up,
welcome to our garage’s id room,
cars displaced by stacked detritus,
bins of ancestors’ cremains,
photos, old guns ammo gone,
bins of dog food, cat food, recycling
bins, a museum of chaos.
Pickup truck bed is filled
with stuff for the dump —
old chairs, yellowed papers,
the shabby, the frayed, the forgotten.
I feed them to the bulldozers.
In catharsis after the dump
what’s next is, what can be sold?
An ad on CraigsList may do it —
and yes, stuff worth something
to someone is gone.
A car can almost fit here now.
Shelves are filled with survivors
who by my whim remain.
They are lonely I can tell,
no car can fill what they’ve lost.
I will resolve not to let them down,
I will fill up this empty space.
No car will ever fit in here.
Bins of cremains will have friends,
boxes to be recycled will remain.
Shelves will bulge, groan, the
floor will disappear once more.
–for Denise and Jim
Day 18 / Poems 18
Jellyfish Lesson / by Catharine Batsios
Think of Turritopsis dohrnii which starts its life cycle over
when its life is physically threatened
You feel if it came close and asked
the reason you didn’t know she was being abused,
how you couldn’t tell she was washed
in three years of silence,
how you were so into yourself that you didn’t feel
her arm tense when you took it,
if it came close and asked, that jellyfish question
in the vast ideation of women you learned love from,
you’d just give up.
At first, if it came close and asked
you wouldn’t even think there was a question/
translucent form billowing in safe waters
& you remember the jellyfish found off the coast
in the Mediterranean how when it dies
cells escape its body, & it’s young again
not unlike your mother being hunted
& trapped under a dresser as a child, or
or other stories of cooking grease, teeth,
tufts of hair missing in pigtails,
or hiding in the yard while your aunt
was at the jellyfish end of a sawed-off shotgun.
When it came close and asked, you answered with
the nights you spent in cars or in diners, or waiting
for your father to finally claim his first daughter, you answered
with smoke & bottles, & your own ugly body
that hasn’t deserved one good thing ever
& yesterday when it came close and asked
you felt something leave your bodies as she washed
three years of silence down with milk and you shared
a doughnut like you used to when your mom was at work.
Reboot / by J. Peter Bergman
What I used to call “morning” has altered
forever, refuting the mission of opening eyes.
No longer that stress-free, desirable feeling –
now never comes to me in luscious disguise.
Instead of the stretching, the yawn and the tingling
sensation of movement that I so desired,
these days I am pushing and pulling and jingling,
rebooting the person that last night I fired.
I tried to retain only some of the feelings,
recused as a judge might when knowing the charged,
exposed to the lushness of so many contrasts,
emotional, sensitive, focus enlarged.
It’s all in the dry-cells, the eyeballs that rattle
it’s all in the batteries locked in my brain,
night sweats, night tingles are part of the process
that lets me wake up every morning again,
replacing the nightmares, the dreams and the memories.
Rebooting the body, mind, heart – loosing strain.
Alien / by Celaine Charles
That breath between sleep
An in-between, I slip through
Just narrow my shoulders
Breath hums, bones trill
The rush of wind
Washes through me, though
I still stand
Color alive, I reach out
I touch it, swirl my finger in the bowl
Taste its essence
Feel its purity
Drapes me in blanket
Covers my sins, my longings
Folds durably around elbows
Shoulders, and hips
Golden stalks of wheat
Drip with music
Melodies sung in rhythm
Tastes like honey
And I don’t sneeze
Here, in this place
Food doesn’t poison as it does
My daytime body
Back through that tiny place in-between
I gulp the lavender air
And cling to silver stones
Hold me here!
Keep me in place!
Just a little more time…
A familiar irritant
Coats each limb
And I’m pushed back through
Awake in my own world
Asylum, Hemmingford / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
This is not my story to tell, but I can imagine
the crossing in the snow. The photo at the story’s head
echoes images of runaways like Morrison’s Beloved,
captives’ treacherous crossing between slave lands and free.
Here, the long-coated woman, her arm stretched and her body
coiled, ready to thrust her family past this arbitrary line, over
the snow in the gully, into the arms of the border guard who
clutches one child in her pink parka and Sorels.
Here, the RCMP officer and the US checkpoint guard
perusing the passports while the taxi driver waits. Here, the news
photographer. Here, bright-colored luggage tumbled headlong
into the soft spring scruff of snow.
The story’s only quote is a simple condemnation, nobody here
cares about us. Is it wrong to want to follow them? To find out if
the true north’s strong and free? Or just more paperwork and
promises that they never meant to keep.
Do-Si-Do / by Stephen Hollaway
“Pistol-Packin’ Mama” rode the turntable and shot out the gym speakers built for basketball. The one “lady coach” I always took to be that Mama stood on the stage beside the record player repeating the calls: “Allemande left,” which was like passing the peace, “do-si-do” which meant to walk past your partner with your back to her and return to start. “Swing your partner” was clear enough, and the only time there was connection. Square dancing came around every Friday morning, as regular as Earl Scruggs picking. It was Phys. Ed., a respite from missed shots and wheezy laps.
None of my friends listened to country music in 1969, not the one whose stepdad played the Opry and took me backstage, not those who supported George Wallace. Three hours later the gym would be filled for a mandatory pep rally with the all-white cheerleaders dancing to “Born to Be Wild” turned up so loud it hurt. The DJ at the Saturday dance would play rock and soul, the ten percent of the students who were black showing us honkies moves we lamely imitated.
But square dancing was a tradition from when this suburban school had been rural; we still had Ag courses and Future Farmers. It was the whitest dancing ever devised, and the least likely to arouse us. Still, you wanted to have a partner you liked. The boys would walk across the floor on signal to pick a partner from the girls seated on bleachers. It was awkward to be a boy but must have been terrible to be a girl. The pretty ones went first, then the skinny ones, with fat girls and black girls left over.
Most Fridays I picked blonde Betty, middle-of-the-road pretty, not dating a football player, cheerful and smart enough. This day, though, Betty was absent. I scanned the choices like varieties of Campbell’s soup and my eyes stopped on Verneda—a black girl I knew from “smart kids” classes, cheeks I thought of as Cherokee, “natural” hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her face a warm sepia with a smile. I chose Verneda, pulling her to my square in the center of the floor. We did those dances that were as erotic as shaking hands, revolving around each other and bowing politely. Nobody wanted to admit it was fun.
I was not trying to make a statement but other students assumed as much. In the locker room someone asked me, “What are you doing?” A tough kid scowled at me: “You n*****-lover.” I didn’t grow up there and there were things I would never understand.
Two weeks later I went to a Friday night football game, expecting to meet three of my nerdier buds who never had dates. I never found them, but I saw Verneda sitting alone, watching her friends on the field. I sat down next to her since the ice had been broken, told myself it was nothing, and chatted until the game was over.
Four nights after that someone burned a cross in my yard at 2 a.m. Later I figured it was Klan wannabees from school, but at 2 am it was the holy shit KKK trying to scare the bejeezus out of me. It caught a small pine on fire which never grew back. My dad asked, analytically, “Do you treat black kids at school the way you treat the boy who’s been coming to church?” I’d given that guy rides home; he’d taken me to my first black funeral. “Well yeah, Dad.” I couldn’t tell if there was an accusation in there.
In the cafeteria, Verneda sat with me for just a minute. “I think we’d better not see each other anymore. It’s not safe.” We never did.
Poem Eighteen: Ex Nihilo / by ava m. hu
It’s as simple as a drop of sweat fell
and the world began. It wasn’t
a calculation. It just happened that way.
Language can be misunderstood.
A bird can mean cyclops.
A cyclops can mean mother.
Out of nothing, out of a daydream,
the undercurrent of piss, between
god and gravity, the world was born.
Add thought to place. Add place to thing.
The dispute between winter and summer
or tree and telescope, between sheep and grain,
or between hand and atmosphere. The quarrel
between the god and goddess, the apple
and it’s seed, the fleeting lightning skin of the god
who descends to make his footprints earth.
The secretion of creation or chaos, the dark
substance we find ourselves floating in,
like butterflies with wet wings, seeking
a small shoulder, no less from being bent
forward from bearing the rain, no less
from the small hand who takes you in,
the limbs, hair, blood, bones
of the primordial being takes form,
as if we could just start over
by shedding skin like a snake.
Poem 18 / by Liza Katz
Your hands, a stiff reproach from lack of use.
Your fingers, offshoots, all geometry,
cobweb-thick. A tinder box,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . with your trigger words
and tender bruises, you reach, through the mind’s
blue tunnel, your first coherent sentences in years.
At the Maple Café / by Matthew Landrum
It’s such a long way from the periphery to the center,
the place where expectation slips
and there is only the sun and the shadow
of swarming gnats patterning the concrete.
Hunger’s Adventure / by Clyde Long
My hunger is back.
Aromas of the set table stir me.
Waves rise lit by candle light,
a scrim veils your smile.
Hands hold fork and knife,
they dance as they feed me.
My hunger is back,
ravenous, savory, spice of your eyes.
We eat tonight, revel our appetite
close enough to touch glasses
to lean in, to kiss.
Hunger sated is still hunger —
it belongs to us both now.
Morning’s light cancels shadows,
coffee parts the clouds,
its bitter reveille forgiven,
bread buttered sweet with jam.
Day 17 / Poems 17
Our Flag / by Catharine Batsios
We wanted to save time
and simultaneously get right through it/
leapfrogging, or the floor is lava
from one good time to the next;
when I say good time, I mean no one is dead
yet, or tried to be, and we all have money for cigs
and coffee, and gas, and at least one person
has the car tonight. Some of us have our homework done,
others don’t need to write it down, and I’ll do mine
in the car
after everyone is home/asleep.
The only place I will leave the house for after 10pm: diner.
Some things haven’t changed since we were 16
If the parking lot of your coney island don’t look like
you’ll lose your life, it ain’t shit.
In the aquarium of diner, time stopped
and pocket change pooled into cheap food
so we could stay just a few more hours,
we could watch midnight shift change
and sidewalks turn coral with first light.
I haven’t lived at home in a while.
Now in the city that never sleeps,
the only place awake for these time-capsule moments
is a diner.
I have a little more money now,
and friends that made it to 30
because of those nights we poured our bottomless selves
into cups with our hands around them.
No matter where, Flint Kid
is a thank you note
scribbled on a dirty napkin left on the table.
On, or About, Being Gay / by J. Peter Bergman
Being Gay is not an actual job
although it is a daily obligation.
I doubt there’s another nation
where folks take this in such a serious way.
Being Gay means you hobnob
with the famous, the obscure and the fearful
who are sometimes found tearful
when their folks want to give them away.
Being Gay can be dreadful and frightening;
it can take you to minus and to plus
just to throw you under a passing bus
where you find other Gays who preceded you there.
Being Gay can feel like being struck by lightning;
you’re alarmed, then your charmed to your core.
You attract, like a magnet, those men who will score
over having a shot at just showing they care.
Being Gay is a life, not a lifestyle.
It is more who you are than a conscious choice.
If you’re Gay then you have a political voice
which you use to express what you know that you need.
Being Gay isn’t mentally rife, while
all your relatives wonder how and why
you became what you are since so few of them will try
to do anything more than just breed.
Being Gay you’re aware that their breeding
will succeed in producing at least one heir.
Being Gay you are sure that one out of each pair
has a shot at being Gay as the fates have decreed.
Being Gay, in other words, is an ultimate seeding
of a world that is littered with all kinds of guys.
There are men who are tolerant, men who are wise,
men who have gaydar and those, who with speed,
acknowledge that Gay Men can work and succeed.
White Blossoms / by Celaine Charles
I look ahead to my daughter
When did she grow
From vines of Sweet Autumn
As she ascends
I drink in her fragrance
Like a potion
To lean on
And I watch her inhale
A piece of sky
A bite of courage
Amongst tiny morsels
That once stirred
In my womb
Maybe even then
She knew who she would be
Maybe even then
She felt her sun beams stretch
To tree limbs
White blossoms in the wind
Labor / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
The painter says he used a fading ink to learn the way to labor
over a beauty that will not last. To give effort and attention to
the way a leaf unfolds — the shape of a shell-knot, a finger unclenching —
the brush, the pen, details the scroll so that it is the motion that matters
not the thing. So it is the attention that consecrates the object it attends.
The way we fill a thousand journals with a phrase, a thought, a little sketch
of roses, a tower or a gently curving fence, the half-lines of
a gravestone’s epigraph. We tuck them in our sack, rarely
re-read, but there to carry our lives around in little scribblings.
The making is what matters, the song matters less than the singing.
Sierra del Norte / by Stephen Hollaway
These old mountains with soft shoulders
shrug under their blankets.
Who knows? they ask. The snow may melt tomorrow.
Why do you care? It’s not your land.
Nevertheless, come and see where piñon and cedar meet,
walk ruddy trails which remain at ease,
unashamed but taking on the color of blood turned dust.
From the low hill see the high ones
who surround us.
We have not forgotten we are surrounded.
Poem Seventeen: Murmuration, Notes on Icarus / by ava m. hu
We fly the slipstream.
My father’s face, beautiful
as a white star, his wings,
same as the white wind. I follow him.
We have natural telepathy.
Can we see the language of god
by the way the flock travels?
Does god have a white face?
Transfer thought to thought.
I see the bright mouth of the sun.
I study the way birds fly in flocks.
Wax wings, hold steady.
Even if I am enchanted by the
way the wind holds me, even if
I am infatuated with the way
I ellipse. A thousand images
of white and white. The way
I fall away from my father.
The way I fall fast.
We still have the same red blood.
Inheritance / by Matthew Landrum
Because a tornado ripped him from his mother’s arms, leaving scars
still visible a half-century later but set him down gently on a roadside
a half-mile away. Because his grandmother Ada, who once scandalized
her town as a teenager by hemming up her skirts to show off her ankles,
was killed by debris. Because a travelling preacher saw a bundle of rags
at the verge and pulled his car over to look, astonished when he found a child,
unhurt, uncrying, green eyes staring back at him. Because his father searched
the local morgues for his infant son, only half-relieved when he didn’t find him.
Because they both wept and wept when the police reunited them, overwhelmed
by mingled joy and grief. Because all of this happened and that baby, my father
grew up to father me. The odds of existing are stacked against us all.
This what has been handed down: a life, the inheritance of the wind.
High Stakes / by Clyde Long
My eyes smolder lit coals.
I read newspapers folded pages
railing here, laughing there
sometimes ripping pages out
to wrap fish for later.
I consume the pages, recycle
invoked emotions, joy or outrage
on stain inked fingers.
I relive the ancient daisy ad,
a little girl counting petals
as mushroom clouds detonate.
“We must love each other
or we must die.”
This is seared into my
mental replay loop.
Our collected souls are not daisies.
The Doomsday Clock ticks.
It’s love’s fear, simple as that.
Day 16 / Poems 16
Thalassophobia Continued / by Catharine Batsios
I can’t shake this giant squid greed
for all the perfect lipstick/self-care in this city;
been here seven months and all I’ve learned is
no, not quite, and maybe next time. Today is
snow-melt-and-sweater, as I carefully leave
the apartment, the corridor is tentacle flesh
and teeth as I turn the key in the lock. This
day is the first light I’ve seen in a NY week
this day is quickly being swallowed behind buildings
and police cars standing at the curb or
clicking their claws as they scuttle down 124th,
this day is giant squid greed at the center
lying in wait. And I wait. My chitin tunic and
fanning skirt make it to the station
just ahead of feeder tentacles flopping on the steps.
I am quickly outgrowing my own skin
as the express train nears its destination,
am as ominous as a silent car listening
to a man play the national anthem on his saxophone
and routinely fucking it up, never quite reaching the end,
and repeating measures on our skin collectively crawling/
uncanny valley and resignation
I crack as I hit the platform, leaving
a me-shaped torso on the track.
Pop ((Opera)) Quiz: Ten Minutes, Please / by J. Peter Bergman
If Norma is woman with a dark bel canto top
Than who is Norma Desmond?
Who’s her butler, what’s his name?
Are they the same, the Normas, and the butler,
Isn’t he that Kraut
Who brought Marlene Dietrich out?
Or was that someone Swedish?
Let’s start again.
If Carmen is a gypsy in the southern part of Spain
Why does she sing in French?
And is French Stewart, Stewart Granger’s son by
His third wife, Miss Belgium?
Or Cary Grant,
Before he slept with Mae West’s dog?
Or is she speaking Welsh?
It’s all the same.
Let’s try once more.
Is Mignon Manon’s mother, sister, friend
Or is she Mignon Dunn?
And if she’s really done, than why do I still read her name
In Opera trades that still appear in my mailbox?
And why did Kathryn Grayson
Always marry men named John, was there a problem
With her short-term memory?
Or is this a thing that just troubles me?
Okay, one more.
Threepenny Opera costs as much to see as any other,
So why don’t they just call it Eighty Dollar Opera now?
And how about a reason for an opera season
Featuring Broadway shows by Stephen Sondheim?
Or even Stephen Schwartz?
And opera shorts by French, Italian or American composers
That cost as much to see as three and four act dozers
Make me wonder about cost. You, too?
We’ll try again.
If Edmund Purdom’s singing voice belonged to Mario Lanza,
Then who spoke out for Lanza when he didn’t sing?
And if his mother’s name, Maria Lanza, was her maiden name
Then how far did he go to be like her?
Did it occur
To anyone that he and Purdom didn’t sound at all alike?
And what was Kathryn Grayson really like?
And does any of this really matter?
Early Bedtime Escape / by Celaine Charles
A silent song
Luring me into that spot
The tiny one
Between the wall
And dad’s chair
Draped in canopies, thick
Because who would own green
Waterfall spills like rain across glass windows
Tiny ponds filled
Long and narrow
Snap dragons reflect
Many colors, lurk
In the distance
Fire upon enemies
The pink ones, my favorites
Even with their bite
Until the orange
Of sunset sets in
And all is well
With my soul
Until Dad swivels and rocks
My moon song
Stunned and squished,
I flee the scene
Return to my room… almost unnoticed
Nursling / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
When did I ever thirst as much?
And did I bend my body, thrash
unwieldy legs and wheel my arms to
rock toward a yielding warmth,
toward skin and gathering and milk?
No. I remember my crying in the dark,
wandering empty hallways toward
my mother’s room, opening
every door to try and find her, my body
weaned off starlight now for good.
What I Arrived at After That Movie / by Stephen Hollaway
If there is a language that is free from time,
give me its smoke and circles,
its dark strokes and unfamiliar tones.
Let me know the compassion the end
brings to the beginning,
the long afternoon on the lake
that illumines the first moment and the last.
May my strong mother walk with the one who forgot.
May my children be father to the old man.
May the only slant-eyed gaijin in a Tokyo preschool
converse in the night with the rootless on his island.
May the preacher who questions eternity
place the shoebox and peephole on memory’s shelf.
I would ride the wooden coaster
if I knew it returned to the start.
I would read the letters I wrote as I fell
if I thought they would tell the truth after the brakes burned.
I would switch from tracks that go somewhere
to a roundhouse without telos
and learn to sit in this train
with passengers who are not vessels of possibility
but bodies containing origin and destiny,
innocence and experience, child and crone.
Poem Sixteen: Notes on Reincarnation / by ava m. hu
The worn-out garment shed
by the body. The worn-out
body shed by the dweller
within the body. Nor these
queens and kings, nor these
great bodies of water, nor in
the future will any of us cease to be;
your wings, still beating fast.
Poem 16 / by Liza Katz
We were stumbling through
Graffiti Alley, day-drunk,
an afterglow of
an optical illusion
slickening the bricks
with orange and lime.
We found a new place to stand,
crescendo of light.
The Postcard / by Matthew Landrum
The postcard arrives months late. It’s a tourist scene––
minarets over a sunlit Granada––and carries a few scrawled lines,
a wish you were here and sending love: something now to skim
and toss in a keepsake drawer. How could it matter now?
Even so, the heart knows how to speak to ghosts.
Wednesday Courthouse Scrapbook / by Clyde Long
Fated not to accomplish much today
the community of justice is assembled
midway of lunch and quitting time.
Entering we striptease belts, I offer
to remove my shoes but they’re not
into that, hi-def color shows enough.
Department 22 is shopworn, exhausted
fluorescent lights failing, floors scuffed.
The judge presides collegially, scuffed too.
Justice here is spring water, it trickles
pure, collecting in eddys, deep pools,
a warm day away from algae blooms.
When called I stand and deliver my name,
project respect and have my say.
Judge likes that, sets a trial date next year.
My opponent and I meet outside after.
We plan our future year together
then descend into balmy February air.
Day 15 / Poems 15
Clementines Instead of a Kiss Goodnight / by Catharine Batsios
In the neighborhood where Mom’s car got stolen three times,
she rarely locked the door at night,
& only when the neighborhood was stark like black-box
S’agapo, koukla mou— did words present with one hand
cupping an incandescent citrus, the other foraging—
s’agapo, koukla mou, words, a present with
Child at the center, a tableau, Child climbing
on the table, Child of clementines appearing,
of hands that don’t touch.
Only the muttering of shirtsleeves and workboots
in the leaving threshold—S’agapo, koukla mou—
as I turn on my heel to follow disappearing
Father as he turns on his heel to the rustle of
streetlights and sparse night-traffic;
the incandescence of us a certain tangle
with no human attributes.
I knew where he’d been when I saw clementines
on the kitchen table;
mesh torn the size of his hand— one for the road—I
could fit both of mine through the hole
& I picked a fruit from the crate.
In the neighborhood where I’d fall asleep listening,
playing gunshot or fireworks?
Mom still left the door unlocked for
Father, the scrim of shadow,
man who counts clementines as moments.
Child follows his trace out the door, off the porch, into
the pavement, then wet grass on stocking feet, my eyes
get lost between cars in the lot—
one hand cupping incandescent citrus, the other foraging.
 Greek for “I love you, my doll.”
78 / by J. Peter Bergman
I never thought I’d reach seventy-eight,
though I thought it would be great.
I’m seventy now, worked hard to achieve that age,
work harder to keep fit at it.
It’s been three years since they set the diagnosis:
Diabetes Two; keep encaged the eating,
drinking, doing anything you really like.
Advice is hard to take.
It’s hard to do the walk,
although the talk is pretty easy.
So I don’t get really queasy
when I take my blood sugar test each night.
Tonight it read out “78″, so low I might
be dead or dying. Still I keep trying.
This “wine dinner” should have sent me over the roof
with numbers in the multi-hundreds: cheeses,
osso bucco, surf and turf, bacon dressing,
panacotta, whipped cream, fruit.
And seven full glasses of wine. Seven. Like the
seven in “78.” I’ll take it again in the A.M.
Test again and see where I’m at with all I et.
Not “78″ I’ll bet.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Just eight hours later, one-oh-two,
back to something normal, whew.
Still there is the dream of sugar held
down by uncertain fate.
If only it could translate into some lower weight.
would be great.
Haikus For February / by Celaine Charles
Amongst snowfall and sunshine
Twenty-eight days’ twain
Ice crystals negate
Flourishing sunrays rebuke
Both duel and duet
Converse flakes iridescent
Together they dance
Terse month in the year
Opposition of seasons
Quibble their days rest
Arms Treaty / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Sometimes when I was young I’d crawl into my parents bed,
I couldn’t sleep, but also couldn’t tell them why. Ominous
red-orange blossom clouds filled my dream horizons
and I’d curl in sheets like a drying leaf or a dessicated bug.
Today I read the president doesn’t have to ask to press the button.
In four minutes he can launch the missiles strong enough
to erase us ten times over. I close my eyes remembering those slow-
blooming clouds of my young dreams and wonder how he ever sleeps at all.
Ten years ago in a Baltic pine forest I stood with friends and peered
into the dark round silo crater of an empty missile shed. Beneath us
in the eerie damp it slowly filled with water as our voices echoed, laughing,
off the barren concrete walls. I thought of how the worst outcome we imagined
had been peacefully unmade.
Today I drove by Rocky Flats on my way to my sister’s house. Now there’s just
a small barbed fence, a sign and empty rolling hills for antelope and hawks. No
sign to tell you all the guts of every bomb the Cold War ever made came off
production line right here, beneath the Rockies’ western sawtooth wall.
It’s strange to find the fears you thought you’d put to bed forever, an epochs
close, a settled peace, might abruptly, coldly cease.
Am I a Poet? / by Stephen Hollaway
If someone says, “I am the President”
without thinking to himself “I play one on TV”
that person may have lost himself.
If clergy introduce themselves saying
“I am the pastor, preacher, priest”
without meaning “I play that role”
I worry where the self has hidden.
And if I say “I am a poet”
what bothers me is not that nagging sense
that I’m a fraud—we all feel that—
but that “am” is too strong a word,
as if it were certain, an equivalence
between the self, the gift, the work.
Plato said poets are liars;
perhaps the first lie is claiming to be one.
Aristotle said poets grasp the real truth;
to believe him is a danger to the soul.
The Hebrew poets we remember said the rest were liars
because they were paid to please
and mistook optimism for hope.
The true poet said the word came from somewhere else;
it was a fire and a burden and a vision
separate from the speaker,
something out there for you to take or leave.
“I am not a prophet” means more than “no schooling.”
I do not claim to be a reliable source.
I have only this word,
and who I am is both more and less.
There is only one who can say “I am,”
the rest is consequence and contingency,
acting in roles as best we can
using the words we have been given.
Poem Thirteen / by ava m. hu
We fall cupping our hands,
close to our ears: the swirling
whirling symphony we catch in,
this empire of forbidden snow.
Counterphobia / by Matthew Landrum
Sometimes fear takes its opposite, not fight or flight
but attraction. Consider the boy (now almost a teenager)
who is afraid of school shootings. He threatens classmates
that he’ll bring a Glock. He hates the immigration ban
so says to anyone who will listen that America should build a wall.
Bullied, he seeks out his tormentors, brings them gifts.
Upset at rule-breakers, he blurts out strings of curse-words
that get them sent to the principal’s office once again.
You can see the comfort in becoming what you fear the most.
How can something hurt you if you are already that thing?
Persistence of Center / by Clyde Long
I am centered, so centered,
why do you intrude here
on my left, my right,
why do you hover above,
lurk down below?
I know I need hemming in,
it’s not done to affront me.
You’re a rolled towel,
maybe two, placed to
prevent my sudden death.
I am centered, so centered
nothing left or right,
painted lines not needed.
What’s ahead and behind
block my paths of escape
so I must stay and fight,
forced to take a stand.
Live wires spark at me,
I smell the Romex burning.
My center must hold
it’s all I have now,
crevasses here so deep.
White knuckles hold onto a root
naked of trunk and limb
burrowed into crumbling earth.
It holds and so must I.
My center has held for so long,
without it nothing will remain.
Day 14 / Poems 14
Untitled Red Poem / by Catharine Batsios
Like the smell of
old books, night-shade sidewalk
red soaked from the bar district;
a color in the back of your mind as you
held your glass and insisted on filling mine,
we are two volumes,
shelved side by side, or
read in mouthed words;
. . . . . . . . . . . . half-held on your tongue.
“you say ‘oh my god’ a lot during sex.”
He looked at her in the backdrop of walls dingy with cigarettes and water stains,
“I’ve been described with a great many words…”
She picked up her pack from the floor, shook it to find the lighter, opened the box and took her favorite cigarette.
There was red in her nails as she brought the rolled paper to her mouth,
“…but pious was never one of them.”
you course with red;
coarse with red from my fingertips,
red from my mouth.
Smart Woman, Ugly Dress / by J. Peter Bergman
Why would she wear it? That ugly dress?
She’s too good to look like that.
Where’s the wisdom? Why’s she such a mess?
She’s too smart to wear a hideous hat.
Is it real or is it all a sham?
Could it be she really gives a damn?
Ugly dresses hide the honest truth,
that she’s a beauty, body and mind.
Deep, deep down she owns a privacy booth
where she hides what others can’t find.
Is it real or is it all a lie?
Can it be she’s better than any guy?
Some smart woman in an awful frock
. . knows just how to hold her own and mock
. . . . everybody who wants her clothes to match
. . . . . . . what’s inside her mind and makes her such a catch.
Who she is, she’d say, more or less:
one smart woman hides in an ugly dress.
One smart woman using her own success
finds her way through the veil of her loneliness
holds her own without having to confess
she is better off in that ugly gown
so nothing, no one, can ever bring her down.
Sometimes that is the best way to express
who she is: smart woman, ugly dress.
All Weather Tires / by Celaine Charles
Waiting in the cold sunshine
Car trunk open
Except for the jumper cables
First aid kit
Black box of… something?
I leave it at: emergency – car – essentials
I don’t really know.
The tips of my fingers start purring,
Cats demanding attention.
I drive them further into my pockets.
“See these deep grooves here…”
He bends over, uses his hands,
Touches the carved rubber,
“I had them siped to improve traction and lengthen the life of the tire.”
He goes on like a salesman.
I can see my breath before my eyes
Forming little cloud animals,
A bird, half a horse, a buffalo,
I shake my head to focus
Because he’s on auto-pilot,
And it’s almost time to go.
Just a day trip
I will see him by nightfall,
And he looks at me
Finished with his sermon,
His personal driving crash course – completed
As if I’d never driven before,
And he flashes a smile
Sun gleams from behind me
Splashing his face
With light –
“You’re the exact picture of what I always wanted.
My misty buffalo dissipates,
The cats in my pockets scatter,
Chasing buffalo tracks, perhaps
On prowl for a cloudy bird to catch.
Suddenly I’m warm
Inside this crisp
And quite honestly – safer
With my four tires,
Midlife Valentine / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
You will not believe me when I tell you there are years
you will want nothing more than sleep and to be kissed
senseless by the quiet.
There were other years you thought you needed beauty
the way the girls in fairy tales need magic rings,
or locks of hair, or golden coins, a talking bird, a shoe.
You will not believe me when I tell you it’s the wanting
that’s the gift you’ll miss the most once your lap is full
of everything you thought you’d die without.
Those were years you learned the shape of
your desires, the way you make a paper heart
by folding first and then cutting the rest away.
Pointillism (Valentine’s Day) / by Stephen Hollaway
A thousand points of black form an image
slowly, her pen ever vertical
on smooth paper, ink overlaying
penciled lines transferred mystically
from my photograph. What emerges
is a Robert Frost wall between
two pastures long abandoned, a tree
in the background, vines trying
to claim the stones.
. . . . . . . . . . . Married so long
the wall between us is imaginary,
as porous as it is heavy, moving
with us to new fields, dividing
beds, duties, and ways of making things.
The line between our selves is one we drew
on the pages of years, each defining
the other by points every day, ink on paper,
until at last we see the image true.
