The 30/30 Project: December 2020

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.

Donate to 30/30

The volunteers for December 2020 are Jordan Crook, Lane Fields, Gabe Gomez, Mario Kersey, B. Fulton Jennes, John Mungiello, Carson Pytell, Arthur Turfa, and Victoria-Melita Zammit. 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

The White Space: A Winter Cento / by Jordan Crook, Land Fields, Gabe Gomez, B. Fulton Jennes, Mario Kersey, John Mungiello, Carson Pytell, Arthur Turfa, and Victoria-Melita Zammit

Love is an asymptote seeking:
It was so easy to grow into you,
again on the earth that may have hated us.

We were awash in what was
and stars, we blend through dark
in the half-grown fields:
we winter burrowers, at home in graves.

The cold carved up my brain.
For a moment I felt the world convene—
but the issue is the white space.  

O winter’s child, so unlike the season:
Never forget where we have been.

Beauty Redux / by Lane Fields
           with lines from D.A. Powell’s “Boonies”

My bursting birdsong, my love for him was
his shame. I told him there are gardens where
we could be boys together, fields of lush,
but he refused. I remember the curve

of his lip, how he tried to hide the soft
inside him, flower of ache he denied
for twenty years. We all are beautiful
at least once, I said. I gave him a band

of silver, pools of moon on his finger.
He was my husband. He was me. The white
of his eyes trembled whenever I gazed
back at him. I felt him disintegrate

in my hands in time. Ghost of hope between
him and me in our marriage bed. We three,
such beautiful boys. Lay with me, I said.
Again. We can be beautiful again.

Sticky Rice / by Gabe Gomez

The method of extracting the essence
Out of something is known as decoction
Usually done through boiling or steaming
Often associated with tea or stubborn
Roots, bark, indigo; an amount of
Heat is applied to water until a hidden
World of molecules are aroused, weaponized
To remove sugar and soul of the plant or
Dormant grain, in some, and often all, cultures
Temperature is irrelevant as long as the draw is
Coerced and languid, colors and squid the
Darkening the fluid; generations bound to open
Fires, perch and squat with cups, chiseling the
Ambient heat, flush out faces in thirst and twilight

A GOOD CHURCH-GOING FAMILY / by B. Fulton Jennes

We knew it was time for Reverend Ammerman
to pull up in his dour Cadillac sedan when the box
of weekly tithing envelopes was nearly empty.

He’d duck out of the car then unfold to his full
height, as gangling as Lincoln, dark and morose,
big hands patting his pockets for wallet and keys,

then he’d tromp to the porch in ponderous black
wingtips, as big as bloated carp. Our mother would
hurry to take his coat, feign joy, gush unabashedly,

if only you’d called, I’d have baked something,
then invite him into our unkempt living room,
the dog sniffing his pant leg and curling a lip,

the three of us fleeing like demons from holy water.
We’d hear him drone on in his anesthetizing baritone,
a voice known to induce snoring from my father’s

end of the pew, and finally our mother would chirp
let me talk to Bill when he gets home, her voice
oozing an urgency to be relieved of his company.

Then the good pastor would take his leave, backing
out of our blind driveway with the patience of Job
as our mother banged pots in the kitchen.

The following Sunday, we’d slide into the hard pew
in front of Helen and Charlie Sager, smile and nod
to them in their best Sunday dress, and settle in

to ponder if this week’s prayers, too, would
rocket to heaven like bubbles through ginger ale,
only to burst in the laughing face of God.

Somerset and Fairweather: A Conversation / by Mario Kersey

Fairweather:    (matter-of-factly) There be war your, majesty.

Somerset:        (absently) Aye, the war doth rage betwixt
my head and heart.

Fairweather:   Sir, distraction augurs
defeat for us all.

Somerset:        (blithely) And what matters victory
without one to celebrate?

Fairweather:   As liege lord you have your pick
of the ripest fare.

Somerset:        I seek not fair
but the sublime.

Fairweather:   Your mind is as distant
as the moon from the sun.

Somerset:        Yours would be to if you sought
one whose mind is bedecked
in the finest raiment
of knowledge and wisdom.

Fairweather:    Perchance you have found
a man to love?

Somerset:        Your attempt at humor doth
not my anger stir. 
She is more lovely
than the blossoms in April.

Fairweather:   Which are now plowed  
like the harlots of Gangren Street.

Somerset:        Those injustices will vanish like my doldrums
                        When I think of her in the war room.

Fairweather:   Then may she carry you to heaven
                        Should we lose.

Somerset:        Then may you carry me to Hell
                       Should I lose her.

Fairweather:   I prepare my arms
                        For burden of your fall.

Somerset:        Madly so.

SAILING / by John Mungiello

She told me they
Told her she
Was too boyish.

I told her they
Told me I was too  
Much of a pussy
To be a

Boy, when they looked
At me, brow up. Lips hung.
Not understanding
The woman who lived
inside my only belly.

A suffragette picketing to
Break out. How they hated her
Growing larger than the man
I was told to become
By a smaller man.

By smaller men who
Spit on green lawns.
Turning grass to piss.
Covering windows in egg,
cream and yolk. A hard on.
Wee-wee-wee, all
The way home.

How they love it when I wear black.
Hair slicked back. Crown
Of sharp molasses.

The shine traps an image
Of the boy I was before
I saw the mirror.

Before I had to pretend my hairline
Wasn’t sailing past the horizon.

Rising before disappearing
Under sun. Fading
Behind an ocean

And tell me what happens
Once it’s all gone and what
Will they make me do?

Grow a beard
To balance the disappearance;
Wear a bandanna, printed
With stripes that preach
The new religion of Patriot.

Or, plug the spot with
Hair from my ass.

If none of those, maybe they will
Tell me to button my tie
As tight as they who made
Me say to my Self, goodbye.

No. I’m not keen on choking.
Not keen on resting

Until the kicking in my stomach stops
From welcoming my baby girl into a
Home not shaped like another’s shadow.

I’ll build my own.
Casted from sunlight.

Made for him.
Made for her.

A roofless room
With a crib to grow from.

With a bed to rest in.
With arms to hold and
Breasts to nourish.

For now, she will keep kicking
And I will shrug her off
By calling her “just gas.”

I brought the conversation back
To the present and ended by
Telling her to build her own
Boat. calling herself captain of

Her own body sailing along
Her own shore, holding one finger out
Toward the clearing asking the sky if it hurts
To be out in the open and it will answer
Inevitably, “Never.” 

Before the sun came up… / by Carson Pytell

I was up. I’m always up.
Up only as in awake, I mean.

Before the sun came up
I came up with some ideas
that the sun disagrees with.

Seemed the moon was brilliant
in its romance, its existence.
Before the sun came up

I was up. I’m always up.
So, really, I should know better.

But, before the moon came up,
again I begged myself for light
before the sun came up.

I got it. I always do.
Just like moonlight blinds
before sunlight shines.

Before the sun came up
I must have been a different man.
Daylight reaches too many folds.

I’m up. I’m always up
to notice what happens
before the sun comes up.

I was a different man
before the sun came up.
And will be again tomorrow night.

Idyll in Late Afternoon / by Arthur Turfa

Soft gowns, their colors catching
the sunlight in late afternoon, moving

along with the graceful limbs  on
the grassy meadow. Their laughter

floating over towards me as I
behold the Muses  from my seat

under the tree nearest Castalia.
They know that I am there; one

of them will glide her way over
to me and rest her garlanded head

on my shoulder, lingering for a
time, until I pen some verses

which I will read to her, watching
the light shine in her eyes and the

smile cross her lovely face. She
draws me closer, closer to her.

Poem 29 / Day 29

On Longing / by Jordan Crook

Water from the faucet 
& calling for the dog 

& moisture in the air
& sidestepping the piano

overzealous typing 
& all the lights left on

& you murmuring measurements 
to the hum of a table saw 

& that dance we did 
That dance of ours. 

Aubade after Breakfast / by Lane Fields

You stand over the sink, the sun
through the window a gauzy veil
across your face. Your sleeves gather
at your elbows and black outlines of flowers

meander up your wet wrist and forearm.
Porcelain clinks softly against metal and glass.
You tilt your head. The light transfigures you
into something more vulnerable, an alchemy

I can’t comprehend. This morning, you leave me
mute in the kitchen archway. I drink my coffee
and lean against the wall. You smile as I watch
you place a dish in the plastic drying rack.

It’s true, no one taught me about love
but I have held it like breath inside my body
and these days I am just aching to exhale.

Mid-Stream / by Gabe Gomez

Over iced pastis and water I learn that the muddy churn
Make it impossible to read through the water
Of the Mekong River; the only proof of its depth
Are the sandbars that appear as the water level drops
Lanterns and bonfires dot the low specs, which are really
The high points in the river’s path, during the boat races
On the Nam Khan the bamboo foot bridge is rebuilt every year
After the swollen river destroys it at monsoons like clockwork
The French expats are effusive with their descriptions in this
Their hands punctuate their syntax as if weaving their voices
Into the air pregnant with moisture well into the evening
My rented motor bike cutting through it, my breath perfumed
With anise relaxed among the school of fish, absorbed into
The confluence of motorbikes clutching alone in unison

WE ALL DRANK THE WATER OF MAMMOTH SPRING / by B. Fulton Jennes

It surged up from a black, unplumbable depth,
a cascade of water like an endless exhale,
unwilling, in the way of all water, to yield.

It ambled through our backyards, percolated
into our wells through crazed bedrock, fed us
the minerals that built bones and teeth,

flooded our cells with stardust, syllables of
creation, bits of infinity. We drank beavers
and bears, mastodons and Mahicans, comets

and cattails—everything that had ever lived
and died, decayed and seeped into the aquifer
below our feet. We were awash in what was.

We played around the spring’s spongy rim,
peered into its black mirror to see the ghosts
of those we had subsumed, dredged flint

arrowheads out of the sedge-filled swamp,
broken pottery from flooded foundations,
mossy bones of cows swallowed by muck.

Our playground was a graveyard filled
with birth just as our lives were rough garments
woven of stink and sweetness, loss and love.

We all drank the water of Mammoth Spring.
And whatever burbled up from its unknowable
fathoms still flows through our veins today.

A Reply to Kobayashi Issa / by Mario Kersey

Our feet patch hell’s roof
The burning hands of inmates
Praying for a leak.

WELCOME MATT / by John Mungiello

Behind spear of star
And stars, we blend through dark.

I.

I Crown across planes of yellow wheat
Some fat man—rosy cheeked—mounted
A staple to my forehead, abiding
White crown on my forehead.

I followed him,
The decorated,
(adorned)
Cold (longest) night.

He and I cooling on the porch when
He called me, pal instead of son. I was not his light,
But a gun kept calm between his teeth a
Bullet in my palm proffered peace.

Someday I will be like him. I already am.
A lethal weapon with a limp trigger.
Or maybe I am mud paved over mud
By hacksaws and gasping lungs. Underpaid
For labor. It was not sin that put them there.

It was love: for a son,
Or a brother,
Or a father, not so grand
In the eye of God, but in the eye
Of A.) woman B.) teacher

C.) She refused to be named anyone, but
Miracle, did it already happen?
Or was I on the toilet whistling a song
So what. So long. So what. So long.

II.

I was the center of no conversation except
The quiet red dust skimming edges of cliffs,
Conversation In deserts swift as beam cuts from the sun.
Sand collected at my travelling feet preserved
Barely by a breasts milk.

Try again until I am water evaporating
Between every pore a lie I was born on
The predicate of respect in exchange for cash.
A bucket of green bought us only a flag.

No, I respect hands.
Mine and Woman
Who work to plant color
In the mono half of chrome.

III.

Mama I love you most.
Not our king who dominates
A booming bud with a leather sword
Around his belly, a sinkhole of meat from bone and bone too.

Hungry for a thriving seed
Which laughter did abate? Mama, me
I am your court jester and
I have won this fight, which
Is my definition of “good morning,”
Because I eat laughter—
While he chokes on gourmet memories.

Yes, I eat his laughter and pass
It onto another believer
Of a verbs power.

A word like love. One syllable enough.
Will pumice his kingdom to sand
And kiss it back to a house from your hands

That pop—bone to bone—
With a glass door and a matt
That says—with no regret of cliché—
 “Welcome Son. Come on in.
This shoulder is your home.”    

The Pangaea Complex / by Carson Pytell

It’s almost like being mad
at a family member for not
being around enough.

Maybe we miss each other,
and how we express it just
comes from blind love.

The mind does things like that,
counteracts proportionately.
Ever want to bite something cute?

And it’s been so long
since we’ve caught up.
Unlucky how things went.

Or maybe the opposite.
It could be like the anger at or
of a mid-life basement dweller.

Some one said it, a poet:
“You love your family, but you
certainly don’t want to live with them.”

Imagine if you had to.
Imagine the quarrels then.
Probably wouldn’t be here to.

Wouldn’t be here knowing
some people will eat a cat
just because they’re hungry.

Never Have I Seen Such Stars / by Arthur Turfa

Three hours west of Guam
the C-141 soared steadily through
the darkness in monotonous motion.

Leaving the forward latrine, one
of the pilots noticed me. A quick
invitation and I was in the cockpit.

Long legs up on the dashboard,
automatic pilot on, heading to Hickam.
We chat the usual “Where are you from?”

Displayed in front of me, no competition
from artificial lights, myriads of stars,
arrayed in grandeur unlike any I had

ever seen, and never seen since.  Miles
above the Pacific, a momentary glimpse
of grandeur and ineffable awe. Whatever

constellations appeared blended together
into a unique pattern of brightness
and warmth reaching to me from afar.

Poem 28 / Day 28

On the Seventh Day / by Jordan Crook

Man I know says
work hard, play hard
throws money down
on the table each Sunday
swears on the Holy Bible
ain’t no one hold him
like Texas (cept of course
his woman & the good
Lord but God is hard
work & everyone needs
a break) so he confesses
Wednesday nights
to his woman–he’s loved
her a long time & says so
she says, give it a rest.

Ayat / by Lane Fields

I will bring you sweet oranges, bitter greens,
yogurt with pomegranate & honey, dates
& milk. I will lay with you among groves of cedar, suck
the marrow of desire from your noble bones.
I will write odes to your ankles, your sloping neck,
your knuckles. I will dissolve in your mouth, wasted
on all these words between us. You are salt
for my hunger. I am a whetstone for your charms.
We two are tethered to the ineffable, bound
by the ache of pleasure in this sudden world.

ASKING DAVY MCCURTCHER TO REMEMBER THE TRUTH / by B. Fulton Jennes

Davy, tell me if I have this right, I was only four when I knew you, when you were my best friend, and so much has happened since then that the truth melts at the edges like an overplayed filmstrip. You lived underground in an unfinished house, just the basement with a flat tar paper roof and slanted cellar doors that led down a cement staircase, a door just beyond the last step that opened into the big room that was livingroom and kitchen, lit weakly by small windows near the ceiling. You could see people’s feet walk by, like maybe you saw mine when I came to play. I’d sneak away when my mother was napping on the couch, her arm around me, but when her breathing got slow and deep, I’d slip out and run to you, the next nearest house but still a long run, I’d be out of breath and sweaty, too. We’d play with your toys, mostly babyish things—big plastic pop-beads, a pull-along dog with waggly tail, a corn popper toy on a push stick—even though you were bigger than me but still home, not at school. On the wall was a wooden moon with a little staircase rising to the top, and on its steps were china knickknacks, two angels and a black poodle begging for a treat, a pink bird standing on one leg, a tiny house with a sliver of a moon carved in its door. Your mother would take them down and let us hold them gently, and we would be careful, so careful, just to make her proud. Your mother wore one thick-soled shoe and head scarves, didn’t she, Davy? Sometimes I remember her with a wart on her nose and crooked fingers, but I think I confuse her with a storybook witch because she was so old. But beauty is only skin deep and your mother was kind, sometimes she’d let us eat strawberries right out of her garden, our fingers red with sun-warm juice. Sooner or later, my mother would come to retrieve me, she couldn’t call because you had no phone, but she’d speak politely to your mother, I’m so sorry, Mrs. McCurtcher, she slipped away when I was working, then she’d scold me all the way home. On my fifth birthday, you gave me a pink yarn octopus with blue yarn bows on each of its braided tentacles. I was so happy, since turning five meant I could ride the school bus in the fall, a big one, not like the toy one we rolled back and forth on the linoleum floor. I wanted you to come with me, to be my friend always, but you moved away before summer ended and my mother said you couldn’t go to school anyway because you had water on the brain and would never be able to learn like other kids. But you were my best friend, Davy, I remember you cried every time I had to go home like maybe you knew how much I wanted to stay. After you left, the Kirbys moved in and built a real house with windows and doors, blue siding and a roof. One day Mrs. Kirby told Mike, Greg, Patty, and me to go down to the basement to play and I saw the shelf, your mother’s moon shelf, still there on the wall, empty, no angels, no poodle, no pink bird, and I wondered if you took them with you, if you still could hold them gently, so gently, gently enough to make your mother smile.

Missing Normal / by Mario Kersey

Back to normal when we could do anything
Back to normal when kids were in school
Back to normal when I have time away from my kids
Back to normal when your suffering was yours alone
Back to normal when the copper virus had no attempts at a vaccine
Back to normal when your marriage was still hopeless.
Back to normal when you had a job you hated (at least you could eat)
Back to normal when the grind turn you into hamburger.
Back to normal when grandma was safe.
Back to normal when the status quo was no.

Does She Know? / by John Mungiello

She’s the only one I
Get on my knees for

Shelly,
Beast of a dog.

Head bowing for no one,
But her own desire

God Almighty,
            The bagel.

I rubbed her ears.
Gentle.
Skimming
Surfaces hairy like
Leaves in fall.

Rougher each year
With each drought.

Trees,
Burning themselves out.

Does she know what it’s like here?

Did anyone tell her about
The cannibals—out there
Eating each other now
That the paper has run out.

Did anyone tell her about
The Father who buried
His Daughter out back
By the tomato plants,
  Her little body just
Couldn’t stand the incisions.

Did anyone warn her
About the ice caps
Bringing the Bible back
With the vengeance
Of a hungry dog
  Chained
In an ant farm…

She was chained too,
In some Southern garbage dump

Until we took her
                                   Out of that
And into this—
                                    Simpler—
Kinder
            Cage.

I know by the grey rings
Circling her drooping eyelids
That she knows everything
There is to know.

Nobody has to tell her;

She’s already the seer,
The saint,
The miracle
The Holy Mother,
Collared by a pink bow.

She knows.

She knows that
The weight of our grief
Is the measurement of our love. 

The Easy Part / by Carson Pytell

Falling in love with you was easy,
your ways were dear in their way.
Your gummy smiles met with mine,
your snorting laugh; a strange symphony.

The waltz of your lanky legs let loose,
the beauty of your bafflement at Balzac,
even your anger was a charm;
it meant you cared.

Unified, we are a peculiar peninsula.
One out of many, out of ideas.
Anything said or done superfluous
under the microscope of familiarity.

Breath is bitter, minds unminded,
small talk’s lubricant like mercury.
Disregarding the effort it doesn’t take,
careful to be uncaring.

You see, we are we now,
and keeping up with two hearts
would kill any one.
Falling in love with you was easy.

Emma/Diana / by Arthur Turfa

On that cheap black-and-white portable
wheeled between my brother’s room
and mine, escape was possible by the mere
turning of a dial.

Once every week I was transported from
junior high mayhem. Dapper John Steed
light years ahead of what cool I could
ever muster, but I tried.

Ah, Emma Peel’s hair falling over her
face during her feline moves, gliding
from once scene to another; this young boy’s
vision of enchantment.

As if 2020 was not bad enough already,
Diana Rigg exited stage left. She lives on
in memory, pastel jump suits molded to
her form, silver pistol in hand.

Poem 27 / Day 27

Cowboy Pastoral / by Jordan Crook

In the narrow strip of shade
under the Stetson, over
the eyes, the dust settles
in crow’s feet; cracked lips
chap & pucker.  Midday
waves ripple the horizon
beyond the gathering pen.
There is only heavy breathing
the buzz of flies feasting,
an unsettled silence
as the cattlebrand weighs
hot & heavy in a calloused hand. 

Jetés / by Lane Fields

We fell in love in midair.
— Chen Chen

Her eyes: slices of agate, mineral
milk. Knee deep, waded in wonder. We fell 

in love in midair, imperfect jetés
until we were finally suspended

there. Her heart, a stone-fruit: I ate around
the pith, the flesh grew back each time. Her mouth:

a door to not a room, but a temple.
What ever made me wait so long to tell

her that I wore my watch unwound to stop
the world for the time we had together?

Previous Lives / by Gabe Gomez

From what I remember, you went by
A different name back then, fancied
Symbols more than what was given
To you by your parents, that somehow
Seemed to miss the point of what you
Were trying to get at with little effort
The way costumes and exaggerated stage
Makeup work to announce you rather
Than tease out the finer more boring points
Watching you eat, unintentionally watching
You sleep, I was hoping that it would mean more
Than the regular programming, instead, you fed me
Peyote tea, chased each other until we dropped
Grew again on the earth that may have hated us

ON SUNDAYS, MR. KRAMER BROUGHT THE PLAYBOYS / by B. Fulton Jennes

we found under the club chair in my father’s side of the basement—
the side that was cool in summer and furnace-warmed in the winter,
with a cement floor the two of them had poured and screeded years
before, two kids building a playhouse, no grown-ups allowed.

They disappeared down there every Sunday after Mr. Kramer sat
a half hour or so, chatting with my mother in the kitchen, long enough
to be polite and earn his place at the dinner table. Then my father
would say Okay, Bernie, let’s check out that new Luger of yours

or whatever excuse they had for the bag in Mr. Kramer’s hands.
My father would pour them each an iced stein of Schlitz, and they’d
thump thump thump down the cellar stairs, not so fast as to give away
how giddy they both were with the red-blooded excitement of boys.

It was my sister and me who found the Playboys, having spotted
the coy face of Miss July peeking out from under the chair. She lay
atop a stack of fat magazines—a gold mine of illicit entertainment.
For weeks after, Sue and I gumshoed our way down to the basement,

together or alone, to study what was to become of our bodies and what
we might be expected to do when it did. We never breathed a word
of our exploits to our mother, partly for fear of losing our lustful pastime
but more out of worry that she would feel lesser somehow, undesirable.

Years later, clearing the house after both of their deaths, we discovered
decades of increasingly lurid pulp in his lair. Try as we might, we could
not reconcile the man who would not hold my mother’s hand in public,
who changed the channel when the scene became steamy, who embodied

the ethos our Protestant forebears to a fault—prim, puritanical, narrow
ties, white collars—with the man who hoarded smut. And what about
her—the woman who cringed when he nuzzled the back of her neck
at the sink, who taught us to revile the effect of our cursed feminality  

on the reckless hungers of men—what of her? Lifting a yellowed
Ridgid Tool calendar from the basement wall—another gift, we were
sure, of Mr. Kramer—we found a photo of our mother: young, bare-
breasted, leering at the camera, a boxer’s pose, ready to tussle. 

Personal Reference / by Mario Kersey

Always sound of voice with melodies so sweet to the ear
Performance extends beyond merely the arts but humanity
Relations public to strengthen societies in lands away and far
Intentional in loving and supporting all she meets
Life is better with more like her around.

LOVE POEM / by John Mungiello

I tried to write a poem about love,
Just like every other poem about love,
But as I fought for words, for rhythm to come,
I ignored my wife,
I ignored my dog,
I ignored the moon and the stars.

You know what…
I don’t think know how
To write a love song. 

Perhaps One Last Time for Going / by Arthur Turfa

Among these tall pines have I
lived the longest of my life.
A short move looms over the
woods, not far, but far enough
to conclude professional life.

But every so often, and today once
again as I listened to hopes of those
we hold closest in our hearts, I saw
us once more among the mesas
and piñons under wide-stretching
sky. Refuge and renewal once we
found there. Far from the familiar
for both of us, new surroundings
that became and remains ours.

If we remains among the tall pines
contentment will be ours, for we
never forget where we have been;
the cross with a turquoise center
reminds me where we have been.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Couples Skate / by Jordan Crook

No, I never agreed
to circle clockwise,
to lean on, to synchro
nize. But then, I was
always thrown off
balance, dizzied by disco
lights & public displays.
Even us, even we
first went palm to
sweaty palm on dimly
lit backstreets walking
counter to the unsteady,
out-of-sync pageantry,
the wheels & high heels
sliding past smooth
& surely, surely, we said
they must be in love.

One But Blue / by Lane Fields
An erasure

I longed to follow, to please.
That bad refrain: A boy or a girl?
My father, my mother—the violent
door, birth. Two worlds. My parents

didn’t understand. Terrible power
illuminated everything. The cold
carved up my brain. Are you
a boy or a girl? Hey! I pushed

toward solitude. I—naked, open—
prayed, inexplicable. You’re a girl.
I didn’t want to change sex. He/she.
A wave of feeling. For years I couldn’t

figure out the puzzle. I had no hiding
places. The mirror. My throat opened.
I was a woman. The future didn’t look
the same. I couldn’t find myself.

I had never seen any adult
who looked like I thought I would.
Numb clouds on my horizon. Blood
cursed my name. Beautiful.

I discovered poetry. My eyes sing lonely.
I was pretty, feminine, a lady. My breasts
were vulgar. I remember a dream I had:
I was young, noble, loved. Inside my throat

my passions spring. I changed. Women
touched tenderly, made me ache. Femmes
carried me across exile & death. Breasts
bound, white shirt—I embraced bravado.

Good-looking joy, soft edge. Haircuts,
a tie, a good lover. A dance, a rite:
humility & power. My binder hurt. Nobody’s
strong enough. Just gotta live through it.

Osmotic / by Gabe Gomez

It is a smart look chirped
The Mervyns’ salesman
About the first suit, I found
For high school graduation
I’m sure this was scripted
Corporate words meet personal
Flare; I imagine him rehearsing
At home before work, playing a
Tape about personal success that
Advised against second-guessing
Chapter titles like, “the perfect bite”
Outline steps for immeasurable
Happiness if followed closely, “With
Love” he writes, dedicating his only copy

THE MEN WHO CAME WHEN MY FATHER WASN’T HOME / by B. Fulton Jennes

Monday mornings, the Borden milk man
opened the hinged lid of the lead-lined box
on our front porch and deposited two
half-gallon glass bottles of homogenized
milk and a petite bottle of heavy cream.

Tuesdays, the Freihofer bakery man delivered
cinnamon swirl coffee cake, English muffins,
Old-Fashioned White bread, boxes of cookies.
My mother made small talk while he made
change from the contraption on his belt.

Mr. Cooley came when the picture on the RCA
wouldn’t stop rolling or something popped
inside before the screen went black. He’d squeeze
behind the big console, unscrew the back, wink
at us over the TV, inspect inside with a flashlight.

Dr. Wilke had a high voice like a woman.
He made house calls if one of us broke out
in spots or had a high fever and sore throat.
He timed our pulse with two fingers
on the inside of our wrist, eyes on his watch.

The Fuller Brush man always wore a suit.
His case was full of aerosols, rattail combs,
silver polish, brushes to dust venetian blinds—
so many tools and treatments, like a clown car
full of solutions my mother needed.

My father came home each weekday after work.
He brought his money and his meanness, made us
grateful for the men held our wrists in manicured
fingers, carried cures in black leather satchels,
sweetened our oatmeal with rich cream.

She Painted Night: An Ekphrastic / by Mario Kersey

for Soo Lee

Imagination at night produces
Virulent narratives populated
By fictitious bodies prone
To dying at a whim, but do I see in
This living Rorschach stroked with knowing hands?
An azure sky stippled with the detritus of an old day?

Vermillion fireflies dance in the aphotic foliage
Unaware of the faint W they form as I notice
The man standing in the background
A witness to my voyeurism from the tenebrous
Room I haunt while eluding a royal with an insatiable appetite.

Ravens, monsters, and assorted talons rim the horizon
That is the crown of some dark ruler bored with coronation
No one refutes, but everyone dreads. It will pass
When the light returns or when the imagination
Fueled by guilt must slumber to gather its fictions.
For now, I sit and stare at the fecundity of the bodies
Appearing with each flicker of my mind’s eye.

DON’T CALL ME KING / by John Mungiello 

Bruise a bruising.
When push comes to punch
We suffer the future.
We suffer the past
I wish I were a pun.

Break your alarm clock.
Throw away all band-aids.
“Seize the day,” they say
As we all turn blue
Then green.
Flags and dollar signs shout,
“Come and get me.”

Watch that bird perch
Caught between that trap.
Prey, believing they are
A predator in waiting.

See the sunset fire
And lick dry all windows.

Walk to work.

Run back home.

           I quit that job too.

I am wet by the same rag
That smothers you.

I can pretend to be a hero,
But instead, I spin trash bags till writhe and twist.
Can’t stand the stench of what it takes to say goodbye.
And

If I die in the rain
Don’t call me king.
Just leave me,
Let me stay warm to ground
One with cement I can call, own.
Guarding to life the heat that I’ve sent out. 

Fat / by Carson Pytell 

I know now that,
if you are how you were,
you’d never have me.

No dependence
to depend on makes
one sad spectacle.

Maybe married
I’d have a chance,
I’d have proven something.

Funny, huh? But true.
Self-care trumps welfare.
I just wish you got fat, too.

Once It Was All About Literature / by Arthur Turfa 

Once it was all about literature,
those English classes I taught. Certainly

others things added: grammar/mechanics,
literary theory to name a few.

Now rhetoric reigns supreme: some Greek terms
at the start. Kairos comes to my mind now

in its theological use. After all
Koine Greek was heard and read all around

the Eastern Mediterranean Rim;
likely Jesus was multi-lingual.

Kairos: that interruption of our time
by Someone who knows better. Everything

is changed for the better. I so yearn for
another kairotic moment this year.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Christmas Tanka / by Lane Fields

Gifts under our dumb
teal tinsel tree, all lit up.
It’s been six years since
I’ve had Christmas. I can’t tell
you what this means, but you know.

**

Sitting in matching
PJs with Shan-a-Punjab
takeout on the couch,
we marathon fun movies.
My pick: A League of Their Own

**

The cat looks cranky
as she watches us, kissing
and dancing, Hairspray
on in the background. We sing
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” to her.

**

Photos blurry, us
smiling with teeth—rarely seen
in pictures, but it’s
every day in our shared home.
The lights dazzle, but we shine.

Document / by Gabe Gomez

It wasn’t an official running track as much as a
Well-worn perimeter around the baseball diamond
At Morehead Junior High, an especially terrible
Name for a school considering the hundreds of
Tunned up tweens turning any bit of language
Into a sex act; six laps equaled a mile and half
The flat awkwardly twisted oval with perfect sight
Lines to the entire expanse added to its finite distance
I ran in circles and only stopped to flip the REM cassette
On the Walkman clutched in my palm, slippery from
The sweat, fingers sausaged from the blood pooling
To the extremities, Michael Stipe’s voice garbling
“Your Finest Hour” unintelligibly from the wearing
Batteries, the NorthStar invisible for hours to come

Normal / by Mario Kersey

 I will show you fear in a handful of glitter.
We professed love we didn’t know
And only mythologized what our parents
Exhibited but their love was arcane and necessary
To battle against the yawning abyss of loneliness.
The cloudburst caught us and your relaxer
Disappeared with your mascara but I found
A dandelion to put in your hair.
The heat of the day caused a little fog
From the quick deluge and we sweated
Like onions at the beginning of a meal prep.
The sun came back angry, and we made it to the car
Little thinking about the hell we would endure
To stay together to be normal for everyone else.

LOOKING DOWN / by John Mungiello

I feel so big
Feel so small
Even from the top floor.

Embarrassing how simple
That last stanza was.
Let’s try this again.

Birds rest on ice.
Bow for food
Along a tree carcass or two.

With those last three leaves
Holding.
So far as I could see.
Hanging
Lone in winters barbed wire

Naked limbed and cold.
Still tall and turning gold.

Embarrassing how
Simple that was. 

The First Nowell / by Carson Pytell

came before we knew it,
not to celebrate Christmas,
but to celebrate Christ.

Early modern, they say,
way before Dickens made
his fortune and nice holiday.

It was published in a book
with all hymns, Ancient and
modern, almost 200 years ago.

But we sing it now, and,
if not, we sure well hear it.
Unseasonalble if we didn’t.

But it is for a figure whose
historicity rests on two events,
none of which involve saving dogs.

If commercials ran with blind,
crippled, wheezing and dying,
we’d change channels faster.

Good thing that they don’t.
Better to keep dogs going.
Better not think of the other.

So, The First Nowell celebrates
one sick dog kept alive more
than a year or two. I’ll cave.

Who is it? McLaughlin (?)
Whatever, keep singing it.
Keep saving dogs.

Jesus, bless his heart,
would understand,
if only the first time.

It’s just, those Shriners wouldn’t….

Christmas Itself is Not Cancelled / by Arthur Turfa

We should not blame any politician
because we have to stay home or forgo
the usual festivities; even
as we carefully meet with those who
have been careful themselves. We can’t even
blame Donald ranting in his final days,
or Boris for those shifting tier levels,
not even Angela for her caution.

For unto some of us at least a Child
has been born no matter what we can
or cannot do this year. Rejoice in that
and do everything else when it is safe.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Misses Peace & Dead / by Jordan Crook

For Toni Morrison

It was both the birthmark
& the watermark
that captured & left
me shapeless, watching
the Bottom & Southside.
What could they do leave
home to come back
scarred & scarring, hurt
& hurting? What else
could a woman be allowed
in that place? What other
than Peace beside the river,
Dead beside the grave.

Rise / by Lane Fields

I’m laying in the soil. Is it time for me to rise?
— Rainer Maria

I’ve been planted so long in empty earth,
covered in promises and softest dirt—
I have forgotten that I can bloom, too.

I claw and climb, twist through the green—it’s time
for me to rise. Seeds in winter are just
beauties waiting to be unlocked, breaking

through the ground to become anything
else. One day I will be more: a patchwork
symphony of petals, cascading down.

Viaticum / by Gabe Gomez

After the long awakening sunrise
We came to a stop where we
Leapt from the car, near the North
East end New Mexico by the edges
Of Great Plains and a multitude of
Miles where we all agree that nothing
Much happens, and yet the expanse
Can’t help us escape from stopping, going inward,
And fixating the space as a fenced rectangle
That belongs to someone or something and
That before any of us, the fields, cared nothing
Remain unchanged; they find it hilarious, I bet,
At our attempts to shape them into cosmology,
Bread, body, and blood ripped and eaten in memory

WAKE UP ON WEDNESDAY, SOBER / by B. Fulton Jennes
     on the eve of 13 years, sober

watch the dog sniff the air, sober
drink orange juice at a diner counter, sober
park between the lines, sober
wave to neighbors at their mailboxes, sober
climb the stairs into church, sober
walk past the liquor store without looking inside
     to see if anyone I knew is still there, sober

remember what a sonic boom sounded like as a kid, sober
refrain from burning the neighbor’s Trump flag, sober
sleep the full night and dream again about water, sober
finally understand not understanding my father, sober
pay the goddam taxes again, sober
cringe when Nicholas Cage says You can never, never
     ask me to stop drinking, sober

feel the thrum of the cat’s purr inside my chest, sober
knock Japanese beetles into a can of gas, sober
watch a mateless raven circle overhead, sober
tip the server who forgot my water, sober
tell my daughter I mourn those years, sober
tell her I’m not sorry she hated me then, it probably
     saved my life, sober

sweep the sidewalk and breath in our footprints, sober
drop my mother’s pots in the Good Will bin, sober
listen to Rehab and say What a waste out loud, sober
pass a police car on the highway, sober
remember to set the alarm clock, sober
realize it’s been another year sober, sober
     say thank you thank you thank you. Sober.

A Father Ponders / by Mario Kersey

 For twice a quarter hour
I sat pondering why he is stagnant
Like a low creek in the middle of July.

Am I the source that has damned
The flow to him and thus
He atrophies in a sea of doubt?

He, in his agon with his
Younger brother who usurped
His seven year reign of solitariness,

Finds he is never the victor,
But the victim of the cute smile
And the younger age.

Can an explication of his narrative
Convince him he is still the protagonist
Of his life story?

PINK CLOUDS / by John Mungiello

I’ve smelt my breath for too long.

The world comes through diagonal—
Clouds bleed themselves
To wake me—give me iron. I’m
Deficient—a delinquent waiting
For help, not a hand—
My feet stand planted in this bog
The one my Daddy fought to keep.
My country—My God
How we bruise skies blue and pink
With our own hot hair.

This wasteland
Isn’t where
I land.

The Blues / by Carson Pytell

Some of these days,
at the poetastry of dusk,
the lonesome line will lead
a lonelier train with no hobos,
and the light in my backdoor
won’t learn near far enough in.

The girl I love, up the country,
she still won’t have written me.
I’ll go to town to drink it dry
and feel just like going on,
knowing well I’ve got to move,
ready for the river, going home.

Christmas Eve in Northern New Mexico / by Arthur Turfa

Winter storm sliding down from the north
as we plan for evening service. My pregnant

wife will not go  the 62 miles to Las Vegas
in the next county. Several more glances at

The Weather Channel convince me to
pack a change of clothes along with my

vestments in case I have to spend the
night. Joyful service ended, the skies

are starry with scattered clouds. An hour
mainly along I-25 and I should be safe.

At Tecolote trailer fire flares, bright orange
flames punctuate the darkness. A prayer for

the family as I head towards Santa Fe, watching
the clouds gather. hoping to make Glorieta Pass

To my left Rowe Mesa stretches as a
sentinel. Crossing the Pecos, not far from

Glorieta, Sangre de Cristo mountains my
final checkpoint. Slowing my pickup for

some turns, relief flowing over me as I head
down the western slope. In a half hour I am

home again. The storm passed to the southeast,
and the cat got me up at 5:00 a.m. as usual.

Poem 23 / Day 23

Zillow / by Jordan Crook

Some nights we pass
hours criticizing curtain
choices in mansions
on the Hudson.
Good God, to think
all those valances
on windows we can’t
afford, the sheer tab top
drapes in lime. We zoom
and laugh, our reflections
happy in our dirty windows, 
naked two years running.

Pastoral / by Lane Fields

I remember our spring;
those gardens of morning
where we laid with dew
between our entangled legs,
music from another room,
breezes through open windows,
and a sunny sense of ease.

**

In summer I admired
the gardens of morning-glories
and ivy draped over wall sides.
In you I found shelter, cool
reprieve from the sweltering
days where there was only sun.
See, mimic the hungry bees.

**

Autumn day: I take a basket
for the garden’s morning harvest
of crisp apples and sweet squash.
There is much work to do
in fields of ochre and red.
The brilliant dying leaves hiss
as they admit a breeze.

**

I will not be among winter’s fields
of dead, gardens of mourning
and stone covered by
the driven snow. Brittle trees,
birdless boughs with twigs
encased in ice. I will not
succumb to the deep freeze.

