The 30/30 Project: July 2018

 

TP3030-logo-360Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteers for July 2018 were Anita Leverich, Sean McQuinney, Dan Murphy, joni m palmer, Ronald J Palmer, Jessica Rigney, Katherine Barrett Swett, and Adele Elise Williams.  Read their full bios here.

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

Day 30 / Poems 30

*

Landscape / by Anita Leverich

Morning washes watercolor sunrise–
soft pinks and pale purples.

Mother’s white arms wrap
in quiet nostalgia—retelling,
in her mind, the old love stories.

Silently, she heats a bottle.
Baby girl rides her hip,
crying. Four more line
up for oatmeal and bananas.

She holds them all up–
then pushes them toward
the bus stop and waits
for the cold dead man
in the moon to come home.

*
*

Arrowheads / by Sean McQuinney
For K.M. and M.G.

I was taught to live like an arrowhead,
to push with the sharp edge forward
and cut through fat and muscle,
to pierce implacable bone and heart.

I’ve held the blade in my hand
and cut away the undesirable
flesh of a doe to yield useful meat
under the tutelage of wise men.

I’ve ordered a crew to work
fifty-hour weeks without breaks
for lunch, and shamed them
out of shitting on the clock.

I’ve policed my home at night
with the weight of steel and niter
held between me and some goblin,
unclothed like my father.

But during this month I’ve been a shepherd.
I sang into the wet death of a wolf’s teeth
and smiled at the opportunity to bare-handed
gather my lineated flock, unarmed

while I was corralled by sun and moon
who butted me with the base of their staves
(blunt. More push than strike),
showing me where lush grass grew.

*
*

Pretty Much / by Dan Murphy

I’m telling secrets here
I’m using a conversational tone
at school we say indoor voice

This isn’t a poem about loss
even if you are lost
this poem is a flat eyeball

but knows someone who knows someone

While you slept
the veil between Lover and Beloved
was rent
when you wake
there will be no sticker shock

Our list of demands
the articles of faith:
No take-backs
No erasies
It’s playground rules
Fight for yourself
and cry later alone

No purgatory
no time-outs
and no foul shots
Take it out on the side
keep the game moving

We got no pom-poms no sneaker glitter
but the masses are organized
to fight for justice
for a good view and good bargains
You can stand with them
or be against yourself
and any progress

I’m in my Sunday best at the party
in my uniform of spring sorrow

Before we cut the cake
everyone raise your hands

Do you want to be called by first name
last name or something else
you heard in dream’s alleyway

What did our New England poet say
Almost too much love
Ha
That never existed
not in the human heart
not yet

Everything is ranked here
considered and curated
and lies mangled
under an economy of stars

*
You who learned to talk into your hands
start to sweat
in your superhero cape and tights

you must cross only one ocean
to find your mother
cross one supermarket aisle
and you come home

This is it the undoing
of bass-ackward theology
your book of false rhyme
you’ve been writing you’ve been reading
like a demon all summer
so remember
start at the end
and fall face-first
no one is watching
all come free at the end
of the game all come free

*
*

Green is my country / by joni m palmer

Small creeks crowded by dense vegetation wind through these valleys,
abandoned silos and barns are buried in thick carpets of green.
I open all of the windows for the fresh Finger Lakes air to rush through the car
so that I can breathe in this cool humid air as I hurtle down back roads,
past sugar sheds and baling barns, roadside stands selling blueberries, peaches, corn and
summer squash—
I’m tempted to stop but I’m four hours from Hartford and already late for my friend’s plane.

*
*

The Last One / by Ronald J Palmer

There is a breath
that dissolves rapidly
like a mist
in sun-shined air.

Although there are
finite dates where one
knows a small joy
or large despair may end.

Still, one comprehends
many things whose
endings are only seen
in history

by you or if not you
by those awake.

You may try to follow
a breath to see how long
before it is just air.
One day that will be
all that is there.

*
*

Recompense / by Jessica Rigney

And so she slips
a hand beneath
the book

gauges how thick
her words might seem
placed page for page—
the unforsook.

Once a pitch begun—
comes down from head
to heart to hand

simple fingers
invest and free
sublime tether
of questionings.

For now and yes
and for this her will
walks up steep stairs
once more quite sure

of life as stun—
the rare-built trick
of hands clasped ‘round
the bliss one took.

*
*

Some Lines on a Wall and the Sky / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Cool air and sunshine on the wall
the gull cry and the smell of brine
I cannot see the shrieking sky
right now I cannot know which way
the river flows though I could check
tide charts on line I won’t I’ll know
what I can know from wind or birds
and all these shadows on the wall..

*
*

There Is No Reason To Count The Dead / by Adele Elise Williams

When Story goes don’t forget the dead parts,
I go, do you mean the dead boy in Chicago
or the dead boy in Yellowstone? Story does not
understand patience, cannot fathom a narrative
arc— Story skips past the part about dead
boys in love— tell me the one you tell when
you are running
— once, when I was wilder,
I left my home in Seven Devils and took
the train to Montana to homestead at a horse
farm for the winter. The train left east from
Charlottesville, so I had to go back to go
forward— Story is clearly confused— why
did you take the train past home, why didn’t
you stop to kiss your dog one more time
before he died
— Story does not know
that I loved running more than anything
that had ever loved me back, that the loving
back had me running— I did not know my dog
was gonna run into his death, I could not know,
there was no way I could’ve known—
Story loses interest, goes tell the one about
the dead girl who drowned in another country’s
sea, her family thought her body a buoy!
And I go,
Story, rude. She is not mine to tell. Story skips
to the part when I kissed so much at Colorado
stop lights my chin was Red Rocks, that boy’s
lips were not mine when the running began—
I do not know for sure but I think they belonged
to an athlete named Leslie. At this point Story asks
how this is so, the belonging, and I remind Story
that all the boys are dead so what does it matter—
even the dog boy is dead and while there were
signs that pointed to the others, I couldn’t have
know about that one. I don’t care about
an admission of guilt— tell me about your dead
uncle.
Well Story, my uncle died when I was in rehab.
He overdosed and I was in detox. That makes for
a good one! Better than the buoy girl!
Story
wants the dead details, nevermind the love
or the running, forget the fault, forget the fear.
Story want the spectral version— I don’t know what
version the world wants. I don’t what version
I need. There is only one thing I know for sure—
the dead take up less pain when remembered all as one.

*
*

Day 29 / Poems 29

*

Graffiti / by Anita Leverich

Their hearts beat furiously.
They scrawled their rebel love
across the green face of the institution,
then beat it over the rock wall,
carefully guarding their genitals
from the bouquets of broken glass
and rusty nails artfully planted
as if in a loooong window box
where a girl awaits just one
lover to pledge his blood.

*
*

Unreasonable Measure / by Sean McQuinney

Genesis 11: 1-9

There are safeguards in place to stave off

my collapse. Some are immediate,

and some have been plotted like the acres

of the great stone foundation, the kinetic

energy of each block calmed by chant.

*

All in vanity. Even the workman song of Babel

(when one rhythm would cradle the memory

of the Flood and the labor of every living muscle),

could not prevent the oncoming topple,

the weight of an unreasonable measure.

*

I’ve built myself from brick and tar

to reach wide and high, grand and always upwards,

yet I cannot share a word even with the hands that shape me,

nor with the pot of tar that binds me together

in a thin layer, delicate though fired hard.

*

Even you, who will blow air past my blue lips

when you find me, will be confused by the message

in my rubble, will try to tuck the keystone back into my walls

as if it were possible to balm shattered brick.

It is ok, brother. Why waste your breath so?

*
*

Beyoncé and Fiancé Rhyme—Does this Mean She is the Bride of God? / by Dan Murphy

Listen
I don’t have a lot of time
I want you to like me but I need
to tell you how I feel about what is called
the world these days

Children learn irony before idealism
what can they reject
if they haven’t accepted anything yet

Notes on mysticism, part 2:
Don’t tell me you’re in love
if you haven’t wanted to kill your love at least once.
Don’t claim you are religious
if you haven’t cursed God with precision

I’ve squeezed ants massed on my kitchen counter
between thumb and forefinger
offering their carcass to the merciful Lord
and thought one of us better for that small prayer
saved maybe

The concerns of the self are political
the political concerns are of the self
don’t underestimate your yearning

your existence is not necessary
for the world to continue

The self the speaker is me not me
As they say Hit your mark

Sometimes I am more afraid of a darkened room
than I am of my death
this makes me human

I once gave a man the shirt off my back
and he wept
I didn’t know we were brothers and saints
I always start at the end
I end with some beginning one hopes

*
*

The VA / by joni m palmer

I try to draw conclusions about the men in the waiting room, asking myself: “Which war or conflict did they endure?”Age might be the first clue, but so many of these men look old beyond their years. I can tell their branch of service because they proudly wear baseball caps with navy ship insignia, army badges on their fatigues, jackets with the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem, and other such benign markers of their service to our country. I struggle to articulate a list of the most recent conflicts—the last several decades are filled with names of places I can’t pronounce and can hardly pinpoint on a map. But these men were there, though I doubt they ever imagined they would find themselves in such foreign lands. Those names don’t come as easily as World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. But I am reminded that these men [I haven’t seen any women today] have defended our country and other lands in a disheartening number of crises, civil wars, revolts, occupations…—a crazy barrage of terms surface for these military operations… I’m turning these terms over in my head, an easier thing to do than look around me in the emergency room, into the faces of the vets, caregivers, and nurses … when my father’s name is called. We are taken to a small shared room—the man in the bed on the left is laying spread eagle on a narrow cot: thick bare white thighs, tanned knees and shins, black crew socked feet splayed to the corners of the bed. He smiles and says, “Hello roomie!”and goes back to taking calls on his iphone. … The doctor is asking my father his birthday, birth place and social security number—I am surprised my father remembers these things, as he recites them loudly and clearly, like a good soldier

*
*

Gratefully Not Here / by Ronald J Palmer

There are those
who live in a world
where “never give
a sucker an even break”
is real.

I hope that is not your world.

Many friends
have said you must
keep open eyes,
but no eye contact.
You must swiftly
walk on your way.

People from that world
seem friendly, very friendly
or else threatening.

Once you are marked
their boat will hover over you.
They are ready reel in hand.

*
*

Not One Thing or Another / by Jessica Rigney

A body among sheets middling
one shoulder soon another—avoidance

of pressure upon the center where water
resides inside the earth. He is still here

beside her in-betweenness
full counts—breath counts—the length of

pause somewhere. She said her teeth
throbbed at the side of impact and

it has been a long time since last
his worry built up behind small of her back.

Her pressure lifts lungs lifts water
up from the earth he’s seen it—

her own trammeling woe wrung out
upon the bed and its blunt silence. She

is still here her head seemingly at rest yet
veiled by the holy and long withheld

plain-spoke circumstance. Where will he be
she nightmares questions of anyhow and after

everything she quiets in her breath—
no matter his asking how be you how be us.

*
*

Indirections / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
–Emily Dickinson

The worst dreams are puzzles,
ones that you do not figure out
until two in the afternoon
when you’re sitting on the bus
or at your desk and remember
that ewe is Rachel in Hebrew
and the dream of sheep falling
off a cliff was a dream about her.
Slant dreams linger all day uneasily
as I follow the clues
and then wonder why it took so long to see.
In the best dreams,
she herself arrives,
not the photograph
on the wall that has replaced her,
but her remembered face,
her laugh, her voice
coming to me.
I wish you could be inside
my head when she arrives like that to bless me
I wish I could be with you
when you cry out in the middle of the night
and say her name.

*
*

Day 28 / Poems 28

*

Pictures of Dead Game / by Anita Leverich

And once I saw two pigs fucking,
he told me when we sat together
drinking Bud from long necks
and talking out the naked newness
of our eternal subject: the hunt.

The need to hunt is like a woman’s
plumbing, he explained to me-
uncontrollable and unavoidable,
so when the season comes, soft
animals must bleed.

I say, I own the red season-
And the pain the color and texture
of entrails like afterbirth
hanging from the womb-no,
the wound in the doe’s belly.

I wish I could lend you my fertile ache-
just once, and take your deadly climax
Because I need to know-raw babies
and dead deer are equally photogenic.

*
*

Heraclitus River / by Sean McQuinney

For S.B.

You have never stopped flowing.
Even when the surface is still,
a rock dropped into you in Boston
would not touch bottom
until it met sea foam in Santa Cruz.

A tributary here, an aquifer there,
you collect glacial runoff until alive
with the possibility of mercy at a touch.
Resting close by is enough for most
to feel the excitement of your current

and the cool breeze weaving
out from you, pulling at tired eyes
until an old friend who can’t sleep,
or talk, or hold himself upright
from some misery, steps to meet you.

Every drop you leave behind
on their upturned forehead, a monolith
commemorating the moment
where just a part of you
chose to hold still–

where, for only the space of a breath,
you shared in your gift of peace.

*
*

Something Holy / by Dan Murphy

Let’s not start by saying Death
let’s say the bloom of youth is on
the bloom of youth is off
and the story of my life is storyline and no melody
But I’m still on this mysticism kick
I just don’t know how to sell it to myself
and make the self-hatred go away maybe next time
I can find proper punctuation to express
what seems to be about the moon but maybe
not
like how I figured
something holy leans over the bent world
Well not that far not that exactly
Perhaps via negativa
Make your way by being lost
knowing what you don’t know and Vedanta calls
discrimination between the real and not real
what stays what has permanence and yes
presumed guilty presumed innocent those two religions
fighting even as I’m hanging
at the end O this is your trial pilgrim this
is your life this is your life and you can
use anyone’s words even as your last breath

*
*

The dinner bell / by joni m palmer

The walk over to Mr. and Mrs. D’s house seemed so short,
. . . . . . .the road narrow, and it felt like I just might be able to touch the streetlights if
. . . . . . .I stood on my tippy-toes.
I hardly ever walked around the corner; instead
. . . . . . .I’d jump over the flimsy wire fence between our backyards, an old tree stump to lean on—
. . . . . . .maybe use to vault into the Devlin’s backyard—landing where we made mud pies as small children, past the above ground pool where
. . . . . . .we’d play for hours when we were in elementary school…
Today I walk past the Rizzo’s and Deinzer’s, Petrella’s, Downey’s, and the Malchesky’s—
. . . . . . .these houses all seem so small for the families of 5, 7, 9, and 13 that used to fill them.
I see the Devlin’s house, three doors down from the corner. The trees in the yard are thick-trunked
. . . . . . .with sprawling canopies, hardly recognizable as the saplings
. . . . . . .we swung ‘round during games of chase.
The concrete driveway where the boys played roller hockey is a jumble of upheaved slabs from
. . . . . . .decades of freeze and thaw.
I squeeze through two large lilac shrubs, and under a large maple to reach the front door—
once this was an open field, or so it seemed to us as we ran across the front yards of houses,
. . . . . . .mostly unaware of the property lines—
and knock, then ring the bell, wait and repeat.
. . . . . . .This was never the case those many summers ago: someone was always in the living room watching cartoons, the white Siamese cat
. . . . . . .lounging in the window, and one of the older girls
. . . . . . .might be laying on the couch with an overextended phone card tethering her to wall phone
. . . . . . .in the kitchen. Most of the time the door was open, the screen door locked but shoutable
. . . . . . .to the inside.
I peak around into the backyard, past the screened-in porch, to a garden growing in on itself—thick with
. . . . . . .shrubs and grasses, flowering plants.
Back at the front door I try one more time and linger on the small door step
. . . . . . .staring at the dinner bell still hanging in the tree, a cool breeze ruffles my hair,
. . . . . . .and I am ten years old again on a late summer afternoon,
. . . . . . .waiting for Susie to come out to play—hands in my pockets, shifting from foot to foot,
. . . . . . .thinking about how many hours are left until dinner time,
. . . . . . .how many hours we can play before we are called home.

*
*

What If / by Ronald J Palmer

What if you could go back
all those years ago
and take that chance,
say that word,
ask that question,
go with that girl
(the redhead with curls)

only to find
that your life would hold
even more regrets
like missing
the small good things
you found on this trail.

*
*

Talking Before Morning / by Jessica Rigney

You tried to dream about planets
vacant Mars far off.

You tried to dream about meteors
instead your sister—

circumambulates the front lawn
trimming grass

at high speed with the use
of scissors

and you tried to say
you needed.

Something about the daily birds
the talking in morning

the talking before morning
you tried—oh how you.

You tried to dream of hawks
on thermals

line of birds from before
to those

which are now folded
at the corners.

Rivers creeks small streams
notice you

walking alongside constant
all your life

and could care less.

*
*

A theme and a variety of moods / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I
On a summer day when the orange cat
sits on a stone wall and stares at the woods

when the thrush answers the wood-
pecker’s sporadic rat-a-tat-tat

a car packed with summer stuff
arrives in the northern woods

the desire for what you would
when nothing could be enough

II
Moods vary the chosen theme
Nothing is left but what is that
the coat is gone but not the seam

the pack are never what they seem
trees shrieking at the orange cat

someone must have fallen behind
someone’s rat-a-tatting a seam

after loss there is no seem
what is there after all we find

III
The mood of the theme is variety
I always return to the orange cat
the car packed with hilarity

as the family heads for the rat-a-tat-tat
of the woodpecker’s hilarity

always the desire for what you would
on the edge of that hilarity

of the thrush when the cat stood
unfazed by nothing’s variety

*
*

Calling Hannah / by Adele Elise Williams

Hannah in Lynchburg is on my team.
She is in my corner, and everyday
we talk, and she says, I am forever
impressed, you are unstoppable.

I call and tell her my school schedule
and the people
and the buildings
and the town-strip
and about Moby Dick. I say
the dog is adjusting,
and the boyfriend is grinding, and I am
all in but not drowning.
She tells me about her new Lawless
Boyfriend; she bought his kid
baby Vans; he chefs,
he is impossible
when he drinks, and
he doesn’t understand
his long hair. She asks me to send
her the murder poem I wrote
about her, but my heart wasn’t in it.
The phone conversations are always long
and always about nothing; we remain
on the phone while knitting, organizing
emails, writing poems, studying
for menu tests, buying baby Vans.
One time she cut
hair on the phone. This time
I tell her I wish my relationship
was bullocks and that she was my new
roommate, my new everything,
but I am in love, and she has
the Lawless, and first we lived in Atlanta
together and now different parts of Virginia,
and we will always follow
a man away.

*
*

Day 27 / Poems 27

*

After A Feline Poster from the GDR: Circa 1988 / by Anita Leverich

. . . . . .The mighty lioness lounges
against a dull forest of warped paneling:
warm, wanton girl-cat of raw sienna mane
and tail, kneels and elbows calendar girl style,
her burnt sienna body, all angles and smirks,
fashioned, crayola smooth and textured.

Loneliness cracks like the brittle bones of little mice
leg lies. Oh! Feckless funkodelic feline—scratch
against the lives you have lived in the bottom
of the litter and wonder will the next life
be another cheap reproduction?

*
*

Bromances / by Sean McQuinney
For my three best (male)friends.

If trust is the cornerstone

of healthy relations,

then we are all four healthy to a fault–

our exploits punctuated

by survived foolishness:

When firing Roman candles

at one another, we kept our eyes open,

faith and joy, faith and joy,

even as the pops! ricocheted

off our chests, forearms, fists.

You’ve all shared my injured weight,

eighteen stone across your backs

and my one good knee,

but you’ve never buckled, always kept hefting

until we finished a breathless mile.

Together we have collected:

Contact highs, Hypnotiq bottles (why!),

an R2-D2 kegerator, a Copenhagen tin

I never opened after your first tour in Iraq,

an air-rifle pellet that pierced your belt

and lodged in your rear (but how you leapt!),

carrying you, passed out, two blocks

after your brother started a fight with a bouncer,

running against the crowd on Bourbon Street,

being spit on when you shouldered

through a bachelor party,

getting out of the cab to find you, later,

because the cabbie wouldn’t go on the block

where you were drunk, diving behind cars

as if there were some training exercise,

cover, move, cover, move, retch.

Now you are, all three of you, in medicine.

Every day you navigate biological labyrinths

and patch broken lines of flesh

while I cut and paste lines of text–

each of us patching together the incomplete,

reshaping the diseased body,

our trades relying on a currency of trust.

*
*

Also, You Might Consider a Conversion to a Form of Blood-Thirsty Buddhism / by Dan Murphy

A woman putting up her hair
is going to make love or kill you
pursing her lips
with some purpose
she might be driving that Jeep
one car ahead
craving a cigarette or holding a note
It’s hard to know
I might be growing tender I might
be growing weak it’s hard to know
between tears deep in feeling
what I might be

It’s not a disease
it’s a condition
let’s be clear

Does it make it strong?
Does it make it true
what lasts

We say no wonder
Can we say instead small wonder
I cashed the small check
and bought new strings for the guitar
a burger fries and a soda
a salad for my daughter
*

The truck ahead in traffic weaves
I can’t see beyond the trailer
I can’t see if he’s tired
if he’s been up all night
and needs to sleep he is weaving
into my lane occasionally

You don’t live in the city for the summers
you live here for the winter and warm January days
you don’t want to come home in July or August
after camping in the forest
the smog is so depressing
you will forget your music
and consider abandoning your natal religion

Grow some of your own food
do some of your own gardening
cook some of your own food
and drive your car to know the city
And clean up after yourself
Don’t be that kind of asshole

Driving everyone will tell you
to fuck off everyone will try to get in front
of you everybody wants to own the road
but no one no one not your family even
or your traffic app wants you to die
on the road it’s too hot to be lying in the sun

Can you imagine?
someone would make a joke about frying
you lying there

I’m as busy as a spider spinning daydreams
sings the Brazilian woman in sexy English
a sort of sophisticated drawl
how this 60’s West Coast jazz keeps me level headed
and from the sin of killing my neighbor
though I prefer a form of mysticism that inclines the devotee
to good behavior rather than threats
and never-ending punishment

*
*

Waiting Far From the Noise / by Ronald J Palmer

Eyes straight ahead,
like dogs on a couch
waiting for a walk,
sitting quietly
on a rock in the pavilion
while across the small pond
a band plays 80’s rock
and some people dance and
some people argue politics.

*
*

Stepping into Black / by Jessica Rigney

Inside the core of night everything looks different.
You hear others in the day and know they have not

understood the night. How could they when they were deep
in repose and halfway headed to morning under a roof pelted

by unheard rain? Thunder holds its hands against its mouth
and asks what the fuck am I doing? Your bare toes are crossed

one foot atop the other risking the night’s twenty degree drop
but you don’t cover your skin for it’s open and summered

enough to know there’s no going back. You’ve seen how a woman
can lose a lover while turning from a dark doorway to the road.

She holds her pain as a balm against all other intrusions and still
begs to differ about the task at hand, says you should have another

drink. Yes and do you know the night loses its glamor as soon as it’s entered?
You hear others whisper about the dark dust about your shoulders

how they wish it were they who were stepping into black, yet
they won’t and cannot fathom how thick the air is out here where

you’ve untied all the knots thrown off your skin and walked.

*
*

Show Don’t Tell / by Katherine Barrett Swett

It’s familiar advice for writers
who do not know their readers,
but you are right here
next to me and I’d like to hear
you tell me. I’m not a mind reader
and sometimes you’re so subtle
and I’m a bit dull. Do I have to be a close reader
of you? Is love a kind of theater
and you’re behind a fourth wall
unable to cry out or interfere or?—
whatever—could you just tell
me and then show me, come nearer,
scribble in the margins, come up the aisle
write me an email, pick up the phone, dial.

*
*

Day 26 / Poems 26

*

A Little Ditty / by Anita Leverich

One day I grew breasts
so I gave up golf
and started playing
games with my eyes.

*
*

Spilled Cherries and Bruised Peaches / by Sean McQuinney

I’ve scavenged among leftovers all week,
but pushed the cherries around for days
in the fridge, spilling one from the bowl
onto the milk-filmed shelf.

It bumbles along the back each time I slide
a piece of Tupperware left to right,
its stem tapping “excuse me”
against the back of my searching hand,

hoping half as much as we did when we picked up peaches
at the farmer’s market, squeezed them lightly,
took in their tart scent, underripe (but the potential!),
and knotted them into a Quick Stop bag.

We left them on the counter when we got home
as if they were our bundled goals (two degrees, a house)
and let them grow old untouched, suffocating
in the gas of the first rotting body

until, one day, I probed the blackening bag,
palming the sagging pulp of the fruit
until it burst under its own weight.
Saved from the fetid juices by the plastic,

but somehow still picking up the stink
of all the waste that I had grown,
an experiment in heaving weightless time
(covered with the bag’s lettering

Thank You
Thank You

Thank You
Thank You),

we tapered into whispers in passing,
pretending at a shared design
but fitting together like bruised flesh,
(soft and wrong, sweetly wrong),

and destined to fall out of our skin
and seep past sand and soil,
back to a curious root that would tickle
our flesh even as it gnawed us apart.

*
*

Is it light where you are yet? / by Dan Murphy

We use the term waking
as synonymous with alive
but rising from sleep
we are closer to death
and gathering together
separate selves
*

I don’t think I can take another
internet article
even a caption
about a broken-hearted collie
running after its owner’s ambulance
down suburban sidewalk
*

Reading all summer morning
on the computer
and naked in bed
I couldn’t look worse
in just my glasses
standing by bathroom window
*

Don’t think this isn’t music
my exaggerations
and complaints
I wrote the book
of false rhyme twice
*

Our neighbors with the pool
are out and we hear Bob Marley
and Love Isn’t Always On Time
these protests of happiness
*

Everyone taking their own picture
What else can fit in the frame
with all this loneliness
*

In the living room
most afternoons after work
I can’t stay awake when
it’s my very own life and still
I don’t understand philosophy

*
I slept hard even last night
with the pill and the love
I have for my wife
and dreamt of the TV show
where the brother dies
he’s still sick on Season 3
and everything is glittery
and vague like the 90’s
that blew up
maybe gave in
when one after one those planes
we saw on TV
hit the buildings
making gray fissures of smoke
*

Is it light yet?

*
*

Crystal Beaach / by joni m palmer

Come summer…
Crystal Beach was all we dreamed of
not just my family—the entire neighborhood,
hummed with expectant energy.
Driving to Crystal Beach my parents would tell us stories
about the dance hall, and the cabins where they would stay,
gangs of young men and women, celebrating after the years of war.
It was a vicarious thrill to be allowed into the young, frivolous past
lives of our parents.
I tried to imagine them as young lovers:
My father’s handsome Italian buddies in their white short sleeve shirts,
clean-pressed white V-neck t-shirts just visible below the shiny starched surface,
thick black hair slicked back, sharp clean profiles in the setting sun.
While my mother and her friends—working-class girls with an educated attitude—
watched their play-boy antics. Their hair would be done-up,
and they’d be decked out in fresh lightly perfumed dresses,
faces with just enough make-up to entice, and
heads thrown back in full-throated laughter.
I would try to imagine my parents dancing together.
Their friends moving in gay couples around them.
They would all be moving gracefully, with well-trained steps across well-worn blonde wood floors,
as moonlight reflected off the water just outside the wide open barn-like doors to the beach.
In the bright daylight of late morning, I remember walking hand-in-hand with my father,
him in a clean, bright white short-sleeved shirt against his tanned Mediterranean skin,
and brown trousers with black dress shoes;
My mother was there, too—with one or both of my sisters—in a bright white sleeveless blouse, brightly patterned scarf over her hair, large French sunglasses announcing her looking.
She’d be walking with grace and purpose amidst the chaos of screaming kids, rancid smells, and obscene mid-way lights.
My sisters and I were ‘the girls’ (6, 8, and 9) in our matching plum, olive green, burnt orange floral jumpers, blue keds, and hair pulled back, tight against our skulls.
As evening approached, a chill breeze would come in from Lake Erie,
the air filled with the smells of buttered popcorn, Italian sausage with grilled onions and peppers, fry bread, cotton candy, and birch beer.
Nighttime, the park was filled with a macabre brilliance
of neon signs and the flashing lights of rides, food stands, beer tents and game stands.
Men would be barking out the call to games of chance up and down the mid-way,
while the taunting cries of ride carnies filled the intervals.
We carried all of this with us home over the hour-long ride home,
across the border, packed into the paneled station wagon.
I would stay awake in fits and starts, snug between my sisters,
recounting the moments of that precious day.
My father would carry us, each in turn, through the kitchen door and into our beds
(and our nighttime dreams).
My mother, I imagine now, would be emptying the car of the day’s detritus
and thinking about Sunday: church, dinner, and preparations for the coming week.

*
*

A Passing Thought / by Ronald J Palmer

It was more than the twist
in the wind, more than the way
the leaves and paper scraps
flew in my direction
that made me worried.

I saw nothing tangible,
like a raven or a buzzard,
but a passing thought
that sounded in my brain
like any good caw or howl.

The world wasn’t going right
and everybody knew,
yet we all stood standing
with the humid air bearing
down on us like a threat’s promise.
We seen these signs before
and knew that safety was
not to be found under trees.

Then came a breeze cool
and we walked on
thinking if there’s no doctor then
no disease.

*
*

Bare / by Jessica Rigney

Standing on her head once more
he asks can it really be standing
if you’re not using your feet?

Summer rolls off the distant edges
of thunder muffled, makes her
close her eyes. This rain comes

straight down she says just like
it did in the March monsoons there
where the boy was barefoot

every day so comfortable
in his feet that he got in the car
without sandals. Even now

he’s on the patio bare toes
in the rain hands on his phone
filming his girl spinning.

How much love settles in the brain
she asks him how could we know
it would be enough? But he looks

at her feet coming down, body
curling in half light of the afternoon
storm. We don’t we can’t

she answers herself. But
look at him now how he looks at her how
she looks back so filled.

*
*

Frogs / by Katherine Barrett Swett

It would be something
to be that dusky frog
whose voice arrives unasked for
from the rank bog
at the expected hour
of Venus in the west
and disappears
or to be the foot that startles
the frog jumping
into the old pond
to be the one that forms
a thought for someone
else who listens for a moment
and disappears
to be the one who suffers
the indifference of rivers
as they swell with rain
and the one in bed alone
having forgotten
the loneliness of lovers
the suffering caused by others.

*
*

On viewing Kannapolis: A Moving Portrait / by Adele Elise Williams

The child chanteuse wiggled
like a bunch of limbed bananas—

the wind told jokes so the tree
laughed big belly bebop shoulders,

the tree’s shoulders I mean,
and the wind was the funny one

so bobbing branches, so fruit
saccharine with jostle. The metaphor

means the bananas were aquiver
with joy, the metaphor means

the child chanteuse wiggled ripe,
means she shook like a grown

woman selling ready fruit, selling
a film made from winks and fiddle,

with no rot or flies to be found.

*
*

Day 25 / Poems 25

*

Walking to School / by Anita Leverich

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back
I sing and stretch across the uneven side-
walk. From the corner of my eye I spy
a crack like a wrinkle on her face.

Hesitate…and launch a. . . .hop.
Continue skipping, blowing along
with cigarette cellophane leaves
bound for nowhere and saving
The Mothers of America.

*
*

Desire Effigy / by Sean McQuinney

Romans 8:8

*

I have formed my desire out of clay,

an ugly thing–

incorrect,

it refuses to shine clear

even when put in the sun just so.

How alike is everything I put hands to.

How precisely can a loop tool

sheer away an unneeded thought?

They can’t be culled–

so I will kiln them instead,

and watch the newly fired clay

take on the stain

of my shed hairs, my fingerprint.

All of my flesh tarnishes,

each of my touches disfigures.

But the statue refuses to cool

no matter how many impassioned halleluiahs

I blow through its hollow core

with my blistered lips–

its song, unreasonable,

jackdawing “why? why? why?”

humbly, a supplicant at my lips

begging for reentry,

consumption, satiation,

but I made you to cast you out,

so out, out.

Stop coming back to pull at my eye–

a cat’s claw snagged,

you tear as you embrace,

leaving me spilled,

exposed.

I made you to cast you out

but you keep calling,

to be filled with me,

a starving lion cub grown,

dangerous, alluring,

you call out to me

as if what I put into you

had not emptied you,

as if you were not a reed

that drank and drank

and wilted when asked to stop,

then sipped when my back turned.

I made you to cast you out,

pilferer,

drunken braggard,

steel at your waist, silver teeth

bought when I gave you hours

and you traded them for decorations.

Why Can’t I cast you out?

I formed you out of clay.

*
*

After the Movie, I Sleep, I Dream / by Dan Murphy

From the mountain above
the wind makes white marks
like seagulls in the grass

The landscape is rich
green grass with white and red flowers
where the god’s feet touched

and small harmony lives
The body is buoyant
the bones and blood hold it afloat

oxygenated blood
Remember Mother your mother
as you touch your own body

in sleep and light sleep and find bumps
extra skin and those are not tears
you wake with

You are not crying
this is natural the body
gives off certain fluids

like blood and spit
One daughter moves out
the other soon and the dog dies

Both parents gone
You hope you don’t
do something stupid

like buying a vacation home
having another child
At the grad party last night

9 in 10 girls wore tight black dresses
How else could you feel so old?
Those are not tears

you are not dying

*
*

Untitled / by joni m palmer

The leaves high in the tall slender ash trees on the back property line
. . . . . .tremble in the breeze
but no breeze here, in my mother’s garden.
The gladiolas have bent down to last night’s rain.
Smokey stalks some invisible predator in the flower beds.
Blue sky begins to emerge as heavy grey clouds shift to the east,
. . . . . .layers of lower-level clouds follow.
A thin veil of clouds from last night’s storm stall overhead.
. . . . . .The garden darkens.
Just like my father’s mood today.
. . . . . .He woke up grumpy and weak.
The house is quiet—
. . . . . .I do not hear the usual silly banter between Lindsey and my father.
Two nights ago my father was, as my sister and I called it, “in rare form”—
. . . . . .He was singing and being particularly silly,
. . . . . .refusing to do things but in a good-humored kind of way.
The next morning he woke up confused, and asked, “Where is mother?”
. . . . . .He couldn’t seem to let go of this question. And it wouldn’t let go of him.
The breeze is in the garden now.
. . . . . .A few birds trill in the woods.
I sit here waiting, but still no sounds from inside the house.

*
*

Dog Hair / by Ronald J Palmer

Yes, I am one of those
who refer to their dogs
as their kids. They are
my girls, my care.

On Saturday mornings,
Valerie will wake me
like any child hoping
to go to the park.
Trinity like the lazy older
sister raises an eye waiting
if it’s worth it to get up.

A husky and a lab/husky mix,
they sure do like their walks
and like any parent I like hearing
a neighbor or a stranger comment
how beautiful and well behaved they are.
Like any parent, I know how well
behaved they are sometimes not.

A person comes our way
And they jump towards,
Happy to meet, hoping
for a pet or a treat.

During feeding time, Valerie
will leap and twist
like a young ballerina while
Trinity will jump in excitement
like a child seeing a pile of birthday gifts.
We play tag or throw the ball around.

Then there is the dog hair
(shedding northern breed)
Vacuum cleaners wear out at our house.
Lint rollers help, but wherever I go
some strands of fur remain on my clothes.
I wear that hair like any proud father
would wear a badge made from a child’s hand.

*
*

Impact / by Jessica Rigney

I rode off in a glaze of beauty—afternoon
silent in glistering sun and branches of willow

waving so wide is the body too wide is the turn
from left to right and I am motionless in the wreck of it

simply flying or floating in the split—above is the sky
below is the land and I sideways between—the poet’s

body writes within the rupture of time and a passing
storm which lands elsewhere—I hit the pavement

more solid than my thought thinking itself left ankle knee
elbow shoulder a head inside a helmet still thunking the way

I remember it would—the body falls as it does takes
the impact throughout we cannot say when if ever

there is a time when the poet is not writing while falling
how is it for you my love is the river running again

into the sea or is it somehow me suspended between.

*
*

Stevens Williams / by Katherine Barrett Swett

It must be abstract
even poetry which brings
us thought racked
no ideas but in things

wanting to arouse
the senses directly
not via the roundabout
of convention

words are less
than threads in a loom
than scissors cutting a silhouette
than stone carvers carving a tomb

than sunflowers drooping to the ground
than wind making pine needles sound

*
*

To Eat An Apple Whole You Gotta Have Teeth / by Adele Elise Williams

Blood yellow bulb:
an offering for knowledge,
power, youth;
a cool corpse bomb tight
and ready to pop.
Inside there is lemon,
honey and rose; an apple
is a juice-filled
sponge for the mouth,
a sunny swim in silk.
Its flower end, its blossom
bottom is dried up:
umbilicus
but fragrant and sneaky
like spring suckle.
Imagine
the apple down
upon its tender apple
knees begging
for an origin
story, waggling its stem,
its pouty bud tucked
between rump and rut,
pleading:
who am I and how
did I get here?
Note its sound. Its echo
at thump:
apple as landshell,
apple as holler,
apple as stud-finder.
Bite
into the bloody butter
ball, the Pomme perfect
palm-fit. Chaw
at the main vein
with all of your teeth:
all of your hand
dripping
in the sugared
consequence
of that wound.

*
*

Day 24 / Poems 24

*

Anon / by Anita Leverich

Sits Anonymous–
His face half hidden behind
newsprint, he watches
people scratch their asses,
pick their noses.
He sends two dollars
each month to the NRA
and the Trump Campaign.

*
*

Brown-Shaded Gray / by Sean McQuinney

For Stephanie Maniaci

Though no pest, you are an exceptional rogue,

hiding with your wings wide against wood,

you shame every cutpurse that has lived

as you boldly hide from the afternoon storms

on the underside of the porch rail my father built.

When you are gripped tight, a casualty

of your camouflage and your docility,

you resist the pressure, not popping

like a fly slapped against a counter,

no, even though your scaled wings

are brushed onto the fingers

wrapped over your resting body,

you could have flown again

if not for the rough valleys of the palm

dragging over you like the dry

belly of a swimming pool.

*
*

I Raise a Toast to the Saint of Memory / by Dan Murphy

There’s this song that starts
There’s a girl here and she
looks like you

You know I can barely stay awake
and it’s my own life where
I’m bending the notes

with my ring finger
bending the notes
with my throat

blending just
a little trick to hit
those highest notes

There’s a girl here
she looked like you
until all songs started

to sound the same
in every summer’s nostalgia
or political impotence

Is that the same thing
Does it make it the same
to the listener

singing in the car
Does it go somewhere
the smog the grief

hitting a speed bump or
*digital glitch*
the pitch dips

for a second
a shattering feeling
we’ve slipped

this time maybe seasick
like the doctor’s word diagnosis
and something wakes

dozing in the white noise
backwash
of abandoned afternoons

Hoo—ooh woe is me
chants the frail
70’s singer his voice

tuned to a harsh rasp
before punk rock
and methadone

and tell-all celebrity shows
made him impotent
made him sound

like everyone else
though he should
know he’s quoting himself

like I am again
some version of blues
a White kid could learn

to sing poorly at first
then with style until
the feeling fades

*
*

Cemetery Party / by joni m palmer

Their lawn chairs are arranged in a circle around the gravestone.
Two little girls are under the enormous yew, playing
while the adults—it looks like brothers and sisters, sisters- and brothers-in-law, no mother or father—
pass around momentoes: pictures in ornate frames, loose photographs, and other small objects.
I can tell they are telling stories—soft laughter, quiet nods of heads as eyes lock and confirm the story.
One woman stands up and walks towards the sunset, rocking her very small infant.
A teenager is trying to look engaged, but I can tell he is bored.
He doesn’t yet understand these things.
I was the same way, my mother had to drag us to her father’s grave
[Much later, when we were in high school and college, we would go to her mother’s grave]
every Memorial Day.
I could see the group as I drove up the small lane
[It is a small rural cemetery on a slope facing Lake Erie],
so I drove in as quietly as I could, held the car door to a close,
and slowly walked to the family headstone.
I sat down on my mother’s side of the plot. Propped my card for her against the base of the stone,
behind the marigolds. I miss you.
I sit cross-legged with knees to my chin, and I joke that I’m sitting on her head.
I tell her about my relationship with my siblings. I tell her that Dad is doing ok.
I tell her that I am doing ok.
And then, I ask her some of the questions I wish I had asked her.
The shadows are lengthening, mosquitos on the attack. I unfold my body upwards,
a sharp pain in my knees as I stand. I look down and ask, “Mom, when you were the age I am now
did you feel your body getting old before its time?”

*
*

Instructions Received / by Ronald J Palmer

I was told to never compromise
and understood what that could mean:
alone to face the wrath of stormy skies.

Fight for your side with truth or lies.
Never be seen as in-between.
I was told to never compromise.

“Never bend”, the essence of all battle cries.
See one with different views as a fiend
who alone will face the wrath of stormy skies.

If you fail, no time for sighs.
Keep steady, don’t change your scene.
I was told to never compromise.

Constancy is its own prize
as you will not be seen to lean
as you face the wrath of stormy skies.

Don’t give an inch to politicians or brides.
A rock is how you want to be seen,
I was told to never compromise
and alone I face the wrath of stormy skies.