Heart-To-Heart / by ava m. hu
My little heartbreaker, heart of gold, be still
my beating heart, from the bottom of my heart,
heart of hearts, eat your heart, heart of glass,
have a heart, follow your heart, cross my heart,
man of my own heart, know you by heart, near to my heart,
set my heart on it, take it to heart, heart on my sleeve,
with all my heart, feel it in my heart, young at heart,
heart of the matter, your heart’s content, hand on heart,
set your heart on fire, pour your heart out, heart doesn’t miss a beat,
my heart and soul, have a heart, lion heart, lose heart, near to one’s heart,
heart is in the right place, good-hearted, from the bottom of one’s heart,
find it in one’s heart, eat your heart out, cross my heart,
absence makes the heart grow fonder,
+found idioms for heart
A Color Wheel / by Matthew Landrum
a child becomes the point
of a parabola, a red dress
tracing a line back and forth,
back and forth, a lit star
between earth and sky.
I have seen you bite
an orange peel and strip the skin,
revealing the hidden hue
of ripe fruit that is the same
as the rind, the color of love.
Death will take me
by the eyes and the last thing
I will ever see
on this benighted earth
is the flash of lightning
rending the sky with yellow.
Your beauty’s lance
will never pierce the sky.
The trees have already tried,
ascending to green heights
with spears that bend
and break in the green wind.
Blue mountains ––
sky stacked on sky,
in imperceptible gradations.
How will we know
earth from heaven
if we arrive there by degrees.
The colonel’s jacket has indigo tassels ––
a sure mark of his prowess –– twenty-four
tassels that shake when he coughs.
With one hand, he motions
to the civil guardsmen to execute a prisoner.
With the other, he relights his cigar.
It is only for you I feel this pain,
only in your love’s hemisphere
I see this violet star of pain rising
amid the other constellations. It rises
with the color of marks left on your neck,
the sweetness of love’s injury.
Two Fourteen / by Clyde Long
Neruda all over
te amo te amo
maybe sex day
treacle for Mom
for sister too
pet the dogs
please be mine
Day 13 / Poems 13
Cut the difference / by Catharine Batsios
like some East-coast personality
calling Midwest mannerisms quaint, is it really laughable
that my chin makes an upward nod when my eyes
meet yours on the street?
There is something insincere in acknowledging
everyone you see on your walk to the station,
& I understand that personal space is at a premium,
but I want you to know, I see you.
& I see you has its value. Like I’ve got a knife in my boot,
will bum you a cigarette, but not my life, or
I see you giant man with a tiny backpack on one arm,
& your tiny person in the other,
I hope they had fun in school today. I know
I’m some white girl with brown hair & glasses
in Manhattan, some days I give myself side-eye
but look, my nod says I’m not trying to
fight you or fuck you,
& I don’t want to be your new best friend.
You are surrounded by real live people,
& we all talk to each other without having to say
anything; you either believe that or give up
on fashion being art, so cut the difference
& nod back when I see you.
Making America Grate Again / by J. Peter Bergman
When Susan wrote to me from her home in Shenley,
suburb of London, apart from the mainstream,
she asked me to think and to please reconsider
my choice of vacation in England. It would seem
her husband and neighbors, her daughters and friends
believed an American there in their district
would bring out protestors demanding amends
for the way that our country had suddenly pricked
the brains and the beauty of all their surroundings
and I’d be a symbol of all this to them.
Peter, she wrote, it’s like Nixon all over,
this making America greater again.
Our homeland’s the grater, and we are the cheeses
that end up unwelcome on anyone’s plate:
shards of humanity, lost in insanity,
never with open arms welcomed again.
I said to Susan, returning her e-mail,
don’t we deserve to be treated as people?
Never did vote for him, he’s a TV-male
who couldn’t inspire a bow or a nod.
Tell them I’m different, and unsympathetic,
who wouldn’t support one despised Demi-God
wanting to wield power, to ever control us,
to make us believe we are greater again.
Susan, please take what I say holus-bolus.
Susan, you’re right, it’s like Nixon all over,
this making America greater again.
Building our image as Satyr again as we
shaft the whole world, using their oxygen.
Making poor promises, I’ll make you one
and I’ll keep it, my friend, sworn on pure four-leaf clover,
I’ll never dare make our homeland, America,
grate anything, no, not ever again.
Thunderstorm / by Celaine Charles
Beneath the storm
Years grown old
Lemons / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
I have to remember
there are things I love more —
The weight of a book in my hands.
The words of old hymns, deeper
and truer than blood. This pencil
scratching away into the winter night,
saying “I’m here, I’m here.”
Clean hair, dry, and smelling of lemons.
Dishes lying upside-down in the bright yellow drain.
My voice rounding around notes, up and down
in the kitchen air. The way
my scarf wraps three times around my neck
and pulls up over my reddened nose.
The way, in an afternoon,
sitting at one small table
with a glass of water, a cup
of coffee, a notebook and Chopin,
I can come home to myself as if
from a long absence.
I have to remember
there is more I still love,
I must love more than you.
When One Sparrow Falls / by Stephen Hollaway
When my mother was small, her brother threw a chicken
off the roof to see if it could fly.
It could not fly. She buried it
thinking that like Jesus it would rise.
It did not rise.
In the fourth grade I had declared pre-med.
When I found a sparrow on the dusty playground
it was a specimen. I buried it
between the large tree in the corner
of the schoolyard and the high link fence,
digging in clay with a pointed stick,
pressing dirt over the bird with my palm.
There were two girls who like me, the new kid;
they agreed to be my nurse-accomplisses
the next day at lunch. Due to my ambitions
my college brother had bequeathed to me
his biology kit complete with scalpel.
I snuck the tools of exploration into school
and at the appointed hour the threesome met
in our clandestine clinic for surgery.
At nine I chose odd books to read.
When I asked my mother to define “function”
she told me to stop reading biology
and read Black Beauty or Little Women.
Somewhere I read the story of Vesalius
who dug up bodies to dissect, doing
the first real science of what’s inside.
The sparrow had not changed overnight,
no sign of bugs or worms, just stiff.
I brushed the dust off tiny feathers,
my fingers stroking the gray-brown grain,
treating her with respect as if
she had donated her body to science.
As she lay on her back I asked the girls
to spread her wings. We pinned them to the ground
like a cross. I drew the scalpel blade
the length of her white belly as if I knew
what a Caesarian was, as if knowledge
would come forth. It looked like worms inside,
tiny ramen packed as if her only job
was to eat and poop, no sign of song
or flight or even her heart which must have been
obvious. We stared, nauseous,
and since we had no sutures I pressed
her abdomen shut and laid her in her grave.
I felt like I should pray while tamping
down the dirt, but I knew no words to say,
even dust to dust. It was my first funeral.
My girlfriends never spoke of it. I wondered,
as I sat in church, if it was God
calling me to doctor, or something else.
Poem Thirteen: Notes on Descent / by ava m. hu
Just like the sinking of the winds,
or sun, the hero plummets
to the underworld to return
with a quest-object,
or loved one. The overflow,
earth spilling earth, the ability
to enter the realm of the dead
while still alive, and to return,
is proof the only way to save
yourself is exit
through the wound.
Poem 13 / by Liza Katz
I deadhead, exfoliate,
skin a perfect canvas
for the berry lip stain.
My skin glows like honey
in the jar. The blemishes
let go their shape.
Kellyanne takes to Fox and Friends
to give a free commercial
for Ivanka’s heels and minidresses,
and I, not knowing what brand
to buy, thank Nordstrom
for narrowing my choice.
My hands need movement.
Not knowing what to do,
they braid my hair. Woman, wake up.
I cut my credit card. Pieces
of plastic sink their teeth
into me like shrapnel. I can still
mourn with my body: unplug
the TV with my fake nails,
vote with my designer purse.
Satellite Dishes / by Matthew Landrum
The sky speaks — can you hear it? Above the medina,
a hundred satellite dishes stud a mud-brick horizon.
Reflectors curve in parabola, bounce back wavelength
to focal antennae. The earth is learning to listen.
Impatient Heart / Valentine’s Eve / by Clyde Long
You go north, I go west.
I fly, you ride the rails.
You get there first and brave
family and weather.
I emerge from a jetway and
return alone to our home.
We walk holding hands.
We explore the jungle,
rainforest of vines and tears.
If you dare you can see tendrils,
kudzu growing before our eyes,
riots of leaves big as hands,
thorns sharp as serpent fangs.
Blossoms camouflage our path.
Or, we’re on a sidewalk
by traffic and landscaping,
lawns irrigated just so.
Tire hiss and sprinklers
are welcome white noise.
Hold on, life is us together,
not north not west.
Weather forecast —
who knows tomorrow
and next day and next.
Day 12 / Poems 12
Thalassophobia: Sirens / by Catharine Batsios
Something about their sound clouds the street,
but only in some places. These Sirens
of toothy maw & deceit aren’t fooling everyone,
not traffic, not even the injured or dead
who grow tired of waiting, Sirens
but a faint breath in my neighborhoods.
The clash of brass-haired Sirens only fills my streets
after the blood has been shed, & bodies
strewn; to accuse, to strip
from threads like Fates
snipping away inch by inch
until we have nothing left but stolen
moments & a confidence that future voice
is something other people use.
Seas of blue-swaddled Sirens posture the shoreline
of the North End or Southwest
waiting, preening, sharpening, warming up,
& it isn’t something so trite as a preference in music
that makes their song an undisguised danger,
the Sirens born of pyrite justice are only a reflection
of the safety in your understanding
of the nature of the sea.
As Ruth Said, / by J. Peter Bergman
Please click here to read the poem.
Far and Wide / by Celaine Charles
The tree bends
Far and wide
Just enough to reach you
You’ve blessed me with
In your temple
In your world
Honorably I accept
A new way
And I see
That we fit
Under this tree
Antepartum / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
You move in my abdomen,
a kicking wave, and I’m afraid again
of the rending I know I’m facing,
The ripping that’s required to pull
one flesh from another,
to pull yours out of mine.
I have already done so much changing
that the terrains of my own mind
have softened or been worn
away as the shape of my body, swelled
or bent or bruised, complicates
my recognition of myself.
The flesh I must pull from my flesh
is my own, depositing another in its place.
I am weary
of all this changing, the shape I
might not want or want to know
when this is done.
But this is all we do.
the breathing deep, the labored crying
as we become what we’ll become
and change again.
Paterson/Santa Fe / by Stephen Hollaway
After the dog ate every poem I wrote
Basho appeared with a blank scroll:
Snow on adobe,
peaks from a plaza, white dunes
waiting like silence.
Poem Twelve: More Notes on Eclipse / by ava m. hu
We are lit up by strange things.
The dark calligraphy of the moon,
things the night won’t tell you-
We won’t live forever,
but yet, we are still brave.
The earth is marked
by the tongues
of yellow rivers.
Day by day,
we lose gravity.
I pour water into a sieve.
I fill the cup again and again,
until the water runs clear.
The way the body floats
is the way we find lightness.
Put your finger on the moon.
Make light appear
thing, your hands,
just like the light
from a speeding train.
Poem 12 / by Liza Katz
One word from you, and I found myself
blanched and slivered as almonds
we put that night with green beans,
garlic, oil-glistened. One drink from you
to thaw a memory, then slur it
like speech or candle wax. I compensate
by eating my entire plate. Outside,
planets roll with the weight of years,
tides. Bay winds shake the house.
The Physics of Hope / by Matthew Landrum
Try to recollect what you learned about displacement,
the way water is pushed aside by the hollow space of a boat,
how the heart is held in suspension by an absence.
Time spent waiting at the quayside for a ferry to arrive
is the same as other time; its derivative will show the rate
of change of the unseen prow’s progress as it cuts its way
through the chop of a gray Sunday sea (though it seems longer).
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When you pushed, he ran, a body in motion. Now the question.
Observation will decide whether the boxed cat is alive or dead,
whether the boy stands up this meeting arranged months before
or steps off the gangway with a fistful of drugstore carnations
hidden behind his back. Consider the factors at play ––
friction, momentum, gravity, trajectory, entanglement ––
as the foghorn sounds in the distance. Hard to calculate
the physics of hope against hope. If energy is not created
or destroyed, maybe love, once created, can be enduring.
That equation will soon solve itself and the future resolve
into the facts that eventually make up a life.
Bless me please / by Clyde Long
Not the dogs, not the night air,
not the Acacia trees —
tissues please for these sneeze
seizures that possess me.
Can I hear a Bless You fifteen times?
Enough geshundheits to quell
my suffering nose’s funny bone?
I’m not laughing, see my rheumy eyes,
my incapacity to steer a straight line?
Footnote: In some states sneezes may
constitute an Act of God, not negligence.
Back to my plight, I prefer to blame
the four dogs, who by the way never sneeze.
It’s medieval to blame the night air,
“bad humours” or implied late night sins.
The Acacias — maybe so, those
weed trees from Down Under.
But nope, no more immigrant blaming and
I really can’t say sneezes are imported.
It’s solely on me, this spectacle I inflict
on my family (including the dogs).
After it’s over I feel great —
is that wrong?
Day 11 / Poems 11
Cigarette Break on the South Side / by Catharine Batsios
I ask myself about Paulie who walked along
Brereton St., up and down the double yellow line,
said it was the only way he traveled,
said he was on the edge of the Earth,
I ask why my Step-Sister had to
write a diary full of letters to Paulie
while we lied in bed and watched
Mary Tyler Moore on her smartphone,
why she mourned a man we only met
because it was midnight on Easter Sunday
and we were rolling a joint
on the church steps next door.
I asked about Carlene at the opposite platform,
Red Line to make it home,
who called me not ‘Love’ but ‘a Love’
and wished us both a happy early birthday
before she vanished.
I ask why I can never, ever, for two states now,
hold on to my left glove for more than a week,
I ask where to find the perfect cup of terrible coffee
to warm my left hand,
I ask about the Red Theater,
about that game we play called
‘give it a name’
and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to name anything,
I ask until atmospheric pressure is
oppressive with demands,
and it starts to rain.
In the night, blurred by wet pavement,
the answers hung
like a strand of prayer flags.
The Best Things in Life Are. . . Stream of Consciousness / by J. Peter Bergman
Free from the inside out, I believed once,
and never caught up in the travesty
life paints as its masterpiece, half in oil, half in water
color me blue.
What is a person supposed to assume
when the best laid plans go awry
where loved ones wait for decisions as to
why nothing is
how it’s supposed to be?
I am irregular; that I know.
Suit jackets don’t come in my size any
longer than the pants do when I try them on.
Do all women fawn on hot abs
scents disturb the scents
established in the early hours daily.
Need I repeat those queries, I wondered once.
I thought, therefore I once was,
although evidence suggests otherwise and
relevance suggests otherwise again and
added up the results are negligible, in-
eligible for reconsideration.
To be scammed is our unofficial duty it
would seem to me to be me to see to.
Fleeing is essential
Fleeing is critical
Fleeing is immovable motion
regardless of any balm, salve or potion.
I only write what is dictated by forces
outside my control. They’re free –
remember free? – it’s what the best things are.
The best things in life are, anyway. Who
really knows what the best things are?
There’s a conscious stream of consciousness and
an unconscious stream as well and it’s just
this side of Hell to find yourself down that
unbreachable wellness. Where you can lose sight
of the reach of your mind’s arm is where most
people live while alive. Everywhere else is
elsewhere. And you know what?
