The 30/30 Project: December 2021

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.

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The volunteer poets for December 2021 are Katherine Abrams, Maggie Blake Bailey, Kate Bolton Bonnici, Carolyn DeCarlo, Jessica Duffy, Lane Fields, Joanne Godley, Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, Pratibha Kelapure, Crystal Stone, and Centa Therese. 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

Milk of day / Cento of lines by and from Katherine Abrams, Maggie Blake Bailey, Kate Bolton Bonnici, Carolyn DeCarlo, Jessica Duffy, Lane Fields, Joanne Godley, Jennifer Schomburg Kanke, Pratibha Kelapure, Crystal Stone, and Centa Therese

There is enough grain
on this farm
to feed a murder
of hungry ghosts.

So many barren houses
cupped with falling light. 

We carry a choral consciousness.
like plans beneath
the weight of the water.

I want the magic of swallowed teeth 
like the myth of snake jaws,

I cannot tell you
why the cruelty of the world is
so bright

memory—conjured
loose—comes closer. 

 one crow among many.

somewhere in the tendons or maybe in the joints,
something must remember.

things the sorceress said
Every person has 1,000 threads.

We are always standing at
the gateway of awe

Faith is the awning
in the rain, & the rain. 

Like a crocus pushing up through crusty snow,
I had to fly.

Poem 30 / Day 30

Six christmas trees / by Katherine Abrams

were still not enough
to replace the magic
my mother made
seem effortless
with only one.

Ode to New Year’s Resolutions / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Tonight, I will build
any present any friend
needs to get through
until tomorrow.

I cannot tell you
why the cruelty
of the world is so bright
in our eyes these days.

I cannot make our
loved ones love
us, I cannot keep them
alive, I cannot even

say, do this one thing,
please, for me. Champagne

I can send. Doll patterns,
old books, jackets
fashioned from quilts
that I bought in a store

that smelled of dust
and time. I can send
tiny tea sets, teapots
too small to hold

water for your young
daughter. So many friends
with young daughters,
I will knit them hats,

and I will send you caviar
or beer money or two
root beer floats to get
you through until

I have a better answer
for anyone on why
if the world is burning
our loved ones are
clutching their matches

like the hand of the next person to die.

When Asked / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

–       for MRM

When asked, you answer all the things,
which is what I know you would also hold

should that be the question, just as I know 
it could be you in the story told 

of one finding herself transported 
to another place before day

& what it means to wander into 
encounter, transformed, I think

you could explain while making magic 
& while making sense of how to speak 

into being the love-ache that is 
inhabiting this room with others.

Hilma in the Summer / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Every summer,
I went to the seaside
with my family.
I waded into the waves
and floated in the ocean
every day.
At night,
we sat outside
and counted stars.
A mosquito bit me
in the calf,
and my leg swelled up
and continued to swell.
The infection
needed antibiotics,
needed to be drained.
A man in a white coat
made an incision
in my foot
with his scalpel,
and pushed the liquid
from my foot.
It squirted out
and hit my partner
and the camera
my partner was using
to capture the moment.
It has been nearly one year
since the mosquito
punctured my leg
and sucked out my blood
with his dirty little probiscis.
The swelling is still
working its way down.
Now, I can see the place
where the cut was made
on the top of my foot.
I had to get an ultrasound
before they would operate.
They said the abscess
was bisected 
by a vein,
and could not be removed
whole.
They planned
to anesthetise me
but in the end,
they decided,
they didn’t need to.
I was awake for the whole thing.
Sometimes I wonder
if I had a twin,
would they feel
the scalpel in their foot,
too?
I make paintings
of my family’s house
on the island,
and they go into public exhibits.
The private work I do
is private.
My cat is yellow,
a boy.
His eyes are green –
the woman showing through.
His ears are pink,
like the afterlife.
He and I
will meet again
when we are dead and gone.
He lies on my bed
whenever I am ready
to get up.
He doesn’t like
to share me with the world.
When I come home,
he is waiting on the stairs.
Sometimes,
I wish you were waiting on the stairs.
Sometimes,
I see you
and I know that
I am yours forever,
and sometimes,
you don’t notice me.
There is summer,
and there is eftersommar.
I want to be
forever in summer
with you.

Meditative Rose / by Jessica Duffy

After Salvador Dalí’s Meditative Rose (1958)

A rose as red as passion’s mystery
Bemoans a vast and dismal land below
Diverging from exaggeration’s thrill
The virgin sky above remains so strange
Such contemplation tempts the paradox’s all
Its sexual dominance flowering force
Between the lovers’ gaze of possibility
The drop of dew awaits enigma’s eyes
Its only elongation musing blue

Soul Food Jeopardy Sonnet / by Joanne Godley

Soul-Food-Jepardy-prose-poem

I’ll Probably Buy Her New Story Collection, Even Though I Don’t Know Her / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

(italicized phrase is from “A Monstrous Silence,” Poets and Writers, Jan/Feb 2022)

I read the new article in P&W,
the one by Beth Gilstrap on writing and dying
and trying to keep some small sense of control while
her mother-in-law, she was living with cancer.
The books she devoured while caretaking, cooking
and running errands are full of the stories
of others who went through the very same horrors.
I honor the way she finds comfort in control,
that bliss from the knowledge that others have suffered,
in much the same way she was at the time of reading,

still suffering. Hopeless environments, swirling,
uncertain, just read her great essay yourself if
you want to know more information about it.
Her piece is the first I have read since my treatment
in 2019. Well, the first about cancer,
I’ve read other things, just not ones that remind me
of all the small bullets I dodged on my journey,
of all the small things that could still cause problems,
that somewhere inside of me, not necessarily
in years or in months, down the road I walk barefoot
and vulnerable, it can return, and there’s nothing
any of us can do fuck all about it.

A Mind of Stone / by Pratibha Kelapure

One must have a mind of a stone, of a red canyon
that shines in the sun, witnesses of the footprints
of antlered  deer munching on leaves in a deep ravine,

eyes of a red-tailed hawk near the carcass
of a freshly slain doe, a caravan of worms
moving with the purpose-following aroma

of spilled blood glowing in the blazing sun—
The mind of a stone perched atop a temple
dome facing the vast, pristine, blue sky

oblivious to the praying souls, real or sham—
The nonchalant mind of stone at the base of a cairn
that scaffolds the dreams of the lovers passing by

Anonymous / by Crystal Stone

Sometimes our best days and 
our worst days look remarkably
similar. Naked in bed, messy hair, 
evening food delivery, endless rest. 
There are always dishes in the sink. 
I’m so inconsistent that every 
restaurant remembers my dog 
by a different name. I don’t know 
how to live the best life. 

Here and After / by Centa Therese

Last night B and I were driving home from a movie
and we got to talking about death. B said he wouldn’t do
This again. He said it like he expected to have the will
to choose his next round, certain that he’d have one.
I remember B saying that since he’d found me this time,
he’d always find me again. In my father’s last year, or
when he was still ambulatory, he gave me a random gift—
a two-cassette collection of 40’s music entitled We’ll Meet Again.
Random, as I don’t know one 40s tune.. I tell B, I’ll drive…. 
I’m not a believer in the hereafter. 

Poem 29 / Day 29

The Things I Do Instead / by Katherine Abrams

Go to the drug store for q-tips and lotion.
Come home with kids Motrin, coconut water,
mint gum, gray nail polish, tye die BandAids,
emery boards, and a copy of Dwell.
Go back to the drug store.
Cut a bunch of veggies and sort them into glass
containers, fill them with water, put them in the fridge,
and convince myself I’ll snack on them this week.
Make popcorn.
Sit and watch an episode of “ER” to eat the popcorn.
Switch five minutes in to something more cheerful,
like “The Good Place” and watch an episode.
Watch 3 more.
Walk the dogs.
(One at a time.)
Remember that I need to get a new driver’s license
this year, go online, fill out and print the form.
Check the DMV hours. Consider going now.
Grab a water bottle and keys, get in the car,
and realize the car still smells like yogurt. Drive
to the one car wash with an upholstery scrubber.
Scrub the rear bench seat upholstery so f*#$ing hard
Martha Stewart would be proud.
Get myself coffee as a reward for being so productive.
Check the time.
Rush to get the kids from school.
Mom.
Cook dinner again.
Mom.
Decide it’s too late in the day to do anything else,
sit down, and turn on an episode of “ER”.

We Walked Tonight Past a Painter / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Standing with her son & pointing
at the open throat of sky

between mountains, sunlight
having draped itself behind us

with the same meticulous, 
viscous languor of our future steps, 

each one tilting forward,
onward toward the oncoming.

Hilma in the Autogyro / by Carolyn DeCarlo

I saw an autogyro
for the first time in Madrid
in 1923,
the year it was invented
by Juan de la Cierva,
a big man who flew
in a shirt and tie.
A single blade
rotated atop a
fibreglass hull.
I watched him
take off from the ground,
saw my own spirits
circling him
across the range,
but I didn’t have the guts
to get in.
My hesitation
followed me,
watching my spirits
loll about
below the clouds,
and in 1930,
I had a go
at the World’s Fair
in Stockholm.
The takeoff was
alarming –
I felt my heart plummet
into my shoes,
but once we were airborne,
the world passed
at such a gentle pace.
I threw up
all over the daffodils
once we landed,
but I felt a respect for it.
The next year,
I heard Amelia Earhart
flew a gyro higher
than any man or woman
ever had –
5,613 metres straight up,
almost the height
of Mount Kilimanjaro,
the highest mountain in Africa.
What would it be like
to climb that high
without a machine?
One morning in December,
1936, Juan de la Cierva
boarded a plane
from Croyden
bound for Amsterdam.
The airliner flew
into a house,
exploded 
on the hills
south of the airport.
He, and 14 others,
were killed.
Among the passengers
who died
was Arvid Lindman,
former prime minister of Sweden.
Only a flight attendant
and the radio operator
survived.
A shroud of fog
was responsible
for the crash.
My own shrouds
flew into the sky
when it happened,
searching
for their misplaced souls.
We held a memorial
for the dead,
the plane,
and the empty houses.
It was a way to go –
a terrible motor accident
cutting everything short
at the end.

Tomorrow’s Lost Tanka / by Jessica Duffy

I.

Our future grabs hold
Of the effervescent fruit
Of tomorrow’s risk
Gifting us torment’s pleasure
And grace’s remembrance of grit

II.

Enlightenment is
Messy soul-intertwined bliss
Tangled in kisses
Roaring with lion’s innocence
And a humbling tiresome rage

III.

If the day after
Tomorrow comes undone, know
Love remains tactical, bitterless
Blindly accepting fault’s hand

Surely, You Knew He Was Already Married / by Joanne Godley

Surely

My Oncologist Demands My Cancer’s Origin Story / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

There’s a reason for getting it.
I’ve done what I can do,
as my time and will permit.
There’s a reason for getting it.
But study conclusions often conflict
and then headlines willfully misconstrue:
“There’s a Reason!” Forgetting it,
I’ve done what I can do.

A Woman Undone / by Pratibha Kelapure

Ocean of emotions
dizzying motion
a ball of clay
a doll at play
a girl to obey
what is there to say
words get away
a heart curls up
wild devotion
a malleable lump
an unformed ball
in the hands of
an unskilled sculptor

a jagged rock digs
into the ribs
a throbbing heart
with
an ocean of emotions


Randomness / 
by Centa Therese

I woman addresses her (under)belly in
another interplay of femaleness and camouflage
reality unravels as a self-correcting
affirmation that I give to myself

my inner boy can only deal with what
can be seen and heard
I lick your wet cheek that tastes like tears
and rain yet the sun is out and you
don’t appear to be crying

Maybe I don’t need help out of the water.
When no one comes to rescue me,
I don’t actually die, do I? No. I rise up
confidently. Done with that shit.

Yesterday, I woke with the word heuristics
on my mind. Apparently, can be used to
describe a woman who has taken the fat cure,
wrapped in compression fabric from
chest to thigh. A man wants her but
she is enWRAPtured!!

In the courtyard, moonflower—
the tropical white morning glory
and the whirring of hummingbird wings
of the ones that stay through winter.

Poem 28 / Day 28

Panera Bread on a Sunday / by Katherine Abrams
“Mercy mercy, but love is strange. And you haven’t even kissed me yet.” -Bonnie Raitt

She was standing with her hands behind her back
like my 8th grade math teacher, that beacon of patience
waiting for us to figure out what she already knew.

I had no idea she wanted to kiss me, right then, right there.
I didn’t know she saw me walking toward her and she knew.

          Is anyone really their truest self on a first date? Is it
         even possible to be genuine and also tame the fiery nerves
          of fingertips and electric pulses of facial muscles, eyes darting
          faster than the wild hare of elastic heart muscles?

I offered her a used novel about baseball and lawyers–
I needed something of me to leave with her.
We matched each other Greek salad bite for bite, until
my furious curiosity was too much. I had to know

how it felt to sit shoulder to shoulder, how she smelled
bathed in pre-rain ozone, high behind home plate.
I wanted to watch her eat popcorn. Smile at wild pitches.

After the game and a hug in the parking lot
that left me reeling, I cranked up Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Letter”
to drive home, singing my own growing knowing.

Ode to the facebook divorce / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Suddenly, a Christmas card without
him, or a loved-up date
with a girl I don’t recognize,
or even a new engagement, when
I didn’t know the marriage
had ended and truth be told

I can’t write to ask, what
on earth happened to him,
the handsome man in your
wedding photos, or her,
the girl you kissed
on every vacation for years.

I don’t know them. I hardly know
you. But I did once, when you
were someone else. And I watched
your photos because—
you have been so happy.
Are you happy now? Did you throw

heartbreak out of your life or
did someone dismantle
every calendar you owned?
I am sorry I didn’t know, though
what does my sorrow matter?
Who have you lost or gained?

Faerie / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

She blamed dreams.
She blamed the want of dreams.
She started walking.
She felt for smokes in her pocket.
She remembered.
She did not remember.
She recognized occasional roadside plants.
She checked an app to be sure.
She worried transport leads to transformation leads to melancholy.
She worried transport leads to transformation leads to bliss.

Hilma Bucks Authority / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Once, on a ranch,
a man walked past me
wearing fringed chaps.
It was one of the most
artistically impressive
moments of my life.
The man himself
was slight,
but the drama
of those flapping legs
brought me right to the edge.
If a spirit could
embellish themselves
like a cowboy,
I might be persuaded
into marriage.
An unlikely scenario –
under any guise.
It is common for my attention
to wander –
I can’t concentrate
when there is chatter,
my eye is drawn
to any movement.
Sometimes,
my sister artists
and my spirits
have to lock me up
in a room with my paints
long enough
to get the thought out.
When you’re seeing
in five dimensions,
there is often
a cluttering of the mind –
a casualty of the gift.
I have been assessed
by several prominent psychologists –
you may know of Schüle,
you may know of Kraepelin –
but they cannot pin me
with schizophrenia.
My visions
are not hallucinations.
I know the difference.
Sometimes I wonder
if science had been so advanced
when Jesus lived,
would they have believed
Mary saw the angel?
And what is an angel
but a message from God?
(And what is a vision
but a message from God?)
I know these diagnoses
will be used against
people of colour
seeking freedom –
Black Power
is a vision /
is not a hallucination.
Schizophrenia is assigned
to people who have no power –
particular to people 
challenging their lack ­­­–
threats to the system
of patriarchy and white supremacy.
I am a witch –
I know a thing or two
about being burned.
Psychiatry has been weaponised
by the state.
I have seen it now,
I have seen the future.
Holy stigma,
or holy stigmata?
There isn’t really
much of a difference.

Untitled / by Jessica Duffy

Naked passions burn
Through still bodies of water
Gushing consciously

We Were Violated / by Joanne Godley

This country is at war with people of color
The colorless against the colorful

Amerikkka is warring with me and my skin-folk
We are the indicted, the shamed

The ink blot bleach can’t rub out
of your favorite shirt— ‘though Lord knows,

you’ve tried
to remove us, just like we were stains

We are your constant reminder of all those strangers
you brought home—century after century–

plundering and exploiting us without consent–
Our survival makes your denial impossible

Exhibit A:  my people’s colorful skin palette
The diversity of which is due to colorless men

helping themselves to a bit of color–
No wonder you are so busy muzzling Ms. History

trying to render her mute
before she can ‘tell it’—you

would shovel her underground—if you could
(‘though who would you bid do your shoveling?)

no one must learn Her truths:  that our sweat 
labor built up the land that belongs

to the native peoples who lived here before
I hear the guns through closed eyelids

I see the suffocating sirens
Hands Up Don’t Breathe

There’s a bull’s pupil on my chest
that never blinks

Baby You’ve Got It / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Everybody knows anapests are a late 80s hip hop song.
I know you’ve all seen the fun tweets and the memes
about Dickinson and common meter,
but you’ve not lived, my dear friend,
until you’ve tried to read
“Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow
and kept breaking into “Bust a Move” instead.


Powerless / by Pratibha Kelapure
(A Golden Shovel – “In this short Life that only lasts an hour” (1292) by Emily Dickinson)

Days come and days go, breathing in
And breathing out, the rigmarole of this
Life-sustaining process, sometimes in short
Bursts, and sometimes deep meditation, life
Demands sustenance, nourishment that
Some can provide effortlessly, some only
After spending all the breaths on labor that lasts
The livelong day, waiting for food, sheltering in an
Unstable dwelling, trying to sleep but waking up every hour
To create warmth with only your body, how
Does one keep going on, how much –
Fortitude, how many tears, how
To stop the clock sprinting ahead, how little –
Time is there to remember the dead, is
There a wall to hang the memories locked within
Such is the lot for those for whom our
Disregard impacts; we exert so much power

Reflections from the Nursing Home / by Crystal Stone

When you finally begin to know 
your mind or body goes out. Like rain
but just molecules lost and found 
in some new child’s dream. I want
to believe good lasts, pain dissipates. 
But everything lingers. I don’t like being 
good. Are there equal parts 
good and bad in the world 
with an unequal distribution of each? 
It’s so hard to remember 
all of the rules. I want to settle 
into the cushions of the day,
let my body be whatever print it takes. 
A child gets scared of his shadow 
the first time he sees it, but I long 
for that kind of uncertain excitement. 

They’re living happy hour to happy hour. 

I’m living poem to poem. There’s too much
time to think. These are our last days:
Every woman is a long dead wife. 
An unanswered call button or answered 
too late.. Another mediocre dessert. 
The same conversation we had 
yesterday, but it feels brand new. 
At least to one of us. Love recycled 
the way the mind repurposes memories.

Shame Bound / by Centa Therese


Imagine being cross-eyed with shame.
Try a stick in the eye if you’d rather not see.
Try the lie after. Let it sink in
(as a three year old)—Even nuns lie.
Try averting the yellow eyes of a mother. Just try.

This is how shame uglifies, claims your own seeing.
My eyes are broken. you may say because you only see the lie.
You become untouchable. Your sexuality usurped.
Mother mocked your pubescent posture.
Do you want to grow up cross-eyed, looking like
the Hunchback of Notre Dame
? A dame shame.

Shame is having a form—imperfect star—
that, given half a chance, would explode and
go berserk trying to hide all that erupting
(monstrous) luminosity, that growing,   
glaring supernova of deformity.


His purpose is to bring you down
with such violence you will always crave
invisibility. Erasure is an easier way
to be damned. You become a witch of
shape-shifting identities.

Your goodness, written over by contempt
before it ever had come to be of use.

Poem 27 / Day 27

On The Row / by Katherine Abrams

They carry mounded
secrets on their backs like ants–
heavier than bone.

Night whispers are poems.
Nightmares: song lyrics.

No kitchen timers,
no need to count anything down.
Respond with regrets.

Some lucky ones get trumpets
or a packet of pastels

for drawing memories while
children get married and leave home.

Interim / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

There is a halfway point halfway between where you are & where you will be. 

This is a question of being & a question of becoming. 

The etymology of adolescence includes increasing, augmenting. 

Also becoming?

You’re in the middle, which puts us if not in the middle of then at least adjacent to your
becoming during this our middle age.

Borrow another’s translation, call it midway upon the journey of our life.

Judging by our mothers, we are more than halfway.

Hilma Conceives of Ikea / by Carolyn DeCarlo

I am hungry.
So hungry, 
I would eat meat –
maybe even a
mouldy nectarine.
Please hurry
in the shower,
and make me
something nice.
In those days,
she wore her hair
in a plait,
blonde and straight
down her back.
The thickest hair,
like a horse’s mane.
She followed,
and I led –
I led everyone,
then.
What stars aligned
to bring about
this holy moment
where women
ruled the occult –
When have
we not?
She counters,
elbows resting
on the table
while she eats
her meatballs
with lingonberry
or whatever other
stereotypical thing
us Swedes
are supposed
to enjoy.
I heard
in the future,
this stuff is served
cafeteria-style
in a big store
that sells our lifestyle
low-cost and low-quality
to American dreamers
imagining
their own funerals –
domesticity by numbers:
you buy,
and you buy,
and then you die.
When is it our turn
to enter the spirit world?
I have a feeling
my time is running thin –
or, I have a few kms
left in the engine.
You took off
running
last night.
I searched the house,
walked in on your mother
napping on the bed,
looking for you.
When you made it back,
your clothes were wet,
sweat showing
through your shirt.
Your eyes
bleed red
patches
under them,
when you run.
It makes
the blue of them
shine brighter.

Befriending Fear / by Jessica Duffy

my mind is 

like a rattlesnake
its eyes’ teeth: 

sharp & soothing

steady with
unseen

rage:
slow hissing

its prefabricated

shedding

& coolness
of slithers

leaves me at night
curled up

so tight
just waiting 

to rattle again

Green Tongues Tell the Story / by Joanne Godley

Three American women doctors in Brits, South Africa–
heard tales of toxicity affecting miners that were fearsome.
Green tongues, a bloody cough and a fatal loss of stamina,
were the symptoms affecting men pit–mining Vanadium.

The miners recounted health ordeals that were fearsome
to the doctors, the union, the press and the world.
Untold health hazards incurred from mining Vanadium.
Acid in the air and toxic dust that swirled.

The doctors, the union, the press and the world–
tried to garner public outrage for this community.
A plume of acid filled the air while toxic dust swirled.
Illness and death among miners had been quiet calamities.

Outsiders tried to garner public outrage for this community.
Who knew the production of Vanadium was so very significant?
People were dying in Brits, preventable deaths, arguably,
all because the miners lacked proper protective equipment.

Vanadium strengthens metals; is contained in batteries; it’s significant.
It’s mined in areas of the world where living conditions are squalid,
and where no one knows the importance of proper protective equipment.
Meanwhile, corporations continue to reap humongous profits.

Vanadium mining is pursued where living conditions are squalid.
Toxic signs include green tongues and a fatal loss of stamina.
Global corporations produce this alloy and reap handsome profits.
Three women doctors recount the tale of Vanadium miners in South Africa.

And Then I Took a Nap / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

All of a sudden I’m very tired,
and this will forever worry me.
When something has symptoms so common and broad,
it stares through your windows like birds
at a feeder asking you where’s the peanut, where’s the seed?
It’s eaten from me for so many years
what a cruel woman I am for starving it now.
Are my eyes drooping because it’s returned
or is it just because I stayed up ’till one?
Is it’s belly empty and rumbling away
or is it full of bad decisions and fear?

Living by the Words / by Pratibha Kelapure

a rainbow in the morning sky
a lily of the valley bloom
the words become alive with joy
and put a smile on every gloom

the sound of one’s own name
invokes a tender feeling not
before released, and takes
the roots of love within

an accidental disgrace
a slur, pernicious one,
may leave a spirit undone
destroy the roots of love

a word becomes alive
the minute it is heard
an animal presence, a spirit
that can spur life or throttle it

In Praise of Dreaming / Centa Therese

In dream, the body is a mercurial avian force. Or, you wear full skirts and stroll through the marketplace, looking for nothing.

In dream, you are an infant with a full set of teeth. And, you are the guardian who catches the one tooth expelled in all that chattering.

Relieved of persona, you fly over bucolic landscapes, construction sites, ancestral graves seated in the palm of a trickster god whose whit and swift navigation charm you, who otherwise eludes.

Dream is a kind of memory,
a rowboat full of ghosts drifting
toward the lake’s center in the fog
you wake into. It is the spun rope
of your hair, paisley swirls on the
shawl you are wrapped in.

Dream reimagines the dark—where
dormant desire entombed in blue
glass is thrown back Into the mystery.

Dream lends you sudden mechanical
genius as you ignite your one operational wing, propelling your chair skyward
where nocturnal claims are consummated.

Had you not dreamed, there’d have
been left a fallow place in the galaxy,
and had you not pressed your feet
into the earth, not pressed on, you
would have missed knowing how
your being shaped all moments
before and after the dream.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Adulting / by Katherine Abrams

Sure, I can keep plants alive now–
even if they almost never bloom (aren’t they
supposed to? at least some of them?)

and I use good facial moisturizers, creamy ones
full of peptides(?) or whatever.

I usually know better than to drink after-noon coffee
and my tire pressure is rarely more than 2
or 3 psi away from ideal. Plus, I recycle things.

I throw out socks when they get holes in the toes,
even those comfy woolish ones with the stripes
from Piccadilly Circus–that was hard.

I stopped salting food before I taste it, and I started tasting
food I cook before I serve it. Such personal progress.

But much is still unclear about successfully adulting.

Why is there more than one kind of IRA, and what
makes them so special, anyway? I have no idea
how to start one (or sign up for one?) or why I should.

I am mystified by home maintenance: clean out the chimney?
Clean out the ductwork? Why do I have to clean things
no one ever sees the inside of? Ludicrous.

Apparently my azaleas need pruning, but my hybrid roses
don’t need deadheading, which is good to know
since I thought that meant going to Grateful Dead shows…

Instagram wants to convince me that everyone else
has this all figured out (which I seriously doubt)
but no filter could make it seem like I have adulting down.

Evensong / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

To tarry is to delay,
which may exasperate,

but is also to linger
longer with,

thickening the visit. 
To tarry is to wait,

staying in the lateness 
of day gone dark. 

Hilma Considers Marie / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Charles Dickens wrote 
ghosts of Christmas past,
and we read them
in translation –
but who would want
to feel haunted in that way?
To have your nose
pushed into the shit
you already digested.
A nasty visit,
from a nasty ghost.

Thomas Edison built
a machine to speak to the dead.
He said
there was science behind it,
it would work
just like any other phone –
no occult practices necessary.
He wasn’t a fan of seances,
not like the Curies,
who believed.

Marie’s dead body
held onto so much radioactivity,
she glowed.
Her notebooks
are kept in lead-lined boxes
because of their exposure
to radium.
Her scientific discoveries
opened her mind
to the existence of other worlds –
hidden realms
for researchers to explore,
and communicate with.
During one seance,
they felt a disembodied spirit
attempt communion with them.

Marie’s diaries after Pierre’s death
address him as if he were alive:
I put my head against the coffin.
I spoke to you. 
I told you that I loved you
and that I had always loved you
with all my heart.
What grief and what despair!
How I suffer,
and how depressed I am.
I feel very much 
that all my will to live
is dead to me.
I have a vague hope
that you know
about my sad life.
I do not feel at all alive
any more, nor young.
Tomorrow I will be 39.

Marie did not participate
in another seance
until she’d been buried
for 50 years:
I realise now 
that what I had to do I did.
It was not just by myself,
you know.
A lot of things
we call inspiration,
I was being used
by people
from this side of life.

What is this but proof
that what we have
is real –
that other women,
smart women!,
have seen both sides
of the coin,
and have been rewarded
for it.

I do not know
that I will ever
share our truths
during my lifetime,
but it is a comfort
to think I could come back,
that I could live it all again –
when the world 
has caught up to us.

The Giantess / by Jessica Duffy

After Leonora Carrington’s The Giantess (The Guardian of the Egg)

the painter’s oracle
becomes the poet’s

prima materia
the anthropos’
chaos:

micro & macro

cloaked
vessel

a bodice:
shelter

for three
weather-fared
friends

mother’s golden
egg:

phoenix’s

Showing Up—When Shit Happens / by Joanne Godley

Why was Paula here?
Yes, I had called her on Saturday,
and yes, during an earlier period in our lives,
she’d been my-ride-or-die.
But we’d not seen each other for more than two years
since my move to Mississippi to practice at a hospital
in the state’s center.
I don’t do Mississippi,” she’d declared, when invited
to visit. That morning, I shared with her my decision to fly
South to East; to see about the “lump or whateveritwas”
I’d felt in my breast while showering.
She’d been quick to reassure me, the doctor:
Girl, it’s nothing,”
yet, here she was, two days later, sitting with me
in Philadelphia hospital’s radiology suite,
awaiting ultrasound results; my unabashedly
self-focused friend who, these days,
rarely showed up for anyone—even when asked.

The radiologist bounded into the room–
his eagerness not unlike that of a piglet pushing
to be first at the feeding trough
and with the finesse
of a young man fumbling his first condom, announced
to the room–at–large while looking straight at me, “It’s cancer!”.
He could have been saying, “it’s a boy!” Or “You got the job!
Not–“It’s cancer!”   
My inclination, as I rose from my chair, was to approach
and gently take him aside–he was no older
than my own son–like the senior professor I embodied
in my other life—which, admittedly, now felt completely surreal,
and admonish the callousness he was exhibiting
towards whomever patient
he’d just brashly called out. A teachable moment.
It took me a full beat.
The weight of his words crumbled me like a collapsing
Jenga tower. Paula’s firm arms were a ballast
against the wails that shook the room.

5/22/19: In Case of My Demise, Check Behind the Door in the Wall / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

I wondered if I should draw up a new will
my only one was typed at our kitchen table
on a clickety-clackety old and brown thing
when I was just twelve years old and the lights
had gone out, and I was home all alone.
It felt like the right thing to do.
I listed my belongings, from cat
figurines and the Cheerleader paperback books
to the old catechisms full of silverfish and mold.
It was notarized by the ghosts in the hall
and stored in the “safe” behind a door downstairs
that was really an access hatch to the pipes.
I was fully prepared for death as a girl,
like a game of pretend but serious as hell.

Two Wenches / by Pratibha Kelapure
(A Golden Shovel)

Jasmine and I, the two fun wenches, We
Roam the side streets, looking for real
Red jujubes on the lush green tree, how cool
It feels under the dense foliage. Alas, we  
Can only pick the low hanging fruit, left
Over, after the boys storm the tree after school.
Every afternoon, we wait for our turn, We
Tiptoe around, keep checking the clock, Lurk
Behind the big Peepul tree trunk, it’s late.
Anxious mother waits by the door when we
Covered in dirt, finally go home, to strike
Up the conversation, to weave stories, straight
Up lies mingled with some honest truth. We
Spend the evening washing dishes; we sing
Along with the radio, the songs of sin.
We think of the gyrating heroine. We  
covet her sparkling sari, her curves in thin
georgette, draped sleekly, people sipping gin.
That could never possibly be us, for we
Only find cotton saris in our wardrobe, Jazz
And Bollywood tunes we only hear in June,
When the older boys have a party. We  
Sneak and lurk behind the bushes. We would die
For fun. Mother laments, “You grew up too soon.”

Dream Bazar / by Centa Therese

Men fight each other with knives
in the Gymnasium. Dying on one’s feet
is not my kind of entertainment. A love
bird and a small black cat appear. I carry
them around hidden in a blanket. They
morph—first, bird into cat then cat into love
bird. Colorful abstract strokes of expression
as if bloom on the bird’s face and back.
She grows bigger and more colorful until
she is more than I can manage, and jumps
out of my arms, neither cat nor bird, but girl.

Poem 25 / Day 25

Lyrical Tempest / by Katherine Abrams

This girl is on fire away, fire a-
way down yonder on the Chattahoochie
coochie man.
These boots are made for
walking [on broken glass] and that’s
just what they’ll doo wop
shooby dooby doo wha.

Don’t cry baby, don’t cry
me a river I could skate away
on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.
I’m just a girl— you know it’s true
love, lookin for a true love, baby.

Welcome to the Heartbreak Hotel California
[such a lovely place] dreaming on such
a winter’s day.

Ode to Without / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Only to myself
do I admit
this is the first
Christmas without,

which is not
the same as dead,
she hasn’t
yet and I make sure

to check how
I can but I can’t
call, I know better
than to ask

or beg because
that is a chance
to say, your friends
don’t know you

like I do, I am
your mother
and you are a disgrace
instead—
I give myself without.

Stitching with a Sentence from Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth, c. 1691 / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Her natural heat & radical moisture,
she whose wooded wanderings
seem to be equally balanced,
despite wander’s origin in a word like error,
like an unextinguishable lamp & going
ever from passage to place
in a circle, not unlike the faint life
of one being found or finding while knowing
of bees & some sort of birds that sleep
through epiphanies near dark will occasion
all the winter & revive in spring
occasion become older as she is called.

Hilma Addresses De Fem / by Carolyn DeCarlo

There is a painting on my wall
of a woman, standing naked
beside a river, communing
with a snake and an alligator.
The woman is viewed
through the window of a bedroom
with a floral duvet,
books on the bedside table,
vine-printed wallpaper,
a portrait of the naked woman
dressed as a geisha.
The woman in the painting is Ananda.
We made it while speaking
to her spirit,
copying the scene she spoke of
while slowly gyrating
across the ceiling.
From what we know,
Ananda lived in this lush landscape
for most of her life.
The alligator in the painting
reduces the scope of possibilities
greatly –
either Ananda lived by 
the Yangtze River in China,
or the southeast United States.
Perhaps Ananda was killed
by an alligator.
Besides eating humans,
they are known to feast on their own kind –
no meal is taboo for an alligator.
I imagine at night,
Ananda rested in her botanic room,
her windows open and inviting.
Alligators dig tunnels in the mud
when they sleep.
During periods 
when the temperature drops,
gators enter a phase of dormancy
for their own protection.
Alligators, like humans,
move more slowly in winter.
But Ananda never moved slowly,
always sought adventure –
stripped off her clothes
and climbed into the river.
For her, the absence of life
was more frightening than death.
For her, no amount of caution
would hold back her success.
Her ambition was so strong,
it defied the laws of heaven
and hell.
Her ambition
led her to us,
and this –
our whole life’s work.

Arc of Wisdom / by Jessica Duffy

Desire is an
aged face
Its secrets
edging mystery

Its softness
shakes
Its every wrinkle
courts

An earnest
stare of gold
Presiding vigorously: 
Over truth

Illusion’s foe

At Last, Flight / by Joanne Godley

How frustrating to realize
I’d yielded to chivying.
Enmazed as I was with my work

travel routine.
Walk to work-then abode-
back to work again-tantalized

at the prospect ‘tuck and duck’ was a thing.
Me—a flight aspirant,
disporting prelates—

all for the prospect
of being airborne again.
Nutrients consumed,

dressed in aviation garb
meant to disambiguate—stuffed
with suet and doodle-

embroidered; would I be tempted
 to gawk at straggling
pilgrims? After the retreat

and drunk with optimism—
I make a date with myself: 
take out the old wings.

I wax and buff them down, slip them
on, then, with trepidation, weave past
the pergola, and lift off by the yews.

  – A found poem from the New Yorker How the World’s Foremost Maze-Maker Leads People Astray by Nicola    
 Twilley 11/29/21

What’s Behind Me / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Her favorite Christmas song wasn’t Silent Night.
She didn’t deck the halls or jingle the bells.
Away in the Manager was her holiday joy.
One year, her grown daughter got a music box
from her brother that played a song from Zeffirelli’s
Romeo and Juliet, callled “A Time for Us,”
the song that once knocked the Beatles “Get Back”
off the top of the charts in 1969.
It was thick amber glass with gold braided ropes.

I don’t know how it happened or what started it,
but she claimed it as her own
and put it beside her collection of clow
figurines and ceramic Christs under the picture of Kennedy
that still hung on the wall in 1985.
Not long after her stroke, they auctioned her stuff,
but before the sale day they let us kids choose
a few momentos to take for ourselves.
I picked the music box and gave it back.

My mother wouldn’t take it. She’d long ago
stopped believing it was hers, stopped expecting its return.
And just for the record, Away in a Manager
is the most boring Christmas song I’ve ever heard.

Universe Unfolds / by Pratibha Kelapure

What delight to watch the starry night sky
Lying in the meadow feeling the breeze
Witness daylight turning into blackness
I turn museful — starlight, swirling cosmos
Watch a million eyes watching little me
Noting, questioning, the moving planets
Trying to learn, to unveil the galaxy
Reverence for pure planetary light

Self Portrait as an Anarchist / by Crystal Stone

The Christmas I got COVID,
the magic left. One day without 
made me realize that every day
we celebrated was crafted. It seems
like everything is constructed: 
holidays, civic duty, gender, time.
The standards that constantly change. 
We name things to distinguish ourselves 
from others, to announce which failures 
we’ve accepted and which we’re still 
fighting to avoid. We spend years in school 
to prepare to enter a job and that need 
is constructed, too. Food grows 
from the ground. We build our houses 
on land. Why work? We want more 
than we can individually own and manage. 
There are no billionaires, just exploited 
workers. Religion is an easy-access 
collective wisdom leftover from the years 
it was written, too long ago. I’m tired 
of professional, lady-like, etiquette. 
Sometimes the only consequence 
is someone else’s disappointment. 
I understand why people lie, cheat, steal, 
blow up their lives seeking excitement 
or ancestral stories. The story lives
outside rules and expectations. The poem
offers heart, head, and tongue. 

Poem 24 / Day 24

November 13, 1993 / by Katherine Abrams

Baptized in the frail scent of brittle hymnals
their once Tyrian purple covers long since faded to a dull raisin,
                                                                                                There is a moment in Camaraderie
and the deep musk of even older hardwood floors, polished
honey-gold by generations of Ladies Auxiliary women,                                                                                                 
                                                                                                when interruption is not to be understood.                                                                  

Gwendolyn Brooks took my mother’s face, quite intentionally
into her hands, and saw her.
                                                                                                I cannot bear an interruption.
Her characteristically sturdy nature immediately unraveled
and my mother, as the story goes, went pale then flushed
                                                                                                This is the shining joy;
at this tender touch from a most unexpected source.
I will not guess what may have passed between them
                                                                                                This is the time of not-to-end.
in their long seconds holding space across a folding table
or what inspired Gwendolyn Brooks to share this intimacy–
                                                                                                On the street we smile.
I inherited the signed, dated copy of “to disembark”
and on her birthday I am holding it
                                                                                                We go
with the cupped-hand tenderness of a poet
connecting to a memory with my mother.
                                                                                                in different directions

Ode to Christmas Lights Through the Window / by Maggie Blake Bailey

How much more can I take
someone else’s effort
as my own—

warm light edging
rooflines,
bright colors draped
across limbs

of any tree, it doesn’t
matter—they shimmer
like ice

that isn’t mine, either.
Wrong place,
too empty, no winter

in the dark.

Hilma at the Farm / by Carolyn DeCarlo

They asked me to turn the soil,
so I pushed the plow myself.
Wheat is male, the sky is female,
and I meet them in the middle.
There is enough grain
on this farm
to feed a murder of hungry ghosts.
One crow is left,
and I feel him
from my place in the cottage,
looking out onto the field
that’s just sitting there,
waiting to become something
in some future season.
Sometimes, I am that field
waiting to produce –
not fallow, but resting,
re-charging for things yet to come.
Everyone must feel that way sometimes,
if they’re honest with themselves.
I’m not burnt out, just burning.
When I let go of the plow,
a farmer hitched an oxen to it –
and I found myself in America,
soaring over the plains
with Georg in the future.
They want to say
we’re just art students
holding seances in our studios,
but they have no idea
what we’ve unlocked –
they couldn’t know.
Last night, 
two birds came into the room
and sat together on a picture frame.
We tried so hard
to get them out,
but we only managed to scare them.
When we woke,
we discovered
they’d found their own way
back into the world.

Tao of Shame / by Jessica Duffy

body broker, body broker
mend your actions

lay your perversion
down at young feet

amend the act:
hunt more bodies
broker your meritless deed

mercy be broker 
who needs
a full recovery

broker be undone
in your deeds, end this:

useless capitalist suffering

Ode to Text–Message Relationships / by Joanne Godley

                                               –after William Carlos Williams

Ode-to-Text-Message-Relationships

How Should I Know / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Whenever I go in, twenty-one days and then three months,
they have me check off all my symptoms
on a two column list that looks out of the eighties.
Yes, I will always have PTSD,
do I have to check that every time?
Assume I have hot flashes.
You yanked out my ovaries,
it’s going to take a bit.
I don’t want to feel so mad about this.
I’m embarrassed I was/am so annoyed.
It gives them a space to start,
an Ungame of the chart.
But because my numbers are so damn good
none of it seems to mean a lot.
Electrolyte, kidney, and liver too,
my body takes what they give and makes it work.
When I say my feet feel like sliding on ice,
that my thumb gets stuck, bent and cocked,
when I worry my memories will never come back,
then they say there are specialists I can go to,
then raise an eyebrow quizzically,
“If you think that you need.

Saving Ourselves / by Pratibha Kelapure
(A Waltz Poem–à la Annie Finch)

Glorious hummingbird hovering
over the coral bells, covering
honey-pink floral bed, coloring

all my world, do I deserve such charm?
How do I protect this beauty from harm?
Surely the nature will thrive, not harm

We are but mortals, not reigning kings
We are the ones to harm nature’s wings
We are ones to save the coming springs

The Illusion of Imagination / by Crystal Stone

Poetry is a way of perceiving the world. 
Sometimes you turn down opportunities. 
Sometimes you let love go. If I met 
my idols they’d probably disappoint me. 
They also wake up with an ache 
in their neck, stuff stuck in their teeth, 
the past they haven’t left behind. 
Not every story is a poem I think 
as my coworker tells me she abandoned 
her dog at a gas station for eating 
candy with her daughter in the living room
when her back was turned. We all have 
a breaking point. I threw my cello 
in a dumpster when I realized there was 
no way to take it with me. I didn’t like 
the physicality of music, the way 
it inspired me to hold still, draw out 
another note, suffer in silence 
for the song. My hatred of my mother 
has always extended to myself
in shortness, desperation, anxiety 
and the final straw. The hair of my cello 
fanned out like a wound.. The way it sat 
on the floor of the dumpster, held up
what my neighbors left behind. 

To all my fragments floating in a petri dish of lost connection / Centa Therese

To this unimaginably quiet moment.

To the light that shifts silently. That sky change.

To whoever said I am not this movie.

To all, that rain and tears have in common.

For two swords that cross the elegy of youth.

To walking in rain during the school of years.

To the astounding silence in the middle of all.

To the bending frond of the palm.

To the golden maple leaves that refuse to fall.

To my cat’s growing trust in me.

To the profound stillness of every leaf in the bees’ garden.

To there being no future to assume.

To every gathering with you, or with myself and my cats.

Poem 23 / Day 23

My Sister Has Narcolepsy / by Katy Abrams

Soaring above endless curved ocean,
albatross sleep for seconds at a time–

their dancer’s muscles in survival stasis,
eyes twitching through REM, so briefly.

These storm chasers float for half a decade
like this: a series of micro naps to sustain them.

They don’t dream of a full night of rest.

Sketch / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Sometimes we do little 
more than touch, lightly,

those most dangerous
& wandering flashes 

of worry, knowing we will be 
unsure, afterwards. 

Hilma Getting Older / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Sometimes, it is like we are holding hands
through the ether.
Gregor says the deepest aspect of oneself
is knowledge of the spirit.
I have seen what is to come,
thanks to them,
and they’re helping me paint it –
our life cycle.
At the end,
everything becomes pink,
mathematical impossibilities are unlocked.
He entered my soul
to share his understanding of it,
and I saw the calculations in my mind.
Our God is a pragmatic one,
writing Fibonacci sequences
into snail shells.
The nature of the universe
is a double helix,
twisting us around and around
on our mortal coils.
When I saw the end,
I thought, I can do that,
and also, I am lonely,
but I won’t let the fear consume me.
Dogs pour their souls
out through their eyes,
and they never worry about growing up,
losing their beauty, dying.
I just want to keep my health
till the very end.
I won’t see the end of the war,
but I already know how it goes ­–
I derived the truth
from my watercolours. 
In the end, only Gregor is there,
the last thing I see before darkness.
It is like that,
growing up on an island.
Nothing is ever quite as connected
as other people make it out to be.
We’re all terribly alone
when we go,
but maybe this time,
my sight will be a gift –
a hand to hold,
on my way out the door.

The affirmation / by Jessica Duffy

I travel to the tiniest
cells often solitary

my power praises
an organized cascade

accompanying echoes
to wounded places 

returning 

the unmasked
labyrinth understands

A Sestina-like Meditation on Ash and Cinderella / by Joanne Godley

Every child of color becomes an expert on ash.
No, I’m not referring to remnants of fire,
Nor the popular hardwood in a baseball bat makers’ stash,
It’s the chalky residue lingering atop Black or Brown skin
When you forget to moisturize post-bath.
A condition about which one rarely (publicly) speaks . . .

Your brash Aunty or a very close friend may feel compelled to speak
up, after pulling you aside, and saying, ‘Chile, your legs are so ashy!”
seeking to help you avoid shame; why, in the workplace, folks have been known to be fired
for far less. And, if it happens you have no lotion stashed—
Jergens will magically appear—as salvation. Inside the word ‘skin’
lies the word kin. We, of the darker hue, are yoked by the looming risk of ash-after-bath.

To determine how well a future lover grooms, visit their bath-
room and search for Vaseline or Jergens; if absent, as sure as I speak,
you’re destined to spend nights cuddling cracked and crusty skin-otherwise known as ash.
Novice cooks are instructed to mind the smoldering fire;
coals nested by red embers—like tiny bits of brilliant sun stashed
within and hot enough to roast corncobs, which, when gingerly skinned,

or shucked, yield soft steamy morsels beneath the papery skin—
that ask only to be dunked in a buttery bath
then, sea salt-sprinkled and will render you ‘speak-less’
with delight–at this excavation of flavor ashed
from said modest corncob. A true Foodie can wax poetic and fire
up interest in the humblest of foods; say a stash-

box of onions transformed into caramelized onion galettes, prepared for the haughty and stashy
like the stepsisters of Cinderella, self-focused and dismissive about their stepsister’s skin,
caring only that she cleans, cook and draw the water for their baths.
When Cinderella confesses to wishing to attend the ball, they laugh, saying a speakeasy–
is more her style! In addition to being starved and weakened, Cinderella appears ashen–
all of which she soon overcomes– her quest to improve her lot is akin to a belly-fire–

Cinderella’s step-kin decry her speaking freely. Her punishment is that she must clean the hearth along with the implements used for chimney and fire
Now, if Cinderella was a Black woman, and prone to ash, she would, despite the hard labor, surely mind her skin—
As for bathing, once her work situation changed and she prepared to attend the Ball, she would, likely, have an emollient-product stash.

Interval Training / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

In my office with the door closed every day at noon,
I’d roll my chair away from the desk
to make a small space to move and to stretch.
Five minutes on the ground
to breathe and see where I could touch:
my thigh, my patella, my ankles or toes.
No, never my ankles or toes,
those were parts of me I could only reach
when I brought them up to meet my hand
and sometimes not even then.

Then thirty seconds standing
my hands up, my hands down,
and wiggle, wiggle, wiggle..
But there is scar tissue in my chest
where the purple port in the shape of a heart
used to be, it won’t let me move like I want.
It says Stop forcing it
If you ever want to swim again,
massage me until I break inside
pay attention to my limits,
they’re commandments, not suggestions.

Curves / by Pratibha Kelapure

curves often throw her for a loop
vibrations of her frantic mind
with higher amplitude just like that
of the trig wave, she marvels at
the harmony, beauty risen from
the intricate functions, but this fact
does not redeem her, she won’t
be able to solve the complex
functions if she forgets the right
identity, such dilemma
the test clock ticks

saddled with the accidental unions and
those kinships passed down the line
the universe tosses so many curveballs
she is evolving, and those chasms enlarge
the linking bridges rattle, life unsteady
the unfathomable functions hound
the blurred identities, the curves
are here again and time alive
the life clock ticks

The Myth of Me / by Centa Therese

I still run from men who want me
dead, though I no longer leap 
through windows shattering glass 
or veer off radical cliffs in out-of-control
cars, to land gingerly upon a branch.
Now, I catch them drunk or bluffing 
and take their knives. I make heroic 
dives into deep green pools of crime, 
swim through cattails, passed sleeping
bullfrogs. No longer distracted by the
monologue of the phantom lifeguard,
I rise up from the slippery algae.
If you look you might find me
in the night sky, hovering above
an urban alleyway making note
of a tenant’s disgruntlement
with his faltering plumbing.
 Or, you might witness me—
a cartoon hero—zapping the villain
with the black-hook mustache,
dematerializing evil by insight alone.
Ask yourself if there aren’t still
situations worthy of my intervention.

Poem 22 / Day 22

Open Meeting / by Katherine Abrams

I offer my name, designation. Wait
as the air shifts, just for a moment or two:
is she safe? Are we safe?
Peeking coffee cup glances
as I reference my credentials
(“it was[n’t] the gin that killed my mother”)
and normal breathing resumes.
We’re all the same here except
for that one thing. I’m privileged. I can
think that to myself.

“shee is now come to receive her Triall” / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

from The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (1612)

She walked without hesitation into the morning, though it
is colder than it was. Early
now some brightness forms even akin to frost—
come, look—or has everyone only taken
to spraying fake snow like that one house, as if they or we could
receive miracles? Truly, under the evaluative gaze,
her entry seems mostly voluntary; each motion become
trial, test, laboratory, fire.

“She” is a word I keep using to say “you” & that
is perhaps the most accurate judgment,
now, of our subject—or is it object?—
come to the fore of thinking & made
to bear what semantic heft it or I
receive in thus considering
her who means you, daily applying
trial-sized products in your bathroom on less visible skin.

She seems to be waiting but I don’t think she
is waiting. I think
now any ideas of waiting are my own misperceptions
come from the disturbing fact that I remain central
to my universe. Irony (lol?): the given is what you
receive. As I complain about
her I am writing I. All the eye sees is its own
trial. All the body feels is its own ordeal.

She walks bare-handed because her phone
is in her pocket but it’ll come out for every text no not that
now some other form snap! don’t even it’ll
come out & out damn you need to stop trying
to connect in like language like you could
receive any likes like you know what’s up or down with
her whatever keep trying to staunch the social spreading like
trial by fire or trial by water in both everyone going under.

She, subject, framed ambiguously so that volition vis-à-vis the object
is unclear. The body’s exchanges will not
now, for we lack capital-T Truth & perspective’s scaffold,
come into vision or fruition or enable us with particularity
to diagnose what/who propels movement. We can only
receive the written. Therein, a tragedy for
her future: no assurance of a free
trial or fair sample. Results, sure, but belief? Doubtful.

Hilma in the Morning / by Carolyn DeCarlo

for D.F.

Good morning, Amaliel.
Sometimes I hear a thought
come chugging around the corner
and I wonder who’s to blame –
is that mine, or one of yours?
Yesterday, I heard the cats
trilling to each other
I thought they were calling my name
but they were just kissing.
The cherry tree in the backyard
has a green aura,
it radiates around every branch
all night long,
so high it drowns out the stars.
I think about you
and the shapes you make
whirring at the top of the room,
and I think I can see you there,
as you once were.
The shape of you shimmers
inside your new astral form,
and I feel I know you
intimately.
When we get together,
the nine of us –
does that make you feel alive?
I am going to get it right.
One day, I’m going to put on
my silver skates
and trace your human form
in the icy skin of the pond.
I’m not afraid –
I won’t go in
if you’re there, Amaliel.
Today, we can have coffee
and croissants
and watch the world go past
on the ski lift.
I didn’t know you liked the cold
so much –
but I see the way the crystals form
on your soul
and I get why.
You want to be seen.
You want the world to know
there’s more than
what the latest gadgets have to offer,
that life doesn’t end
when your body does,
at least not for you, Ananda,
or the boys.
Whisper in my ear
origin stories of helix and spiral,
of snails and angels.
Don’t let me get carried away
on a spaceship to the Moon.
Promise to find
the cats when their hearts stop,
bring them back
as dust and shadows.
We can build a temple,
if we want.
I have an idea
that could save us all,
if we get to work.
I have an idea
how to make us live forever.

Kindling / by Jessica Duffy

I burn thyme
branches stillborn

crescent dawns

upon us keepers

I say don’t do it
ripping stars wide

watering spineless
flowerheads

ants set swerve
to surrender

mourning future deaths
accountless

together we guzzle
the sugar

aching for brighter days
tethered we embrace

skyless

If I Could / by Joanne Godley

drape you in the fur
of charitable chinchillas,
fur peeking between your toes,  
you could roll, naked, cloaked in balminess.  
I’d make mink a meditation.
I’d encourage the fox/lynx/sable
to set aside all grievances,
assemble and embrace you,   
purring, in chorus, as one.

I wish you peony petals
strewn about the surface
of a steamy jasmine-scented bath.   
I wish you a hungry caterpillar-
like lover to covet and inch over
you–nurturing your deepest spaces.

I wish hot, sweat-slick skin,
warm silk, sun-yellow sheets,
sun emblazoned on cheeks, for you.   
I wish peach-fuzz days for you,
nectar-infused nights,
and the musky scent
of precious oud everywhere.

I imagine
champagne caressing your tongue,
a body-cohering, hot-red satin dress.
you glide through an after-hours
joint—-staff’s been paid
and Laphroaig’s on the house.
amber lightening liquid
fires you up,           
while fingers glide up the ivories
and the sax eases in.
bodies meld like jazz
to cocoa-butter-smooth beats:
celebrate Coltrane and Miles.

you—
daughter of joanne /daughter
of juanita /daughter of viola /
daughter of anna–
may you relish the joys / the glories / the beauty
of black women—within you.
may you always
be a soft black woman. repeat­–
a soft black woman. no contradiction
there. always soft, but fierce–
with the power to dagger.

may strong be an adjective
never gracing your door again.   
like aunt jemima stepping
off the pancake box– scarf off
revealing 4C hair–  
‘mules of the world’
no more! 
no longer the antithesis,
time you be the norm.   
may you set the bar high
with beauty/ wisdom /grac
manifesting 
black woman magic.

Correlation / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

There are habits easy, and habits hard.
Ones succumbing to a cute to-do list
colored pencils and fancy markers
bought specifically for the purpose,
and ones that sit like a cardboard box
in the middle of my highway mind
to be thwaped by every passing thought
from shoulder to berm to center line.
Bitterness is this second kind.
Especially when I read things
saying childless women are at greater risk
for this sneaky cancer, this piece of shit,
like they’re trying to say it was our own fault
and not the other way around.

The Winter Sun / by Pratibha Kelapure

The winter morning breaks the early fog
The spell of night’s prolonged snowfall, the flakes

Are still, a yellow porch light sways, the dog
Below the eaves, whimpers & fiercely shakes

A snow-laden branch of the oak tree snaps
A small hope shatters under the gray sky

A hint of sunshine peeks through clouds and wraps
Us in an embrace & I let out a sigh

The dog & the human basking in the sun
The respite from the chill has just begun

Solstice Memory / by Centa Therese

His name was Freddy, or Joe, or George. Well,
it was a long time ago during a period of debauchery.
He was a short, balding black man who was kind,
quiet, unassuming. He’d always come into the bar
after work wearing a suit and carrying a leather
briefcase. Looking professional. He’d find a spot
at the bar where I’d be sitting, or would be soon,
and before long his head would be drooping down
between his shoulders toward his beer glass.
He only drank beer but he must’ve consumed
enough of it as later on he’d stumble down the
two wide entryway stairs and slide out the door.
It was clear to me he was wrestling with the kind of
sadness that doesn’t let go. He always had coc on
him, and it was primo. I rarely, if ever, paid for it,
and he never asked for payment. in any way.
Nobody else seemed to know that he was carrying.
He must’ve been ok with my company, Maybe
like me, he preferred to shoot-the- shit  than
to do drugs and fuck. I quickly grew to expect
him to be holding, and maybe he felt this was
the surest way to get a woman’s attention,
and that, in that bar, would not be far from truth.
The drunker he got, the fewer his sentences became
until the only words that ushered from his mouth
were I don’t care… I don’t care…. I don’t care.
it didn’t matter what the topic was, he didn’t care.
He must’ve had one love, maybe a child, or a few
loves that killed his spirit, so he just gave up.
I didn’t know his backstory, he never offered it up.
I don’t even think he did the drugs with me.
He never mentioned his work. I imagine, he felt
invisible  being short, mild-mannered, and one
who wouldn’t hurt anybody. Finally I got sober,
for the first time, after I figured out that between
the dive bar and my substance habit,
it wasn’t the bar that needed a course correction.
I paid the place a visit about a decade later. Maybe
the regulars would still be sitting there, hunched over
their drinks, backs against the world, like part of a vintage
still life, an image stopped in time, which was how I felt
about the years I wasted there. There actually was a guy
I knew there, though he was never a regular. He told me
a guy I used to shoot pool with some afternoons was shot
dead right there on the one pool table. He was a short
guy too, only he was white, came from wealth, Hollywood,
in fact. Had everything handed to him but love. He was
hostile and showed it. He had a heart condition, now
I remember. I used to hang out with a Polish chimneysweep
from the Bronx. He told me that when he got drunk,
at times he’d provoke situations just begging for trouble,
because he didn’t have the guts to off himself, in such
a perfunctory way. I asked about Joe. That was his name,
I’m almost certain, now. Like I said, I wasn’t sober during
that period. Turns out Joe left the bar one night in his
usual stupor, took the bus down to a part of West Oakland
where he lived, He was probably the last passenger on
the bus. No streetlights. He got off the bus but still had
a few blocks to go to get home. It was after midnight.
He never forgot his briefcase, and this night was no exception,
and while zigzagging slow, Joe was shot dead in the back.
That was the end for Joe. He always said he didn’t care,
but it was obvious, he was trying to convince himself.
Like most drunks with history, it was just too painful to care.
One thing is likely true. Joe didn’t care much for himself.
He gave himself away. My guess is that there was no one
that cared about Joe at that point. Joe was his name.
George was another guy I did drugs with. Freddie was
an old pimp I learned Liar’s dice from at another bar
in another town, another decade. I don’t imagine I ever
thanked Joe for his generosity and for not expecting
the usual exchange.

Poem 21 / Day 21

My Tattoos Are Not An Invitation / by Katherine Abrams

Waffle knit, combed cotton, plain or twill weaves,
I welcome the cover of longer sleeves

as the mid-South weather finally cools.
Fewer well-meaning people will see my tattoos

and strike up an arduous conversation
(assuming incorrectly that my tattoos are an invitation)

or worse — reach out to touch them, to touch me
with an audacity you have to see to believe.

My tattoos aren’t public property, more like a museum:
you should try to observe with a little decorum.

Solstice / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

            morning’s blurred
edges still night
            temporal
cloak draped &
            lifted
the opposite 
             of dawn precedes 
dawn

Toxicity (of Our City) / by Carolyn DeCarlo

It isn’t a lie to tell you
that one of the best feelings
in the whole world
comes from eating vegetables,
kept in the backyard
and allowed to grow to maturity,
crisp peas and tender cucumbers,
cooked al dente
and served with olive oil, salt,
a sprig of fresh dill.
Puree your beans into a consistency
similar to hummus,
dip in a piece of focaccia,
and enjoy.
It’s easy and simple
to grow your own vegetables –
anyone can do it,
it takes neither skill,
space, nor financial wherewithal.
There is no reason to assume
your basement apartment
isn’t perfectly suited
to growing just about any crop.
No one I know
would pay any amount of money
to have a chef
design a meal around a vegetable
in 2021 –
when that kind of thing
can be so easily achieved
in the home
with a bit of soil
and a YouTube channel.
Practice makes perfect,
so while you’re working your way
toward Michelin stardom,
your friends
will sit in to try your air fried mushrooms –
not a vegetable –
grown from a starter kit
you got for Christmas.
Don’t try too hard,
they are already impressed
by your kitchen gadgets
and your ingenious use of the linen closet.
If you feel yourself asking,
is this a weed or a vegetable?
Consider that it is neither –
but instead a weapon,
a way to poison
and incapacitate
everyone you love.

Musing Amendment / by Jessica Duffy

she detects me asleep courting inflictions
through calculated stares her presence airs
on indifference        blank walled

fringed collision, there’s no difference
in the plunge glorifying the feeling
before my fingers start to bleed
& I’m crossing my t’s again

doubt has her way entering unwelcomed
bare-toothed, crevices tucked, a mean mama grin
& I mean what I say

on most occasions you forget what you do 
& I’m pointing to vertebrae where wit is stored

in glossed snares
belly & lips hooked, pinched flat 
there are better ways to count clouds
but you’re mean & wouldn’t

dare have it. the dryness of mystique
call these pranks no dismantled organ player

yet you’ve hit every major key
with your foot glued to my back

in a lunar vintage-print
solace unearths nothing more, or so full 
when want is another landscape
& need aired out of mimicry

is it a desperate searching attempt
digging through stored dreams,
frosted & fractured bleeps of the oblique

it’s still a way through, only there are a dozen
other ways to bask, yet meanness rests on the tip

bleeds the whole night 
& the milk curdles     

I boast nothing

Asking Food for Permission to Cook / by Joanne Godley

enter my kitchen at your peril
nothing is simply as it appears
cutlets of veal are so fresh they taste feral
fish, once they’re dressed, high-five and disappear

hear the hen’s fuss: “who’s turn to be cordon bleu?”
all are aquiver over the slated dinner guests
beef’s now refusing to share a pot with the stew
spices have unionized and present a list of requests

first spices ask to be paid overtime
next, they want storage in brand new containers
tabling the vote until after dinner time
standing in kitchen’s center, I become arbitrator

at that very moment, the fruits saunter in
what’d we miss?” ask bananas/grapes/apples/ & pears
it’s Miller time”, I say, wishing not to seem maudlin
looking around, they all shrug, as if saying, “who cares?

this is the point at which I tread lightly
should I act autocratically? whip the food till it’s limp?
poor taste results when the reins are held tightly
food flavors could cower —flee the meal scene like imps

opting for diplomacy; and demonstrating care
May I please cook you?” I ask, in a display of submission
you ingratiate nicely”, they shout, “bien sur!”
(their) acquiescence a sign I’m still the ship’s captain

My Mother Asks Me for a Poem that Sounds Like William Morris, but I Fear I Only Sound Like Myself
/
by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

                                    ~ for the Winter Solstice

The sun will set on this short day
and welcome comes the longest night
with twinkling stars on every sleigh
and snow reflecting moon’s wan light.

So stop a moment to rejoice
in well-built houses free of mold
and do not heed the manager’s voice
that says you must keep spinning gold
from summer days to keep at bay
those nightmares crafted from fright and might.
The sun will set on this short day
and welcome comes the longest night.

Accept the rest within your nest
the solitude of ice and dreams
beside electric fires blessed
with bellies full of chocolate creams
and glasses full of Beaujolais.
Forget the dropping Fahrenheit.
The sun will set on this short day
and welcome comes the longest night.

Why work and toil for other men
to save the sun in silken thread
that you can never unravel again,
no matter their myths inside your head?
The times of warmth and ceaseless play
cannot be stored against Winter’s bite.
The sun will set on this short day
and welcome comes the longest night.

Then leave to summer its bright glory
of bumblebees and dronish ants,
ignore the top hat and his story
that labor’s owned by bossypants.
You deserve the soft, sweet holiday,
the wool socks and gloves of sheer delight.
The sun will set on this short day
and welcome comes the longest night.

Untitled / by Pratibha Kelapure

I have been honing witchcraft in the night
I have stayed in darkness to learn my pain
I have performed the magic with a sprite

I have probed deep within the heavy pain
I have worked on the darkest dark despair
I long to find the peace I never gained

I have stood silent, rapt in moving chants
From far away, a barely aural hum
Fall on the ears and carry over plants

Do not call me insane, an unhinged witch
Or even a ghost — a fairy I am
A changeling I can prompt without a switch

beware, the witchcraft quite sly in the night
the only way to set mind matters right

Practicing Empathy / by Crystal Stone

Tinder is a vending machine of possible futures. One has AOL chat room vibes. 
One has a dead bobcat. Another man 
says, “I’m sad a lot, but trying” chipped 
nail polish and five o’ clock shadow 
showing. We’re all insecure 
about our genre of deficiency, trying 
not to let our full suitcase of baggage 
show. How even an engineer feels 
like a failure in a family of doctors. 
I’m an artist in a family of corporate 
athletes. Swipe left. Gentrify my soul, 
an abandoned city with broken glass
hopes of achieving better love. 
The groovy potential in every place. 
If only the profit margins were public 
record. But we only have the $7 coffee, 
the down jacket, the worn gloves 
we walk away with thinking someone 
has unlocked something we haven’t.

In the Time of Dark Hair / Centa Therese

Pulled from the mud I see
through the eye of a needle
as long as a sword my death
emerged from one husk
we leave through another
everyone gets up to sing
but me I’m given a talisman
to disassemble, open or undress
it then signals my readiness to fuck
(kind of like a sensitive watch)
I feel the Impetus to fly to give voice
to something essential….like art.
Instead I’m found guilty (sentenced to die)
for a crime I don’t remember
committing. Is there evil in the house?
An invasion of my mind?
There was no consent. Hope arrives
in a tubular device by Fed Ex
invented to address the Wound, 
or to at least shine a light.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Ode to the Advent Calendar / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Close to Christmas
and no tree, yet.

Only the Santa
and rainbow unicorn

in the front yard
boozily swaying.

At least I remembered
to fill each pocket

of a day with chocolate
with a small toy,

with something no one
wants or needs,

but feels like magic
because it was not asked

for and yet appeared,
letting us count,

letting us wait,
telling us time moves

toward and not only past.

Physics / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

The child on the verge
of not-child sleeps & the room
hums its little sounds:
freeway, Christmas lights, crow.

The crow gone close
to elsewhere doesn’t sleep & the room
flickers a blue it is unable to be
in full daylight.

Daylight, having come close, 
keeps sleeping as the room
worries because spaces, which are part
of time, understand making
meaning in a universe.

The universe on the verge
of the room—or not, I can’t tell—
unfurls.

The child may be 
dreaming. I may be dreaming.
Outside, this moon glows low
over freeways, Christmas lights, one crow
among many.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Meet me at our spot
in the woods, with a fistful
of Chupa Chups,
a wool hospital blanket,
and a bottle of gin.
Today, I’m hiding
from all the wolves,
the people who suck
the life from your brain
like a pack of aliens
hungry and time-warped
from seven hundred years
of interstellar travel.
Why is everything happening
now, just when the world
is breaking down?
Can’t it wait 
until we’re all dead
in a few years –
a gift from mother covid,
praise delta, praise omicron,
I’ll be with the angels soon.
But the wolves,
they’ll be stuck here
in this hell of their own making,
cursing their own
lack of sanity
and wishing they hadn’t 
taken off their masks.

Pitcher Plant / by Jessica Duffy

You’re hungry and hollow
dangling with dead
insides crawling red.
Your triumphant trumpets
eat soundless in cellulose.
Hanging awfully, you give
while your presence takes;
a true NYC beauty. Waiting
for home. All pass you by,
for the cruelty of judgment.

You’re a murderer in disguise.

Sally Hemmings Seeks a Room at the Home for Women and Children, 2021 / by Joanne Godley

                          -1-
                 [anonymous voice]

Sally, Sally. Sally go round the bend,
Sally Hemmings, TJ penned you in.

Sally, Sally. Sally you in the swamp?
Sally, Sally. This clearly ain’t no romp.

Fly, Sally, fly. 
What you doing with the First Lady’s guy?
Why he keep sniffing around?
Dry your weeping eyes.
Fly, Sally, fly. Fly away-
Before. You. Go. Mad. 

                             -2-
                [Sally Hemmings]

“He sold my children. My children!
Said he was hurting—that he needed money. 
Might have to sell Monticello, says he.
They (my children) fetched a pretty penny–he told me.
‘Specially the boys.
Sold the girls to a breeding farm in Norfolk! 
Sent the boys—way down the river,
to deep-in-the-belly, South.
Swept them away—
like sea tide whooshes away beach debris
Weren’t they his children, too?
I couldn’t save my babies.
And I was next. 
Knew I was next.
That’s why I run.
Like a crocus pushing up through crusty snow,
I set my mind to do it.
I had to fly.

                                   -3-
[reception desk clerk at Women’s Home–speaking to her boss]

Sally-Hemmings-Jefferson.
That’s the name she gives me.
Tells me, be sure and write the ‘Jefferson’ part.
Then, says, no, never-mind, no. Scratch out ‘Jefferson’.[1]
She wants to know if there are many slavecatchers[2] in these parts. 
She real dirty, smelling mighty rank. And, that dress! Even with it being 
near-torn to bits—look like something out of Gone with the Wind
It comes all the way down to the floor. Dark grey with itsy-bitsy flowers. 
Collar buttoned to the chin. Dirty lace around the wrists. 
Has on a petticoat.[3]
Anyway, she asking for a room. 
She keeps talkinbout—the President gonna try and get her.[4]
Her eyes real strange. Moving in different directions at the same time.[5] [6]
You ask, what she look like?
Well, she colored but, mixed, for sure.
High-yellow. Wearing a grey scarf-same as her dress-on her head.
Not tall but not small, neither.
She keeps looking around the room with brown wild-wide eyes—[7]
I asks her for her cellphone number for registration.
Says— ain’t never seen a cellphone before![8]
I asks her if she needs a tag for her car—how she traveled?
And she says, No, Ma’am. I brung my wings. That’s how I got here!
She bends over and opens up a beat-up valise on the floor. Then, unfolds one bright white Wing!
It’s ‘bout as big and wide as that writing table in the reception area.
A real wing.
Has feathers and everything.[9] 
She strokes it—kind of like a pet—then, folds it back into her valise.
Then, asks me, What’s a car?
I don’t tag her for the wings.
I tell her that since this is a Home for Women and Children,
the place needs to stay calm, that she can’t be flying ‘round all hours of the day or night. 
Has to keep her flying to respectable hours.
She nods. Says she understands.
So, should I give her a key?


[1] She look a little touched, if you know what I mean-
2  Slavecatchers? In 2021?
[3] Can you believe that? She wearing a petticoat??! 
[4] and don’t seem like that’s a good thing . . .
[5] She look scart.
[6] Shouldn’t we send her to the hospital ‘stead of giving her a room?
[7] Has that look like she don’t get out much.
[8] I mean, even babies, these days, know what a cellphone is!
[9] Had to keep myself from leaning ‘cross the reception desk to touch it!

Pain Management II / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

I will no longer take the opioids they give,
and not because of countless addicts in my blood
which if I counted here for you, my family would
start counting them themselves and wonder aloud
exactly who I know about and who I don’t.
I will not take the opioids they give
because the pain, for people such as me,
is signal, red flag, the only thing
reminding us to take a break. The nurses say,
Just live your life like normal. Chemo won’t
need to slow you down at all.
Why tell us lies with pretty smiles?
Why make us think there’s something wrong
with watching TV, saying no? Why make
us think that rest is a dirty word?

A Child’s Lament / by Pratibha Kelapure

I like to write a rainy song, to shower
The earth, the pristine water to subdue
the raging fires that push the deer into
the city streets, fawns left to cry alone
I want the rainy song to spill out into
The world, cure all the ills, restore virility
The only water I can provide is tears
Absurd tears, useless wheels that spin but can’t
Return equilibrium to the ecosystem
I am the one who roughhoused on the lap
Of Mother Earth for all my life and now
It’s too late to bring down the pristine rain
Acidic aura spreads, the oceans toxic
The clouds can’t hold enough clean water
So many rainy songs, so many salty tears

Floating Fragments of Journal Kernels / by Centa Therese

A spinning wheel does not create a wheel
Foraging journals for kernels
like each thought can remake the self  

People paint on more and more life
more transparency, they hang boxes
on the wall,
a huge screen

We are supposed to dress up
as we are part of the art
but I draw a blank

Then I remember. Start with
a small truth to express a greater truth.
Like, when writing about the girl you
were, never forget the woman you are.
(Embellish, of course.)

Waiting to be executed for murder
pray to remember to pray
as you wait to be hung

Though you don’t remember killing the man
you do remember it was by striking
and it was premeditated.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Hara-kiri / by Katherine Abrams

The summer my mother died I migrated north to Chicago–
swallowed my grief with tasting menus and wine pairings,
wore my devastation under a floor length ball gown,
recklessly kissed my partnered ex in the daylight.

It’s been years now, a baker’s dozen, and I’m back,
still licking the drippings of my motherless life
from a cracked hipster plate. Artisan pickles aren’t enough.
I can still taste the smoke swirls landing in her backseat.

I still taste her coffee, stronger than the wrought iron
gate in the side yard, but not stronger than her resolve.

After George Herbert’s “Prayer (I)” / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Beyond the stars heard,
what then & is that where
prayer goes or where

you will go when the time
of inevitable severance arrives—
final, ordinary, & extravagantly

searing? The milky
wounds of our joinder healed
years ago, but even past

the first decade, the self 
would keep open

a plane of being to the other
that begins—and will go on
beginning—to seal shut.

Will its suturing be dead
to feeling or thrum a slow kind
of tune? I speak too extra,

sure, but the common made
singular is extra: from your birth
in my blood to the firm turn

of your shoulder, daily now, 
something understood.

Counting Threads / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Every person has 1,000 threads.
Babies are born with threads to their parents,
threads to their doctors, nurses, and midwives, 
threads connecting them to their siblings 
and their cousins, their aunts and uncles,
their grandparents –
their ancestors, if alive or buried.
Threads connect people to their landlords,
their personal trainers,
their greengrocers, librarians, and social workers.
The closer a person gets to the White House,
the more likely they are to share a thread
with the president, the head of secret service,
the secretary of state.
People talk about other people
who have threads connecting them to
Japan, North America, Egypt, Iran.
Threads float in the oceans,
dragging along the bottom
or cresting on a wave,
some get wrapped around squid
and swordfish and dolphins –
people say those people start to feel
a little waterlogged, 
lose the equilibrium in their ears,
start to hear whale calls
when they’re lying in their bed at night.
It isn’t easy to cut a thread,
but people always talk about ways to do it –
ways it’s proven to work.
Getting your threads run over by a bus
will not sever them, but may kill you,
if you get tangled up in the wheels.
The only real way to break a thread
is to lose it deep in the woods,
run until you can’t run any more,
dig a hole deep enough to bury yourself in
and cover your eyes, ears, nose.
Hold your breath and count to 1,000.

What is there? / by Jessica Duffy

Where is home in the skies,
Where the dream never dies?
Where is hopeful mourning?
Where the butterfly flies, 
Where is restful becoming?
Where the cricket cries, 
Where is knowing known?
Where the curtain sighs, 
Where unknowing frowns know,
Where’s the room in knowing 
Where the body lies?
Where is sound unknown, 
Where are the known whys?
Where is what defies
Where the growth is wise?
Where do windows disguise,
Where space belies?
Where are all the replies?

General Hospital Dream Scenes / by Joanne Godley

an empty bed in the ICU
calls to her for a few hours of sleep
quicker than she can say the word, ‘boo’
she’s laid down and gone fast asleep

—wakened minutes later while in a deep dream
nurse says bed # 2’s ‘sundowning’ again
(couldn’t she tell another doctor on the team?
why not wake one of the men?)

being an intern means you handle all scut
listen to the drumbeat of a ‘gone-rogue’ artery
watch the scurrying of tar-poop out of the gut
skirt the patient’s feral mockery

recall the fact that black poop means blood
keep drinking coffee ‘cuz there’s no meal in sight
Tiredness embraces her like an old buddy
working all day and into the night

leaving rounds to go pray in the chapel
gurgling of bowel sounds heard through a stethoscope
sneezing as hands reach for the scalpel
screaming at what’s been viewed through the scope

dying strangers to whom she gives comfort
Fleeing to the bathroom for a good cry
blinking back tears because patients’ days are numbered
the bleary-red of her dog-tired eyes

Telling younger docs to ‘please do no harm’
ward clerk’s radio tuned to Motown
heart-beat problems trigger an alarm
random nurses having breakdowns

Sickly odor of fetor hepaticas
beeping of monitors, buzzing of pagers
surgeon colleague trying to land kisses
Drowning sonorous snoring behaviors

Boom-boom; Beep-beep!; Boom boom! Beep-beep
Trembling, trying to not come undone
hospital backlit by setting sun’s swoon
what the doctor really needs is some sleep

Singing Lessons / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

I stood by her piano and wondered what
she thought of me. My hair was gone by then,
I’d given up on pretty scarves and headbands I’d sewn,
wearing only a black rayon hat I’d bought
online from Etsy. Night and day I wore the thing.
It kept me warm. I don’t remember anyone
in movies mentioning the cold that comes
from losing all your hair, or the pain.
You’d think the pain would come up a little more.
My head, when touched to the back of my chair
exploded, nerves of fiery jazz hands blinked
as SOS that kept me vigilant.
But this was not the story I wanted to tell.
I wanted to tell you how I sang
in a studio beneath an architect’s
and found my voice with everyone listening.


Kill the Beast / by Pratibha Kelapure

For years and years, I tried to write my verse
I poured my heart, my battered soul, obscure
Thoughts into words trying to reach the world
But always sensed disguised and subtle scorn
I kept my head low, almost hanging it
in shame, I marveled, mingled with all the
admired verse doctors reading lofty works
I tried to bandage bruised poor verse of mine
I used the salve inside the broken skin
To cure the tissue lying buried deep
within, the best-known recourse – use meter
Of all the ones, the hardest one — iamb
I left my fear behind and picked up
My rusty sword and sharpened it to carve
Sublime, in perfect meter, words to slay
the beast of fear, the terror of iambs

I Made Breath for Death / by Centa Therese

She doesn’t want to listen, to hear
the love sounding from every corner
to the pain wailing in my coffee cup

I want not to relive even one moment
I find nothing more exquisite than a cat’s
affection. Shifting my view it expands, becoming vast.

Next door lives Unaware, So I prepared
the table. Everyone brought their token
lettuce, I chewed on a leaf. Spit it out.

After the meal, they carried me out
and through a marsh or a maze.
My Last words, were…then I gave

my son a watch and a ring. I thought
of gratitude but forgot the object.
Instead, I made breath for death.

I drew the end in my mind with an
exotic crayon, knowing I was targeted
for an unknown crime, and would be

wrapped alive unless I jumped.
I listened all night for clues in
the words of an awakened woman

Next day, I moved into a rectangle
with dirt floors. A tree had been planted
in the shared space between.

Poem 18 / Day 18

My kids ask questions I don’t know how to answer / by Katy Abrams

I Google “how is plastic made?” because I don’t know
and 6 minutes of a Nat Geo video makes me cringe.
Shamefully, I shut my computer, hiding the plastic keys,
and get up from my plastic chair to refill my plastic cup.

Later I ask Siri about the global energy crisis.
She chirps out a terrifying stream of facts while
my daughter asks why Africa can’t have water like us
and my son asks why it’s not snowing this December.

I want to shield them from that ominous truth:
someday (in their day) there will be a reckoning.
Whichever dystopian TV series it ends up looking like
will devastate them. Their children won’t know any different.

Someday backyard pools will be mythologized,
and vintage pictures of slip-n-slides will be difficult
for kids to comprehend–how did they make it clean?
They played in all that water just for fun?

Children will ask their parents questions
they don’t know how to answer, questions about how
the world used to be, why it changed, why them?
And we won’t be there to answer.

Ode to the first real millipede / by Maggie Blake Bailey

and the scientist who named
it for Eurydice.

The days get shorter
so it seems right to call
anything that persists
after the girl still underground.

Orpheus is a failure,
that part is easy to remember,
but the girl, what happened
to bring her below?

A snake bite on her wedding day,
something clasping its
teeth to her ankle in the tall
grass of summer and rain?

We say a thousand legs
for anything that unsettles
us. Until a thousand
legs appears unbidden.

And then we say, you,
you are just the reason for song.

Upon Finding GG’s Recipe for Wassail / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

I think of this as midwinter
though only late fall & the falling
temperatures settle not into bleakness.
Early, dark feathers the pink-
tinged sky to the supposed delight
of sailors in the saying. From funeral 
to birthday in just outside
a week & we should have arranged
for holly in wreaths, for ivy, trailing.
For your first Christmas, we gave you 
two books you couldn’t hold, GG holding you
as we crooned, Do you see? Do you see?
I do not know if we hoped you saw what
we saw or a vision separate & your own.

–       for Charlotte

Wild Things / by Carolyn DeCarlo

What do you keep under your skirt?
For Tusiata Avia, maybe wild dogs,
for Aphroditos, a penis,
for Jessie of Luckenbooth, cloven hooves,
for Maid Marion, a chastity belt,
for Ursula the sea witch, tentacles,
Sigmund Freud, vagina dentata –
others, a dagger,
others still, a universe.

It is easy to give a thing a name,
harder to make it permanent,
legally binding, well-travelled.
Give a thing a name
and get rid of its old one,
bury it so deep in the woods
a pack of bloodhounds couldn’t find it.

People crave stability
when all of life is change.
There is comfort in sameness –
but leave a plant in its pot for years
and watch it wither without room to grow.

Let the wild things out,
hiding them in cages
or under our skirts
doesn’t do a damn thing
for any of us.

I’m working on a world
where the things beneath our skirts
give us strength –
become the things we’re most proud of,
things we don’t have to hide.

A Prayer for Oscar / by Jessica Duffy

I’d offer you a cup of shrimp soup 
That wouldn’t make you grimace

To make our eye-lock less heavy
Though your disdain already steeped

I know nothing of the crossfire
As we pause between the sun’s turn

It’s hard to look away from the pavement 
Caressing pain as your slinking bones pass

Glimpsing absence, your fur gleams tears
Of patchwork faded across this golden hour

I’ve learned to bleed neighborly talk
But most days I whisper

You never whimper

jones-ing (a failed bop) / by Joanne Godley

bask in our memories, swallow remembered sighs
drench myself with your scent, douse my lust with your thighs
fantasize fingers, lips—all that you do
swooning in dreams—you know—I’m jones-ing for you

babe, wish you’d stop running,
come back, get this loving

guess who came ‘round to say hey? