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 30 / Day 30
To Hear Firsthand The Hungering Of Hermit Songs / A Cento with Lines Written and Selected by April 30/30 Poets: April & Lorraine Claggett, Sandra Fees, Cathy Hollister, Becca J.R. Lachman, Meg Little Reilly, Linda Michel-Cassidy, Matthew Moore, L.T. Pelle, Kara Penn, Angela Stubbs, and Jennifer Wholey.
Somehow, I’d forgotten to remain greenly amazed,
grasses in the river are growing drowned again.
The sky burns for soft things
white gloves blackened with the day’s chores.
A fist tightening around itself into blossoms.
The apertures before voices lift, is there a formula for the small?
The covered time cursive knocking its mud from our shoes
I barter with fate for you, testing out your vowels.
I wanted only petals, our low-tide toes,
a song without sound and space for a mouth. Sunday my chest gasped
in that long season of living as a ghost. I inherit it: a qualm and its reminder.
The corners of the moon shaped like impossible women.
Tonight, the locusts know the weather we made together
magenta glory blackened with coal dust. Here of all nowheres
nothing is untidy now when I most want it to be,
There are small lines of stitches that hold
the veins of time’s territories, a kind of erasure poem,
daring to touch the silten ooze of what’s missing.
A Month / by Lorraine Claggett
April, did you really want to come in that veil of white, covering the earth like young girls do going to communion,
frosty in their shyness?
And then, as quickly, unveiling your true self
to be the harbinger of buds on trees,
green swords pushing up through earth, and colors
daffodil yellow, iris blue, and red of tulips.
April, you truly loved the rain, coming every day until the last one.
The earth was refreshed and surcharged to get started to
grow things, colorful or not.
Teeny black seeds went to bed in soil to wake up as leafy lettuce
and other salads – amazing, magical work well done.
Those days had sunny parts and good breezes, so that an undercurrent of excitement attached to all things
– little boys hoping for a game outdoors, dogs
sticking at their sides in anticipation,
even with the boat tied at the pier,
rocked by the windy water, mast bouncing.
So April, you are leaving now,
leaving the peony buds to bloom in May,
your soft rain to sojourn in clouds,
your changeable, nurturing, flower-filled days to keep in store
for another cycle of the sun.
Speakers / by Cathy Hollister
That widen in surprise
Tear in sympathy
That writes of playful things
Whose ink spills out in flourishes
Even smudges hide a sly smile
Who clicks with musical beat
Whose letters speak to screen
In engineered friendship
That explodes, whispers, cries
a tale I don’t want to hear but
I can’t turn it off
Muffled by mask
That can’t hide the smile
In the eyes
To age be the question
“A recipe to reverse the process” (fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
First, spray Florida Water in doorways
And take three drops of Ghost Pipe Flower Essence on nights
Before bio-parent visits, or when you’re especially needing to die
To the self, to carry not knowing, not being able to fix or control,
Inviting all that blocks the now to kindly turn around and leave.
Next, realize with each week of caring for a brand new human you’re
Thinking of your younger self more often, thinking of her without such
Shame or malice, with two small hands of compassion instead, a warm discovery
You can balance over your head with ease, taking the place of built-up resistance, a bone-
Deep residue. Your husband says you’ve been aging backwards these Monet weeks
Filled with bottle washing and original burping songs, until you find yourself carrying
10 pounds over your shoulder, until you realize you’ve learned her cues, at least
For now: what expression means she’ll drift off in the bassinet, what holler reveals
There’s hunger or sadness or boredom again. And you wonder if you’ll ever really
Learn the still-spiraling signals of that younger version of your own body, heart
And rib cage expanding alongside every caving in, a music, not
A disaster. But she claims you, now,
and that’s enough somehow. Enough
Now, enough. * Enough now,
Frank O’Hara Feelings / by Meg Little Reilly
It is spring (or spring-ish)
and I am walking in Montreal again
writing earnest poetry about my love for dirty city streets
like Frank O’Hara, but only in my head
because how embarrassing
and I am not really there
I am here
and I am not really carefree
I have all these things
and the streets aren’t quite so dirty
not the way they used to be
when we were too drunk and scheming to notice
maybe they never were
nothing is untidy now
when I most want it to be
and where are those bars we used to find
the girls here don’t seem like they would know
they are so beautiful
more beautiful than we ever were
I want to look like them and I want to kiss them
they do not know this of course
and thank god
that I am here
and I only go back now
with my Frank O’Hara feelings
from time to time
(de temps en temps)
when I need to consider
The Second-to-Last Convention of the Beforetimes / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
In a sprawling desert city
we head out in search of
something that isn’t work.
The bar we’ve walked past
en route to meetings
and more meetings
turns luscious at sundown.
We eye the queue
and decide to walk,
to bounce between bars
in the stifling night.
Looping the hotel,
getting lost and then not,
then again, maybe—
the doorman grabs my friend’s arm,
pulls us through the line.
We tell the barkeep to make it fancy,
but no gin, because even I have limits.
I slide a credit card his way,
say, “Start a tab, fine sir,”
like I’m some kind of moneybags.
From my tote, new-to-me tarot cards
and we drunkenly do a spread
making nice with our neighbors.
We share an array of salty food
on tiny earthen plates,
then some dessert fantasia
with three kinds of chocolate
set aflame. We applaud,
then go all sniftery.
It’s that kind of place,
forested with twisted wrought iron
and dark, velvety couches.
The men with topiaried beards
and all the women
(but us tumbleweeds)
in elaborate hair and trendy lips.
I think of this night
whenever I smell nutmeg,
or shuffle cards
and pretend to know the future.
PLINY THE SPLINTER / by Matthew Moore
The sand burns its sculptors,
sheets of whipped cream
sprayed upon a glass bed.
Splayed, the froth blazes.
You have to write emergency
grants in the rusty yacht hull.
Ulysses sailed in the field
of stones with pine in his eyes,
tarrying a home invasion.
The noon sun drizzled white
sunscreen over the bachelors.
Sisters, Visiting Home after Polio / by Kara Penn
A response to Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting, “Christina’s World”
The house on the hill, in its brackish boards,
tastes the prairie with the lick of its door.
The grasshoppers and seeds, the stones
in their beds, devoured in its mouth of shadow.
That tongue extends to the dent of your shins,
the slip of your dress, as you pull yourself in.
The blizzard of sun, the strike of the wind,
no one to notice the light on your chin.
Who silences the ache for what was once yours?
Where are the legs that buckle and crunch?
The house hosts an attic and in it a trunk.
In the bottom is dust. In the middle are dolls.
At the top are memories of running in light
trapped into howl, an anguish, a slice,
folded in grimace, sculpted to smile.
The house cuts open the hill with its boards.
If you are the hill. If I am the hill.
If we remember the length of our legs.
Reckoning / by Angela Stubbs
In the window of the launderette, the woman works tirelessly, altering damaged clothing. There are pants for a man who wants to hide scars, a vest for a girl who needs to feel safe, a wool cape to swoop over the shoulders of one who carries the weight. I enter the room and notice the woman is held together with safety pins and tiny fibers that are attached to her skin and look like glue. There are small lines of stitches that hold her dress to her body. She looks at me and the scarf in my hand. She hums with a needle pursed between her lips, pausing to say with her eyes, no, I cannot fix this.
The Secret Life of Daydreams / by Jennifer Wholey
It’s raining the kind of rain where if I had my way
I would blast the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack
Sit with a pot of tea all to myself (Lapsang Souchong)
And read away the entire afternoon, new book smell
Maybe a fuzzy blanket puddled around my knees
Preferably a dog (or two) warming my toes
Instead, I hold you in my lap, sing a soft song
Point out the window to the flowering redbuds
Drink you in as I try to read your gaze
Poem 29 / Day 29
A Poet? / by Lorraine Claggett
I am not a poet.
Writing lines on immature musings,
Trying to fit them into respectable cadences
Can’t be poetry.
Only yesterday I discovered that words with identical meanings
Are not suitably interchanged within a poem
But the ups and downs of the syllable stress determines selection.
It has taken these twenty- seven days to learn that this is a craft
Which truly demands a skill.
And yet, and yet,
When a friend on the street stopped me, saying they did not know I am a poet
(having been told that Tupelo Press put my poems online).
I replied ‘shucks, we are all poets’.
Why did I blurt that out?
Thinking later, is it because we all have questions about the truth of things
Faintly felt, ineffable, but innate to us?
Any person may find answers in a poem,
That says what cannot be spoken
But may be known.
BECAUSE YOUR FRIEND SUGGESTS A CREEK CROSSING / by Sandra Fees
When the trail promises to loop,
but doesn’t, you have a choice—
to retrace your steps, to forge ahead,
to make your way across water.
You take note of a dizzying bee.
You imagine other crossings—
the deer on the road,
an otherness, an anniversary.
And then, the first step,
a cool slip. You hold on, but to what?
There’s nothing there, nothing to hold
but water, dazzled.
So Ready / by Cathy Hollister
I’m ready for a party
To laugh so hard that I leak
To taste the hors d’oeuvre specialties
My friends have been hoarding
I’m ready to be amazed as I
Look through pictures of trees, of flowers, of hiking
Safe to enjoy alone
I’m ready to dance and
dance and twirl round the floor
In shoes that have been worn through
For over a year
I’m ready to sing
To join my voice to soprano, alto, tenor and bass
Intertwined in shared air, shared ears
I’m ready to see
Caring and calm
Respect and sacrifice
we used to cherish
I’m squinting down that tunnel
Ready to see a glimmer
To the body alone be the resolution
“A method for getting through a global pandemic” (fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
At least twice you’ll go to your car to scream
Like a cornered animal, remembering that long
Room in your soul. You aren’t alone: there will be
A hotline soon for women to record their wailing, an orchestra
Of hollowedoutness + fear, justified, rebrewing. Any free time when
You used to watch movies or go to the library, even look for new
Recipes on your phone to try, you’ll do research, then call your parents
Separately, repeat the urging to reconsider their lives, their everyday,
Will tally their weekly risk-takings like a new game of Scrabble. Maybe
Our stomachs were meant to ache just a little all of the time. Maybe
Doctors in the future will name what happened to us when we logged
Out of a meeting and felt nothing but a weighted blanket of loss, moss-like.
Your house will grow weary with sloughed-off skin and stuck-on dishes. But
You’ll be there to hear the first word and for bath time. You’ll get to know
Neighbors and daughters in a way you thought you never would. If lucky
To have a closet, porch, deck, yard, you’ll transform what you took
For granted into an island to question, pace, write, learn to play
The banjo. You’ll sit on your rooves and smile at strangers walking.
You’ll finally learn that birdcall, and will order a new set of plates.
If you’re luckier still, you’ll be paid justly to work from your
Kitchen, will pick up groceries curbside, give the best
Delivery tips of your life. And that’s the thing:
Your life, reaching out
Like an amaryllis. To get through this, you’ll sit
With your worth, or won’t. Something has to
Change, we’ve been saying-feeling for too damn
Long. For your life, for the green shoots
Disappeared or suffocated, you’ll take
A breath because you can,
And make it mean
The Nuns at Camp Marycrest / by Meg Little Reilly
The nuns at Camp Marycrest knew all the camp songs
would sing right along
when our ears hung low and they wobbled to and fro
They made fires and threw frisbees
wore t-shirts like the rest of us, more or less
though I never saw any of them swim
Lake Champlain was so cold then
dark chop at dawn
goosebumped, get your swimsuits on for canoe class
Neither mothers nor aunties nor teachers nor preachers
the nuns were something else entirely
sisters we called them and I suppose that was true
The way trail people take new names
while they walk the Appalachian
we were a family of sunwashed wildlings in shorts, temporarily anew
I wondered about the other parts of their lives, September to July
didn’t ask them those questions
it wasn’t a place for asking, but for doing
What we did was make friendship bracelets like our hands ran god’s clocks
summer suns rising and setting with our finger labor
pink purple red roped promises round tanned arms
And we made our beds with military zeal, passed inspection no problem
wrote postcards on pillows
learned French curse words from the Montreal girls
At every meal, there was a basket of white bread, ours to slather with sugar and butter
one piece after another
you’d think we’d get sick but we never did
And did we know that the boys’ camp two bluffs down was real?
we only knew what we’d been told
it was a story to hold, but now I’m not so sure
Maybe the nuns only made up the boys and the bluff
to make us feel that the world was fair
to say sleep soundly, the boys have not been forgotten, are not wanting for
bracelet-bound friendships and sugar butter bread
with sisters in t-shirts who know how to canoe
I don’t know why the t-shirts surprise people
but they always do.
The Cure for Everything / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
When I first submerged
in full scuba gear,
I forgot to look around,
mesmerized by the sounds
of my own breath.
After, I tossed
my wetsuit unrinsed
into my trunk,
where it left a crusted outline
like a murder scene.
The second time,
a New Jersey state trooper
almost drowned me.
His 200 pounds of panic
grabbed my mouthpiece,
so convinced was he,
that his was broken.
I tried to kick him away
and he put me in an
I visited the Nevada salt flats,
having been told that there
you can ride a bike
with your eyes shut—
ride for miles
and never hit a thing.
I meandered with a stranger,
under a full moon,
the flats silvery and crisp.
We walked for hours,
sharing our histories,
which turned out to be
like riding bikes
with our eyes shut.
Disoriented, then lost,
we never worried.
The night was bright
and the edges of each hunk of salt
glowed lighter than snow,
reminding us of our luck.
It is almost impossible to sink
in the Great Salt Lake,
but I tried anyway.
After, its slimy brine
nested my hair,
as if to say,
you will never
be rid of me.
On Crying / by L.T. Pelle
That mascara makes your eyes look
like they are being held up by poorly designed stilts.
They are. Everything looks so familiar from up here.
Public transport is meant for moments like this.
Moments where you are so far from where you want to be
you can no longer tell the difference between minding the gap
and looking in the mirror. You ride a crude whistle hallway
with strangers into the mouth of another displacement.
Too sad for sad music so you settle on listening
to the serrated sounds of tickets
being ripped in half and surviving and
you wonder how many perforated parts of yourself
you have left or if you will ever love someone
who thinks you are beautiful when you cry.
Or, better yet, if you will ever love yourself
enough to imagine loving someone who doesn’t
make you so sad. You always end up here.
Arms raised, reaching toward whatever will keep you
from stumbling into the next closest person.
Limbs sore from the strain when you do.
What I Learned in April / by Kara Penn
The morning begins with poetry,
which means I pull the spider web skin
from the wound that formed
since yesterday and begin again.
All month: the moon, blossoms, snow,
the house wrens back to their nest
beneath the eaves. Last year’s
leaves cleared and carted. When I see
what the soft dog body of the year carried
off in its mouth, I wonder where it’s all
buried, i.e. the bone of us? And I wonder
why she hasn’t confiscated the sadness
of Seven, the anger of Four. April
was a month of visitation– each dream,
fully populated with the past. It’s where
I lay alongside you and you and you again.
And where I inhabit a body no longer mine.
It’s been a solace to know the middle-aged
can slip into the stockings of their youth,
glance down at one’s hand to see smooth.
What am I trying to repair night after night
In the vibrant scenes of smoke and ghost,
the touch so real I wake up grasping
the scent to my cheek? What do I seek
here, in the swirl and chaos, the shadow?
I look up shadow and read it is a dark area
occasioned by a body coming between
rays of light and a surface, and perhaps this
is pandemic. It’s not languish, which sounds
like something to be done wearing a string
of pearls. The world is losing its bodies
at quickened pace, and each is a body
coming between light and surface.
My father, arm around my shoulders,
asked if I would mourn so much for him
as I did for the one we lost, then sent
his slowly eroding and erratic heart to the ER.
And so I dreamed the poem of a 20-year-old
who promised your heart is too large
to slip through the sieve of my hands.
Middle age is knowing this isn’t true.
Not that his heart isn’t large enough,
but that the space between hands
is always wide enough for the dying
to slip through, which is something
I learned in April.
I Sent You A Telepathic Message, Did You Get It? / by Angela Stubbs
we tried to tell each other
I’m afraid of this desire
it gets worse every time I see you
hopeful for what I wonder
because your tongue in my mouth
means we’re progressing towards a goal
and I don’t have to tell you what it is
I heart writing poems to you
even though fucking in poems is good
through the downpour
sometimes my heart is involved
which makes fucking beautiful
in the moonlight there is silence
the strewn manuscript of you
what will she think of / by Jennifer Wholey
after Brayan Salinas
Middle Earth and Planet Earth and Captain Planet and Captain America and American Pie (the song) and American Pie (the movie) and apple pie and Pink Lady apples and the color pink and artist Pink and artistic ice skating and ice cubes and Frozen and popsicles and soda pop and pop music and musical chairs and wingbacked armchairs and arm wrestling and “pro” wrestling and pro football and ballroom dancing and Dance Dance Revolution and the French Revolution and French fried potatoes and potato sack races and racial justice and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Allen Ginsberg and Ethan Allen (the traitor) and Ethan Allen (the furniture) and Ethan Hawke and Tony Hawk and the Tony Awards and the Academy Awards and academics and pandemics and pancakes and cheesecake and Swiss cheese and Swiss rolls and roller derby and the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky bourbon and the House of Bourbon (dynasty) and Duck Dynasty and Donald Duck and Donald Trump and I don’t want Donald Trump in my poem, next
Poem 28 / Day 28
Cento / by April Claggett
On the island the people all know each other
how to feather a nest or make a peace
Now the time has come
telling me something in its cracking
sucking lifefuel from foxgloves
From a reconnoitered station
wearing the same age forever
you carried the stone of it
I have never been so surrounded
–one line from each poet in alphabetical order on Day 15
When Emily Dickinson Checks Her Submittable Status / by Sandra Fees
It’s the strangest thing
how my little birds perch
there, side-eyeing me
from time to time
while Amherst remains
an extremity of winter,
only crumbs of words
to keep me warm,
the mantle feathered
in hope. Though abashed
by chillest gales, and
the centuries of near
anonymity, I’ve heard,
of late, my sweetest tunes
can now be heard
in lands where souls
are sore with grief.
I’ve had to wait
a century, at least,
to see my status:
the sea-storm within
and turn my hope back
to green: “Accepted.”
Squiggling / by Cathy Hollister
Squiggles is an easy game,
I draw a few lines and you create a picture
Of course I always had in mind what you should draw
But the house in my mind’s eye became your tree full of fluttering birds
My flower was your dinner tray
My lamp (how could you not see that it’s a lamp?)
Matured into a graceful giraffe, neck outstretched.
Squiggles is an easy game,
No score keeping
No winners or losers
Just points of view.
This is not a poem in a man’s voice, asking me to change / by Becca J.R. Lachman
my life, or lamenting how the berries have already been
picked and festered. This is a poem about listening,
about two sisters entering the Catholic cemetery on
Lancaster St. in a college town to check on late June’s
black raspberries. This volta is reaching gingerly
beyond the high grasses, squinting for copperheads
and poison ivy, and it’s heavy with waiting, since most
of the abundance will still take awhile. This poem hums
with humidity, solitude, choices alone among stones
and statues, all the miniature flags. And yes, it’s lit up
with asking, since one sister gathers what’s ready,
uses this place to talk to the other who isn’t there
(but is more there in some big important ways,
now that they’re grown). This is a poem about
the cicadas’ warning of heat, even as wild berries
seem cool to the morning touch, flags from the last
military holiday bleached and ragged among a pile
of discarded plastic bouquets. May we not become
that. May we not become that… Please. Please.
May we not become that also at the forest’s edge.
A Boy Once Told Me / by Meg Little Reilly
A boy once told me that a punch doesn’t feel the way you expect it to feel
on your fist
just flesh meeting sapless flesh
I had no expectation for the feeling
still I understood
curled my hands tight at my sides and imagined the dull thud
a lie in the script boys were given
his disappointment was a terrific revelation
a leveling, I thought then
but also the spark of a hot curiosity for
he was a boy and a breadcrumb
Perhaps It Was Just the Endorphins / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
And yet, there was that flush of ecstasy
running across the Golden Gate Bridge
in early morning fog. All sinew and sweat
as I bent dizzy to lace my shoe—
a hand placed gentle and swift
on the salted curve of my back.
My idiot heart so sure this moment
was about the sideways glint of the sun
kissing the teal ripples of the bay,
and not the sharks that swim beneath.
Curve to curve, angle to sharp angle—
agita and sadness, a lock-tight fit.
When the fog’s rolling like that,
so thick and pillowy, you can’t tell
where the water meets the sky.
The Vanishing American (1927) / by Matthew Moore
3:17 AM as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks / by L.T. Pelle
Of course, I’d fill this quietscape of my room
with men ‘til I was the only red dress in the room.
Insomnia is a run-on sentence,
a sparsely furnished memory
where I hoped a revision might be.
There’s an empty stool for every way
that conversation could have gone.
A shade of blue bled for every dream
that couldn’t find the door to get in.
American realism is a single light source
soliloquy. Part of being a good sad person
is always painting the shadows
in the right direction and knowing
what sorrow to art with. Here, is the place
where two New York city streets meet
but cannot verb the voices they need
to greet each other, the hour I stashed
my mouth in so I could keep calling you
stranger. I want to sleep until the dreams
come to drag queen my loneliness
in bright boas made from pillow feathers
and sequin dresses steered in starlight.
But my body’s needs remain
bitterly out of reach. Lover, I’m not
not hiding my pane from you,
but this place ceases to exist
the moment we stop being strangers
and how closely those doors surrendered
onto the skin would resemble wounds.
It’s a blessing really,
that no one here knows each other
well enough to existential a way out.
Wren’s Egg After Spring Blizzard / by Kara Penn
The way she held it tenderly, at sun’s angle,
exposed the hole tapped out—the stone-hard beak
sprouting grey, barbed feathers. Eyelid’s thin skin
cupping the never-opened eye. She lifted
the egg’s smooth round up to sky, her face
studious and awed. At six, she hadn’t lost much yet.
She chose to bury the baby bird away
from the cat’s catch, below the same spring
snow that froze it mid-emergence from its cradle.
I knew something of peeling apart and also
of freezing. I’m exhausted by the erosion
of bodies, however unseen, unborn. Later
she told me how she’d placed it beneath leaf
and pine cone, then packed ice layers.
She’d drawn a careful heart around it with a stick.
I reserved my secret. I am eggshell
growing embryo. I will survive if it ends
like the others. If it, too, is destroyed
in its own making, sensing but never seeing light.
Moon Cycle / by Angela Stubbs
I can’t deny the map I have followed,
or what is conjured every moon cycle
in the name of my heart, the color
of anyhow shows up each morning
we pass by one another ignoring
internal injuries; most times feigning
politeness just makes it worse
but these old stories about right
and wrong is the kind of medicine
that kills you from the inside out
often, I think I have nothing beautiful to
give to this lukewarm life, certainly, we can
all agree eating the colonel’s chicken
is just slow death; a call to action to save yourself
I’m scared to say I’d like it to burn
it all down, blazing the way toward desire
with flames high as Madeline Kahn’s
cheekbones, streaking my breastplate,
looking into the eyes of Plato’s curse, finally
breathing in what’s become breathtaking
if I ask, dear one, will you help
leave what’s no longer needed
complex apologies and such
will follow, be made clear
Pink Moon Blues / by Jennifer Wholey
I guess I missed the supermoon last night?
Peak illumination of the pink moon
occurred while we were already in bed,
though I’m not sure if we were sleeping yet.
Instead my horizon was full of you
sandwiched between us—pink—maybe nursing,
(yes, this is another nursing poem)
maybe thrashing, testing out your vowels.
Last summer when you were just a hatchling,
we managed to sneak out with you napping
to catch our first binocular comet
NEOWISE. We drove out to a cornfield
and sat on the hood of the car, flash-lit,
at the wrong time of night on the wrong day
for best visibility while you slept
on grandma’s chest, this our date night respite
(and by date night I mean 20 minutes).
There wasn’t much to see, just a soft blush
of clean light in the sky, alchemical;
I could only think of your galaxy.
Poem 27 / Day 27
Meetinghouse / by Lorraine Claggett
The rectangles that march along the room,
Hold smaller squares of glass inside
And with three doors, all together
Give the rectangular house its light.
From sturdy trees within a grove
Men joined the frame to fit tight,
Making joist meet beam in firm right angles,
They built their house to hold the light.
Under windows spilling light
Today the folks still gather
In silence waiting that they might
Know of a way to live upright.
Full in Scorpio / by Sandra Fees
Look, I’m not pink like creeping phlox. I don’t dance
or glide. I don’t fade or wane.
I’m not your confidant,
not your grandma. I don’t have eyes or a belly of fire,
no stories but the ones you tell about me, and you’ve
gotten me a little wrong.
Sure, I draw
the tides. Yes,
I was the one
to keep you up
last night. I
cycle you to me.
But don’t let my orbit throw you off track. Who circles
whom is not always the question.
I’ve been on this path
longer than you’ve had the necessity for sun salutations,
longer than the earth’s been scooting around the sun.
I’m that old, older. I’m older than you’ll ever be. Farther
away than you’ll ever reach by mortal means.
If you dream
on this, you may come to know what I mean—that our
distance is only straddled by mantra, by music, by heart.
The rest is the dreaming part.
You are a wildflower,
your own kind of pink. Don’t let anyone spin you.
Don’t let anyone
spike their flags
in the rune of you.
Puddles / by Cathy Hollister
Intermittent rain, all day
water slides down through cervices
small puddles like miniature lakes for
a tiny sparrow to hop and play.
Steam rising from my morning coffee,
wets my cheek
like a tear.
Memories flood in
of yellow slickers and rain boots on school playgrounds
of my children splashing in the mud, that stain will never come out,
of my granddaughter
lofting cartwheels in the wet grass
just after the rain has cleared and the sun breaks through to touch
the tiny sparrow
hopping in the tiny puddle,
raindrop shining on her wing
like a tear
With All of These War Metaphors During the Pandemic, I Think of the CPS Boys Yet Again / by Becca J.R> Lachman
Even a gentle April
rain brings down the redbuds
when they’re ready to fall,
magenta carpet on the gravel,
beautiful even there for a day
or two. Everything in its own
time, even now. The terrarium
of us feels sticky and delicate.
We escape into the land around
us, injected with green and loam.
I’ve never spent this much time
with wildflowers. And the birds
are re-evaluated visitors; we feed
them well. Even my dreams lead
into grassfield seas with no
people, me in the backseat while
my long-gone Grandpa gives me
a tour of countrysides almost
familiar, the places he trained,
lived in unpaid work camps
none of my history books
mentioned, turns in the road
edged in reason, danger, and
consequence, a war everyone
said needed fighting to end
all the others.
*CPS or Civilian Public Service was “work of national importance” a conscientious objector during WWII could enlist in to complete alternative service if opposed to war in any form. The camps included one for smokejumpers, a medical guinea pig unit, and even a starvation unit for doctors to study what would happen to prisoners if freed from the death camps in Europe. Over 12,000 Americans served with CPS.
I am afraid of poetry / by Meg Little Reilly
I am afraid of poetry
because you did not open your door
say this is for you
be at home here
I have been watching through the window
with watering mouth
is hunger not the way that you want me
desperate for entry to
luxury poetry for a different sort of people
different stories, different doors
it’s already yours
if you don’t have to wonder
why not me, us
to taste language like it was limitless
like we have something to say
louder than shame
I’m coming in now
tall as a roar
fake it like we do
if we get through the door
and sometimes we do
poetry, I’ve passed through a few
I always want too much to be invited.
Poet House / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
The house next to ours is made of brown stones, but for the white ones that spell out POET in three-foot capitals. The man who lives there built it by hand. I picture the widower choosing the rocks from the Rio Grande River, sorting them by tone. Him thinking of precision, aloneness, and time, as he separates milksop white from vanilla pudding cream. He palms a truffle-brown rock the size of a sunflower and remembers his wife, then pockets a soot-grey pebble, perhaps the color her hair would have been by now.
PRE-RAPHAELITE UPCOUNTRY BAR / by Matthew Moore
You wake up driving a car.
Half-shaved on a porch.
Headlights are not mirrors.
Like pre-Raphaelites, the
old Carolignian societies
of white power traffickers
anti-social revanchists and
neo-confederates sense it
is the time, to receive their
place in things. Ye hold on
ye where are ye staying
heh ye have ye seen a gun
aim it at ye hammer cocked
scouring the teal rust truck
peel off ye with ye hands up.
