Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for April 2021 are Lorraine & April Claggett, Sandra Fees, Cathy Hollister, Becca JR Lachman, Meg Little Reilly, Linda Michel-Cassidy, Matthew Moore, L.T. Pelle, Kara Penn, Angela Stubbs and Jennifer Wholey. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!
Poem 15 / Day 15
Smith Island / by Lorraine Claggett
On the island the people all know each other,
The fish and crabs and sunsets.
But mostly they know the waters of the Bay,
How they slip over the breakwaters,
Flood the roads
And pool under the homes,
How much longer will you stay?
Poem Ending with Lines by Ada Limón / by Sandra Fees
Because I do not know how to be wilded
with what can save the world,
I read Ada Limón. Because I do not know
how to feather a nest or make a peace
that will last, I try to haul out
the power of speech. Because I do not know
how to honey the storms or thistle off grief,
I let the throat be seed, plough, prophecy.
When the day begins again, without reprieve,
I’ll settle for these words you gave me: sweet smoke
and I’ll plant them into my chest so I can take this
circling spell and light it on fire.
The Carefully Calculated Caper / by Cathy Hollister
On his nightly patrol the red-tailed hawk floats overhead on the soft thermals, causally planning his
evening meal. A tiny chickadee is frozen in place, fearful of the predator above. She carefully circled the
branch before selecting a skinny summer twig. She wisely chose one just strong enough to perch but not
so engulfed in green summer foliage that it might obstruct the view of the fancy feeder below. She hears
the noisy, gray squirrel chattering, clamoring for the forbidden treats the feeder harbors. No match for the monstrous rat with tail, she keeps a close eye on the juicy morsels, intended for her in the bird banquet
below. When she dares, she steals a quick peek at the huge hawk above. Danger, danger everywhere. The
scent of the juicy sunflower seeds and the tasty millet she craves reaches her, but she knows she will
never feast on the delicacies. From her skillfully concealed spy, she studies the interloper as the entire
devious plot plays out before her wary eyes. Hawk terrorizes the intended guests from feeder. Feeder, full
of the specialty songbird blend, seems a beautiful, bursting prize for the lazy, hungry rodent executing the
devious heist. From early spring, after running out of winter stores, he plodded, planned, and predicted his
haul. Now the time has come. Eyeing his unwitting partner circling above, the crafty creature makes his
move. The culprit scrambles up the “squirrel proof” feeder, the expensive one, given the highest rating by
the experts. Quickly defying the deterrents, he empties the trove, gathers the booty, and makes his escape. Chickadee can only watch and wait until the dual dangers have moved on. Only then can she scavenge the
remains, scattered in the grass.
Crossing Ice (Or, a 13-year-old Love Story) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Walking on the late snow feels
like crossing ice. We break through
so far, then hit the same old ground, slightly
disappointed, but also breathless. The crust
of this winter of winters kept us slipping
long enough. The trees, so defeated by
the latest storm, are finally springing
up, perhaps with one less branch
to bear. I hear them as I wait for you, too
bright in sudden sun. They pull me
out without a coat, their shaking free
the best sermon. I stand below the feeder
staring down a forest almost talking,
telling me something in its cracking
tongue, hiding life in ice and high-up
nests. I told you not long ago the female
cardinal was my favorite bird, quietly
elegant, her beak a jewel, a dollop of color
not to be ignored. As a child, I used to be angry
with her (or God) for letting her beloved
hog all the glory. But now, older, I notice
her, notice him bringing her the best tiny seeds
in his mouth. Icicles hiss, and I go back
to the dishes inside, my fingers red, waiting
to watch the lightshow with you. When I glance
up again, 5 female cardinals–the most I’ve seen
together– have chest feathers plumped, vying
for suet and crumbs. The icicles moan, a bough
somewhere splits, and I hear your car door
slam. The birds scatter but for one. I dry
my hands. The trees are dropping diamonds.
I Am Glad to Tell You / by Meg Little Reilly
I am glad to tell you
that hummingbirds are still
sucking lifefuel from foxgloves
saw it myself today
could hardly fathom
the unspoken choreography
and how is it that
we have not broken this yet
sex soil spring
perfume of peony
it was not for me
I was a nothing then
while they worked
the bird and the flower
unbothered and unburdened
by my presumption to
stick around on their earth
hospitality as in Hebrews
if you believe, and I don’t think I do
but this grace
may we deserve them
Goldsmith’s Apprentice / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Feel the Arno running damp
beneath this stone floor.
Some say it’s possible to pocket
aurum splinters under fingernails,
hidden among charcoal filth.
But then, I recall His light—
that divine beacon rendered
in toolwork, gem and shine.
This summons to sweet penance:
a life of worn leathers,
four years with bellows
’til I was seen fit
to carry the crucible.
The precious turnt liquid,
a bead held hot and spinning.
I’m backbent at twenty,
my eyesight already gauzed,
my fingerprints singed slick.
I melt the pitch, its putrid black
snugs the gold piece
rolled thin as a longshot
tap-tap-tapped into contours.
I chase out delicate angels
with wings wide
AUTUMN FUNNEL / by Matthew Moore
Rousseau, forsake citizenship!
The mountain testifies.
How many Waldens, you say?
Gute Nacht, Austrians
Must drive to several valleys, 5
And then to Vienna, to
Wish everyone good night, if
One does not want the
Family to vanish by morning.
Armed patrols install a town 10
and garden look, oh
that ear-worm infrastructure,
less invisible hand,
more dining, timely delivery
services (milk and 15
mail) leaves in quisling-lined
lawn bags. Buy gas
from a reconnoitered station.
Shorter wait-time to
access the least known passes 20
into the least known
valley, best to take the family
sightseeing in leaf season.
Just to wake, to drink coffee,
and sit in a blue slant 25
of light is as simple as a sin.
It begins / by L.T. Pelle
It begins with a barrette
with a snapping shut.
on the bathroom floor.
The cartoon in which
you are stuck
wearing the same age forever.
with someone else’s sunken
body as your sky.
You lose a tooth.
You find your pillow
has begun denturing with it.
A body crayons
in the dark,
wears a peeling paper dress,
presses itself against a wall
until the scribbles
The thought bubble you thought
you could pop
becomes a stain.
Natalie’s Poem / by Kara Penn
We both needed something
from that cave-like home with
partitioned rooms, the cold sausages
left out and the day-old water
in breakfast glasses. Our stays there
brought about by those who loved us
most, seeking permanence from two people
who’d levitate from the earth if not pinned
down, who’d drop back into a new country
creating life elsewhere, or simply float away.
Left to myself, this immutability hit like waves
pulling grains of sand from my life, rocks
that had weighed me to the bottom of the ocean.
You arrived with death in a frame– your father,
who’d returned from the sea seeking a safe place
to leave his body. That was a grief
I’d never known. You carried the stone of it
lightly with a hidden bottle of rum and a
luminous smile. We needed the small fire
of laughter we built upstairs to warm
that frigid place that smelled of gossip
and decay. We needed the permission
we gave each other to move on, away.
Buzzing Ghazal / by Jennifer Wholey
Close to the cherry tree, I encounter the sound of bumbling bees
all around me, astounding, to hear the sound of these rumbling bees.
I wanted my daughter to learn the name of these flowers, this tree.
Names have power, I believe, even more amid these grumbling bees.
I have never been so surrounded by stingers and not frightened.
How could I be scared of the jolly bouncing of these tumbling bees?
I often wonder and fear she’ll inherit my anxiety;
I hope she sees me and only feels ease amid these fumbling bees.
A 9-month-old amnesiac, she won’t remember the moment
but I will, and I’ll tell her, how we reveled in these humbling bees.
Poem 14 / Day 14
The Beech / by April Claggett
Among the champion sloughers
of the sluggish northern spring
whose slow psychotropic drip
Turns past to prelude again
The maples blush blood orange
The willows wear wasabi
The birches pull on long white gloves
Forsythias fling canary
Even the oaks of understatement
Sport burgundy striped britches
And pines add to their appliqué
Glowing lime green stitches
But the beech, she clutches her dead
Leaves in phantom photosynthesis
Semaphores to once and again
And spring’s very antithesis
For two more weeks as moribund
The tone-deaf beech will attest
To the end of time’s beginning
To the everpresent palimpsest
Gaia and the Awakened Mind / by Sandra Fees
She’s a firestorm
at the core
a game of molten
marbles and spinning
Her blue beret
rounds the sun.
are the recycled
pages of history.
rises in the rise
of her ocean bloom.
Water is her
She is first
of firsts. I am
She is what moves
the mountains within.
Lows and Highs / by Cathy Hollister
Lows and Highs
Great whites will eat anything
Monstrous garbage cans of the sea
dead eyes scan with omniscience
Sparrows and chickadees,
Well- they eat like birds
Light, airy, hearts all a’flutter
Content with one skinny branch,
Warbling for pleasure, or so it seems
Life in the deep daily slog full of pressure
Turns my gray heart cold, remote, full of rubbish,
The scars of my toughened, leathery skin
Red robin, red robin, sing to me, teach me
to soar above the trash heap of lies. Show me that
soft feathers make superior armor.
Remind me that my flock mates know what I need.
Delight me with the songs from many throats
that make a symphony.
Many thanks to Jeannetta Carter for teaching me to watch the birds.
The parable of trying to find a metaphor / by Becca J.R. Lachman
“A recipe to grapple with the word reunification”
(fraktur response series)
If you were told of Ocean all your life,
Would you take the ticket offered, knowing you could
Stand before it only once before it disappeared, or you did? If
You saved up for a decade to buy a rare stone, then were given
The chance to be its temporary keeper, would you risk all
You had to be near it, anyway? Let’s say you planted an orchard by hand
Of sought-after vintage fruits, but some strangers’ weeds were the only thing
To carry harvest there. Could you pardon the trees, eventually? Would you
Experiment with sauces and the strangers’ crop, make your table larger to include
Them, those you can’t really call strangers after awhile, after they’ve been in your living
Room three times a week virtually, after you’ve seen them cry and know the timbre
Of their voices? The parables leave a seat empty next to them for interpretation;
You’re supposed to know the right and moral thing to do. But really:
If you knew the treasure map was rigged, would that stop you
From setting out to find whatever it is
Everyone’s looking for?
You Can Write a Whole Book / by Meg Little Reilly
You can write a whole book just to say
I am here
churn chapters of childhoods
until the plot changes
fill a boat with your
‘til it sinks in a sea of old barnacled tomes
as the saline dissolves them
taking stories, regrets
unsaid sorrys and secrets
most of all, here’s-what-happeneds
to me (and to you)
if you happen to need
to put truth into words
and do you (do we)?
As time whizzes by
you can try to command it
smother life lifeless with strangling pages
you will think you are holding it
bare in your hands
and then blink and it’s gone
that’s the trick of these truths
how they mock us with moving
that we think we’ve lived through
but what else have we got
if not history’s holy sieve?
These books that we write
they’re the nearest to life
you can get, short of living
stories we tell to hold captive in time
claim here’s what’s mine
they are liars
the good and the bad ones alike
but we try as we can
to say: here I am
in reams of reports on the things
we have seen
futile, this work
it’s the best we can do
with unholdable truths.
Leverage / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
My mother would silently pray as
we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge
to see my father’s parents.
All my childhood, I’d thought
the need for holy intervention
had to do with safety, or carsickness,
or maybe the suicides my city cousin
had told me about while he performed
a freefall into last summer’s pool.
I watched Mom’s lips in the rear-view,
“Holy Mary, mother of God,”
as my father lit up another Lucky,
staring straight ahead. “Cantilevered,”
was his response when we asked
about the prayers. And yet,
we’d get to my grandparents,
who’d ask if we would change
into good clothes for dinner—
and my brother and I,
knowing we were already
washed and dressed.
THE SPIRIT OF PROGRESS / by Matthew Moore
Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce shone across Lake Michigan.
Financial instruments measure time between Haymarket and Bessemer.
A trillion moonlit packing foam leaves; no fixed pointof isinglass, sea,
beneath them even breathes.
Had I known in 1890 5
how long it would take me
to preserve a park for
the people against their will,
I doubt if I would have
taken it.But progress must shine ahead. 10
Thus, Aaron struck his staff
to writhe on bellies, signed
to saw dust in hourly
warehouses that bore his etymological
fief, hill of man-power, 15
his title, Ward, the year
1899, berthed sublime capital. Today is tomorrow’s
fulfillment centers. No future. A wroughten harvest.
A biopower haste debrided ashore wasteslick rivers. 20
If you want to, you
may think of it, again, today,
as your Wish Book.
Here, the shipping catalogues of
Thorne rooms model the wealth 25
behind poor wars, all
details are furnishing memories’
Air is remote, distant, surveilled in a bodysuit of time preservation,
each worker’s a BVLGARI. Autumn 30
populations take less a percentage from the fund of breath’s polish.
Star will to heel. Cold-rolled in steel.
Yesterday’s strikes on the Chicago River are tonight’s
watchfires burning on the Mississippi streams now on the Amazon.
Sunburn / by L.T. Pelle
you aloe alone, and lie in the gray-dark
of summer. the ceiling fan slicing
the silence like a bird made of blades
or a breath made of small winter.
the kisses still as a snowglobe, now
without her hands to wake them.
the broken t.v all that holds your face
a soap opera you watch
how you wash your sadness
as if you could cry
it into something new. a puddle
the birds of your broken could bathe in
without losing sight of the sky.
she left you
and now august is a blanket
that renders your blanket useless,
this hurt a heat better than the dark
heat of the love you were used to
crawling under when disappointment
pinpricked the night with stars
to spite the no-sun. she left you
and now your skin is falling
like the love letters you tore up
that didn’t make her disappear.
you are not disappearing. your whole
body pink as tear-stained cheeks
your skin weeping you
in the absence of rain.
regret. grieving the you
you should have worn
when the sun was shining down
on your beautiful skin.
Where I Meet You / by Kara Penn
I can’t summon what I can’t
remember except as body’s memory,
as dawn’s longing for something
beyond hold. The transition from
dream to waking is where I meet you
as if you have laid your body down
inside mine, breathing out my breath.
The ache of you permeates
the skin, the muscles of the neck.
Light’s sublimity steals, through bird song,
what was on edge to be recognized.
You issued a call into the present,
but the ghost of you, which is smoke,
which is ash, I’ve forgotten.
My body seeks the weight of you.
If the mind won’t, the cells remember.