*
*

Leaving Us Soon / by Jessica Rigney

Rains tonight have wet your stones inside
window wells where you bent your head

into webs and dust. If nothing happens to close
the summer will you continue living it flat out

irrefutable? However you picture this life
or dare think of what luminous space it occupies

it is true, you may not loose yourself from
a world’s collapse. The crickets are soothingly slow

this evening in the damp cool of summer’s wane.
Can it be the heat is leaving us soon? Yes and this is how

the minutes dismantle as they make themselves—
not a thing is still coming. Everything’s surfaced

and already gone.

*
*

Three Cellos / by Katherine Barrett Swett

1.

Prosecutor: Where did she put the cello
Witness: Between her legs your honor

. . . . .Transcript of Charlotte Mormon’s Trial

In the 19th century
there were women who tried
side-saddle to avoid the lewdness
of legs spread wide
around a wooden box,
but to play a cello half naked
was to invite the vice squad—
a woman with something large between her legs
could not be playing music.

2.

His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
To best celebrate his most high day.
. . . . .“Easter” George Herbert

What pitch is so taut?
What key does torture teach?
He asked God tune his naked breast
to draw him out as on a rack
to make the music better.
What key was that?
My God, My God in every verse
and when it is finished
the quiet parson, a virtuous soul,
went about his sweet day.

3.

Someday the butterfly—
close cousin of the seraphim—
will remain in wintertime,
the hummingbird in the foxglove
will grow as large and red
as the tiger lily moon that sits
above the neighbor’s roof
when I turn to you on the pillow
and the lines in your face
lie under my fingers
like perfectly tuned strings.

*
*

Tift Merritt is breastfeeding in the bathroom stall / by Adele Elise Williams

next to me, and I saw her through the crack;
you know the stall crack we all peek through

on our way to our own, peeking for comfort:
can we do what we came to do without fear

of one hearing my body being a body, of God
help me if I fart, or just peeking for presence,

for do I know you? Can I bubble and we both
laugh because I am a woman with a body being

a body? But I do not know Tift, so I peeked
and saw a rush of peony blouse or bee balm

blouse, and the slice of a milking eye, and I saw
her blond baby girl in her arms: a sack of fresh

fruit, Passion, careful, careful. I saw Tift’s two
feet in leather boots, soft and sunny brown like

boys in the Summer, and I saw her wild hair:
a straw broom not new, and I saw her baby

girl’s baby feet in Mary Janes with real deal
soles. But I do not know Tift, so I just sat in my

stall and thought of her breast out and useful right
there next to me. I thought of my own, pocket-sized

and never used for life-giving, just used for the quiet
whisper of my sex and occasional suckled

kisses. Tift’s tit is out right next door. I saw
the pillow of its exposure, the not flop but the heavy

reveal, perfect and plush and titty fat high on top
and secret on bottom. I caught a glimpse of her hair

tickling her chest, of her hair on her daughter’s hair,
so they were both together, wild hair and husk hair

so so fine, so meddled, and I do not know Tift
or her baby, but I remember my own baby dome

so incredibly wisped with yellow you’d think
I was full of holy or hate, and I did not see Tift’s nipple,

but I wanted to;

I bet it’s rearing and ready like a murder ballad;
I bet it’s fiery red as a bird’s song.

*
*

Day 23 / Poems 23

*

Drowning / by Anita Leverich

The pool moves like a large man,
drawing breath,
his round stomach expanding like
blue sea water,
ebbing and flowing at the mouth
of a river,
resisting the wet pull of the moon,
the silent urge
to leave earth behind, to flow weightless
around her.

*
*

Taut Flesh / by Sean McQuinney

After years of being fat,

I’ll not know again the feel

of taut flesh over my broad chest.

When I touch myself

I’ll only feel give–

the give of my hair,

the give of my skin

(wrinkling more now,

moles shouting warnings),

the give of muscle

(hidden or atrophied),

the hard arteries

giving way to touch

only for a moment,

no longer dancing

boyishly under thumb.

*
*

In 3 Parts, Moon / by Dan Murphy

1. Love Song

The white moon outside
swallows a yellow pill

and grows flush
and mellow.

But inside
the room is warm

and her hands are flames on my skin.

Dancing the wall
like a mermaid,

the curtain.

2. Moon Song That Was Meant for Me

Moon that dim apostle of light
dipped half in shadow and half in sun,

one foot in the grave and one hand
on the throat of life

squeezing answers out nightly
in the susurrus of dream.

3. More Moon

The world has bent
me to its shape, night’s
crescent hung up

and stunned in jaundiced
splash. My spine’s

bony nobs, a celestial
xylophone.
What invisible

cord holds the two
inseparable
and together. That

congeal, that gather
on window pane.

*
*

Mother Mary / by joni m palmer

I’m sitting on my mothers’ bed, propped up by pillows, exhausted after climbing the short but steep climb to her second floor bedroom. When my mother was first ill, I remember walking by the enclosed staircase and looking up—I must have heard a small sound [it didn’t startle me, just alerted me to her presence] and saw my mother, head in hands, sitting on the last step before the landing into her bedroom. She looked up, dentures out, and then I was startled: she looked tired and old. She looked startled, too, but said, “It’s ok joni.” I imagine I appeared very young in that moment, sad and concerned, without completely understanding what or why. I came home several months later and she’d moved to one of the small bedrooms on the first floor [They were all small rooms, but this one was the smallest, my brother’s room when he was a teenager; the room next to it was my father’s room; and the third room was my mother’s studio—once my bedroom, originally my parents’ bedroom]. It must have been a difficult decision to leave her “nest in the trees” [at least that’s what I called it]. The place she would retire to at the end of her long work day. She designed the second floor rooms. She made this space happen for herself. It wasn’t a space we (any of us) went up, and into, very often. It somehow seemed sacred. The last time I was in her bedroom was Christmas time, two and a half months after her diagnosis. I stood just before the threshold to her bedroom and called her name. I could see she was lying at the edge of the bed [just where I am sitting now], almost in fetal position, with earbuds in [I had given her an ipod for Christmas and loaded it with her favorite Beattles’ songs]. I knelt beside her and put my hand on her arm; she opened her eyes but she didn’t say anything … I sat down cross-legged by the side of her bed and I heard her whispering along with the song that I could just barely hear from the ipod: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me / Speaking words of wisdom, let it be / And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me / Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”

*
*

I Never Lost A Street / by Ronald J Palmer

We built targets
hopeful none would
lose their aim.

We could hold hands
to stay found,
ignoring any allergic reactions.

The crowd will ignore us
eyes fixed on the planes overhead
flying for their amusement.

Our spots will be found
as we round the park.
I never lost a street,
not even in this dark.

*
*

Tail End / by Jessica Rigney

Soon it will rain you’ll see
she points to the sky over north hills
makes her head nod in the direction
of slate grey mounting backs

of cottonwood leaves he swings
his head away from her face
as though turning towards the day
they were just beginning creekside

the house’s drawers filled with mice
an attic alive with squirrels sliding
across rafters it’ll be quick this rain
she says for it’s so still right now

and just like the prairie storms back
there the wind will be on the tail end
pushing hard you’ll see she lifts her chin
in a manner which somehow explains

the years he pulled himself to her side
touch and go again bumping up along
her tough edges still softening now though
with her body full up against a wind unseen

yet ready he can see how necessary how
precious her sight line watching every horizon
for what’s gathering up building itself
bringing in fast the beating rains.

*
*

The Thin Man / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“If I can hold the look in the eyes, everything else follows”—Giacometti

stretch
expand
elongate
attenuate
hold the eye look in
what
about
teeth, lips, tongue’s
secret language
lying inside you
what
about
fleshiness
not rough surface
but roundness holding
the
skin back
I might fit
in the left arm
of the Pointing Man’s
thin
body’s
loneliness’s
extracted length
emptiness around
the
eyes are
like thinness
pointy and round
paradoxical
“Fail
again.
Fail better,”
Giacometti
said and kept going.

*
*

Mini Renku: Back Home / by Adele Elise Williams

Teen bedroom new paint
new linens old stains old tooth-
paste holes in the wall

Dogs black in the lush
backyard and you would not know
they were tame or live

Before leaving stars
were an afterthought but now
are fire kisses

They tore the A frame
down even worse they dredged
the lake found bongs and bottles

The man on Franklin
still begs still forgets he just
said thank you said spare

Time takes times I know
this from AA from suffer
home is always sun

*
*

Day 22 / Poems 22

*

Riding Tallgrass / by Anita Leverich

We mount up, warily winding on craggy paths,
Emulating horsetail, out hips sway a lazy hula swing,
Shadowing the stretch, the contraction of oceans,
The halted measure of a red-tailed hawk hunts
the green uneven space in a motion that mimics
the rise and depths of depressions, the waves
of a woman’s body, molded by ice, enduring and
primordial as prairie. Riding tallgrass pastures,
like witches, furious and feral, urging the bay
forward, a dark insinuation, in the blinding eye.
Nostrils flaring, flying hair, black and silver
Rushing like bluestem, murmuring heads together,
a coven of sisters embrangle bare feet and ankles,
licking light clouds, sticking like burrs strangled
on the pendulant pitch of their hems. They
collectedly canter across the Indian Paintbrush,
Scouring Rush, creating a simple incantation until
We reach the undulant ridge, bridled with barbwire,
taut, like the sting of the crop, planted at first
hesitant light by our mothers and fathers.

*
*

For a Mourning Dove / by Sean McQuinney

Oh, I understand, my dove,

how it is to be young,

to wrap fingers around hot loaves

and to sleep under solstice sun–

to run with a breath that doesn’t leave

your never-straining lungs.

*

And I know how a thigh can wink

at night as easily as a stark

confession of desire over a drink

can strike a phosphorous spark.

I know, my dove, the stink

of vomit and shame congealed in the dark.

*

Oh, my dove, I know. I know

how your first little death hangs

onto your innards like packed snow,

and that you shared spurned Auge’s pangs

after that night began to show–

and I believe. I saw your silent pain.

*

I know. I believe. I know, my dove–

And would help you load his tongue

into a crucible to alloy with zinc,

reshaping it into a silent lock

to hold fast all that he knows,

to stop his sharp song from reprising its sin.

*
*

My Team Lost Tonight / by Dan Murphy

Sometimes the ninth inning rally
happens in the first
and no one sees
no one cares
Sometimes it isn’t a rally
it’s the beginning of nothing

Young people have no sense
of idealism
How can we blame them
we stole it
with irony with Netflix
and cell phone plans
and updated computers
Who needs a car with internet access

Buildings in Los Angeles
don’t know which way to face
looking like prisons
liked botched art deco experiments
Just don’t go through downtown during rush hour

Why can’t I get what I want
when I want it
Why can’t they put the hits together
and make a run
make a good album
tie the game up or get close at least

Children have no attention span
Like me since computers
since what

There is a space off the freeway
on the way to the stadium
A grove of pomegranate trees removed
to put in drought resistant plants
clearing the landscape
they put a sign
Watered with reclaimed water

Always enthusiasm
as the game begins

*
*

Sunday Poem / by joni m palmer

Late afternoon light streams through the window.

The oak and maple foliage flutters in the breeze.

We were supposed to have thunderstorms all day, but we didn’t.

*
*

Poem July 22, 2018 / by Ronald J Palmer

So much in the world made me irritable once:
people going out of turn at the four-way stop,
late night litter bugs throwing half-finished food
(usually something with chocolate)
onto the streets where my dogs get walked,
honking a horn when the driver ahead
is waiting for a pedestrian to cross.

Stuck in grocery store self-check-out lanes
behind folks who really should go the old-fashioned way.
The list could go on for days and days.
But then it happened
I made a right turn to soon, keep going
when I should have stop.
In the middle of a complaint, a response
made me look at my indiscretions,
made me realize times I deserved
the honking of a horn.

The glories of the world were passing me by
while the need for forgiveness taught me
to allow the minor irritations to go.

*
*

The Hearing Distance / by Jessica Rigney

Here you do find one another in the center of night
balanced ingenious—dark owls at roof’s peak.

Eternal stones you toss between hand and brain—Molloy
and his mouth and hand and pocket and pain. We move

words thusly—vigorous before landing them solid
upon the page. Here have mine, sure I’ll take yours.

Our nights have crossed themselves, said their prayers
bid us clean our teeth of marvel. Here you do find

that which has escaped the day—your tender openness—
our hungry artfulness soon crowned with cooing doves.

*
*

Pastterel (sic) / by Katherine Barrett Swett

1.
The valley view,
more green than blue,
beneath the trees
an evening breeze,
the safe embrace
of hills that trace
an outlined sky
and stop the eye.

2.
The mountain view—
hard to climb to—
but once up high
there’s endless sky;
a wilder breeze
above the trees—
folks pay to see
eternity.

3.
Yet I prefer
the old mill house,
its fields of turkeys,
pheasants, grouse,
the sound of water
rippling by;
a partial view
can satisfy.

*
*

I am a real fine lady beyond it all: the demo / by Adele Elise Williams

O O poems O self portrait art O
ground hound O cadaver maestro
wake up today and press warm
Mason Dixon water into your sticky
eyes your Blue Ridge eyes
your hen house lips your daddy’s
mouth wet lips your brutalized
under the shine shack body
made for more regret tits
on a warm body and your pain
just saying just sayin’ if the poem
is pretty enough I get to flex
the more you publish this voice

*
*

Day 21 / Poems 21

*

Ars Poetrica / by Anita Leverich

From his jail cell, my sister’s lover sends her letters
of absolution, after he’s smacked her around the living room
(she avoids sharp objects), and he signs them,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . .Love,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jesus Christ.

“Amen,” I intone, as I pray a little more
into the notebook on the table beside my bed.

*
*

The World is not my home/I’m just passing through / by Dan Murphy

When I was 21 or 22 I bought a military bag carried it across the United
States with a Greyhound Pass in my wallet I cut my hair hit the road
dust behind my kneecaps
dust behind my eyeballs gone to see the dust of the road
Woody Guthrie Bound for Glory
the Bible and Das Kapital deep in the bag with my socks and Social Security card
I was in love with the farms with perfect silos and fields of corn
and sunflowers
of soy and pigs and
scarecrows those gray and brown skeletons like sign posts
Tattered ghosts
Everything so green for miles and where does the farm stop where does it start
I was in the wrong Kansas City buying beer for a homeless man but I could see
the city too far to walk there
The hotel did not have TV
and the bus smelled like sadness and poverty fleeing itself
with any luck forever
I left my notebook with some good poems some good song ideas
in the bathroom leaving St. Louis and I was heartbroken for the next
hundred miles
That notebook with descriptions of rain cloud formations
I saw in Missouri
a boy from Los Angeles had never seen such openness
such clouds like mountains twisted and majestic to climb
gray white blue and purple-gray up into the ether
Like coral
Like the soul wrung through delicate hands
To my cousin’s friend in Santa Fe I’m sorry I pissed your floor I was too drunk
I couldn’t find the bathroom
Besides scarecrows I was obsessed with railroad tracks and powerlines
their relationship to human anatomy and I followed many dark roads
I followed many white roads I followed lost roads and ended up walking
all night more than once
Arriving at night in Quebec City I felt I was in Disneyland again with
gnome houses lit with yellow light like torches Was it a wonderland
how lost I was?
I found very little kindness very little friendship
on the road in bars in restaurants I found emptiness and distance
I found space I did not I did not find myself
Everything broken everything glaring and white shadows on the glass everything
broken I guess looking for love looking back
in the glass on the road in any book or endless cups of coffee
biting the Styrofoam lip ravenously

*
*

Sunday Afternoon at Flanagan’s / by joni m palmer

Families line-up—two dozen people on line—
perusing the ice cream choices [frozen custard, too, of course]
at this ice cream shop that’s open from 3- 10 pm daily.
I’ve got a very large, 2-scoop cone in my hand, sitting on a picnic table surrounded by lawn,
looking around at this corner of Rt. 20 and Amsdell Road, remembering
when it was a slushy, muddy winter night’s mess of backyard lot.
Flanagan’s was open from who knows when to who knows where most every day of the year.
Deano sha sha sha’ing and grinning at the far end of bar, drinking
Bud Light out of an 8-ounce bar glass.
Moose behind the bar—a small bar tucked into the corner of a small, low-ceilinged room
[eight bar stools with standing room for a few more against the windows];
small green “communion cups” are lined up in front of most of the guys at the bar.
I say “acquiesce” in a sentence while I’m talking with my sister,
and the whole bar erupts with guffaws. Moose attempts to enunciate
this strange new word—and then, amidst boyish giggles, tries to ask what it means.
And it becomes such a silly word.
No matter the meaning now, we are all singing it out,
bastardizing its pronunciation.
Another round of drinks.
Someone upends his barstool and heads out for a smoke.
Deano continues to sha sha sha down at the other end of the bar.
A regular appears at the door, “HELLOs” and turns left to the pool table

Seems like decades ago…
Deano is dead, 4 years now.
Moose sold the bar.
The building has been whitewashed, picnic tables filled with youth baseball teams
celebrating wins—or losses, it doesn’t matter which—with enormous ice cream cones
[much of it melting down the fronts of their dirt smudged uniforms],
as they spin out the mythologies of their youth.

*
*

Wishful Well-wishing / by Ronald J Palmer

May an answer like a banner
Be lifted by the breeze
Pointing in a direction
Where hope is found with ease.

May your burdens be dissolved
Like a powdered drink
Adding color against the sadness,
Preventing that age old sink.

May you stop waiting for miracles
That simply will not arrive.
May you stay on the path,
May you still take that ride.

*
*

Your Skin and its Insistence / by Jessica Rigney

It is important she says that summer
flatten itself against autumn that

it keep insisting yes yes it’s true the heat
makes things difficult she shows him

how her shoulders have gone darker still
but do you remember she looks with eyes

wide how cold the cold is how
we can barely stand morning until

a hot shower presses the heat inside
our bones again he’s trying hard

to let go a need for comforts to recall
how simple the skin’s instruction—

here she says pointing to the open door
the night winds have come and now you’ve only

a moment longer before the breathing begins
and it’ll be alright as you sleep and tomorrow

everything changes again when
you’ll see how summer knows

there isn’t time for fuss just enter
the day she says just enter the poem just.

*
*

Paul Dukas / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“Before his death, he burnt the products of over a quarter of a century’s labor.” The Oxford Companion to Music

So what if the only piece
of you everyone knew
even when you were alive
was the same famous song
famous long before a mouse
swept it from music history
into our bodies.
You gave the bassoon,
a way to dance.
Now the sound of the broom
is the sound of the bassoon,
and every time I sweep
the kitchen floor, I start to hum,
and everyone I meet
wonders why they’ve been whistling
Mickey’s tune all damn afternoon.
So what if no one knows
your name or even the name
of the tune. You are a million
musical worms slipping
through people’s brains.
You are everywhere.

*
*

Self Portrait With Summer / by Adele Elise Williams

It is right now
the season of all
sultry things.
Right now
it is summer
so it is hot
and the sun
is its best shade
of citrus
of melon
of saffron. The sun
bleats at me
like a birthing ewe
and I am getting
gold, getting mustard,
getting hotter
and hotter
and I
am also
getting older
and older
but the sun
still bleats
and I
still warm.
Right now
it is afternoon
in the summer
so the trees
are all at full attention
for the Sumo
sun.
The trees are
flirting
and hungry
and smart
for the sun.
Their leaves are lime
general store hard candy
are ooze
in a cartoon
are absinthe
in a wicked man’s glass
and the sky
in the summer
is not blue
like a sad teen
but blue
like a baby
blanket. The sky
in the summer
can be baby
blue
but can also be thin
and gray, a brash
of silver bangs
on a granny’s brow.
It is hot and vintage.
I am hot
and green
in the eyes
but bodied
in sepia. I am
umbered
and
raging.

*
*

Day 20 / Poems 20

*

Bars I Have Known: Chicago’s 2 or In a Louie Minute / by Anita Leverich

Lou smiles big from behind the bar
–his Kodachrome eyes focused
on the thin blue line wrapping
the windows like the bear hugs
he gives his people.

Laughing, he walks out the backdoor
to take a piss and discovers
a young gun checking car doors
for an open ride. He pulls
his piece but the kid shoots faster.

The darkening evening sky
stands still for just a minute–
at his tribute–just the time it
took for Lou to crack a joke,
to wrap his arm around her
shoulder and love.

*
*

Dirty-Nail Biographies / by Sean McQuinney

Father wore yellowed nails like rings,
flashing them as he rolled Bugle tobacco
into just-tight-enough cigarettes.
Their burning tips and his stained cuticles
broadcasting the film that he still wears
(and tries to tear from) his chest each morning.

Mother’s nails would yield to flour and water
as she slapped, flipped, cut, and rolled
fifty pounds of amorphous pizza dough
over the steel table where she worked,
little wet scraps building to a thick blob
that she would root out with a nail file at home.

I see my grandfather’s nails in my brother’s.
After sixty hours at work they are haunting,
their bruises broadcasting a lifetime
of hard labor and a family history of rolling
fingers in machines and just barely retrieving
them, then returning to work the next day.

My father and brother’s healed wounds exclude
my unmarred fingers– and even Mom
has a three-stitch scar on her middle finger.
When we get together for dinner I ponder
grandpa’s fifty-year-old fillet knife,
its body breath-thin from decades of sharpening.

*
*

Waking / by Dan Murphy

But for this sweet loneliness/it would be too bleak to bear.
–Saigyó

Do you smell the shirt before you put it on?
Is this a metaphor for summer or masculinity—
lifting the wrinkled cotton to the nose and breathing
in deep. It smells like freedom, like mown fields
and like stepping off into a lake.
Like my mother’s care for our childhood home.
For each of us at a certain distance.
It’s late July, hot for a month now, and no one is sleeping
after days of diet sodas, videos, fried food and nights
of artificial air.
Who threw off the blanket last night? You threw it.
You always take the covers or leave them bunched at my feet
or on the floor with your socks and underwear.
We always love the ones we hate, hate the ones we love
and buy them something before they get home.
Make dinner, clean the kitchen, do laundry.
I think I’ve been sneaking around in my own life.
Realizing it in fits and starts.
In spaces behind the couch.
The Japanese write a domestic poem where the speaker
chooses a detail—like a maple branch,
a fidgety sparrow or a beloved’s forehead curl—
and compares it to his life. To his love. To loss and the world.
The smell of a shirt the loved one wore and threw off
last night before lovemaking.
It smells like her. Smells like him. The odor. The odor. The odor.
Bring it to the face.
Dr. Williams wrote, With what deep thirst/we quicken our desires/
to that rank odor of a passing springtime!

Did he never feel summer’s exhaustion?
Or last night’s dishes.
Who can write of that need we share
and not speak even right after.
Or in the morning’s irritation, its headache
and slight regret.

*
*

Summer Cold … Part 2 / by joni m palmer

Today my nose is running like (as the old saw goes) a spigot,
and I am sneezing so much and so strongly that I startle my father.
I’m pulling Kleenex by Kleenex
from the many boxes scattered around my parents’ house.
Finally, I resign myself to this circumstance.
I grab a fresh box.
Tuck it under my arm,
and head outside into the sunshine.

*
*

Tech Turns Against Me / by Ronald J Palmer

It starts with a secure website
not recognizing my login,
even when I get reminded,
even when I reset my password.
Shadows hiss another loan denied.

Then a fax machine telling me
there is a jam. There is nothing
to clear, nothing to remove.
Shadows hiss waste of time to try.

Then printing a document to find
the printer is out of black ink
“do I want to just print in color”
Everything slows down and there
I am waiting for spreadsheets to open.
Shadows hiss life was easier when
it was hard times. Don’t worry—
hard times a coming.

*
*

Somewhere Launched / by Jessica Rigney

Head dropped back over
edge of the table it feels as though
her body were tipping back
feet over hips over heart over head.

Not everything needs to be
a poem.

The bodyworker makes her thighs
with her eyes closed feel male—
thick fibers packed with a force
capable of thrust and purpose.

But everything is
already a poem.

Why equate such things
with the male of a species when
this body’s legs once held up
full weight of another?

Rest your head a bit longer.

The weight of a thought
can be witnessed by another
watching, though not measured
like force or mass.

I’m awfully light—
unanchored now.

Winds surge from mountains.
Sun plunges and heat becomes
a pressure up from the plains. She
is somewhere launched between.

*
*

Interior / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The book turned over
on the coffee table
bright slivers
of light on marble

a yellow chair
the window open
a cracked mirror
some old porcelain

someone’s glasses
the tea pot
these small dashes
daubed—forgot—

*
*

Bukowski says it is the snapped shoelace that will drive a man mad / by Adele Elise Williams

but I know it is my tinsel lips and indecision,
my evasion and stretched body, the way I leave
the kitchen or a moment that drives my man
crazy. He is wild for my eye lock, for my biscuits,
for my loving family. He is mad for my hair pull,
my back scratch— but not a hand hold; my man
would never trust a kind grip. Bukowski said
the terror of trivialities punish a man, but this man,
my man, peaks for my black bottom oatmeal
pie, for my working hands, my fit to be tied, my
soft heart. When I red my nails he sees cherries,
he sees picking pits. My man is drooling for the task.

*
*

Day 19 / Poems 19

*

Polski Day or Bars I Have Known: Frank’s / by Anita Leverich

The next generation of immigrants, descendants
of butchers and cowboys, and railroaders work
the meat packing plants in the West Bottoms.
On the third Saturday in May, they party.
The Tooschecks and Slatskies, the Yuradoviches
celebrate sausage and beer and polka. Accordions
squeeze out the old tunes and dancers
spin out the old stories in church basements
and union halls and in the back yard of Frank’s
Bar where his daughter, now old herself, draws
a chart in the grass and turns out the bull
for the bull shit contest. Pay your money
and draw your number. Sip your beer and wait
for him to shit on a square. Hope you win.
Pay out the winner and shovel up the piles
before the parade passes and the moon
sets over Strawberry Hill, the new country.

*
*

Through TSA / by Sean McQuinney

When she was asked to take off her pumps,

she took care slipping a fingernail

between her ankle and the printed counter,

wedging it off without wrinkling

her nylons, without scuffing the leather’s gloss.

And, after shrinking a full inch

in front of me, stood the shoes tall

on the conveyor as if they were idols

that would be angered if tipped over.

She walked into the scanner, arms raised,

without waiting for the man beyond

to wave her through with his purple-gloved hands.

Her toes curled impatiently

into the industrial carpet on the other side

(five years into a ten-year warranty),

as she waited for her shoes to reappear,

and I wasn’t the only one to breathe awe

as her foot disappeared beneath the topline

and came to rest under the vamp.

She gave each heel an experimental tap

and ascended beyond our horde

of mumbling Velcro and laces.

*
*

In This World / by Dan Murphy

I too like that part
where the hero
strides through
a dandelion field
of sparkling
crystalline tufts

and returns to blow away
the bastards
he picks out one
by one
one of the dead-headed
souvenirs

he brings his full lips
to extinguish the last
remaining bits of life

I like the peaceful
warrior who says
Don’t make me
who doesn’t really want to
put his foot to face
and
watch
the white stars shatter

I know redemption
says our mute warrior
Sunday afternoon
as my foes swarm
like bees around
a black flower

*
*

Poem 19 / by joni m palmer

One, two, buckle my shoe
My father says as he moves his walker across the kitchen linoleum.

Three, four, shut the damn door
He almost shouts as we near the threshold to the living room.
Turn right Dad, and I point my finger in the direction of the hallway toward the bathroom and bedroom.
That right?, my Dad says, pointing the other direction.
Silly man, I say touching him gently on his right side.
So, where are we, Dad — What comes after three, four?

Five, six, pick up them ol’ sticks
He whispers conspiratorially.
We are now half way to the bathroom,
he’s pushing his walker a little too far ahead of him on the thick carpet.
Yet he’s ready for …

Seven, eight, shut the goddamned gate
He’s at the t-intersection: left bedroom, right bathroom.
I motion for him to go right, and he’s in the final stretch!

Nine, ten!
And we are at the threshold to the bathroom
Do it again? He says with a mischievous grin.

*
*

Trade In / by Ronald J Palmer

I want to trade in
this life for
a better one.

One where I made
less mistakes where
I took more
of what was offered.

But this model
is old and the wear
and tear shows.
Blue book value
much less than is owed.

*
*

Again / by Jessica Rigney

He looks past her to the moment

when they last arrived in the same

place it’s a matter of time she says

the circling back begins to become

a body palpable while carrots are peeled

and chopped for dinner at the corner

of the kitchen he’s waking from the new

dream of her walking further ahead

opening his eyes again again but it’s not

there where I’ve gone she says but back

to the house and this time all the doors

have been replaced I don’t walk through

instead I am stepping back you know

like a film played in reverse remember

she asks but his eyes are closed again and

he’s fallen into sleep again I’ll meet you

she says I’ll wait for you over here

at the corner of the field where I’m walking

in grass heavy with rain bent over

itself and that old cat we had do you

remember him he’s in my arms again

I carried him all this way through thick

air.

*
*

Boundary Crossing / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Snakeskin on the skirting board
sign without substance, for sure.

My students think that sibilance means
there is a snake, usually the first snake,
lurking in the first garden.

The substantial lump under the rug
is the last snake I hope to see,
and I am not beguiled. Ugh.

I’ll stay on this side of the desk
for a while longer. There is no
snake in this poem.

Sunning themselves on a rock
in the garden, but please, not
in the house curled
up peacefully. A scuttling mouse
would be less of a shock.
And no less sibilant.
Garter. Milk. Rattle.
Harmlessness depends
on what comes after.

*
*

The First Man I Convinced To Love Me Died Under A Tree / by Adele Elise Williams

The air in Wyoming is thinner than the Piedmont’s back home,
and the rain there is unforgiving. The rain and the wind and the
sheer size of a Spruce can kill a man even if his smile is like
a mare’s and his hands have used many a tree’s meat for loving
gifts: spoons, bowls, chests, and frames. Even if his hands are
the last leather of their kind, and his teeth are white as whale
bone; a man can die asleep. Even when he is everyone’s favorite
man, he can still die. The nature of Wyoming is bigger than God.
It is like God made it and then said oops, I’ve created a monster.
It is big enough to woo the impossible sky and big enough to kill
its own lover. If one drives through the Cowboy State instead
of taking it like a surveyor, by blasted foot, one is sure to miss
everything but the endless plains suffering the rushing street like
a perfect cotton sheet now fit for the laundry, a dry soft buttery
muslin spoiled by coffee, wine, asphalt. Everything you won’t see
on the drive are hot water springs, Blue Spruce trees high and
wide, woods thick with men escaping and proving and musing.
They are asleep and dreaming of a blazing shower, of their lonely
mothers, of the girls they love back home with wheat hair. One is
sleeping especially sound before the wind and the rain, before the
tree falls, his body assaulted: as flat and necessary as a bookmark.

*
*

Day 18 / Poems 18

*

FaceBook Mug or Bars I Have Known: Chicago’s 1 / by Anita Leverich

I look crazy in the Facebook photo
you posted after last Friday’s
margaritas, tacos and house wine.
We both smile big toothy smiles.
My eyes agoogle and averted,
yours look straight ahead for what
will come next: “We got lots of likes,”
you say and drive away.

*
*

Mercy for the Pitiful / by Dan Murphy

Each poem begins the same
it notes how all things composed
here are not nature’s plain peer

how the kids are never home

how even in night’s stern command
and the flowers all asleep
a vagrant air lies over them calling
What is the blessing to keep?

I think the trick is learning
the rhythm
Call it the song the road dictates
in its invisible decline
in swerving between church and state
between Jerusalem and Palestine

Keep your mind on the things you want
said the Kung Fu philosopher
We were rapt
inside with the remote
But all the king’s horses and your lawyer’s men
still couldn’t string two sentences
together even now and then

But let’s be clear dear listener
beyond the chitter chatter
the windshield glare
its splinter
its splatter

Nothing is new
even the jazz lady knows
nothing matters

and it’s not enough
this little habit
not enough the scrunched-up
baggie in your top left pocket
Desire is not enough when you want
and I want the ring of purest
gold
but I can’t have
I can’t have what I can’t hold

*
*

Summer Cold / by joni m palmer

I wake up bleary-eyed, test my voice—a mere croak.
Still wound tightly in my cotton bedsheet, I roll onto my back
The fan is spinning overhead,
Early afternoon sunshine is coming in through the south-facing window.
Somehow I must have managed to turn off the AC in the middle of the night
[and open the windows], annoyed by the buzzing and the artificial cold.
The left side of the bed [where G should be] is littered with the books and magazines
I attempted to read last night.
Smokey sqeak-mews from the end of the bed,
Hoping [I’m certain, for the last several hours]
That I’ll unloose myself from the sheets and pet her.

*
*

Who Shorten The Parade / by Ronald J Palmer

They still come early
with their blankets, chairs and cooler.
They still leave sunburnt.

There is still applause
for the fire trucks
the crowd still
stands up for the flag
and the veterans on motor bikes.

Kids still scamper for candy
and a few adults as well.
There are fewer floats
and very few clowns,
less marching bands as well.

People seem more restless
cutting across the road
when the parade stalls.
People are quicker to leave:
many not staying to the end.

The bright spot in all of this,
fewer politicians too.

Occasional clouds and breeze
make the day somewhat comfortable,
but there seem not to be
a spirit of togetherness
a sense of happiness.

You wonder if there is less
to believe in as three adults
complain about the candy wrappers
and water bottles left by a trio of kids.

*
*

At Will / by Jessica Rigney

The possible or probable
of any given moment rests upon
two ticks of the clock from
here to there a winning smile
and you undividing yourself.

Little tree of ought
contains the world.

Draw your arrows out
from center of this bow
bend it break it if necessary.
There is a back whose
bone is yours to take—

at will.

*
*

Ballad of the Nightmare Waking / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The beast incendiary
alights on fortress walls
sets fire to the village
crushes the palace halls

the shrieks do not affect him
his hearing’s not the best
the educated laugh at him
or doubt that he exists

and yet he wakes them in the night
they don’t know why they’re up
unable to get back to sleep
uneasiness erupts

he lets the children ride him
they never wake at all
but old and middle aged
can hear him pace the hall

he’s burning down their history
slipping past the moat
and flying over ramparts
part crow, part carp, part goat.

*
*

Day 17 / Poems 17

*

Mad / by Anita Leverich

When you caught the house on fire,
she was so mad, she couldn’t see
straight. The tiny teapots melted
across the wallpaper she had hung.
She was so mad, she could’ve slapped
you into the middle of next week.
You were born on a Wednesday you know,
she lamented from the kitchen door
where the skillet still sizzled in the charred
ruins of her avocado tinted kitchen.

*
*

Ode to My First Grey Hair / by Sean McQuinney

I will never know which of them was first.

By the time I saw them clustered at my ear,

curled over the arms of my glasses,

there were too many to pluck,

to hide from myself like I hide

Keith Whitley’s alcohol poisoning

when I listen to “I’m No Stranger to the Rain”

on repeat in the middle of the night

to force myself to grade another essay,

or how I’m listening to Brooks and Dunn

to make myself forget that I have Lowell waiting,

or how I’ve been listening to the Judds

to remind myself to visit my mother next weekend,

and to forget the DVD that the cardiologist

watched with her while I napped in the waiting room,

or how I’ve begun listing to “Big Bad John”

any time I think of my grandfather’s heart attack

to forget the story of him dying next to the toilet,

or how I listen to “Country Roads”

to pretend I have any more chance than Denver

or Heraclitus of walking back into my childhood home,

or how I’ve listened to “Homecoming ‘63”

and wondered what songs you would play

to forget me if, one day, you were to come home

after giving me a mundane hour alone

to find me curled, unresponsive, prematurely grey.

*
*

Second Coming / by Dan Murphy

I don’t want to rely on
talk show hosts
and internet graphics

to speak my mind
but I am dumb
with grief by now

struck over and over
Climb Mt. Fuji
O snail

But slowly slowly
should be understood
just like Arjuna wincing

at Krishna’s true face
It’s a marvel this
rope-a-dope

stringing together
two adjectives and a noun
By the way

my favorite episode
of all time is the one
I’m watching right now

They’re parceling out
portions of love
and other niceties

for instance what we buy
and can’t live
for long without

like a shepherd and his flock
never looking back
into wind freckled

blue and black with shadow
My own words move me
to cry

Is this wrong?
When I see my tenderness
how sweet I am when

no one watches
it breaks my heart
I’m sad they don’t read

my poetry or
they don’t read poetry
Like with anything

it’s taste until
you lose taste and still
I want to make something

personal that lives
in others
I want to take

the Jeezless self out
of the equation
I want to testify

for the deer
that come down
from the other side

of the freeway
in ragged brown coats
in late July to eat

the grass to eat
the park grass
the nighttime

sprinklers make
they make everything how
every creature wants to live

you can see this
can’t you?

*
*

[Iowa] Pleistocene Snail / by joni m palmer

“We can’t seem to care about endangered species that are not cuddly,” says the woman at the end of the bar. We are the only customers in the brewery late on the eve of the 4th of July, talking about environment, education, and climate change.

Quite apropos, I think, to be having this conversation on the eve of our Nation’s birthday, given the state of affairs in the EPA, and the Departments of Interior and Agriculture.

She tells me about the plight of the Iowa Pleistocene Snail, a land snail the size of your pinky finger nail.

Clicking through websites back in my hotel room in Iowa City, I learn that there are 1500 endangered species in the United States. I spend hours, late into the night, learning about the endangered species in the states I will be driving through these next few weeks.

The young woman at the bar—I can’t recall her name now—is telling me that these small snails eat the leaves of birch and maple. I am trying to imagine this small invertebrate munching on these leaves, when she tells me their decline in population is due to climate change. Next, she notes, they’ve been an endangered species since 1978; I respond: “Well, that’s many years before you were born.” Her husband smiles blandly. She laughs. “You’re right. Isn’t that crazy?”

*
*

O That This… / by Ronald J Palmer

If I was reduced
to moisture on the front lawn
would that satisfy you?
Would the demands be done?

Would that the sun’s
drying rays carry away
all my burdens,
all sense of self.
Would that I rise up
to silence or simply evaporate.

I fear that will not be
as the dead may be haunted
by all they tried to
escape from in this life

*
*

Given Enough / by Jessica Rigney

She’s got a bucket strung
from her long fingers
toes sunk muddy in slickened black.

Summer’s weathering wet she says
swinging her shining.

And bluegills lace themselves
among the reeds.

She’s got her eyes on
cattails begging to be jerked
off with aplomb into the lake.

She’d hold the water.

She would.

*
*

An Old Couple in My Building / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The very old are prodigies again.
Did you hear her? A whiz. She can recall
As much as I forget; she puts my brain
to shame.
Her husband’s ninety and not bald,
as handsome as he was when they first met.
She talks as easily of yesterday
as years ago. There’s nothing she’ll forget,
including every foolish thing you say.
Before he goes out, he is sure to fix
his tie and handkerchief—he’s trim and sleek.
and she’s up on the latest from Netflix
and what occurred in politics last week.
Two prodigies: she’s sharp and he’s exquisite—
I wonder why their children never visit?

*
*

Momma Picked A Patron Saint For All Us Kids / by Adele Elise Williams

I grew up Catholic enough to know Jesus was real,
but the Saints were paramount and Mary mattered most.

I knew that I got a 40 cent sprinkle donut from Mary
Lee’s after Mass, and if I didn’t make a scene I could

get the cinnamon twist for double the cents. Mass
was so trial by silence. It pained me to the core to sit

dead quiet for my momma. And all she wanted was a prayer.
She really just wanted a witnessed prayer in the house

of God, and I for serious cannot remember ever letting
her have that moment. I remember her thumb coming at

me under the pew: grappling for my hide, my thigh
and then, the most wicked pinch. I responded like

a rodeo bull, bibles catching air like wedding rice
from my own terrific buck: all hooves and horns.

Occasionally, I was granted a Mass respite and was left
at home with my Jewish father. Occasionally, Momma

just wanted a break from us kids, and my little brother
and I were allowed to hold our own makeshift Mass

in dad’s guitar room. We pretended: peace be with you
and also with you.
We sipped soda or juice, broke Cheez-

Its or Sanitas into bits and asked each other if we took
the blood, the body. Of course this was our favorite part.

The fact that we could actually be handling body and
blood. Even better that it might be in our dumb, young

mouths. But the best part was fooling momma that we
had felt holy, if even for just a moment. Man, that brought

her joy. It is not so different now. I pray when I feel like
exploding, and I tell my momma, and she says yep,

she says with sarcasm, my delta flower, you know
I picked a patron saint for each of you kids.
Before we were

old enough to even shame Momma at Mass; before she
would know the needing holes in our souls, Momma gave

us a chance at prayer, and even though I couldn’t
draw the face of my God, I’d know the taste of her guts.

*
*

Day 16 / Poems 16

*

Bars I Have Known: Irene’s / by Anita Leverich

The name changes—
Irene’s to Fat Matt’s
after the bar cat
who is named after
Irene’s husband
Who wasn’t fat—
Only the cat was fat.