I love to rhyme,
all the time,
on a dime,
it’s a sim-
under the skin reaction for me.
And the best rhymes in life are free.
They ping there for you and me,
so I’ll rhyme if I want to and
won’t if I want to, and
that’s how it is where
the best things in life are.
Ivory Cocktails, Green Olives, and Blue Bottles / by Celaine Charles
Rosy chitchat lifts my chin
Swearing off fatigue
And busyness, while
Ivory cocktails, green olives,
On wooden tables with iron stands,
Lift me up
At the end
Of a l o n g week.
I glance about my surroundings –
Patrons sprinkled like frost on my nose
Though I have been blessed
With the best seat in the house.
Fireplace on crispy night
Orange flames warm
Against gray stones,
Like the salmon dish I know I want.
Where did the waiter go?
It doesn’t matter, because
I’m called by the flames.
Blue bottles line the mantel,
Dozens of them.
I wonder what poured
From their long sleek necks,
I google it,
Find them online,
A dozen for $19.99.
Nothing pours out,
Nothing at all.
For a minute I’m let down,
Only a true minute because
The faux rustic feeling brings me back
To a time I’ve only heard
A time when listening was valued over talking,
Over wasted words
Golden chatter sings
With crackling blaze
Shining an amber glow in the room,
In this perfect spot.
Now, boxes are checked –
Even with blue bottles for $19.99
And above the fireplace
A red painted picture reads,
“Life needs more green lights.”
I can’t disagree,
Ordering another drink.
Failure to Thrive / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
In the Old Testament the wanderer’s always
promised land flowing with milk and honey.
I thought that meant it ran in streams or bubbled up
like sticky hot springs from the ground.
Sort of how my friend thought signs for Falling Rock
meant that rock was always falling from the sky, like pebbled rain,
impressed by her father’s driving skills at dodging every single one.
Now I know the phrase means easy living, docile cows, and
bees who yield up hives without a sting.
Another friend brought home her first born baby
on the night I went to visit. It was our first time to play at
motherhood when her own mother left the house, the newborn
squawking as we laid her on a knee and tried to force her
mouth to latch. Her tiny cries reminded us of birds
awake in nests, nothing but red-throated fury,
her spindly arms and legs quivering with need, and
no amount of suck would make her stop.
It seems wrong to call it failure when it’s not
the baby’s fault there’s not enough.
And despite what you may have heard,
a woman’s not terrain. What’s natural
may not always be easy.
First Laugh / by Stephen Hollaway
Whoever makes a Navajo baby laugh
for the first time is given a duty:
to host what they call the First Laugh Party,
invite neighbors and kin to celebrate
this step in becoming human and one of us.
The parents bring food to the laugh-stimulator’s
house, a feast in the happy baby’s honor.
A laugh accomplishes nothing, is not a step
toward independence. It is pure delight,
purposeless as love itself, basic.
A laugh gets the silliness of peek-a-boo
rather than the fear, understands
a fellow human sticking his face in yours
is harmless, that a poke in the belly
means I like this body that is you.
Who knows what’s on a baby’s mind, but some
like to think it means baby’s already
in on the joke: so much makes no sense,
the contrast with what we expect is stark.
You might as well start laughing. Work
will come soon enough, baby, the walk,
the talk, the rote, the grind. Not now.
Poem Eleven: Prophecy / by ava m. hu
The language of tea leaves
as they settle into the cup.
The way chrysanthemum flowers
are captured in porcelain.
Do you create your own
We are wildflowers
in the darkness.
We capture the last
of the fireflies.
Always sun swallow
moon- this eclipse has
a brighter mouth, than
Fairy Tale / by Liza Katz
More of a parable, really: ethereal,
grounded only by other princesses,
plainer, who ran away from home,
who wouldn’t wake. Other queens,
vainer. Their day-glo veins pouring
poison pills into swollen tissue.
The teeth they cut on glass fruit,
paper-sharp. This is not a fairy tale.
This is for the beauty, and for
the women who chased it down:
a pictograph, a map through
the thicket, another testament.
Interior Space / by Matthew Landrum
The new apartment –– white plaster walls,
a floor of wide dark planks, high ceilings.
It could be put together with art for color,
an area rug for accent, a low cloth sofa.
shelves filled with carefully selected novels,
Room –– noun –– a physical space and also
the idea of capacity. It all means a place to be.
The hardwood needs oil soap. Some sockets
won’t hold a plug. But with work and time,
life will sort out. Maybe here it will fit.
Pack it up / by Clyde Long
Shadow man, doorway man,
man in sleeping bag man,
Vietnam man, Afghanistan man,
man a son, man a dad man
a brother, uncle, long lost friend.
Man in cold shadows, man alone
in his predicament, not the first.
Gaudy neon beer lights beckon
red and green lit above him.
Lain on sidewalk he beckons,
an eye glimmer gesture seeing
my bag with clamshell containers —
still warm gnocchi, poached salmon
hanging from my overfed hand.
I’d nodded, pack it up, too delicious
to waste. And it was. It’s his now.
Handoff made, smile gained.
Lady two doors down tilts her chin,
what you so happy about?
Day 10 / Poems 10
Street Food/Requiem Shark / by Catharine Batsios
& you’re guilty & grateful for gentrification,
(in Detroit, only night that surrounds
white people gets a streetlight)
as you cross parking lots, sewer grates,
your Mako sublimates when you look directly
into her, as you walk,
brushes you as she passes,
on Prentis & Second you’ve made yourself a meal.
You marinate in the thought of diner drip coffee
paired with learning how to smoke, the bottomless eyes
you’d wait all night for, & used to, & still do
your requiem shark is thinking of hands full of hair,
the smell of paint, fresh blood on the sawblade.
You know that the best food comes from the back fat
of gas stations or liquor stores,
stewed meat the color of cinnabar,
served with various flat breads,
that sprays and coats, flavoring your skin
burns your nailbeds in the places where
you’ve chewed thinking of Touch,
and how you can avoid seeing her,
streetlight-astigmatism-mirage that she is,
requiem shark, your Mako
who follows you home on nights
when city stars look more like white oleander.
Buffet / by J. Peter Bergman
What you choose to add to your plate
from the choices you find on the table
are the obvious ones that will let you enable
the usual feelings you don’t need to rate.
It’s a tremulous moment when you overreach
to include something you’ve never wanted
and it looks oh, so strange, you feel so disenchanted
you can’t even exercise power over speech.
From the first timid bite of sensational stuff
you rejoice for each subsequent bit
that you take in your mouth, it is succulent, it
makes you cry, make you smile; its enough.
It’s the same with your choices throughout all your life
as you find when you move from your center
towards the darkness, the strangeness, the door that you enter
that beckons you on, makes you move through your strife.
Yes, like a buffet table set up for many
the world has its sweetly familiar, its odd,
to pick from this plenty you just need to prod
yourself to be open to all and to any.
Buffet me a galaxy all my life through
and set me among all its bright and dim stars
to ponder those millions of constellate spars
until I find something I like much as I do like you.
Always, More or Less / by Celaine Charles
I have always been this way
With feathers in my hair
Wanting, more or less
To be someone
I hear your riddles
I feel your shame
I wonder, more or less
That I should be afraid
That I could stand
I see a mirror
Within your eyes
I blink, more or less
To reflect back
Nothing that I have
Is anything you want
Or need, more or less
And I hold out
The way you are
With feathers in your hair
Speaking, more or less
Of me and you
Taking the Baby to See Rothko at the National Gallery / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Fifteen minutes before closing
seems like more time than we’ll need
to see all there is to see of Rothko’s blocks
of color, the hungry purples smeared
on canvases, the primal reds. The baby likes
the moving walkway, mobiles, flickering lights, the giant
blueberry-colored rooster crowing at the city from the roof.
I assume abstract expressionists will be a bit
beyond his comprehension, forgetting that they’re art
stripped down to form, to line and color, to oval and ochre,
to rectangle and ultramarine, so that when his babbles echo
off the spaces in the Rothko room, I feel I like he understands
it more than I will, pre-verbal, full of awe, himself
another masterpiece of bright, unsayable things.
Ars Adobe / by Stephen Hollaway
To make a poem as solid as an adobe church:
permit no decoration, only the beams
exposed on the outside which support the structure:
allow no material one could call fancy,
only the clay already present, mixed
with sand and mica, something to harden it:
expose it to the sun and wait: smooth
the corners and edges as if worn by time,
an illusion we know, but make it seem that nature’s
hand has done its work: situate it
just off a plaza populated,
but set it in the midst of high desert,
in both crowd and solitude, accessible
but far away: let winter light shine
on it but let the day be warm as spring:
and let it reach high, with bells in its towers
that speak the possibility of ringing.
Poem Ten / by ava m. hu
Are we red leaves laying back
on a slow moving river?
Are we solitary clouds
floating down a blue mountain?
Are we like two moons tied around
each other’s wrists?
Have we forgotten the world?
These letters like leaves
appearing on winter trees.
These letters, the same as
the condensation of your breath,
the same as the warmth
it takes to be alive-
if my falling leaves were
the same as your hands
against your chest as you sleep-
Have we forgotten the world?
The smell of oranges keeps us awake.
We recite love poetry to stay alive
like night birds do, we sing
all night long.
Poem 10 / by Liza Katz
Winter was made of welcome signs and black ice.
You say the name of every small town sliced
by the interstate: Though you’ve relearned the accent,
its layered vowels, sloughed-off consonants,
you don’t know how to be from where you’re from.
In the days of expensive postage and the thrum
of the dial tone, the city lights were ravenous,
and every passageway was open. Janus,
that two-faced god: Looking back
from dated photos wearing hats
and overcoats, drenched in ochre; then
looking forward: it’s New Year’s Eve again,
a symphony of crushed ice and velvet,
free fall of strobe light shavings. You let
another drink sluice your memory clean.
Blot out another image of home: the screen
porch heavy with rotted furniture, ice-crusted shadows,
while a ring of flowers freezes by the window.
Inheritance / by Matthew Landrum
Northern child, genetic gravity will call you southward
where cornfields give way to rock outcroppings, testamentary
to the uplift of creation. From soldering radios
at the AC Delco plant in Kokomo, from welding pipeline
along the Michigan shore, from a principal’s office in Dallas,
your forebears came home one by one. Though you will not,
your heart will pull toward Arkansas (no escaping your source).
This is what it means to be neither here nor there.
Justitia and poets / by Clyde Long
Poets and lawyers are a potent mix,
they command language and law
parsing this bullshit tsunami.
Defenders of what we can lose.
Lady Justice, she of the blindfold,
scales of justice, double-edged sword,
she of ancient millenial lineage
of Egypt, Greece, Rome —
she labored in poetry with us today.
Thousands of poets spoke and wrote
in this brutal gray city of DC.
Justitia, too, wrote and spoke her truth.
She sat before a bench quill in hand,
blindfold lifted to view reason, intent.
Her quill scratched across parchment
scribing line after line.
When the ink was dry she stood
and read her words.
As the sun set justice was done.
— of Ninth Circuit ruling in State of Washington vs. Trump,
AWP, Day 2
Day 9 / Poems 9
Shark–Another Gliding Metal / by Catharine Batsios
Touch is a Mako shark,
at first I latch onto her dorsal,
trail behind her like a soft parade of vermilion skin
and listen as she swims down Prentis
& Second. Was a time
when Touch was just something small,
amphibious, couldn’t reach both sides of the creek,
sat on stones in the middle, counting stars
wild enough to show over traffic lights,
waited for a tangle of creeping phlox
to make a carpet for the way home in the dark. Was a time
Touch was mercurial
taught me to keep a knife in my boot.
On my Birthday, Touch gave me an ID bracelet—If found,
please return to: The Streets.
Touch taught me that on occasion,
when cut open,
the beloved may bleed streetlamps
instead of remorse.
Her skin makes music
like a steel-cast drum
when she moves against the gravel,
& here we are, on the corner,
looking up. Touch has peeled
me like a wetted label on a
has turned everything to water,
will be circling her chum
as I wade home in the dark.
Closing Files / by J. Peter Bergman
Looking back ten years in my e-mail files
I see names I don’t know, themes half-recalled.
I want to open and read them, but my wiles
Turn my impulse into hot-stoves that scald.
Losing the past, without manila folders,
Loosing the strain that I sense in my shoulders,
Stepping aside, missing out on the boulders
That threaten to crush me, my spirits, my ghosts.
As I meander through e-mails forgotten
Where do I locate my purpose, my hopes?
Wanting to know all about what went rotten
Defeating the dreams as I kicked off hemp ropes.
Holding my own hands when no one was helping,
Thinking of animals, weaning and whelping,
Moving apart from the noise I’d been yelping
As, motionless, I was divorcing my hosts.
Give it up, give it up, move on, get going,
Time to delete all those files that I’ve saved.
Leaving the past like a movie still showing,
Over-romantic, yet slightly depraved.
Over-romantic and somewhat indulgent,
Over-emphatic and always on point,
Over-seductive and nearly effulgent
Over-pathetic and so out-of-joint.
Risking the losses of body-parts bleeding
Raking the refuse of needless flim-flam,
Closing out files that I’m no longer needing,
For I have discovered who I really am.
Steel and Sunsets / by Celaine Charles
My mama’s mama had no mama
Death stole her far away
But she didn’t cry
She stood like steel
And raised her arms –
She was made of sunsets
Perfect, perfect, perfect
My mama had to be
And she was
And she is, at least she tried
That’s what she told me
When she ripped out her seams
Tore her stiches through and through
To sew more impeccably
Than she had already proved,
Her mama’s smile
The setting sun
The one she carried on –
My mama made her choice
Then was gifted just the same
My mama chose
Her baby black
With eyes, blue ocean breeze
But this mama was a Mama
Who was also chosen back
Baby blonde came in the morning
Golden sunrise as a craft
Her gift to carry off to sea
Floating mama memories
Soon to be –
Made of steel
Two baby girls
To rock to sleep
Across the ocean brave
My mama sang
Raised her arms
And cut her hair
Auburn tresses washed away
Water swirling auric rouge
But my mama didn’t cry
We bathed in morning dew
She didn’t need the fuss
As she was made –
She’s a mama
From a mama
With no mama
In her past,
She didn’t cry
She didn’t sink
She raised her arms
And laughed –
Steel voyage on the waters
The wind no longer in her hair
She led the light a plenty for
Her baby girls to share
Happy Birthday to my mama
In the ship
To light my way
And now your sunsets
Are my sunsets
I remember just the same
The strongest woman
I should ever know
Yet golden underneath
My mama’s strong as steel,
As I step upon the bank
I raise my arms
In thanks –
She is made of sunsets
The Interior of Oude Kerk, Amsterdam: Emmanuel de Witte / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
In the corner
doused in angled light
that spills over her bundled hair
and shoulders, and the basket
holding round loaves wrapped
in linen, she nurses a child
who looks old enough to walk,
and another waits for them
in shadows with his mangy dog.
Who knows if this is the painter’s
Madonna and child, the middle-class
Dutch version of divinity, both
common and completely out-of-place.
She is not robed in color on the walls.
Her sturdy arms and legs have been
lifting the milk-jugs and the children
and wrestling with that dog over kitchen
scraps. And I can tell you she is tired,
tired down to the marrow of her bones,
much too tired to tarry here much longer
modeling as the Holy Mother with this
home-spun basket of Eucharistic bread.
The baby’s crying and no doubt
there are meals to make beyond the one
that’s made of her own body. I can hear her
scolding the painter as she sits, her head
spinning with all the rough chores that stand
between her and the moment she lies down
on her 17th-century bed at last, unwraps
her hair from its linen halo and finally sleeps.
Getting Oriented to This World / by Stephen Hollaway
We have been here before: standing on our head
to reorient ourselves, feet unwilling
to accept nothing as their base, our brains
filling with blood, our core exhausted;
we fall on the tumbling mats we tried to make
our ceiling. On them we sit crossways
as if we knew how to meditate,
as if we could breathe deep of unreality
and find fantastic peace, our minds
flipping our vision upside down
so we can function in the gravity
of the situation.
. . . . . . . . . . We have lost
elections before and senseless wars,
times of jokers and fools and monstrous liars.
We try to remember the world did not end,
we are still here, there were always
the possible kindnesses, bread broken together,
talk of what was and might still be.
And yet we tire when we see the trend,
hopes frittered away, justice denied.
We sang, once, as if the kingdom had come,
as if we had grown into a new humanity,
but more than once the disappointment came—
not just in leaders but in ourselves the people.
We wrapped our bodies around the rock as it rolled
down the mountain once again, stopping
with our faces low, peering at that peak
where righteousness and mercy surely dwell,
after every tumble less sure than the last.
Poem Nine / by ava m. hu
The world turns white, as
if to hold her breath while
the white crane stretches
his snowy wings.
Poem 9 / by Liza Katz
60 degrees this morning, winter storm tonight.
Confused gulls gather on the buoys,
oakum’s plain toughness holding them
over the whitecaps. They say Antarctica
is cracking: no link to global warming
or the rising tides, just a simple drift.
Still, something feels off. As the chasm
widens, an icy stream rushes through,
spawning islands and islands. Calving,
they call it. The continent, more fluid
than it’s ever been, ceases to be a continent,
as the moon sinks under the bay, floating
on a swale of diaphanous clouds.
More Texts for William / by Matthew Landrum
In Euripides, women were carried off from fall of Troy — now they aren’t allowed to cross the border to flee the bombed out ruins of Aleppo.
In the yard, cicadas practice resurrection, rising up from the summer grass while we mistake their vibrations and reach for our smartphones.
Let’s mix our metaphors, hold our horses close to the chest, talk about elephants in the same boat, carry owls to Newcastle, coal to Athens.
Taken far enough, even the absurd becomes ineffable. Browsing the web today I found a digitalized version of the braille edition of playboy.
Over beer and tacos at Creston Brewery, Alexis said that when you use all one hundred and forty characters in a tweet it’s called twooshing.
RIP World’s Foremost Authority / by Clyde Long
What informed Professor Irwin Corey?
The intellectual blather master
gathered his lessons on the go,
escaped the Hebrew Orphan Asylum,
his New York City home, hopped
boxcars all the way to LA.
On McCarthy’s blacklist he demurred,
I’m no Communist, I’m an anarchist.
Even Ayn Rand his polar opposite was
a fan of the Professor’s literary parody.
San Francisco beatniks ate up his act
at the hungry i club across Columbus
from Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books.
In his old age he panhandled as performance
art, bought medical supplies for Cuban kids.
At over 100 he was a Bernie guy and lived
to see his deathless admonition come true:
If we don’t change direction soon
we’ll end up where we’re going.
Day 8 / Poems 8
Thalassophobia: A Bestiary / by Catharine Batsios
Giant Squid greed wraps itself around the good days,
eight arms of suction paralysis
can tell you that the bodies I’ve loved
show concentric circles of
just until the end of the day, just until
the work is done, just until
is the call of Giant Squid greed,
low utterance under scar tissue,
skin healed over and swimming away,
Giant Squid greed under deep ridges,
blossoms like some monstrous chrysanthemum
then converges, tentacle-weave steeling
what little light comes to where we dive so deep.
I fear for the bodies I’ve loved, which does not include
on the bad days where a beak the size
of a New York apartment is where I live.
Chinese Food / by J. Peter Bergman
When I want it, I want it badly
though it ends up making me so shy.
I can’t tell you exactly why
but I just have to have it.
Whether pork or beef or chicken,
shrimp or fish or vegetary,
if I order it I never vary
when I choose to choose it.
It’s all in the sauce.
I love it because,
there’s an element of mystery
in this ancient food-art history
that presents itself in sauce.
In its vibrant viscous volume
there’s a very velour vagueness;
I can sample the subtle strangeness;
I can hold the herbal heat.
A remarkably rare resonance
that spells specialty speciousnance,
(from the Latin, speciosus: plausible)
it’s the sauces, they’re my cause.
Give me garlic, or give me black vinegar.
Give me lobster or Cantonese.
I can tell you with feisty ease
that I love it how the Chinese love it.
Chinese food, I’ve raved,
never booed, or banned, or refused.
I can never ever be confused
about lovely, luscious, craved and coveted
An Impasse in the Universe / by Celaine Charles
The day runs long into night
On silent melodies
In quiet corners,
In frequencies only I can hear,
In patterns and beats only my feet can find.
I dance through life.
Maybe my neighbor dances too.
My tune sweeps on
As I move
Sometimes a slow waltz
I sway with my chin held tight to keep rhythm
Breathing with the universe.
Together we carry the weight,
For a while
My heart sways in step.
I let it lead while I rest
Is the way of the universe,
Or so I thought…
Then energy ignites!
Slow . . Movements . . Stop.
Mosh pit opens
A new dance.
Drum beats in my heart.
I hear no verse, but I feel – Consider this!
Thumping beats stretch my skin – Comprehend that!
Can’t you hear it?
Did you try?
The bells chime –
Pealing in wrong places
I cover my ears
Wait out the commotion,
And in the wake,
Various percussions beat – don’t forget
Strings pluck pitches – to remember
Horns clang thoughts – I think I forgot
I can’t hear my song
In the noise.
Though . . . . . . from my corner,
I can’t hear your song.
I can’t dance to this tune.
Maybe my neighbor can’t dance, too.
On this long night
With no day…
Perhaps an impasse in the universe.
Otherwise / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Last month the test was negative, and another you did not cohere.
They measured blood in little vials, gave me pills to make
the bleeding come or go and every morning, I dipped
a sticky slip of paper in a little cup. Twice they laid me
out on a table, peering in to see if you were
there. But you were not. There was not
even a you to not be, so nothing
has been lost at all. Just time.
It’s hard not to think how things might
be if you were. My belly growing taut or thick,
my mind carving open spaces for you in our ordered
lives, and how we’d rearrange, dust off the bassinette. But every
month’s an otherwise, each possible streams away from us, swept off
like seedlings washed downhill by rain. This the nature of things. What finally
comes to being comes with shadows, carries with it all the absences that rest
The Double Cottonwood / by Stephen Hollaway
Wider than a family could reach around,
the cottonwood stands implausibly
corralled by a modern sidewalk laid
over Impressionist-era roots.
Its base is wide, a pedestal for trunks,
bulging out like brains under pressure
or rock formations worn by long wind.
Out of that mass two trunks rise
then branch and branch again, limbs giving birth
to frail children now naked but in spring
clothed in white, popping open to show
both the fluff and solidity of being.
The bark has the deep wrinkles of age
a bird could hide in, flowing vertical
like icicles, as if life had run down
and puddled a bit, like an old lady
with swollen feet.
. . . . . . . . . Still there is no sign
of weakness in the arms raised high,
not praying but signaling an ancient victory.
There is no trembling, no flinching
from the steady wind: we shall outlast.
A plaque from the O’Keeffe celebrates
the story that it started as two trees,
though now for a century one life.
What negotiations must have taken
place before they merged, what complex
shedding of bark before they formed one skin!
Have they forgotten now which roots were yours
and which were mine, the line erased between
mine and yours? And yet two trunks rise
from one base, filling the space with branches
as if they had a plan. Proximity,
necessity, and the urge upward all
played a part, but mystery, that too.
Poem Eight, Eclipse / by ava m. hu
Blood is like a parachute.
The word, eclipse, means
to eat. The moon eaten
by moon, the mouth
or door to heaven, goes dark.
If I were to you, the way we
reach for one another, as if
we could eclipse the darkness,
the way blood is like a parachute.
Floods and storms take their toll.
Oceans, rough. Rivers, overflow.
Light after light, two invading
mirrors, after it’s all over,
will we become weightless?
(Of a celestial body)
obscure the light from
or to (another celestial body).
Somebody cry wolf.
Put your two hands
to your mouth, like a flute.
Blood is like a parachute.
+wikipedia definition of eclipse
Poem 8 / by Liza Katz
Kristina, in the pixelated dark,
pulls a woolen shawl around her shoulders,
locks her bedroom door to keep the demons out.
I’ve shared houses with demons. Doors don’t stop
their ebbs and fluxes through a restless mind.
They seep instead into and out of rooms
through fault lines in the mirrors, the whir and cut
of the ceiling fan, through pores in the furniture.
Peering at you as if from behind a scrim.
Even at daybreak, you know they have been there.
They leave vestiges of themselves: in illness,
a bad habit, the breakage of a branch
from the maple leaning against the bedroom window,
the robin’s nest clattering to the grass.
Kristina, across the bay, a flotilla
of mourners rises to greet you, their arms draped
in sable, in slate. I open the bedroom door,
offering them at least some chance of exit.
At University / by Matthew Landrum
I didn’t know you at first, and then I did. You told me what the breeze spoke,
how you were convinced you would die on a summer afternoon. I didn’t take it
for a prophecy then. We listened to Twisted Sister and Mahler on shared earbuds,
laughed at the first greening of the fields. Sunlight poured through open windows
into your room where we kissed for hours on your pallet bed. The calendar pages
unfolded. The blonde down on your cheeks caught the light. I knew you then
but now what do I know? A recollection of shoulder blades, cicada stammering
in the vernal sway of night, the finality of a star blinking out above the mountain.
It’s who you bring with ya / by Clyde Long
She with baby in shopping cart
exclaims, complains holding forth.
Those who pass her smile, a new mom
enriching her child with adult words,
look at how they mirror faces!
He in camo jeans cradling a shotgun.
Bass Pro Shop outfitted, muddy,
a flat coated retriever at his hip,
“we slaughtered them today boy!”
Birders nod knowing ecology.
Deranged lady, unkempt, maybe meth
harangues the air, clears the aisle.
Surreptitious phone photos taken,
some follow her, some flee,
store security carefully surrounds her.
Duck poacher brandishing a gun
a lone wolf dressed to kill
disrupting the peace of this place,
hostile in his swagger, armed,
who knows what he’ll do next?!
Day 7 / Poems 7
Thalassophobia/Fear of the Sea / by Catharine Batsios
After Jamaal May
I think of the bodies of the people I’ve loved
as we are a sameness/one drop
in the sea/containing the whole sea
the sound of hands through hair is the far-off
wave, low tide of forehead I welcome
to my breast.
I fear for the bodies that I have loved,
bioluminescence mutated out of necessity
for lifetimes without light
for all the caverns we are,
for the giant squid greed wrapping its entire self
around the good days, leaving a mark like
told you so, or I’m never out of reach.
All the bodies I’ve loved look for a message in a bottle
they/we wrote love notes and carry them
we are touch without thinking the word
before the event, implicitly
we are the feeling of one-another
our bodies pulled across the horizon/
visual metaphor of the unknown/un-happened
& always full.
The bodies I’ve loved happen all at once
with glass breaking on the street at night
& gunshots or fireworks?
& a phone call to all the drops in the sea
to make sure we made it through the night.
Oh, B & E, A Mini-Ode / by J. Peter Bergman
Two friends of mine,
Bernie and Ernie (yes, that’s real)
passed away within seven weeks,
though they weren’t very close (that’s how they’d feel).
Both their wives were southern-born
while they were northerners (hmmm, what’s the appeal?)
and they both were in the same profession.
Ernie earned his living writing slogans, writing ads
Bernie earned his living with his drumsticks, brushes, scads
of dance bands; social sessions always brought from Ernie
puns that made sanes into mads,
like the fight we had when jokes went too the bad-sides.
Bernie was a drummer while
Ernie was a salesman (that’s a drummer, too).
Bernie played in Broadway bands
and Ernie played with sloganed puns (all through the summer, too).
I knew them through the same years
and now they share my same tears (does that sound dumber, too?).
I’ll miss them both, that ends my lame confession.
Conversations on a Snow Day / by Celaine Charles
Tools and long board strewn across my living room floor.
Son and his friend – extremely focused.
“Taking the trucks and wheels off so we can snowboard down the stairs at the skate park.”
Silent thoughts race.
Quality of childhood wins.
On a walk around my block,
I come upon a woman and
A ginormous snowball.
“Well, this is a predicament.”
Noticing the blocked red van.
“Yes!” The woman smiled.
She was unworried.
Memories of my childhood school playground came to mind.
Multiple kids pushing snowballs,
This way and that.
The kind that never came to be
They stayed forever bottoms until surrounded by a sea of soggy grass.
Because they were too…
“Can I help you?” I ask.
“Oh no, my daughter is getting a shovel. We’re looking forward to the adventure.”
“The silver lining.” My own daughter later mentioned on the phone.
“Best of luck.”
…And thanks for the memory flashback.
I trudged on toward home, with slushy steps,
And a smile.
Robin redbreast out my kitchen window.
“Oh look, there’s two.”
Poor birds are probably hungry,
The world is blanketed in thick white arctic snow.
“Whoops!” Second robin redbreast missed,
Attempted landing – fail.
Did the fence post move?
Nope, but imagine his surprise!
You can’t land on seven inches of fluff.
“Sorry, little bird.”
He didn’t respond,
But my inspiration exploded,
Onto the page, in this poem!
Robin slips on imaginary banana peel –
“That’s always funny, right?!”
And that’s three –
Three moments to carry in my pocket
On a snow day.
St. John’s College, 7 a.m. / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
I hold a cup of light,
drink slow while sparrows
dart the day awake.
The sky turns inside
out and pools in the valley,
Green-grey olive leaves droop
from soggy branches,
Root, I tell my feet, root
and be planted, settle
into your heels,
push down into this unquiet.
Lift your small cup
to be filled.
The Secret of Mormon Joe / by Stephen Hollaway
I’ve always known that Mormons hid secrets:
that holy underwear, the Temple closed to Gentiles,
and how the Grindstaffs, our neighbors, knew
by an oracle that they would have
five boys and five girls to cram
into the three-bedroom house by ours.
I never dreamed of this, or maybe I did:
the camera focused on a spokesman for the church:
“Most people have no idea how
LDS sacraments can be.”
Then a shot of people coming forward
in white shirts and narrow ties to a table.
At first they acted like the Presbyterians
in the church I went to Sunday: ate the bread,
swallowed down a tiny shot glass
of unfermented juice, body and blood.
But then the secret part: each was handed
a twelve-ounce paper cup of black coffee.
They had to peel off the plastic lid
and place it in the box for plastics.
They stood, with cup clasped in two hands
like a prayer or a chalice, steam
rising bitter into saint nostrils,
and then they sipped, slowly, the elixir
forbidden in the world but shared in secret.
The cup was placed in the recycling bin
for paper, then the satiated went
to their pews. This happens once a month,
the newsman said; it’s called the feast of love.
It’s obvious that coffee is a sacrament—
in my church, too—community in cups,
opening the mind to God, the heart
to neighbor, keeping us from sleeping through
the dream of God. The greatest blasphemy
is decaf, the form of godliness without
its power, and even worse the secret decaf
masquerading as joe. May it turn green
in the cup and be spilled like Onan’s seed.