Missing As Landscape / by Angela Stubbs
my unending ache for
the presence of you
always shows up at nighttime,
in those minutes where you feel
close to something that’s
hard to touch like laughter or
knowing it’s time now to
jump because my pulse is kept
with your long, thin fingers
and my thoughts moving
one beyond silence or
disclosure. your microscopic issues
love mine, unseen in public,
maybe you can pretend to
have serious phantoms,
a way of drawing me closer
every little second, I
don’t want to take care
when I take my leave but I
don’t mean it like that
like the way I can tell
you’re listening when
you startle awake
and say I love
trembling with you on the carpet
10 Year Yahrzeit for My Grandfather / by Jennifer Wholey
The only Jewish cowboy in Brooklyn,
my grandfather would channel Johnny Cash—
“Another year older and deeper in דרעק”
was always his response when I asked him
how he was doing, wearing a wry smile
at this little joke in Yiddish. “It means ‘dirt,’”
he would add as an afterthought, as if
I hadn’t heard the joke 10 times before.
I didn’t mind, would hear it 10 thousand times,
if he could see me now in the country
with deer and turkeys knocking at my door
on 18 acres, with dirt good for growing.
Poem 13 / Day 13
Moondark / by Lorraine Claggett
Tonight is the dark of the moon
The window glass is a blank black square,
the outside world gives no hint of the river
Or movement of a creature there
This hour is the very heart of darkness.
Wrapped in the stillness of place and sound
Thoughts and attention drop away
Waiting, stilled, giving in to unknowing
Absorbing darkness, losing quotidian day
I find I am part of the heart of the world
Nocturne with Sea Toad and Train / by Sandra Fees
My mind is a sea toad
being born from its mother’s
A vast flurry of fecund
birth swims up
in the slurp of marsh.
I am fumbling
in the halo light.
It’s one-thirty a.m.
A map of misgivings
uncreases before me.
I consult the directory
of what’s lost
and not paid.
I leaf through illustrations
of lilies of the valley.
Cats and ancestors
autograph the walls.
I am waiting for fabled sleep.
A train drones
and I wonder:
what keeps it on its tracks?
Letters of women of genius
pile up at my bedside.
This is evening
and I am riding
this fertile tableau
Nothing Wasted, Nothing Gained / by Cathy Hollister
The high perch of age has a long view
Of the scrappy road of missteps,
Mistakes, stubbed toes, and split ends
Keep those grades up, they said
You’ll need college!
Endless days lost
to the dark well of teenage angst
Barren years spent on female vanity
Hollow hours, gone forever
Work hard, they said
Make each minute count!
Precious in their pointlessness
Failure tutored tenacity
Shy created courage
Image begot empathy
Be aggressive, they said
Build your career
Created in carelessness
When I was a child I saw as a child,
I played as a child
Now an old woman
I appreciate girlish things
Ceremony of Belonging / by Becca J.R. Lachman
If you pay attention, the pull
is everywhere, not just an invisible
grid or energy rainbowed. It’s
the hodgepodge family of White-tails
crossing in front of your city
bus in morning traffic because
they know, together, they can part
But it’s also the one doe
who hesitated, left on the other side
of the road, her ears dancing, nostrils
flared, her whole body quivering
with its new question.
And if you pay attention, it’s waiting
along the bike path by the river
on your lunch break, when you’re walking
fast instead of heating up leftovers
since pain is invisible, and you’ve been
hosting it all week.
It’s there as you eye the geese flock
nibbling in the field next to the library,
watching for any first signs of
aggression. So when they’re suddenly
all high-pitched percussion
like a jazz band improvising,
shimmering their bodies, a rippled wave
of goose dance, you walk faster until
you notice they’re all looking up at three
newcomers circling overhead, asking
to join them. There’s an initiation process
if you stop to watch, and they must
follow it all the way to the ground.
The people we know are all starting new things / by Meg Little Reilly
Two babies are coming
now, if you can imagine it
born to friends on different coasts
bound only by my incredulity
There are new careers too
Someone else is getting divorced
and it’s a shame
but she is anew
I use those special nighttime creams now
or the promise of more
They have no idea what they’re in for, we laugh
grown-ass hands gripping coffee mugs
and can you imagine
so glad to be done with all that
A former classmate has a rare disease
it is just
What’s-his-name married again
younger this time
So, good for us
all the goings on
the keep goings
onward as if
It is only noon and the coffee is hot in our hands.
descent, 1958 / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
at the last—
translucent straw-fine hairs
splayed on the skin of the water
like jellyfish tentacles
contract, relax, expel
in that bewitching sun
such a small boy
a bloom of splashing children
the sitter’s eyes elsewhere
the water takes
the breath of him
the float of him
Laugh Track / by L.T. Pelle
In the movie theater, my sister and I, sit on either side
of my mother like emergency exits. We are red-faced,
giggling neon while she weeps to the indie music sadness
of The Fault In Our Stars. The sound buttered popcorn
spilling from our bellies. We cannot stop ourselves
from cracking up. From becoming snickering shards
of ourselves haunting the storied light beam above us
like dust. We know what we are witnessing is sad,
but cancer is not a concept we can fit into our backpacks,
it is too heavy and each chuckle seems to chip away at the weight.
Each snicker snickers, is candy we will not wait too long to eat.
Cracking up. The way a father holds a newborn up
to show how he can make a mother can fracture into family.
We are not cold kids, just kids
unused to the smell of our mother’s salt not coming from us.
A boy holds a cigarette to his mouth and doesn’t light it.
2 girls hold the hands their mother gave them
over their mouths to cover the fire cackling from their lungs.
Laugh so hard it rids us of our softness.
There’s only enough silver here for the screen.
So then we hold our stomachs as if this could
protect their linings. A boy dies. A girl’s heart breaks
so completely she lies in the grass
looking up at a sky made of us. My mom, my sister and I.
This laughing is a red vest and a flashlight checking
between the aisles to make sure everything is okay? Okay.
Cracking up at inappropriate moments. Our mouths
so loyal to our hearts that they break beside it.
We all read this book. We all know the ending.
It’s funny how it’s funny. How it’s funny. How
knowing the ending never makes it hurt any less.
And later, when our laughter end credits
to us coughing when we step outside to the aubade
of light that catches on the rivers of my mother’s face,
Isn’t it funny
how much it’ll sound like we’ve been drowning?
Spring, as Reminder / by Kara Penn
The daffodils, with their cup
and saucer heads, line fences,
rim trunks of silver maples.
Blossoms spread unevenly
across the fruit trees.
The greenway is patched
through with yellow.
Though we painted the front
stairs to pristine white last summer,
snowbanks pealed it back
worse than before.
The ragged edges greet visitors
to the porch we keep
magazine-worthy in our minds.
Bring me your temporal excellence,
nature says, and I will hand back
drifts of blossoms along
your garden’s edge.
I will hand back an ant pile
along your just-swept sidewalk.
I will make room for dandelions
and clover within your yard.
I will give you the spring even
when you hold so tightly
which is faultless,
which is immaculate,
which is death.
Which isn’t me,
which is what
Grey beclouded sky
Turns up the color volume
On the green below
Poem 12 / Day 12
Tall Meadow Requiem / by April Claggett
My father felt
He won the bet
Despite a plague of daughters
Despite dinners late
Things were broken
Mom never home
But left on the table
A clod of honeycomb
I feared his bees
They shimmied around him
Patrolled neck and arms
With regal calm
And tai-chi moves
Creature to creature
He inspected his brood
We dipped into it
A kingdom come
Pooled in a chipped plate
Of swallowed sun
How long the reach
How finely spun
How sweet the spoon
Tall meadow requiem
When Her Inner Critic Comes Calling* / by Sandra Fees
She’ll do anything
to give her inner critic the slip
to shirk the household chores—
the unwashed windows
the unpaid bills
the traps of time—
to let her glorious legs
dance the night
and live the stars
with naked grace
and seal-sleek zeal.
Anything to lap once more
against the salt-licked shore
to return like water to water
the sea calling her back
like a poet
who slips back
who takes back
her own sublime skin.
* inspired by Seal Woman folktales
Dance Through the Darkness / by Cathy Hollister
Volpony, Volpony, now hushed dance floor
lacks hugs, Heys, and glances,
wants Honoring curtseys,
that give breath to step
like so many lonely displaced from their own
the dancers Turn Single
thoughts into stories
songs into Chorus
Jigs into glee
the pews miss their faithful,
stores long for lost shoppers,
starving cafes and
silver screens, silent
all wonder how humans
tucked Far Away,
thrive in the absence of life’s Do-Si-Do’s
and hands touching hands
giving moments of kindness
St. Margaret watch over,
Cast down from your Hill
fresh light washed in solace
warm Zephrys and Flora
for all who endured
Bleak Midwinter alone
hear music of caring,
make Dance of a Lifetime,
seek pale light of morning
just on the horizon
Volpony, Chorus Jig, Far Away, St. Margaret’s Hill, Zephrys and Flora, In the Bleak Midwinter, and Dance of a Lifetime are titles of English Country Dances. Honor, hey, turn single, do-si-do, and cast are dance figures in social folk dancing. Thanks to Peg Duthie for the inspiration for this poem.
On My 40th Birthday, I Think of You in Your Last Year / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Anna, we were born on the cusp
of a star sign– I’ve marked your late
September birthday on the calendar
next to mine. I wouldn’t exist
without your first daughter, without the
slow fire of your shunning (which has
reached across the decades, by the way,
still sometimes calling my body its
resting place, but only when I let it
in.) By this fall in your life, you’d
already carried four children, survived
the disappearing act of men who’d
offered you a door, then a cell. When
the Ban started, no one would say your
name. You ate in the basement,
traveled with toddlers to the children’s
home by wagon, coming back both
trips alone. You died of a cough and
fever before their cures existed,
the same age I’ve just greeted.
Today, I pack an extra mask, my
nails chipped from furious
hand-washing. There’s a mystery
illness my time’s trying its hardest
to tame, and it’s asked us to keep
to ourselves, not even meeting for
worship. Who was it that passed
the peace to you, and also her
sickness? Do I have your questioning
eyes, your determined jaw?
I think of this when at the store
at 6:59am to buy diapers, standing
distanced in line by mandate, or when
letting the mail sit for a day, even
the letter with my mother’s cursive
voice, calling me half a state over.
Important Work / by Meg Little Reilly
Moss is a fairy blanket
leaves are their clothes
acorns are pixie caps
and the dog bowl is a pool
old toilets are flower pots on front lawns
if they crack one day
embarrassed briefly to leak through the floorboards
then move on to their true calling
as beds for red clovers
oh and mattresses are trampolines
cars with no wheels are jungle gyms
wheels are castle blocks
if you have a lot
snoring old men on sagging couches are dragons
or else they are the fire
and if laundry is strung in lines over lawns
then the flags of every foreign country can fly
at your little United Nations of squirrels
‘round soda cap tops filled with broken cookie bits
that taste like spitzbuben
when they argue over international trade policy
with dandelion dollars.
The Doctor Wore a Navy Blue Blazer / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
He told me what I already knew:
that I’d be in for a slicing.
Instead of the appropriate fear,
I wondered what secrets I’d spilled
under the magic of Twilight Sleep—
not that I had any to tell.
Somehow, I’d forgotten
to lead an intriguing life,
and now, here we were.
I longed to take a dose
right there in front of him
in his giving out bad news outfit.
Him and his big books and concerned face,
and the tissue box I didn’t need,
because I was raised to be a brick.
And now, fourteen years and
(according to some) one miracle later,
whenever I see that blue—
like today, in a junk-mail catalog
of wrinkle-free travel clothes—
I remember that office and how
I was probably supposed to cry,
but instead, yearned to slide loose
through the what’s next of it all.
BARGELLO / by Matthew Moore
The ocean in the port is painted
red, yellow, and blue
according to the quarry’s claim
what is to be done to
memorialize all of the reprisals. 5
Is living an emergency? And what
would you do, to not
make it so? And what would you
do to unmake it, that
it would not be so much so as it is? 10
When the killings begin you better
know what happened
today and one hundred and twenty
years ago. You better
feel these old words pass your lips 15
and know you are just their vessel.
I thought my life was
my own but it was someone else’s,
and anyway that was
in another country, and the statues 20
in the square were, as history was
now you are telling
me a story deep and it bears it out
as violence at dawn
as a cold time coming from a low 25
direction, in which I would prefer
not to look back from where
the leaden current leads I promise
if being can exist outside the
borders of concertina wire fences 30
weak power will be sold for parts
Later, in the empty bed we share / by LT Pelle
my back will arch, like a windshield wiper
trying to erase the rain.
Roadkill isn’t named for what kills it
but for whose caress held it in its fading.
When the animals came, deadly as a kiss
we drove through the frail of night
in your first car. In your second car.
In the car we would one day buy together.
All the lovers we could have had
becoming broken streetlights along the way,
flowers wilted in weight-dark.
The future an eye socket, unseeing,
but waiting to bare what will, the
two wet worlds working together
to offer us their upside-down illusions.
Sometimes I close my eyes in pleasure
because there is no pleasure in being
this surrounded by untruth.
Your hands grip me like a steering wheel
like a clock you can stick your fingers into
while the radio’s mouth fills with static.
There is so much music we haven’t earned yet
but this is not the reason silence
is our best chance at being kind to each other.
There are rain stains on the windshield
pale enough to see through. Ghosts
we reach our hands into just to touch each other.
Leda’s Story / by Kara Penn
I am the woman seduced by a swan.
They ask me how. What was it like?
No one asks why. They assume Zeus.
Assume seduced means raped,
the way my sons ravaged
the would-be wives of their cousins.
History remembers me chosen.
Not of choice. They want to see
the bite marks of that orange-black beak.
I am here to say I lured the eagle.
I beguiled the swan that feared it.
I overcame the weakness
of that slender neck. I turned
white feathers red with my teeth.
We slammed into water.
I cried out in bird song.
I birthed eggs, nesting them
between my breasts. Then I prayed.
All this to give my daughter wings.
Undertow / by Angela Stubbs
when you like old houses and they creak
go sit in a house newly painted
when you find holes in walls patched up
filling in slits and gaps to cover over broken
sequences or the past, my dear everyone knows
what desire looks like with those red pants
when I recall your mouth mouthing a language
only I can hear, this sound now my favorite
part of your body holding translation
with your thoughts, I am aiming for memories
unmade without the fence of time, fetching forward
beyond present-day obstacles
where moments open pulling at your gray-streaked hair,
the undertow exposed, moving us
both towards the same still point
oh please tell me how its going to go
A Cherry Blossom Tree I Didn’t Know Was a Cherry Blossom Until Today
(Or, Mono No Aware) / by Jennifer Wholey
I was wholly surprised by the blossoms—
magenta pink—on a tree I don’t know
the name of. How often poets name trees
& flowers. Here I am with no idea
at all what you are other than you are
beautiful and unexpected: the sound
of rain from behind the blackout curtains
presaged you. I don’t need to know the name
of a bud to know the promise it brings.