*
*

Afternoon Drinks / by Sean McQuinney

Florida has thumbed the sky to the earth

with hot rain like a grandfather

packing tobacco into a pipe,

so when you join me at the bar, a strand

of your hair is bonded to your forehead.

You still haven’t told your father you day-drink

or that you are thinking of changing jobs

just so that you can move closer to mountains–

to rivers that flow fast over stone

instead of amicably hauling silt

at a gentle amble, opaque.

You order a cheap tequila sunrise

and (when you think I’m not looking)

sniff the maraschino floating

among the already melting ice cubes.

While we speak, you transfer the condensation

from the glass onto your finger,

then your temple–

and, each time, sigh.

*
*

The Self is an Actor, I am a Constituent / by Dan Murphy

Don’t fool yourself
we all play the role
of collaborator

wear the uniform
and light the fuse
or trip the wire

As peacetime combatants
we dip our hands
in blood

and call it milk
coating our scalp
in gold-leaf

Just this once
we say and mean it
then sign our name

to dirty pacts
mumbling our atheist prayer
so pleased

we have no more parents
to lose
One haiku poet said

Don’t worry spiders
I keep house
casually

The other said
While praying to Buddha
I keep killing

mosquitoes
Wisdom teaches us
our hypocrisy

is translatable
and summer
truly is awful

with insects
and Old Testament
covenants

and my life
is a terrible idea
for a poem

*
*

A slight trembling / by joni m palmer

Just a slight trembling in the trees above, while the Daisies’, Black-eyed Susans’, and Purple Coneflowers’ heads bob in the slight breeze. The fine lines of spider webs amongst the flowering stems of Hostas glint in the morning sunlight. And Smokey is supine on the warm concrete patio surrounding the pool…
When I was in Junior High School I’d come home after school to this very same spot, to find my mother stretched out on a chaise lounge sunning herself in the last summer afternoon sun. She’d soon be heading to work, the night shift—and this was her golden hour. I’d sit on the foot end of the chaise, making sure not to upend it, talking to my mother. Her eyes would be closed, behind dark warm tortoise colored oversized French sunglasses, and she’d uh huh, hmmm, ah yes, as I’d tell her about my day. I didn’t need much more than this – I just wanted someone to listen.
I’m listening…
I hear Lindsey in the kitchen talking to my father about her weekend, emptying the dishwasher—opening cupboards and drawers, clinking glasses onto shelves, metal against metal as she puts away the silverware A train whistle in the distance redirects my attention, away from the house, the kitchen window A car guns it down the short suburban street in front of my parents’ house The weekly garbage truck grunts down the street—and then my father’s voice, commenting on how good the coffee is today.

*
*

Everything Is The End of The World / by Ronald J Palmer

The forgotten item at the market
A greeting not exchanged
The bill paid late, the bill unpaid
A conspiracy or just bad luck
How can one function

A cold snowy winter
A warm muggy summer
With its sunny downpour
Your own dog barking at you
All a sign of the final ticks of time

A presidential announcement
Interrupts your favorite show
Grass seed on the lawn
Refuses to simply grow
A favor asked of you
A favor declined
By now you should know
What’s coming, what’s going to go.

*
*

In Murmur Time / by Jessica Rigney

For Kim

She is moving inside
the between place now
thinks

I am talking to you.

She is talking to the windshield
the flat landscape the rain.

His face faces
the clouds a sun the stars
planets.

She is stepping within
his footsteps
putting her hands
into the shape
of his grip upon
her body as he held her
showed her
how.

She whispers

I am talking to you.

She is talking to the cabinets
to the coffee cups unmade
bed.

He made his body
as receptacle
shaped his arms torso
legs as objects
to receive.

She is lying down—
arc of his blind contour
shadow.

He lies changeless—
exhalation of desire
and its want.

I know you
she says.

Tender man.

He occupies
the between place
issues forth

I love. I am.
Sorry.

*
*

Commonplace Book: Horace / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I have left a monument more lasting than bronze.

Somewhere too far north
a copperhead
was seen.
My toes spread

in the wet green,
heedless of what
the neighbor saw
I squat

and pull weeds.
for the moment sure
I ‘ll find nothing worse
than cow manure.

airplanes sold Coppertone
writing on the breeze
and so the world
heated up by degrees.

We have left
the land
a monument more lasting
than bronzed skin.

*
*

Untitled / by Adele Elise Williams

All the white men
. . . . .in the world are telling

me what to do and telling
. . . . .me that they love me

All the white men in the world
. . . . .say OH man you got skipped

you wild women you got forgotten
. . . . .but I love you you can tell by my

bald head and my crooked smile Love
. . . . .me forever?
No no no OK no

no I will not but you know what
. . . . .I will do I will play PowerBall

and I will mother.

*
*

Day 15 / Poems 15

*

Free State Crossing / by Anita Leverich

Big Muddy’s boiling.
No swimming here unless you’re
Splashing to freedom.

*
*

Saturday Night in Public in Two Part Disharmony / by Dan Murphy

His mind was stuck again
that soundtrack of loneliness
and intellectual despair

He wasn’t ugly
nor the hypocrite they said
just nixed and dull

He craved and complained
and made his music
no one danced to

No one heard
And so what
and so on and so forth

Confident or clueless
starting with a slow song
to an audience of apes

and drunkards and
an exhausting level of chatter
called banter

Who can think?
But I wanna wanna
be your boyfriend

I wanna wanna
stick around
I wanna be in the mix

with the drummer’s high hat
and jazzy snare shuffling
its sizzle and pop

to get that beat
from the crotch really
and out working those sticks

through the hands
healing the crowd and
finally something clicks

Now you know why church
calls it devil music
when it had you

in its clutches
you poor boy
with no spark

have been picked
and your future is fixed
you hear the locking click

and thunk
You’ve hit the mark

*
*

Errantry / by joni m palmer

The bartender approaches, and with a wide genuine smile says, “Whatya have?” “An IPA, please.” He gives me the run down. And though I want a local beer, I go for the Cigar City Jai Alai. I appreciate the geographical references in the names of beers and breweries. A few favorites on the list I’ve just perused: Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Ellicottville Brewing Foggy Style, Steelbound Last Minute IPA, Big Ditch Hayburner. For my second beer I try the Ellicottville Foggy Style because tomorrow is supposed to start off foggy. The fans are on full blast to combat the heat, lifting the beer list airborne down the line of the bar toward the front of the pub… I notice the thunderstorm ending abruptly, and the sun emerges just as the neon lights along main street blink on.

*
*

Poetry Pressure / by Ronald J Palmer
(for Bruce France)

Is it enough on
a hot day to have only
one small breeze or should

another slight cool-
ness be added to balance
the afternoon’s joy?

The poem may be done
or the poet may decide
to add images.

There is the pressure
of where metaphor lies
along the meaning

or if similes
or alliteration should stay
or delicately

stray or be altered.
One small breeze but something else
lies beyond the task

and making that clear
is where the fun has begun
or the agony.

*
*

With Mars / by Jessica Rigney

She enters the bed leaves
the bed unlatches the door says
open me swings in the night
sky says let me and she
does Mars winks over there
over the neighbor’s house.

Earlier in the night she’d walked
looked up quick-breathed as Ursa
Major cast off meteors
traveling twenty five thousand
miles an hour beyond Alkaid as
she hummed through dark.

She enters the bed shoves off
mid way between night and day
the door says walk through me
dissolves her hand grips and
passes night’s musk moving
with Mars from left to right.

*
*

Poem Dedicatory / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Forgive me you whose voices I try on
in interpretation and creation
forgive me God whom I curse without faith
forgive me my fear of you death
forgive me all the first person plural pronouns
speaking for family friends colleagues
forgive me my life-long husband
and all whose pains I claim to understand
forgive me hummingbirds and herons
misidentified trees personified sun
mountains and dust rivers and ocean
forgive me all that I forget and all
I misremember forgive me my dead
who can no longer forgive me and the beasts
who follow me so hungrily forgive me
for my pale imitation of you your dignity
your love and patience and stillness
. . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .Forgive me.

*
*

I’m Southern When I Don’t Leave Home / by Adele Elise Williams

If I tattoo enough birds on my body
maybe it will rise up and take the fuck
off. Good God my feet are heavy below
the Mason Dixon> watch me flee when
I hit the Dakota’s. Watch me flee! I
am anything furry in a flood> I am a
quiet woman in love> I am a black
boy at night. Watch me run from the
Mississippi Queen> Watch me all aboard
and run the length of the Pontchartrain.
If I poke enough mouths on my body
maybe I won’t need a breathing one.
Maybe I’ll smile at the smiles on my
knees and maybe I’ll snarl at the snarls
on my forearms and maybe with every
gap-toothed stick n poke I’ll wish so
much money wasn’t spent on my own
wretched grill, my own lying lips,
my own microcosm of escape.
Good God it is wet in The South.
The sun somehow pours down wet
on us all in the yard> us all by the
Datsun> us all in front of grandmomma’s
house and something is on fire
in the yard, something is on fire in my
feet but it is so wet in The South those
fires are out before I can say Robicheaux,
before I can say Waveland, before I can
say do you remember the Live Oak down
at Asphodel, and do you remember playing
Bullshit with a deck of KOOL cards?

Because I barely do> I barely remember
the cliff jump and the bruised Honda ride
home> I barely recall the spring fed
pool, neglected and littered with
Live Oak leaves> all kinds of wild
and sparkly> I barely remember
the water moccasins scaling those
orange cliff sides like stretches
on a body, like stick scriptures
in sand. Good God it is thick in The
South> it is thick with childhood but
thicker when it’s time to pay up or time
to love something you made> Then,
then when you are all grown, it is almost
impossible to breathe. The air is so
thick and wet it is like a mouthful of
creation clay> so thick you can’t
ever imagine catching enough breath
to leave, to run> so thick you think
well, hell, I might as well stay and
do something with all this wet heat,
I might as well fume a fire of words>
I know I am home when I don’t leave.

*
*

Day 14 / Poems 14

*

River Music / by Anita Leverich

River’s keeping time
with cicadas, keeping time
with lightening bugs.

*
*

Coffee Shop Riddles / by Sean McQuinney

I

A lock, well intentioned,
holds me fast against a pole
and, forgotten, rusts.

II

Winged and unwelcomed
you alight on me and taste
all they discarded.

III

Leave me stained, damp. Squeeze
me over the sink and toss
me away crumpled.

IV

You set within me
gems, tiny and white. I melt
down all of your gifts.

V

You tickle me with
the edge of manicured nails.
I keep your secrets.

VI

Bicycle, a fly
in trash, dirty washrag, fresh
Arabica, phone.

*
*

Stadium / by Dan Murphy

Was he drunk
or was he pushed?—
at the game tonight

we saw a man fall
from the mezzanine
to the field swooping

like a rock star or Jesus.
But he didn’t rise
from the red dirt

though it did shut up
the crowd for an inning
or two I’d say until

the 7th inning stretch

and singing and the relief
pitcher’s questionable
use of his off-speed pitches

and methamphetamines
made us all skittish
and we were full of feelings

even on the walk to the car
in summer air and
fluorescent lights

with a few gnats even
in Los Angeles
swirling around our ears

still buzzing after the game
we weren’t tired really
so much as overcome.

*
*

B. P. D Part 3 / by Ronald J Palmer

Borderline:

You have to wait for the storm
to pass, it could be a tornado
or a hurricane, you never know
but you feel the shards.

She says that everyday
she has thoughts of suicide
not realizing that her
outrage brings those
evil birds to perch
on you shoulder

Personality:

A kid walks home from school
only to be stopped by a bully
on a bike. This is worst
than that memory.

The dog is by the door
whimpering to go out.
having heard enough.

“I hate being trapped in this!
Don’t say you understand!
She is right as all you hear is hisses and snarls.

Disorder:

The nurse asks if I have suicidal thoughts
I say, “not really”. The nurse asks
if I am safe at home.
I say, “most likely, define safe.”

Why don’t you leave?
Why don’t you leave?
Why don’t you leave!
Friends are bewildered—
they don’t know the way misery sticks to a soul.
They way comfort, like an opiate, lulls.
The way convenience stalls.

Why don’t you leave?
The dream of silence is a siren’s call.
Darkness can be a close friend—
Look: see the hand held out for shelter.
There are better answers than divorce.

Why don’t you leave?
Because tomorrow it may be okay?
Because okay is the best you can hope for.

*
*

Even the Jay / by Jessica Rigney

You want the noodles
to have plenty of room
in the pot birdseed
was triple discounted
today he says she’s

not listening still hearing
wind on the trail one ear
tuned to low flutter bass
the other just higher and
more like a droning she

tilts her head says under a tree
there was a huge red tail hawk
squatting on the ground
I thought first it was a fox
or bobcat it had that shape

breathe and don’t change
now you are here now you are
again back there and the sky
rounded over you cups rider
and cycle no matter where

you want to stir the noodles
often and set a strainer over
the pot with your broccoli
to steam it have you written
he asks she cuts him off

says the asking is the anxiety
I’m sorry he says I won’t ever
ask it’s okay she says while
walking while checking
her head for the list there was

a list and tomorrow’s birds
will have plenty of seed she says
thank you even the blue jay
who yelled from the patio
at dinner thanks you.

*
*

Commonplace Book: Ben Jonson / by Katherine Barrett Swett

A fit of free verse against free verse

Free to end your lines
whenever
free to make your rhythm
whatever
where we feel free
from rhyme
meter syntax
versus
where we do not feel free
most everywhere else
for a trivial example
when there are double yellow lines
and a crowded intersection
we don’t make a U-turn
but we pack a line with a dozen feet of images and sounds
enjamb a line with
or without end rhyme and write
lines where each word gets one beat
or lines where each line is one word
trailing
serenely
off
line
although we never are.

*
*

Are You A Believer Or Not / by Adele Elise Williams

Please click here to read the poem.

*
*

Day 13 / Poems 13

*

River Lady / by Anita Leverich

She’s a coy mistress–
moving men and their affairs.
She’ll tump your canoe.

*
*

Everyday Last Words / by Sean McQuinney

What began as a way to coax

an extra conversation after a good date

(text me when you get home!),

has become a list delivered in earnest

while I still sleep in the morning.

*

Off to work. Uber. Jacob in vw passat. I love you!

*

Uber. Stanley in Ford focus. I love you!

*

Uber. Winston Chrysler 200.

*

Sometimes I Love you comes as a remembered puff,

I love you.

sometimes, a panicked exclamation,

I love you!

I imagine the weight of her breath behind the punctuation

and, as I read the message, feel the tension in her body.

My driver today said that he was a lonely man.

My driver today told me all he needed was a good woman.

My driver today kept looking at me and licking his teeth.

I just want someone to know where to find me.

*
*

Preseasoning / by Dan Murphy

The season turns
on a whim
it turns on an ankle

the three-point shooter
spins off a screen
sets up and shoots

right foot back
right hand raised
spots the rim

with religious
efficiency

spots the basket
his follow-through
can flip the switch

and change the game
You love the player
you love the play

There is one god
in many uniforms
sweaty with purpose

a band of soloists
strung together
like X-mas lights

making a glorious blur
of light
from the sidewalk

A narrow road passes
through the heart
Who was it

said we walk on the roof
of Hell
gazing at flowers

Not I
I was the blue sky
in a field of unicorns

When I went to heaven
I didn’t come down
to the stern music

of summer gymnasium
The self’s black logic
an archer with one eye

one target
one means in
the player and the game

like writing a poem
shrugging off
a defender

*
*

Waking My Father / by joni m palmer

My father asks me, “Did you buy the tickets?”
. . . . . . . .He’s curled up on his side, in his hospital bed,
. . . . . . . .hands clasped as if in prayer.
I ask him: “What tickets?”
. . . . . . . .He sounds surprised, as if we were continuing
. . . . . . . .a conversation from just a short while ago.
“to the Erie Country Fair!”
“Oh Dad, the Fair is not for a few more weeks.
. . . . . . . .I pause, and decide to add, to reassure him:
“Julie will be sure to buy tickets.”
“OK,” he says, content and ready to move on to other matters.
“Time to get up, Dad.” “Five more minutes, please”—
. . . . . . . .He raises his hand to show 4 fingers and a thumb.
. . . . . . . .I realize his eyes have been closed for much of this conversation.
. . . . . . . .Though I did see him sneak a glance to make sure I was there.
I’m back in five minutes. “Two more minutes please.”
. . . . . . . .He raises two fingers this time. His eyes are closed.
We do this a few more times…
. . . . . . . .I make a fruit cup, start sausage in a skillet, brew some coffee, layout the morning paper.
“Last call Dad. Smell the coffee and sausage? I’ve got your breakfast started”
“Oh yes I do!”
. . . . . . . .His eyes are open and he is starting to lift his body from the bed. He’s sweaty
. . . . . . . .from vivid night dreams. Now, we head into the dream of this next day of his life.

*
*

The Missing “O” / by Ronald J Palmer

An exclamation becomes
a direction
and the flow is slowed.

When you attempted to say
“it is good” people thought
you were making a declaration
of belief.

Friends are looking
for the bad mod
that is bringing you
down.

You wanted to say
you are going solo
but it is heard
you are going
as the Latin word for sun.

*
*

Green Leaves Dropped / by Jessica Rigney

Out the window from a small room where we are all suffering

the willow sways but does not want more than a willingness
to sway.

In the space of a gathered wish we are all wishing not to suffer

yet if we knew what it would mean to move through we would.

We would ask for a firefly’s last light we would ask the growing world
to make its chance for meaning.

We would ask for suffering we would ask for suffering.

You walk the street of your childhood and tell her the trees

have not greened as they should and those that did dropped their leaves

under hail and did not have a chance and is this what we have now
to look forward to?

Is this what was meant by changing weather?

There is a world we do not know yet.

There is a world without and we have not yet known it.

There is a world with everything and that too we have not known.

She is walking beside me. We are walking among green leaves dropped.

*
*

Persistence of form / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The eggplant’s delicate flower
the elegant black trim
on sharp purple
the lantern droop
so suggestive of the fruit
as recognizable
as the middle-aged couple
in their wedding photo
sharply dressed
bodies a bit bent
as they climb inside
the getaway car.

*
*

Luna Girl / by Adele Elise Williams

O sweet girl of all the pain. O
baby lady: a little woman from
the very start. O you made
your momma glow, you made
her holler a home, her body
a trailer, tractor, total vessel
for a sweet and cautious baby
girl. O you made it all matter:
you made us all matter to each
other. O baby child, O careful
child, careful with your momma,
careful with yourself. O Luna
it isn’t all hard, it isn’t all
mothers and fathers trying,
it isn’t all everyone else, it isn’t
all forever. O baby O moon
glow, it isn’t always body
and family and road trips to
daddy, bad teeth, quiet begging
smile, it isn’t all young eyes
just dying for love, crying for
tender, it isn’t all please for please
for more, but it is, it also entirely is.

*
*

Day 12 / Poems 12

*

Back in the Day / by Anita Leverich

Back in the day, Mom tooled around town
in a celery green Buick with Big Sister riding
shot gun and the rest of us sliding around
the back seat like pin balls, getting high
on the back draft from her chain smoking.

She’d pull into the Sinclair station and when the guy came
out she’d hold twenty dollars in her manicured hand
and say, “Fill her up with Ethel.”
I would imagine some very skinny gal shooting
into the gas tank like a genie pouring back into her bottle.

“Who’s Ethel?” Big Brother would ask
and we’d all five dissolve into liquid laughter.

*
*

The Recluse of the Downtown Bus / by Sean McQuinney

She carried the arachnid curve

of her pregnant abdomen

the way one might jut keys

out of their curled fist.

Her belly, as patterned

as the Corroboree frog

under her ridden-up shirt,

drew in hands and fingertips

that recoiled at her stare.

When a grandfather

(and proud!) made contact–

resting his arthritic hand–

she struck away the knotted flesh

and pulled the signal thread,

escaping his spat venom.