Permission / by Gabe Gomez

There comes a point where you try
And convince yourself that driving over
Long distances is the thing that you prefer
Above all things, when in truth, you’ve
Come to loathe the undertaking of miles from
Your youth, the time alone now seems wasted
You should have been busy tracking
For the next thing rather than searching
Or pretending that movement and speeding
At sunrise meant living a full and rich life
They taught you a trick to read the skin
On the neck and hands to guess the age
Quarter the landscape with soft armor, it’s
Your life, they repeat, draped in patch and code

PRAYER TO SAINT BARBARA,
PROTECTRESS OF TUNNELLERS / by B. Fulton Jennes

Freud would have had a field day with us: kids
who whiled their time, wriggling through tunnels—

culverts under country roads, wormholes mined
through deep Upstate snow, chutes and runs engineered

of hay bales in the vaulted loft of an uncle’s barn. We
wormed toward the waiting light, shared the intimacy

of squirming after a pair of well-worn soles that clambered
for a foothold, risked the impassable. We summer spelunkers,

who sought channels of subterranean cement to cool
our bored bellies, who paused mid-culvert to savor

the rumble of cars passing overhead, loosening bits of grit
to rain down on us; we winter burrowers, at home in graves

of snow; we who willingly writhed through spiny vaginas
of dried sticks and stems—wasn’t it camaraderie at its finest?

Dust in lungs and prickly rash on knees and frostnipped toes
in too-tight boots—shared stigmatas, trophies, proof

of how much we loved life, how much we adored
the tunnels that had delivered us from there to here.

A Reflection / by Mario Kersey

In the year of the long incline of Rona
I, fearing the day I’m forced back into class
Set my heart onto things more enlightening.
Gazing thoughtfully into the moon’s gray face,
I think of the Spring and its cleansing showers
Washing away the bitter detritus of fear
Wondering if we have grown into better humans
After death played with us like new Christmas toys.

Baking apples is a time travel device
For those moments when life is getting too much
With us and slowing down is required.
The quiet moments where the doubt feeds the fear,
I recall flowers I bought you driving home.
A pair of dreams reawaken love unscathed.
Fighting fiercely, Love is a warrior.


NO NAME #1 /
by John Mungiello

She put herself in front of Her doe. Pupil dilated—spotlight—
Headlight from a red ride.
Teens Cruising midnight.

Tire spins out. Doe’s bones give under American steal,
Not without leaving a mark—body—hard as metal.
Hard as a kid strayed from the pack—eating whatever it

Can get—scrambling—street to street—
Woods depleted. Cut back to fit: K-mart, Walmart, Minimart,
But growing again from sewage
Rotten. They eat

Where The carcass curdles. Cuddling hoof to nuzzle.
Collecting runoff of seasons; leftovers
The weather decorates.

Now Doe grows alone and
Nudges the carcass to wake
Nipping it with the tip of a nose—
Icicles run from nostrils.

I didn’t know deer could cry too. 

Houses, Rivers, Bookends: Love / by Carson Pytell 

Magnets are too easy.
It’s more like finding a
good carpenter, location
and honest realtor at once.

Before it becomes a river,
creeks must come to streams,
pictured from an eagle’s eye;
a finished house of cards.

Like the way it is when you
finally find the other bookend,
useless by itself or without books,
and there is still space on the shelf:

The soul is not to find
its own counterpart,
but its completion,
which is love.

Nearing Conclusion, Nearing Continuation / by Arthur Turfa 

And it came to pass
on a cold day in a city
less vibrant than before
in a space of faded splendor
the last matters were settled.

A few years before it
all seemed so golden.
A pulsating metropolis
there to enjoy. Adventures
around every corner, starting
with kosher bagels.

Like an onion, layer after
layer removed, tears began
until no more could come.
What will she see in that
impressive skyline now
when the plane climbs
over the boroughs and
then turns over the ocean?

Once I was where she is,
with stifled hopes and
unclear horizons. Westward
we went, and healing found
between mountain and
arroyo. Hers awaits in their
homeland, among the vineyards
and winding river. And it
will so come to pass.

Poem 22 / Day 22

The Patio / by Jordan Crook

Red brick stacked up
into a bracket around
my people, the smell
of beer & the bitter edge
of petty spats sprawled
outside the old root
cellar, set to a soundtrack
of fire crackle & laughter.
Would we be anywhere
else? Could we be
anyone else here?
Here the coyotes
howl & we don’t
flinch. Here the stars
are few but we
have no wishes left.
Here the smoke lingers
& we breathe deep.

Unbound / by Lane Fields

Songbirds / by Gabe Gomez

My first thought would have been
That the starlings imitated parts of our voices
With a chirp or a squeak, something deeply
Innate swirling from the guts and voice box
Deep inside the tiny birds; just as easily imitating
Babbling cars, engine clutches, spirited hum
Of a kitchen in full swing of the lunch rush
Our song seems too meek for their will
To make themselves pattern speech
Our hollowed voice unsure of any direction
Collapsing under its own weight like stars
What do they recognize and want to repeat?
Does it matter or make a difference for
Its theatre, playback ringing our ears

WINTER SOLSTICE, NEWGRANGE,
BOYNE VALLEY, IRELAND /
by B. Fulton Jennes

This 5000-year-old passage tomb—a millennium older than Stongehenge—allows a shaft of light to pierce the darkness of its inner chamber on the Winter Solstice.

An arrow shaft of sunlight
inches between stone sentinels
to spill light into a tomb.

The Earth has spun and teetered
a cold year, a dark year,
since last light entered here.

Such is the way of tombs.

Accurate to the infinitesimal,
divined by those who carried
the Earth’s tilt and bow

in their DNA, this instrument
of dirt and stone proclaims
the lengthening of days—

an ancient homage to hope.

But before the yellow gorse
erupts through snow again,
the skies will breathe ice

crystals around the moon’s
wan face and nothingness
will bury the land like

a dressing of fertile dung.

solstic.jpg

Tiny Moments / by Mario Kersey

 Northern fence corner
With faded and frayed paint—
The cat sharpens its claws.

The tulip bobs without a breeze.
The bee emerges from the blossom
Drunk as a late nighter.

The clouds congregate
Above the farmer and his plow.
The breeze is cool now

GROWING UP / by John Mungiello

                                   Moon and sun
Congruous dawn
                                   Blooming buds
In the dark
                                   Begin to move on.
One marigold,
                                   Two marigolds,
Stars after rain
                                   Smoke up from mud,
Mourning roots
                                   As it grows—I cheered
It on and said,
“Come on little fella,
                                   We need you to sprout taller than your home.”
And those glass arms opened orange accepting the invitation. Now,

Stand with me along the curves of the pearls we both were planted in—There are no shadows without color.

Wisdom: Intelligence at Work / by Carson Pytell 

I remember him telling me:

“You know, it’s like it’s backwards.
I mean, look at me. D-Lineman, right?
No? How about a power forward?
I’m a few inches shorter, but
you ever hear of Randy Johnson?
I’m left handed too. But no.
You ever see Rocky? He says to Adrian
at the skating rink something like he’s
got no brains, but he’s got braun and
that his dad told him that’s what he’s
gotta use. Adrian said, like, the opposite.
But with me I’ve got the braun, I’m big,
but I have no coordination! Seriously,
once I roped one to the wall, seriously,
and I tripped rounding first. A single.
Never been in shape either. No running.
I mean, what am I supposed to do?
People at job interviews look at me
and assume he’s good to lift things,
which I am, just not for very long.
It sucks. So I was thinking…
maybe I try out some books,
listen to freakin’ Beethoven.
You know, they say you can’t
teach an old dog new tricks,
but I’m not so old, not even thirty!
And I played all those sports,
never once was good at any,
never could use normal muscles,
so maybe I try another muscle.
Wait, is the brain a muscle?”

I laughed in joy.
Some one like that,
who can figure themselves out,
they’re the smartest people I know.

This is why no surprise
came to me when I ran into him,
in a Jiffy Lube outfit, shaking my hand hard,
greasy, grinning, saying: “I did it! Whaddya know!”

O Winter’s Child / by Arthur Turfa

O Winter’s child, so unlike the season
of your birth. Cold winds blow in grayish skies,
snowstorms afflict without rhyme or reason,
yet something in you cruel winter belies.

The light of a thousand suns shines through you,
Your eyes, your being, with brightness aglow,
lending warmth and love to all that you do.
Upon the fortunate, grace you bestow.

As a Muse you never cease to inspire
like those who danced near Castalia’s springs.
Your own verse burns with steady, cleansing fire,
to so very many it pleasure brings.

Let Winter proceed however it will,
you radiance and grace will be there still.

Poem 21 / Day 21

Missing the Point / by Lane Fields

When I hear Joni Mitchell’s “River,”
all I can think of is how creepy
the Christmas decorations in 1970
must have all been. Don’t get me wrong—

the song is beautiful and sad and perfect.
But I have never been able to get the image
of a reindeer, facial features skewed,
in someone’s front yard out of my head.

You’re missing the point, people say to me
all the time. And maybe that’s true, but
I can’t help it. I’m laughing right now just thinking
about the goofy reindeer. Once, I fell

in love with someone who made me make
sense of things. It was like we were tuned in
to the same station, eternally. So many
inside jokes. But when we broke up, I thought we might

make good friends. You’re missing the point,
she said. I listened to “River” so much
that winter, I stopped laughing altogether.
I was so young then, so joyless. 

It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,
inflatable reindeer in my neighbors’ yard.
I smile. It’s been years of missing the point,
but I don’t think I really mind. 

Why would even ask that? / by Gabe Gomez

Stare close at the canvas and brushstroke
Look at the ridges of paint swell and curve
Over the cotton and how the colors lighten
On the edges near the frame, lost bristles
Snap you out, stagger movement and energy
Step from the painting, now, until you reach
The fringe language, cherry pick predictable
Vowels, sit on the rectangular couch, listen,
There is nothing for you here, begins the
Inner dialogue, and you should be done
Pretending that there is, it continues
I know it’s right, you repeat aloud
Waiting for something to grab out
Throttle it in and watch it wait

SKATING BACKWARDS / by B. Fulton Jennes

I haven’t put on skates in years,
most likely due to waxing fears
of ending with a fractured hip
more catastrophic than a slip

in daily walks or on the stairs—
how stifling, all these graying cares.
And—oh!—how terribly I miss
the effortless, cerebral bliss

of skating backwards fearlessly.
I did not use my eyes to see
but, rather, rocked from side to side
and let the winds of fate decide
my path upon the icy glide.

It was so freeing not to brood
upon what others might conclude
about my glaring lack of grace
but simply to glissade through space

as through a dream. I seemed repelled
by what was known—the world beheld
with my own eyes—and drawn toward
uncertainty as if a cord

were pulling me. And what delight
that moving there was free of fight
with those who sought to gain control
in choosing my incumbent goals
and thereby circumscribe my soul.

How still to skate in blind reverse
and leave will to the universe.

What the Pho / by Mario Kersey

The poverty of words for the day
She went to a wedding on your anniversary
Left you helpless, mute.

There were sparks of anger
Like neurons firing,
But you still didn’t know how to feel.

The work around the house
Needed addressing like the stack
Of essays crying for appraisal.

Misery loves company when there’s food
And a little pho to quell the disappointment
Of being “single” on the day of your union.

IS THIS IT? / by John Mungiello

One day I will be that cloud
Shaped like a lamb
Cut loose from the flock
Ghosting through breezes
As people look in
Quiet contemplation. 

Mappae Mundi Meet Nietzsche / by Carson Pytell

It would be a breeze to detail
each of the correlations between
a map of all we thought we knew
and a man who, speaking of it,
introduced to us an entirely new land
to plow and plunder and proliferate.

Like how those maps placed Eden,
were considered complete with Cathay,
and encouraged endless expeditions,
just only to areas already on the map,
until some one made a mistake and
found himself asking Indians about India.

But the most sensible thing to say,
the point of interest, so to speak,
is that those mediaeval maps,
in their own time, were correct,
just as was that mustachioed
misanthrope at the very end.

Ars longa, communitas brevis / by Arthur Turfa

Not so very long ago daring to
determine if what I heard the muse

whispering to me could be rendered
into anything others would appreciate,

I sent my verse into the winds of
several places. Some favorable ones

carried mine aloft, true zephyrs they,
bringing mutual delight. Others ran

counter, still others went by themselves
into distant places. In joy and sadness

we zephyrs soared, until we dispersed
for all time, or for a short spell. When

our muses called us to new places,
we rose to the clear ionosphere and

after a lingering moment, sought new
paths towards the array of stars ahead.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Password / by Jordan Crook

Six times today
you’ve forgotten
my nickname
& number & O!
the havoc wreaked
on 28th Avenue
amidst apples
& broken glass
where we linked
pinkies & promised
to remember
forever the secret
spots & code words.
Things only we knew,
we knew then. 

Ars Poetica / by Lane Fields

I say I want to save the world but really
I want to write poems all day

— Dorothea Lasky

I’ve spent my whole life looking for a code
of morals, something that makes me feel
insignificant, something bigger than my ego

and rotten attitude. I don’t feel breathless wonder
when I look at the tides swell with love
for the moon. The holiest thing I’ve done

this week is stop myself from causing a fight
on the internet. But I hold poems inside myself
the way people with more devout bones

than mine keep God at the base of their spines.
I don’t know much about cosmology, but
the world began with a word: my whole life

starts and stops not by breath but vocabulary.
Poetry is the thing that threads my wretched
body together. It tells me how to move through

every awful and beautiful day. I have it
written on the back of my hand so I don’t
forget its name. I say I want to save the world

and maybe I can. My poet friends teach in jails
and care for the unhoused and go to protests,
and when I think of all that, of the best humans—

all I can imagine is every person as a poem,
brief and wild and gorgeous.

Covenant / by Gabe Gomez

I’m told that somewhere in Los Angeles, there are cholos playing
basketball with tabs of acid in their socks; it absorbs into their
skin as their sweat glands open like millions of minuscule tongues
accepting Eucharist. Peaking, I imagine, amid the squeaking Adidas;
laughter undulating into something like a bark of a seal.

But I’m not sure if I believe that story, because I am nothing if not
focused as I hear this, and want to only to get back into the car and
away from this asshole, who charges more than the going rate for a tab
of windowpane, but I pay my seven bucks, half listen to whatever he
has to say and leave. On the ride back, it comes to this: Learn to
expect three things when driving past a catholic church while on drugs
in El Paso, 2:00 a.m., 1992.

  1. No matter what, absolution is more important than the 9
    o’clock/ 3 o’clock hand position on the steering wheel. And despite
    the fact that riding with a guy I barely know—the same guy who
    redlines his Acura on from 3rd and 4th gear every time—crosses himself
    as we pass a church in the Sunset district. I’m swept into a current
    of debris that lifts as we drive past.
  2. Just an observation, but braking is not unlike genuflecting
    when entering a pew, avoiding eye contact with the altar; the knees
    will ache when kneeling, and that’s how you know it’s working.
  3. Somehow, driving past the house of God, the house of your
    mother, the house of your memories is more important than life within
    this excerpt. You shiver. The drugs, too, are working.

And when you read the Merchant’s Tale, years from now, there will be a
moment when you understand the covenant between man and God, when it
speaks to you, albeit briefly around the seminar table, the very hand
that reached into Adam’s oblique, removed his rib from the leathery
sinew is now crowning your head, twisting it towards her face aloft in
bliss, aroused in the swallow, her lips still pursed from the
mouthful, you meet, again…eyes closed you dive inside her, then awake
in time to hear her whisper, “now.”

CHRISTMAS HAIKOO-KIES / by B. Fulton Jennes
  three light, three dark

A dropped bag of flour,
vanilla extract: all gone.
Wannabe baker.

Husband salivates,
watching me roll cookie dough.
Suddenly sexy.

Since when are dragées
“for decoration only”?
Damn you, FDA.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * 

A mother’s cookies
baked exactly the same way.
Why were hers sweeter?

Her recipe book
stained with buttered fingerprints.
Lazarus Christmas.

The year that she died
I laid cookies on her grave.
The next day it snowed.

Well, It Ain’t Georgic / by Mario Kersey

On a leaf spiraling
To the ground,
A spider, webless.

You left me just as ill-equipped
For the flight we took:

Distant and personal.

The crash augured from the fret
Fomented by my own doubt
And cherophobia.

Your own faith proved
To wither under the heat
Of my agitations.

Why did you flee soon
Before I could work out
My problems at $40/hr?

The crickets stretch
Their legs to take the leap
While mine fold

To remain in place
And ponder my past deeds
While today becomes tomorrow
And tomorrow becomes years.

There was nothing after
You just the why
That never had an answer.

INTERRUPTIONS / by John Mungiello

The walls are whipped with snow.
Which lifts my skin like script—
Scrawling continuous—

Into the night I’m tapping on the counter
Trickling over stains—everyone
Of my fingers along the granite pricking.

The Nazis are at my door.

They can’t get in. I could care less to be honest
I’m lost in a brine of this and that text with

ADHD focus—a razor for a minute.
Serves me well until
They gun for my attention

I wanted to open my heart
To that mess of words,

But I got lost in the margins. So
I am still at war with peace—

With words slanting for meaning
Keeping hidden a shovel that will
Dig out my own song.

All I’m looking for is a better word for love.
That shit is heavy enough. 

We All Love You Here / by Carson Pytell 

I learned plenty,
just only at a spot
where it would be weird
if people didn’t understand.

Upstate, you know.
Thirty people to a wing,
one professional per patient;
Harvard couldn’t beat that ratio.

But all I really learned,
all that they said would be
of paramount importance there,
once in the real world, was only this:

“People want to be good,
they want to understand
and care: like you, they will.”
But, really, eventualities?

Understand, I know now
people love, and I know hate,
but being loved here and now
only hurts there and later on.

Approaching the Solstice / by Arthur Turfa 

Each day the exterior lights go on
a few minutes earlier. When I walk
the dog my pace quickens. Late afternoon
sun strokes my face with warmth and reminds me
that it cannot linger with me longer.

Not that I dread the shortening days or
the dark coolness of wintertime.. All that
must be and will not endure. Instead I
turn my thoughts to those things will indeed
last. As for this world, so shall it be for all
I have done, and for all of those I love.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Butter / by Jordan Crook

Everything melts
and the air is heavy
as the stove spits
fat into proteins
the way we don’t
raise our voices,
we hiss when our blood
boils—we savor
the flavors of copper
and cream, let it
congeal, pressure
building not
to an eruption
but a quiet ending. 

Wild Nothing / by Lane Fields

When I was young, I was a wild, wild one
— Rickie Lee Jones

I spent most of my twenty-eighth year drunk
on courage and the promise of love, masc
bravado always daring me further
along that ledge; I was reckless, undone

by sweet nothings all the time; I made my
lovers laugh and little else; lured away
by immaterial hopes and switched-on
stories, I never became we; it’s not

like I have regrets, but the same people
come up in my poems and therapy,
as if there’s something endlessly unsaid;
she said that I was wild, that I kept her

young while she kept me secret, my body
an armor for truth; he said that I was
beautiful but boring, crossword puzzles
aside; she said, it’s nothing, turn away,

it’s nothing. 

Motet / by Gabe Gomez

Its haunches tightened before
The underbelly was split open
On the riverbank where it drank
Bones disheveled like laundry
What’s left of its blood dried and
Drifted atop the stone into the fords
It wondered then laid stunned
Involuntarily changed, momentary
Ground and symphonic movement
I hear myself walk about its flesh
An open pool feathering light
Less the structure less the meaning
Nowhere do we think of language
At least not like this anymore

ETERNITY IN FOURTH POSITION / by B. Fulton Jennes
            for Marie Geneviève van Goethem,
            model for Edgar Degas’ “Little Dancer, Aged 14”

They call us little rats, we
who slave twelve hours a day,
stretching at the barre,
dancing the tawdry interludes
between operatic acts,
a chance for wealthy patrons
to ogle our uncovered legs
and think of all our limberness
might be coaxed to do.

Six nights a week, the richest
of them sidle backstage to pick
a favorite who, paid a palmful of francs,
spreads the legs that feed a family.
Our mothers teach us to tease.

Monsieur Degas did not seek
such dalliance. Other dancers saw
him stare and study, peer and paint,
but never touch; they wagered
he could not get hard. But when
he asked me to model for him—
four hours, five francs—I saw bread
on the table when too much absinthe
closed the door to my mother’s laundry.

He spent four years fashioning
a statue of me, its chin raised, eyes
half-closed, arms a taut U behind
its back, loose hips lounging in fourth—
sculpted her not of esteemed marble
but of common beeswax molded over wire,
bolstered with corks, paper, ruined paint
brushes—all manner of useless rubbish.

Then he gave her a wig of real hair,
dressed her in a silk bodice, tutu of tulle,
stockings, pointe shoes. A green bow
pulled back her hair, another fine ribbon
circled her neck. And although he
measured my face with pointed tools
that gouged my cheeks and brow,
he flattened her skull and stretched
her button chin—a salt shaker lid—
until she appeared a primitive prehuman.

Ugly they called it. Ugly they called me:
a “flower of precocious depravity”
with a face promising every kind of vice.

Weary of my tardiness and unearned
renown for moral depravity, the ballet master
dismissed me from the corps. Do not
come back—join your mother and sister
in the laundry and dark alleys with men.

Had I not met you, Monsieur Degas,
I would still dance the opera today.
Instead I traipse crowded streets,
sulk in taverns and cafes, a girl who
once was a muse but must now
barter in the basest of arts.

When you see me, don’t look away.

Wishful Thinking / by Mario Kersey

When last my eyes did rest upon your face
The air chilled us as I watched you go to your car.
The fog drooped in the air like a stage curtain
Ready to end the drama, but the encore came.
Stepping back from the heady emotions
Orbiting the work that must be done to align
Our stars into the perfect constellation
Is the stress that would send us into
Disparate paths cooling those embers
That have burned for years never fully quenched.
My oasis, my prison, you fly away from
Me with your cargo independent of my body
Beside you on your dirt road walking hand in hand
Smiling at the little things that add up to the love
We’re still constructing like Balzac’s comedy.

QUIET / by John Mungiello

Buried by distance—
Under snowbanks, There will Be
no More Poetry. 

It’s like the pots never learn / by Carson Pytell 
“(He was) a person who wanted to conquer the world
while remaining seated.” – Pius II on Frederick III, HRE

I can’t speak for his, but my mother
just wanted to settle and have kids.
Actually, I can speak for his; it was
all brand names, fast driving, classy booze
and those goofy, thin cigarettes to match.

My mother drinks Busch Light,
which might usually be a sign,
but three a night, no more, and
her being called an alcoholic between
a sip and drag was just too funny.

You know, since we’re being candid,
it’s obvious the kind of people they
both are: some dowry was a must.
It’s just, my mother’s was a roof
and his was, well, I can’t say ‘more’.

Every year it’s a brand new car,
a new brand of vodka, and always
trying to quit smoking, but failing.
My mother still has her few brews,
then has the decency to dream of cars.

Memories Recalled / by Arthur Turfa 

It all comes back like a newsreel flickering
from some distant corner of my memory.
A gridiron of streets stretching westward
from the mount, a spider’s web stretching
along the river and a little beyond.

Four decades ago, vibrancy in young lives
later scattered near and far, some seeking
to step in the same waters twice, while
others followed other calls and fashioned
careers and families

Some of the names forgotten, a few details
hazy, but on the whole good times recalled
far from that town and surrounding townlets.
What we are now, we hardly dared imagine,
what we were then, almost unimaginable

Poem 18 / Day 18

Compass / by Jordan Crook

The tighter the screw the better
the performance of the Compass. 


Before a circle could be drawn
around your conviction
the needlepoint was set down,
perhaps on your first white dress,
or some Sunday soon after.
Wait, no, that was the start
of God, but not the center of things.
The needlepoint was set down
at your mother in the mornings,
Bible pages creased at the corners,
and with a mechanical pen
the steady leg defined
what was in and out of faith,
the adjustments fine-tuned,
or hinging on a loose screw.

Pieta / by Gabe Gomez

Mom would add bologna, jalapenos, water
In the blender, cut the crust from white bread
Gingerly smear the mixture onto the canvas
And roll it up into little blankets, terrible sushi rolls
For my relatives, usually the old ones who arrived
At the evening parties when it was still daylight
The floors still evaporating their fresh mop
My uncle would arrive with his accordion
He carried the instrument in its proper black
Case that made it seem enormous and diplomatic
It would sit in a corner the entire evening until
The drinks had their predictable effect; he wouldn’t
Play music, only bits and chords, bent and affected, he
Held it in his arms like the dying Christ stiffled in marble

I SEARCH THE MEDICINE CABINET OF MEMORY FOR RELIEF / by B. Fulton Jennes

Hydrogen peroxide to bubble gravel from gaping cuts.
Aspirin. Pepto-Bismol, a queasy kind of pink.

            Help me. I hurt.

Cotton balls. A roll of gauze, unwrapped. Mercurochrome
and iodine: burn like fire, turn skin the color of rust.

            Your words are razors. I bleed.

Styptic powder for bleeding that won’t stop. Desitin ointment
in a nearly empty jar. Antibiotic cream, expired 1961.

            Is there medicine to make me good?

Milk of magnesia tablets in a cobalt bottle. A hidden pack
of cigarettes, Pall Mall, unfiltered. A dusting of baby powder.

            I become invisible. A fleck. A mote.

A tin of Band-Aids with hinged lid, only small round ones left.
Toothpaste. Safety pins. Sulfa drug: “for Betty’s strep throat.”

            In sixty years, I will forgive you.

Ipecac to induce vomiting. A rectal thermometer. Paregoric,
its sickly licorice taste. An eye-wash cup, chipped at the rim.

            Is it poison or cure? 

Consider the Eyes Waiting the Composition of this Poem. / by Mario Kersey

The hand grips the black Ticonderoga
Which glistens slightly from the remnants
Of hand cream not fully absorbed.

The eyes are weary of these hands
And how they have aged like old wood.

The eyes are prisoners to heavy lids
That were open in the late hours of the night.

The pencil taps against the paper releasing
Its sooty dandruff onto the page which will
Smudge onto pale palms and transfer
To clean linen hours later.

The eyes notice the tips of uneven nails
In need of a trim and a metaphor
That’s not clever enough to commit to paper.

The eyes tingle as they give birth
To stillborn tears that obscure
Line of sight for a poem yet to be.

The eyes pull the covers
To dream of the first line
While remembering her face.

Alarm Clock / by John Mungiello

I’m gonna tell you
Bout my wife and
What she means to me.

I don’t care if it
Sounds silly, don’t care
If it sounds easy.

Who was that bastard
That said, only sweat
Can make our hearts bend?

This isn’t work.
This isn’t art.
This isn’t a love song.

It’s a feeling—
What comes so easy.

Today, I heard
Her heartbeat
Past all those layers:

Muscle, vein, skin, bone
And that thick robe
Keeping mountains hidden.

I slid back down
Hearing it clear.

The sound that starts
My own talking.

The heart that
Pumps my own blood beating.

She asked me questions
I wasn’t prepared to consider.
Like, why I can’t let the good times roll?

But dear,
In the morning.
Any sentence—
Any word extinguished
From your unbuttoned lips

Is the only alarm
I can stand to hear.

That ring of a feeling
A barefoot tickle
On my knee.

A lobe
On my cheek.

With eye’s closed, we live coupled
In a quilted cocoon.
The sun burns through and

Boy, are we gold. 

Into the Noon / by Carson Pytell

…yeah, it should have been a barfly
or a fisherman – something like that –
but he was just one of the accountants;
little, bald guy who always had something
new to tell me: “Shoulda seen this new one…”
“Wouldn’t believe how much I drank last night…”

…stuff like that usually, but this one time
he came in calmly and sat down quietly,
and I rolled my eyes and was waiting for it,
but it never came. I actually had to ask for it:
“Finally got custody.” And that was all he said,
that was all he said to anyone the entire day…

Truth comes out like that, like hello to a friend,
like how telling these stories is just to say I’m sick of hey.

High Above the Poplars / by Arthur Turfa 

October evenings were not too cold
to go outside for a bit. Likely I had

a jacket when we went out after
the usual family dinner, all three

generations of us. High above the
poplars a tiny silver ball danced

between the stars in a black sky. Unlike
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, I knew

Sputnik was real. Around me parts
of conversations floated in the air:

Russians, relatives in the Old Country
and last year’s crushed revolution, how

those sons of bitches would have missiles
on them next year, Ike better do something.

Back inside more coffee and smokes for
the grownups, pop for my brother and

myself. On that night I learned that]
struggle was not confined to the TV set,

that happy endings were not automatic,
and that even adults could know fear.

Poem 17 / Day 17

Ballpit / by Jordan Crook

The first place you drowned
was outside the water,
was inside the greasy glass
under golden arches
when someone you didn’t know
pushed you down into
a pool of technicolor—
but the panic was the same:
disorientation, imbalance.
Perhaps it was the plastic toy
still unwrapped in your fist,
the smell of fried potato
on your breath, that landed
you at the bottom of the pit,
the others crawling wild
and safe in the tunnels
above you like mice 
too busy to swim  

Transmasculine at the OB/GYN’s Office / by Lane Fields

I take Kylie to the doctor in Wellesley so she doesn’t
have to drive after her procedure. Our masks looped
snug around our ears, we enter the clinic. Someone
up front says hi ladies and I feel my face burn in
discomfort. My hair is close-cropped, chest flat under
my t-shirt, but I suppose neither of those things are enough
to pass as Kylie’s boyfriend. Every day we die a little, but
sometimes I think the endless stream of ma’am and she
and her are accelerants. At nearly thirty-one, I still look
like I’m twenty. I don’t want to be seen as a college kid,
but being perceived as a woman is somehow even more
painful than that. And now we’re here at the OB/GYN’s
office, surrounded by people who actually look like ladies.
I scroll my phone, see a news article about trans people.
The first rule of the internet is never read the comments,
but I can’t help myself. People on Facebook, with their real
names and real jobs on display, saying that trans folks are
proud of being delusional and we expect everyone else to play
along with our little charade. I sink into the waiting room chair.
Have I really spent the last four years of my life, trying
on masculinity and wearing my pronouns on badges pinned
to my jackets, only to be seen as a sick woman by bold strangers?
I want to sink into the floor. Then Kylie comes back out, hobbles
over to me, and says, Hey, handsome. I grin beneath my mask
and take my girlfriend home.

Warp and Weft / by Gabe Gomez

If you look in the dictionary under the entry
For concrete poem you’ll note the swan
And immediately start thinking of a tattoo
On your right forearm that you can read
Daily and that others will ask about
Incessantly; you play coy and say it’s simply
Something that inspired you to write poems
Of every variety. There are invites to parties, readings,
Flirting over cocktails, until you see a tea pot
Etched below the nape of a young man
Moving closer you see the words begin to tease
Out, the clever articles over the spout, gerund handle
The swan is fading, serifs lose sharp angles
It cries for you at night, sounds human, almost

Darkness is a color / by Mario Kersey

That hides the flaws
Of righteousness long enough
To correct them.
She was the color of bone
With a plum size bruise
Under her eye overlooking
The valley of her sunken cheek.
The shades hid his shame
But her face wore a mask
Of resoluteness that she would
Leave the darkness of their
Perfect matrimony for the chaos
Of friendship and solitude;
A marriage of safe uncertainty
Keeping life interesting
Without the didacticism of
 a good husband.

RECORD / by John Mungiello

This is a record—
In symbols—
Empty if not written
By this hand—
If not read
By those eyes—
In this moment,
With this thought
These marks are
All I have to show
You that today
I was here.

Now I write a curve to form an
E—I’m breathing,

Feet on the ground,
Eye on the cloud—
The only living thing
In a sky—
This moment
Here—this one
Now here—
This one—
Right now
No,
Not that one
This one—
Right now,
Alone—
This one
Moment
That doesn’t
Need a poem. 

White Elephants and/or Sacred Cows / by Carson Pytell 
   
    All is misery-fraught in the realm of earth,

    the work of fortune changes the world under the heavens.
    Here wealth is loaned. Here friends are loaned.
    Here man is loaned. Here family is loaned—
    And this whole foundation of the earth wastes away!

Dick came home late again to a hot dinner
which his maid always sees is hot for him.
His sons, daughter, wife: all in distant rooms,
having eaten separately within the past hours.
Or maybe they weren’t even home. Hard to tell.

He sat down to a cheeseburger, canned corn
and a glass of milk with one cube of ice in it;
his favorite meal because it was the one he’d shared
with Evelyn on their first date, the thirtieth anniversary
of which was five days away and never celebrated.

Well, she’ll be at the spa anyway. It’ll be the weekend.
The kids will be out then too, of course. With friends.
Dick has a tough time on evenings like these, until
he showers and crawls into bed next to the wife;
by 9:00 every night asleep, chardonnay scented.

It’s just having that breathing next to him, some presence
which comforts him. By now he’d be just as cozy if it was the
maid he slept next to each night. Probably even more so.
This is why, that weekend, Mr. Corey took out some papers,
replaced many names with one, granted a loan, then defaulted.

On Beethoven’ 250th Birthday / by Arthur Turfa 

Knowing musical terms and knowing music
remain unreconciled for me. But this I know:
his sounds speak to me. Through them I visit
worlds of grandeurs, scenes of delight. I am
transported to undreamed places whose echoes
sweeten my life long after the coda.

Years ago I spoke in a radio voice, fooling
friends without meaning to. Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the
baton of Herbert von Karajan spoken into the
microphone. Scant months before visiting his
Bonn Geburtshaus, more fluent in language than
music, later reveling in the blending of poetry
and symphony, sharing it with students.

Constants there have been in my life; those I love
and who love me, things I believe that answer the riddles
round about, and music like his that makes me pause,
gives me respite and raises my being,

Poem 16 / Day 16

Chalk / by Jordan Crook

It’s raining on every color
I am. Me, blue hopscotch
with the pebble left on 7,
the recess whistle blown.
Me, red heart between
two pink names, pink hair,
pink stick bodies, best friends
forever until tomorrow.
Me, green arrow, green spiral,
green tic tac toe:
white X, white X, green O O O.
Me the rainbow in the asphalt
cracks, the colors thinning,
water spreading. You.
You the gray rain
falling from gray skies,
falling on gray concrete.
You, a clean slate.
Me    

Computer Generated Imagery / by Gabe Gomez

It’s the smell of sulfur that hits you first
Makes you batch movies and pamphlets
Catholic wrongs displaying a devil
From central casting; the race to out evil
On full display; vice and technology
Representing a red charlatan equally
You’ll see the steam, too, pumping
Throughout the air, until you know
That they are only hot springs
In a year of the pandemic, jammed
With soakers preoccupied with wellness
Self-care; we are all abandoned, you think,
That when our parents die we are left broken
From Samsara, paper floating in boiling water

ETUDE TO INADEQUACY / by B. Fulton Jennes

Seated beside me on the bench at her
polished grand piano, Mrs. Bandford
waited while I opened Michael Aaron
Grade 3 to the music I’d practiced
on our scavenged upright all week.

With the bowed expanse of the Stein-
way stretching before me like a prow,
I set sail through a sea of misery:
my wrists were not limber hinges;
I did not sit erect; my fingers disgraced
the ivory with their ponderous burlesque.

Over the mantle across the room
hung a soporific scene: a grizzled
fisherman rowing a dory on a placid,
anemic sea. Beside him on the bench
sat a pale, pink-cheeked small girl,
her tiny hands crowning the top
of the massive, log-like oar, unable
to grasp and help in the task
of rowing the old man’s boat.

She gazed at me as if to affirm
the failure that linked our plights.
How I wished that my inadequacy
was as sweet and pitiable as hers.
She had only to grow into her potency;
I knew not where to muster grace. 

On a Poem / by Mario Kersey

 I stare at their avatars
of various anime
Or filter images
of an idealized self
And wonder what to say
to these information bloated
Individuals about the lines
I want them to compose.

The poem is the arrangement
of the particles of experience
to be shared with others.
Sometimes it’s a different language,
stoic and aloof,
To the mercurial minds
hiding behind monitors.

Bitter, hot, uncomfortable,
all of these and more cramped
In finite space
on the flesh of a dead tree
Seeking to raise meaning
from the static symbols
Scrawled in pencil or ink
or humming on screen.

They seek the sublime
when they only need
To seek themselves
and not some mythological expectation
Of what a poem should be.

The poem is me, you, all of us.
Each line a stitch in our humanity
As we attempt to grow together
In such an epic way.

AIRBORN / by John Mungiello

Make smoke—
Everyday open
A lung—a little more—
Extinguish a little less.
Stay off the track.
Lose the scent.
Give a breath—sustaining
The plants and
Grass left trampled
So to get to where
We tell Ourselves we need to go,
But I am already here—
Dust in a cough—
Germ in your air.

How You Can Tell / by Carson Pytell

I love you the way the blind can scarcely tell the
differences between half dollars and double eagles.

It’s in your millimeters I find the matters which do,
and if I put on you any pressure, all you do is bend.

Strangers would see you with me and I’d hear them
expressing impressions of such joy and jealousy.

If you were a half dollar, even a good one; silver,
people would still see you as clad, not knowing.

But I would. Silver has a certain sound, some ring,
just not quite high pitched as your clarion cha-ching.

And, what’s best: like how most people don’t know
the blind can differentiate between bright and dark,

gold never loses its luster, silver does. Be buried,
and still I can dig you out of the dirts of memory,

wipe you off gently, hold you up to the sun,
and wait til you hit my eye and I see you again.

Seasons of Light / by Arthur Turfa

The candles burn first one, then another
until the wreath or menorah glows in

the darkness. For now the darkness remains
yet its power has been shaken, forced back

forevermore. Flick’ring lights testify
to eventual victory. Then may

we live and may we walk in that light,
may we welcome all its warmth and joy

Poem 15 / Day 15

Fingernails / by Jordan Crook
 
To have clipped
her waxing moons
so many times,
ten times,
that is love.
These moons
of mine crack
and break,
in love,
scratch and wane
in love—the dirt
beneath them
left too long
for love. 
But you, child
of milk-skin,
of reaching
hands, your moons
crescents
in my palm,
are waxing
always
and loved. 

Perfect Shelter / by Lane Fields

I once believed in love: perfect shelter
from thoughts that wreak destruction, safe and saved. 

No longer. Old enough to know better, I find
that real comfort lies in solitude, self

-ish pleasures, few but great. So how do you,
a mirthful sylph with wicked wit and eyes

aflame, break the walls built from empty rage?
I knew nothing of joy before your name

became part of a new language: first words
that tumbled from my mouth, graceless and strange.

All of my life I have waited for spring,
but winter’s gift showed me her knowing hand.

Passion Project / by Gabe Gomez

I shouldn’t feel so impressed
By the starburst of greens
Dissipating to nothing in a saucepan
Or feel embarrassed by their wilted
Limbs and what is probably a complete
Decimation of intrinsic value, as they say,
There’s no prize for how they’ve darkened
And slicked like seaweed which apparently
I should be eating too instead of being
Freaked when they find my kicking
Legs in the tides or lakeshore swale
So exhausting, right? To carry a neutral fear
Relentless in the way a wave repeats
Simulacrum herd drowning in character

HOW TO SHOOT A .22 LIKE YOU AREN’T A GODDAM GIRL / by B. Fulton Jennes

Just because you kids can hit
a bull’s eye with that B-B gun
doesn’t mean you know how
to shoot a rifle. A .22 isn’t
a goddam toy—you can kill
each other with it if you start
horsing around, so don’t.

Now, you hold a .22 pretty
much the same way you do
a B-B gun, but it’s heavier
and you’re gonna have recoil.
Huh? Recoil—the way the butt
pushes your shoulder back
when you fire. And you kids
are scrawny, so you’re gonna feel
more recoil than a boy would.