With my baby girl napping beside me,
arm curled around my breast like a teddy,
soles resting on my thigh, I stopped trying
to put her down drowsy, pop my nipple
out of her mouth before she fell asleep
at the breast, pinky out like she’s at tea.
They say it goes by fast, but it’s faster
than that. It’s the moment held in the space
of a lip twitching into a sleep-smile,
a laugh so I wonder what she’s dreaming.
I wait instead until she lets me go.
Poem 11 / Day 11
Serena At Three / by Lorraine Claggett
My daughter’s daughter when she was three
Had a picture book story of a girl
Walking out in the night to find an owl
With her father. He held her hand
Was kind and liked to read the book to her.
She did not like the story,
It could have been because of the nighttime venture, but
The pages showing the owl she always skipped.
What did she know about the feathered creature
That made her close the book?
What did she, who was only cared for,
Know of huge wings slicing the night,
Eyes that swiveled as they burned the dark,
The taloned feet, the quick swoop,
And the small beating heart carried away?
She was told only of love, but at three ,
The meaning of the human spirit we bring complete at birth
Leaves us with but echoing remnants,
As our years of learning become forgetting.
On the Anniversary of My Mother’s Birthday
and Eleven Years after Her Death, April 10, 2021 / by Sandra Fees
Today I release my fear of forgetting her
of forgetting the fragrance of childhood
and the purple glances of hyacinths
that bell their memorial to her.
I release my fear that the twisted teardrops—
those paisley shapes she often drew—
could ever sweep away her curved flair
and that her favorite color could stop swinging
from the red hips of tactile memory.
I tighten the stitches of what seams me
to the countryside of her.
I repeat words from books whose love
she planted in me like evening prayers—
and pray for remembering.
Blind Sighted / by Cathy Hollister
Drought infested desert scape
Peaks and washes drained and rocky,
Hearty cactus dry and die.
Liquid pity falls each year
1 drop less, 1 drop less
Scarce moisture drains through broken earth
Seeping, weeping, collecting below
Tapped by only the strongest and wisest.
The unprepared perish
Gun infested city scape
3 dead in Texas, 2 in Tennessee
Empathy drains with each headline.
From even the heartiest
1 tear less, 1 tear less
Scarce protections drain through legislative cracks
Sinking, like graft into corrupt cesspools
Exposed and forgotten,
the innocent perish
City streets, safety deserts
Falling further, shrinking, stinking
Drained of duty, strength, and sense
1 drop less, 1 drop less
What We Will Do / by Becca J.R. Lachman
When does the waiting
matter? After seven years, a jubilee
of what? This late spring, fawns
and protestors. This spring, one
loud bleat for a mother on repeat
in the woods behind our house, not quite
a musical notation into morning, over
and over, over and over… But we wait, still
assuming all will work out– it’s just
hot, and some are needier than others.
When does waiting turn
into silence, settle on passivity, even
out to blame? (Is that the right word?)
This spring, words finally matter:
not killed but murdered. We tried,
we’ll say, we called an expert and left
two messages. But by the time the man
being killed on camera calls out Mama,
by the time the fawn’s so desperate
it lurches towards us, what
have we done? What have we
done? What will we do?
Good Seasons / by Meg Little Reilly
The car door opened and a rush of frigid air displaced you
already standing on loud snow
in those boots we picked out together.
(Oh how worn they looked then.
We got a few good seasons out of those boots;
it’s the most you can hope for.)
I wanted a minute to sit in the idling wreck with the notion of your leaving,
to test the ending,
see if it was a serious idea.
But you closed the door, too hard for the moment
which was neither angry nor sad in the way one expects
just a hollowing out.
It was so cold in the car as I drove away
that the snow from your boots held the pattern of the tread
and my breath was outside me saying
It was a few
My ghost wants to make good / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
use of their time,
no matter it is endless
and without reckon.
My ghost wants to watch 80s movies
because they love, love, love the soundtracks—
wants to hop around with huge hair,
a ripped T-shirt, and a hot pink attitude.
My ghost wants a big sloppy bowl of migas,
full of rice and beans with the fresh guac,
because we’re real, but also a little skint.
Wants the Hatch green chiles
in a rumpled paper bag
bought from the side of the road,
then roasted in the backyard
in an old tin drum.
My ghost will drink a Margarita
a little too fast, because it’s that hot out
and they have some forgetting to do.
Wants a room full of friends
hugging, and laughing
and toasting each other,
instead of just the photos.
My ghost pinches my earlobe
whenever some know-it-all tourist
mispronounces our home town.
My ghost does not like being privy
to secret information about
my neighbor’s boyfriend.
My ghost seems to have sent
some emails in the small hours,
angry and drunk, to a man
who made assumptions.
My ghost wants to be read to, aloud,
the reader shifting the timbre of their voice
for different speakers, and will start a fight
if you say it’s overkill.
My ghost holds the word “grief”
up over the page, stares so long,
that it starts to levitate.
ETIC / by Matthew Moore
A thundercloud, when it appeared, what
It appears to be, is exaggeration’s belief.
Ah profane venation, who
Under Thy ellipses Thine 5
Fructifies air for blazons,
Word, exhalted in etic breath’s positions.
Split Weather / by L.T. Pelle
I am not sad until I see my father cry.
The hard line of his mouth softened like spaghetti.
There is flour on your apron. Handprints
of the ghost we didn’t know you were becoming.
After your funeral, I was shocked not to find you here
so sure that this kitchen was your heaven
or that she could smuggle you back,
pull your haunting from her handbag
like stolen packets of sugar and ketchup.
Nana misses you. Her smile is so cold now
the blue-bright smile of a fridge left open.
Grief ice makers the heart, gives us a rain
that shatters. A seat that stays empty.
That spring your garden gave us so many tomatoes
that they rotted in the brown paper bags before
we could finish them. Love ripens faster
in the dark. I do not know for sure if I love my father
until I see him cry for his. Until my Nana’s hands disappear
in his apron pockets like they have gone to a better place,
a darker place where you can still hold them.
You loved the Yankees. Loved them so much
you could watch an entire game through the radio
and stir their home runs into the spaghetti sauce.
When my dad takes me to a game
his head becomes a roofless stadium where he throws me
all the memories of you I was too young to catch.
And I wonder then if you are watching over us or Nana
or if death is sweeter than that.
Death tearing open the sugar packet of the body
and sprinkling you everywhere. Split weather.
A garden so red and alive all we can think about
The Decomposers / by Kara Penn
Seven and Four were thrilled
when ants entered the home
suddenly appearing from cracks
in the floorboards of the kitchen
already hauling rice grains
and crumbs from the pantry.
Seven has a curious
mind. She announced ants
are decomposers that work
with diligence and teamwork
to break apart anything offering
sustenance or use.
The ants came three days ago,
and while Four carefully observed
their disciplined activity then carried
ant after ant outside, tiptoeing
to avoid harm, I felt dread
at their arrival. An omen.
Those black bodies, so tiny
and persistent, promised death.
On the first day they marched through,
you were up of your own accord,
drinking, eating, moving about the home.
By day two you deteriorated
into fatigue and weakness.
By day three your breath accelerated
into shallow puffs and I gathered you
to my chest, measuring three
of your breaths to one of mine.
Chest to chest, we faced the night
while the ants felt their way below.
In the morning, it was clear they had come
for you, this army of decomposers.
But you wanted something else
and, as I lifted you in my spread hands,
you left your body mid-air– as if
I had thrown light into the sky.
Super Kosher Hero / by Angela Stubbs
What if I keep my hands to myself?
I’ll let you speak of things and won’t
confuse meat with milk or what’s real
with antique dialogue or serious conversation.
Sometimes I have an overwhelming
need to confide in you. if my mind is
a ravine of yesterdays, if the music
slips through and makes me swoon
I still want you to know I’ve painted
every room in my house, anticipating
your arrival, I’m stealing happiness
from the neighbors so we might share
it instead of chance. It’s near impossible
to speak without gesture. Listen, I can
imagine and hear your fears. In the quiet
of your throat, I feel them waiting to escape.
I run red lights but I’m not reckless.
9 Month Old To-Do List Tankas / by Jennifer Wholey
1. Have a giant poo
while playing in the bouncer.
Make it nice and green:
remind Mom of yesterday’s
avocados and spinach.
2. A bath-time milestone:
pull myself onto the step,
lifting both legs up
—knee up first followed by foot—
so I can see the water.
3. Nurse half-heartedly;
Daddy’s back from the woods now.
I’ll roll off your lap
onto my tummy to crawl
quickly out of sight and reach.
Poem 10 / Day 10
At 10 / by April Claggett
The world outside is piled with snow
The barn became my refuge tho
My mother would not mind me here
Sheltering where animals go
My fuzzy pony stamps her hoof
Knickering in mild reproof
She does not want a ride today
She does not want to leave her roof
The barn a muffled dome does make
Soft wood buffering softer flake
I’ll stay and try to place the sound
In pleasing words, for mother’s sake
Two registers I think I hear
An icy whisper in the treble tier
While below a sigh of settling snow
Barely perceptible to my ear
My mother wonders if I might
Make my way into her sight
She checks the window toward the lane
The wind pulls up a veil of white
But something else my senses say
Is over where the chickens lay
A sweetly mewling calico kitten
In a small depression in the hay
I made my choice tho I don’t remember
I would not leave this life so tender
We played until the day turned dark
And wind turned wild that late December
The cracks where once the sunlight knifed
Now blow a hollow baleful fife
And heedless of my mother’s strife
In this cold world where chance is rife
I claim my life
I claim my life
Though You Try to Live in Harmony / by Sandra Fees
Little Girl Found / by Cathy Hollister
She’d forgotten how much she enjoyed winning
Lost in that blotchy pool of laundry and dog food
Spinning solutions for petty stains
Walking daily grinds to keep the peace
Self just a pale stain on an old photo
Blending in- the essential skill female
Survivalists honed over generations
Keep the cogs turning, tumbling
Defeated, Determined, Defined
Transformed in the heat
Of conformity, unique in the dawn as
Worth emerges from the mists
Breaking, waking in the soft light of value
Recalling the sweet joy of childhood victories
Won and treasured
She reacquaints herself with friends
Opinion and Decision
Never to be lost in gray again.
Child-proving Your Life / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Nine baby gates, and it still may
not be enough. Our movement, now
a metaphor: a few steps taken,
then blocked, every doorway
and staircase, a warning, a reminder
instead of a smooth retreat, confusing
punctuation [are we coming
or going?] I pour the hooch
off the tops of the sourdough starters
in the fridge once a week, add water
and flour to feed them, write child-
proving on the to-do list instead
of childproofing, and isn’t that
the truth? It feels like even our
mothers, even our caseworkers aren’t
sure if this new self-made maze is
the right thing to build us. We’re just
trying to pass the safety audit,
hoping to finally finish a creation
myth. I let the dough rise because
I need something to, my body waking
me up most mornings at four
to listen for a voice that might
call me. But today, it’s only
the bread dough downstairs on top of
the oven, shifting and bubbling.
Apostasy is the Prayer / by Meg Little Reilly
The apostasy is the prayer
though it looks like a poem
and feels like a cat stretching long
razor claws splayed
the apostasy is the prayer
say it over and over
like a song
a poem trying to be cool
don’t even bother, prayer
the apostasy is the prayer
threadbare protection from
my failure of faith
imagination and waiting
the apostasy is the prayer
and it reads like a fresh script
everyone’s digging it
a new story
for the people who like stories (like me)
the apostasy is the prayer
light a candle at alter of hot defiance
but no climax
still fall to same knees as before
the apostasy is the prayer
though it looks like a poem
won’t budge on this point
of belonging to no one
you’re the author now
say it over and over
till you know it by heart
just like you-know-what
say god damn
say yes please
say a prayer
CHILLED POSCA / by Matthew Moore
The long division of soldiers
a region inside of itself.
out by unison’s colony
marching the pathway,
When the wine
over the burg’s fronds,
to a rest
alongside the dead, how
the cold light, no helmet
nothing, dust on the
chinstraps of desert pioneers
an hour of rest to keep
another volley of neighboring
The Neck That Has Become The Entire Body / by L.T. Pelle
You cradle his fists and start to believe
you gave birth to them. Your breath fontanelles
between the night and his body.
The night is what you call
your body when you and him are soft
sigh-white bones reaching for each other.
Consciousness the red dress not on the floor.
The sequin hanging by its neck.
The neck that has become the entire body.
Consciousness waiting for a special occasion
to be worn. Everyone has closets
like this. You used to steal your mother’s clothes.
You used to wear overalls, used to place
the largest pockets over your chest and leave them
empty. Just in case. You were so young
empty still meant tomorrow.
Now, your hands claw the back of a cloud
as if the sky could cry out
in anything other than a storm.
This view from our motel room
is another sad room just like this.
History repeats what it believes is the chorus.
I reach for you. Hold you like this window
will only ever hold exactly what it is.
Like I am the only awful thing I can see.
April 10th / by Kara Penn
What will I remember of this day?
The closing of night’s dream
with gnawing ache as the sun slips in?
What will I remember of this time?
The spring sun blazing off countertops
or the blossoms that smell of blood
quietly opening? That the birds are back
to their nest? And I thought March
the cruelest month. Cancer the news
over the phone, then frenzied waiting
to explore operability. But the lungs
were full of dime-sized masses.
I imagine a time-lapse camera
recording moss consuming a forest floor,
clustered flowers punching open or
mushrooms twisting up from spores.
Like this, cancer spreads its fingers
through abdomen into lungs
with predatory stealth. Terminal
is a place of waiting –for a train
to arrive or leave. For lives to separate
or dance again. Can this be both?
Terminal wears heavy around the shoulders,
behind the eyes. So who will I be this day
that is the last of a life born to heal
the empty of a woman riddled
with dime-sized losses, weighed
with grief she could not miscarry?
I hope I will return what was given to me–
A comfort no other could bring.
Ease of suffering, ease of burden.
A bridge to more than we can imagine.
Don’t Be Embarrassed By Love Poetry / by Angela Stubbs
In plain view of everyone please wear a silky
blouse inside out because transformation is
sexy, not like torn stockings, or some version of
She says, I promise soft lips to kiss, where dust
covers her bra or the story, a quiet snore.
dearest I love you more when you’re
love poetry or my tender places touching yours.
underneath a closed-mouthed fever, she is
flushed with fears regarding a better life.
I am a sucker for her look.
Second Shot Pantoum / by Jennifer Wholey
When I get my second vaccine,
I might even go into stores!
The thought now feels somewhat obscene,
spending all of that time indoors.