*
*

Heart’s Small Splashing / by Dan Murphy

You gotta go through one thing
to get to another

like the Thai boys
who had to sleep

to get to the other side
sent in capsules

through underground caverns

filled with wave-water
the ocean’s backwash

the boys on stretchers
sedated and pulled

like coffins
to life

and its errand of hours

*
We have to become so
unlike ourselves

to save another to survive
to warrant salvation

Have you seen the video?
I thought Finally

some good news and
we can work together

maybe we can take ourselves out
of this numb finality

this comeuppance
and wake up

in a small splash of light

*
*

Car Wash / by joni m palmer

I insert $2 in quarters.
The instructions—bold white letters in brightly colored circles—shout at me.
The digital display tells me I have 3 minutes and 14 seconds.
I select: PRE-SOAK, then WASH SOAP, and finally TRIPLE FOAM BRUSH,
and pause when I see BUGOFF, the timer beeps:
I have 30 seconds left.
I use most of these precious seconds to scan the car, 10 seconds left and I dig
deep into the lower pocket of my cargo shorts, and pop 2 more quarters into the slot.
I press BUGOFF, the foam is sickly yellow color (I think to myself: that seems appropriate),
then the foam turns Pepto-Bismol pink, I’m staring at this alchemical change
and hear the timer again…
damn.
I find more quarters in the cupholder, punch $2-worth into the slot
and start over, but I am faster this time.
I don’t stop to consider the various foam colors, but am surprised by the wand options.
Glancing at the timer, I think (well, I believe I said it out loud and enthusiastically):
“What the heck, let’s go for the SPOT FREE RINSE!”
But my time is almost up, and I really don’t think I should drive my car out
with pink, blue and white foam clinging to the surface.
I find 2 quarters (the last ones), hit RINSE, and quickly move onto the SPOT FREE RINSE.
I finish rinsing the car just as the SFR is just a dribble falling to the concrete floor.

*
*

Prayer / by Ronald J Palmer
(for Wendy Brown-Baez)

Let us see through
this shadow that covers
the air in this poor room
and spy the beauty
that is in pain and sadness
which we must experience
to see the joy of relief.

Let us understand
that when this life ends
death could be a doorway
to another journey
with its own joys and sorrows.

Belief is a powerful tool
and it breaks through the notion
that the end is just dark and quiet
to bring us to everlasting dreams.
There is always a chance
Death may be on hold.

Let us rejoice for all we passed through
and all we will persevere.

*
*

Other than Fish / by Jessica Rigney

He says there’s something in the sound
of breath in one’s chest while floating

in water the sound of air moving into
a body as container for the ripe sound.

And so he breathes as he describes it—
breathes for her to hear it as it was

that summer afternoon when record heat
made everyone crazy thinking

how much can we take. Yet he
was floating breathing thinking

of her somewhere up elevation
breathing too—thinking I want her

to try this too. And she looks at him
closing his eyes hears the round sound

of his breath watches his chest
move out closer to hers while thinking

how dear how sweet how beautiful is
this lovely man breathing.

*
*

July 12 / by Katherine Barrett Swett

And do I long for my lost Virginity? – Sappho

If you live long enough
childhood gets a second wind
men drop away
and the pleasures
of summer can be observed
from safe inside the house
as once years before,
a prisoner in bed you
listened to the voices
on the lawn your skinny
legs like bare branches
knocking against the walls
now the white hair
and unsteady limbs tap
like the creaking trees
in winter and one is the past
and one is the future
and the present
does not exist
and regret is the kin of hope.

*
*

Hey C— / by Adele Elise Williams

I hope that you when you say Ms. Williams,
I fear that I wrote too many pages for my research

paper, what you really mean to say is, I cannot
sleep without thinking about the ways you offer

help> I bet that your learning lips taste like celery
salt and sweet sweet tomato. Because you are the son

of a man without chops> Because you are the son
of a man> Because you have ankles and calves

and knees quick like money, I am fairly certain
that your attention is lost and found in all the same

privileged moment. Hey C, your socks are mega
thick and your teeth are mega white and I’m gonna

teach you. Because I am in flax and leather and before
your eyes, I> AM> FOR> SALE, and you are money,

honey! I’d love you, C, but not before closing costs,
not before appraisal, not before GPA and final grades

and have you ever made a deal, C? Have you ever
fucked up and thought> I have nowhere to go.

*
*

Day 11 / Poems 11

*

Cat / by Anita Leverich

You murderous bitch.
I should have known
when I saw you slinking
like a slinky through the tall
grass that you couldn’t be
trusted. Your delicate features—
those green almond eyes,
the tiny toes tipped with clean
white nails, the curve of your face
and the hypnotic switch of your
behind—all worked to double trick
me and the baby catbird you stole
with one hook of your nail
from her mother’s nest.

*
*

From Staff Sgt. to Gunnery Sgt. / by Sean McQuinney

7/9/2018 Gainesville, Florida

Three Marines gathered today
in front of bronze effigies:
Tebow, Spurrier, and Wuerffel.

The statues searched past the trio of Marines
for figment receivers and defenders,
though Spurrier’s hand could have reached

down to the perfectly angled cover
of the Captain reading the promotion warrant
to test the give of the camouflage fabric.

As people walked on, the Marines performed
the promotion ceremony. The Captain read:
To all who shall see these presents, greeting:

The recipient, back to me, his body solid and tall,
did not move when I stopped near his family.
We were the only ones to watch

him accept this moment made of years.
Still, in this place of his choosing
(for it must have been of his choosing),

He held fast against the July heat
(the flesh of his neck dry,
his pulse hidden by his burly neck)

until his wife made her way to him
and held his young daughter aloft
so that she, with her clumsy fingers,

could pin him with his new rank.
His countenance must have wavered
with a gesture meant only for

his daughter and his wife,
or some fancy of childhood
must have come, unbidden,

as the daughter began to laugh.
His skin took on gentle age
even though his body did not move,

and each laugh that followed
shrunk the bronze and demanded
attention from all passing eyes.

*
*

Salvo and Salvation / by Dan Murphy

You know why I do this
don’t you
to hear myself speak
what is terrible
and what might save
even the soul
but quick

And you listening
with the slightest flutterings
that live at the heart’s
straight border
Let’s just say
we got used
got used to it

the sensation
of falling down
falling apart and breaking
at the seams
falling to pieces in public
the sparse delight
clear

*
*

Lava lamp / by joni m palmer

I gave my mother a lava lamp for her birthday, back in the summer of 1990. This purchase wasn’t just on a whim. My mother wanted a lava lamp. Not sure why. She just wanted one. So, I bought one at a shop in Harvard Square. And drove home to Lake View. Which is where I am now. The lava lamp is in front of me. The bulb dead. The red wax mixture has fallen to the bottom of the glass vase-like container, looking like wasted maraschino cherries in a long-forgotten whiskey sour.

*
*

All I Wanted Was A Pretzel / by Ronald J Palmer

(For Michael Dean)

I walked into the store
and quickly determined
they didn’t sell pretzels
of any type.
Before I could turn and leave
the clerk asked if he could assist.
I told him I had a craving
for what his shelves hold not.

He said, “I am sure I can help you,
just describe what you are looking for.”
I started to tell him about the light
brown color—best fresh baked,
about the twisted shape,
the salty taste when

behind meI heard a female voice
say, “Sir, I am sure I can be of aid.
We had something
very similar in the back of the store,
please follow me.”

The first clerk then said,
“Wait, don’t follow Rachel.
I can give you a hand
to find what you are searching for.
Come, this way, they are by the ties.”

Rachel then spoke, “Dan, don’t be silly.
Everyone one knows I provide
the best service in these situations.
Sir, follow me, we have what you need
back here by the tees.”

Dan then said, “Sir, don’t listen to her.
The benefit offered by following me
will prove much more to your advantage.
I know where these things get hidden”

Rachel said, “No, wait! It is I who
will give the best support for your
quest. Follow me and we will find
what you need back behind
the fishing gear. Imagine, sir
what a relief that will be.”

Quickly before Dan could speak
I said, “listen, what I want
is clear you don’t carry.”
They both exclaimed in unison,
“Sir! We encourage you
to follow us and we will provide
the succor you longed for
all your life.”

I said, “this is getting a bit
carried away. All I wanted
was a pretzel.”

Rachel the spoke, “That is all
you think you want. What we have
back by the tees will sustain you
much more than fried dough.
Let me minister to you real support.”

Dan said, “ignore Rachel. I can
facilitate your search. I can provide
direction to the nearest
Pretzel place.”

“Greatly appreciated”, I said
(not really meaning thanks),
“But I seemed to have lost my taste”
Then bolted to the door.

*
*

Unarm / by Jessica Rigney

Something in the living
makes dense air
give way. Perfect
enclosed rapture
wrested from its tender home
flaps up before your face
uncareful in its hurl about.

You loose arms frantic—
collect its shred and fail
mastery of your guilt.

Soon its luster licks the edges
flashes quick to blaze.
Your living risks all procedure—
for this moment
unbehaved.

*
*

Commonplace Book: Andrew Marvell
Stillness /
by Katherine Barrett Swett

How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers–

Sunlight flies swiftly over fields;
this shade of passing clouds soon yields
to stiller shades of tallest trees
whose shadows shift in briefest breeze;
and in this daylong tour of sun,
let me sit still as a gnomon,
give me spare hours so I can rest
while sun is moving East to West.

And no more poets shall conclude
that women can’t stand solitude.

*
*

Anaphylactic Beach Run / by Adele Elise Williams

Not much different that any other
run in the sun, save the crushed gritty
earth under my bare feet: shell shards
and ship bits and onyx sharks’ teeth,

save the aqua and bright and glassy
waters to my left: having touched
only God knows which rowdy shores,
bare breasts, drowning boys or girls,

save the blaring orb of life hot
and ready high above me: baking
my boozy brain, my lean and laden
sopped self, my high ride by the tide,

but this isn’t a beach poem, this is
a dying poem. This is a drunk druggy
chick running in the sun poem. This
is one of my uncountable close calls.

Before I knew it, before I knew better,
my ears closed tight like a night bloom,
my eyes swole up like muscles on
a man, and my throat, my throat cinched

up: a fury fist. I remember the most
blessed quiet, like being born: no
way to know who I was, why my body
was giving in. I remember a timeless

rest on the shore. I remember the yowl
of the young sun, all burning and eager
to blaze my labored breath: the un-
relentless beat of heat and my lucid

decision to rise, to shake off the lull,
because I was dying: alone, soggy, sans
senses, sans reason— just sandy sand.

*
*

Day 10 / Poems 10

*

The River / by Anita Leverich

Confluence. Conflux, Influx, Flummox. Our lives, like the river
currents, crash against each other trying desperately to nestle
into the riptide that will that will let us go with the flow, that will
take us home. God–or free-wheeling free will–move us from one
place to another until we come together and smash into our fates
like tree limbs crashing into the river.

*
*

Philosphy 1:01 / by Dan Murphy

Is this something to do with a god
and not freeway traffic
which sounds like the ocean
I know
and imagination’s subtext
light headed
and dead headed all day
that sophomore lull maybe
something bestowed
from the king of night
he who lost the thread of sleep
poor soul
poor thing
wayward was he
or woebegone
and lost in the haywire directive
from busted transistor
singing
in falsetto’s first rasp
Oh Broken Moon
Oh Pale and Frayed Subject

It’s 1 a.m.
It’s 2 a.m.
I don’t mind
this gray ecstasy
something scratches
the heart inside
to make a kind
of music

*
*

Paddling on the Kagawong River / by joni m palmer

Paddling, like rowing a shell, is all about the long stroke. Sophie instructs me
To hold the shaft of the paddle far enough above the blade so that I can punch the blade
Into the water, and pull steady and long all the way back, and feather the blade out
on the back end of the stroke. I love this feeling: the canoe surging forward,
Then a slight rock back, before movement forward again. Over and over, up the river
And back, while horseflies nip at the sweet flesh of our warm legs,
and the drought weary poplars’ long necks sway in the breeze…
By the time I remember what I’m doing, wind at our backs, we are back where we started,
yet long into the day.

*
*

The Question Becomes / by Ronald J Palmer

I have suicidal thoughts
with no intention, no impulse
to commit suicide
just a way to cope
with stresses financial
and otherwise,
an option my mind
throws out
unpractical, quickly abandoned.

The question becomes
why do these thoughts
appear like a welcomed guest
who always has a crowd
pleasing jest an is invited
is spite of the disruption caused.

The question you ask
is how I am so sure
the thoughts won’t lead
to an action, that at some time
the barriers will break
and it will be tra la la, farewell.

When the best in death
you can hope for
is darkness and quiet
you keep pushing on
even in this musky light.

*
*

Sound for Suddenness / by Jessica Rigney

What falls away is not
the body she says and curls
in over knees moves into
what he sees as removal
from—it is easy

to mistake the fully
located body for lost.
Whispers between knees
and her breath makes
a sound for suddenness for

what has always felt
like need. It’s not
enough he hears her
say I can’t I can’t I
didn’t know didn’t think—

A fan oscillates lifts her
hair from her damp
face and she remembers reading
Simone de Beauvoir drank
and wept and thought

too much. And she’s looking
up again and again up from
knees bent over then and here
and soon when more will
fall away far far far.

*
*

Old Valentine / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Recycling your face
you’d pasted on a doily
of heart-shaped lace,
I did not get it oily

in the garbage slime,
I didn’t tear your smile
or rip your little rhyme.
You exited in style

tied neatly with a cord
to empty envelopes,
solicitations I’d ignored,
and poems that I wrote.

*
*

Poem To Planet Earth / by Adele Elise Williams

Dear Earth where did a
man’s instincts go— I know
a woman is born with every
egg she will ever have—
she will roost a broken nest
no matter— tired foot
soaked in precious yolk.

Dear Earth, a man will
run while drowning, know
no fear— no way out. Dear
Earth, a man will love a heart
not beating, will fight to flee
any scene of brokeback pain.

*
*

Day 9 / Poems 9

*

Confession / by Anita Leverich

When you went to St. Anthony’s
they gave you an envelope
and a dime. You put the empty
envelope in the purple bag
on a stick the knights passed
at offertory. You kept the dime
for two tamales bought off
the vendor who rode his bike
up 6thstreet after mass.

*
*

Fried Plantain / by Sean McQuinney

Sliced oblong,
you rest warmly in my mouth
like a novice lover’s tongue–
moving you from corner
to curve to flat of my mouth,
you yield to me as I press,
and, every time,
surprise me by softening.

*
*

Furtherings / by Dan Murphy

I have certain things I say
certain things I do
I say Murphy did this
Murphy said that
But it’s me
Murphy
But I am not an actor
This is not a play
To me at least

When I was 20 I wrote
On Easter I went to the churchyard
basketball court and practiced
left-hand hook shots
banking in turnaround jumpers
and wondered if they thought
I was sacrilegious or something

I wanted to be Jim Carroll
the New York streetboy writer
minus the heroin addiction
I wrote like him
but it wasn’t an act
because I believed

Because I believed
I found Murphy
and his voice
his enthusiasm for complaint
and dinner table sermons

Remember Murphy said
Everything takes forever
and when you get there
not what you wanted

That is a guidebook on Desire
Then again
That’s how memory works
erasing good deeds
leaving embarrassment
erasing the bad smell

at the end
leaving the self as armament
a flotation device
in case of emergency

You never know what
you will need
Who you will become

My suburban Republican
grandfather on his deathbed
woke once and said
I’ve been to a place

Where they’re doing wonderful things
to take care
of the inestimable sadness
of the world

He died with a full
head of hair
That’s it!
the joke the Murphys
always make of Death

We always win
when no one wins
not an ideal situation
you gotta admit
You get too high
you go too low and
some part of the body
pays for it
some part of the soul

Maddening
I know
Somebody make up
their damn mind
Is it a party or a riot
Or rebellion
Someone just threw a chair
through a window
on the other side of town
No
It was a life

*
*

I just drove into my hometown / by joni m palmer

I JUST DROVE INTO MY HOMETOWN, 2074.6 miles from Denver…up the Western side of Lake Michigan, across the top of Lake Huron (just miles below Lake Superior), around the eastern-most nub of Lake Erie…and landed here, at a bar facing west, 153 minutes before sunset.

*
*

The Inability To Rise / by Ronald J Palmer

You realize you simply
cannot help everyone.

A man grows
to 600 plus
pounds and lives
in his ex-
mother-law’s
basement sleeping
on a mattress
on the floor with an
inability to rise
pees right there.

You can’t help him
to even try
would be a boatload
of backfires
so you wash
that contemplation
from your mind.

What lead to this:
simply the passion
for taste or something
more nefarious,
some childhood
incident or parent’s poor
chiding. The old
“you will never amount”?

Confidence checks out
like an guest; it becomes
too hard to grasp at dreams.
Consultation in pizza and
video games, so much
for esteem.

There are many ways
to achieve largeness
in life I guess.

*
*

Arrivals / by Jessica Rigney

Final approach parking lot midnight
on a Sunday streaming headlights out of

east Denver darkness silent as meteors
gas station cell phone lot lines of bodies rotten

bananas first bathroom stall bereft of paper
towel dispenser likewise left the night empty

film of a fireplace lit at calf height burns and burns in
summer’s flash of night heat though only the poet

notices others who fill cups of soda mixed from ten
varieties who are we she asked earlier after the band

played to a stream of lines and sat as old friends believing
in stamps and postal mail though none said when last a stamp

was purchased or graced the bottom of a drawer opened
in the light of day nor when a letter was signed with love

always or sincerely or I miss you we’re queuing
for the pick up we’re collecting our beloved joining

the night parade into darkness hoping to hell to hit
the sweet spot out there among the foothills

of pine and granite and sky never so close
as this black pitch cresting over us all.

*
*

Phantom Limb / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“Where thou feelest tingling life; there, exactly there, there to a hair, do I”
. . . .Captain Ahab, Moby Dick

To feel the leg although it’s off
that mads him;
each time the monster rears his head
it shreds him.

And yet I like to feel her there,
my dead limb,
as if she’s lying late in bed
and hears me.

I hope some part of her
is in the grass and trees;
the thrush that sings so piercingly
shears me.

*
*

*
*

Day 8 / Poems 8

*

To Do / by Anita Leverich

Make it clear
but not offensive.
Take notes.
Keep the murder
a secret. Assume
it’s a fiction.
Persevere.
Access resources.
Help him find his voice.

*
*

Invisible Spectrum / by Sean McQuinney

Remember that narcissus does not blush for you,

nor do violets purple the drab earth

for poets to name “godly” or (worse) “kingly.”

No.

. . . . . . . . .Every opening bloom

is a call to a body not yours–

when you touch the curled petals of jasmine,

they spring back polluted.

When you smell plumeria,

it regrets that you crowded the bee.

*

Inspired by Kyle Kallgren’s “Bi Lighting: the Rise of Pink, Purple, and Blue

*
*

70’s Summer Song / by Dan Murphy

I go for one thing
and get another.
Have you noticed?
I can’t focus
on anything. I’m happy
then sad and laughing
at everything

moving from room
to room.
I can fall asleep
but I can’t stay asleep.
Or I sleep
but can’t wake on time
running through my day
every hair out of place
in its place.

What is this music
making me
skittish? What is
the temperature outside?
It’s freezing in here.

Jade says aspartame
hurts the heart—
everyone knows it’s true
until we know
otherwise. But
it jitters in the blood

like how air dries
nevertheless from the inside
out. It’s a commercial
for shampoo
and that luxurious woman’s hair
keeps blowing.
And there’s no wind.

Like how we say
former life about ourselves
like it’s passed
and we can get over it.

I feel like I should
accept jazz fusion
finally like a divorce
from idealism
and let the guitarist
play his solo in peace
for 5 minutes.
Crescendo!
Arpeggios!

The seventies happened
and not everyone
took speed
and dressed like television
detectives,
our eyes burned
with chlorine.
That’s the only reason
to be crying.

*
*

*
*

The Battle / by Ronald J Palmer

Between hope and hopelessness
turned out not
to be a battle at all.

It was two sisters arguing
whose blouse is whose;
two brothers standing
on different sides of the boat
trying to shake it up,
not tip it over.

Maybe hope and hopelessness
are two sides of a coin
and what you experience
is the result of a flip.
Bask in your hopelessness
a while and then
flip again.

*
*

Vivid Plain / by Jessica Rigney

Pull it apart she says what you see there
little girl twisting her hair he’s got
more than ideas ‘bout what it is to be

nouns moving visible to the eye and she
moves her legs as a wind roars up
from somewhere silent. Listen

he says asks questions not waiting
nor needing. We look to choose
to be soft let queries drummed up

in a mind fall away among daisies full
waver by way of unworthiness. She
asks about the human story the difference

is there something we can call different here
in this hand or the other emotion or feeling or
texture of worlds cherished? And is there

room here for yes or an *asterisk? The contradictory
he posits nonjudgemental she for not one thing—
unsupervised smiles a nap at noon imperfect biological

creatures we are. He lays claim to the *risk she says
you’re already there or have been or will be
there again soon—the girl’s tangled hair.

*
*

Evening Sonnet / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Evening, you gather all things that bright dawn has scattered
You gather a lamb, you gather a kid, you gather a child to its mother
— Sappho

These summer nights Venus appears
to pull the planets on a string
a line up of once scattered things
first Jupiter, then Saturn, Mars.
An evening chorus gathers parts
the woven voices finally bring
together strands that daytime flings,
a pot remade from scattered shards;
woodpeckers wildly play their drums
and summon back our scattered cars,
or dogs or kids when evening comes
above the mountain gathering stars,
for darkness brings close what is far
as mothers gather long lost ones.