Pull the butt into this groove
between your shoulder bone
and your collar bone. Feel how
it sits in there nice and secure?
Keep your finger away from
the goddam trigger until I say.

Elbows down and in. Pin
your left cheek to the stock
like it’s welded there. Close
your left eye. Your right eye
is your true eye—yes, like I
showed you with your thumb—
so sight with that. You want
to float that post at the end
of the barrel in the center
of the notch half-way
to your eye. You’re looking
at three things at once—
front sight, back sight, target—
but you can’t keep all three
in focus, so let the target
get blurry. You’ll never
hit a bull’s eye if you let
the target rule your eye.
It’s the sights that earn
your shot, not the target.

Now exhale slowly and
move your finger up to the
trigger. When your lungs
are empty, squeeze the trigger.

Squeeze.

Hand me the binoculars,
let’s see how you did.
Not bad. Pretty good.
You’re in the fourth ring,
a fair shot at 50 yards.
My father never showed me
how to shoot, didn’t even
own a gun, I had to learn
in the Army, basic training,
had a real knack for it, maybe
you will, too. It’d be nice
to have at least one kid
who can shoot, even if
it’s only a goddam girl.

Beachhead / by Mario Kersey

As the spider
Dangled from her forelock
Lighter than thought

It lowered itself
Onto a the shore
Of her forehead

Lightly strolling
The landscape like
Some explorer from

A time long past
Journeying down
The bridge until

A hand swatted
Away the a dream’s
Annoyance never
To be remembered.

GETAWAY / by John Mungiello

You left
An unmade bed.

One light on in
A dark room.

Footprints pushed into the carpet—
I walk in your tracks—
Softer than the impression

You left—
Stepping lightly
toward the closet—

Grabbing a coat—
The warmest you could find
With the car keys still inside.

But I’ll get you back
As quick as I can
With an open hand and

If I can’t I will build
You out of snow,

And if you melt,
I will sculpt you
Out of marble.

Isn’t that what love is? 

Mercies / by Carson Pytell

Though tracing always the paths of voyagers past,
hoping somehow to see new waves or winds,
I, topside, posture amidst the spindrift.

Flotsam of the endeavor bobs inferentially away,
but, for its spirit sparked the journey,
jetsam I turn from seeing cast over.

Past the grasp of the gale the harbor awaits,
where I can unload my curations and redeem,
taking whatever silver may come.

Days out now, not long for night.
Soon as the winds have passed over
to my room at the stern I’ll return and indite:

There are no ports
but for the storms.
I am at their mercies.

Semesterend is the File Name / by Arthur Turfa

A flurry at the end, but not of snow.
Outside it is in the 60s, rain clouds
heading toward the coast with leftover rain.

Toggling between Dropboxes and grades,
I place the right number in the right column,
then submit before the server stagnates.

Then to the tediousness of all those
grades and attendance files, along with my
personal reflection, semi-caustic.

And so it ends, not in a bang, not in
a whimper. Pandemic semester fades
into the past with two paychecks to go.

Poem 14 / Day 14

Casserole / by Jordan Crook

I was trying to set the weight down
on paper the weight soaking through
like water
like grief
Trying to sing the song I knew
from Sunday school the song sounds
like crystal
like cracks
Tried listening until the silence overwhelmed
all those voices coming at me silent
like photographs
like memory
In the quiet I watched condensation drip from a pool at the edge of the counter
where you left a frozen casserole found
on the porch with a note that said
25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Seven Years / by Lane Fields

I’m seven years sober, but all I think
of lately is having something to drink.

My fancy craft near beers won’t do the trick—
not even fruity sours or stouts, poured thick

and dark. Not even expensive mocktails,
virgin coladas, sparkling juice. What ails

me can only be cured by alcohol.
Iced teas. Colas and Jack. Frosty and tall

mugs of white ale. I dream in full color:
a giddy stupor, riotous laughter

with friends. We’re all hysterical. Always
a happy drunk in past lives, but these days

the urge comes with sadness. Too much to do
with work and school. Quarantine blues

drag me down. Then I remember the last
time I drank: Twenty-four, alone. My best

friend, alive but lost in drugs, and I stopped
speaking just before. I went to Green’s, dropped

forty dollars on booze, and drank until
I blacked out. Woke up, body wracked with chills.

I told myself, Never again. I had
forgotten that night so quickly. It’s sad

to think I’d miss drinking. I shake my head,
kiss my girlfriend, and grab a Coke instead.

WHEN STEVIE RAN OVER THAT LITTLE KID / by B. Fulton Jennes

who ran out from between parked cars on a side street
in Rensselaer—sustained massive head injuries, died
on the spot—we weren’t inclined to pity his bad luck.

That damned blue car had terrorized our quiet road
ever since Stevie turned 18, got his first job delivering
Freihofer bread, spent every nickel on a Camaro RS,

two white stripes like parallel skids marks down the hood,
each headlight a tri-slitted eye, the macho engine crooning
a baritone thrum as Stevie drove by, flaunting a boastful

smile, then transmuting to a shrill complaint when Stevie
floored it, showing off. He’ll kill someone with that car of
his one of these days, my mother predicted. And sure enough.

It didn’t make any difference when the police investigators
reported that Stevie was barely breaking the speed limit.
We all played the scene in our minds our own way:

sunny afternoon, Sunday, cars parked bumper to bumper
on Green Street, everyone home watching the game,
lasagna baking in the oven or maybe pork roast, Mom

in her apron, clattering things in the kitchen, then the wind
picks up, like just before the aliens land in a B movie, and
Stevie smiles at how good it all is, how lucky, how fine.

A Break / by Mario Kersey

I rebound like a basketball during the Finals,
But I can’t change my trajectory with his hands
Around me, and that’s what my dad complains about
Every time I call mom with tears and snot on my face.
That disembodied voice of dad is there whenever I
Find someone cute, and I show dominance, and date the guy.
So busy being independent, I can’t see the liberties
Taken, to my detriment, in each new relationship.
He smiles as I sip tepid coffee from this morning.
He would make a good distraction while I work
Through my problems about men, but I hear
Dad’s voice again like Marlon Brando in Superman.
I decide to wait for a few weeks before I ask him out
As I hear distant thunder, or was that dad’s dissatisfaction.

FOSTER HOME / by John Mungiello

Little tree—little tree we dress
Up to make pretty.

I’m sorry we thought you needed
To be dressed to have a place

In our house—in your corner.
Little tree—weighed down by our memories.

I wish we could have seen
That you were already pretty—

No assembly required—now
Listen—ask me, and I will take you back

To your folks, but I don’t know
If they’ll be waiting

Where you once stood
In the earth—

Because Christmas isn’t so easy
When your roots go missing.  

What Plagues / by Carson Pytell

Antonius Block is back, vexed,
wishing only for more war,
more murder. It makes more sense.
One cannot gut the wind
much as one might want to.

All there is now is the game,
the opponent he cannot quite beat
because it hides in the harrowed heart.
So he slams his fists on the board
and spirits the revenant gone.

Then Jöns approaches,
asks who that fellow was –
he’s never seen him before –
and duly turns and skips away,
masticating wild strawberries
before Block even answers.

Thoughts in December 2020 / by Arthur Turfa 

It is all part of this season of life,
The confusion, fear, everywhere you go,
No respite can we find from all the strife.

Harsh words that cut deeper than any knife.
Spoken by people who really don’t know.
It is all part of this season of life.

Arguing amongst friends, husband and wife,
Punches landing beneath the belt so low,
No respite can we find from all the strife.

These days is misinformation so rife,
So many people their ignorance show.
It is all part of this season of life

The madman plays wildly on his fife,
and his minions follow, blindly they go
No respite can we find from all the strife.

So many dangers have come to this life.
if only the tempo would become slow.
It is all part of this season of life.
No respite can we find from all the strife.

Poem 13 / Day 13

Untitled / by Jordan Crook

I tried writing into the white space,
the gaps spackled and sanded smooth,
everything primed and painted,
smells crisp as the lines
where the tape peels away.
But the issue is the white space
the way it soaks up the shadows
until even the ink fades,
the vowels and consonants blending
into the margins, off the page.

Esculent Synonyms / by Gabe Gomez

An atmosphere eats at the corners
Of the photograph consuming
Its silver from the outside until it
Disappears, presumably, after
My own death where exterior
Teeth will eat away at my center
There’s weather coming over Raton
Pass that will extend my travel plans
That I didn’t want in the first place
Everything is out loud except
For that enormous draw of
Breath that defines my mornings
In my attempt to eat my way out
Of the world as it sleeps

PHILATELY / by B. Fulton Jennes

When our father had us gather
around a dusty stamp collection
resurrected from a footlocker left
unopened since high-school days,
did I feign interest too well
while my sisters rolled their eyes
and sighed at this newest attempt
at father-daughter bonding?

All I know is this:

the following Saturday he handed me
a booklet Stamp Collecting for Fun
and had me sit beside him at the table
the entire afternoon, inspecting stamps
from the Weimar Republic, Repubblica
Social Italiana, Austria-Hungary—places
long-since disbanded, people long-since
dead, birds beautiful but extinct. Did I see
how stamps capture history, geography,
the spirit of an age? And, not incidentally,
they might pay my way to state college.

That last bit of news caught my mother’s
ear, and for years afterwards, she saved
every stamp that came in the mail, tore
them from envelopes like succulent meat
ripped from closest to the bone, saved them
for me in a bulging shoebox strapped with
a red headband and stowed under her desk.

For years I spent hours of ennui adhering
bits of pinked-edge paper to album pages,
longing to be anyone or anywhere else.
Eventually, I left for college, liberated at last
from upholding the pretense of a passion
everyone seemed to think was perfect for me.

Yet something of it remains. My eyes
still fall to the upper right-hand corner
of each envelope that arrives, hoping
for color, art, something outrageous
like one country’s claim to be uber alles.
But mostly what appears is the mono-
chrome promise “Presorted First Class,”
enabling a calendar from the insurance guy
to arrive for the holidays, bills to appear,
fat envelopes to spill wads of coupons
for air duct cleaning, microbladed eyebrows,
junk luggers—but no hand-written note
from an aging aunt in Xenia, who wanted
to ensure my collection was complete with
the new six-cent Walt Disney from 1968.

A Matter of Transition / by Mario Kersey

The only language I had was her body.
This confession was spoken aloud to no body.

There were those internal dialogues
Which filled my mind with words said by everybody.

I know no one to share in my melancholy,
For who would wish to share with a nobody?

I perched on stools in familiar places
Trying to behave like I was a somebody.

Eventually, I emancipate from my cramped prison,
So I can travel freely away from this tired body.

BIRD WATCHING / by John Mungiello

Bel vedere / by Arthur Turfa

She shimmers as she rises from the rill,
light bringing each water drop to color

before following the contours of her
symmetry downward to the cool waters.

For a moment she pauses, completely
in harmony with all that surrounds her:

slender leafy trees, green bushes,  flowers
of all hues, offering sweetness to bees.

In her eyes dreams-to-be-realized, and
a thousand songs in her heart waiting

for voice to render them to melody.
I call her name; she hastens towards me.

Poem 12 / Day 12

Layover / by Gabe Gomez

I’m too tired to ask for directions
Ask for food or a toothbrush or pen
Squint the digital list of flights
Then origami sleep on benches

Saint of beautiful non-related things
Restless planes plunging from the sky into
Pirouette: waiting, yoga pants, duty free

When am I?
American. Non-Bianary. Biased.

I am
Broken English
Loose Leaf
Manufactured Air
Imperfect Light
Stainless River

MY FATHER DUG A POND / by B. Fulton Jennes

He wasn’t one to follow through on big plans:
his bomb-shelter schematics still sat unopened
beside to his lounge chair long after Krushchev
died; the photo of a pirate-ship playhouse clipped
from Life magazine only left his desk drawer to cajole
disorderly daughters to behave; cardboard cartons
filled with tiles for his wife’s dream kitchen sprouted
mold in the dirt-floored basement he vowed to pave.

But when a walk to our brook led him past a spring
burbling robustly one spring thaw, he saw a pond
stocked with trout for fishing, covered with ice in winter
to keep children outside, away, skating, a cheapskate
alternative to trips to Crystal Lake Beach, where kids
were charged fifty cents—highway robbery!—to swim.

So he called old Tom Cipperley, hired him to excavate
with his big digger for a hundred bucks a day.
The new pond filled quickly: 50 feet wide, three times
as long, six feet deep in the center, with a clay bottom
and water so clean, you could drink while you swam.
My mother fished for eels and fried them; we learned
to skate backwards, face off against boys on center ice;
once, I emerged with an unrelenting leech stuck to my
belly, but even such an ugly assault didn’t keep us away.

For a decade, the pond delighted us all, right down
to the dog. But bad luck beleaguered my father’s best
work: bridge footings sank, a section of elevated highway
collapsed, his youngest daughter smoked pot and ran
with the wrong crowd. And so it was with the pond.
Slowly, its banks were undermined by muskrats and
reclaimed by nature. Rains carried excavated dirt bac
to where it began. Willows gave way, their submerged
branches growing shocks of green algae hair. The pond
grew smaller each passing year until nothing remained

but a spring that burbles robustly each spring thaw
and memories of a man who, like most, accomplished
very little that time couldn’t erode, dismantle, erase.


A Day at the Beach
/ by Mario Kersey

The sand is sharp with crunchy shells
Wedged like colorful bits of fruit in a Christmas cake.

The sting of the hot sand makes you forget
The dead fish handshake that should have been a kiss.

The quiet moments together where the air,
Stale with regret and spent excuses,

Irritated you with its stickiness
As your shirt clung to you as he once did.

The ocean water recedes back into itself
Forming a foamy train you won’t catch.

The beach is the cathedral where you divorce
The future you wanted for a chance at another.

His mother still loves you despite his emancipation,
And you return home with another sea to tread.

DEAD / by John Mungiello

Elegies are proof lives end in commas,
Pray the body attempts to feel a record of
Another minds attempt to record a feeling of

Boy, look up and see Dad, Daddy, Father,
Of Girl, lookup and see Mom, Mommy, Mother,

Swing between garden, and god, and gravel,
Swing between garden, and It, and gravel,

He sat, bearing witness in the dark as
Cotton cried instead of his eyes,

He pressed into bent wood, up and back out again
Latching into his skin, ten oaken leaches.

He, unable to touch, the taste of fruit—
Them, moon made a prisoner of us all,

No poetry among roaring, mouths,
Elegies are proof lives end in commas. 

Reflection(s) / by Carson Pytell

What I see, mostly I cannot.
I exist in foreborn faces and forms,
but live beyond their bars, rusticating
along the old borders of the annexations.

Such coalescence, on bright days,
provides the proverbs that get it past
the malaise of the mash on the bad:

Man is not magnets.
Pray, why do we act like we are?
We are polarized for love.

What questions I ask,
because I ask them,
I find the answers to.

The mad heart pans Parnassian,
sifting with hands equally sated
to find and feel and mind but gravel.
I haven’t yet, but will, find my Tower of Babel.

Recollections of My Younger Self / by Arthur Turfa

For the bicentennial of my place
of birth, events were scattered all around
the winding rivers and forests like some
pebbles cast in the air. Round the newly-
made palisade at Ft. Ligonier I
saw real Indians and pioneers in
feathers and buckskins, red-coated soldiers
too, standing in bright sunlight as once the
real ones did so long before. That is why
history never seemed remote to me;
I remembered the wonder I beheld
and have since sought for it everywhere.

Poem 11 / Day 11

River Song / by Jordan Crook

The river went silent today,
leaving behind no explanation
as you stepped into the water
and it rushed by swift and certain.

And why should it sing for us now?
Now the salmon lie dead in the silt
and the willow sheds, brown and rotten,
into the peaceful still waters.

Let the children rush down to the bank
their mothers deaf to the danger.
Let the priests baptize born again sinners
their prayers echoing, hollow.

Because why should it sing for us now?
Now the men build a bridge over troubles
and the water, clear water, unheard
and unheeded, sweeps silently under.

For Good and All / by Gabe Gomez

On the elegant field
A string of mustangs
Explode as they appear
Discolor the atmosphere
In Kinhin, left hand
Orbits solar plexus
Shining gem empties to sepia
We wander alien plains
Firm abdomen, straight neck
We circuit the earth
Our Spanish doesn’t match
Your opulent pronunciations
Our leg surrenders while another waits
Break onward and I do not
I do not blossom

Six Years Gone / by Mario Kersey

Riding the elevator shiny as a spring day,
Nervous, doubtful, sheepish happiness.
A shroud of fog metastasized in my brain
Dispersing thought of past present future.

She was as beautiful as thunder and just as invisible.
We never named her to the world
Just an inchoate thought floating
On the periphery of yesterday.

There is irony in the growth of emptiness
Between humans yoked with matrimony.
The distillation of passion is naked responsibility
Because it’s your job to get it done.

There never were little feet running
Bare across hardwood or linoleum
Just hearts calcifying into husks
To strong to beat with love.

FROM THE ROOM OF AN UNKNOWN GIRL / by B. Fulton Jennes

We were told to take anything we wanted
from the chattel left behind by a disappeared
family who had rented my aunt’s farmhouse.

They left in a hurry, unable to pay the month’s due,
unwilling to beg my hard-nosed aunt for more time.
The man had killed a son who stepped in to fetch

a can blasted by buckshot during a drunken round
of target shooting; the wife had no teeth and stank.
Losers was Aunt Flo’s unsympathetic assessment,

but I felt sorry for them—especially the girl whose
tiny bedroom reeked of wet plaster, water-yellowed
wallpaper flayed like skin. A tattered quilt of calico

yo-yos promised pitiable warmth to the dank room;
and atop a listing chest of dressers I saw my prize:
a cheap snow globe, filled with water and wonder.

Inside, two skaters: a top-hatted man in long,
buttoned coat and a woman, clad in fur-trimmed
finery, coat, bonnet, and muff. Shaken, the globe

filled with a whirling squall from which the skaters
slowly emerged, the man’s sure hand still guiding
his companion through a circle of frosted eternity.

Raised in a house of clamor and clout, I longed
to glide in that world of gentle hands and hushed lips,
to meet the absent girl there in silence, stasis,

away from the colossal hands that shook our worlds.
I took the snow globe with me, coddled its fragility
for years, knowing how easily tender things break.

AMERICAN DREAM / by John Mungiello

There is always a light on the floor
Waiting. Too slick to be picked
Up by scaling fingers—
Them, rolling to chase that toy—

Hope on a string.
Who is pulling—
Leading me further away from the bed
We share—the warm bed we share.

How happy I was to close
My eyes in sync with
Yours. Drooping,   Yes for sure.
We die a little each night.

At the same time, off
Into another liquid world—
So easy it is to sleep—to slip on linoleum sheets,
But the hurt is worse when I wake

Every morning to Check a box
That tells them—
I am here—Doing their bidding—
Being led astray by a prank. 

The Scale Says Things / by Carson Pytell

(Inspired by a prompt from notebookingdaily.blogspot.com and thereby eligible for publication at sparkedlitmag.com)

Jesus, you cow.
The bathroom scale says
I outweigh a bale of hay
thanks to chips, that bread
and all the Vienna sausages.

It’s not that I’m fishing
for compliments or even
companionship, but that
those who take good care
of themselves often take
even better care of their
loved ones. I’d like to be loved.

But I’m fat. Gnats don’t bother
me in that even they know
I’m a goner. Maybe more wheat,
more fiber, protein, less carbs,
and I’d be fit to be controlling.

You know, that’s just how
relationships go. Opposites
do attract, and attraction
is hard to ignore. Shyness
needs direction like flies
to piles of feces, and directors,
well, they direct like the wind.