I might even go into stores
—never mind using Instacart—
spending all of that time indoors
just browsing, a forgotten art.
Never mind using Instacart,
I’ll pick out the produce myself,
just browsing, a forgotten art,
to find the best fruit on the shelf.
I’ll pick out the produce myself,
(a thrill hitherto unforeseen:
to find the best fruit on the shelf!)
when I get my second vaccine.
Poem 9 / Day 9
Westward / by Lorraine Claggett
Once I saw a poem entitled “Stepping Westward”
The title was enough.
I did not need to read more.
To hold the wonder of those two words alone
Has been enough for me who lived
Rooted these many years on an eastern shore.
The moving river is joy to watch,
And to feel the soft air coming from it
Is to be transported.
Hearing the notes of a Bach fugue, or
A distant guitar strummed in the night
Brings on other worlds.
The day I married
The days my children were born
And then left to claim their lives
Count as the milestones of my life.
A square of sun on the floor
Where a door lies opened
Beckons me there to stand in the light.
On Easter night an old friend died.
She has gone where there is light
And someday soon I will step westward too
Lazarus Species / by Sandra Fees
Don’t poems falter too
each their own Lazarus
awaiting a small
miracle of love
or if not love
and if not that
or splinters of truth
to raise them
like wild dogs
in New Guinea
or Arakan turtles
in forest floors?
in the laboratory
a few meters
to telegraph a future
that will hold the world together
that will hold them together
in stanzas and stresses
in cadences of creatures
ever rising from the dead?
Wildflowers In Asphalt / by Cathy Hollister
Barren scrubby patches, gone to seed
Amid concrete barriers and bars.
ambitious shoots reach up
through distractions of want and waste
random roots jut deep, explore, seek, and branch
to sprout unplanned and out of place sweet
tender green sprouts of unknown origin prosper,
purple thistle in the grass, opinionated and prickly
strikes a Presence tall and loud
Comingling, roots crack through the surface
transform weedy confusion to cultivated commons,
ripe with alliance,
bursting in the contrast of self-seeded color.
Soft petals and grass roots
Graft confidence in neglected city streets
Welcoming new species,
Blooming in the desert
To Lisianthus and Neowise train the eye
“A recommendation for joining a flower CSA”
(Fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
First, take the stems of Rudbekkia, black eyes
That never turn away for a full season, lasting longest in the
Mason jar bouquets left every Tuesday. Pair them with the sway
Of bluebells, then the gentle soul of Lisianthus, which grows slowly, almost
Imperceptibly, until it blooms. Tonight, the locusts know something I’m waiting
To hear firsthand (Is theirs a copper-tasting keening, or a calling?) Air so thick again
Our barely-slivered moon can hardly rise. Though I tried to see it,
My eyes weren’t made to witness any 7,000-year-old comet
With household binoculars. And I can forgive them that.
But can we pardon the clouds for being in the way of that showy
Tail, just as its closest to Earth? Tonight, I had to use my hands and made
A zucchini cake with lemon zest and icing, at first too hot to taste as the windows, too,
Became dark eyes. Can we ever absolve our bodies with a sprig of Sweet William,
Celosia, Bupleurum and Mountain Mint? I’d like to try. Rumi said
There’s a field, but I think it’s a kitchen table. There’s
A simple bouquet, something set aside, cooling,
And a third chair.
To the Woman Ahead of Me in the Vaccine Line / by Meg Little Reilly
We stood patiently, snaking up and down
aisles of drug store things
and you were holding your heart
like it might have fallen out or exploded
without the force of your own fingers
steps away from each other on either side
human scaffolding, holding up and in
the things we were afraid of without this
or too late for
but still here because life is larger
than our losses and it is lived like this
in a quiet line of strangers in love
with an idea of something better
and we were all afraid, friend
to enter a world haltingly and staggered
where a person can cry in line
at the pharmacy and we could feel you
each of us nearly anew and together
still six sprawling steps away
I am sorry, I did not know what to say
to you, a person I know somehow
hand on your heart
that I felt in my hand.
Driving Home to the Island / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
A lowered window is all it takes
to throw me back.
One over-the-bridge whiff:
pungent, ancient, seaweed-colored
stench of my youth.
Tiny human barometers,
we’d guess the tides,
the solution graphed
in a pagebent chart book
on my father’s desk.
How they’d shift each day,
a slight lateward slip
seven minutes, twelve minutes,
then thrown a-wack by a full moon
or a September Nor’easter.
Splayed on our woodwarm dock.
we’d considered the bottom of the bay,
fearful of its fluffy gore,
daring to touch the silten ooze
with our low-tide toes.
Beneath rest untold sets of keys,
my uncle’s deck shoe,
sunken crab traps,
a boat prop, a lantern,
my original wedding band—
things we thought we’d need
but were fine without.
PHOEBUS IS CARNASSIAL / by Matthew Moore
Maribor is the place where
the tusk breaks.
Where a man slides across
the Ottoman Empire like a
molar wakes at
the door, drilled and wide
awake, with a
back sore from changing
on one crossroads for too
in a row. No more death,
the arrows in
the phone pointed hearts
at each other.
I’ve waited for you for a
replied to the pigment of
marigold. Axe handle
on the pink waters where
you last saw a friend.
For Ed The Dead Caterpillar / by L.T. Pelle
Together we clutch the shoebox, heavy
as a coffin. Cross the yard in scabbed-knee silence
except for the swingset’s metal sniffling.
I didn’t have a black dress
so I borrowed my father’s darkest
Black Dog t-shirt. It smelled of cigars. Of weekend
beard and cactus kisses. You wore one part
of your brother’s old Scream costume.
It would have to do.
We had not grown into this type of grief yet.
Heads bent like sprinklers. Tears
arched, a bridge a small sadness to take us
to whatever was on the other side of
this childhood. Your mother watching us
from the kitchen window.
Her black umbrella eyes refusing to close
even when sunshine is all the sky had to offer
our rainboot chests
which is to say
she believed our pain and could breathe
on the pane with it.
And so she watched
and we sobbed
and the beach shovels needed
to lean against the trees for support
while we snot-sonneted all over
our sleeves. Dunked our Girl Scout cookie cheeks
in liquid suns. Heaven
was Lipton ice tea dust
we were not willing to stir
because it would mean
he would disappear for real
and that was not worth
the something sweet.
The last thing I remember
about my first funeral
is looking down at the breathing holes
the places we stuck our pencils in
to make him a starry sky out of puncture wounds
and emptiness. How the sky did not fall then but
revealed itself to be a lid
I’d never be able to lift
like I do not remember where we buried him
so I do not remember is where we buried him.
It was not far away
to stop the crows
from following us home.
Alayna / by Kara Penn
is to clutch
of you, siren
feed my life.
I step in
we go before
I Could Be A Lobster / by Angela Stubbs
risking exposure is okay
with me. someone else might
not wonder if thought
is an affair of the skin
but I am not asking
proof or illumination
of the dark space we
share in our mind
protesting conditions, you scratch
the itch. blisters become raw
or the color of love and Lucy.
you say better to be the creaking
of a floor than a shrilly
I let my body adjust
to the temperature in the room
waiting for my skin
The Surest Sign of Spring / by Jennifer Wholey
is the barking
when I open the window to let in an April breeze
and one dog presses his muzzle to the screen
like a Victorian street urchin at a bakery
when I can’t hear myself think in the evening over
the almost imperceptible twitterings in the rain gutter
because a staccato bass chorus answers to wake the baby
I can tell where the new nests are not by sight
but based on the weather vane of each leash
criss-crossing my arms to opposite bushes
with one dog’s taut body a mute menace
the rabbit announces his presence
Poem 8 / Day 8
Refrain / by April Claggett
After a warm spring rain
When out walking again
You’re bound to discover
This resolute little feller:
The three-inch newt
In his natty orange suit.
Bent knees, toes splayed
Tail and belly in saucy sway
Beckoned by some ancient cue
He’s got an orgy to go to!
Which means, you should know
There’re hundreds in tow
by watch and by compass
Destined for the rumpus.
Each spring they reverse
And endlessly rehearse
The vernal ouroboros
And its magnetic force
With open ponds now beguiling
The naval orange iron filings.
So you, way up there
Make way, and take care
Step right or step left
For the red-spotted eft!
The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking / by Sandra Fees
My grandmother’s home-
sick tongue spun
the table not with paisleyed
lace or glazed porcelain
we couldn’t afford to break.
No silvered cutlery
beaded dinner’s edges.
Not even elegant words.
But simple prayers uplifted
to the god of “Seven Sweets
and Seven Sours” who graced
our communing hours.
The adage, remembered now,
brings back the sour
longing for hard-boiled eggs
in hues of beet-deep reds
and chow chow’s pickled
medley of the garden’s best.
A recipe, stumbled upon,
in a forgotten book brings back
the sweet balance
of seasoned hands
shoofly pies and sticky buns
smidgened with cinnamon
their gilded form, rising
still warm. Still you.
Transported / by Cathy Hollister
Trudging through the grimy city
No sidewalk on the busy street
No sign that says, “not worth the trouble”
but there should be. Grateful to others for
a footpath beat in the dirt.
Fighting my fatigue,
Eucalyptus reaches out
with signature scent
Its silvery presence
Breathes serenity welcoming
Motion that catches my eye-
a small white butterfly flutters
wherever she pleases
on the breeze at my back
Bringing me home, recalling
Unexpected treasures along the way.
Softening my steps, gifting me
A magical journey
What Surprised Us / by Becca J.R. Lachman
-for March 2020
Green arrived again. Despite
the near-empty streets and hollow
classrooms, though the library doors
locked, the forsythia reached towards us, made us look up.
Green arrived again, and each day
the governor (who I wanted to keep
despising) seemed more human, and
capable, protecting more than his tribe. Each afternoon, the map,
the names, until it was one that we’d called out to.
Green arrived again, even though
our hospital didn’t have enough masks
or gloves; even though in one night we went
down to one paycheck; in defiance of how our takeout splurge-
turned-tradition suddenly came with the restaurant’s owner
dropping off the Thai eggplant and fresh summer
rolls at a safe distance, decked out like she was
a surgeon, bowing her thanks three times.
The People Down the Road Have Nineteen Guns / by Meg Little Reilly
The people down the road have nineteen guns
a reason for each I am told
and when I leave my house
I lock the front door
and the back door
and all the trees and birds too
safe from the people down the road
or the things they are afraid of
which I couldn’t name
but oh the spring wetness has found its way in
mold grows on basement walls, tiles sweat
like bare teenagers drinking round a bonfire
on some sleeping man’s land
which is how we do it here
to get high and get held and get by
until someone fires something and we scatter
from our stolen places
on a borrowed earth
Not a Brain Doctor, and Yet / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
On a marshy low tide walk
I’m steeping in mental flatline.
Relishing the olive green stench,
the juicy-thick bog of it all
when a podcast I’m half-ignoring tells me
some birds making arduous
seasonal travels will engage
in brain magic (my words) or
unihemispheric sleep (scientist words).
This thing that sounds like touring the globe,
is about the two sides of the brain
sleeping and not sleeping.
Out of unison, these brainparts,
being their own best selves.
Their waking states at odds
with each other—one side naps
while the other keeps guard.
The internet tells me my
favorite beasts partake—
not just those birds, but whales,
and our adorable friends,
Their busy brains, doubled,
unpaired, migrating the great vast.
I imagine my brain
as portrayed by a plastic model
of a put-it-together brain—
always a weird peachy-pink—
but now, one side lit up neon,
the other, a dozy grayish-blue.
Just think what I could accomplish
with these super-powers.
Double the time for not getting shit done.
Then, because I am distraction’s easy prey,
I find a German scientist who says humans
might sunder as well.
Calls it a chimeric state:
the co-existance of order and disorder,
which I might just put on my resumé.
And now, how I covet
this cranial doubling,
this fraternal twinsing,
and wonder which side
I’d allow to chaos and which
I’d allow to rest.
PASOLINI / by Matthew Moore
Jesus Barabbas in
Breakfast al fresco
under the sky
of seven continents. 5
the air over earth’s
Unforgiving is the
love windows 10
offer that shields the
will to look, the
planing edge of open
Ideas, masses, and 15
fix to it they do
reflect some place
people blow and
below them people
blow. In shocks 20
spring rains shook.
My Mother Hangs A Rosary From Her Rearview Mirror / by L.T. Pelle
and the beads sway like little rosettes of rain unable to land,
Forever moving back and forth between us.
When I think of my mother I think of the way
those sparkling specks clings to each other
and we call it prayer. When I think of my mother
I think of that communion of light that nearly blinded us,
how when we stop short she seatbelts her arm
in front of my seatbelt. My mother’s love is an airbag,
lungs waiting outside her body to catch me
to be a balloon when the party is over
and the sky is shattered glass waiting
to exorcise every expression of us from my face.
When I drop down the sun visor it is always her eyes
on my reflection that stops the shine from hurting.
My mother made love at first sight mean
she would never be farther away than a mirror.
She grips god like a steering wheel because
she knows her knees cannot reach
the brakes like her sole can. She knows the rain
will have to land eventually.
The rosary waiting to share the stillness
with her neck and it is not that there is no music
where we are going it is that these radio stations
of our bodies can only go for so long before
the skin becomes too symphony to hold onto.
Before the dust sings its static in the place
where my mother sticks out her hand
to catch my chest again and again
the rosary shaped like a smile so infinite
you could mistake it for a scream.
Women Grow Gardens Instead of Themselves / by Kara Penn
Women plant something for every stage. First,
the bulbs thrusting up their fireworks– crocus, tulip, daffodil.
Then the feminine Iris, curved and opening, smelling
of grape or lemonade. Then the showy roses, round one,
sculptural and abundant. The shy clematis along the fence line
shows its purple stars. Then the daylilies with their short-lived
surprises, opening their lush mouths to the street. The poppies
in their abundant skirts twirl in hot winds. The coneflowers
and black-eyed susans fix their cyclops eye on the sun.
Showy roses, round two, offer dessert-plate blooms.
Human-sized sunflowers peer over the fence line. Red
Valerian, with its trumpet blooms, presides throughout.
All winter, women planned for this. All spring they tilled,
prepared, fertilized the earth. When the beauty tumbles out
of the mouth of darkness, women stand guard. Women
pick off worms and Japanese beetles. Women invite
the bees, keep slugs drunk in capfuls of beer.
Women nourish roots and carefully pull off dead
blooms. At dusk, women wipe sweat from their necks
and pick dirt from beneath their nails. The garden
should reach its full potential, think women
then cut the best stems for their neighbors.
Trellis de Coeur / by Angela Stubbs
She says she’ll wear that or ink,
if you’re really blue. That’s what
mourners do. When it
breaks, you’ll see how perfect
it looks in the light. Abstraction
unfolds. The iris transparent.