*
*

O Lady O Fashun O Suffer / by Adele Elise Williams

It is far cooler than it should be
for mid-July, and I cannot help
but wear a woolen magenta
fiesta gown to the cookout,
and I can tell you are disappointed
by my vibrancy— the appropriation,
but I will be honest and say
that I don’t know where worship
takes over and history begins.
I flamingo in the gown—
I am toasty warm and spread
the sleeves like colonial flags,
like wildfire— I let the sleeves
hang hung and behind
the hand-woven stripes I smile
sex— I hide my fine
blond hair.

*
*

Day 7 / Poems 7

*

The Auditorium Bar / by Anita Leverich

Dad came back
with color TVs and small
leather coats, real fur
around the collar.

He came back
over the river
with ruddy cheeks
and true stories.

*
*

For a Lone Tree East of Austin / by Sean McQuinney

On a state road east of Austin,
but west of Houston,
somewhere that only exists
in the great expanse of flatland
where cows populate at rates
fifty times that of humans,
is a single tree preserved
against the gaping horizon.

At its base is a Styrofoam cup
with half-faded blue lettering
as foreign to that field
as Andromeda stardust.
You will see it too,
when you exit the car
(as you must), travelling from Austin,
heading east towards Houston.

You will count, since there are no cows
in line of sight, cigarette butts–
some half-consumed
by the struggling grass
as you stand at the barbed wire fence
that protects the lone tree
from you, the traveler on the road east
from Austin, headed to Houston

Should you travel east towards Houston
from Austin, your feet will root
alongside the fencepost. You will twiddle
in your pockets searching
for some marker to leave of your passing
from Austin, east towards Houston,
but will only puff the freshest spent cigarette
and replace it in the struggling grass.

*
*

Contemporary Mysticism / by Dan Murphy

A saint said my name
and I exploded, I folded inside.
Now I can’t stop talking, I can’t stop
saying the words.

What’s the correct response to
How are you? Maybe I am on fire.
The words are the match, my name
a small spark.

Silence has a brother, night.
Night has a sister, patience.
We are all family here
and our teeth are knives.

Why are we standing around?
Someone, make a speech.
Someone, dance or fight, or get filmed
in our landscaped backyard.

Throw yourself to the ground, ruin
that dress shirt, rub the Earth
with your back until the soil
gets the itch.

Now, call for your mother, tell her
you are a motherless child. Make one vow—
you will not lie anymore to yourself
about your beauty.

And, don’t say God, that mouthful
of Lord and savior.
It might just be the heat
or caffeine so late in the day.

But, don’t worry about the paint job,
dust on the windshield, how it appears.
If it does. It’s a song, you can ride shotgun
and hum the melody.

Just don’t show our little secret
to anyone you know.
Keep it in your cellphone pocket.

You’re halfway there already,
you have a key.
The world is full of houses.

*
*

Gore Bay Run / by joni m palmer

warm morning
cool breeze
dog in the road

*
*

Flipping Though Channels / by Ronald J Palmer

Tree roots build a bridge
but not in Minnesota
so disappointing.

*
*

Blown / by Jessica Rigney

Wind wants what
it wants—vast
swathes of
lands vaster.

Do press hands to mine head my dear.
This weather’s made
for a body less vagrant less
lifted at the edges less
willing to loft.

Squeeze soundly upon
mine bones mine shoulders ribs breast—lest
you need look far off east my dear.
Past wet lands past
blankets and billows past
fine young-necked pelicans
of recent hatch.

Stand firm and move quick
for the catch is a wisp over the soundless—just
my love. Wind’s whisper breeds
intercostal thrums meant to split
quiver by sternum by shiver by
shock—you hear it you
feel it—mine own heart’s
bright blaring gale screech
sound without end at
full cock.

Wind wants what
I wants—vast broad strips
my sweet—of very great quantities of
the infinite the enormous the
limitless gasp.

*
*

When you are away / by Katherine Barrett Swett

Not a breach, but an expansion — John Donne

They follow me quietly
as I leave my bed,
put on water for tea,
and slice the slightly stale bread;
attentive, they politely
wait to be fed.

I could be you.

I wonder
when you get up at dawn
to make our tea
do you tie your robe,
yawn and see
the attendant animals?

Now far away
from family
do you miss
how they nudge and quietly
insist
you are never
alone, ever.

They are doing well;
they will greet
you heartily
when you return.

*
*

Day 6 / Poems 6

*

Sunday Morning at the Moonlight Adult Boutique / by Anita Leverich

A lost receipt flips
across the crumbling
parking lot dodging
hen grass throwing up
their hands. We give up,
they say. We surrender.

*
*

Rates of Oxidation / by Sean McQuinney

Inspired by this video

The black-powder explosions
hurling magnesium and aluminum
in flashes and reports of silver
from our cheap box of fireworks are,
like all fire, breaking down what is stable.

It is the same inside our campfire,
but slower. The wet wood fumes
as the veined coals pulse
while pulling in air with sweeping breaths.
Embers flake from the charred logs.

Slower still, the building heat
of the child under aluminized mylar,
her hand flashing to her face.
A guard hurls, ¡Cállate!
¡Tu mama ya se fue deportado!

*
*

Let Me Tell You / by Dan Murphy

Most of us could say less,
do more, more with what we are given.
I was thinking about this on the ride over, the ride home.
Well, as I got up
which was a considerable effort
due to the heat. And I am on vacation.
Hello World!
Have I said enough yet?
Have I allayed your fear of Death for a moment?
My fear of being called out as a fake.

Start again.
Most of us could do with a professional haircut,
a realistic compliment, a nap, and an occasional blow job.
Most of us would like to be ignored at the right time—
say, when speeding through a school zone—
and held up to the light of God’s praise
like that baby cartoon lion.
For example, when we follow water conservation laws.

Happy Birthday Bucky!
Happy day to you with that Pepsodent smile
and a knack for evading IRS audits.
Good job.

More thoughts…

My whole childhood mythology took a hit
when Mother died, became real after Father passed.

Is the teen actor good looking enough to excuse bad acting?
People keep falling
into each other’s arms—it looks so easy
on television—falling in love
and talking about your feelings. Hah.
Episode after episode.
Q: Are you OK?
A: I’m just going through a difficult time.
It must get tiring
like eating a Big Mac over and over while filming a commercial.
We learned the sports personality used a spit bucket.

After Mother died our manners were shot.

Have you noticed that most of custom is about eating?
Mother taught us crumbing the table, grinding
a lemon in garbage disposal to kill odors,
and how to set the table—fork to the left, spoon
and knife to the right
(you might need a blade for your seatmate)
Did you know you tip your soup bowl forward
so as not to spill on yourself?
Custom follows some prick’s self-centered wish
to protect his threads.

Mother was like a countess and considered the plate
a palette to be adorned richly and variegated
with hits from all angles of the color spectrum.
Though we did eat a lot of fried hamburger in the 70’s.

We all make allowances for losses—Father’s unemployment and such.
An aunt gave us money. For a few years.
I learned later.
I was ashamed mostly that Father took a job at a gas station.
He drove a tow truck. Came home dirty.
Told jokes he learned from his teenager co-workers.
Like my brother.

We didn’t talk a lot about feelings at the house.
Though I learned about conversation and taking turns.
I made them laugh. They fed me. And loved me
exactly the way they could.

And I can’t complain.
That’s what I should say.

*
*

Driving north out of Menominee / by joni m palmer

30 miles back I drove into Eastern Standard Time,
thinking about how driving begs questions,
triggers memories,
when I spot swing set on the beach.
I stop to take a swing on this short narrow beach
leaving land and water below
as I swing high into the sky towards land on the eastern horizon.
That land is 15 miles away, a finger of land thrust up into Lake Michigan.
I hurl myself upward, remembering to pump my legs as I hang tight
to the chains, and suddenly I am sitting on Pinehurst Beach
staring at Crystal Beach, 13 miles across Lake Erie.
And then I find myself on the rickety swing set at Birchwood playground,
at dusk, knowing my mother is calling me home for dinner but I want to
hang high in the sky for just a few more minutes.

*
*

The Unexpected Curse Word / by Ronald J Palmer

Don’t we all sometimes
say things we don’t mean:
an unexpected curse word,
a slight misrepresentation,
or “fine”?

Don’t you wonder
about those who boost
they always say what they mean?
If they are a liar or
just don’t know themselves
very well?

*
*

Entry / by Jessica Rigney

Evening winds make swift work
of a mountainside break or bend every tree
she’s not looking west but back

to a desert summers past when he asked
will you remove your clothes out here
pueblo ruins backdrop to her skin she

wasn’t yet inside her skin barely a finger
had found the meat of her bones she asked
Nancy with her camera focused on hands—

would you? Without hesitation she says yes
with a mouth then past her own years perhaps
her years now—where’s Nancy these decades trashed?

How beautiful then she was stripped bare her back
to camera a four-by-five negative now somewhere
sleeved perhaps a print shuffled among others

of a summer and now back in a wind push-pushing
downriver pulling up memory what was
that last thing he said after three exposures?

Oh yes he said her arms over head a spine
arched left one leg slight bend he asked
do you think you might turn this way

face me full on bare breasts open
your hips—the wind now so suddenly
come through a desert is gushing past.

*
*

Summer Poems / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I

Waterfall so loud
we cannot hear our voices
time to write haiku

Sun already hot
I should catch the cool night air
inside closed windows

The sky cloudless blue
riding past forget-me-nots
in roadside puddles

Time stretches ahead
long days of early July
thinking of winter

II

Quiet summer day
swallowtails float on hot wind
rain must be coming

It’s dark suddenly
my mother no longer hears
a summer rainstorm

a summer cottage
old white pines still standing tall
after the rainstorm

*
*

Gulf Coast Consequences— A Pantoum / by Adele Elise Williams

A Southern gust feels the same all over— feels haunt—
is a mouthful of drenched ghosts set loose set low set go
is Nana blowing by to sell another modest wet home
is Momma cautioning both the sea’s current & my dopey uncle.

A mouthful of hurricane ghosts set loose & low—set ready—
took my uncle, took more from the soaking coast town too.
Momma cautions against the sea’s current: a drowsy rush,
a promise, a salty kiss. Nana says it’s ok— it’s ok to be salty.

My uncle packed down the pain of water, wind, & the forgot.
He went all the way to Texas to die, but the coast was still there—
a soppy promise, a salted kiss. Nana says it’s ok, it’s ok to
sell out. Nana says it is ok to try & fail— to not sell a house.

He went all the way to Texas to die but the coast was still there—
at what point in the pills did he forget geography, forget waterways.
Nana says it is ok to try & fail & swim & sink & die drowning.
Momma says to never get in his car, to never trust his promise.

How many pills equal salted lips lying, how many pills equal
dying tired by the water. Did the water rush with sop and kiss—
Did he feel it’s lip— Momma says never get in the car, never trust
him. Nana pretends one stucco sea house is ours— see the salt line.

Did the seawater sense he was dead or dying— Did he float—
Silly, silly, water cannot detect a dead fish from a live one,
bait from chum from the catch of the day. Nana said notice
the beadboard. Momma said do not get in the car, don’t you dare.

Silly girl, salty me– water cannot think or know death from smile.
Every Southern coast is a floating graveyard, a wetted death, is
bait or blood or catching cold. Nana says notice the draft. Nana
says a Southern gust feels the same all over— feels haunt—

*
*

Day 5 / Poems 5

*

An American Girl / by Anita Leverich

Mostly, her only companion was Mr. Nose,
the pipe–man, and she would sit for days
lifting him again and again to her lips
to inhale his smoky secret, deeply.
And while she held the acrid lies
down inside her lungs they began
to expand, so when she finally exhaled
they whispered easy suggestions.
Motivation stabbed her at night.
She got off the couch and marched
into the kitchen where she brandished
a dirty steak knife and began to saw, triumphant.
But the blood poured cold, like Hershey’s syrup
so she called 911 and tried to think
of a better way.

*
*

Playing by the Rules / by Dan Murphy

Did I mention I was learning to write a song?
And write verse.
Learning the rules of what to leave and what to cut.
When to break the line.

Just say I’m ready. Ready to wait. Ready to pay
to play. That’s what you do if you want to sing.
If you want to be heard.

But there’s always the question—poetry or music,
music or poetry.
As if you must choose between mother or father, father or yourself.
Poetry is the tweezers and music the hammer.

You need a strong hand that doesn’t shake,
a close look, a good shout, a smashing or taking apart.

Let me tell you a little about this life and its tools.
Like a paintbox with a colorwheel of sorrows,
and it’s hard to focus, hard to pay attention
to every little feeling when the screen goes blank.
In my little blend of mysticism
you can get too sad sometimes to breathe
or write down the words.

But if I could paint like Greg or my daughter, you would know me
from the Most Wanted poster, the Best Of or Collected
on your coffee table.
I would be stapled on your telephone pole
and, sitting in traffic, you’d read me from the poster.
You would know.

Well, you figure it out, too,
and I will learn to sing, learn to say it.
To be like that White folksinger with the beanie and the beard
who dies on stage, who kills himself mid-career, who mixes
vodka and prescribed opioids. Who makes a small mistake. Jeez.
Who wants to forget for a minute, who wants an audience
with God and his entourage.

That’s me.

I take a pill to sleep, a pill to slow the heart.
Even under blue blue skies
I fold my separate selves, unfolding, each body a cell
and each cell a body
making up its little mind
to follow or turn.

What did the song say?
You live and learn.
You crash and burn.

Like on the Fourth of July—the first explosion—
you are sure someone is shot.
And then you numb yourself to the sound.
To which side of the fence you stand.

Don’t be that singer.
Don’t write that song.
You’ve been given a whole different set of tools
that can take apart or mend at will.

*
*

The Last Penny / by Ronald J Palmer

Found in the bottom
of a washer in a laundromat
placed on a counter
for someone else
it may become the last penny
to make a dollar, or ten,
or a hundred in change

I could have taken it
having a coin jar at home
I left it behind
as others have a need
for a sign
for a good omen

*
*

Updraft / by Jessica Rigney

Smoke far off he says, looks harder
clears his face of stray hairs. She’s not
thinking of fire but faultless feelings, but

flies hatching above an African lake as
plumes of smoke, just like vapors they are
off in the distance, not a thing sparked by

lightning strike but a mountain how it opens
to cloudbursts blown swift in high winds.
She’s got her eyes up now, three no four ravens

riding drafts circling back. Back her head goes and
back to a horizon. They’re up perhaps nine
thousand feet, so down goes her gaze as plumes

find their way up and up. He’s not thinking
of rain but fire how it spreads how his lover
spread her legs how this woman thinks rain

while he thinks fire—the life of both heat
and the damp. She’s not dreaming she thinks
this is not dreaming a sky so different

than ever before feels different seems unlike
a sky she’s known or seen before. Supposed
to be like this from here on out he says, now

that we know what we know about heat
and changing weather. She’s a plume
on this granite—a two-legged display

against atmospheres past, across memory
worn safely inside a sleeve or a pack against
hairs strayed across continents warmed too fast.

*
*

Commonplace Book: Frost / by Katherine Barrett Swett
The Road Not Taken

There is a route I know
not the one she recommends
the way I like to go
is not the one she sends us on
my way is slow
it climbs a hill
and then descends
through a long green valley below
and it transcends
the faster ways
of any GPS
or crow.

*
*

Dear Momma / by Adele Elise Williams

I will not hang myself from a plant hook
today or fold myself into the oven. I will
not think my lanky belly body is too soft
too alien or too tiny tits too pocked face.
Today I will not worry for the lack of sleep
the sugary breakfast or the double digit bank
account. I will not grieve for dead exes and
dead grandparents and dead dogs. I will not
miss anything but a present moment wasted.
Dear Momma I will not leave you in the dark
when I am broken I will not not call not text
not cry. Today I will not read other poems
and think they are better than mine. I will
not wish that I was a different woman with
clear plastic glasses or large breasts at the
beach. I will not regret the last thing I said
to the man I love or the first thing I said to
myself in the mirror. I will not wonder how
young and successful I could have been if
I had not drank and drugged a decade of
poems into every man’s arms and I will not
do it again today I will not do that again. Dear
Momma I will not forget to give every person
a chance including myself I will not forget
my Gulf Coast roots my meds my drunk friends
my thick thighs and I will not forget to pray.

*
*

Day 4 / Poems 4

*

Bars I Have Known: Dotlanders / by Anita Leverich

In the neighborhood joint,
I found the harmony of intertwined lives
In the squeak of a screen door.

Young tattooed Hispanics compete
with old white guys to answer
Jeopardy questions. “Get a job”
Rob advises when a Suit beats
him. “Pull up your pants,”
his nemesis counters.

A black man, a former college
Linebacker buys a round for a table
of rednecks even though that
forbidden word is sometimes
uttered here. A giant German
immigrant insists, “I’m not
a racist. It’s a stereotype.”
The black man nods.
He knows this truth.

Dumb hunkies from the hill
Drink with Serbians fresh
from the old county.

An elder pats my back
like he’s burping me,
telling me of Fridays at the old
Mufallinie’s, when Dad pulled up
to the bar, his suits fresh
from the laundry hanging in the back.
“You come from good stock,”
Old Timer says, again and again,
in the forgetfulness of a wing
and a fastback (a shot and a chaser).
“Let’s dance with the devil,
he says to the Serb and they
throw back a shot.

The lesbians at table three
Share a moist kiss. “Get
A room,” says the jealous barmaid.

Knute Knutson ambles
in on his 86-year-old bow legs.
A composition of new and old,
he won’t wear his hat inside
but his ears are pierced with studs.
Before he built bridges “over town.”
Since he couldn’t wear his wedding ring
he remade the stones into earrings.
Deep creases in his earlobes testify.

On Sundays, he visits her grave.
Afterwards, he sips draw beer
and Cutty, propping his wallet
open so he can see his beloved.
He kisses the picture, “Hi Mama,”
he says. He tries to tell me
he’s been to visit but his throat
thickens and tears struggle down
his cheeks.

*
*

Iron Bloom / by Sean McQuinney

Knowing the touch of men

who work hard hours,

she expected his thick-skinned fingers–

rough hide pulled taut over beetle shells–

but when he touched her,

he weaved his way through her flesh

as easily as air cresting over

a cupped hand at the beach,

leaving her a bloom,

the carbon of her body

flaking away,

all remaining flesh aglow.

While she recovered,

he brushed aside the

hammerscale of his work,

leaving her to radiate.

*
*

Person on the Street / by Dan Murphy

Hey
I was wondering
Are you going to the beach
with that towel over your shoulder
and your bushy bushy blonde hairdo
or are you homeless
You have a backpack
Is that a MacBook Air inside
or maybe your life’s belongings
just one day’s supply of food
I don’t want to be rude
I don’t.
Are you picking something from the trash can
or are you refraining from littering
like we were taught in school
because you love this country as I do
I don’t want to offend
This is how I keep my world
and my neighborhood
If you lie on my front lawn
should I turn on the hose
and offer you water
Do you need to wash off
Help me I don’t know if you are homeless or helpless or wandering
across some map and startled by the mid-day sun
There’s a bus stop one block up
Is that a needle or ball point pen
sticking out of your knapsack
Do you need food or shade
My mother taught me to love the stranger but to be safe
Are you all right
Will you take this food
Take this bill
Will you

*
*

Back in the day… / by joni m palmer

I would have spent
an inordinate amount of time scouring
my AAA triptik, charting out
my road trip on large paper state maps, and
writing out detailed directions on 4” x 6” pieces of paper,
all numbered so that I wouldn’t lose track.
The well-worn map(s) would sit crumpled up beside me (remember
trying to fold those maps back into original form?), until I realized
there was an exit I needed to take, SOON. I’d grab the map,
lay it out against the steering wheel, 65 mph and trying to find
the point I was at on the yellow highlighted line on the map, while
double-checking the handwritten directions taped to the console.
I made it back and forth across the United States many times—
northern and southern routes—this way, in my red Ford Ranger,
camping gear in the bed of the truck, dimes and quarters
in the cupholder to call my mother and check-in. She was always worried
about me on these trips, a young woman alone, on the road.

Now I listen to the Google voice navigation, and rant
when she directs me to use toll roads or misdirects me on a cyber-whim.
But, she did get me to the Reclaimed Rails brewery in Altoona, IA
at dusk on the eve of the fourth of July. She took me on back roads lined
with pick-up trucks, Suburbans, and sedans—people lounging on the hoods of cars,
laying on their backs on roofs, standing (dancing even) in the beds of trucks, or
piles of them encamped on the road’s shoulder with US flags, coolers and sparklers at the ready.
After a Trailhead Red IPA, a conversation with a couple having a beer after a training ride
for Ragbrai, and a growler to go, I’m back on the road.
Pre-4th fireworks erupt in the sky all around me—I hear the faint ooh’s and aahh’s—
as I head back to I-80E, and listen for Google’s voice to guide me to my hotel.