Maybe, if I had been an actor,
I could crash diet, I could thin
out and, truly, thin my way into
love by beautiful girls who are
really that beautiful, but ideally
to those who see beauty where
that beauty sees itself repulsive.

My sausage, my bale, my cow,
tell me honestly what it is about
you that I couldn’t do without.

Adventsmarkt in Würzburg / by Arthur Turfa

Fifteen Decembers ago
separated from those I love,
facing a hollow Advent/Christmas,

comfort sought I near the sea
of bright lights surrounding
the Marienkappele, aswirl

in color, aromas of baked goods
and sausages. By Glühwein warmed,
enraptured by familiar music sung and played,

on a cold Franconian night thinking of years
gone by and about my new home. Solace I
found , solace tendered to other now possible.

Only the lights of ambulances and police
cars illuminate the silent city in this somber
December. Memories console, hope inspires.

Poem 10 / Day 10

Trimester / by Jordan Crook

The coppery taste of a split lip
offers another sign of the state
I’m in come daybreak

Waking thirsty, the best I can
manage is stale water
and wax balm from a beehive

Blood and honey aside
I’m overwhelmed by the smell
of indoors

Bewildered by the speed
of optic nerves
and attachment

Now I Float Away Like Honey in the Sun / by Lane Fields
title after Tim Buckley

I’m not much like I used to be, my girl
days like distant shadows, lost wraiths trailing.
I never had an accent to lose, but
if I did, it would have been jewel-toned, sun-

honeyed. My voice is thin, vocal cords stretched
like so many miles behind. But further
on up ahead, I will sing anew: full-
throated, unapologetic, complete.

OBLIVIOUS TO TRANSIENCE / by B. Fulton Jennes

In the boondock towns east of Albany,
people stayed put all their lives, as fixed
as posted signs nailed to trees or well points

sunk to 300 feet. Oblivious to transience,
we knew nothing of the local farm hands,
of their aproned wives and barn-raised kids,

although I knew of one such girl at school:
Sally, who bore the fetor of fresh manure
and smiled with black-edged second teeth.

We mocked her on the playground, ex-
cluded her from our ruleless running games,
bellowed pee-yew whenever she came near.

Once during our deriding, Sally paused,
hands on hips, chin raised, and declared:
Someday you’ll wish you had a friend.

But I won’t be there. We guffawed, of course—
although her conviction dimmed our espirit
and, chastened, we played together less often.

One morning on the school bus, no one awaited
at Sally’s stop. The weary farmhouse at the top
of her dirt drive stood dark and void of motion:

no laundry flapping its bleached wings, no hound
gnawing a bone at the farthest reaches of its chain,
no sign of the girl with a single, unstarched cotton

dress, blonde hair hanging in strings. No one
knew where Sally’s family went. No one cared.
And yet, almost 60 years later, I remember

how fervently her plump mother waved goodbye
as Sally boarded the bus, how mournfully
the hound bayed at her each and every parting.

Loving Her / by Mario Kersey

I’m not always clear on the obvious.  I am full of warts
            I’m fine; those warts are all worry and no pain.

I remember once thinking about worry like a net of hook worms
            forming together as if commanded by Tarzan or Dr. Doolittle,
but I am digressing like my junior year psych teacher.

I’m thinking about her, and the love she brings
            like perfectly cut scones with fresh butter and marmalade.

She is resolute in her direction with faith as her guide.
            In the back seat of an Uber, we let the driver do the work.

Like two planets too close together, there are eruptions
            that quake within us to release the magma of our ardor.

The old pictures recall a simpler time when love birthed letters
            of affection without the burden of responsibility.

Loving her today holds the promise of greater obstacles
            but more reasons to never leave,

Allowing new worries to populate the empty spaces
            where love doesn’t fit.

FIRST SNOW / by John Mungiello

The window shows me
Everything. I give it nothing,
But a reflection. Half present—
Wrapped into what I was born
To be by some other man. By
Some other lady who said, “call me love”.
I thought we had to earn what we get, so
Tell me how to live. I can ease your dying
By force. With my arms
Let them knot till the pain pops
In my brain. On a slab they will
Unfold each lobe to find
The word that killed me_______.
I will not die by suicide, but by my own hands
Slowly disappearing, like the wet stain on this glass
Blocking the front yard. I am in
Every snowflake inevitably forming
Into a storm. I am the one
Melting, hydrating the corners
Nobody thought to mark  
With a name_____________

The Storm (or Why I Am a Painter Too) / by Carson Pytell

It is a painting,
not by anyone famous,
but I nearly stopped writing
its poem because of what it said.

One flaky, strand board panel,
no background color at all,
just tailed dots facing one way
like sperm cells or meteors,
crowded, overlapping, fighting;
white, baby blue, grey, black.

It made me realize Mallarmé
wasn’t exactly right, that
arts are synergistic, and
that I’m a painter too.

A Choice To Be Made / by Arthur Turfa

In that half hour between
daytime and evening I
treasure the light even more.

While the soft light shimmers
into blackness, I hasten
to do what things I can.

Soon the light will last
the shortest time of the
year. But instead of railing

against the enshrouding
darkness, I choose to receive
the light that will last longer.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Cabinets / by Jordan Crook

We talk new cabinets on a Tuesday night
while I run hot water from the faucet
and you lean lazily on the upright piano
we use as a makeshift island.

We talk shaker style in pewter gray
and our stocking feet leave tracks
in the sawdust that we haven’t swept
since your parents left on Sunday.

We talk dreams and cabinets,
and draw dimensions out on napkins
as cold air blows in through the heat vents
and the hot water goes cold in the sink.

Twin Streams / by Lane Fields

I dreamt about the surgery again,
holy mastectomy, gentle arc

of mirror-image wounds: twin
streams running, confluence

at my sternum, delta of heart below
the surface, opening and clenching

like a fist; seams held together with blue
dissolving stitches and medical tape,

bloody riot under my inelastic skin,
every breath a bruise; all fat

and tissue in a red bag for the lab, all
beauty exhumed, excised; my body

crying out for joy, or for IV drugs, or
for my mother; my trans body,

a prophecy fulfilled, from possible
to promise.

Terroir / by Gabe Gomez

These diameters of earth have been stomped upon
For centuries and no matter the manhandling
That accompanied its remains, a balance of elements
Laugh continually; temperatures drafted from the sea
Lime, water, aperture of sloping hills, are what they please
And yet the rows of fruit lay paragraphed in uniform syntax
Lettering specks in precise height against the gnarled root
Thrusting Chamberlain bouquets skyward
Dominion, or sex maybe, caused the urge for structure
Bugled in our blood at rut to pierce our knives
Of fruiting spurs to open the flower in control
Only slightly and coerce an image of wine from the
Terroir, protect her from danger, close her off
From our eyes and mouths as we drink

Man Hair / by Mario Kersey

When I was a baby, I had good hair
Shiny, curly like I had some Indian or Caucasian
In me which is probably true but time and kindergarten
Dried my hair, made it nappy like regular black folks
Which was the disappointment of my family.
No white person ever said anything about hair
Just the people who are supposed to be my guardians;
They did hide their daggers for my scalp
Bathed in the honey of Johnson and Johnson
On Sunday nights before bed unable to wash away my nappy.
No Rio to relax my hair onto the floor or Dark and Lovely
To burn my scalp ‘cause I scratched without anyone noticing.
I keep it all off until I find some courage lying around
To grow it out with my nappy happy so I can
Get back to my roots.

MY MOTHER’S RAGE EXCEEDS THE SPEED OF SOUND / by B. Fulton Jennes

(with notes from NASA Armstrong Fact Sheet: Sonic Booms and What Happens When an Aircraft
Breaks the Sound Barrier?, Scientific American, 3.11.2002)

As the speed of the object increases…sound waves begin to pile up in front of the object / Sister, sister
—please beware! Eat your bread crusts. Comb your hair.

If the object has sufficient acceleration, it can burst through this barrier / Can’t you see her mood is
black? Soon there’ll be no turning back.

The change in pressure as the object outruns the…sound waves in front of it is heard on the ground as
an explosion / Too late now, her sights are set: “Brats deserve the pain they get.”

When a plane exceeds the speed of sound it is said to be supersonic / Bookbag strap with metal clasp.
You can’t exorcise her grasp.

When the object has passed over the observer, the…Mach waves radiate toward the ground, causing a
sonic boom /Pleas and curses vie for clout but then the first crack drowns them out.

The intensity of the boom is greatest directly below the flight path and decreases on either side of it / 
I beg stop but she can’t hear: fury’s howl congests her ears.

Anything exceeding the speed of sound creates a sonic boom…an airplane, a bullet, or the tip of a
bullwhip…all produce a crack / Now she’s weeping at her sin—an even more abhorrent din.

This pressure change created by the sonic boom can be quite damaging / Sister, come, we’ll soothe
your pain and pray the breach won’t tear again. 

Morning Check List / by John Mungiello

Impossibility of Adolescence / by Carson Pytell

What it is about youth
which is most tragic
is not getting old
nor staying young –

you are young
then you are old,
like a cat or a dog.
So be it : Let it be

– the tears come commensurate
to how terrible it is to waste
and how we all do it just
because we were all so young.

A Thought On One of Those Days / by Arthur Turfa

She’s never far away when A Thouthe walls
close in a little, or when fog creeps

over the path I am on. Her eyes seek
the brightness that follows the storm,

the calm waters after the waves race
by, the scents of freshness after the rain.

She’s never far away. That why I
continue  to dream, continue to live.

Nottingham / by Victoria-Melita Zammit

For a moment
I felt the world
convene in a space
that felt alive with the pressure
of dozens
of young minds

enraptured
in the words
of like-minds.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Process / by Jordan Crooks

7:10 and all the stanzas have been abandoned. So nothing rhymes this time, thank God, and there are no metaphors. No clever breaks or turns. I mean it very literally when I say I left the vacuum running and the stereo on, to drown all the poetry out. See, I’ve been carrying a lemon around the house all day, hoping for a sweet line to prove a point, but everything is coming out pulpy and sour, my mouth puckering around the sounds. To prove a point. So I’m waiting patiently for the fuse to blow and silence to fall. 

Galley Proofs / by Gabe Gomez

 I follow the same ten steps to make coffee
Every morning; equal to the amount
Of steps I take to drink and stare at the
Interstate 400 yards from my window
Hours and days replay and forget

We are in the galley proofs of days
Self-improvement, reading thicker books
Meditation, smaller portions of food
Unpacking and repacking until we
Stand threadbare, naked, mirror
Waiting for the day to re-end
Sleep and break through

On Ye / by Mario Kersey

“George Bush hates black people”
But give it time you will, too.
The loss of maternity threw
Your orbit with sanity slightly
Off and you have these fits and starts.
Both polar caps are melting
Like ice cream on new asphalt,
But we believe in you because
You’re a genius, what’s wrong with
Calling a black man a genius?
How does that upset the balance
Of power if a black creative expends
Energy creating art that makes one think?
Does he think anymore or just team player
With other agents of chaos?
Enemy of the state? Judas of black people?
Making America Great for white life matters
But we forgive you because you have mental
Health issues and we can’t cancel your subscription.
Can’t keep up with your cars dashin’ down a road to hell
While every statement is a political debate
Using too much oxygen as the country burns
Waiting on snail mail to move democracy forward.

CLOVEN / B. Fulton Jennes

The hunter made himself known at dawn—
six quick shots, a pause, then two more—
so close the shock waves hammered the glass
of the window over my head. I rose with a curse,

sure of the target: a young buck, eight-pointer,
regular sight at the periphery of our activity
this past summer, calm-eyed, clearly curious
about the way of our world. One would look up

and see him in the oblique light of a late afternoon,
just beyond the farthest fringe of the lawn.
But he also visited at night, purging my gardens
of yellow daylilies and purple coneflowers,

spurning the orange impatients I’d planted as a ruse.
Alerted by instinct that hunting season approached, 
he disappeared when only Joe Pye and redbeckia
flowered in the garden and the leaves began to turn.

My husband saw him just days ago, standing at the edge
of the woods behind the house, alert but not ill at ease,
as if weighing the unknown danger before him and the
known ones behind to weigh which bore greater risk.

This morning, he had his answer. And while I wept
noiselessly over coffee, alone at a cold table,
choking the urge to charge into the woods, wild-eyed
and ill-clad, to confront the shooter whose final

two shots spoke to me with such vile conceit,
I saw how the world is divided into halves—
black and white, fire and ice, attracting and repelling,
but cloven for a reason, like the perfect hooves of deer.

EVICTION / by John Mungiello

I cradled a screen: licked
With my eyes like
a tongue that tastes the

The body of our Father on
Sunday. Four people,
Characters to me. Sent
To the street.

I tried to be gentle, after all
The picture was of a child—
A mom in the background—
Head in knee. They wait
In a church
For a drink and
A place
To rest the weight.

Let’s take it back to the beginning.
            Let me set the scene:
Arizona- Hot in the winter

Cast:

Constable- Masked man in cowboy hat
Mom-Evicted growing hotter, nurse
Daughter-Evicted getting colder, kid
Landlord- Lording over. Blank expression.

Act One: Knock at the door.
They were led by police
Down the steps, just hours ago
Were marked by their footprints—
The light etched in
“Welcome.”

That same matt they scraped
Pretending a murderer was on the loose.
Jangling the keys, a fake drop or two would get
Daughter jumping. So much joy in a pretend killing and

Just before the ax hand could come down
Mom opened the door. Both would
Fall into the safety of this nest made of sticks,
Like the birds that once sung on the rooftop.

Cut ahead,
Door shuts behind their heads dressed
In a t-shirt with a TARGET® on their backs.
Daughter holds a monkey. Wraps him
In Easter Sunday’s best pastel
Blankets; would have been her brothers if he made it.

They walk down diagonal—
down
            To what—
Where?
            A car—
Abandoned barn?
            Grandma’s house?

Grandma kicked it weeks ago
House torn down. The frame left
Turned into a mansion.
And yes, wherever they go they will walk
On two feet leaving behind shadows.
For a while, they called them memories.

Stage lights out.
House breaks down.

Cut.

Scene 2

Another cast enters stage left

Mom two-?
Daughter two-?

Four walls erected. White walls
Actors hold knees to elbows
In a bed. In a home. Owners
For now. Mom Two says to Daughter Two
“You’re safe and sound.”

1

2

3

Action. 

Aphorisms (and maybe a joke) too true to ever be popular / by Carson Pytell

Life’s mostly figuring out how to be bored.
There’d be a little less murder if we didn’t have guns.
Believe in heaven, that way all you’ve gotta do is die.

To find oneself is only to get used to oneself.
Most of everything you’ll ever say is nothing.
It would be lucky and apt to die on the toilet.

What do you call a pessimist who tried optimism?
Dead.

Morning and Mid-Day at Ninety Six Historical Park / by Arthur Turfa

In bright sunlight, slight crispness in
the air we two cousins walked on the paths

around the siege works and earthen fort. Two
of the ten born to our grandparents, half of

us moving south at one point or another,
he and I detour through the woods onto the

Old Augusta Road. Memories and filling-in-the-
blanks of family history interspersed with signs

about the siege, when colonials took arms against
each other. Hardwoods in autumn splendor, the

scent of tall pines in the air: the day is pleasant.
At the Old Stockade we linger, speaking of the

current national division the October, our votes
already cast. Chatting with another visitor, the

excursion ends and I wonder if another siege will
spoil these pleasant fields and hills again?



Poem 7 / Day 7

I Have No Poem As Lovely As My Name Written On Sack Lunches My Mother Made / by Jordan Crook

A poem being mostly it’s context
what could be more than a brown
paper bag soggy from a frozen
oatmeal creme pie
defrosted by lunchtime
so everything broke through
the place where your name was written
in black ink just below the fold.

I try more often to right poems
than write them, meaning I’ve attempted
packaging my poems in reusable
plastic sacks, insulating lines
in mini-coolers, and re-heating metaphors
in microwave-safe Pyrex.
I have fragmented meter
between compartments of shiny metal
bento boxes and poured words
hot and thick into thermoses.
And yes, I have skipped poems altogether
to sit with the hunger.

But there is only the poem of
the satsuma and fruit snack,
the oatmeal creme and saran-
wrapped smashed peanut butter
and banana sandwich scattered
on the desk because
the brown paper bag grew damp,
breaking above my name blurred
where the ink ran.

Eternal Return / by Lane Fields

A body has its seasons, infinite; my boy
body reset the clock, turned back the hours

chosen for me when I was a girl; time
demands a sacrifice, so I gave blood and

elegiac flesh; o beauty, scar over my offering as
fire scars the earth: excoriated, tattooed;

gratitude adorns my new skin, refulgent,
heavenly; my body lives somewhere

interstitial, between water and land, borders
just halfway, just; my body keeps its

knowledge somewhere in its back pocket; my body, still
luteal, holds children possible in its fertile

memories; my body is unlocked, trembles at the endless
now; my body bursts forth in a rush

of irrepressible green; I once took a lover into all of me,
perfected by their tender blade, cut to the

quick; I shattered my defenses while my beloved took
refuge in my chest, a hundred halls of echo, nerves

severed and rebuilt; when I was a girl I couldn’t talk about
the burning but now there is an insurgent flame,

unyielding, making up the whole of me; once, to soothe my
violent, jealous husband, I drank down spring

water bittered by herbs until I was emptied; I was born not for
xeric landscapes but floodplains; I bore the weight of girlhood, but

years after the wounding I have learned the reasons, the folly of
zero-sum thinking; my body is an eternal return, a beginning—

Real Estate / by Gabe Gomez

We hid(e) from the immovable
                Knowing they were

We hid(e) others in compartments
                Drilled out of cars

We hid(e) from those before us
                Afraid of the sentence

We hid(e) months at a time
               Felt seasons through walls

We hid(e) in plain sight
               Like weather

We hid(e) from ourselves
               We were too old to run

We hid(e) in our devices
               Cupped in our hands

We hid(e) in street light
                 Where we stay

THE APOCRYPHA OF MONKS AND MOTHERS / by B. Fulton Jennes

Bodhidharma,
descendent of Buddha,
sat and meditated
seven years,
sat unblinking,
gazing at a cave wall,
sat wakeful until,
unbidden,
sleep befell him,
whereupon
the bearded Brahmin
drew his knife
and sliced off
his own eyelids.

Two years more,
the monk wall gazed,
emptied of self,
still as snow,
eyes wide.
Then, atrophied
arms and legs
fell from his body
like petals shed
by a finished flower.

Tell these tales
to a bona fide mother
and hear her scoff:
How to hang
laundry on the line
with no arms
to lift and pin?
Chase the damned
coyote, prized pullet
in its jaws, with no
legs to kick its ribs?
Survive nine
cave-cold years
with no eyelids
to trammel tears
because nobody
but nobody
gets to see
Mama cry.

I, COUNTRY / by John Mungiello

It comes with ice and theft
Of birds who escape to
—let’s just say—
A more compassionate climate.
Where their beaks can crow in open space.

Like a train whistle, which
Would drive anyone to sleep.
Wide awake in the morning, we bump up
With each rain ping scanning the windowpane.

Once, I loved America
Like a dog loves the heat
It needs to birth a baby  
That will scratch its back. Care
For its keep. This land was holy.

Full of holes where trees assembled.
Out there, over black lead, black sweat.
That will not grow from the ground.
That Cannot show their color—
their particular tint until
They prepare for bad weather.

Storm shatters the glass.
Icicles sprinkle the carpet.
It’s raining inside and I know that
All worlds will land flat.

And I know there is only one place
To end a sentence.
Either here or there.
Where black meets grey, meets white,
And again, color comes with day and night,

And again, we can be the conductors
of our own story. Genetics aside,
“I” can never be a country
That I call mine, and

Then I will love America
After we thaw the ice. 