May the coffeemaker’s tongue cleave
to the roof of her mouth. May the sacrament
be kept pure and black and hot forever.
Poem Seven: Notes on the Milky Way / by ava m. hu
Moon cow, river of milk,
straw thief’s way, lonely daughter’s
embers, the queen’s pin who draws
the silver water who separates
lovers, the bridge made of the wings
of magpies for them to meet, map
birds use to fly to southern lands,
stars fallen from her silvery veil,
the heaven’s river creek,
monster water, mother’s spilled
milk, foam rising from the lower world
by celestial winds, snake eating milk,
the churn of the milky ocean, the sky
path, fallen to the earth once in ruins,
held up by two gods turned into trees,
keepsake of fallen feathers,
the road who crosses death’s
shoulders, is your voice
the only sound,
the only sound,
the sun or moon
to end, this eclipse.
Poem 7 / by Liza Katz
At dawn, outside the subway,
someone’s picking through trash.
You seek out breaths between
silhouettes of strangers, checkers
of negative space. Rain heels you
from the roots up. Commuters seal
themselves in slickers, umbrellas bloom
like mushrooms. In the tunnel of your
memory, wind’s every slalom through
your shrouds and stays, you forgot the sky
coated you with its geometry, its angular
moon a code your iPhone could demystify.
In the throbbing tunnel, its bruise
and ache, you forgot there was a sky.
American Carnage / by Matthew Landrum
Black earth –– bottomlands, sloughs –– cotton and rice fields bisected
by a ribbon of highway –– the wayside is specked with defunct towns,
barely more than beautiful names: McCrory, Augusta, Velvet Ridge.
I turn them over and over in my mouth as the myth of America turns
over like the engine of a rusted Chevy S-10, catching on the fourth try.
It turns too like dictionary pages, fingers finding between loser and love ––
lost generation, loudmouth, lotus-eater. Sometimes the myth seems visible
glimpsed in the rearview: brick downtowns, light-catch on the White River.
I turn it over in my mind as the road turns and follows the curving bank,
the carnage of the past still visible in the sign for Negro Head Corner,
the carnage of the future crackling like the lit fuse of a firecracker
as news plays on the radio and a politician speaks of Middle America.
The myth leaves no middle ground. The politician’s turn of phrase
turns shuttered shops and dilapidated neighborhoods into a weapon,
inaugurates a new era with a turn of the myth. The road turns southward
toward Searcy and Pangburn where, at the horizon, the hills begin to lift.
Motorcycle: Sounds of love / by Clyde Long
Restless at 28, prime life crisis,
heartbreaking attempts at kids,
no kid yet.
So maybe a growling motorcycle,
a blatting badass balm, seize life,
road’s wind in my eyes?
Born not to be wild, careful guy I am,
testing a thin airmail envelope.
Classes, of course I took classes,
learned proficiency, got certified.
It was a thrill beyond mountain biking,
doing 70, a better helmet but
the oops is death or paraplegia,
brain puree in a bucket.
Each ride my wife feared
terrible news announcing my doom.
But she saw me healing
my heart bruises.
Lo and behold a baby blessed us,
a perfect girl attached to my heart.
That death machine downstairs,
its edgy excitement ready to roar —
it was a malignant shadow now.
Upon sober reflection it had to go.
My across the street neighbor’s buddy
said he was looking for a bike.
His left leg was better after losing
its foot to a left-hand turn
in front of his soft-tail Harley.
Timing is everything so I readily
sold him my ride for a song.
Last year reaching 60, kids grown,
I floated to my daughter, maybe
I’ll get a motorcycle again.
It didn’t fly.
We still need you Daddy,
no, just no!
Day 6 / Poems 6
Eggs/Potatoes/Toast / by Catharine Batsios
Yaya’s Restaurant Work
Hashbrowns on porcelain
she peeled potatoes all day
I eat, her hands ache.
Baba, What Happened?
Played CCR, loud
on the radio, now Rush
Limbaugh when age came.
Cooked egg yolk pool smear
you taught me dip, soak with toast.
The yolk starts broken.
Papou’s coat was soft
you wear it after his death,
missed the funeral.
Child inside egg yolk,
food and ritual, she dines
Sunday Night Excuse / by J. Peter Bergman
I can count on the fingers of my left hand
all the poems I’ve written for this challenge.
There remain all the fingers on my right hand,
all the toes on my two feet and both my elbows and my knees.
I have only four real teeth which brings me up to twenty-eight
separate items that I’ve counted in the spirit of
the poetry that’s in my body, through my mind.
. . . . And in all of this I find I’ve taken on a simple task
. . . . to write a poem every day, to have it published
. . . . so the world can see it in its plain mortality.
I know there’s got to be a good one lurking
in the group that I’ll produce.
I know there’s got to be a very bad one,
and I’m thinking
maybe this one is that oh, so sad one
that is bound to reduce
your deeper appreciation of the work
that I can still create, just not tonight
when all that comes to mind is what I’ve pledged to do
while doing it is something that I cannot seem to brew
although the kettle of imagination normally is
steaming, causing my thoughts to be
streaming, bringing something out of me.
We’ll have to – I guess – just wait and see.
Winter’s Visit / by Celaine Charles
Winter snuck through my garden,
And knocking rakes.
Though terrified of Rain’s detection,
She made her way.
I think she feared Season’s change,
To find her voice,
Before Spring asserts triumphantly,
So off she ran.
Full of envy, without thought.
To leave a mark.
Clumsily, she scampered through the gate,
But lost her way.
I watched her through the window,
Her head adrift, forgot her folly,
And spilled her soul.
Her petticoat fell open,
Ivory stars did tumble out amongst
My garden floor.
Stars collected, soft and shy,
Slow at first
Stole a chance to pirouette and sway
Amid the night.
Tenderly, they danced through chill,
To rest upon sleepy potted plants
Belatedly our eyes met,
A mother bent to scoop her nurslings
From their landings.
Fingers grasped in frosty air,
To hide each trace,
Every woven lace of ice embraced
Their only dance.
Stars were spread and left in haste,
Winter spun to abscond my garden,
And she was gone.
Latch / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
What they don’t tell you
is that milk can be a verb,
the specialists who come to tilt
the baby to your breast.
A new-lost modesty sets in as
you wrestle with a nipple toward
the socket of his mouth.
There is an audience assessing
every latch, the rounding of his lips
against the milk-white of my chest.
For now, you are his everything. A
symbiosis starts to form between
your supply and his demand, the most
primal of economies. What they don’t
tell you’s that to milk is still a verb, and
you’re its object.
Distraction / by Stephen Hollaway
Self hangs spiderlike in a web of distractions:
the news of the day, farce in DC, football,
updates from actual friends and my own convictions.
If I pull my feet from the sticky filigree of the world,
where am I to land? More free than Gaga
coming through the roof on cables, I would float
a dandelion parachute blown,
I hope, by that wind I claim to trust,
descending to new-found land and words.
The self-story is that the web is received:
created for consumption, a trap:
but it is made of my own stuff and choices,
its elaborate design my own
intentions, my appetites which hold
me here. If I rip myself from my own
construction of what I pay attention to,
what will fill my thoughts, so disconnected?
No knowledge in advance what words will come.
Poem Six / by ava m. hu
snow turns rain, your hands
expand small flowers.
Poem 6 / by Liza Katz
Only the ducks are out this morning,
their tan crests bobbing above the whitecaps.
And the gulls, flinching from cold.
Snow sweeps the sidewalks,
darts around corners like a stray cat.
Inside, ginger tea. One egg, poaching,
a lonely boat on a tiny tempest.
For the Record / by Matthew Landrum
For the record, you followed me, cannonballing off the Goodwin Bridge
into the muddy waters of the Grand? Remember your first flush of love
that day when you saw the woman who would one day be your ex-wife
poised on a girder in a white bikini, silhouetted against the impossible blue?
I can’t square your long heartache after her affair with the memory of her
putting tea in my shaking hands and making soup when I showed up feverish
after a ten-hour drive. But the past is irretrievable and, despite what you say,
there are hats that will never come back into style. The aisles of metal shelves
in McKay’s Books hold unspeakable wonder, if only we knew how to look.
You told me once that the grooves of in vinyl were a metaphor for the way
we return to a modus operandi even though you knew that sun in February
is always fleeting and short-haired lovers seem less dreamy once the nights
of talking in parking lots are spent and you’re scraping caked coffee grounds
out a French press. Friendship is made of nights and days stitched together
that turn into knowing. There was a year I slept on your sagging orange couch,
long drives passed with phone calls, piano ballads we taught each other
and then sung and resung at the top of our lungs. We only get so many.
And because of years or something else we are the same in so many things.
So, when you dance in the dooryard, when you pretend to not notice an old love
and link arms with a pretty girl –– to incite jealousy or win the breakup,
I don’t know what — I am with you. Neither of us knows anything of French wine
or cosmology, the way the sun ejects loops of its corona or sharks barely evolving
over millions of years but we have sat together after the breakups of marriages,
after the sudden eruption of blood vessels in your sister’s brain that left her children
motherless. We’ve answered the most important question, whether or not
we would jump off a bridge if a friend did. For the record, the answer is yes.
Chalupas Feed Mt. Rushmore / by Clyde Long
Chalupas and granite hold hands,
they promise us America’s justice.
Tyranny fails if our eyes can see.
Mt. Rushmore’s giants saw,
their visions carved in granite.
Graveled voices honed the stones.
Capitalism’s fingers disrobe culture,
Taco Bells chime on time all over.
Naked chicken chalupas
are the newest greasy treat.
Taco trucks on every corner,
hangover menudo saves us.
Flags are futile to fix anything.
We love, eat, need justice.
We dream the velvet curl
of our baby girl’s ear.
Day 5 / Poems 5
Dove / by J. Peter Bergman
My neighbor celebrated what must be
a landmark birthday at her youthful ninety.
Pert, witty and boldly sober
her attitude is generally easy and fine.
She is cool as a cucumber from Manitoba
and controls her home with a rigid spine.
She walks and she talks and she shares her secrets
with alarming attention to the smallest details.
She treats her friends like they’re snowy egrets
who deserve to be set free for wingéd sails.
Whether checking on the trash or walking the dog,
or helping her husband to that frail soul’s car
she can always be counted on, through wind or fog,
to do what must be done with “piss and vinegar.”
Her husband sometimes calls her “Eve” in ancient reverence:
the Biblical “helpmate” conceived to serve and show compliance.
She mated once, for life, and so she cherishes the chance
to be the other side of him, to share the world as giants.
My neighbor celebrated her ninety years of love;
to the rest of us she is the loyal mourning dove.
Seagull’s Call / by Celaine Charles
A call to action, from a dream
Pulls and tugs, to middle ground
Dulls the truth behind the story
Veiled in folds amid my mind
In faded hues, translation ebbs
Though somehow somber in defeat
But I remembered it was there
Chimayo / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
No one does kitsch as well as Catholics. Here,
the garish glass Madonna votives cradle red and yellow beams,
the cloister’s lined by hand-strung rosaries,
the walls are crawling hives of silver charms.
They close the church at service time. Bells spill their silver
ringing through the valley, reverberate off red rock hills,
disturb the red-winged blackbirds where they’re pinned on reeds of grass
The air feels thin. As if all the prayers said here have worn
a bare spot in earth’s carpet and we can peer into the clay dirt, see
an upside down reflection of a world beneath our feet,
as if we walk on solid glass but see it ripple when we speak.
I come without need. Without crutches, bandages, or wounds. Every bit the rich
who Mary sang of, the ones who’re filled in this life, but are empty in the next.
I am a tourist, write a few impressions in my notes, pretend to pray.
Others take their turns in el pocito, the little well of dirt
where they smear the holy dust on palms and chests and feet.
I wait and count a thousand tin milagros in the nave.
The room is small, with crooked beams. The floor slopes toward the outside wall.
I walk with careful steps like someone on a ship that’s heaving
in swelled seas. But we’re perfectly unmoving, the air close and undisturbed.
I mouth some hasty low-church prayer before I feel it, the emptiness I share
with countless women – Rachel, Elizabeth, Hannah –
the ones who wept for healing, infertile, childless, barren.
But we’ve only tried for months now, not for years. I have little to complain of —
my firstborn’s almost three. I’m enduring all the hormones pretty well,
the weekly probes, the daily measuring of temperature and urine.
But I’m bone weary of it all already.
I bend and dab some red dirt on my fingers, smear it lightly
on my empty gut and swear, this will be the final cycle with the pills,
before I’ll settle for my only son and let him be enough.
I do not bargain, plead or wail.
I ask. Then brush the dirt from one hand to the next
and bow my head to leave.
There is a poem I love that tells the moment Christ’s small body
first took shape in a crevice of God’s mind, a happening
depicted in mosaic on some Serbian church wall.
Christ the embryo, a single square of glass at Mary’s center, one
that catches light when sun angles through the tall clerestory arches.
I suppose it’s possible this might have been like that.
The egg that since became you stilled and waiting, lodged
like a berry in the mouth of a blackbird, caught there like a seed
in my prayerless throat.
On St. Francis Street / by Stephen Hollaway
A house I walk past has its back to the street
as if tanning its adobe, the only door
almost a tunnel where I stand admiring
the chiaroscuro inner wall, steps
to inner doors and a sunlit courtyard.
Other houses’ windows on the street
do not tempt me, and have shutters inside.
But this house, its expanse of wall brushing
me off, draws me into its surfaces
and planes. At its center there is a shared space,
in spite of outer silence, an inner life.
Poem Five / by ava m. hu
Frequency of rain,
on my face, earth’s magnetic
force, nearness of you.
Poem Five / by Liza Katz
I think of walking on well-lit
city streets: stray cats rustling
under porches, dogwoods
flowering in the haze of neon signs.
Our shadows together, pacing
in triplicate, in the cross-hatch
of house lights and streetlights.
Tonight, each step is a flash
to cut the fog, like remembering
last night’s dream. You sense
every branch that scatters
into my path, every root that lifts
a page from the sidewalk’s story,
and guide me up the stairs
to the front porch light.
Not Yet / by Matthew Landrum
That Thanksgiving, the river overran its banks,
sweeping away houses in Judsonia. Gathered relatives
passed the afternoon talking weather and politics.
This can’t go on forever, my uncle said, about the rain
or the election, I wasn’t sure. I remembered the preacher
on Sunday at Foster’s Chapel telling us that it would be fire
not water the next time God grew weary of us, that his wrath
wouldn’t be long in keeping. My grandmother, who kept
a crossword dictionary and From Daniel to Doomsday
on the coffee table, had nodded yes, this can’t go on forever.
In the wet yard, my older cousin (who she called simple)
threw rocks against the flagpole, shrieking with pleasure
at every ping and scrape of stone on metal. On the television,
a newscaster droned on about the war. It was the last time
the family would all be together, the last Thanksgiving
for my grandmother. And if the world felt weary, soaked
with rain or sin or entropy, I didn’t see it then. There was no sign
in the heavens to be puzzled out with a book of crossword hints
or explication on biblical prophecy, only thin camp-smoke
disappearing into the clearing sky and a wedge of geese
arrowing southward, their honks just at the edge of hearing.
Exodus alas from here / by Clyde Long
When the body armored responders appear
where are we to flee?
We are huddled here on the left coast
hemmed in by fathoms of ocean,
toes gripping a high dive edge.
It deflects more and more
as we bounce to elevate higher
in service of plunging down farther
arching and arcing in perfect form,
all to a watery slice defying
how water can resist like granite.
Needle scratch — backs against the wall
are we, no chlorinated pool, no elegant dives
no matter what form, no cheers, no ah’s.
What do cornered rats do?
Bare their yellow teeth, fight to the death.
What can we do painted into this corner?
Resist, step through the sticky paint,
track it out the door
a meadow of footprints ahead.
Day 4 / Poems 4
Michigan Girl / by Catharine Batsios
I hear it said back to me in an earthy tone & I think
Seriously not another fucking pine tree image
some white girl at a bonfire wearing
an over-sized sweater/ she looks
wistfully at firespark rising into starscape.
O implicit ONLY, narrow
because the sign on the state line says
but I remember scrawling Murder Mitten
on every out-of-state bathroom for a year.
O, travel brochure ONLY of Hemmingway fly-fishing
and coming-of-age-as-a-frozen-river adolescence,
flintrock and kindling living off the land,
My Flint was my platonic life partner and I
climbing onto the condemned concrete bridge
over by the new U-Mich building & every shoes
were the shoes that fit through chain-link,
remember those heels?
Remember those Chucks with the newspaper insoles
and how chips of stone and bird shit ruined
pairs of socks?
& that KEEP OUT. Of course there’s danger
and yeah we could drown,
but we are already going there . . . what gaping
hole swallowing crows, rodents, flesh-rot and
Big Mac wrappers
let’s not complain about the pH of the Flint River
this year . . . we aren’t drinking it like that yet.
Here’s a joke: some 10ft-nothin’ fence
could keep us out when easily
we straddle the poured-crete-1922 railing/36ft drop
into dirty-water rust and cream gurgle of current
but we got this
between you and the bridge
it was never the plummet
I can’t go home tonight
I’ll meet you at the I-475 catwalk
back of the post office—
over by the high school we’ll walk in the middle
of the road . . . of this hour
potholes and faded lane lines.
At least 6’2”
as you lay beside it, under the left-turn arrow
planted in the turn lane,
man, that’s a big ONLY.
One Less Hell to Manage / by J. Peter Bergman
Resign, all cowards who cling to majesty
rather than bring to the world their honesty.
Design, the future is nothing to snarl at
when so much depends on your critical eye.
Refine, some intensity masks with pretensions
the ultimate pensions and costs of refusals.
Align, the world is a popular war-ground
defending itself when no onslaught is pending.
Benign, get yourself up and protest so often
your voice never softens to ultimate silence.
Decline, its your right to be stating the obvious claims
that your ultimate aims are returning to sanity.
Heart Related / by Celaine Charles
Run red today.
Reminders to remember
To think past where you are
Race against time,
Against the evil in numbers
One death every 80 seconds,
Against the evil in percentages,
Against the evil in acronyms,
HDL and BMI.
Numbers and Letters represent
But, you have the power
To change, to stand up,
To make a difference
Against this wicked threat.
On this wintery blustery day
In the month of love
We are reminded to make better choices
In the matters of the heart-
Night shift, with newborn / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Night is a mouth,
hungry and endless
In its demands.
You offer your body,
its brief power
to soothe and quiet.
Sometimes you’re enough.
Through the sleeplessness
you tell yourself
this is the easy part.
Be grateful for the pangs
that are quieted by milk,
the hungers that respond
to flesh. Holding him,
you know there will be nights,
like yours, when nothing
will satisfy him, that an open mouth
can wait forever to be filled.
I Was a Football Virgin / by Stephen Hollaway
My brother and I were outfitted with football
jackets after we moved back to the States:
leather and wool, orange and white, gifts
to missionary kids from a church lady
whose sons had lettered in junior high, to wear
as if we were Americans, at least
on Friday nights when we sat high and alone.
We were sumo fans, and now we got
to watch fat boys push each other
across a line instead of a circle
while skinny boys scampered playing tag.
They tackled, though, the most contact boys
were allowed, which was why we copied them
in small front yards, making friends
by little acts of violence and laughter.
The first day I went to Sunday School
with eighth grade boys, designated peers,
I didn’t understand a word they said.
I took my allowance, saved for LPs,
and ordered a year of Sports Illustrated,
becoming a scholar to survive conversation.
After a year, it was normal to drop names
nonchalantly, an acolyte at last,
growing, as one does, into the mask I chose.
Baptist boys had church on Sunday nights,
even New Year’s Day, so the eighth grade
boys hid in our classroom for the fourth quarter
of the championship game, Cowboys-Packers.
Transistor radio at the center of our huddle,
we grunted and shouted for the Southern team.
Ball on the two with a minute left,
the South fell short again, “the agony of defeat”
always our glue. We had no team to cheer
in the first Super Bowl, but skipped church
anyway, knowing what mattered most.
Poem #4 Travel Ban Lifted / by ava m. hu
Iranian baby girl enters US for surgery.
Little lion, little sunbeam, light
of my eyes, we run, we run
fast like wildflowers, my heart
could stop at any moment.
Art Lessons / by Liza Katz
Enigma: the twisted cloth, its edges hardened,
becomes driftwood. Sand flies burrow in its peaks
and valleys. Driftwood, sanded and painted,
becomes a trinket for tourists. The tourist becomes
a face sketched on the boardwalk; the face
becomes paper becomes canvas becomes
cloth, exfoliating its edges like stray pencil lines,
like grains of clay the eraser sludges off.
An Answer / by Matthew Landrum
Hiking up to Emerald Lake, the trail opened on a meadow
of autumn snow –– elevation white, broken by a lone blue jay
a smudge of color against a stretch of sameness. It preened
and flexed its wings as if ready lift up into that thin sky
and lose itself in the atmosphere but stayed grounded. Farther on,
grey rock rose to craggy peaks. The ghost of a day-moon
sank behind the white-capped ridge. Sun spattered the surface
of the distant lake. You asked me what it meant, that blue word
written on that blank page and I didn’t know how to answer you
and looked at the mountains and the half-formed glaze of ice
floating on the lake. What was there to say? That every earthly thing
takes its measure from its nearness to heaven? That a question falls
like sun on water, scattering into more questions? And you were leaving
even then, pulling back into yourself. Winsome bird, creature of flight, lover
on the wing, here is an answer: you are the blue jay in the field of snow,
all the possibility of flight contained in the moment before flight.
Animal Path / by Clyde Long
weak sun lights the curtains,
opens my eyes;
my dog Jezebel’s namesake
fanciful sabres rattle about
melting sand to glass;
Fukushima’s 530 sieverts can
kill a robot in two hours;
these jobs ain’t comin’ back,
not for you eaters;
soot snow, monochromatic misery,
pants legs slushed;
dawn done, toast and eggs
are enough reason for now;
tactile pages dog-eared flap
to keep up, maybe too much;
we use these gizmos to talk
to ourselves without speaking;
anarchists scuttle in black lit
by their chaos;
three dogs tethered to me glow
in three LED colors;
CHP loudspeaker commands,
pull over, pull over;
three a.m.’s soft breath embraces
Day 3 / Poems 3
Caught Up / by Catharine Batsios
A visit five years after you left, the whole time:
yr beard, yr new shoes, you looked well,
& handsome; collarstays a nice touch
& yr hands are saying truce— occasionally stuck in sugar
to the coffee shop table. (You) are a steam-haze away, I am
re-visiting a time when yr hands used to pontificate on
the formica of all-night-diner tops, poked dotted lines around
my ideation of self until I was yr paper doll (you) picked
up tabs, popped me out, posed me shoulders open
& leaning into the warm mid-tone of yr voice,
I used to drink yr Cherry Coke
& yr every word (you) curled me around yr pencil
until I spiraled into something tight
Re-visiting yr hands on a day like this
when mine have only recently stopped
strumming your memory
is satisfying in only a way my paperself
could appreciate; woman as bookmark,
she of marginalia, of flat & desperate affectation
has finally undressed, peeled off those
Canadian Mist nights, the handle
of yr beard, & that blackout evening
in the parking lot where (you) she yelled
inanities of undying love, then brawled
between parked cars until the whole neighborhood
woke up. The next day (you) took the coffee table
to the west coast, (you) packed my suitcase to
Pittsburgh full of shoes & clothes
that smelled like bourbon and champagne
& I was still paper, (this time) plane ticket,
meal ticket, rent money & transit maps.
Re-visiting yr hands, fingers rolled like cigarettes,
deliberate with the lighter. Yr thumbprints
are callouses on my parietal lobe
(you) seem gratified when (you) finish my sentences
& likewise. Re-visiting yr hands
is retroactive affirmation of my own flesh
in its plump & anxious glory. I may always have
paper & headache under my skin—but I am
like the cup yr holding/will soon throw away—
warmth for its own sake, and incidentally
Important Message / by J. Peter Bergman
Afterward, she told him one more thing.
“I cannot sing,” she said, “or even carry a tune. However,
nothing in my experience says this is necessary, though
desired, I am sure.” Then she smiled at him, a reassuring
sort of expression she hoped. The look on his face was
seemingly sour, and his hands were moving outward, then
in again, fists to extended fingers, over and over and over.
He shook his head slightly, side to side, repeated again and
again in spite of himself. She knew he needed to speak.
She urged him to say what was on his mind.
“How you can be so utterly insensitive,” he said, his voice
clearly not the voice he ordinarily used. “How you can simply
leave me this way, saying those words, when I have invested
everything in you. I don’t get it. I don’t understand. How?”
He reached out one tentative hand, groping the air in her
direction, “How?” he repeated. Then he said it again, waiting
each time for her response that never came. Another silence
grew between them and he finally broke through it with a
second question: “Why? Why now? And this way?”
Her back rigid, her posture schooled in model perfection, she
laughed quietly and told him everything. Words poured out of
her mouth the way marbles fall from a sack onto linoleum, and
when she was finished she touched him gently on the
shoulder, pinched his shoulder, released him and then she
took a step backward so she could see him clearly and
he could see her if he wanted. He wanted. He wanted to stare
into her tiny eyes and seek some final truth that had gone
unspoken in her unmusical monologue. He found nothing
there. “I have one thing more to say,” he told her. “Just the
final statement, an important message.” She nodded once and
moved one step closer to him. “Don’t do this again to another
man. It might not go so well the next time.”
The Great Divide / by Celaine Charles
My down-filled coat zipped under chin
I walk along
This sidewalk, once white
Concrete, paved smooth
Now fossilized by fall debris,
Houses side by side, pale
Mushroom, beige, and buff
Stand proudly stout
While on watch
Stern, rectangular eyes
Stare square –
Across the way
A mountainside once free,
Behind sentinel birch
Standing guard, in thick range
Beneath layers peeled,
Collecting impurity and
Across the way
Chimneys tops, like crowns
With smokeless soot, wafted
Over cloaked ashes,
Beating hearts, and
But on the other side, unpaved
In quiet skies
Meets ivory frore
In winter’s stance, along
This path I chance –
The great divide
Decay / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
“What is time, really,” the leather-skinned old hippy asks,
his poem laboring to convince us all that “time is just illusion,
a construct of our language’s slick play of signification.”
Deep in my center a corpuscule tightens, splits in two,
every day that passes doubles all its cells.
They’re ticking toward their ripening, and then
some years or measures on these molecules will slow, and mutate,
age, bend into wrinkle, or sag into cancer or lodge insensate
in the brain’s misfiring, their telomeres deteriorating
the way a peach that’s ripe can’t hold its shape. It
softens until its skin is slack and blackened, sloughs off
it membranous connections, rotted through.
The little nameless knot unfolding, unbuckling, doubling within me,
my unborn child and the blossom of decline. Time
is not illusion. Time’s most basic speech’s decay —
the atoms slowed vibrations, the galaxy’s wandering away
from pulsing center, heat dissipates in far expanses, And birth,
our fundamental entropy.
A Groundhog Walks into a Wardrobe / by Stephen Hollaway
Winter I can deal with, lengthy or brief:
go back to bed, cover your eyes, endure.
Now there are no hands to pick me up,
predicting spring; only this unexpected
woods in which I find myself in the middle
of the way, in a supremacy of white:
only snow and this lone lamppost, flickering.
A faun arrives to orient me to stasis:
it is always winter and never Christmas,
a curse of white and ice and heartlessness.
A horse walks by with no promises
and no sleep; a stallion licks at a frozen
brook which once ran with snow-melt
and hope. The children of Adam think
the world has tilted off its axis now;
no one has a long enough stick to push
the earth to normal. Least of all me, once
sentinel of warming, jobless, meaningless.
Cousin Beaver will take me in and sit
me by his small fire, distracting me
with ancient tales of a lion to come to make
time run backwards. Better to dream
than gnaw your paws, he says, but time for now
does not run at all, frozen, seasonless.
Nothing lasts forever, he says. Yes,
but there is no going back undamaged.
Poem #3 / by ava m. hu
Axis, your face, what
God reveals to humans, false
prophets, rose buds,
traced in the center
of my palms.
Poem 3 / by Liza Katz
The snow keeps a record of our coming
and going, boot prints overlaid
by tire treads. Someone’s putting in
a new sidewalk. Under the worklights,
the pines are grey and tall as smoke.
Beside them, a stand of geese,
picking off sedges. When I was nobody’s
I could have drifted headlong into that
false fog. I spill my cup into the snow:
coffee drips, the cup’s ellipses, peeling.
Dressmaker’s Doll / by Matthew Landrum
Relic figure from an era
of home economics
and atom bomb drills,
it sits on a wire stand
decorating the living room corner.
The improbable waist
and cardboard chest suggest
the glamour of possible creation:
not something from nothing
but something from something ––
cloth taken in hand, cut, stitched,
and brought to shape
in iterations of shift, housedress,
blouse, petticoat, frock, gown.
Its naked insubstance,
its adjustomatic shell,
where hips flair in folded splendor,
and the shoulder sockets
and conjugation of angular clavicles
lie hollow, is a call to make
and its form and function
are one and the same.
25th Amendment solution / by Clyde Long
. . . the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office
We the people, not Congress,
are our body.
We hereby declare, this man impaired
is unable to discharge powers and duties
he owes us.
Therefore, he must be removed;
put his addled head on ice,
Tempests roil his reason,
his synapses blink.
Protests are needles under his thin skin.
Amendment 25 was written for peril.
This President scares us silly —
nukes, you know, and more.
Time has come to drop a dime.
Speed dial Amendment 25.
Day 2 / Poems 2
Viaticum / by Catharine Batsios
I crack an egg to mix in,
even if it’s just so I can say yes to the inevitable
Bravo, kouklitsa, but did you add an egg?
It was Greek Easter and six months
since Papou died.
Yaya held a photograph of her and Papou
in front of the village tavern/boarding house/only restaurant, she wore
a black dress and heels with an ankle strap;
From the table, Baba translated her words from Greek—I told him
from behind the cutting board that John and I were going to the village,
In August while you’re visiting, there will be trails with honeysuckle
and sugarplums leading from the beach up the mountain.
My Yaya and I speak the common language of Kitchen—
oil, vinegar, dried oregano,
hands like peeled cucumbers laying in wait
for food in the oven,
Baba left before we ate.
After we came back from the village, I never
told him that the honey suckles and sugar plums
were gone, that they were a remnant like the sugar
sprinkled on a mother’s nursing breast
to ensure a sweet life.
Next? / by J. Peter Bergman
Is there something in the water,
or inside my darkened closet,
crouching down behind the couch,
behind the room-door waiting silent?