Promise you won’t swallow sleep
like a pill. We can wail with
early morning light, drowning in it
and the desire for tender stones
to link names shared. The very thing
that endures. Wild horses, a pedestal
of volcanic rock, a blackout with eyes
wide open. Caught in waves that carry.
A long stay home with you.
Sestina: Mom / by Jennifer Wholey
With gratitude to Jonah Winter
How do you feel about being a first time mom
my therapist asked, and I told her the thought of being a mom
wasn’t what was daunting to me, it was, you know, dying. Mom
kept telling me she had a good feeling, and I trust my mom’s
feelings because we have kind of a psychic mom-
daughter thing going on. You’re not going to get pre-eclampsia, Mom
said, and I so wanted to believe her. She came to visit and mom
me in February just before the whole Pandemic thing. Mom
visited from Florida by herself, which was telling. Usually they’re a unit & my Dad sent Mom
to mop me up as I puked in public and in private. Mom!
I’m going to hurl, I said, hurrying from the only mom
store in Ithaca to narrowly miss barfing on a MLK Jr statue. Mom
is an old pro at this, expert at zipping me to the bathroom. Mom
tells me that as a toddler I could spit on a dime. Your mom’s
pregnancy is not your pregnancy, my doula tells me, and my mom
agrees that somehow I am absolved of the same suffering that made her a mom,
and both my aunt’s daughters. I was born three months early, and as a proto-mom
for the first time the gravitas hits me that here I am alive to tell the tale. Mom—
feels really weird when referring to myself—is a damn lucky thing to be, both alive and mom,
even when you’re yelling to no one in particular that you are a pregnant, Soon-to-be-Mom
not day drunk while you empty your guts on the Commons. But back to my therapist: moms,
she said, have very good outcomes here. The local hospital. The midwives. The moms
are encouraged to do skin-to-skin. What about the country’s trends in mortality for moms,
I asked, don’t you think it’s scary? People like you don’t need to worry about it, moms
like you, she said, and what I heard was Don’t worry, you are not a Black mom.
You won’t be one of those moms
because out of five ob-gyns and five midwives, Mom,
the only Black woman in that medical practice is one out of four receptionists. Black moms,
even wealth does not save you, even Serena fucking Williams almost died. Black moms
are dying at three to four times the rate of non-Hispanic white moms. Black moms
are dying. When I did get pre-eclampsia, we caught it early because my Mom
told me to always ask for a pee strip every single visit, and they listened to this mom
because they believed I am the person who knows my body best. My mom
couldn’t be there at the birth because of Covid restrictions; my mom
was constantly texting my husband for updates as she hurtled towards us by train; my mom
started this journey as afraid as me, I’m sure, but didn’t show it. Mom—
the nurses kept calling me Mom over those five days even though I was yet to be Mom.
Today’s the day, Mom, they kept saying, and I tried the name on like a new pair of sensible mom
shoes, the kind my mom wears gardening. Now, I’m alive to hear my daughter practice
Poem 7 / Day 7
Birds of Two Feathers / by Lorraine Claggett
Let us return to the timber doodle
a bird who waddles and doesn’t fly
But jumps and honks peent, peent.
As is seen on New Hampshire’s blueberry fields
It is a harbinger bird I’m told,
A bird I would like to see jumping, or harbingering.
The peent perhaps, could be optional?
Back at home on the Chesapeake’s shores
A dear bird with a name to rival the first,
The chickadee calls from the mulberry tree, hard to see
In the greening of spring.
Chickadee, chickadee dee fast and soft.
Chickadee, chickadee so busy and congenial,
This little one captures my heart.
And both equally hold talents of skill and perception.
The timber doodle cavorts and knows omens,
It has a magnificent bill.
The chickadee in outwitting large feeder gluttons
watches when to dart in for a seed, and escape immediately
To lunch in the tree, surpasses all others in tactical planning.
And sports a snappy black cap.
There’s one thing to know how the two birds do differ
To me in my house on the river.
When the sun and fresh air call me out from inside
Where the hallways are empty and rooms start to echo,
A cheerful whistling just above me
From some rustling leaves
Is the chickadee greeting me
Tells me I have a friend to go with me.
Spring Cleaning on Venus / by Sandra Fees
The morning the magnolia
first burst on the scene
I wanted only petals
only magenta glory
not the day’s chores
not the hungering
but to remain
how on another planet,
Venus, for example,
it would be too hot
to worry about a sink
full of dishes
or dust on the mantle.
The constellation of washing,
drying and folding would be
meaningless, would be arcane.
My longing, I think,
would still be
for the ancient ways—
trees bursting their seams.
City Stripes / by Cathy Hollister
In his world of one
He is my city, my heart
Unmasked shoppers defiant
Red spice and steel eyed
As they pass
Considerate but for the obvious
They are my city, my heart
Pride pierced by others’ fears
Fire and ire
Slash and scar
They are my city, my heart
My heart is dark and tired
Compressed and forgotten
Afraid in New ways and times
Its chambers alienated
I want to collect the frayed edges
Sooth the fringe
Calm the galloping heartbeat
Of my fractured city, my heart.
To the body alone be the resolution (Fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
“A method for keeping your soul in this canning jar”
First, know that we are not empty, but can
Still wait for the future of what we carry to be
Recognizable, useful, needed. Sure, there is much of
whatever we choose in this room and on this bookcase. We know
Who’s made the mess, can choose to ignore it. We are nearing the climax
of our beauty, breasts still ours to give. There are whole weeks we’ve slept
the best we have in a decade, sheltered from needing to act fine. We chose
what chaos to say yes to, even before the lungs of our parents and
bus drivers and grannies asked us to. Second, sometimes we turn
the music up loud when we can hear the neighbor boys playing but we
Are actually Ok. This day, we’re OK. And sometimes we want to be asked how
It’s really been. There are whole months when all we want is to feel your kind
Of exhausted but are already filled in by other grains. Don’t believe the usual
Parables, how not one holy woman who wanted a family ever had to wait
Forever, or didn’t change the last paragraph on her own. If God
Makes in God’s image, fully male and fully female, then
isn’t part of everything Holy infertile? There are too many
of us barren-brimming on this shelf
to say otherwise.
I’m Putting It All Into the Least of Things / by Meg Little Reilly
I’m putting it all into the least of things now
and every incantation for improvement
a plan to pour what fervor is left
into this lone backyard violet
grown up from mother muck
the slope of weed-warped earth
where the dog shits most
is where this brave maniac chose
to make camp
and can you stand such nerve
of starting survival already in the thick of it
but we do
and do we even know it
like some antisuicide
to open violet eyes
look up at blister sun and say
I am game
then just keep outwitting
the chickweed chokehold
and god’s order
these brutal things
do nothing so deserving
Chromostereopsis (#14, 1960) / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
The edges of the Rothko vibrate.
Humming still, they must,
even though I cannot sit
on a black leather bench
before it like an acolyte.
I long to bathe in its maroon—
where deep crimson field
meets navy abyss,
soft-edged against the perimeter.
I crave that luscious headache,
so bold I can hear it grating
and digging into my brainspace,
this muscular dentistry
made of pigment.
Like dehydration or caffeine lust
or that time I broke my glasses
and let my phone guide me home,
toe on the brake, driving one-eye-shut,
with the lens in my pocket.
I tried using it like a monocle
pinched between my eyebrow and cheek
which, I’m here to tell you,
doesn’t work with astigmatism.
And now, glasses repaired,
I recall this quaver is an illusion
rather than pure magic,
but I will not allow
so many art history credits
to thieve the moment,
because #14, though
locked away in the museum,
still sends jitters to my peripherals,
my cones, my swoon.
Death Is A Surprise Party / by L.T. Pelle
All the people you love are hiding
behind the curtains. It is dark.
You will not understand
the celebration until you turn on the light.
A room of many voices
saying the same thing.
This much unison rarely caught
outside a church.
They sparkler-ed God for you.
Prayers have always been hand-held
but now the answers are too.
Death is a surprise party.
The more they empty the living room
of its soft places to land
the more it becomes a dance floor.
Macarena is reaching hands learning
to rest themselves upon
Grind is low-rise learning
all the ways you are not
a ghost. The way someone else’s body
is not a wall you can slip through.
Champagne hearts sending their
soft flying across the room.
Death is a surprise party.
When it’s over the confetti
on the floor refuses
to parenthesis the silence.
It’s the body
hitting the limbo
stick and not having to play anymore.
Not having to get low to win.
The trouble with parties
is that everyone becomes a guest.
It’s the only way
they know how to leave.
When you keg the sky
you make a thing that can run out
of stars to drink from.
When you ask for heaven to be
here, the cups will all turn red
and solo, wishing wells
you can flip your coins into.
The price you have to pay to hold
your own thirst.
The bathroom line is long
and you will spend most of your life
waiting for relief.
Turning on the faucets
so no one will hear what it sounds
like when you put down your pain.
Your song is whatever song is playing
when you emerge.
will shrivel up before they go.
You only hear the pop if they go too soon.
Death is a surprise party.
Don’t pack the goodie bags
full of tomorrow.
You might not be there
when they open it.
In a Year Barren of Poems / by Kara Penn
Not one verse was written at the desk
of the virtual schoolhouse
or conveyed through videoed body language
of colleagues from the room with the bed
I’d later sleep in, and a chair from which I never moved.
In my husband’s temple of COVID research
and the covid-filled church of the Emergency Room
in which he worked, it was difficult to argue the importance
of the poem. As people sought breath, the poem wasn’t air
or space for air in the lungs. The poem did not put dinner
on the tables of the jobless. The poem was no
high schooler’s prom or the college athlete’s
senior season. The poem did not facetime
with family members to say goodbye. The poem
knows better than to wear a mask. The pandemic
unfolds its poem is a bomb, is a sob,
is a scream, is an ache, is an echo,
is a breath held.
If You Tell Me Something Good / by Angela Stubbs
Maybe we can arrange something.
this already sounds like
a shady transaction
outside a convenience store
but I tire easily trying to convince you
good manners aren’t
necessary. I guess we
should have some kind
of codeword, if you
or sex or the equivalent
Can I pay for this
with orgasms? you ask
holding up a bag of
Fritos, making fun of me.
Emily Dickinson would
say, I’ll pay—in satin cash
because she was fancy or maybe
she was desperate
for the kind of satisfaction
you can’t buy
I promise not to separate
real things from the unreal
or something similar
O brown varnished wood of the headboard
O green glass of the lamp on the bedside table
O tarnished brass door knob
O blue sky glimpsed between branches
O strawberries and cream baby cheek
Poem 6 / Day 6
Recurring / by April Claggett
The moon woke me up
Or so it seemed
A thick cantaloupe slice
rocking on the small of the back of the far hillside
To me, on my hillside, in my house made of wood.
And, as lovers love only one,
And I the only one awake in the world,
It was me she stirred.
We locked eyes across the swales
of whishing pine tops and sucking bog ponds winking up as mica.
But what did she see in me
on such a seductive night
Save two tiny watery versions of herself
mirrored in my eyes?
And what did I see in her?
She dazzled my conscious mind to life
As I rose from the oblivion of sleep,
sensing some what but knowing not what.
And so recursively she is
My own looming conscious eye
Flattering my world with false
Because I know from my house of wood
That those thousand deliriously singing frogs
Down there in the lusty mud
Also carry two tiny versions of her in their eyes.
When serendipity / by Sandra Fees
slips a lost
in my coat
I deem it
meant to be
returned to me
half of circled
light that pierces
this lobe of life
hooped and jangled
Paved / by Cathy Hollister
Rain on the windshield
the parched spot
Pearly no longer everlasting
Hopeful sputters of sprouts
far beyond the engineered path
of breeding black web
Greed for green turns landscape brown
Gilded chariots glide on gray
Crude the king of
Grassy two track through the woods
for the pace with which we race
To do, to strive, to chase the dream
Fail over time and space
cracks in the cloverleaf
Tanka for All Foster Mums / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Everything I post,
a kind of erasure poem.
What’s missing: your face,
the interval of your name,
a bough missing the blossoms.
First Holy Communion / by Meg Little Reilly
My mother pulled down the passenger side mirror
and applied lipstick as the car sat still in traffic.
I had never seen her do this before.
My sisters and I watched from the backseat
as my father cursed the congestion that had given us this,
these solemn instructions for how to be.
Waxy pink on lips that were not ours for that day
but belonged to a wondrous, unknowable world
of beautiful and needless things.
We were late to the first holy communion.
Nature / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
A fight, so small I cannot recall the hackle, or even the facts of it—only my fists clenched in jacket pockets, my thumbnails digging into the meat of my index fingers. Walking, walking, deciding if I will keep my trap shut, whether one-upping is worth the price. I’m the picture of diplomacy, or at least a rough sketch of it, perhaps because not much is at stake. This walk, with a new friend carries no history. The moment rolls into the next.
And then, as if in some bad movie about female friendship, are three fawns, having their lunch of brush and wildflowers. We stop and watch them, and remark that they are cute, because they are here on our hike, and not in the neighborhood shredding roses or running in front of traffic. We part, each in our own cars, and on the way out, I am chased by a flocklette of wild turkeys. One throws himself towards my car, but gently, only testing, while the rest stare at us from the culvert.
Half a lifetime ago, while driving with a roommate to the beach, listening to The Who, him having turned to volume all the way up and bongo-smacking the dashboard, a nastier version of that turkey came after me. There on the East Coast, we called them turkey buzzards, and this one cracked my windshield. That bird rolled off the hood, leaving a blood stain the size of my hand.
I hadn’t thought of that turkey-splotch, or of the roommate, or that heap of a car, or even that beach in a long time. He, whom I’d considered a good friend, could be anywhere. How easy it was to lose track of things back then, always so sure the next good thing would appear.
Chilcot / by Matthew Moore
The Iraq Inquiry is 6,147 pages long
and concludes Britain
prosecuted the war on spurious
intelligence, that was
built on in the Butler Review in 2004.
The Iraq Inquiry concludes
that Britain prosecuted war legally.
The Iraq Inquiry was
announced by the combination
stool emollient – antihistamine
named PM Brown.
The Iraq Inquiry has
a second name, the Chilcot Inquiry.
J. Anthony Chilcot authored it
with two historians, an ambassador,
and a baroness. The first report
Chilcot authored, the Butler Review,
manufactured consent for the
US invasion in 2003. Time is never
linear for states approaching war
via security, intelligence, and words.
Literature is written for or against it.
Britain is a television . . .
a channel-sodden anemone . . .
the historical organ living in a hole
in Basra . . . Churchill’s
Great Cartier Reef is made of Boer
diamonds and magnum
corks from swilled Veuve Clicquot . . .
Chilcot can add volume
to the thought beneath Blair’s hair . . .
Chilcot can add colors
to the sympathy of the chameleons . . .
Reports tesselate as notices to
evict, sponsored by the
lion on the bonnet of the Peugeot
advertisement curling around the
the conflagration of Grenfell.
How the Owl Answers / by Kara Penn
Am I always sad? Seven
asks one year into the pandemic
where just beyond the outlined city
and–beyond that–the mountains’ dark
edges, was a promise of an owl, shaped
as dark outline of tufted ears. Where
by chance Seven and I are awake
and drawn to the window with a clamoring
of voices– a dozen crows gathered
alongside the owl. They flank
the larger bird, mercilessly or in adoration.
Oily shadows, their voices cut cold
with precise and hanging notes. I cannot get
away from crows. Even when the owl
is a gift resting in that branch, crows
come with it. Am I always sad? Seven
asks again, and again we see the black
kites collect then suddenly rise up with
the sun and against that new brightness
the open and closing beak of the owl.
Over and over, the beak opens and closes
as if its voice was carried off with those
common birds. Am I always sad? asks
Seven and the owl mouths her answer
into the wind then lifts her great wings
for us to see the delicate white fringe
and the deep cut within the feathers
that brought her down in our yard.
*Note: click on image to enlarge to full screen.
Tree and River / by Jennifer Wholey
Cinquains for Tai and Shannon
You nourish me
With every graceful curve
Drinking in the sight of you, sheer
Your steady roots
Anchor my banks—Those curves
You delight in—Hold me closer
You give me life!
Each tender kiss from you,
Your water’s sweet and rhythmic flow,
Your limbs braid me a crown
This love we share, this moment, our
Poem 5 / Day 5
Easter Morning / by Lorraine Claggett
Easter morning and the sun is out
Burning away the dark hours of Friday with the color of new growth,
Shuttering away somber omens of the Sabbath,
And now, with the new day,
It is after the bustle of waffles for breakfast,
Baskets ribboned and gathered, shoes found and matched,
In the old house the silent Meeting gathers
Where young and old again dig deep into spirit,
What had happened?
In the spring of the year the age-old story is retold
The miracles are gathered to process,
And the meaning of death
There is no reply, no path to explanations.
There remains only the comfort of asking
And the happiness of wonder;
To hold wonder as the work of the soul.
As for the miracle, it is real, testified by
The centuries of folks gathered on Easter, on any Sunday,
Trees in leaf, flowers underfoot, children running circles,
Together weeping, caring, knowing joy
After Divorce / by Sandra Fees
while putting together a puzzle of Frida Kahlo’s
Self Portrait with Thorned Necklace and Hummingbird
Frida Kahlo spreads in pieces across the table.
Outside hummingbird unspools the orange trumpets.
A face begins to take shape.
Wings snap and unsnap.
The self unspools.
The ruby-throated glistens.
Frida Kahlo glistens, her thorned throat.
Hummingbird tongues nectar.
Pain and paint are nectar.
Golden green and emerald brush the air.
She sweeps her hair into butterfly clips
and at her neck the stilled bird dangles.
This puzzle, Frida, hums with survival.
This puzzle, bird, awaits your revival.
Teetering / by Cathy Hollister
Early morning mist barely piercing the leaf canopy overhead, fine and lacy, sensed more than felt,
partial drops wetting my hair as small drops find each other, tension melts as brooks begin to
gurgle, streams swell, water rises, and rises, and rises, but no matter. See the lake and the
still, glassy surface, pay no attention to the currents, eddies and ripples, no monster
there. Leviathan is just a myth to scare the simple minded away from prosperity.
Enjoy the sun, stay and play, so called science just another name for alarm
Black gold will tarnish us, gasses smother, unfounded claims to make
us fear! Oh Bish, Bosh, Bither, Bother, pound the dreary drum
of Doom. Everyone knows ice melts, hot winds blow,
desert sands shift. ‘Experts’ abound, spouting
panic, unbound hysterical voices flood
the air. No need to fear, nature
cycles round and round
Danger will never,
ever pierce our
On the Second Easter in Quarantine,
I Consider My Watered-down Faith / by Becca J.R. Lachman
I need to believe Magdalene today
when she comes to my yard, waving
both arms, me not fully awake and
longing for ritual other than coffee.
I want to see her original story
standing–there–beneath the red-
buds, posed as if she’s been in this
house so many times she knows
the sound of the door squelching
open. Friends, I need to know she’s
and angry. I want her body to be
hourglass, despite never growing
life within it, to carry a quickening
anyway, outside of herself, so
dangerous and sacred she had to be
edited. And I need to hear her
bloodline, his name and my name
laughed from her mouth as
she gives one more windmill
of a wave, waiting to see if
I’ll come outside and answer.
Even the Fish Are Rolling Their Eyes / by Meg Little Reilly
The bears in Shenandoah National Park will walk right into your campsite
look you in the eye and say
I’m taking this
There is nothing you can do about it
everyone seems to think it’s fine
or else they don’t know who’s supposed to be doing what in the woods
The trails are filled with constitutional lawyers in new shorts
on loan from congressional offices
They bump into their friends
former reporters who work at consulting firms now
here of all places
You have to get out sometimes
everyone says it
breathe some fresh air and recall what’s important
Meanwhile the bears are ransacking their sites
good gear just out of the box
they are laughing and smoking all the while
It’s too many seekers sucking on God’s battery recharge
it’s too many bears wearing name brand sunglasses
even the fish in the streams are rolling their eyes at the state of things
What’s to become of us I wonder
that’s what I’ve come for, all the us’s to consider
but alas still no answer
And yet at day’s end
depending on your position
the light can blind, blur everything into timeless rightness
While the bears steal steaks from unguarded coolers.
The Daughter Obsessively Reads Articles About Blue Light / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Snap back a few years.
I barter with fate, for you,
who has lived this life
eight decades—and now this
in our time of aloneness.
Your sight a reverse-telescope,
a thief: reading, driving,
games of bridge and mahjong
with women your age—
little old ladies you call them.
So, I make a small prayer
that the power won’t crash.
New furniture not quite brain-mapped,
your muscle-memory not yet patterned
to avoid a shin-smack or tumble.
I worry up a shower drip
on slick tile, waiting.
Your vision slips furry and tunneled
and you, alone in this world gone turbid.
Der Zweifler / by Matthew Moore
The reflections the shipping
Lanes foil on cliffs the trees . . .
Mud and poles, mud
And poles, Thorne
Rooms model poor wars, 5
Sentiments in vertigo,
Fine delights carefully astray,
My god is the washbasin,
A cloud is washing my hands . . .
Pacification! Hobbyhorses! 10
Capitalism spurs on
Money and blinking:
Wealth is incest.
To have a bath instead 15
Of a life, to live,
Tubing hot—‘Everything is a test,
Say the gods,’ shells & deweyed
Mussels, opened by crateloads in
Hogarth rooms 20
Whiteness caters to rising craters,
Voices ascend the Canal face
Up from the severed isthmus
Vomiting the miracles of industry,
Ceremony dead, 25
The beaches exhumed
For a coast. My indisintegration
For a coast, for a maiden métier.
Ashes awash in waking, leafless,
The sea jerks on 30
The earth’s chain. Sentimental,
‘Christ,’ inexcluded from this,
‘To leave our gods out of this,’
Will to exist document that hell
Means to answer, white canals, 35
Answer to divisions of this bell.
Wellness B*tch (or spiritual bypassing) (or skipping therapy to hang out with Gwyneth Paltrow) / by L.T. Pelle
The blue haired woman in the New Age store sells me a crystal.
Tells me, before I use it, it needs to be cleansed of the hands
that held it before me and I thought we didn’t do that here.
I thought these wind chimes and prayer flags
meant that that which we cannot see will not hurt us.
Never ask us to apologize
for the way our bodies respond to what moves us.
At Whole Foods there is a cure for everything
except always wanting to feel better. Be better.
It’s like I am playing poker with Tarot cards and pretending
my future is what’s gonna help me beat the other woman.
I do not want to be like this.
Doing yoga for the abs. Judging
each savasana by how out of breath I am before I get to it.
My selfie is corpse pose.
My smile is how thrift store this Urban Outfitters looks
which is to say my smile is all about how it looks to you.
I learn Reiki which is cleansing people through not touching them
but still I cannot lift this feeling of him from my skin.
A meditation retreat is not therapy. My skin is not a juice cleanse.
is not the skin scrapped, leftover, from all the squeezing.
This Tummy Tonic bubbles like a love potion
even though my self-love got lost between the web pages of Goop.
Self-harm is refusing to take off the clay mask
even when it is hurting your face. Self-harm is $40 to the specialist
who specializes in telling you the only things you can afford
are the things that are killing you. Who tells you your feelings are organic
and that best served raw. That antidepressants are for that girl
who doesn’t take her shoes off when she walks into the yoga studio
even if it’s because she’s spent too much time walking around
with glass shards in her feet. We are not looking away
we are gently closing our eyes and letting this day go.
Self-harm is writing it down in a gratitude journal,
the lies disguising silence as a pen.
This Tie-Dye isn’t meant to show you the knots in my stomach
are all the corners the colors can’t reach no matter what I do.
Aren’t these trendy half-dead houseplants proof
we all need more light than this? This reusable cup
is still half-empty and if I didn’t already know what mindfulness meant
maybe I would think it is the way I carry my thoughts
like I carry these organic groceries up the stairs. All at once.
As if it’s worth the weight never to have to look back
at everything I left behind.
My Child Teaches Me About Whiteness / by Kara Penn
Seven takes my hand in hers,
mentions Martin Luther King, Jr.
is her uncle—casually and with pride.
I ask her how she knows. She brushes
her skin against mine and says, He
and I are the same—and shows me the skin
that earlier she had colored into her “About Me”
portrait, crow-black with just the whites
of her eyes as feature, her almost-black hair
lighter than her skin. Seven sees shadow
everywhere in herself and everywhere
that dances. In her is the cutout shape
of an ancient Indian shadow puppet behind
the white screen. She asks why are dark
people so good and white people so dark
in their history and why do I hold both, the
brown back of my hand, the white palm?
Then wishes upon an eyelash for lightness.
The Hermit Girl of Venus / by Angela Stubbs
For days afterward, I heard your
Tuesday words ring in my ears.
when we met, I fixed my gaze
on your perfect hair in Parisian rain & heat
certainty cast anchor as you declared
fun the anti-hero of our human experience,
as we talked over tiny cups
of decaffeinated desire, happiness
emerged the star in your gallery
of broken hallelujahs. I remained
overwhelmed or fidgety
wanting to peek inside your head,
to see what you see, to hold your face with my face
to understand a victory march
made in solitude
I admit / by Jennifer Wholey
that there is still a Christmas tree in the living room corner
bereft of ornaments, yes, but I couldn’t bear to let it go
when it began to sprout new growth from the top
filling the air with the scent of sweet Fraser fir
in January, February, March, April
that I kept those four pumpkins for too long
until we got the Christmas tree, in fact,
and then I didn’t even carve them,
but named them instead—
that I should write in all those fancy journals
with hand-stitched bindings, ornate clasps,
embossed leather covers, and textured
paper rather than waiting for the
perfect words to fill them
that I should drink the whiskey sitting
in the liquor cabinet, the Ardbeg
that was a wedding present
(we are nearing a decade)
ought to be in my glass
that I hold onto too many moments that are gone
wait for the perfect moment to materialize
when I could be drinking Scotch
while carving pumpkins,
I commit to throwing out the Christmas tree in January
because if I learned anything in the last year it’s that
special occasions are any damn occasion at all
and no one is looking forward to loss.
Your pumpkins will forgive you.
Poem 4 / Day 4
To my mother’s despair at Easter / by April Claggett
Attend instead to the arc of the egg
Adore how it curves
In sliding ratios
–now the gentle belly of a whale
–here the memory of your baby’s heel
–here a mathematician’s mushroom cap
Over and over without omega
A soft/hard strong/fragile strange/intimate
It turns out
A cosmos in your cupped hand
Forgive the egg
For what it cannot do
For it is blind and dumb
For it cannot stand alone
And it must be nested
A mute universe
Pointing to nothing
When It’s Difficult to Feel Grateful / by Sandra Fees
I like double-bloomed trees, pink—
and prolific as poets
whose words are orchard,
polyvalence and mercy in my ears
and rivers whose mouths
are swollen with alluvium,
desire and the promise of spilling
into something larger
than the self
and the questions that congregate
in trees and poets and mouths
a language still taking shape in me
like fingernails grown too long
or memories whose lips
are strewn with lostness
and white blossoms.
Kind-Ness / by Cathy Hollister
Safe and protective, my old family tree
like-ness accepts all that look just like me.
When kind-ness excludes, when it fears and it hides
goodness, in loneliness, withers and dies.
After Hearing of Another Miraculous Pregnancy
While Re-reading “Traveling through the Dark” / by Becca J.R. Lachman
I like to think of Stafford
in utero the day before
he makes it to us, that time
between this world and another
one, waiting to be delivered
somewhere that asks for
our no or also, what we’ll make
with our intricate moves. Before
he was husband, objector, poet,
before any tenure or award. Every wise
heroine or mentor, each teacher
we carry on shoulders, in pockets, try
brushing off like ash– imagine
them, too: vast and obeying,
in that slow-stretched moment,
possibility. Perhaps they chose it,
too, their birth, in some language
they can never speak again. But
what comes after, leaning toward
the daily metronome inside the gut,
what needs us and names us, that
was deliberate, and also ours
The Pancakes at the Hospital / by Meg Little Reilly
I have never tasted anything like the pancakes at the hospital
don’t know what they put in them
Two soft, uniform beds
stacked up or beside
only one occupied
if you are lucky
Listening to other families’ bedside conversations is torture
the minor things that fill stinging silence
or cannot wait
for the privilege of privacy
Is your bed pad wet and is this a rerun
the white blood cells are not improving
and the nurse speaks no English
not that it matters
I hate those other families
hope that they absorb all the shit luck
if it is your kid
God forgives such prayers
I think that they put the exact same number of blueberries in every pancake
someone worked it out once
in the hospital kitchen
and now it’s a rule
Whatever you do
do not divine in the number of blueberries
the direction of the white blood cells
the berries aren’t talking
That number is fixed to say
you will be fine
or maybe not
but the world will keep spinning
just as it was.
Today in Self-Care / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
An invincible traffic knot
both ruins and saves the afternoon.
This commerce-clogged intersection
architected by a madman.
Left turns made impossible by
a dozen plastic yellow poles
I could plow the hell over.