I worked in a ranter’s gleam.
If the Feds do come down
to crawl up the road
the steel talks to them first.
No-sand clipboard holders
from Duke Energy
ye let run without measure.
Taut hares’ ears, kept warm
rifled in the cotton
of motors inside the Purina
Factory, ye smell it 40
from the eternal cloudscape.
It cost nothing for the man
to stand on a neck
of lilacs in your door-yard,
after you are already gone,
and, anyway, you
give off your own reading.
A matter of finite hope
(The Great Gatsby pg. 1 erasure) / by L.T. Pelle
We’ve always been the consequence
of secret wilds
an intimate horizon
of young n’ plagiaristic suppressions
A matter of finite hope
A sort of moral forever,
Rely on the Moon / by Kara Penn
When you need something to rely on,
rely on the moon. She’s fat and full,
her wax and wane, inevitable.
The moon is a meditation. Something
to fall into and be lost. A reflection
of a reflection in street puddles.
When you need something to rely on,
rely on the moon. The moon is a song
my grandmother sang down through the leaves
of an ancient oak tree. My daughter recites
Good Night Moon in the hour before bed
in a voice like a song. When you need something
to rely on, rely on the moon. The harvest moon,
the grinning moon, the super moon,
the blood moon. Blue Moon was crooned
to me when I was the first-grade crush
of a boy who served two tours, who extinguished
his life, unable to survive what he saw.
When you need something to rely on, rely
on the moon. Even in the new moon’s ache
and dark, there is a promise of light to come.
On Attachment / by Angela Stubbs
one bemoans need for the other
a staccato rhythm well up
of bother scratching and melody usurp a lone leg
needing more than just bone
Going Pear-Shaped / by Jennifer Wholey
I used to think my body was an hourglass and it turns out I was right
in that my sands were falling from top to bottom, collecting
in the places sand collects when you become a mother.
The pants that should still fit according to the scale
don’t, and last year’s maternity wear doesn’t
either, so where does that leave me now?
Not any of my old selves fit my mold.
There’s extra me where you once had
been, not to mention extra skin.
My heart’s grown three sizes
too, and so I don’t mind that
I wear your travels
like a tattoo.
won’t solve anything.
The new symmetry is you
and me, how you hang on my hips
and my every word. The only dental exam
I’ve had in the last year is your hand exploring
my teeth, pulling smiles from my lips and glasses off
of my head. You mark me still, with your tiny sharp nails
crescent-mooning my breasts, fingertip bruises pinching my arm.
You’ll never know the me before Mom except in photographs, but I
hope you like me best the way that I am now, trying on this new me like
jeans I’m not sure I want to buy, turning this way and that in the dressing room
mirror, deciding that the lighting doesn’t do me any favors but damn, my ass looks great.
Poem 26 / Day 26
Helen Frankenthaler / by April Claggett
I want to be like her
–minus the cigarette–
and let the paint
slip and stain and pour
over the canvas rolled out on the floor
of a factory garret–
bleeding bloomscapes in
mountains and seas of
of other people’s needs
or so it seems–
to really have something to show
for a woman’s hours alone
as good as anything ever done
in a category of her own–
to have slept with that critic
why she really did it
we can readily admit it
to her work she was wedded
and men bestowed the credit
as if she must do this
was meant for this
no one could disregard
the force that had called her
And then I would be
just what my friends wish
to see me be–
flinging paint around
in a space of my own
as if I were free
as if I must do this
was meant for this
But not this–
this paint diseased
with the need to please–
colors well-laid and such–
cowardly, okay, yet
never enough to be desperate.
Just the best of intentions
content with honorable mentions
this polite presentation of lemons
on folded French linen
to go with a woman’s kitchen
where while she slices
and dices and thinks how nice
it is a woman out there
has something to show
for her hours alone–
I want to be like her.
Let’s Get This Party Started * / by Sandra Fees
When you need
to carry you
a theater will do—
where, for example,
is a quartermaster
who ladles a love of life
to still the perturbations
of the world,
to honor the music
bringing it home.
When you need
to hold you
a conduit will do—
to balance out
of the world.
the peripatetic shell.
The albedo garden
snail, for example,
an arduous journey,
can bring you home
is a home
She’s an antagonistic
miasma. You know
what I mean—
a pest, after all.
syzygy is survival
like a radiative cure,
like this world,
like a curve
like a party
* Thank you to family and friends who answered my call for words and phrases to inspire and challenge a 30-30 Project poem. This poem is the result. The contributed words appear in italics.
Falling Shadows / by Cathy Hollister
“The world has become a dark place”
Tedious cliché with merit
Our senses dulled, sight diminished,
Oblivious to charity and pride
Lighter shades of amber and diamond dust
Evade historians who feed on modern media
Semi preserved on digital waves
Easily sorted, selected, squashed, or shouted
Solid beams of integrity
Tested by trial and blind scales
Crumble under the weight of dark
Flounder by night
Dark has appeal, dark has fans
Dark draws in and breeds
Incestual offspring poisoning
Screens, scenes, streams
Perhaps goodness itself has grown an armor
A shield essential for survival
Just in the shadows for a time
The world will outglow the eclipse.
What Does Independence Mean in a Global Pandemic, Anyway?
-July 4, 2020 / by Becca J.R. Lachman
This morning bed was skillet,
the day a slow broiler that made
neighborhood cats flatten
in the drive. Summer sang, and
I knew it was me it wanted to
come out onto the balcony. We’ve
used our decks in the last 3 months
of quarantine more than we have
in 13 years, jeweling them with
lanterns powered by July, repotting
the succulents, balancing coffees
into the humid new.
These things I’ve learned:
that if I plant the shaded beds
with wildflowers, the deer
and slugs don’t win. Each day,
a new color and shape to study,
every neighborhood walk, an
Independence Day. My choice
of punctuation as the sky streaks
gray and gold and purple, my
legs their own blaze out.
If I don’t look up, I won’t see
any of this. Fine, my life struts,
smell this sudden mimosa in bloom,
and then you’ll have no choice.
But I can’t stop glancing at the
blue emerald, new to my finger,
my own quiet firework whenever
I wish. May tomorrow’s bed
smoke with old regrets, stale
longings; may I rise, again,
and leave them there.
Onliness / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
I call myself a hermit
more as a wish
than a description.
Sometimes, I’ll take a nap
in my camper van,
lulled to sleep
by thoughts of living here,
but also everywhere,
with only myself to answer to—
and maybe a small dog.
And of course,
CELAN WITHOUT CELAN / by Matthew Moore
A king of indifference adores next year’s seige.
Wash draws country lines water talks behind.
Sand bars mounds on revolts with ocular algae.
The ladder soldiers tilt on the wall slight one.
Age 19, as Legally Blonde / by L.T. Pelle
The world is a bonbon I slip into my mouth when I’m alone.
I want to be sad enough to go to Law School.
I want to be so pretty you think I’m stupid.
My heart is a chihuahua named Bruise(r)
it’s small and growling and wearing my clothes
but in the half-naked-bitch way that dogs wear clothes.
I take it everywhere.
The third time I was hospitalized I wanted to say
I suffered from the bend and snap. It’s true,
everytime I fall in love I hear the pens
falling from my body calligraphy the silence.
A gavel of girlhood. My alibi is my body
hasn’t been in the same room as me for me a long time.
I am in love with the man following me home
while Vanessa Carlon pours down my face.
I fear social media is the new pink,
the thing everyone loves to hate
while I want to lingerie myself in likes.
Tell you this is not a costume.
I built a bunny out of body, bustier, and because
it is the only way I know how
to make being prey seem pretty.
Like, this halter top
means there’s already something more beautiful than you
with its hands around my neck.
Paint my nails the color of confidence.
Tonight I want to name everyone in this salon my sorority sister
and teach them how to rise.
Gratitude for the One Lost* / by Kara Penn
vitality, vigor, life,
liveliness, animation, vivacity, spirit,
spiritedness, fire, passion, ardor, zeal, verve,
enthusiasm, zest, vibrancy, spark, sparkle, effervescence,
exuberance, buoyancy, perkiness, sprightliness, feistiness, strength,
stamina, forcefulness, power, might, potency, dynamism,
drive, push, zip, zing, pep, pizzazz, punch, bounce,
fizz, oomph, vim and vigor, go,
get up and go.
*Composed of synonyms for the word energy.
I Want To Make You Mediocre / by Angela Stubbs
Sometimes I call myself crazy but I don’t mean crazy as in nutty or mentally unstable. I want to feel all of my feelings that are trapped inside my chest, wanting to escape. You arrive and that becomes impossible.
I say out loud, I want to make you mediocre so you might not be beautiful. It’s a weird thing to say but it must be said, like you’re magic but you don’t have a mirror.
I say, I want to make you safe but you tell me often that it’s your job when you walk through the door. I want to say things how they really are. I want to tell you I love you but try to keep my emotions hidden. I am transparent and make zero false attempts to be anything else.
I say inside four walls, I don’t care, it doesn’t matter, it’s not important so I won’t need your approval. I dislike arguments and want things to be peaceful.
I want to make you unimportant when your face looks at mine with questions. I want to make you ugly or rigid or brutal so I might reject you.
It is my attempt to surrender.
Mothers and Children Cento* / by Jennifer Wholey
No matter what and no matter why,
I look upward,
slipping millimeter by millimeter into
this place. On its surface,
fat with rain,
I will be there swimming in the stars,
floating the looped river.
When beech buds open without fail
to predawn dark
—a land I do not know if I should fear—
for all mothers and children.
I want to hit you with all the ways
I cannot protect myself from the rain.
*With lines from Poem 24/Day 24 by April Claggett, Sandra Fees, Cathy Hollister, Meg Little Reilly, Linda Michel-Cassidy,
L.T. Pelle, and Kara Penn
Poem 25 / Day 25
free / by Lorraine Claggett
a farmer with a hoe in his garden
my dog flopped sunning on a patch of garden dirt
two guineas up a tree still outfoxing the fox
a thief in a dumpster outrunning the cops
the mainsail swings wide to go before the wind
giggling girls swing their hair walking down the street
grasses in the river are growing drowned again
I float drifting, dark water slipping around my skin
remembering, the weeping man cannot stop his wracking sobs
as long as music sounds, feet old and young are moving.
Grandfather Aubade / by Sandra Fees
the steamy cup
an open ledger—
and a view
the flimsy window,
that outstretches toward
the Judas tree
leafless but soaked
ready to receive
meadowed with tumors,
ready to hold
this last memory:
and a body
that betrayed him
Found in the Fog / by Cathy Hollister
“When thoughts give up they leave the mind to dreams…there are no shadows in the mist”. Mist by Lorraine Claggett
There are no shadows in the mist.
No northern lights in the summer
No waves on a fishing hole
Those things that show direction, or season, or life
Desert us at the most convenient times
Absorbed in a fog of my own confusion
My feet stumble over lost friendships,
The mist moving up over the river
Hides me from
My critical eye.
The one that tells me I’m not good enough
If my mind cannot discern season or hour
Cannot recall my self-loathing
Then I may be free to let my virgin thoughts
Bubble and froth, take on a vernal
Promise of my dreams
100% Illuminated / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Tonight, the Pink Moon marks nine months of
you + us, keeps us all awake with
its bright tunnel of a face. On the
couch, a last-ditch effort, you stretch your
torso over mine, and I feel you
soften, your snore against my neck, hand
fluttering. It’s the closest we’ll get
to any quickening, my feet cold
without a blanket, the furnace on.
Circling / by Meg Little Reilly
Here of all nowheres, geese circle
pavement, converse with their people
trying to determine if it’s their place
for landing, and I think it is not
though it was perhaps once
something lovely, now it is just
a parking lot for the bakery that makes
those linzer tarts my mother likes because
they remind her of Long Island and
the parties they all had after
weddings, funerals, and baptisms
it is not my story but it is my doorway to
unknowable her, face like rare light when
I deliver them, almost as if I was there then
though everything has changed for her
and for me, these geese keep
coming back to the same parking lot
which was once something else they think,
if you believe in memory, anyway
maybe this place was always just
what it is.
Random Haunting, $18. / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Driving East against everything
I promised myself,
my plants already yellowing
in the desert heat.
They’ll be dead by Oklahoma.
My best friend navigates, a favor
I’d surely return, if she’d just jettison
out of our goddamn hometown.
Then Tennessee, or Texas
one of those states we try
to slip through, manners minded.
Young and stupid, yet we know
enough to pretend
we don’t hear the men laughing
as we count quarters
at the gas station
that sells air fresheners
shaped like impossible women,
their billboard bragging,
“Clean Restrooms Run by Americans.”
How can this state
be so very long,
said like gentle dopes we are.
The no-name motel,
the $18.00 counted out in ones,
not knowing some day,
we’d think that a pittance.
We watch comedy on their cable,
cackling silly on PBR.
We doze towards the promise
of the next landscape.
I swear I wake first, if I even sleep.
My friend says the same,
her silhouette in the twin
against the 4 a.m. window,
red and yellow “vacancy”
flashing through the curtains.
The faux-wood panels
are slipping inward.
The walls hum, but silently.
We are alone, yet not.
Without a word, we pack our bags.
No shower. No tooth-brushing.
No nasty freeze-dried coffee.
The hell out of that crowded place.
A whiff of ironed starch, wet dog,
Stop-n-Shop microwave burritos.
the early-morning interstate.
Reservations / by Matthew Moore
O mill about the dinner banquet halls of cop promotions, no one
Shot, just vanished by cop; papers will call it a missing
Crisis; all creaturely movements despise the police; car window
Racked rifle shows curtsy back and forth before gentry
Restuarant show room windows, to protect the downtown linen
White laundries of food and waste, under the highest cost watts
Of disproportion that can be formed, under state power,
As the cops drape sheets over poetry draped over prose thought.
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Axe Body Spray) / by L.T. Pelle
October air turns our breath into the ghosts
we we’re hoping to find here. Someone once
told me you have everything you will ever need
already inside of you. I think they were selling
a self-help retreat. Abandoned houses
are a good reminder you don’t need mood lighting
to be in a mood or a living room to think the T.V
is where you do most of your living.