Is it merely that I’m nervous,
could it be I’m feeling wary,
as the shadows fall across my path,
the whispers fall like lead around me?
What is it I’m feeling?
Is it trepidation?
Why is my brain reeling
with each volatile sensation?
If you have an answer to my queries
please don’t hesitate to send it
on its way to salve my nervous state
about this crumbling nation.
My line is open.
Waiting Room / by Celaine Charles
She flips her magazine, page by page
Gray ponytail like silver waters
Cascades over black vest and red dress,
Motorcycle boots idle
Having walked many miles.
She smiles at me
In the sterile space.
Others sit in spots, stare at hands
To pass the time.
But she crosses her knees,
Black boot bouncing
To rhythms only she can hear
Beat to a life she’s taken hold
…At least in my mind
As I’ve created her story
Out of dust,
In the quiet place we sit
Our eyes meet again
Because I must see the ending,
I can’t put down this book!
She’ll never know the spark she’s struck
Against my canvas,
Line after line
The same creases I fear
From Father Time
How old is she?
Why is she here?
What has she seen?
And why does she smile through wrinkled eyes?
Her beat finds mine
Thumping at my soul
Hope swells deep,
To warm cold fingers
Around my own diversion
For this moment
In the waiting room
Rome / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
Someone was singing while Rome burned.
She was probably the last to know, preoccupied
with the slick of milk spilt beneath a wooden table, crawling
on her knees to gather up the scraps the children dropped.
Maybe she was winding new words through some old melody
as she hung their laundry in the blistering sun, her back
to it all. And maybe she turned to see the city
lit up on her small horizon like a dying sun.
And even as she wept, still found it’s brightness
numinous, and thought of words to name
the brilliance, the way flames singe and feather, the smell
of burning cypresses incensing the last drafts of imperial air.
Maybe she sang, too, in the rubble, after smoke died
down and looters lingered, and her children needed tending.
And maybe when they ran to bring her fistfuls of the first green shoots
that forced their way back up through ruined ground, she sang again.
‘Scared of His Shadow’ Was Never Said of Me / by Stephen Hollaway
Into desert sun I emerge, a prairie
dog from tunnels, seeking satisfaction.
No one is there but that dark twin
shaped like me but distorted by high light
and rough terrain. I do the danse macabre
raising my arms to scare myself, mocking
my fear like the Los Muertos I see
in tourist shops, fun take-home death-laughs.
Fred Astaire danced with Bojangles shadows
who moved when he stopped, then abandoned him.
Peter Pan found his shadow in a dresser
but then it refused to be tamed. Mine
is attached to me, I now see, still untamed.
Some love the darkness where your body
is as you imagine it, where there is no self
but the one you know. Those who love the light
face the shadow, the heart’s other side.
Or we can retreat to long winter.
Poem Two / by ava m. hu
As if the holy spirit could
repeat our names, repeats
our names as we watch
for the return of a comet
predicted by the movement
of your hands, remember
nothing is for sure, we
are feathers, we are
feathers falling, the way
we hope for an apparition,
a lady of snow, or fire
to save us.
Headmistress / by Liza Katz
(After Claudia Emerson)
I wondered if they saw me the same way:
my ironwork contained in a frame, gestures
as empty and revised as the one you saw
in the painting. Did they miss the double entendre
at the end? The day you died, I brought a recording
of your poem to my 8th grade English class.
Surprised, at first, by your Southern accent,
they quickly warmed to you. They found your page
on Wikipedia. One girl shared your birthday.
Another found the all-girls boarding school
you’d attended: Its solid banisters, its riding
team. One student tried to find the name
of the headmistress from the poem, but came up
empty: this small bit of information
denied them in this information age.
Neither Nor / by Matthew Landrum
A bison wind stamps the surface of the East River. Ice hangs in saliva strands
from the Queensboro Bridge. The moon rises over needling skyscrapers
and shines through a window in Jackson Heights where a teenage boy poses
in his mother’s wedding dress, turning hip to hip in front of the bathroom mirror.
He desires neither to be a cloud nor an angel, neither to have his nipples adorned
by a twelve-gauge barbell nor to wear the leather belts and boots of a lion tamer.
He dreams neither of white houses nor of his birth country, left in the nick of time,
but of Walt Whitman. Neither the nun who irons black vestments in the sacristy
nor the subway worker who contends with rats, neither the taxi driver whose ID
carries whiffs of radicalism to a CEO fingering his briefcase’s brass combination
nor the CEO himself has seen what the turning boy has seen: Walt Whitman
beneath the highway underpass where children play tag in all kinds of weather,
in the dance hall’s throbbing press, with a beard full of butterflies and eyes full
of a corduroy wisdom that tells him neither to fear the wandering gaze of sleep
nor the sly language of tambourines. Neither the meringue dog star nor the rain
weeping down glass frontispieces speak of an America drowning in machinations
and self-congratulatory speeches, but Whitman is not silent. For those who love
with green expressions, for the women who burn in silence, for children
who swallow bitter truths with their breakfast cereal, he speaks and the boy
understands through mistranslation. Tomorrow he will wander through squares
where time drowses on the pavement, where murdered dove are the sad hopes
of ignorant leopards, and emerge triumphant at last from the toad’s slit belly.
Told you so neighborhood / by Clyde Long
A flower a dandelion head
blooms unbidden sunny yellow.
The plant is usually picked,
dug out, mowed over, poisoned.
This year the homeowner and
the neighborhood Board had disputes –
shutter colors, driveway cars,
rolling in the recycling cans.
Things heated up between them.
A new neighbor moved in who
plowed his yard, left his tractor there,
celebrated with a pack of barking dogs.
His ensuing trouble with the Board
inspired him to get elected to the Board.
He argued and entertained their meetings.
His yard weeds were rampant.
One meeting he brought in bouquets
of yellow dandelions picked fresh
for each Board member.
“Weeds, but these are beautiful, no?
They’re edible too if fixed right.”
A few Board members agreed,
“maybe these weeds aren’t so bad.”
The homeowner, there for his disputes,
spoke up, “the weeds’ seeds spread,
these bouquets are fleas of a plague.”
“So pretty they are,” the Board said,
“such lovely bouquets.”
Come next summer the seeds invaded.
Children plucked the stalks and blew.
The homeowner said, “I told you so.”
His disputes with the Board paled as
blooms spread over the neighborhood.
The neighbor chuckled, then moved away,
“so shabby the lawns look here!”
Day 1 / Poems 1
Texbook I Picked Up in a Media Arts Classroom,
Detroit 2016 / by Catharine Batsios
The Media and You, 1992 Edition, this book—
older than any of the students who have touched it
this year, or the year before that, the previous one
and so on—belongs in a history class with words like
world wide web and digital video disc reaching into the future
in order to materialize. This book
says Former Governor William Jefferson Clinton
and thinks the Cold War and Apartheid
are on-going geopolitical events. This book
never heard about Rodney King or Anita Hill
thinks Pac is still alive, this book
would still pay a couple hundred dollars
to buy a VCR, but it’s one of the five people
on the planet who haven’t seen Jurassic Park
and I really wish this book could have seen
the RZA and Forrest Whittaker kill it in Ghost Dog,
but this book doesn’t even know what the Wu Tang Clan
is. You know this book
is white because it talks about the ubiquity of 24-hour
news cycles, but changes the subject
before it has to recognize that violence is always portrayed
on a brown or black body
while success has a white veneer
in headlines or lead stories. This book
doesn’t bother to have the intellectual capacity
to unpack why it’s criminal
that this book exists in a classroom
in 2016. This book
doesn’t know about No Child Left Behind
but it was there for Civil Rights, Race Riots,
Auto Shops closing,
neighborhoods boarding their windows,
Public Transit being dismantled
and left to rot, this book
was there when the city was turned over and emptied,
an hourglass tumbling bodies
away from futures, or the means to declare a self.
This book has nothing to say but
With the advent of technology, information sharing
is the key to success in a new world of media!
This book didn’t see when Kanye stood on TV;
George Bush doesn’t care about Black People
George Bush isn’t the only one.
Perspective / by J. Peter Bergman
The swamps surround my train on
Around the train it mooches
making inroads in the sod.
I pray to every lover’s God the snow won’t snog or smooche—
swell the marshland o’er the mounds
my transport needs to gain on.
I travel out to you to find
what reason never brings to mind,
the passions and despairs that come
when train tracks sing while marshes hum.
Romance among high-grassy swamps
whispers swiftly “whoa”—
as if I’d know at journey’s end
what swamps reveal to those who fold
their hopes, engraved in gold, as spirits bend
to bring me down and leave me low
beyond the blush of common lamps.
This Road / by Celaine Charles
This road curves and bends
Into nighttime lights
Joined with zigs and zags,
Tiny lines disappear
Without waiting for
Heartbreak twists and turns
Catching rides on wind
Over cable bridges
Detour from the road
A journey without limits
What is lost
Mileposts out my window
Flit by without care,
Faulty use of guardrails
Just to say
Why Adobe Is More Peaceful Than Shingles / by Stephen Hollaway
While I am away, they are replacing
shingles on the church where I live.
There are few choices: white cedar or red,
how many inches of overlap, stainless
nails or cheap. Eventually all turn gray,
the color of island life, showing age
like old women changed by sun or smoke.
Fresh shingles form an eye around new windows,
and one side of a building can look like a new person
while the rest remains gray, like tender flesh
when a blackened scab has been removed.
In the slant light even ashen surfaces shine
and the same salt air that destroys the wood
sharpens vision somehow as well as wind.
In this city called Faith where I find myself
adobe covers every house and hotel,
every shop and church. At the same
temperature as home, the light is warmer.
The wind does not blow away the more direct sun
and I walk freer, not bowing my head
to avoid the breeze. The color varies slightly
from tan to near-tangerine to a salmon pink
but everywhere it is the color of earth.
The city still has a monastic soul, spaces
built for contemplation, and the great gift
of those first priests was to join with native ways.
My island town has a fisherman’s soul,
houses built for voyaging with a boat maker’s tools,
with never a sense that there is a bond
between the house and the land
or any tie to what came before we arrived.
Shingles are scales, taking the wisdom of fish
or serpent, layered to protect and waterproof,
shedding as needed, always replacing.
Adobe is more like skin, the color
of the people who lived here, covering
the whole living thing with a breathing surface—
one skin for the whole town, and one
that varies only in degree from the clay
on which it stands beneath white peaks.
Island clay appears in bluffs pushed
straight up from the sea by glacier dozers,
dramatic but eroding under a green tablecloth
and the foolish houses perched nearby.
High desert clay is the sea on which towns float;
clay is the yellow on which grasslands sit,
the red under cedars of wavelike hills,
the base of mountains of sheer rock
which make the clay seem gentle by comparison
rather than rugged and raw as it feels back home.
Adobe is one with that, part of the landscape.
The shingled house is an outpost from which
to view the land, at odds with it
even as the site is chosen because it is loved.
There is an alienation in the English project
from the beginning. The sense that nature exists
to be used is not entirely purged by picture windows
and broad porches from which to soak it in.
The adobe city never forgets the pueblos
that preexisted it. History does not begin with us
or our forebears, it says, and we are not so far
above the clay. The lack of contrast is a form
of humility, and the light seems to respond
by giving itself more fully even in the cold.
There is beauty in the wind and wave
and the shingled house that sits above them;
there is peace to be found there as well.
Still, an older peace dwells in toffee-toned streets
that speaks less of human achievement—
though the structures can be glorious—
and more of the source on which it stands.
Poem #1 / by ava m. hu
The sun is caught in
the trees, is it happenstance,
or superstition, those red flowers,
the left ventricle of the heart
shudders, softly, slowly,
just as this snow.
Horizontal Hours / by Jennifer Stewart Fueston
There is always someone with a life you’d rather have.
Someone in a city
who moves among meaningful architecture
dropping coins in the grocer’s hand, waving at doormen,
or sliding between train doors, moving through rivers of faces
as someone who knows they belong.
Or someone who owns a farm, wakes each morning
to pull on her rubber boots and gather the new-laid eggs,
sweep up a creaking porch, then
stands elbow-deep in flour, kneading out daily bread,
too happily busy for questions.
It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting your own
horizontal hours, the mouth of the baby
draining your breast of milk, his each tug and twinge
like a kite-string pulling a body that only wants loose,
his tongue a sweet milky tether, his body a soft round stone.
the hardest gifts to receive are the ones
that you wanted the most,
your body resists them, their sweetness,
their fullness almost too much to take in.
Poem 1 / by Liza Katz
We rode the storm out on the porch,
. . . . . . . . waited for waves to gather,
then crest over the bulkhead. Fog
. . . . . . . . was the shabbiest color, known only
by its smell of salt, outside those houses
. . . . . . . . where we’d learned to feel
the wind’s tightening of a hasp
. . . . . . . . reverberate in our chests, the way
. . . . . . . .
it nudged every birch that bent at the waist,
. . . . . . . . tore the pear tree’s fragile husk
from its stake, unclustered elderberry,
. . . . . . . . elderflower. Some things break
at the first sign of decay: a canoe,
. . . . . . . . poisoned oysters in the bay;
farther, sinews from some storm-slaught
. . . . . . . . house, its plumbing fixtures, tarp-laced
shingles, shards of pottery. In the driveway,
. . . . . . . . a boat trailer harvesting rust.
Five Views of Nólsoy / by Matthew Landrum
for Laurel North
The cruise ship from Copenhagen is docked in Tórshavn harbor.
From the cafe, it is the view, dwarfing sailboats and trawlers;
its seven stories tower over the parliament building. Square portholes
and a pointed prow with a rounded viewing deck on the fore,
a blue patterned ring and Smyril Line in enormous letters.
Over its front deck, the crown of Høgoyggj is just visible.
The green-grey sweep of waves and multi-colored houses huddled
at the isthmus. The pointillism of sheep on the mountain,
a whalebone archway at the harbor entrance, a white church
beside the sea. Hazy skies. Through the rectangle of the camera lens,
it all comes to nothing, the part separated from the whole
only a patch of grass, a few buildings, indistinct grey.
The pier’s green light. Spark spray in the acetylene dark
where a giant Russian freighter sits in dry dock, one side
gashed open. Dance-hall lights from karaoke night
at the Irish Pub. Floodlights from the ferry – its open hatch
disgorging a line of cars. Headlights. The radio tower,
a lone red light atop Nólsoy’s mountain headland.
At Sandagerði, waves, the cry of gulls. And the unexpected
chromatic swelling, vibraphonic susurration. A woman has left
a harp sitting in the sand. The wind plays over it, aeolian,
and lifts from nylon a discordant beauty. Improvisation ––
a one-time melody –– a soundtrack for a scene of children playing
in the cold waves of August. In the background, the placid island.
Sub-arctic August light through the windows
of a tar and timber house on Dalavegur. So much has been lost––
daughter, wife, home, a hundred imagined lives. But this morning,
the sun stands over the island of Nólsoy, a white disc
against a pale blue. The ferry is leaving Eystaravág,
its slow wake shimmering in the early light.
February Manifesto / by Clyde Long
“I have a dream” calls us all,
yet see the chasm now opened
between dreams and our nightmare.
Bruised are words of our Constitution
to which we are heirs protected.
The serial insolvent imposter
will bankrupt our bank of justice.
Do not let cool heads prevail,
it’s a time of emergency, fear,
the threats are here existential.
Resistance is essential, the price
of less is justice denied and lost.
Petition the traitors with protest, law.
It’s Resist, Resist, protect us all.