Where Home Is / by Carson Pytell 

There’s no such displeasure
as waking up anywhere but home,
yet no greater liberty than
deciding just where that will be.

One evening, in my friend’s dad’s
G37x, we stopped at the atm quick
so we had enough cash for popcorn,
soda and candy on top of ticket money.

We parked in the back of the multiplex
and got high before the movie, which sucked.
Or maybe it sucked only because of what
we saw just as soon as we exited the car.

A homeless man in a mid-90’s murder van
had both slide doors open and was pissing
right into the parking lot. Before he saw us
and almost caught his cock in those doors,

I glimpsed an old captain’s chair tucked in back,
an end table holding a full ashtray and neat brown
drink just next to it, and a Bakelite radio nestled on top
of a stack of newspapers, playing something jazzy.

The movie was a comedy, something with names
but no substance. I just couldn’t stop thinking about
how my friend loved it, and how we’d get high again,
then drunk on iced Ketel One before I slept over at his place.

View Through Bare Branches / by Arthur Turfa 

How often have we walked these roads
spreading around our house. Summers
following the shade during those
humid afternoons, in autumn
admiring the red-yellow
of leaves in their final glory.
Magda the Chocolate Lab and
I venturing out twice daily
since the pandemic rendered my
gym unsafe. We enjoy the sights
and scents of the subdivision,
still heavily-wooded after
a generation of houses.

Lately through the bare branches I
see more of the Little Saluda,
sunlight reflecting off of the
water flowing into the lake.

Along oft-travelled paths seeing
something new I wonder how much
I have missed familiar
routes and responsibilities

I tug at Magda’s leash and bring
her next to me to continue
our course, watching as the swift deer
pass before us on their own ways.

Stein / by Victoria-Melita Zammit

You, handsome woman,
your eyes so sharp
they saw talent
before it sprouted;

Who knew a pen
better than most;

Who loved
so greatly
you wrote a book about her

Were reduced
to ‘companion’
by men.

Poem 6 / Day 6

Week 12 / by Jordan Crook

All I want is salt as the fingernails
develop and the cold sets in.

The dark is nauseating now,
like clockwork, if 6 were dark.

We agree we are ripe for distraction
but the world is closed.

The drywall sands down to a fine dust
and settles everywhere.

I scrape, let it build beneath my fingernails
flick my tongue out for a taste.

Soon I will be a moon in the garden.
Soon I will cradle the sunrise.

masc4masc / by Lane Fields

Mise en Place / by Gabe Gomez

It took hours of searching for the correct font
Myriad Pro, BTW, to write that the endangered
Red Wattle pig draws into circles like dogs, their ruby
Hues vary from chemical sunset to craft ale
According to the breeding guide, and I’m quoting,
The sows are excellent mothers, abundant suckling,
Baby lets plump and oily from the spoils
And so the breed is meant for eating and mating
With other heritage pigs to create a kind of
Artisanal beast, and I suppose, to curve the palate
Into thinking that its flavor profile, in its slaughter
There’s an exchange of loss, its knowing for
Knowing our place, our draw of light and moon
Settling under the earth where we grow

Is This Suffering? / by Mario Kersey

The marriage died
And they remain in the carcass
Stumbling over the bones of yesteryear
While the kids choke on the detritus
Of the good old days before they born.

No one notices the necrosis or the stench
Of votives forgotten to the passage
Of routine and the clutter of an imbalanced
Work life that pays just enough
To keep good credit.

What once was one is now a binary
Of loneliness and disappointment
With eccentric orbits that rarely meet
Allowing for new narratives
To form without an audience
To verify if there is a ring of truth.

The First Complete Dissection of the Human Cerebrospinal Nervous System
OR When Harriet Cole Donated Her Body to Science,
Did She Foresee That Death from T.B. Would Not End
the Ways a Man Could Ravish the Temple of Her? / by B. Fulton Jennes

Good Doctor Weaver laid her out
on a steel bed, chipped away her skull,
piece by piece, preserved the brown eyes
still attached to their optic nerves,

sliced away flesh and muscle, tendon
and bone, brandished a fine needle
to tease each nerve from the plaited
spinal cord that once bent over buckets
and brooms in these very rooms,

shrouded each ghostly thread of her
in damp winding cloths until at last
the unseen network of her aliveness—
finally flayed—could be preserved
with white lead paint and tacked
to a blackboard with thousands of pins.

Harriet Cole’s ghost wanders the halls,
stops at Dr. Weaver’s pièce de resistance,
wonders what hobgoblin, this? A fringed
boogeyman with looped fingers and toes,
tree-like cat whiskers, cartoon eyeballs,
glockenspiel ribs, trails of white tears—

then she dusts the curiosity and contemplates
how Ezekiel breathed life into an army
of Israelites in the Valley of Dry Bones.


VALUE / by John Mungiello

I only want to know you’re there by reading the light
You interrupt—shy apart—over and over, cooling
Me till nerve strong. Farther away her shape pulled heat
And left this bloated head empty under shimmering shade. 

Young-ish / by Carson Pytell

Everyone you’ve ever wanted
sleeps vestal in another room,
farther from your failing June
in stainless, safe September

where warm air is the warmer
if because out here it’s cold, and
it’s attentions paid then disregarded
and all the while growing old

like you, just much less sadly.
If they saw your marked face;
pallid pumice by outrun pace,
they’d turn the kids away half gladly.

Annus terriblis / by Arthur Turfa 

A coldness descended over the land
with apprehension gripping at our throats.
Too many unwilling to understand;
treating the danger as very remote.

Like dominoes falling in a row,
our hopes and routines went into thin air.
There were so few places we could go.
Each day heightened our sense of despair.

Of comforts social and spiritual shorn,
we made our own ways as best as we could.
Leadership failed us; we were most forlorn.
So we strove to maintain the common good.

Annus terriblis – dignified the sound!
But may another never come around!

Poem 5 / Day 5

With a Fine Toothed Comb / by Jordan Crook

My fine, dry hairs break off
and form a dreaded nest
among those yellowing teeth.

Like a warbler in a hawthorn.
I mean the way the mouths open
wide to devour what you spit up.

It’s been so long since I pulled
through root to split end
and considered the damage,

since I regurgitated my own history
into the shaky flats of these white palms
and examined the bile.

These things I’ve untangled
a refuge for my hungry, singing
flightless treasures.

Vast / by Lane Fields

The sun breaks bright through
the trees, bound perfectly to
its arc; the light soft

on my face, my scars;
I become the day, wakened.
Once I was a girl

but now I am vast,
naked to my waist, standing
in the half-grown fields.

Collisions / by Gabe Gomez
For T. H.

We sat across from the billionaire and his executive team
At the special guest seminar we’d set up for him and as
Predicted it fell apart almost as soon as it began
Countless meetings, ad hoc committees, and unsolicited advice
On what would impress him enough to commit to a series
Of talks that we would facilitate for his employees
But it was clear that this exercise would only become an
Anecdote for retelling, the idea dying as it exited our mouths
He had plans for collision and creating spaces where this
Type of dialogue would happen naturally if herds of creatives
Entrepreneurs and makers shared spaces. Colored scenarios
Where collaboration would spontaneously erupt
The text that we used for discussion is forgotten
Except for its sweeping ideas of leadership
Chosen, I suppose, to impress upon him the importance
Of taking initiative, pride, and self sacrifice for the greater good
I imagine that the idea appealed to him from afar, and as the seminar
Concluded and the campus tour began, he felt nostalgic for it
We lingered through the nooks of the library, bookstore, dormitories
Where we too thought of collisions and how to transpose one identity
Onto another, it was ours to shepherd but none of it owned to give

MRS. TWEEDY IS AN ATHEIST, SO DON’T SAY A DAMNED WORD ABOUT JESUS TONIGHT / B. Fulton Jennes

my father growled as the three of us tumbled
out of the back of his Beetle, our bare knees
startled by the shameless December air.

That means she doesn’t believe in Jesus
or God or any Christmas stuff, Harriet whispered,
shepherding us up the flagstone steps.

A small bulb beamed from a window overhead
as we waited with latent smiles for the front door
to open, spill its path of honey at our feet.

Mrs. Tweedy was old, lived alone, wore no perfume,
stuffed a lacy handkerchief up one sleeve, studied
our feet for traces of mud. She gathered our coats

and disappeared down a hall. Across the mossy
carpeting: an austere couch, two sober armchairs,
fringed lamps, a handsome man’s photo, framed in gold.

The room smelled of Pledge and lingering sadness.
She motioned for us to sit but took me by the shoulders,
announced We ladies will serve the hors d’oeuvres.

Beyond a heavy swinging door, the kitchen swam
in a sea of fluorescent light. Mrs. Tweedy tied an apron
around my waist, spun me back around, smiled.

The words burst from me, seditious: If you don’t believe
in Jesus, why is there a Christmas light in your window?
And I prayed for God to rapture me right there

from this room, this visit, this childhood, these parents,
from old women who longed for fine men long gone,
from sadness and sorry and please don’t be mad,

from don’t leave the table until you eat every bit,
from why don’t you love me the way you love it,
from wished away pushed away laughed at lost.

Mrs. Tweedy read it all in my eyes, looked into me
like the tiny church on my charm bracelet: peer inside,
you could read the entire Lord’s Prayer, clear as day.

Oh, that little candle stays lit all the time.
It’s there to guide home all the loved ones I’ve lost.
Wouldn’t you like a light to guide you home?

I can’t remember anything else Mrs. Tweedy said,
or the taste of the Cheese Whiz on crackers, what
we drank or didn’t, when he donned our coats to go.

But driving back over the Hudson, I pushed my face
against the cold glass and saw a million-million lights
dancing on the water, each a candle, each one calling.

Black Q-Tip / by Mario Kersey

Sunlight can touch the soil in the rainforest
So, I don’t have a problem with the light
Cutting through my canopy. But I
Keep hearing my dad say “look a little thin”
Like I’m vain about my hair since
I live bald by choice but sometimes
I want to grow it out while standing in the shower
Waiting for the conditioner to work its magic
Then be annoyed after I get dressed only
To have some drops of water drip onto my dress shirt
Knowing damn well I had wrapped my head and
Furiously dried minus the dragon breath of a blow dryer.
A mini fro, black crown, weighing my head down
With its softness, the wife complains about my
Case of hirsutism which doesn’t suit her
But it’s okay I don’t comment on her locks
That keep her chained in someone’s chair
For hours while the three asks “when’s mommy coming home?”

ELECTION EVE / by John Mungiello

Your teeth plant a sign,
“The rest of you, eat me”
When caught in the ricochet
The motion is easy.
Plant a weed.
His design can’t grow a thing alive.
“Pull the cord,” you start to sing.
Of the world about to crack a pinhead
Hanging from plastic cobwebs.
Angels eat string.
You walk barefoot
From bus stops
Delivering letters that asked
“Come back.”
Rake in your back.
Each leaf breaks your hands.
Car lots explode in smoke—used—
Disintegrating, as to the dead leaves in your sac.
A pumpkin laughs at the kids crossing.
Clean up the mess again.  
Yesterday brings no glory.
In one place you slip
In someone else’s shoes
Too tight the lace to tie
Honestly, can you afford to not own
One more pair, broken down by your own feet?
If not, leave them bare.
Let your heels split and keep you straight
Standing on your own concrete
Clean: without dixie cup scatter,
Flag confetti and a banner.
No more banners.
No more landlords.
No more flags so fat you can’t see your little boys’ shoulders bearing bird
Shit on the name you think will knock up a new morning.

I wish I could unlock your fence.
Let you out
To run again.
To bark again.
To play again.

In open fields,
Believing, as you did before
In no sides.
No side you always told me
Was the only side and
Must be pronounced properly.

“Boy, it’s called hue-manity.”

L’appel du vide / by Carson Pytell 
for a poet I’ve never read.

To be drunk always is
never having to be sober.
The blood runs saccharine.

When I was young, yet not
enough to justify doing it,
I loved You and only You.

The only good stories I have I don’t.

Might monodies remember me
that I am, after all, a converso
to Myself, some martyr:

Human is not so bad a thing to be,
so Sisyphus, friend, follow me.
Let go. It’s halfway quixotic. 

Idyll / by Arthur Turfa 

Along the banks of the stream let us
walk, the sweet grasses still dew-laden,

the morn still fresh with promise and
wonder. Arms around each other’s

shoulders, our pace as slow as the
gentle current nearby. From the trees

the sound of birds calling to one another,
We stop talking and listen to their music.

By the laurel we stand for a moment, you
resting against the trunk while I play

with you hair. I feel your hand on mine
as you lead me to the tall grass. As

you pull me down we embrace. The
world becomes the stream, your hair

tangled in the grass, as you offer to me
all what are, this moment, this everything.

Poem 4 / Day 4

Urtica dioica / by Jordan Crook

I was aging
and got stung
 
truth is
I’d been waiting
a lifetime afraid
 
so this is it then
 
relieved I stripped
naked and walked
fearless
 
down abandoned
corridors of nettles
 
all their hollow hairs
brushing nerves
forgotten

their blossoms
male and yellow

see I wanted
to walk until I felt
nothing
 
except life and alive
 
and then you
were there and you
were scraping

spores from ferns
to numb the sting

Thirst / by Lane Fields

Light / by Gabe Gomez

I preferred matchboxes with paintings
Printed on one side, a tiny caption
Of the artist’s life, dates between
Life/death, parenthetical to their name
The first Dali I ever saw was used to ignite
A petroleum lantern; Picasso lit my cigarettes
Miro took care of the wood stove
Think of the creative director pitching
The idea; waiting for the day to select
The artwork that would scale best
Dear painter in the bit of smoke
I don’t know what you mean, but
I am your host; the handmade bowl
Under the consommé staring back

OUR MOTHER HAS US BUFF THE FLOOR IN THE DAYS BEFORE SIMONIZ / B. Fulton Jennes

Wrap the rags around your feet,
girls, knot them on tight.
You’re going skating.
Yes, that’s what I said.
Yes, it’s the middle of summer.
Yes, right here in the kitchen.
No, you won’t fall down
like on the ice, so put those
rags on and get going.
That’s it—glide like Sonja Henie.
Who’s Sonja Henie? A skater
from before you were born.
No, I didn’t know her.
Yes, she was pretty.
No, I didn’t skate with her,
I was milking a hundred cows
before breakfast with my sisters,
our brothers off trapping foxes
or working in the fields,
we got up at sunrise and
slaved, that’s why there were
twelve of us, at least until little Jean
died of scarlet fever. They laid
her out on ice on the kitchen
table, had to keep bringing more
blocks from the barn, chop it
in the sink, hottest summer in years.
My father wept like a woman.
He liked babies, especially girls,
had no use for us older,
sold my horse Dickie I bought
with my own money, butchered
my pig, never paid me for either.
Then Albert went off to Hofstra
that fall and died of rheumatic fever,
they thought it was just a bad cold.
Yes, people died a lot then,
the doctor cost money and we
were poor, didn’t have nice
things like you, no nice clothes,
not even shoes, except in winter,
when I got hand-me-downs,
a sister’s, maybe a brother’s,
always too big and worn all to hell.
Yes, I said a bad word. In winter,
we’d wrap our feet in rags—yes,
like you did today—and traipse
through snow, two miles each way
to school. No, there weren’t buses,
only cars you had to crank by hand—
get into those corners! One
slipped and mangled my brother
Frank’s arm, they thought he’d
never feels his fingers again.
Chilly days, spring or fall, we’d
stand in fresh cow plop to warm
our feet—did I tell you to stop?
No, it wasn’t gross, it washed off.
No, we didn’t track it into the
kitchen like you three would,
we’d get whooped with a strap,
my father made us pull down
our underwear, made it hard
to sit for a week, hit the backs
of our knees, too. Yes, he was
mean. Yes, meaner than Daddy.
Yes, the floor is plenty slippery,
just get a good running start.
No, you can’t put on real skates,
you’ll wreck the linoleum.

You see how you buffed the wax,
made it shine like a new penny?
Yes, you did a good job.
Yes, you skate better than Sonja.
No, I don’t want to skate with you,
I’ve got dinner to start,
your father will be home soon.
Yes, we’ll have rice with hard
sauce for dessert tonight.
Yes, that’s the butter-and-sugary stuff.
Yes, you can stop now.
Yes, go outside.
Yes, I’m tired.
Yes. Yes.

Honeymoon Fever / by Mario Kersey

She sits upon my intellect and rational thought
Like some queen of old.

The heat of her body stifles
Them increasing the heat of fantasy and want.

Memory whispers urgent truths,
but I bask in her heat

unwilling to accept cool rationale
leaving the dew of passion’s passing.

Negative Space / by John Mungiello

What a Parasite Would Say / by Carson Pytell 

“I know now what I can offer you that no one else can:
complete and utter dependence!”
– Homer Simpson

My hostess, home,
how often I’ve thought
of hemiparasitism
and passed.

Mistletoe can perform
photosynthesis if it wants,
but I work smarter than hard
and my name belies me.

I blame the haustorium.
It was so easy to grow into you
that I cannot now imagine
how I’d begin to grow out.

And what with the nutrients,
I couldn’t imagine wanting to.
I’m a blight, not a bulldozer.
Do you need all those branches?

I spare my leaves and berries
for others, never another.
Without you there’d be no me;
nothing for strangers to kiss under.

It’s all symbiosis anyway.
One needs what they need,
often need to be needed, like mistletoe
when it’s plucked then hung out of season.

Remembering Frank Zappa / by Arthur Turfa 

Twenty-seven years ago today
he “left for his final tour”.
In some fortunate galaxy beings
can listen to his guitar, marvel at
new and old compositions. Fans
still on this planet remember the blues,
do-wop, savage satire , jazz and all
that he presented to an indifferent public.

Behind the Iron Curtain his music, his
words rang out freedom. Amidst the
plasticity of American life he offered
visions of individuality and artistry, calling
us to follow our dreams, create our own
visions, dare to venture where others would not.

In our den hangs a framed autograph, semi-
hidden by CDs. Two days spent on his
periphery long ago, so much packed into
five-plus decades. When I follow the news
I wish he could comment with razor-sharp
precision and cut through the Gordian Knot
of crap once again with his guitar. 

La Giaconda / by Victoria-Melita Zammit  

Like a starlet
weary of her fame,
she smiles
at the flashes.

They assault her
like paparazzi
barely wondering about
anything
beyond her fame.

And she smiles
because she knows
they don’t care.

And the others scowl
because they know
they will never be
her.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Image / by Jordan Crook

Fear is to recognize ourselves.
Mary Ruefle

& my god, you should see me now,
all flesh & flesh & bones with lights
left on, the nightstand piled high
with what to expect, except

these nights I can’t read past
my own genesis—I fall asleep
naked long before gaining dominion
over every creeping thing

but I wake knowing & afraid
with the mealiness of apple in my mouth,  
the angst of motherhood
pressing out against my ribs.

What does one do with all that
power? What else but tuck it into flesh,
carry it hot & heavy in the belly,
deliver it screaming and alive?

Wouldn’t you reach for the bough again?
Taste for yourself the sweetness of exile,
of struggle & pain & death? Of birth.  
Oh child. Child, I’m saying I would. 

Sugar in the Tank / by Lane Fields

red-chested as a robin, flush
           with feathers; sissied

hips; caught with my hand
            in the jar; spit-soaked

and laughing about it; their famous pink
            password; target practice, sprayed

with glitter and gunpowder; against the wall
            now; burned in effigy; gasoline-soaked

sweetness, all the way down.