I am sixteen and taking a first date into my mouth
like the gum I was told not to swallow
because maybe it could live in the belly
for seven years. I swallow because he asks me to.
Because I think he must think like me and think
that seven years is almost forever. Love
is a lot like playing a game of Would You Rather?
And choosing the hundreds of duck-sized horses
over the one horse-size duck because love is always
choosing the many tiny things instead of the one
big one like your mother’s half-used Pina Colada
Yankee Candle chaperoning us in the corner or the fact
that I don’t have to ask you to wear a condom
because you prefer this. I am emo because your emo.
Soft-core goth choosing Stephen Chbosky
over J. D. Salinger because Hot Topic told us too.
Converse and cotton-candy colored clip-ins and fishnets
How YA of me to tell you what I’m wearing
instead of telling you what happens next.
Would you rather magic school bus shrink
down into your own body with all the people you love
learning about how life works in terms of blood or
I Cannot Imagine Much / by Kara Penn
There is a tender poem in me for all
we’ve built together these twenty years.
Tender, as word, is caring, warm, adoring.
Tender is inflamed, stinging, injured.
Are we all these things? We can’t have
journeyed here undamaged.
What we’ve built sits between us–
a wide dense demand one can touch
and be disappeared. What we’ve built
is a house and another house, 22 rooms
of memory that pull sand from our toes,
leave my ear to a shell in ache for ocean.
We are ambitious the way clouds are
so capable of sponging water until
a deluge pummels below. I am unsure
if the rain has started but I am heavy
and seek lightening. What can we discard
that isn’t a child? Perhaps the nine
cell parcels lost in the trying? Still each
is a polished stone (a pearl?) I carry
in the folds. Each was a portal to a
different life, each discarding a withdrawal
from the bank of us. Fatigue is also cellular.
Now that our dog died is it ok if I grieve?
You ask if I can imagine a better life.
I cannot imagine much that is better
than you or your tender heart, your
expansive ocean of coruscating light,
your warm hand I first touched in the dark
of a party and into which I disappeared.
The Indigo Hour / by Angela Stubbs
there is a couch
covered in blue suede
and looks Victorian
but feels safe, at this hour
your head aches trying to
write things down
in a way that matters, you
acknowledge her with a scratch
on the shoulder, where bare feet dangle
one over the other, her pinky toe
containing a chip in the smooth brown polish,
bobbing her foot, you notice
nervousness or boredom, tell me a story
she says, leaning against your back, her
vertebrae aligned with yours, rocking
to and fro as you hand her
a sheet of paper, fishing
is what you write, she offers
you a smirk and clears her throat.
Practicing Perfection / by Jennifer Wholey
My parents wanted me to join chorus.
I wouldn’t have to carry anything:
no daughter of theirs dwarfed by a tuba
at thirteen, lugged through the halls twice a week.
I did take pride in this; my instrument
was me. Piano lessons were a bore.
The recorders second-graders had to
buy sat unused in the piano seat
all those years later. I know it wasn’t
the lessons so much as the practicing
that left me scrambling for anything else.
I think I was scared of getting it right:
I was always the perfectionist, and
what is perfection if not an ending.
Poem 24 / Day 24
Villain-elle / by April Claggett
No matter what and no matter why
When beech buds open without fail
Comes the curse of the dread black fly
Never mind Aphrodite’s lucid sky
Persephone shakes off her cindered veil
Letting little bloodsucking demons fly
We chase black floaters on our eyes
Our skin is riddled in bugbite Braille
We wear red-welt chokers and ties
We always say “live free or die”
But now we live in a chosen jail
Wondering where we went awry
You ridicule the New Hampshire “Hi”
Our arms flying in full flail
Around our head: Shoo fly! Bye-bye!
The torment will intensify
And as long as they prevail
We let the expletives fly high
To Hades with that damn black fly!
Hubble / by Sandra Fees
I look upward
to predawn dark.
I see the clumped stars
not as they are
but as they once were,
a spiraled staircase
Is that how we
see ourselves too—
not as we are
but as we once were,
still trying to catch up
to who we are now,
our past still shimmering
like mother of pearl?
I’m told we can’t
travel to the edge
of the universe.
But aren’t we
our own unfoldment,
the magical thumbs,
eyes that can
detect the light?
When I feel the need
I hurl myself
into the geometry
slivered in hope.
Uncharted Waters / by Cathy Hollister
“I wonder if she remembers the clothes she left out to dry on the fire escape or if they are a reminder, a flag of her forgotten selves heart-sleeved into existence.” Jersey City Grandma Has Alziemers by LT Pelle
Another friend forgot my name today.
Slipping, millimeter by ripple, into
a land I do not know if I should fear,
When Mom gently circled and fell
into that otherworldly loch,
relentless fears calmed to safe haven,
shackles of panic loosed their grip,
ravage of night terrors
dispelled into a cooling morning mist
Anxieties permanently set adrift,
she floated into each day with
thankful praise of her perfect children
and stories of heartfelt moments, worn
proudly on her silken sleeves.
No one returns from that heavenly Land of Nod,
of “I don’t know who you are but I know I love you”.
We the logical, the tribe of total recall
only shake our superior heads and
Tut, tut in sorrow.
Perhaps wishing to sail alongside our blissful friends.
Kintsugi as Bob Marley, Yo La Tengo, Thelonius Monk, and Over The Rhine / by Becca J.R. Lachman
When you couldn’t hold your head up
yet, we sat at the keyboard, your six-pound
frame swallowed by nightgowns as we
improvised with one hand, held onto you
with the other. How did we know what
intervals to hum you back into sleep on
repeat, a deep primal impulse at 8pm,
midnight, 5:45? Or that verses we’d heard
as kids would surface, out of nowhere?
Soon, for our own sanity, we grew
our daily rituals: I love coffee, I love
tea-eeeee, crooned into every morning
through bluetooth speakers, until we
had it memorized, dance parties to shake
off the electricity of worry, or bliss,
depending on the hour, pulling from
our wells of all those years and diplomas
spent chasing music like it was church
and rebel combined.
I fell again for your foster da then: how vast
his inner library was, how he could find a song
to make you stop crying, your toothless grin as
wide as your face when the trio of us swayed.
Soon, you reached towards our mouths
singing, added to improvisations at the Baldwin
with an atonal bare foot, would even moan along,
like you knew, already, what breath and sound
could do inside a body.
I can believe in a God who thought up
music, can sit down at a piano in an empty
house at night and be saved by something
again. I wonder what Japanese artists would
say about our old grand, jagged ruts in its
lid where a contractor had a very bad day.
Or about your story and our story, needing
to carry both full homecoming and full sorrow
forever, too much in this house and beyond it
to lacquer with silver or gold.
Some Cats Showed Up / by Meg Little Reilly
Some cats showed up
so we sat together on the porch
fat with rain
for the lightning to near
and start fires
the little pips
knew I was drunk
but said nothing
Fatherhood / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
This place, on its surface,
was all mothers and children.
Young women, skirted
in ankle-length gauze
and slung with babies.
Aunties tending packs
of rogue pre-teen boys.
The recently singled,
with thier East Coast vowels,
a fresh start stippled
into their foreheads.
Later, I met men
who mentioned their fatherhood
as a footnote.
The children are not here.
They are with their mothers
in other places.
Places they could not bear to live,
said the men.
Britney Spears’ Breakdown Speaks
(Framed In A Track List Found Poem) / by L.T. Pelle
I Will Be There Swimming In The Stars
Outrageous Soda Pop Shadow
If I’m Dancing Clumsy Invitation
It Should Be Easy Gasoline
What It’s Like To Be Me: Shattered Glass Sometimes
(Drop Dead) Beautiful Piece Of Me
I want to hit you with all the ways I cannot protect myself
from the rain. Shave my way into a shine that’ll glare
off the cameras. My head bokehs.
My headset bubblegums. Voice is blonde too.
So low rise you think you can walk all over me.
Call my silence lip-sync. Shear madness.
Watch me mow my pigtails. Lawn these loose cannon locks
from their keys. When I said not a girl, not yet women. Did you stop
to consider the mattel you made of my nothingness?
What’s the word in paparazzi for light pollution?
So pop star the soft balloon animal of my body
is not allowed to love what it loves without popping
like barefoot strolls on public bathroom floors and privacy.
Buzz until my bald is so loud
the bees release their psychiatric hold on me.
Fame is like calling the boa constrictor around my neck
sexy. Perhaps I have been so school girl
they think they needed to teach me a lesson.
Watch me toe this Federline. Watch me pink wig want to be
the song stuck in my head. Gum chew interviews
so every sweet thing I say is lyriced in teeth marks.
I am the song stuck in my head. Why Should I Be Sad?
Up ‘N Down Mood Ring,
Hold It Against Me,
Your Toxic Tongue. Drive Me Crazy,
I Will Still Love You
Pretty Girls Circus. I Wanna Go Inside Out
Gimme More Freakshow Mannequin Blur
Let Me Be Lonely Cinderella
Don’t Cry Perfume. Body Ache ‘Til It’s Gone.
Kill The Lights Til The World Ends Baby,
One More Time What You Need: Piece Of Me
A Poem for One / by Kara Penn
The voice is warbling
over intercom and I know
you are awake, testing
your notes, merging
the light of the morning
with your light, so eager
and luminescent. Your
life thus far is a house
floating the looped river
of pandemic, which means
your first birthday was cake
and a screen, a portal
of faces trying to love you
across pixelated distance.
It’s not hard. You are so very
lovable. It’s true a fruit stone
of darkness resides in me.
I can’t be sure when it arrived,
but, to be clear, it was not
you entering or exiting,
though the surprise of you
was pit and exhilarance.
Your announcement, once
our most hoped for thing,
arrived at the cliff edge of
what a couple can endure.
You are the one thing
that brings easy rapture–
the atoms of you as they
gather into grin, into gallop,
into giggle, into limbs that
tumble into morning’s vast
arms, into voice that breaks
as cat squall or bird song.
You deserve my full joy.
Conjunctions in Daylight / by Angela Stubbs
We harmonized attacks on my subconscious and she pretended to like frozen waffles, where she noticed we were spirit twins, where lightning captured her undivided attention for mere minutes. Things we needed to be human were found in mutual company and written on her body, freezing the ownership of time.
I’m telling her a story with my left arm.
Women become new ramparts, she says giving me everything with nothing. She’s never twice, repeat after me; not cold to touch but as deep as an ocean without darkness. I overhear a worm finding its way around my roots asleep and thus am resistant to being read as a morally triumphant being. Sometimes she says, speak. There is no I, so no way for me to fail or fall. There are years in her fingertips and I feel them in the curve of an apple. I mention aloud how it tastes.
These are the dreams we return to.
Sometimes there are directions. She says the clouds can feel my mind change then pays me with silence. It weighs down my heart. I’d like to be broke in that east coast way so we can give tzedakah on a weekly basis. At night, her words sound like scripture when she leaves out apostrophes. She says we circle what we can’t speak. I don’t have eyes that digest sounds but stick to lonely hearts in July. This facilitates the shape of everything we both have to learn. We’re made of water. Identical as apricots, I say.
She becomes a feathered Venus with conjunctions.
We push wrinkles out of the way with walking and dirty feet until edges are taut. Protection and syrup are on the menu. She wraps them up Indian style and places them around my neck. Teach me to count to five, I say. Until doorknobs are turning, she says. Maybe we stop eating fruit and draw in the mud, asking for what we need. It’s just a suggestion. We breathe and wait until the sand spoke clears and mist moves to balance words unwritten. She presents me with something like security or a thumb. This is an offering, not an undoing of place. Stand right here, I say keeping her in sight.
I need to remember how it feels to be human.
As a Brooklyn Girl / by Jennifer Wholey
it only feels right to talk story with my hands
to practice rolling oceans with my palms, plucking
from thin air I imagine is thick with sea salt.
Every kahea is a chanted love letter
ferried back to not my own home — Hawaiʻi lā
This poetry lets you talk to ghosts, FYI.
I make rain with my fingertips, eyes bloom starshine;
this reads respect, but know these ghosts, this poetry
can perfectly holoholo on without me.
Poem 23 / Day 23
Mist / by Lorraine Claggett
A part of a day in mist is a rare and mystical moment .
A spell is created by the wall of grey in its inexorable march up the river,
Which, like a theater curtain, closes each scene behind it as it comes.
Stands of trees, the sandy shore the trees outline and finally,
The river itself, all disappear into grey blankness.
This is the covered time.
There is no measured time, no reasoned thinking.
When thoughts give up they leave the mind to dreams.
Other worlds take form; other creatures live.
In this imaginary place fears and sorrows abate.
There are no shadows in the mist.
When the Earth Turns 4.54 Billion Years Old / by Sandra Fees
When a one-year old memory
pops up on Facebook
to remind me of the passage of time,
I think of Nina Simone who asked:
who knows where the time goes?
I think of Salvador Dali
who bent a clock across a tree
with paint and paint brush—
with just his mind.
I think of the beginnings of things,
if there was a beginning.
I too want
what they wanted—
to go on.
I want the meadow
where the slender horse
lies down, sated,
in the tall grass
with her foal
beneath the cumulous crush
and clouds of blue-green mountains
to go on.
And for the pubescent wind
to outlast the clock of time.
Bright Shiny Objects / by Cathy Hollister
“how long will you love illusions and seek after lies”
How long will you nurture the appetite for the juicy,
red apple ripe with promises?
A desire tempting as allegory in the oldest cave,
as cold and deep as the bottom
of the ocean where no light reaches,
where life squiggles by instinct
content to breathe without oxygen,
move without direction,
and brainlessly breed.
“You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; how long will you love illusions and seek after lies” Psalm 4:2
To pink alone the golden rim
“A note on how to extract ocean from Midwestern sunset”
(fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Before There Was Bitter / by Meg Little Reilly
I watched you eat a pile of strawberries
new finger petals stained pink
We picked them off the cliffs that hot summer
when everything grew furiously, then perished
They were low to the earth and so
you thought they were for you
With sticky skin, we sat before our harvest
the wee berries bright and bitter
You did not know they were bitter because
I had not yet told you about bitter things.
By the time they reached your wet velvet mouth
they were bruised with awe.