*
*

Happy 4th of July / by Ronald J Palmer

May the day grant you independence from the daily routine,
from the daily stress, the household mess.
May the spirit of ’76 grant you independence
from the smart phones and the dumb phones as well.
May you be free from the burdens place on your shoulders
by early dreams.

May independence be granted from the potholes of expectations.
May the ghost of declarations free you from the drudgery of mowing lawns,
pulling weeds, trimming hedges; may you be free to run
through sprinklers. May you do those things in joy.

May we be granted independence from our addictions:
from the bottle, from the needle, from porn sites
and our misplaced sense of duty.
May we be free from having to be right or proved wrong.
May we be free to drink tea and party in that old time way.

May hate find independence from being voiced, making banners,
and the hardship of destruction. May love be free from the forced embrace,
young girls free from walking along traffic lights.
May affection gain independence from sexual innuendo, free to see
a person not an object. May passion for passion’s sake,
between any consenting humans, gain independence
from judgement at last. I am sure Betty Ross will
keep on sowing.

May those anchored in lost gain independence from the swamp of grief;
may grief be granted independence from the heart, be free to float
away like a lost balloon.

May those blinded by rhetoric and false belief be granted independence
from the failure to understand that the “them” is part of the “us”,
that each one of us is comprised of differences and similarities.
May families gain independence from being put in cages, may the authorities
gain independence from enforce the inhuman, may children gain independence
from being separated from their parents.

May the ghosts of our forefathers grant politicians the independence to longer make false promises or claim fake news.
May the leaders of the world have The Rascals song, “People Got To Be Free
be stuck in their ends, may the leaders of the world gain independence to act accordingly.
May those that govern the USA, whatever Democrat or Republican finally accept
that independence is a worthy thing and it’s their job to bring.

*
*

Hoopla / by Jessica Rigney

Write the hell out of it he said

like she was some prizefighter

throwing herself against a body

larger though she could keep

falling forward against the wind

for the exhilaration of it yes

that’s what she was trying to write—

the goddamned explosion of her chest.

*
*

Beer Pong / by Katherine Barrett Swett

I absolutely should not
be playing this game
with my sons. My mother
thinks I should be ashamed
of myself playing
this repulsive game
in the backyard one evening
when we are visiting.
She goes inside when she hears
what she thought was water
is beer. My mother
used to like to drink,
but now fear has in some part
replaced pleasure for her.
I should not be playing
beer pong with my sons
but I am and I somehow
am winning and so
by the rules of the game
I am making my sons drink
as years ago in another ritual
my mother would hold
up the wine and ask
if I needed more or offer
my husband, a hint of excitement
in her voice, a “real drink.”

*
*

Have you heard, / by Adele Elise Williams

people are writing poems about their own deaths.
They are metaphorizing the air, a glance, their own
shoulder blades. They are forcing me into a cocoon
when I read, flooding me with honey and tying
me up with silk. I used to think about dying all
the time but now I don’t: I am not dying anymore.
I used to think about how much booze I could take
before I was someone else’s death art, before I was
my own. But now when I read death poems, I marvel
at my own ability to survive: I am a moonstone
ring on a wet woman’s finger. She is at the bottom
of Sunfish Pond and I wash ashore into the rocks. I
exist in the sun and in a bezel forever and ever.

*
*

Day 3 / Poems 3

*

Last Anniversary / by Sean McQuinney

We began the night
under the brutal stars,
seeping promises
through each other’s lips,
ignoring omens
in our rented room
(a dust-frosted desk,
smoke-stained pink curtains),
and stroked each other
in half-light, until,
eventually,
we both quit the task
out of frustration.
The champagne bottles
are empty of zeal.
I tap my dead phone,
wondering the hour.
You doze (or pretend
to doze) in the bath.

*
*

Love and Love and Love / by Dan Murphy

I believe him the singer who whispers
everything has changed because what Love does
Poetry likewise does forging a new self
like computer restarted at 4 a.m.
with coffee in a saucer spilled and sipped
and the writer O the lover who says
I am remade Look at me audience-
of-one look Look inside where the world lives
where the world comes alive and streetcars pass
they come on the minute like announcements
scrappy valentines to the busted heart where
like yesterday I got to the bottom
of the hamper and the stench I breathed then
I knew I had defeated what lay upon
my chest and sucked out my vital airs
And when she didn’t love me she didn’t love
and now she did now everything had changed yes

*
*

Cloud Literacy / by joni m palmer

When I moved to Iowa I bought a book— no idea where it is now,
and the information gleaned from it is mostly long gone—about the weather;
I’d read it in the screened in front porch as late summer thunderstorms approached,
breathing in the earthy electrical smell of ozone.
Or, I’d read it sitting in the basement under the stairs;
I’d grab the book when the tornado warning sounded and we would huddle
in perplexed safety as I’d read out loud about tornadoes,
which I thought might calm us both but it never did.
Tomorrow I head north and east into the Midwest,
my twenty-odd years ago territory.
So I’m scanning the sky, semi-illiterate at cloud reading
but buoyed by a conversation I had with a conference-colleague last summer;
she encouraged me to keep a cloud notebook to become more cloud-fluent.
When I returned home I started keeping a “clouds and shadows” watercolor sketchbook;
it was a precious faux gold leaf book that fit into the palm of my hand
(my niece gave it to me, along with a tiny watercolor kit),
but, clouds—and their distant cousins, shadows—aren’t precious,
my drawings and cursory research taught me that they are formidable in their presence,
presaging immediate and impending futures.
The summer clouds I’m looking at now, as I drive east on Peña Boulevard,
seem to be a jumbled conversation writ large:
at ten o’clock Cirrus clouds, feathery clouds angling across the sky,
above them and towards eleven o’clock, Cumulus, those silly elongated cotton ball-clouds,
and directly in front of me, Kansas-way, are what look like tentative Cumulonimbus clouds,
suggesting an evening thunderstorm.
In my rearview mirror Denver and her foothills are enveloped in a brown haze,
reminding me how desperately we need those Cumulonimbus to make up their minds.

*
*

Valerie Finds Her Fur / by Ronald J Palmer

It is not unusual
in this warm weather
for a husky to blow
her coat.

It is not unusual
for a husky owner
to pull the loose fur
from the husky which
on a morning walk,
when Valerie stops
to sniff the grass
or bite at a tree’s bark,
I do.

On the evening walk,
Valerie comes upon
a piece of her fur
I had pulled earlier.
She sniffs it
as if to investigate,
to determine what dog
or animal it came from
before moving on.

I wonder if in dreams
when we come upon aspects
of ourselves, if we
recognize or must pause
in reflection. Some aspects,
I doubt, we ever come to know.

*
*

Retrace / by Jessica Rigney

Sudden her sandals
come off her feet
flick of the toes
and there they be
left behind her walk.

It’s a midwestern summer
grass she tells him as she
squishes her soles
into thicknesses
soaked thorough green.

Not gonna find this
again anywhere here
for a long time now
the rains are over and
everything’s drying out.

He watches her turn
from the woman she is
to the girl she was
while growing out from
Illinois prairies.

Does it matter now
how time loosens below
feet and begins a fall
far far far from
the plied present?

It’s the West she loves
now that they’ve been
decades gone
from grasses grown
plump-drench green.

*
*

Commonplace Book: Catullus / by Katherine Barrett Swett

“One must write on the wind and whirling water”
* * * *— Catullus

Out of context, it’s really a good line
A truth about time, eros(ion) and poetry,
misquoted the poet doesn’t whine
his words seem suggestive not petty.
Out of context my mind wanders to Keats
and what he had writ (sic) on his gravestone.
In context I think of nasty tweets,
the epigrams modern men write on their cellphones

“but what a woman says to a passionate lover
one must write on wind and whirling water”

In context it’s another man seeking cover
by blaming his faults on wives and daughters.
But still I would never want him to take back a
line like “in vento et rapida scribere oportet acqua.”

*
*

*
*

Day 2 / Poems 2

*

Art Lovers / by Anita Leverich

Her lover’s a tourist
reading the map of her body
gawking at the intersection
Of thigh and hip.

“Move it along,” says the docent,
“Nothing to see here.”

Her lover is a tourist
rushing through the Louvre
of her body. Slouching in front
of Mona Lisa, he shrugs
—what’s up with that mouth?
It’s the shade between chin
and throat that interests him.

“Move it along,” says the docent,
“Nothing to see here.”

Her lover’s a tourist.
He looks through the view
finder, finding the Eifel Tower,
the Arc, the ocean, the Savanna.
He snaps pictures of zebras,
the kindly faces of giraffes,
elephants waving their giant ears.

“Move it along,” says the docent,
“Nothing to see here.”

Her lover’s a tourist
ambling through The Gates
of Hell, the Garden where he leans
contemplating the valley between
her breasts hoping he’s found heaven.

“Move it along,” says the docent,
“Nothing to see here.”

Her lover’s a tourist,
gaping like the bald farmer
who abandoned his plow
to ogle the glowing woman.

Her lover is a tourist
A voyeur of love.

*
*

Kindergarten / by Sean McQuinney

I’ve yet to people my obituary,
though there is now frost
building at my temple
and my family is dispersing
in the way of fog–
with cold moments of contact
before the heat of the new day
makes me forget.
My parents have abandoned
hope that my name
will live past their memories,
and, instead, watch the neighbor children.
My father stabs out his cigarette
before picking them up
and asking about their day.
Mom advises the new mothers,
in asides, about the virtues
of a good cloth diaper.

*
*

Why I Am Not a Christian (after Frank O’Hara) / by Dan Murphy

I am not a Christian.
I am a poet.
Well, the Christians have a good book
with good poems in it.
Strong images with eagles and valleys and ripe figs .
that break and smart in the mouth of the lover.
And great writers—saints maybe.
Even a plucky leader with magical hipster beard
dressing like the apostles of The Polyphonic Spree.
And he writes a song and his singers sing along, they
stay late and clean the coffee urn.
The book says Faith, the book says Law.
The leader says drink from this cup, take a little sip.
Just change your life.
You are a blank canvas. You are a muddy canvas.
One drink and you start anew.
One small bite from the body.
The poet asks, Where is the heart in this?
The poet wants more heart, more pluck, more verve.
Something to fit into his notebook, something to sketch
or send on postcard (we still do that!).
Something open to interpretation that burns a little
that not everyone reads, not everyone likes.
More law-breaking, something prickling on the skin
to share before he gets home and forgets forever.

*
*

Civil Twilight / by joni m palmer

Just past 6th Avenue I hit the rise along I-25 heading North into Denver,
the mountains come into full view, a gorgeous graded wash of blues
of the mountains fading into the distance.
But it seems, at this blue hour, that whoever painted this scene
accidently painted the blues in reverse intensity, rendering the mountains flat—
like the cardboard model Andrew produced in our first -year design studio,
we were all stunned by the strange profundity of this gesture,
how he humbly revealed this phenomenon, the atmospheric perspective, and couldn’t quite explain why
he reversed this illusion of depth to create something that struck us all
as a beautifully odd presentation of the Blue Hills—
And, now 30 years later, through the chaos of splashes of dust and watermarks on my windshield,
I am struck dumb (at 75 miles an hour) by this memory in the close-far distance.

*
*

A Vice Verse / by Ronald J Palmer

I feel the vibration
of my flip phone
in my pocket
right as the reading begins.

I know it is you
needing direction
to get to this place.

Where I am seating
it would be too awkward
to take the phone
out of the pocket and reply.

During the break,
I try to text the address
but my vice is my
inability to text,
fingers too fat and slow.

The flaw more awful
then any buried attraction
lay deep in my mind
and denied.

*
*

Assignation / by Jessica Rigney

Come July, summer’s first explosion
is a musk thistle blowing itself open.

Cottonwoods toss off their dead—
limbs leaves fledglings squirrels

in an afternoon’s sidewinding wind.
Here you are now at the fork where

Left Hand creek meets the St. Vrain—
tackle the irony of that elsewhere.

Sovereign sun, she sears and you can’t
get enough of her, he says. Six weeks in

and you’ve overdosed gone manic don’t sleep
or sleep and dream of creatures dismantled

houses—the dead—always the dead or dying.
Whose voice is this? Your legs move round and round

fast faster tires on a trail found open first
on this day and you burst through

beyond its gate unlatched eyes plainly open.
Wet lands in a dry country geese

hidden as though paddling for a century—
a new bridge in place of the toppled and

every goddamned cattail ready to burst
‘neath redwings clustered and beating.

He says he’s got the day on his calendar
won’t give it up but it’s there that day

says you’ll explode—a sunflower over-opened
her petaled stretch wrung out broken

neck. Close the gate upon the waning.
Sandstone Ranch is closed on Sunday so

you rack the bike walk out back
drink from the hose water of your dusty

childhood warm metallic wet rim tongued
mouth sparked by depths of an earth where

once summer came on slow and lasted
lasted a year or more lasted past

the dying and soon dead. What else?
The farmhands in the fields waving

in the way you think you can go home
past a corn field unfenced without

thinking of the people you think about
as you pedal towards a fully dead cottonwood

leaning. Wild white poppies fritter away
the golden bits at their centers.

Swallows under the overpass swirl
and swirl and feed their young.

*
*

Arrangement: Mozart’s Turkish March / by Katherine Barrett Swett

What I once played
with my two hands,
my sons have arranged
for two instruments.

I showed them Mozart’s March
was twirling music
running music
marching music.

I did not think about wrong notes
or downstairs neighbors’ ears
I let my children dance
to Mozart’s famous march.

My sons and daughter
danced until they collapsed
in piles of laughter
on the living room couch.

One part of that trio
of dancers is gone
and the other two
have divided the tune

into two parts
and my part now
is to listen.

*
*

True Story / by Adele Elise Williams

We were harvesting Phenomenal
Lavender, rightly the name of the plant,
and you were cutting the stemmy buds—
I was bundling the wirey bits.
This particular variety was really long-
legged, really ambitious, made special
for Southwest Virginia— not like Baby
Colby or Royal Velvet, which prefer less
heat, less fire, less of a challenge. We were
harvesting Phenomenal, and you said
getting sober wasn’t a choice, and I said
it was, for me it was, and you said surrender
is never a choice, and I said giving up
is always an option. Part of our job
on the Lavender farm is harvest by way
of risk assessment. Too many plants
had successfully propagated, so now
everyday we had to determine which
of the violet orbs had to go, just had to
go right then— wouldn’t last another day
with their raging purples in the brilliant
heat. Today it was Phenomenal, and
tomorrow we suspected it would be Gros
Bleu. We were harvesting the Phenomenal
and you said that it was your favorite
variety to harvest because it was built
for the sickle— it lived and died just to be
used— so stemmy, so leggy, so sincerely
easy to work with. I ran out of bundling
bands and turned to the wheelbarrow for
more when the farm dog ran off into the elder-
berry bush with fire in his legs and spit
at his lips, and by the time I had snapped
the bands onto my wrist he emerged with
a field bunny hanging from his wild mouth—
its wet eye a loose thread from fresh cut
anything, and I knew it was too late, and
I tossed the bunny body in the rusty barrow
with the rest of the bundles. You said
what a shame— I agreed, a total waste,
and we continued talking about the spindly
Phenomenal, the reedy Phenomenal,
and we didn’t talk about the bunny again,
and we didn’t talk about choice or help.

*
*

Day 1 / Poems 1

*

What I Like / by Anita Leverich

I like walking in Kansas City weather where it rains
like a cow pissing on a flat rock on the windy prairie.

I like standing in a river in Montana with a fishing pole.
Like a fool, a fish jumps on my rod & I see God in his eye.

I like eating meat at the Golden Ox in the West Bottoms
like Aunt Rosy and Uncle Vernon did on Saturday nights.

I like chocolate, the salty kind that burns my tongue
like arsonists like starting fires in old brick buildings.

I like silence and birds twittering outside my window
like women gossiping–who lost a fortune or the farm?

I like the old neighborhood where church bells ring
like the hot sun wrings sweat from the worker’s bodies.

I like Sunday afternoons in old bars drinking shots
Like lonely old regulars thirsty for the bodies of young women.

I like haunting old cemeteries, calling up ghosts of ancestors
hovering overhead like smoke from cigarettes smoldering in ashtrays.

*
*

Mostly Healed / by Sean McQuinney

I have forgotten pushing my brother
through the glass door
of our living room
when we were children.

I have forgotten Mom palming his face
while pressing down his flapped scalp
and cooing as if bird calls
could glue her boy’s skin smooth.

Now I watch the scar
when we play cards.
He rubs the diagonal ridge
when bluffing.

*
*

Listening to the Radio / by Dan Murphy

The pop singer asks, Don’t they know
It’s the end of the world?
Her sweet voice like a daffodil

making a small bloom.
The next singer says the clouds
are so low you can touch them

I’m learning to ask for mercy,
ask for judgment.
It’s late June. It’s July now.

It cools off at night and I can sleep.
What did the singer say—
heartbreakingly delicious.

No, that was me.
I was being funny
about to cry.

*
*

I miss you / by joni m palmer

The coffee is brewing
I’m putting together a fruit bowl
Placemat with napkin and full set of silverware
are at your place at the table
Windows are open so that the morning air
can move through the house
and gently wake you
into this new day.
You’d have turned 92 today
and know that you would have exclaimed, as you sat down at the table,
“joni, come look at this beautiful Colorado-blue sky!”
And then, you would take a sip of your piping hot coffee
(just the way you like it), and me—
I’d ask you all the questions I forgot to ask you
the last time we sat down to breakfast together.

*
*

Woman of My Dreams / by Ronald J Palmer

There was red
Spiders across her moon
-shaped lantern.

I was hoping
she would hand me
a sword or something magical.

Instead, I received
a lesson and learned
the dangers of instant attraction.

*
*

Out Loud / by Eric Pfeiffer

now
is the time
for reading
poetry
out loud

*
*

Lapse / by Jessica Rigney

For the book she carries
down a flight of stairs low
at her hip a hand hooked

under its pages—all the corners
folded over. For the falling
words littered behind her gait

uneven. For her uneven legs lopsided
arms—one foot a size smaller.
Who she’s viewing behind the eyes is

the riddle she’s not yet reckoned with.
For the dreams dream themselves
out of the night into a day

where lines trip up the longer
leg and she’s visited by a raccoon
walking the wall turning the corner

looking back from some summer
long ago or another not yet made.
For the pace for the pack

for coyotes calling out
past 3am in a field not so
far off.

For her quickening breath.

*
*

Justice Kennedy Resigns / by Katherine Barrett Swett

The lines of the dung-colored rug
like tiny rows of cut corn
extend through a wall of glass
to far doors—
a room as bland and forgettable
as the classic rock that blares
while we wait to be seen
in the Urgent Care.
I think of all the waiting rooms
I’ve sat in with sick dogs, parents, kids;
the rooms are forgotten,
but not the sitting there
waiting for delays on the way
to where we have to go.
This time it’s just a broken toe.
I’m trying to keep my mind
on the rows of words I’m reading,
but my eyes keep wandering to the parking lot;
when the news interrupts the classic rock
“Justice Kennedy resigns…”
I put down my book. The rug is still there.
Where is the mind that designs
waiting rooms for the nation’s urgent care?

*
*

Self Portrait With Darlings / by Adele Elise Williams

Alone I am at my very best but I seem to always be followed by lovers
lovers with round wire rims or lovers with fuzzy bodies or lovers with
big bellies or lovers with wide shoulders like bookends I do not mind
the lovers I do not mind the kisses from lips like long purples or little
lips like shell shards I just miss myself all alone on a Craigslist mattress
or a borrowed rug I miss wearing tops no bottoms cheap gold robes
drinking sparkles and Stoli eating a sandwich for every meal I am a hell
of a catch alone but with lovers with darlings I am less in love with myself
with darlings I am momma or host or maid or teacher or quiet quiet quiet
I am totally or screw them or try deep breaths with darlings with lovers
the borrowed rug is bought the bed is made the beans are soaked and
with darlings with darling lovers I am all in My sister says you too alone
are magnolias you alone are a delta flower you don’t have to be thirsty
ground cover kill your darlings darling kill all your darlings
but then
who would rip the sheetrock from the walls who would wreck the rug

*
*

*
*

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Tupelo Moving Sale starts August 13! Please allow 5-7 business days for order processing, we anticipate a high volume of orders! Dismiss