I conjure my getaway—
thwacking on my undercarriage
like the sound of the carnival wheel
at the fair in my hometown.
I won a huge stuffed bear
on my lucky 21,
but was forced to swap
for something useful —
luggage I wasn’t allowed to take
on my escape ten years hence.
Local legend says
this ridiculous corner
has the most wrecks in the county,
and I am here to donate.
I’m so busy concentrating
on obstacles and surprise dead ends,
and what the car in front will do,
and of course, my squandered youth
that I forget, for a moment,
Roman à Clef / by Matthew Moore
Sleep—: the ring of keys next to the
Time shells, the scales stressed, THINE,
Narrowing, not abridged overmuch,
Ill-starred, not railroaded overmuch.
Time circulates the course of course not. 5
A Pigeon Arrives / by L.T. Pelle
From some sky
I have not yet unfolded,
a pigeon arrives on my path.
And when she presses
her sharpened mouth
to the filthy ground
as if the cure for hunger
could be found
in kisses or
at someone else’s feet
I know she is my heart.
I know she is my heart
by the stillness
she requires of me
through the threat of flying away.
How my lungs highrise
at the sight of her.
How the only music she knows
is siren, is the way music pours
from doors left open.
How she birdbaths in that sound
of leftover light.
Wears my body
like the only apartment I can afford
which is a room locked enough
to call home.
Wears my body
like a stolen bike
A thing with bells clinging
to the handles
like how much church
do I have to hold onto
to get wherever it is I am going?
Like can’t I just be skin?
My poor pigeon heart,
every time she breathes
she breathes in so much exhaust
she thinks exhausted
is what it means to be alive.
Every moment an incision.
I am not mad my love has grown
too vermin for awe.
I am proud
of the way she has learned to love
her awful. How she wears
the city’s colors on her feathers
like paint was not enough
to express her adoration
for the world around her.
Only becoming would do.
Yes, my heart
My heart has grown
too hungry to live inside me
so I wear the absence like a crosswalk
white lines gaping the path.
Gaping my right
to get to the other side
alive and without
The Way the Smallest Pulled its Body Into Flight / by Kara Penn
The way the smallest, left behind, pulled its body into
the corner of the eaves and cried quietly
for food, reassurance, company. The strong four
who’d for weeks now won the battle for early moths,
even a sun-colored monarch, floated off the ledge bravely
and flew to nearby branches. All afternoon I watched,
listened for love to return to the one cowering. The one
occasionally approaching the edge looking out. The one
whose voice, though clear, was growing weak.
Once I stood on the ladder to ensure she was still living.
Still present. Unlike last May when I stepped outside
to the emaciated body of one lost, who’d blown from the ledge.
At dusk, the four returned to the nest, food arrived, was stuffed
into large gaping mouths. The smallest, her breath smelling of
abandoned things, was blocked behind the others–
not forgotten but also not fed. Still, it carried on
and in the morning, I slipped to the window
to see mother on the nest warming the little body
before winging off. It’s hard to un-hear the weakening
voice, compelled by fear. So small among the eaves.
But the cry persisted all day and was silenced at night.
Expecting death, I prepared myself and came to the tomb
at dawn, only to find the stone aside. The last one flew.
I do not know for certain or how. But gone. Certainly gone.
Spring’s held breath exhaled.
Exodus 11:7 / by Jennifer Wholey
The Torah tells us that on Passover
all dogs were silent as the former slaves
fled from Egypt with their unleavened bread.
The village dogs did not sharpen their tongues
to bark or snarl at this sudden parting,
skulking for scraps behind the procession.
Not even one let out a solo growl
or nipped at sandaled feet hurrying past.
That divine memo must have missed this house
because our dogs are being assholes now
begging for matzoh (a favorite treat)
then pouring out their wrath at the groundhog
that lives under the deck this time of year.
As we open the door for Elijah,
they remind us not everyone is free.
The Visible Discharge of Electricity / by Angela Stubbs
I feel flat or blue
against the kitchen tile floors,
like cutting yourself but less exciting.
I tried to think a lonelier thing
than fences or death,
to feel sick
in my skeleton
and know why.
This minute, swallows are
my words inside your mouth,
where my lifeline hides. Something
of yours making me choke, my tongue
trying to pry open
parts of your body,
to put feelings into words.
Poem 3 / Day 3
Easter Mourning 2021 / by Lorraine Claggett
Spring has worked her magic to bring full color to the Easter parade
And is ready for the Day
Her cherry trees outline the lanes in yards of frothy white
Daffodils in yellow spool along roadsides and
Out along the meadow tiny flower heads of blue and white
Are quilted in the grasses
My dormant garden has sprouted six crimson tulips to be the crowning color of the
Weather forecast: Colder and rain on Thursday and Friday with outlook for sun and warm
temperatures on Easter Day
Before Easter Sunday there is Good Friday.
Thursday has already darkened and rain begins again. The paper reads
“A seven-year-old girl out for recess with her first grade class sees her beloved friend
shot dead by a passing teenager with a gun, has not returned to school.”
She cannot go back.
Forgive them Father. They know not what they do.
News, Boulder, Colorado: A gunman opens fire on shoppers at a grocery store and eleven are
Atlanta, Georgia: In a shooting spree, six women at work and three men were killed by a
Forgive them Father. Forgive them.
Friday is the good day. It is called Good.
Under the spring rain the flowers that droop now will be bright again
The children will have pandemic plastic eggs, no candy, no dying.
In four other cities there are mass killings in one week. Mourning is there.
To have Easter Sunday, there must be death.
Forgive me Father, I do not know what to do.
“The Mind of Plants” / by Sandra Fees
—Aeon magazine headline
In the years to come
rocks will still break their music
against the coastal edge
whales will breach
the staggering crest of sea
and armfuls of stars
will flatter the night
birthing and dying
as they must
as we must.
What’s unimaginable will already
have been imagined.
We will carry the luggage of regrets,
of our missing. Will we learn
to unpack them?
In the years to come
it will be the mind of plants
that enfleshes another season
enshrined with the courting of bees
Evening / by Cathy Hollister
Red poppies sleep as crickets sing
lightening bugs float
on pillowed drafts
Sun warmed stones prolong the day
While cool of the evening
slowly gains control
Chardonnay and brie meet fat vowels
and stiff muscles
soften in the dusk,
take flight as
nighthawks trace graceful loops in the sky,
Choreography for the Barren / by Becca J.R. Lachman
There are only certain days you’ll have the energy to send
the Valentine like the photo reply to the shower invite
do a loving kindness meditation scatter wildflower
seeds mail the birthday package put on the holy
armor call your doctor about new meds, options, test
results give back the heirloom ring passed from daughter
to daughter throw out the musty collection of letters
answer the RSVP send a welcome baby basket
open the Christmas card open the Christmas
card open text “Gah! I’m so excited for you!” sit
with no book in the lunchroom think of every 1 in 10 women
at a dance recital/concert/basketball game (you aren’t alone, along
in a crowd)
take it out on the dinner vegetables hold yourself up
on the way up the staircase avoid mirrors for a day or two
stuff dried dates with almond butter, dunk in simmering chocolate
eat about a dozen stand outside and watch the weather
jump 30 degrees in a number of hours brace yourself against
the wind of it wake up thinking about all the women
who couldn’t or shouldn’t, and did forgive them forgive
yourself (how many ways can you say this?) and thank
your body, anyway, over a warm cup of tea, its soft
I Do Not Intend to Become One of Those Old Women / by Meg Little Reilly
I do not intend to become one of those old women
who go on and on to fill the empty space,
like quiet is a condition that needs curing,
human buffers against the weight of thoughts.
These are real people, these women.
I think that they are old but maybe they are not only
mothers and grandmothers
tuned to the world’s unease.
Someone told them once,
somehow, though not likely with words,
that motion is better than stillness,
roofs safer than skies.
These old women,
yes, I know that they are old and that they are surely women,
they leave this earth as battered borders, human obstacles alone.
Because it all lands somewhere
the streams keep rerouting themselves along the rock,
and it’s too many metaphors for immutable thoughts but this is important!
just let’s not become those women,
leave that work to others,
to the mothers of men who are good and content.
Let’s you and I soak our silence
with dangerous thoughts
and when the time comes
float away on them.
Towards a New Osmosis! / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
I went colorless at the edges,
voltage down, corners ground soft—
my sandpaper self, now velvet.
I found myself pillow-skinned.
I became an easy third,
a buffer, a bulwark.
Mostly still me, just less
abrasive, someone said.
I went positively suburban,
welcomed my new infinitive verb: to beige.
She used to have so many opinions
they praised, as if I’d shed a caul.
I neutralized inward, gentled pastel,
my me-ness scrubbed clean.
My invisibility, while maddening,
delivered a freedom. Without recourse,
(I know your every detail)
eyes focused, breath held.
When I turned vapor,
I went floaty and huge.
This fresh license so intimate:
I’ll possess, absorb, permeate.
Topaz Crust / by Matthew Moore
Hexa-vexilla-Fall, striated in
the striation case.
To dispossess, then displace
the assets of war.
The Alps are the Alps, earth
is earth, a motor
pool is a motor pool. Reism
is Marxist ardor.
Heydrich’s assassin did not
need to believe,
he was a hurler, he tossed
the bomb case
with ease. Yugoslavia won
loss by loss, by
a pine needle and attrition,
Partisans smell like deisel
Names of regions stumble,
who is missing.
Variegated, sacrifices and
of revolution. Snow shafts
by wind off trees. Breath’s
heart. Topaz crust.
Things I’d Like To Say To My Oversized Homegoods Coffee Mug / by L.T. Pelle
I too, would like to be synonymous with dawn,
the ceramic church of someone else’s morning.
An almost-vase in which liquid blooms
into the stem of a throat.
Teach me how to make a mouth
a ceiling like that, never a sky, but
something that can stay open
long after it’s been consumed.
Teach me to bleed tree rings
back into every wooden table.
Let me always find ways to catch the light
that’s already shining in every room.
Teach me how to turn
my limbs into handles,
to let someone hold me
without letting myself go.
Teach me to call all my edges lips.
To be stubborn and sticky
where they have removed my price tag,
teach me to insist on my worth like that.
I want to hot cocoa clouds like you do.
Sugar succumbing to warmth.
I want to dissolve my kindness in
something more stirred, like respect.
And when I am waiting
let it be the way you wait, upside down
in cabinets. Let every mundane moment
be a chance for a new perspective.
I want to teacup today like you do.
To hold more
than I can make,
and still keep warm everything
that’s been given to me.
Teach me to forget like a dishwasher
with clouds culling in my chest.
Teach me to remember
poetry is what shatters
against the ground when you
are going so fast
you miss something.
Madison Street / by Kara Penn
I believe I am ready to talk about the house. Crooked
beauty of rectangle rooms and square windows. The one
the doctor built. The one built better than me. Bricks stained
and solid, in a basement, that like me, shed a bit of herself
daily. The vacuum gathering her dust in its mouth. It seemed
the entire structure would eventually be carried off in tiny bags.
A large home of five rooms and seven histories in her walls.
A carriage house, original steel intact, now the bed of a single car.
The dark, lustrous wood of a century ago was something to polish as meditation, something to syrup into and be lost. I could see
right through her to the back. Every guest arriving to warm greeting,
tense word or extended hug witnessed from the street.
It was a snow globe that neighbors gazed into,
we were characters revolving around the rooms. I spoke
to her often. I’m sorry about the dogs. I’m sorry no one else loves you
as I do. We found things that one finds when a house is old. Framed
newspaper clippings, part of a Beatrix potter tea set in the room
we, too, made a nursery. A black widow near the boiler and a rough-
edged crucifix at the back of the closet. I’ve forgotten some
of what I found and left. When the house was emptied and we’d move,
I held her for a year in a slipped disc of my neck that radiated out
as a scream through my shoulders. I wished for death occasionally.
But I eventually moved her from there into the palm of my hands,
where she weighed less and I could love her without sacrifice.
We paid her large mortgage monthly, money simply set
aflame as love letter and ash. Unable to give her away to strangers, or
perhaps, more accurately, unable to leave the tiny miscarried bodies
of my children echoing in the hollow of her pipes, I kept her selfishly
empty until she was empty enough to not feel mine and to be new
to me so that when I walked in through the century-old door,
I could imagine footprints on tiger oak floors. And laughter.
Where my breath would catch in awe, before exclaiming
what a house. I wish I could live here, in this memory box
of wet wood, square windows, long, murmuring rooms.
Dirty Dick / by Angela Stubbs
Dirty Dick is the name
of a corsican gangster who
runs a sex shop as a front
for shady business or
maybe he’s the protagonist in
your B-grade porno film
but either way, he’s keeping you
up, most nights well past 3am.
Jet lagged and ready for sleep you’ve
got Sharon Salzberg on repeat with
her offers of metta in your ear.
Sharon, dear did you know these phrases
can’t turn off the neon sign shining
in through lace curtains, five-stories below?
On Rue Frochot around the corner from
the BNP Paribas ATM, the homeless gather
which make loving-kindness important,
even in Paris. Soon, I swore
I’d venture downstairs to investigate
the light, the noise, the sexodrome. With a band of
poets, we’d roam the streets of Paris
ready for Dirty Dick. In the same city where
sex ran amok and dildos caught
fire in a sex shop nights prior,
crime and tiki lived right here inside
Dirty Dick. He was master
and servant, serving up fruity cocktails
like you do, in the midst of a hostile city
looking to find peace from
the chaos in the street
My Roommate Icarus / by Jennifer Wholey
steals milk out of the mini-fridge at the foot of my bed
starts me from a dream of flying or falling
in his quest for cereal milk “Hi” he croaks softly
I nod raise my eyebrows crack my sleep-stuck lips
into a smile He’s been couch- crashing
for a month delivering pizza (you think)
looking for somewhere else to stay (you hope)
so this moment we share, at least I know where he is
I didn’t know then about the wings he hid from me
in a backpack He marveled at them when I wasn’t home
The waxen treasures arrived on our doorstep
in the mail I handed them over oblivious
I know now his plan was the sea
Poem 2 / Day 2
Timberdoodling / by April Claggett
Just when you think nothing more can possibly be done with this day
And the prop-setter sun has fussed too long, scurried off-stage
–House lights down—
The audience reproves with restlessness
having paid the price
for this dead-serious drama
that is New Hampshire spring—
that is, proof of promises kept.
But first, ladybugs and germs, our comedic opener:
The timberdoodle waddles onto the stage
Hands-tied and Pinocchi-nosed,
Nasally beeping its one froggy note
Even motherly moon, smiling down,
Can’t smooth over and pat down this anomaly.
Peent. Peent. Peent.
The joke is on us, of course.
The second it ceases you want it back
So badly the fishing line of your heart
Unspools dizzyingly out
–hooked as it is on absence–
then locks on a faint twitter
Now impossibly, escapably high
for a bogsucker–turned sky dancer–
Telegraphing respectable bird-code.
Beseech all you will,
its sudden plunging return from infinity
knifing nose down and warbling reverse arias
somehow ends up right
–wild silent applause–
with its doe-eyed doddering
reset to peent
in future blueberry fields.
Owed to (Mis)spelling / by Sandra Fees
The rite arrangement of letters
is like stepping threw a looking glass
to leave behind the whorled
of no smoking aloud signs
of eau de colon labels
and no regerts tattoos
where a man sprays Wighte Lives Matter
in capitol letters across his white picket fence
and neighbors laugh of grammar.
And I think how
sometimes the write rules
won’t make flowers speak
and when you want
to bee someplace knew
you must learn to circle
round the opposite way.
Balloon Ride / by Cathy Hollister
Roaring flames transform the
Landed lumbering to
silken tapering sky bulb
Toxic screens, screaming sirens
squeaky hinges and mouses
Fall away, fall away
Satin Silence with a texture so soft
it soothes my skin
Pure silence so sterile it
breeds no contamination
Silence so dense
it hosts no argument
Wicker oasis a cool respite
Between hot air above and below
Safe and quiet
Floating free of sensual assault
Dropping from the peak of peace
On descent to lower climes
To the grounded static-
the bellowing refuse of the land.
Still enlightened by
The treasure of Silence claimed,
Late to the Table / by Becca J.R. Lachman
I’m ashamed to say it, but it’s taken me this long
to pick a carcass clean with just my fingers
for the first time, setting aside the good
morsels for a soup bright with dill.
Which one’s the dead thing, and which one
the maker? And when is it again
that a shell’s truly useless?
This one will be submerged, savory
shipwreck in filtered water, with thick
lemon wedges and rosemary. For the first
day of a new decade, it will sit atop a burner,
heat pulling and cajoling from its bareness
the very medicine
I need. I’m no witch doctor, no pagan
goddess wanting to read my
future, maybe even change it. My grief
tastes of nothing, it’s been boiled
for so long… But I’m ready now: give me
The Dogs All Bark at Once / by Meg Little Reilly
The dogs around here all bark at once
restless and stirred to their feet by
I imagine them scratching at doors
in houses I have never entered
good husbands and wives
shake their heads
let them go
whoo boy, do they bay for invisible things
howls hover together
from our doorsteps we watch them
find sounds of themselves
a choral pulse
the particular antidote
to all this
it is joy, of a sort
to hear voices furious
as our own
singing back to
islands, but for the rolling song
Residue / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Wildfire ash nestled between weft and warp,
my window screen archives the evidence.
I’m unsure a hose would have enough push
to break the skin of last season’s leavings.
And here we are, another bone-parch spring.
O California, so ready to burst!
In the desert, tumbleweed me never
bothered washing my car, knowing full well
it’s half-past scorch, and another dust storm,
those fresh windshield dings, spidering—
like these eye creases, these stale arroyos, these lightning-
kissed trees, these apocalypse-red skies
all painterly and Rothko-full of lush—
I cannot but call them magnificent.
Stańczyks Wake / by Matthew Moore
A vulture descends and begins to eat his body.
—Sarah Kane, Phaedra’s Love (1996)
The audience marks their seats with clothes.
Politesse makes conscience police of rows.
The coward thinks his neighbor is her smell . . .
Someone cracks a nut, as reprisals begin as
surnames, in preludes. The solemn joiner 5
digs, out fingernails he jots with on the cell
floor, to catch the conscience of the king,
last handsaw bred in blood’s myopic log,
till from chitinous cloud a word emerges . . .
In bloodwelt sunlight’s sawdust reflection, 10
bright wind flashes on ordained eyelashes,
irises pace the floor of the wooden trough,
to read again a word dug inside the cabinet,
by a dead man buried last winter, his name, 15
Lord Heron knows not, only the word leers . . .
lilies, reeds, and roses the people will throw
his guts in the air the bread melted as again
the dead jester reads, inside his coffin: Fool.
In Europe, things are kings, anything is anything. 20
In Poland, earth is too cold to do with it anything.
In Germany, police eat sandwiches with anything.
How Terrible It Is To Be Loved In April / by L.T. Pelle
through cable knit sweaters
and Regina Spektor rain
playing the walk home like a piano.
Our noses pink as vinegar-colored eggs
our stickiest selves right towards our lips.
The angry goose mother guarding
her baby grays from our gaze,
from the dangerous way we love to love.
All awe with no space for that awe
to waddle away towards flight.
How terrible it is to be loved in April,
surrounded by the invisible winds of our bodies.
The goosebumps that give
our mountains away
to the breeze
while the winter is still
waiting in the wings of all the birds
How we foxglove our forever
in the fabric layer of fleeting
that begets our fingers.
Everything unfinished turns yellow here.
The color of almost-gold.
How terrible it is to be loved in April,
the days Easter grass into each other
and within the thatching, all the moments
of pale plastic eggs staying empty
until we choose
to fill them.
About the Body / by Kara Penn
The body is a type of clay.
Time punches out the gut,
pulls wide the hips.
The putty of the abdomen,
stretched with children
in their beds of blood and water.
The treacherous journey
this body helped cross.
The body is a bridge
from here, to there.
“There” is a tunnel painted
on the brick wall at the side
of a very real road. “There”
is a detour. It’s realistic as hell.
The artist is good. The body
is a map of distractions.
The body elevates in sport
and desire. It never makes
it out whole. The body scrapes
itself on sidewalks, litters
hairbrushes, sheds blood monthly.
The body discards whole bits
permanently if required of it.
The body is born with its own demise.
The body can’t remember what it was.
The body as magic trick. A flame.
The body as dance or dream.
The body is tired, bruised,
and full of steel and ache
The body is a body within a body.
This body made four bodies.
The body’s miracle is it carries on
until the body is a backflip into dark.
The Iris Of Necessity / by Angela Stubbs
I vow to make a little space for myself
with a spatula. in the kitchen I wait to cook
something new as praise, but I feel
terribly lonely and insane without
constant reassurance. the uncompromised
expression of my emotions reminds me
when it happens of a love sickness
only I can cure
maybe I will learn the secret of things
I would like to address. who’s allowed
to be fire, to be soft petals and apologies
or regret. everywhere,
the yes concedes. people say
she has a plan for my feelings
Early Forsythia / by Jennifer Wholey
For April Fool’s, the gift of snow—
no jokes here—coating each branch
in impossible perfection,
a mirage of powdered sugar
falling from a wire sieve
inch-thick rather than a dusting
coating new green shoots of flowers,
the daffodils just growing,
the fresh buds on the olive trees.
Forsythia, I’m worried
that you came too early this year
and your first day might be your last.
My own night-blooming flower
cast long shadows in the moonlight
thrumming like clockwork in the dark,
the only constant against
my ricocheting blood pressure,
the night sounds of a hospital.
A nurse said “Think of roses,
petals opening in the sun.”
Yeah. No. That sounds stupid as hell.
My mind filled with stargazers,
lilies that grew next to the swing
in my grandfather’s garden plot.
Their fulgent fuchsia faces,
the heavy, sultry scent of them
perfumed my morning memory,
batting away the age-old fear
(a fear that shares my birthday)
that my body could not hold her
for as long as she needed me;
her first role to play: Macduff,
untimely ripped as I had been.
Just as precocious as precious,
she sprouted three weeks early
brushing snowflakes off her shoulders.
Poem 1 / Day 1
Buffleheads / by Lorraine Claggett
Easter’s full moon has made a silver coin on the river
Stilled by a windless morning.
There is no movement save for the tiny ducks,
Reluctant migrants, still sojourning
In their winter refuge.
Held enthralled I watch their happy motions
Effortlessly sliding over the watery surface
They meet fellow travelers
And grouping in small coteries, glide along together.
When suddenly the first ducks head down
The others follow one by one and all are gone below.
I remain deserted.
Until, one by one, each pops up
In unexpected places; and I breathe again,
Observer to the return of greetings and groupings,
All glad to be together under the brightening day.
When, once more, each goes under singly
To where there is no sun.
The buffleheads live in two worlds
As so do I.
Preliminaries / by Sandra Fees
Promise of Spring / by Cathy Hollister
Immature cast of vernal days March swells
With a flutter of summer scent pregnant days
waiting infant sprouts poised to spring
waiting to find untapped fancy
to pry open a sleepy eye spy round buds on twigs
ready primed to parent full foliage on long branches
assume the grown up task to hide the sparrow from the hawk
conceal the gray squirrel’s nest and make cool shade
from the sweltering summer sun in full bloom.
Both Goal and Medicine / by Becca JR Lachman
These days, I rarely recognize my body:
jeans two sizes smaller that still won’t
stay on hips, hair pulled back in
a once-in-a-decade ponytail.
There are moments—folding up
the stroller in one muscled pull—
accidentally signing off a late-night
email with Live you instead of Love you—
that I sit with all the dying
we’ve played landlord to, even
if it’s the laser of prevention, choir
of turned faces behind the daily
numbers, begging our parents not to
leave the house again. And mostly,
it’s been keeping you alive, learning how
to make formula, to get through a day
on three hours of sleep and the hum
of wonder. I practice caring for you
as both goal and medicine, even on days
when pain takes up its usual residence.
After 20+ years, I don’t fight it, pull up
a chair instead. But I wonder how
I’ll tell you about my body, without you
someday fearing it. For now, the best trick
I’ve found when I can’t stop your wails or
you’re trying to roll over on the changing table
is to break into “Caro mio bien” as if I’m alone,
once again, on a lit stage in a long black dress.
Without fail, it stops you, mouth open, answering
my wonder with wonder. Let me show you
this body, breaking into music, knowing
what else, no matter what, it can carry.
Whenever I Drive Through Someone Else’s Town / by Meg Little Reilly
Whenever I drive through someone else’s town –
I mean a different place altogether,
different weathermen, different weather –
I have the sure sensation that I could be happy there.
I look into living rooms all lit up by tv moons,
kids sitting on stoops with battered bikes beside,
sagging roofs and sallow paint.
It looks like what I think it must mean to do this completely.
The feeling began from the backseat, before.
I thought it was childhood,
that the creation of my own life would realize
or replace it.
Instead I look in through other people’s windows now
and feel nostalgic for a time when their swing sets weren’t rusty,
worry for their preteens’ prospects at the local college,
and hope the test results come back benign.
I want to remind them to bring the trash bins out in time
and call the dog before he poops on the neighbors’ deck
because that sometimes happens in this town.
And deep in the rooms I see silhouettes of good mothers
just as I want them to be,
paper-doll dads open papers
at kitchen tables, these abundantly others.
I think that if I lived here, I would pray
to the plastic Virgin Mary in the wet grass –
or I would be the sort of person who could –
when moved to give thanks for this utterly perfect place.
And everywhere I look, there is proof of life well-lived,
not worn down,
stories bursting from porch steps, still no scars.
It is time untethered here, in the elsewhere.
Holidays are just right in other people’s towns,
the lights at night, and oh the smells.
I know this to be true as I breeze through, unburdened,
at the direction of the GPS voice, with my gas station coffee.
I am on my way to see people who have names,
the stars and survivors of our shared half-truths,
in a real life I have forged
but will never see lit up at night
from the window of a passing car
as an uncomplicated
Ingeborg by Starlight / by Matthew Moore
Fishes wish, glow lupines, loaves goad from looks.
Stars wink like hooks.
Who would not write back from what. Nightingale,
how do you oscillate;
in bed, orthogonal to the Roman sash, 5
moonbeam of blacklight, sift through,
in the mood for
evidence mood detects, rank
with; o, how do you gesture,
women singing 10
with hands wept on silk nails, try to,
fingers ten to noon
in a pack of ideas you ripple through,
beneath the gymnasium of the world.
It arches, your star of nut flexes, it pounds of wave, 15
a muscle of muscles
in the nacre, and mermaids, singing
in the high lull, nod,
arrive, between the breakers. How may a meridian
you lead, lead. Were I to angle foam 20
longing, loin de toi,
would your star against the virgule hand still initial.
In this train, and horn, of erotomania, hold on, as
I would be reliable, as
you were to miss, and slide; though 25
panting wills lapse forward, though, panting laps
plumb the seam; humoral petals thicken and slue
black green rose cream
in vain, human fixities, to rail on,
as stamens would in their dark junction to inhere 30
us; whitherward, there is no one decision
made in no particular detail, not to go on.
Spell, with fairer names, your time, and would you, on
a far eve, address none, your letters, were you to wend
then unsent, mine I will perjure out, in thine recipience. 35
When the Sea Fails to Transform / by Kara Penn
With the sun dropping, she lopes
towards, then dives beneath the sea,
her body a pale tongue probing
each wave, searching deeper in,
her radiant suit a petal of blood.
The waves did everything
they were meant to do,
lifting her upon the sea’s altar
pulling her under to the catacomb
of grit and assaulting kelp.
She became pummeled
in the onslaught, her red-licked
body rolling as log beneath
waterfall. I wanted to be her until
she emerged unscathed, the same.
She came back to shore. Stood
dripping salt and sand. I held up
my hand so, at a distance, her body
fit neatly in my palm. I cupped her there
against sunset, then crumpled.
Insequi / by Angela Stubbs
I opened up, the light
still resisting in its sleepy state.
I wish it could emerge
between us, illuminating that place
when I push fingers into her mouth
or someplace more beautiful like
my tongue in her cheek or
the effort made in morning
to camouflage her true
self, covered in covers.
I can do it, no problem, my
tongue in my own cheek, seeking
her body unpacked, not
she’s shy, but inside the hour
an intricate cadence. She
quietly motions wanting.
Soundings fall out,
a hush of endearments.
Alphabet Song for a Pandemic Baby / by Jennifer Wholey
April means life
Beneath winter’s gravel
Crocuses purple and white
Daring to show face
Even as a stubborn snow pile
Fronts the garage where the foxes
Gave me six small joys last spring
Heartened to see anyone, anything
In my shut-down shut-in world
Just as the bulb of you
Kindled quietly inside me, no
Loudly! (Who am I kidding?
My cervix head-butted for the
Nth time, kidneys karate-chopped)
Overnight, every night, you
Person into the bloom you are today
Questions forming in your owl eyes
Ready to ask as
Soon as your lips and
Tongue will allow
Until then, I will let you
Verb my noun
When I see this year’s crocuses
Extant already in late March — “Look,” I say
Your eyes dart rather to the honey bee
Feet barbing sweet pollen, all abuzz