The Weather in Five Minutes / by Gabe Gomez

I wasn’t expecting the science lesson
Over polite coffee when tearing into
The ribbed concha; its gargantuan
Fingerprint design razed to dust

I wasn’t expecting to muse
About adding the word Mexican
Before sweet bread upending unspoken
Truths about place; how we are a complete
Terroir, roots forward, in everyplace

I chewed and sipped and agreed to wait
For the weather to change to my liking
To think about unexpected things, to
Add me into the universe where I
Lived long without papers, to step out
In the cold and accept it for what it is

DEAR BLACK GIRL EATING A PEACH ON A TENEMENT STEP / by B. Fulton Jennes

        South Pearl Street, Albany, NY, 1959

A hot spring day: my mother wore black stilettos,
her bare legs nearly neon with the sunless white
of winter, her unstarched dress grazing her knees.
Country frau, dressed for a day of city shopping.

She clutched me by the hand and hurried me
through a neighborhood of shingled three-story
tenements. She said nothing in warning but
stumbled a bit on small cracks in her dis-ease.

Stone steps spilled from double front doors
to the sidewalk below. Water from somewhere
glazed the cobblestone gutter. Reawakened,
the sun drenched it all in a corona of gold.

And there you sat: a child unlike any I knew—
tiny braids coiled into bobble-banded knots,
skin with the patina of old pennies hoarded
in grandfathers’ pockets, palms that parodied

their flip side by donning a pretense of beige.
One hand teased your lips with a perfect peach,
like you’d reached into a Renoir and retrieved
the unworldly. A bit of its juice drizzled down

your forearm as you jiggled one heel in delight.
My mother stopped before you, leaned over,
smiled through lipsticked teeth, simpered,
That peach looks delicious. I bet it’s good, hmm?

You fixed her with round eyes, unafraid,
uncharmed—a brazen cub holding its ground—
then chewed silently, swallowed, bit again.
She straightened, muttered a wicked word

from an old counting rhyme, pulled me away.
Hauled behind her like a kedge seeking bottom,
I looked back, longed to remember the beauty:
an umbra calligraphed on my monotone world.

A Couple / by Mario Kersey

Our love oxidized into like
And another half-life it was indifference.

Our minds’ catacombs are filled with desiccated
Remains of old pleasantries.

We stare at the horizon of the other’s shoulder
Never making eye contact.

Fingers smear DNA across screens
Filled with smiling faces.

The offspring play between strangers
In the communal parts of the house.

Boredom is the detritus of could have beens
Multiplying like dust bunnies.

Love is an asymptote seeking
Two hearts but never finding.

OEDIPUS / by John Mungiello

You were the first woman to see me naked
                                  The first I saw naked.
You were the first woman to touch me.
                                   The first I touched.

My body not much different from yours
We were never as white as we were told.

Did you see me in you? The same,
Down to a freckle.

You molded me from your clay.
Together through life we drove

Every Wednesday in one car.
A family car you called your own—
Hands glued to the steering wheel.

Always slow in the fast lane.
Always with your foot on the break.

Like yours, my legs are crooked.
Like yours, my fingers arthritic.

You gave each and never warned me
How bones calcify, so brittle,
As they thicken. Mama the sculptor.

You taught me how to write my name
                                                Mungiello.

It was yours to give,
mine to take and
Throw out the window.

As I waited,
As I prayed for my own car
One that would let me
speed in the slow lane. 

The Company Scrip / by Carson Pytell

It’s all tokens alright,
but I’ve no need to need.
Bread, beer, a bed –
just put in on my tab.

While you’re at it,
fetch me some steak,
some butter and maybe
even a new bedsheet.

If I have no family,
why not die in debt?
The report to the unsatisfied
will find that I was content.

I dig, far past the peat,
and what I find I load
and send back up into
the world, for the world.

It’s a nice feeling, like
I’m doing something helpful.
I’ve learned to be glad
getting heat into hearths.

You do learn things
at this job, like how coal
is just dead plants plus
time, heat and pressure.

Another thing is that
diamonds don’t come
from coal at all. Diamonds
predate Earth’s oldest plants.

I used to look for diamonds, then
found they’re of no real use,
and I guess that’s the most
useful thing I’ve learned.

Diamonds just aren’t my business.
What I do is recover the fuel,
eat, drink, sleep and stow my tokens
deep into today’s, tomorrow’s pocket.

Kolachy and the Aromas of My Youth / by Arthur Turfa 

Throughout the kitchen Eight O’Clock Coffee
in the percolator, its scent wafting through the
kitchen like incense I learned about later, then
mingling with burning Camels and Chesterfields.

Waffle cookies freshly-made by my Belgian
grandmother in spacious apartment. A delight
before mass-produced ones filled store shelves
from coast to coast, competing with everything else.

In December Dad brought home kolachy from
someone at the steel mill. Flaky crusts with
apricots peeking out from either end, unlike
anything I had known before. Years later

a friend of my aunt’s offered Hungarian
Nut Roll from her final batch. My son and
I ate it while we helped Mom decorate the
Christmas tree in South Carolina.

Late at night along I- 10 towards San Antonio
KOLACHY gleaming from a billboard for
a truckstiop. . Sadly we drove on but in
New Braunfels I savored a cherry one.

These aromas serve as leitmotifs to my
life. Even reading the words evokes
memories and people, restores for a
moment long-ago times and warmth. 

Hemingway (or, Cafe du Dome) / by Victoria-Melita Zammit 

I am not
the greatness
that you were.

I could never be
the master
of stories like you;

So confident
that the world
would hush to listen
for the gunshot
you gave off.

But
I have a coffee
at your table

And imagine
for a minute
that I am.

Poem 2 / Day 2

On Knowledge / by Jordan Crook

I was raised in Eden and Athens,
reading blind from the shelves
of my mother and father.   
I read Genesis aloud
(the King James Version)
but quit before Exodus.
I read The Trial of Socrates
but quit before the verdict.
My mother explained the apple,
the invention of nakedness.
My father explained water hemlock,
the slow numbing of limbs.
And I was left there between
the lines and satiated bodies, 
the minds thirsting eternally,
the lovers exiled but loved,
the men dead, yes, but mourned,
their lives examined and worthy. 

Origin Story / by Lane Fields

First breaths of boyness: whispered in old photos
and haircuts you never got, flowers you loved
but couldn’t name, the moon held under your tongue

to be brave, your open windows where secrets
fluttered out, the doors no one left unlocked, petals
strewn across your breasts, the day you went nova

because someone went beneath your skin—up to
their knuckles in slush—to coax out your pain, the way
you held yourself away from your own body.

Eating Lotus Seeds / by Gabe Gomez

The butchery took place away from the textile stands, where severed
heads of mudfish and barbs mingled with plastic tubs of writhing eel.
The floors slicked endlessly under the indecipherable puzzles of meat
and sinew; runways in the honeycomb stalls glistened.

Our teacher paced the aisles, pointed out the mounds of turmeric, vats
of fermenting prahok, impossible greens. We were neutrons in the
delirium of decay and hunger rivaled with pitches of Khmer over it
all.

And not until our converted van carried us back to the outdoor kitchen
where we would prepare a meal among strangers did we begin to
understand our own longing to ingest parts of the sound, traversed
rivers, porous stones, narrow the impossibility of ancient temples at
sunrise.

I understood, until I didn’t, the impermanent parts of eating lotus
seeds in Cambodia.  How coercing the sweet buttons from the bloom made
me less. How rounding the kernel in my mouth, this country of water,
all together disassembled.

Bobby, the Cowboy Who Asked Kathy Hogan to Marry Him When She Got Pregnant / by B. Fulton Jennes

wasn’t really a cowboy, just a sad pretender
in boots, bolo necktie, steer-headed buckle.

A family friend—nearly her parents’ age—Bobby
loved Kathy long before boys entered her mind,

took her roller skating, bought her Tiger Beat, the fat
Seventeen September issue, eye liner, Big Red gum.

But when Jack, the deadbeat teen my father threw out
when he first came calling on me, walked down the road,

his bell bottoms snug across his ass, his Peter Tork haircut
haloed by the sun, and knocked on Kathy’s door instead,

something inside her died and came alive, all with one
tongue-probing kiss. The next thing we knew, Kathy

left high school mid-sophomore year. The cowboy
begged to marry her, said he’d give her a decent home,

care for her and the baby all of their days, and we
half-hoped she’d agree. But Kathy sneered

can you imagine screwing that fat, balding old fart?,
went to live in the projects in Troy instead, had one baby

and then another before Jack left all three for fairer,
freer game. Just once, my sister and I visited

her drab brick building, broken toys strewn out front,
to greet the newborn. Kathy nursed him boldly,

nakedly, in front of us, sucking sounds and coos
punctuating the silence. When I asked, agog,

What does that feel like?, she shrugged. It’s kind of
a turn-on, I guess. I was 14, she barely 17,

but I saw the ravages of lust for the first time, saw
how vulnerable it can make us. How fearless. How rich.

To Move an Old Man / by Mario Kersey      

The stoop is merely
his weary body
Succumbing to the earth’s
invisible chains, gravity,
Pulling him back to her loamy bosom.

Now in twilight,
the southern hemisphere
Of his life time
Is where his smiles are frowns—
Coriolis effect.

His sagging skin
folding like great origami
Preparing to catch the wind
and fly over the horizon.

Three spindly legs,
two osseous, one aluminum,
Scuttle across worn linoleum
with occasional squeaks
When the floor is too clean.

It all comes to a halt
when the flowers
Form a low canopy
around where he lay
Resting before the new tenants arrive.

DECLARATION / by John Mungiello  

Let’s start. Not at the top, but
The bottom of this glass. No drink left
But what comes from melted
Death in my custody.

The names of thousands.
We saw hundreds of thousands of
Rough beards trapped behind masks.
Skin gone bleach quiet. 

Hollowed eyes, Opened eyes
Even after the fight, they begged to be
Someone’s Lover. Someone’s flight.

Hope. Someone’s Father, oh, Father
Whom, when seeing each other sore eyed
Told the other in an exhale, over and under
It will be alright.

We won’t fail. We can’t fail.
Tell me you don’t understand.
You shouldn’t understand how

A small quake can crack a country in half.
Split its heart
Bleeding or
breathing either way,

People. One nation
Under no one.
God, listen—
Did you hear that sound?
Mom and Dad; an absence

Wife and husband; an absence
Husbands and wives; an absence of
Wives and wives and friends and  
Husbands and husbands too few
Fingers to count the dead
The dead, the dead, the dead.
                                    Absent.

Outsiders, pull them inside her.
Far from that thresher we built
From silence.

Outside the hospital, trees burn
By our own electric, but
With heat, we won the electorate.

Pin that flag on our baby’s respite breast.
They will carry this year with them, yes.
Always. body to body. Call them, teacher.

Use the flags tricolors and
Stuff them inside that hungry barrel
Above our heads. There will be no smoke
To fill the absence of so many silent breaths.
 No, the trigger won’t quarrel.

We grow from torn stripes and
Disassemble into stars;
Moonlight; spirit of spirits.

We bloom around it. Under it.
Under our skin keeping, it rested.
Calcified. Hardened. Bones,
Keep them harder.

Pardon them under thick muscle.
Giving when pressed by velvet tips.
Fingers curl toward each other’s
Backs till the motion brings

Us toward one body billowed up.
Spelling out an amorphous name,
American made.

Not from the beginning but the end,
The skunk beer. We are what nobody wanted.
With our lives in our custody
We will
Sign our adopted name:

Singerly,
Kindred. 

Why I still confuse Gloria Swanson with Norma Desmond / by Carson Pytell 

is almost the same reason even nonbrand
cotton swab manufacturers still call them Q-Tips,
but closer to why no one knows Leo Gerstenzang
or that he called them “Baby Gays” first, then
“Q-Tips Baby Gays” before the name we know now.

“Baby Gays” probably wouldn’t play, silent films are good
mostly by their existence, but everyone has ears and dust
in narrow spaces, and if you want to make a movie now
you’ve got to know how they managed (or didn’t) then.
Plus, there’s always a hipster waiting to be weird in public.

So what it’s closest to, what really makes sense,
is that, before I looked it up, I hadn’t the slightest clue
that the Q stands for Quality, and when quality comes
then that’s remembered by name, like Sunset Boulevard.
Really, and I know exactly the importance of that close-up. 

On the Threshold / by Arthur Turfa 

Less often than I like
I stand between two worlds.
One is like an arrow that
once released from the bow
continues onward never
retracing its path and
never savoring any
place it passes by.

The other always was and
always will be,
shimmering around me
partially hidden yet
partially visible. I think
of those I love now
and those whom I loved
and somehow
all of them, all of us
are together in light
in warmth in splendor. 

Brussels / by Victoria-Melita Zammit

We sat on the steps
of an unknown part
of the city
(to me, at least)

and argued
because I was
smoking again

and missed the fact
that behind us
people were gathering
to watch the sunset.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Apollo 17 Left a Color Chart on the Moon / by Jordan Crook

Perhaps so much vibrancy at first felt useless
in the gray area between coming and going
like the sterile hues of a waiting room
where all you can do is wonder at a distance.
 
Her eyes were a clouded cobalt like looking back at earth
and there was amber daybreak creeping across the dust
and everything was weightless as we savored clean oxygen
and the emerald music of a heart monitor.
 
Perhaps like us they touched down to a symphony
of indescribable color beneath the gray forgetting
for a moment the science and holding their breath
at the center of a time-stopped universe. 

River Suite / by Lane Fields

I. so the land

as the body yields
to a knife, so the land
            cedes to the river—

II. the gift

my body became the river,
wound-wet; gored by grace
            -ful fingers, subdued;

from my chest came
a congregation, flurry of white
           birds; my body ached

with its gift—

III. field of

I am suspended with
thirst for the river, I know
           all of its names;

I speak to it, tender as a
lover, and it does the same;
            it calls me back

to the boy I never was,
calls me beautiful with
            its hundred tongues,

calls me past the field
of forgetting, calls me
            home.

Camino Real / by Gabe Gomez

Begin by unthinking the dream/ Rip the muscles from bed/ Cup the hands
and blow/ Ahead of the cold

Unthink the Sunday brunch with co-workers
The phone call; the mechanical voice of my brother
Explaining the fall, the stairs, furniture layout
He paints my mother falling, injuring her head
How she succumbs to gibberish, confusion, fog

What comes next is the language of doctors
New categories and timeframes
More diagrams with added projections
Language of the surgical and non-committal

I visualize PowerPoints with my mother’s
Totality spatchcocked in line charts
The “Lighting Crashes” song by the band Live
Begins looping incessantly in my head

This is Denver. A ten-hour drive from El Paso.
A five-hour drive from Santa Fe. It’s remarkable
How we managed to split the time and distance
Evenly from one another. Remarkable how the body
Fails so grandly. Remarkable, still, how we look to
Our theatre of past lives to patch the holes

The Camino Real would have been visible from space
But we wouldn’t have known that. We wouldn’t have
The words to know how we looked down upon ourselves
Rambling through the desert artery sharing bones
Another’s memory lost in the confusion

Off the Court / by Mario Kersey

The basketball never came my way.
I ran up and down the court with the herd
Briny tears flying off like beads of exertion.
Running up and down the court searching for what I don’t want.
I spot my dad. Smile. Relieved I lost my tears
Only briny contrails dry on my cheeks like mascara.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment
But never being a part of the game, more like
An extra man on the court hiding from his father’s shame.

He sits in judgement of my small success.
Time effervesces like sweat under an AC.
In the back seat of the car I smile
Not knowing my father was too embarrassed
To bring me back to the game he loves
But I loathe, leaving our bond a brittle
Umbilicus which crumbled away into
The space of time where he stands
waiting for that game of pick-up
That will never come.

CHUMP CHANGE / by B. Fulton Jennes

With Sunday’s ritual of church and dinner done,
the card table unfolds with creaks of complaint,

a bag of coins spills with a cymbal-like sigh,
and trudging sons meet their father around

another brilliant heap of silver, copper, nickel
perhaps, depending what denomination

his favorite teller had set aside, knowing his standing
payday request: And give me a bag of them…

All afternoon, fingers fondle metal, gather its
malingering tang, divide coins by date, eyes strain

to find prized, period-sized S or D mintmarks,
and all the sorted coins are assembled into stacks,

then fidgeted into paper skins, labeled, added
to legions in boxes, bins, bags—the chore done at last.

In God your father trusted; he believed in miracles—
the growth of wealth over time being one.

Now, spilled on a table before us in our own
waning days, we examine this unearned fortune:

a single silver dollar that could fill a refrigerator,
a penny set to fetch three thousand times its first worth.

We who had hoped to surrender this heavy clutter,
this chattel hauled from one dank basement to the next,

to transmute its tarnished metal into whatever next step
awaits these old bones, wish only now to buy back

those hours remembered as tedious, whose face value
seemed such a pittance: chump change.

ORNAMENTS / by John Mungiello

We are here between color and smoke.
Windows dense as bone.
On our naked neck, our barebacks
Keeping out the cold. A thigh propped
Up. A hand behind a knee rubbing a pale skinned
Snowfall onto the mattress—in each other
As close as a body and a body could be—
One to one and one alone.
Behind her open lips, bokeh of pink 
And blue straight up to a white ceiling.
A vine climbing higher than the summer 
Could take it. You saw how rare it was to hold
Light longer in the winter.
To me, it weighed down my chest.
To you, it was clear glass.
A sour snack meant to be overcome—eaten.
With blurred vision, you saw space
Around that night, and by a push
From your firm fingers only—
Stronger than you thought— Would turn
The lights off. When those stars framing
Our bed went out you called 
Me Goodnight, turning on your side.
With a little piece of my life in you
Still growing
Into a new smooth fool.
Like me,
It already loves you.
Like me,
It’s alive by sticking to you—you,
It’s train ride.
You, its tracks through this tunnel of ink
Toward light as dark as the middle of me.
If only it knew at some moment
In some way these rainbow nights
Would always end when Christmas comes to a finish
Sparring itself yet another absence.
Lights blow out. We have no bulbs to replace the holes.
The husk will be wrapped in plastic—buried
At the back of the closet.
Which shade of blue will hold on the longest 
Moments stacked on top of moments.
In this one     I would call us      monuments.

I saw you because you were     taller than me.
I promise in every future moment    to see you   
As a kid    sees a tree. Ready    to be climbed    
As he imagines    waving his flag   claiming   victory. 

Globe of Death / by Carson Pytell

You must remember.
It was at the Altamont Fairgrounds
when we’d both strayed from our class
and became part of the crowd surrounding
the massive mesh-metal sphere with motorcycles
inside, revving the whole way around, earning their living.

Each time they neared the top you squeaked,
jumped as on a pogo stick. I was watching,
frightened of a crash, when you shocked me with a hug
then paralyzed me with a kiss on the cheek. You turned
and started clapping, yelling like life could really be as easy
as that moment. I turned and realized how difficult it will be.

You must remember, I do. It happens
each time I sit at the window after meals or poems
and a girl who isn’t you scorns me for smoking
then puts her hands on my shoulders and kisses me
anyway. Remembrance is like that. Life is déjà vu.
Experience – only something which might guide reaction.

It’s hard. Sometimes I don’t get it – most often I do.
Like when my wife’s done kissing me and, though I’ve wished
for each kiss from her, I start off dreaming I’d once have kissed you.

Prelude to the Month / by Arthur Turfa 

Sing, o Muse, let your sweet tones fly from the
far-off slopes, across the white-capped waters

calling to me amidst the tall pine trees.
The arduous year draws to welcome end

and I would hear again of Castalia.
Of the sweet springs again drinking, in the

meadows lingering, comfort finding there
with you, in verse rendering loveliness

that sustains me wherever I should go.
Long have I yearned to hear your melody.

Around me swirl incessant voices of
rage and woe, Sing o Muse again to me!

Amsterdam / by Victoria-Melita Zammit

I thought I saw
a glimpse
of boredom
behind glass cases

that stowed away
a pleasure
I dared not consider.
But she just
sighed
and turned back to her book,

as if she wasn’t
clad in leather boots
with the aim to entice.