Two at a time, with their green leaves on
you devoured the strawberries as gifts still unsurpassed.
a partial list of whatnot the birds drop on my porch, remedied by some thoughts about fog /
by Linda Michel-Cassidy
THE GLORIOLE COAST / by Matthew Moore
Jeanne, what earth goes deeper than
your palm, the apertures before,
after you dig in thy wish. Voices lift.
The corners of the heads trench
candlestone faces. Life unheard is in
life inhered. Dying is a mule-rucked
copula on the mountain of death. Can
you answer the silence that trees.
You cannot call to in response to
one who calls you. You cannot ask to be
returned wherefrom one pleas it true.
Little ceases that little eases, angels seas
give faces to what is mercy and cruelty.
Voices nil per os ammunit supply lines.
Now can I know what is a voice.
Life is harder than of angels visions ’nounce
than love tried times detach good grips from.
In Another Life Amy Winehouse Becomes
The Rollerskating Waitress She Dreamed Of Being As A Child. / by L.T. Pelle
There are no butterflies in her stomach,
only a jukebox of unturned pages.
And it only took a shitty hairnet to stop her
hair from becoming so high that it teased the heavens
with its thoughts of stardom. A diner. Being open 24-hours
is a lot like rejecting the night or only saying goodbye
with words or dying 100 times
and tying those ghosts around her body like an apron.
The softest shield. And who else but the dead could bare
your spills for you? Except perhaps a song
and Back To Black still exists here, not on the radio,
but in the way the laminated menu shines
and slashes the light. The fryers sizzling with the sound
of ellipses spitting themselves back up from the pan
in resurrection. Valerie’s heart beating in time
with the hands on the Heinz 57
even though she gets trapped in the bottle
sometimes. The night blackens like the open mouth
of saxophone, but Amy’s got clocks contraltoed to her feet
so that when time flies she stays close enough to the ground
to never leave. The moon, a radio dial turning up all the silence
that was the other universe. Where we treated her death
like an early bird special. Where we vinyled her life
dark and centerless, an album we could stick our pointer
fingers through. Her songs are safer here
in the blue shade of the pen tucked behind her ear
who listens to them pouring infinite
free coffee refills into another world
where the morning is not enough
to keep a person awake. Amy Winehouse
writes down everything you want on a napkin like a stain.
All she can ever be to you is a darkness that you knew.
Hawthorn / by Kara Penn
The first law of thermodynamics
states energy cannot be created
or destroyed, it can only be
transferred or transformed
And this is how Eleven comes
to understand death, how
I square up with eternal life.
What’s going on in this house
is not resiliency. Apparently,
languishing is the word:
lacking vitality; growing weak
or feeble. I cannot imagine
anything more vulnerable
than the newly blossomed
hawthorn tree weighted
with snow, facing frozen
nights and new layers daily.
Yet here we are, a week later
since they bloomed and bore
fool’s spring. They are open
and facing the sun. Curled
a bit around the edges
and no longer smelling of blood,
but open, ready to proceed
with leafy canopy. They are
prepared to offer their scarlet
berries in October to the black-
capped chickadees who swallow
them whole, carry seeds to marshy
creekside, drop them along
the lush edges to grow again.
No energy gets created
in the universe, and none
is destroyed. Eleven and I
had not considered how
the small, short-lived
being we loved
transformed the particles
whose paths were interrupted
by that frenetic body,
hundreds of trillions
of particles racing off
like children, their ways
forever altered by that life.
Which is why Eleven asks
for a bike ride later today,
why death has stepped
away from black, tense
horror movie screens
and under the shade
of the Hawthorn.
Reflection / by Angela Stubbs
I am shopping for a new couch
And a store is playing Terence
Trent D’Arby. Now I’m contemplating
The idea of wishing wells as I walk
Past the same eight couches.
There is a fountain with lights on
The corner and I sit down, wishing with
Pennies, hoping my hands can
Perform a kind of hocus
pocus. I toss coins for a successful
recount, for sanity, for peace until
a small child pees in the water
and I begin taking that as a sign.
knowing things for certain,
like if I am in your head
forever, am I in your life forever.
Or will I ever be sufficiently
adored. You could write
me a letter or
even some kind of message
without smoke, mirrors or
telepathy if you wanted, you could. You
might give some thought
to that idea
because I need you.
As I look up,
you appear in the window
across the street just long enough
to adjust the shade, perfecting
things like you do.
A concrete manifestation,
in the light. I’ve decided
it’s time to write about happiness.
Earth Day Found Poem / by Jennifer Wholey
With lines from Chris Rockwell
Humans have added roughly 3 Billion
people in the geological blink
that I’ve been alive. Yikes. We are crowding
out—decimating—other forms of life.
We are a powerful force. We are not
evil; we are animals driven by
our genes to proliferate. Other plants,
animals, and microbes do the same thing
given the opportunity to thrive.
(They do: we call them invasive species
and pandemics.) However! I am not
depressed. Though it’s not because I have Hope.
At least not while humanity is here.
Life will find a way to gloriously
rebound after our species shuffles off.
I am thrilled to be alive: there are still
so many wonders. There are elephants
and tigers and warblers and bowerbirds,
hellbenders, leatherbacks, rhinoceros
beetles, rainforests and coral reefs and
snow-capped peaks. They are here now, and precious,
because I don’t know how long they will be.
Poem 22 / Day 22
Sorrow / by April Claggett
Some dark underlord
glided into her bay
and took a long swim.
Soft things shrank into their shells–
Flashing fish tightened their schools–
Feeders tucked in their feathery parts–
Any business of bubbling along
The creature dragged its shadow–
A qualm and its reminder–
in slow possessive turns–
inscribing all these days.
She considered herself clever enough–
To see all days as partly cloudy–
To manage her little boat on fickle waves–
To have found a quiet shore
To sink her heels into
But the osprey saw it coming
A long way away–
Logically making its way
To this new home.
Abandoned Places / by Sandra Fees
Once I preferred ruins—the scabbed
paint and crumbled rock, the windows
bared like the mouths of wolves.
Romantic images came to mind:
ancestors who knew how
to plant rosemary and raise chickens,
who knew how to hammer the hooves
of horses, how to carry the past.
Once I preferred the apertured roofs
where I could see clear through
to heaven, all the way back before
caves were painted, before there
were people to paint them, before
glaciers blueprinted the earth.
before the business of the gods became
But now I see there’s too much
sadness in broken down castles—
If only we could tear it all down,
If only we didn’t need to remember
so much destroyed.
pots and pans being hammered
out of windows
could bring back the dead.
Resistance / by Cathy Hollister
“Is there a formula for extracting sustenance from the rotted? For tapping
the abandoned with brisk magnitude?” Resonance by Sandra Fees
Deep under the protective bark
Treasures too tiny to smell or see
Elude the tap, tap, tap of the
Insistent industry, admirable in any species
David and Goliath in constant combat
Existing in the rotted squalor of the deadened tree
The insignificant carve out their squat
Wriggle in skilled evasive maneuvers
Ensuring posterity pupa
Is there a formula for the small?
Space for up and down, dark and light,
large and little, beautiful and ugly,
Rough and smooth, airy and dense
Translucent wings shine in strife
Avoid Writers at Barbecues / by Meg Little Reilly
I went to a barbecue in a new sundress that I looked unusually good in, and everyone was smiling with clinking glasses at twinkling dusk. It was more tolerable than those events tend to be.
But then I found out that someone else at the barbecue was a writer – a published writer, I mean – and suddenly my dress didn’t fit right and my lemonade tasted like lye.
Writers are horrible, you see, and they should always be avoided, especially at barbecues and other pleasant parties where normal people discuss relatable topics like lawn care and the allergies of their boring children.
I don’t want to talk about those things because I am a writer and therefore secretly insufferable; I just know enough to keep quiet about all that at barbecues and also sporting events and office holiday parties.
Anyway, this so-called writer was going on and on, waving an ear of corn around like the conductor of a symphony, and I couldn’t hear what he was saying but I’m sure that it was embarrassing for everyone in his orbit.
So I said to the person standing next to me, “look at that jerk,” and she told me that he had just won an award, which I pretended to have never heard of, though of course I had.
And for the rest of the evening I was forced to consider just moving out of this quaint hamlet, where people have pleasantly benign barbecues. I thought that I had to, you see, because of that writer.
But then I found out that he was only visiting his cousin and would soon go back to whatever wretched place from which he came, and I was content to just spit in his cocktail while he was in the loo.
Inventory / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
Stationed along the thoroughfare
the woman says, “I don’t know you,”
like a counting feather,
she locks eyes with each.
Turned from the sparkling bay,
and the sea lions—or maybe seals,
because that headslope is hard to see
when the day swings like a chandelier—
and the Golden Gate, so famous,
and to be honest, not gold,
but orange, and two women
on winterswim being documented
like zoo animals or rare plants.
Everything an exhibit.
“I don’t know you,” says she,
the whole long afternoon.
Backlit like a trenchcoated saint,
where salt air and local junk foods meet,
“I don’t know you,” like this is her job,
a task mundane, but needed.
Tourists in special-bought outfits,
conveyor past her sunburnt face,
refusing to see this dutiful sentry
offering her decree.
Jersey City Grandma has Alzheimers / by L.T. Pelle
Across the street, the bunting of a used-car dealership
whips in the wind like it’d do anything to avoid grinning.
Jersey City Grandma has Alzheimers,
which means when she asks who my mother is
we cannot tell if it is a gunshot or a car backfiring.
An elegy of lost light lacing itself through a chain
link fence and I wonder
how many times did she watch Jeopardy!
before she started speaking in questions?
I wonder if she remembers the clothes she left
out to dry on the fire escape or if they are a reminder,
a flag of her forgotten selves heart-sleeved into existence.
She says, “I don’t know who you are, but I know
that I love you” and the fire she is trying to escape from
becomes the same one that is keeping us warm.
Jersey City Grandma, whose years of barred windows
broke into her body to build a prison.
Who forgot she smoked 2 packs a day,
and how long must she have spent
waiting for that kiss
to burn an answer into her lungs?
How long before she realized
she had stopped holding the question like a question.
Jersey City Grandma used to have pitbulls,
so she knows what it’s like to want
to protect the house you’re chained to
or how we were the house and we left
late summer laughter
on her stoop that must have sounded
even better than getting the joke.
She always left her door open
for us, the ones constantly reminding her
to lock the deadbolt meant to keep her
from the death she was already living in.
She says, “I do not know who you are,
but I know that I love you” and the words backfire
into a bullet too lost to remember its destination,
but still we clutch our chests as if forgetting the wound
hasn’t come yet or that it has or remembering
our names as the sound love used to make.
Reasonable Grief / by Kara Penn
April is more snow than usual
as if the yard rolled in the paint
of the house which rolled in a bank
of clouds which is what Seven says
is God’s cotton for comforting
dead things. After we lost that small
commodity some discard at the side
of a farm road, flowers came.
The sunshine yellow of kalanchoe
serves as clock counting down
reasonable grief. Still, Eleven cries
each night, wraps her arms
around her body’s memory
of bearing solidifying anatomy
of a most-loved, just-loved thing.
That stiffening brought her to believe
in a soul, which, she says, is energy
more unique than a thumbprint.
Everywhere she goes, Eleven wears
her soul like a tattoo of dragon
wings across her back. She wants
to know where such vitality goes
and being unworthy to answer, I say
light returns to light. I find her next
in a bright patch on the stair landing,
window-intensified, having curled
her lengthening legs to fit.
dans le métro / by Angela Stubbs
I ride this train alone
thinking about home, watching
as the night moves
past Jean Moulin wondering
where you are in Los Angeles,
pretending not to hear ex-pats
sing I just can’t stop
loving youuuuu, at the Tata
Burger, a breath fills my lungs
waiting in line to pee, I still
my body repeating a line
of poetry I think is so good
I must use it in a poem, mouthing
words to myself as a mantra, which
I’ll later forget, never have I ever said
put up your dukes, when I really
meant to say I love you, in
that first stanza where we could
hold each other underground,
knowing too well what was ahead.
what a day / long awaited / second vaccine / a dream come true
nightmare too / anxiety / rooted in fear / of the unknown
defining / return to normal / I hold my breath / for your turn
For the 130th Anniversary of Your Believer’s Baptism / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Poem 21 / Day 21
Musing / by Lorraine Claggett
Walk the fields brown surfaced now,
wishing that they had seen a plow
to turn the dirt, let eyes follow where feet step
to find what treasures dirt might have kept,
alert to spot an edge of stone
partially from the earth escaped,
whose sharply pointed, scalloped shape
tells it was made for a bow
by the human hand that fashioned it
twelve hundred years ago.
Because you are the next to touch the stone
To hold in your hand what no one else had done
in all this time, muse on the man last holding it,
walking the summer land in need of prey,
in winters fishing oysters from the bay.
Think that your farm is fertile but your food is bought;
that in his day it also fed the deer he sought;
that you call the fields and shores your own;
but this early person, free to roam,
called the earth his people’s home.
Wild Garlic Palindrome / by Sandra Fees
Back bent and kneeling
I pray to this garden
of loam & moss
tease each splinter of thought
like tenacious wild garlic.
When glisten beads
drench doubt & hurry
when golden perianths push through,
I will want it to be enough.
I will want it to be enough
when golden perianths push through,
drench doubt & hurry,
when glisten beads
like tenacious wild garlic
tease each splinter of thought,
of loam & moss.
I pray to this garden
back bent and kneeling.
The Watchers / by Cathy Hollister
It was 2019, I stood on the far side of the Thames
St Paul’s across the river gave me pause,
as sunset clouds billowing like smoke
surround the spire.
I imagined the watchers of St Paul
Volunteers who crawled in the rafters,
Humbly protecting British pride from
fires and pink clouds of smoke and ash
Above the spire
Far removed from the war, the fires, the ash
I strolled along the Thames
In peaceful evening breeze,
In proud and arrogant abundance
separated by more than time from those
who braved the falling fire,
the thunderous blasts of the blitz
the raging fires.
Back home in Tennessee, the volunteer state
I can hear exploding shots take charge,
Under the spire of church, school, work.
Where I can only watch but not extinguish
the smoke and ash in the streets
of America, the land of the
free carry, free assault, free pain.
I live in America, on fire.
St Paul’s watch formed in 1915 to protect the cathedral from bombing raids during the First World War. The Watch disbanded in 1918 but reformed in 1939 at the start of World War 2. A photo of St Paul’s surrounded by smoke became a symbol of “togetherness, survival, and suffering” for the British people.
To grief alone be the face turned toward marriage
“A method for lifting one foot, then another”
(fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
How We Are Doing / by Meg Little Reilly
How are you doing
are you eating
getting outside now and then
My stove broke
which pales in comparison, of course
and thank god for
these fixable things
You hear people’s stories
and a child in another town, which is just…
I sprained an ankle shoveling after that storm
so minor an injury
and nearly healed
Are you taking anything for sleep
I have never, though I might now
of all the things to fret about
at such a time
A friend of a friend gave up
that’s how it was told to me
and the things he quit I already knew
Are you finding it hard to read
anything longer than a page
it’s a funny thing
To be the living ones
the lucky ones
still screaming for each other across chasms
toes curled at cliff’s edge.
Traveler / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
I filled my tank at the place
that gives points to use at the grocery store.
There’s always a line,
especially on Fridays,
everyone paying in cash,
a thing I forgot (and always forget)
and got trapped in a row of pickups.
A kid who would have followed
The Dead, or at least told tales about it
had he been born in time,
was talking to the folks
in the car in front of me.
About how he’s traveling.
Just getting by.
They had out-of-state plates
and a car loaded with suitcases,
likely full of those shirts
that hold back a sunburn,
new sketchbooks, and trail maps
that will do them no good.
His long blond hair was knotted
with a burly purple rubber band,
the kind for bundling asparagus.
He was tan, but not
just you and your thumb
along a dirt road,
He talked about landing here,
the scarcity of work.
He said things like “winging it”
and “seeing this great country of ours.”
He waved his arms high and wide
which lifted his tee-shirt
up over his navel.
Were his low-slung pants anchored
with a piece of rope or a bandana?
How could they not have been.
He unfurled his hair—
of course he did.
The woman was rapt,
said she admired his gumption—
used that exact word—
and that she wished she’d
done something like this in her youth.
Then gave him two twenties.
He namasted to her, hands together.
Tossed that hair.
Then, he came to my window,
and I pulled off my sunglasses.
I taught this kid a few years back,
his name “Orion” or “Daybreak,”
one of those names,
and if he’s traveled, it’d been
about a mile. He hopped back
and stumbled on the step to the pump.
He winked, then
turned and headed off
to the tattoo parlor across the lot,
the one with the good weed.
THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903) / by Matthew Moore
The angel of deterritorialization halts the clerk trying to run dead in its tracks that graze
the edge of the frame, and, except the fear of being killed by the speed of its caught angle,
in another frame, in the end, the audience fears being killed by the angel only once the
possibilities for the gang not to perish in the beginning ends, in the first man in’s will to
open a door with a gun to a clerk’s head, having had suffered into the choiceless choice
that film softens under cute bulbs a movie or day spell, leaden curtains affix to exposed
smoke and walls, in the eggshell movie house, without sanctuary.
Things I Think My Neighbors Might Be Seeing / by L.T. Pelle
-Girl. Walking to the mailbox in her PJs.
-The way the wind speaks to the tattered plaid
the same way it speaks to a sundress,
letting the words ribbon around
the mouth of the moment like a gift.
-The dachshund in the window.
-Wet snoot pressed against the glass,
fog proving that the scent between worlds
is one’s own breath. -His pebble-bottom eyes
a river of awe moving through itself.
-A cheap Costco welcome mat that says “Love”
instead of “Welcome”. -The boxes of CDs
and video games and folded T-shirts piled on top
of it trying to convey the same message.
How bright the doorbell has become
waiting for her to pick them up.
-The bicycle blood orange from wearing the rain
like a wound, like the sky was trying to make mouths
the color of sunsets, waiting for just one
who’d want to talk
about something other than endings.
-The girl who wishes
she could roll up the driveway
like a rug with too much
because she knows there is too much past
on the way to her heart.
-The grass with its bad break-up haircut
proving the girl doesn’t really know
how to use the lawnmower.
-The birdhouse with its one eye
spitting birds instead of blinking.
A mouth she is trying
to see the world out of
while the world is speaking.
The Letter I Lost / by Kara Penn
It was hard-earned, what I wrote in that letter I lost years later, sentences crafted on handmade paper sealed into the blue, fibrous envelope. In two days, I would leave Dublin. I had carried that paper pressed within my journal almost from the beginning of the year, unsure of when it would get called into use. But space in the backpack was precious and only certain things made it in and were carried from place to place. No laptop but sketchbooks, small tins of paint, notebooks for poems, two pairs of pants, exactly one pair of boots. There was the burden, going everywhere with me, of the boy at home, who wanted much, and the parents who wanted me safe. And there was the freedom of sitting alone at a café or on the edge of a cliff on the west coast of Ireland. And there was the taste of salt, and the droplets of the sea that hung suspended 100 feet from the waves below, and there was the wind rushing up over the side seeking to pull me over and there was the man from Doolin who approached to say I’ve never seen someone– a woman– sit so close to the edge. And that’s what was in the letter I sealed and labeled with open this when you need it somedayin the future when you can’t remember what it was like to risk, to be alone.
1 Up / by Angela Stubbs
time turned cheap discount circles
around your waist
where thin and tiny were only elements of
pineapple rings and
watered down rum-soaked words
she parted ways with scotch for a hop into
covered in old leather and perfume
creased by fevered sun, stained with friction
pinned down to tiniest deflower
she carved you out
core first, skin second
backside flung air-like without cover
you ask why push your tongue against
the rim of my shore side?
Verdict / by Jennifer Wholey
Poem 20 / Day 20
I check the bread a Sunday / by April Claggett
A heron heaves up over the bog
dragging legs and feet
like a special-effects bird
with heavy ironical beats
The bees drown in their feeder
and I leave the corpses for rafts
That’s beekeeper logic I guess
I check the bread
Daffodils face-plant all over the yard
tipped with snowsickness
abandoned to the April storm
two days ago, eight inches
Red-fingered peonies poke
like zombies up through the mud
amid pea-sized potholes
Where roofmelt made it bare
My mother calls from Maryland
She lost a thing, and defeat
feeds on the ends of her sentences
She has to call me back
I found a salamander corpse
while dusting for the last visit
my brother will probably pay me
unless he wants to when he’s 86
My studio-mate makes miniatures
Scale of one to one forty-four
Her granddaughter can have her dollhouse back
When she gets clean and sober
That cardinal attacks itself incessantly
between the Subaru and Chevy
finds himself a hall of mirrors
of endless rival enemies
My husband listens to the baseball feed
while operating a mouse
windows make diamonds of sunlight
stranded on the floor
I check the bread
Resonance / by Sandra Fees
and yellow star grass
untrouble the woods
where the pileated woodpecker
tattoos a deadening tree.
I eavesdrop on the percussive
Is there a formula
for extracting sustenance
from the rotted? For tapping
with brisk magnitude?
At home, later,
I will search
for what it means
to spot the red crest
and striped face.
I will try, again,
the totem strength
drumming a rhythm
with a sword
against hopeless things.
See You in the Funny Papers / by Cathy Hollister
The little thought raced in, out of the blue, and stuck, like a bug splattered on a rainy windshield.
Looking about in the misty moor, it shook like a wet dog and righted itself. Finding no familiar landmarks
or like-minded thoughts, it slowly took in the surroundings. Discombobulated fragments floated by,
“attention span of a near-sighted gnat”, “fake news”, “see the USA in your Chevrolet”, “that’s all folks!’”
Odd, thought the little thought, as it free associated around the cavernous space, must focus. Suddenly
the random chaos formed an unusual shape, shifting with sharp corners and mismatched colors. The
fragments linked themselves into a long string with no beginning or end. Through a fog-like veil a tale
formed, outlandish and as coherent as a fun house mirror, one moment terrifying, then contented,
floating on busy classical music while Elmer Fudd chased Bugs Bunny. Drifting on, the thought found
itself in a field of flowers, butterflies, and dappled sunlight, fading to dusk as red poppies bowed their
heads to rest, to sleep, to dream.
Worries and Beauties / by Becca J.R. Lachman
That we won’t change.
That the sounds of April’s rains are enough.
That the bank account turns grumbling belly.
That the piano will never not wait for me.
That you’ll be asked to practice staying alive at school.
That somewhere, right now, an AK-47’s been made into a trowel.
That my body will be last, and then, not ever.
That my body is as young and glorious as it will ever be.
That there will be no good-byes.
That the flowering bushes are heavy with bees of all sizes.
His Day is a Fist / by Meg Little Reilly
I buy coffee each day at the gas station
it has a particular chemical smell that is morning to me now
The man at the register, always the same man,
nods in a smiling sort of way
but only if it is early
After eight – the sun hardly in the sky –
he is out of nod-smiles
so I try to get there in time
His day, I think, is a fist
tightening around itself
with each hassle and indignity
I see these provocations sometimes
abuses inflicted over minor things
small somebodies on fire
And I want him to know that they are seen
by me, I mean, his witness
which is no use to the man
or to the moment
some grander notion of justice
to absolve my uselessness (or worse)
I am only a stranger
getting coffee at the gas station
while the hand of the day is still open.
Reclamation / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
A whale appears in the bay
ahead of schedule
and far from the Pacific.
Because we ache
for wonder these days,
we think this a good sign,
an omen of a new beginning
or some such nonsense,
despite her showing ribs.
We love seeing animals
in the wrong places—
which is to say, near us.
Bears in swimming pools,
an otter in someone’s house,
eating carrots in the bathtub.
When I lived in the high desert
a bighorn sheep stood
at the end of the road,
still as a mountain.
A family of rabbits
moved into my truck,
cozying the engine block
and nibbling the wires,
while chipmunks raced nightly
through the soffit,
as if patiently
or not so patiently
for me to move on.
Pins And Needles / by L.T. Pelle
Greasy hair serrates the air with scent,
I have spent so much time in this bed
my armpits have begun to grow
their own suns, after the one
they fear they will never see again.
I hug the sweat stains to my body.
I let recovery have its way today,
but today, recovery has doused itself in depression
which means I am sadder than I would be
if I just let myself have the rest of the poptarts
waiting for me at the top of the fridge
like church bells.
I pray for sleep to replace my ravenous,
but that’s where the teeth are.
My thoughts so pointillist
the closer I get to them the more I start
to believe I am dappled
in a million tiny stomachs.
I am the dead air waiting above a bag of chips
to keep them from being crushed.
I want to eat until my tongue salt bleats.
until there is nothing left in this house to want.
The food I am too sick to throw out
and too strong to binge on
haunts me, reminds me of the ghost
it wants me to become.
So I lie here. Too landslide to do anything
but watch Mad Men until my legs fall asleep
wishing, that with enough compression
my brain could twinkle pain like that.
I think I am supposed to feel
proud of days
Allow Me the Freedom / by Kara Penn
When I see my friend’s
late-night post appear
in the midnight hours
before deliberations begin
she says this: Whatever
happens with the outcome
of this trial, either way
I will cry. I will cry
because seeds are just
being planted now.
She says we must journey
a long way before
those seeds grow into…
and here I wonder what?
Grow into what? A canopy
rich with bird song, morning
mist in its ghostly cover,
a mystery of evolution?
A canopy of trees so thick
as to block sun from
touching plants below.
Can it be enough
to slowly choke out
the pervasive weeds
of America’s hate?
What comes next
is what I’ve never known.
Allow me the freedom
to not worry in a way
a mother never should.
A mother of a Black son
is not free to breathe in
the newborn head of a
Black son is not
free to breathe.
The Angel in The House / by Angela Stubbs
Understand the strange pleasure found in pleasing can be seen while removing your mother’s expired produce.
It’s a smelly task shared without the fine point, captured in the neon glow of decay. If you are feeling brave, you write a letter and read it to yourself. It begins, A Letter Written to my Diffident Twin but you forget to make distinctions between transplants or blood. When you speak, you keep a pact with things that fly, but not really because she’s part rock and lives in the afterglow just down the street. Occasionally there will be a scribbled message you no longer need to decode when she laughs or swings the door open. You evolve as she stretches out feathers that cover the impossibility of phone lines, revealing something to hang a fish on. She is shouldering internal lobes, clothed in gossamer garments. This is how you know. You find a bowl and soak your feet to tell your tale. You interrupt yourself and the lesser details fall away. Maybe you’re just afraid of the kitchen.
We, Too, Have Become Ruins / by Jennifer Wholey
With lines from Fleeing a Modern War, Syrians Seek Refuge in Ancient Ruins
by Ben Hubbard, The New York Times
We built these from the ruins:
chicken coop, wood-stove, all Byzantine stone.
We, too, have become ruins.
The children play on the ruins
where churches stood, now our tents wind-blown—
we built these from the ruins.
The ancient cave near the ruins
is a haven when airstrikes moan.
We, too, have become ruins.
The Temple of Zeus Bomos also in ruins
a satellite dish sits on top, alone.
We built these from the ruins.
We wish we had never seen these ruins.
Our return home? Unknown.
We, too, have become ruins.
Time, not war, has made these ruins;
war, not time, may make a gravestone.
We built these from the ruins;
we, too, have become ruins.
Poem 19 / Day 19
Moving / by Lorraine Claggett
Her house was middle-aged with the floors gone bad
From fifty years of hard living what with the five children
And double that number of dogs.
The furniture must move out to leave floors totally bare
for the sanding machine.
She ran her hands over the sides of the chest,
Old walnut crafted when the forest covered the land
Made for the six generations who settled and stayed
Until the last sons moved away.
Her daughter, great granddaughters, any who follow
Will use it, tracing the patterns of the rich wood color,
Musing on the succession of hands that had filled its
Spaces with linens and clothing.
Next the desk, made three centuries ago, when the first people
Fished the Monongahela waters
And fitted their bows against the takers of the forest.
A grandfather, appointed postmaster, used the desk,
Another served as justice of the peace.
She opened the top, loved
The tiny drawers inside and a hidden compartment.
She pictured her grandchildren finding the hiding place.
The bookshelves, the closets all held treasures.
Caught in the web of memory,
Tenderly, she took down boxes, discovering marbles,
Matchbox collections, old coins, wooden puzzles.
Her grandmother’s love letters
Blackened with coal dust, wrapped in ribbon.
Small parcels of lived lives.
Then came upon a photo book of her own college years;
And spent an hour turning pages, seeing
Her roommate Annie, a boyfriend whose name she had forgotten,
Parties, rope swings, snow sculptures – never classrooms.
When her daughter came to help, they looked together.
Now, the chests and desk had moved out.
Room had been made on shelves
For useful things.
It was as if her life was somehow cleared.
It was her daughters’ time, not hers.
They were to learn of the forest, the first peoples,
Grandfathers and grandmothers and the things they had.
She had loved them all
And that is what she kept.
Cento for the Unlasting Marriage* / by Sandra Fees
You know what women
are like, peering round
under the hoods of their
names. Always a question
bigger than itself: imagine
the marriage lasting, cupped
in the palm of the ocean.
I’ve reached that point
where there’s so much
I’d rather not remember—
the dead moth
I found in our bed;
for my wet
The only real place
to gather consolation
is from the back-talk
of the dead, and they
do not speak to me
over the smoldering
punk of my ruined ardor.
*The poem is made up entirely of lines taken from the following poets: Alice Oswald, Tracy K. Smith, Kim Addonizio, dawn lonsinger, Carl Phillips, Traci Brimhall, Tiana Clark, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Diane Seuss.
Good Advice / by Cathy Hollister
When I think of Grandma,
It’s her gravelly voice I hear
cigarette chains and social bourbon,
fashionable then, in spite of her stay-at-home status
and strict Methodist childhood
marked her independence, claimed her place
with patience and warm cookies.
Suffering no tolerance for waste
she stood ready to listen to an anxious child
rambling about horses and politics
played no part in Grandma’s world
of home and family. Value and poise
glowed within even as
her style took her breath away,
ravaged her to the smallest voice.
The thinnest reed, barely smoldering
I still sense her whispers swirling around me
Think of others.
In memory of Mary Olive Reed Schwartzkopf
The Yellow Bird in Alabama / by Becca J.R. Lachman
-In the winter of 2018, an extremely rare yellow Northern Cardinal
was spotted several times in the American South.
When something has a chance, 1
in a million, it eventually becomes a flash
of golden in a stranger’s backyard.
But sometimes, we know the stranger,
the yard, knew in our guts that
the flash would come. Do we even care
the miracle may be due to stress, or chaos
we keep on causing? Is it confusion or
recognition, the neighbor toddler’s cry-turned-
cat-fight, the monthly twinge in my side,
turned out again, the idea of you finally
landing, proving me wrong, proving me?
Important Work (II) / by Meg Little Reilly
A paper plate on a lake
is a sailboat for a frog
who asked to remain by the rocks
but was denied the request
by maniacal monarchs
who rule this sea
with the iron fist of tinfoil
folded like swords
and sometimes wristwatches
depending upon what’s left on the roll
which is meant to remain in the drawer
if you care what is meant
by the keepers of tinfoil
those grimdistant ogres
guardians of snacks
which are pilfered by tin sailors
who would rather remain
(like the frog)
in the shade
unbothered by monarchs.
I Will Recognize You by Touch / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
“Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone”
-Tracy K. Smith
The relief in pretending we haven’t
messed it up evermore!
Removed from the system, but gently—
steam-washed ecstatic and raw.
A second try, if undeserved.
Same game, different rules.
In this commerce born
of vibrancy and tilt,
steam-washed ecstatic and raw,
we float into ether.
Fields to swim through,
a sky upon which to hike,
we nourish on an element
more wholesome than oxygen.
Where gravity exists
billows of wind
keep us upright at night.
How I will know you
if ever again we meet?
NIGHT PIECES / by Matthew Moore
Beatified and Beatriced,
A can of gas meets
Wings, a canister of gas
Is winged back, to
The battle of heaven. It
Is here. The holes
In the sky pour into each
Other, anybody in
Them. It is still difficult.
That rhyme in your heart.
The dark wood of
Spotlights flash into your
Arrive under what surfaces.
To mulch a sound
Of mulching what is come.
Vocal scars smear
In the ride that is the heart.
Russet act, periwinkle
Persuasion. No live feed. No
Recording dawn’s dawn.
Surveillances include writing
It out, that one inheres within.
Stories are hidden, and fall for
Survival, the unguent love
That quells the unquenchable
Terror. Your unflinching love.
Ode To The One-Night Stand / by L.T. Pelle
What you call “a walk of shame” I call barefoot and carrying
my stilettos like a bouquet of yesterday. The dripping
between my legs that’s neither her nor him nor me
but the weather we made together.
Ode to not remembering their names but remembering
the hundred names for sky we came up with.
To introducing myself to my body
through this lusty litany of lungs
and the way the morning light whiskeys through the blinds.
My hair a cawing crown for the throbbing wingspan of breath
we brought here. Is this rat’s nest not proof of the way we have emptied
ourselves into a landing? Is this hot mess not proof of how a spill
spreads its legs and becomes a reflection. Ode to my reflection
every time it chooses to be wet over critical. To midnight’s metal smell
still on my breath and the way forever seems so stale while it waits
behind the lips. If love is forever then maybe I will always end up here
offering my pounding pulse to briefly. Time a breathy navy blue.
A noon so new it becomes morning
because that’s the thing about waking up late
you can never really be early to the present
and I think whoever decided to give the clock hands
but not fingers must have called me here, to the deeps of my body
where time cannot reach, I’d choose a stamped hand over a ticking one any day.
Ode to bunting between our bodies made of white flags
to the simple sigh that clings to my silence
like a fitted sheet. To lingerie that laces the light
of the skin. The way a kiss turnstiles into tongue
and tunnels of throbbing. There are so many ways to come
home to the body but this is my favorite.
When we become an exaltation of doors
And how watercolor my face looks
when its make-up finally gets a good night’s sleep.
I wear my pleasure like I wear a mini-skirt
like life is too short for anything else.
Ode to the strangers
who let me touch their stranger things.
To the red panties on the floor
and to the red lines that they left on my skin.
to all that pinks and holds my body until it’s time to let go.
To the face I do not recognize and the sunshine that I do.
Spring Mood / by Kara Penn
Where I’m from
spring is a son-
All the longing
to burst open
tempered by ice
or the prospect of ice.
Here, spring gathers
the peach trees to bake,
to begin their floral nubs,
then, with frozen breath,
chills them barren.
Spring leaves mouths
to salivate for August’s pie.
Here, spring will sun
then bend them groundward
until those most history-laden
snap with jagged edge.
That sharp and crackling rim
sits raw through summer
to remind you what’s absent.
Spring is savage.
delivering her fawn
into snow’s embrace
knows this is how
the world births anew.
A Poem About Nature / by Angela Stubbs
as long as trees last, I will
you burrow inside
Unstable Connection / by Jennifer Wholey
The computer just told me my connection is unstable;
first of all, how dare you. Second, how did you know
how many times in the last year a connection has fizzled,
faded in and out, or bubbled up like sourdough?
We upgraded to fiber optics, but we still drop some calls;
living in the woods, our connections can be slow.
I’m also not sure how ready I will feel to reconnect,
free again to venture outside of our burrow.
You with your plans of Zoom cocktail hours, are you still connecting?
I’m afraid I will have to relearn how to grow.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Gray Matter / by April Claggett
The fog this morning
as dense and even
as to be awake
in a dreamless sleep
I rose early–or was it late
I ventured to discern
or did I, even remotely
did I even seem to search
for what I thought was there
The past is black and white like this
Black and white we say it is
as if we know we never did
This is not that
The present is graywater like this
sluicing into cranial cracks
is pulled rather
as jockeys on lemmings
This is not that
The future is something you can miss
especially if you’re late
or dead in fact
but death is the blue screen
of an exception error
This is not that.
I passed into my computer screen
search engine gray
Where flattened me
Puppet trolls my puppet foes
Puppet wows with emoji ohs
This is the matter with pixels
Are they matter
And am I only algorithm animated
As the bell curve tolls
Without a clapper
Still I doomscroll out the door
As if space is this or that
As if my gray morning jacket
is discernible in the fog.
Greenhouse / by Sandra Fees
My cart rasps
as I wheel up one aisle
and down the next.
It begins to rain.
Begonias and petunias
Other carts squeak too.
Other gardeners barely
glance at each other,
all of us besotted
with freedom pinks
and flared leaves.
It’s the yellow blotch
pansies with their purple
masks that unpetal me.
I gather six. They are
a desperate beholding.
I am as close to knowing
them as to anyone.
The rain slackens
but I am drenched
with the scent of humus
and with the ache to plant
something living that will
never know what it means
to end a life, will never
have the means.
Permanence / by Cathy Hollister
Falling stars do not fall
Nor shower or cluster or arc
Small human minds and eyes,
Looking up from their planted place
Want it to be so
Solid as sand castles
Waiting for the tide
Feet planted firmly in the shifting sands
Water swirling about
Squiggling, wriggling toes
Gives comfort in its
Sunrise, weathervane, new moon,
Always return home.
Exit Plan on the Fridge / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Designed with full attention, laminated
with care, in clearest view should we
face an emergency. This is our house
laid flat and color-coded, a floor-
by-floor snapshot of how to reach
the nearest door. Fire ladder tucked
upstairs now, we only did all this
because we had to, the agency’s rules.
My agency demanded to stand among
the cherry blossoms for just 5 minutes,
and after days, you softened, led us out
of the stay-at-home order, on foot and
using the back way, avoiding interaction
with anything else but the springdom
of trees by the river we could spot a mile
away. The drizzle leaned toward snow, but
we were the only ones there, feeling
our shoulders flatten and our lungs reach
out… And then it was time: another exit
plan, another week or so of traveling
kitchen and deck; carport and yard;
bedroom and driveway; stair by
stair by stair by stair.
My Witches / by Meg Little Reilly
Emily Dickinson said that the absence of the witch does not invalidate the spell
but all of my witches are weary
And what if we can’t find each other again across these vast mines
of mothering and making and time
There are no other lives to borrow from after this
no bank from which to draw
When we are all used up and look around to find that only half our love
lives have been realized
A Cento after My Friend Jón Özur Snorrason’s Facebook Posts, Translated from the Icelandic
(by him and sometimes Google Translate) / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
After a long absence and hairlessness unstoppable
siblings from three countries meet.
We weave our thoughts together and tell untold stories
that become and are kept and forgotten in memory.
People who thought about time and held seeds
in palm for half a century ago.
Walking volcanoes closer to outstream
appear most often like a shipment from heaven—
like twelve apostles or chairs or months,
the wet red animal has become paradise.
This bloody, shallow and innocent water
has become the bridge and all about flowing water.
We (as at home) live on the backs of the year
and near the edge of the mountain.
We are a mix of these two.
One is constant and irrelevant
but the other is floating
and in constant movement.
One is stretching into the sky
and the other is digging itself into the ground.
The rule has been broken.
A mermaid and my daughter.
The two younger children and the mother
on a ruined Skagi.
And now when I walk through the forest roads
with my dog Kárari on Sunset Day
Runs burning lights—
Runs blazing lights—
DOVER BEACH / by Matthew Moore
Do not twist out a word in a time with you I was
Loving in the dunes. The breeze scythes
flies off his body, drones dive over Dover Beach.
Hooked on the earth’s arc, lace nails washing
from fileted palms in the surf, each lap 5
told to ruin. Red gas can hummingbird breast.
Tongue floor toward star.
One’s arm bubbles away.
Spells canvas fixes to air.
Eyes light exposed, dark enough to vapor 10
stub the ocean swell lightning heard drop
The nimbus skulls glean forward, and purl,
Sunday’s best release, in the lock-up dawn.
September heathers over summer’s paneless light.
The street is too work-streaked to praise last light. 15
Come wedge two in one seat beneath a streetlight.
To’ve woken mid-Autumn on blood on the sheets.
I died too. Shame tries to cop me for being
here. I root. Softly I fig.
Sarcoline so early in the harvest. Porcelain. 20
Stony air. Concrete light. Water where. Pelt.
When Combing My Hair / by L.T. Pelle
I start at the end
it hurts less that way.
Rip my way up
parting the tentacles like legs
or a shallow sea it wouldn’t be
that big of a deal to cross alone.
Press teeth to the fray.
My thoughts are holding onto each other
like the lovers
we cannot be
making knots some would call nests.
Pull tumbleweed from the teeth.
You taught me to offer
my tangle to the birds
but you are not here to open the window.
So I open the window
because you called this nest a knot
and not home.
I look so thatched
waiting there on the sill without my body.
Like a scribble.
What do you call erasure
when you have to become
the thing in front of the thing
unwilling to disappear:
I blocked your number
I opened the window
I did not jump
I’d like to believe the birds came
I’d like to believe the birds came
and I missed it
because I was staring at myself
in the bathroom mirror
What is Felt Before Waking / by Kara Penn
In the dreams before dawn
everything out of reach
has come visiting–
the damp shadows and cobble
of Dublin navigated solo
with a writer’s callus on my finger,
a front porch where the family sat
during Kansas sunflower season
before the swing broke
and dropped us all to earth.
Every person I once loved
appearing as they were,
meeting my body as it was
before I dashed it out
on the rock-strewn shores
Here, I feel the Tuscan light
on my arms the time I lept
from my hostel window
cracking a clay tile of the roof
to recover laundry. The church
bells started up across the city.
Poems of birds’ bodies
took to sky in one symphony.
I never thought for a moment
I couldn’t pull myself back up
through the window.
In this hour of ghost and memory
I am beyond the reach of intellect,
fully inhabiting the warm cat curl
of my body. Its comma absorbs
the hand of what’s lost
beginning at neck’s nape
then running the length
of the back, leaving
ache, longing, joy.
Going / by Angela Stubbs
I made a map with a big pen I opened my mouth so you might fill in the outside
space you color to look like the inside but I call this art not mapping I see no
need for abstracts no separate exhibit or splash of paint to mark important
points as in this destination is a long time coming according to moments noted
here on the page we’ve been sharing them from dashboards or small
compartments made now we use real navigation is not seeing but going to
my favorite place its bigger and better than any no-tell motel stop on your way to what is kept where I fly to you
I think it’s faster these attempts at waking up
Wulf and Eadwacer
A translation from Old English / by Jennifer Wholey
Poem 17 / Day 17
Untitled / by Lorraine Claggett
Sometimes, weeding my garden,
Pulling out dandelions, hackberries, errant grasses.
Making neat borders,
I think of my little girls
Growing up barefoot, hair flying,
How I bobbed their bangs, gave them white gloves
And put them alike in dimity dresses.
Overused / by Sandra Fees
Junco. Magnolia. Black cats. Elegy.
A canopy of stars. The words “cerulean”
and “gossamer.” Who can resist their allure,
the glove of love, even the darkly dappled?
Did I mention stars, that we are stardust?
That our souls ache to sound life out
to lie in the verdant grass where we
dream azure oceans out of pale clouds?
Did I mention elegy, that we are dying?
That we are stardust? That the clouds
are an amazement, the junco a harbinger,
the ephemeral magnolia already spent?
And my black cat, she is stardust too,
flung beneath a canopy of unexpired stars.
The Interview / by Cathy Hollister
I was so young,
fresh out of college,
a newly minted lamb.
High on ideals and swept away with
notions of helping my charges
I willingly toured the office where I
could only dream of working.
So pristine with shiny new equipment,
soft soothing music, artfully arranged waiting area,
sure to lull its victims into placid acceptance.
Why is there an opening in this
Thinking back, I know that
today I would not be that same eager
prey. I would respond to the
crude insinuations, the demands on my
I took the job.
Worked for just a short time.
Then I realized my worth.
Last Day Before the New 8-5 / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Who decides what’s work, what’s making
enough? I grew out of people who rose
with the sun, who collected mud on their boots,
and grass, blood, and manure, who used their bodies
enough by noon to want with the whole of their
torsos roast beef and pickles and red potatoes,
a slice of still-warm sour cherry pie.
My wrists will ache eventually, but not from hauling in
water or milk, not from stitching or husking– from
tapping words into every kind of message imaginable
on machines my great-great-great Grandfather would’ve
called something from the devil, something worth
excommunicating, one face of evil that whispers and nags,
making us believe we’ll be alone, even when
we’re at a packed table, in a crowd singing, even on
a Sunday in the very back pew. What we choose to answer:
I wonder how it changed…
Grandpa J, when did your workday start? Did you collect
enough from the frakturs you painted by hand, honoring
birthdays and baptisms, or from the crop you could not carry in
yourself with your bad leg? My work comes from the mind,
not the body, mostly. My work: to lift stories into the boil and
lift out again what surfaces, to sit in meetings and watch
my bank account grow enough to matter, I guess, in the end,
some invisible hand sorting dollars. (In your end, who brought
you breakfast, who lifted the spoon?) Tomorrow, let there be
light will mean something different, will mean me
and a desk and 9 hours stretching out like a field someone’s
ploughing with a good steady horse, one wavy row at a time.
That beat / by Meg Little Reilly
between pastry’s walk to your table
between lust’s undress
teasing not yet
between all the doing-going of desperate decades
and the sound of a child laughing in another room
while you doze
just give me a moment
the thing itself isn’t
so where to begin
at the end
when by then you know
that what you want is not
but want alone
Descansos in Second Winter / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
A road sign marked like a snake,
a mauled hairpin, a loose thread
twisted back on itself.
April carpool at 7,000 feet:
thirty stomach-cramp miles
in heavy fog-dressed hail.
Through the pass, I power on,
tap tap tapping these aged brakes
just like we learned in Driver’s Ed.
Snow over ice over crumpled tarmac,
a trunk full of blankets and flares,
perhaps some emergency snacks,
a shovel and two bags of kitty litter,
the best darn thing
for getting unstuck.
These mountain kids in the back seat
are talking about world economics
and The Brothers K, and I think:
this is the way a person hits a deer,
skids into a ravine,
becomes a roadside shrine.
A SUMMER SONNET / by Matthew Moore
Violence civil order incites itself.
The police use illegal means
Legally to attack, to the hell-end,
Means deemed illegal by the
Ends of the state. You prove it all night.
The police do the state is how life ends.
Music is autochthonic, dreams, undiscernable states.
That the earth is without the police.
Love dances against the underworld. Brick by brick.
Orders of language. Use the mouth.
Opposed to any song being outside yourself. Loving amps
The moon reflects swelter, what fullness
The heart fires, needed wanted yearning,
The many one amid stride loves & rages voices songs are,
Because / by L.T. Pelle
Because it’s 2020 and I still believe there are streetlights
that have wilted from wanting
to be your spotlight. Because, from here,
I can see us as we were back then
all stupid and glittering reality like MTV.
How I wanted to live in the small continents
of chipped black polish on your fingernails.
Because you tasted like 7 Redbulls a day and cigarettes
like setting all the wiiings in the world on fire,
just for another hour of night.
Because you wore the night
thick and sharp as eyeliner,
and treated my curfew
like it was a bottle you were trying to open against
your belt buckle, like the way you kept me
around was something as wonderful and wild
as a party trick. Because the first time our lips met
was during Truth or Dare and I’m not sure which one I chose
only that I chose you too.
Because you kept a tube top in your backpack
like you were studying how to be a woman through hiding
the most delicate scraps of yourself in the dark.
Because there were so many lessons about pleasure
and womanhood that we had to unlearn together
and because we unlearned them.
Because we both wore Victoria Secret’s Love Spell
Body Spray and what is love if not the more you breath someone in
the more you learn of your own alchemy?
Because you were my first and only kind heartbreak.
Because you let me draw sharpie hearts on your Vans.
so that when you walked away you wouldn’t be stealing
the only love I had left.
When our world was small and yellow
as a livestrong bracelet
and Hilary Duff was letting the rain fall down
through the speakers
I too was learning it was OK
to let another girl’s song be that brilliant
blue thing inside me. Because I am still in love
with all the ways I have loved and been loved before.
Because love is a dress I can never grow out of.
A stick of gum I can keep unwrapping forever.
No matter how many thought bubbles I’ve popped
or how many desks and benches and people
I’ve pressed it under. Because the 7-11 around the corner
probably sells Red Bull and cigarettes
and how many times have I passed it
and not thought of you
but rather what to bring home for the next person?
because the next person. and the next and the next.
Week / by Kara Penn
Saturday I held your death in my arms.
Sunday my chest gasped beneath a mass of grief.
Monday I arranged a life’s photos into counter-top shrine.
Tuesday I dreamed you alive, grabbed a handful of ghost.
Wednesday your smell slipped away into floorboards.
Thursday, I laughed during a movie.
Friday, I made vacation plans.
Saturday morning I slept in.
Portrait of Silence / by Angela Stubbs
dusk creates shadows overhead
the sky watching
over what’s scary. without
takes courage today, I
only want crockpot
cooking or comfort
in the absence of
things known. Forearms
can’t armor this heart
now. I feel it all, but want
band-aids just for
a minute, unwrapped
by your hands, securing
me to you &
healing what lies
beneath the surface.
The Existentialist / by Jennifer Wholey
“Why are you here?” the nurse asks when you first walk in
Though you’re feeling existential, that’s not what she means
There is an ultrasound wand in your future, in your past too
So when she responds with “I haven’t heard of that before.”
—the best phrase to hear at any doctor’s appointment—
You chuckle lightly to yourself, try not to sound resigned
The waiting is the worst part, the small talk you can take
Each consultation is a chance to try your stand-up lying down
The last time a tech swiped gel on you it was on your belly
And now you’re baring your neck, lump-in-your-throat
Joking about the body parts your thyroid might have
“Can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl? I don’t want to know.”
Toweled off, results ping in less than an hour later
There’s nothing there, and that should be a good thing
But that means there are no new answers, just questions
A dormant volcano may or may not erupt again
It may be ten thousand years from now or tomorrow
You just hope you’re not summiting when it decides to blow
Poem 16 / Day 16
Taxes Due, Garden Started / by April Claggett
Elegy for the Mothers / by Sandra Fees
after Golden Tears by Gustav Klimt
Her hair is the gold
of fossilized tree resin.
Her lips take the shape
of a garnet pendant.
She carries it to ward off
the belly of fear.
She shutters her eyes.
She will not sleep.
Tears harden to beryl.
The wet clay of being
can’t be remade.
In the painting,
she is white.
Her tears incandescent.
But every day in America,
she is not white. She keeps
a fresh handkerchief in her pocket.
Her tears are testimony.
No Going Back / by Cathy Hollister
No tickets left for the museum today
Airborne danger means buddy bubbles of space
For the lucky few who un-gather
To breathe in the beauty of the history
Come to life
No traffic jamming up the downtown arteries today
Home workers, safe in their pj’s
By-passed the clots and snags
the ailing city has long endured
No bullying at school today
Little brains are busy
Teaching their teachers
the wonders of technology
No eye will see the crushing throngs
Of shoppers chasing bargains
A finger’s click, efficient, quick
No room for selfishness today
Oceans of compassion will hear
The body politic in song
Refreshed, revived, renewed
To the 7th grade girls in my class
“How not to drop the baby”
(fraktur response series) / by Becca J.R. Lachman
Bad Grand Finales / by Meg Little Reilly
Grandpa loved chicken
I heard this three times at a funeral
soft chuckles and nodding heads
he sure did, didn’t he
and could there be any better argument
for staying dead
than punishing your people for knowing so little
do not come back if there is talk of chicken (or chicken-ish things) at your funeral
no one was paying attention.
My grandfather liked smoking in secret
sliding his ashtray under the sofa when Nan came to the basement
a tallboy beside
while Newport’s red ember burned inches beneath upholstery
burn it all down I dare you
we didn’t say this at his funeral
it would have been true.
This other grandfather liked summertime too
good lord, unknown grandpa, I’m sorry
what a bleak show for your grand finale
there was talk of lawn care and sports as well
who were you I yelled (in my head)
I hope you’re not watching.
I imagine it starts as a full sand pail
hobbies, habits, particulars and peccadilloes
this grandpa like Rilke and this one roadside strippers
there are poems unpublished, stories of mountains scaled
and secret families in Tampa that show up uninvited to the funeral
tell the people about the poems and the Tampas!
but the story sands slip slip
through time’s sieve and aunties’ censorships
and what’s left is chicken.
My grandfather was also a fireman
half-charred in Queens by then
I don’t know if that makes the Newports under the couch better or worse
but I concede that it’s a lot to sort through
at a funeral.
For Years, Lon Chaney Haunted Me / by Linda Michel-Cassidy
The first movie I recall was silent,
in black and white—the one with the beast.
I huddled next to the sitter and watched
the small TV in my cousin’s cellar.
Deposited there without warning
or next-day clothes, I was too stunned to whine.
My aunt and uncle had left the country
to pick up another new baby.
My own mother busy having
a miscarriage, a fact not told for years.
My first ideas of parenthood:
a downpour, a flash of light, a blackout,
those basement steps,
a song without sound.
OSSUARY LIGHT / by Matthew Moore
Roads unflinch trees strewn peer
And passerby, strikeless in
Present slaughter harry slaughter,
The capsize along with the
Sloth holds the seas and the over.
In the sale of animals, land mass,
Naiveté by which I mean
Tactics, by which I mean writing.
Absences courtesy lights
Melancholy, sun rose champagne,
The apple gag,
The universal enpurpler.
O seem-drawn if-knot heads
Shadows mornings dark beams
Seas in nauseas.
A mood to own in none,
Every other purpose,
The sky burns for having been,
Found under our teeth,
Lives of animals are falling from us.
The Mornings After We Fight Are Always June / by L.T. Pelle
In June the beach umbrellas wing themselves
wide awake. Across the street the tandem bicycle shop
wipes the sleep from its too many empty seats.
I am alone so I hang my breasts like an oversized beach towel
on the hook outside the stall. They do not look at me.
Still, I like to imagine what I look like,
breastless, slivered, through the outdoor shower slats
even when it is 5 AM and I know no one is watching.
My new gape exposed and dressed in bone like driftwood.
The shower ssshhhhh-ing through it.
The rest of me an awning to all that is missing.
I do not undo my two braids or remove my bathing suit
because the seagulls might mistake my naked body
for breadcrumbs. It has happened before. I am carried
away before I can come clean. But not today,
today, I shave my nettled pits with our next conversation,
wash my dirty feet in trashy paperbacks and tonight’s
bonfire smoke. Offer spent sandcastles to the drain.
Heart strings sing a beautiful clog
and my pee the same slow song the showerhead
is playing. You could reach through my chest
and get to the other side if you caught me like this.
Four is a Conundrum / by Kara Penn
A conundrum is a difficult problem
or question. Four is a question.
From the moment she pops open
the door with the birds’ first songs,
Four embodies the space she’s in
and borrows a bit more. Four is tall
for four and her body is resolute.
She deserves to be wherever she is,
which, she reminds us, is wherever
she wants. Four’s mind is an expansive
landscape. Sharp rock at the surface
hot magma just below, which means
Four is an active volcano. Four must
be engaged at all times with kinetic
sand, Perler beads, worksheets,
puzzles, paints, or books because
Four is a carnivore of knowledge.
She will eat you up waiting for a scrap
from your mind’s proficiency. See,
Four was born understanding life
is what you grasp in your hands
and move through minefields into
the meadow just beyond. Four,
when born, carried me with her
when death was a shadow behind
the door or a hemorrhage at home.
Four is impressive as hell. Four is
a question only she can answer.
Maybe I’m From Mars / by Angela Stubbs
The GPS in my old car said
you didn’t exist. That was scary.
This is why I rely on astrology. Or astronomy.
There was a crack in a star up in the sky
and you could see it above the
ocean at seven in the morning.
I think we both came from that star.
How is it we ask the same questions except you
never use words?
On the boulevard, near the corner
people look small from an office
window. Even from the 4th floor.
and desire keeps coming,
the ‘now what”
a forgone inquiry. You
hear it too, right?
If your skirt has a slit, your skirt has a slit.
These are the facts. Front or
back, planets orbit around
keeping things in sync
for the weekend.
Blankets, sheets, the inside of lips and cheeks
are pink, kept just inside my room.
At night, I look
outside and miss
You want to hold my hand.
I can feel it from here.
Now we are communicating.
Drop It / by Jennifer Wholey
Quotes from a CBS News report on the police shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo
Those videos speak
for the last second of his life
did not have a gun
To read poems from the first half of the month, click here.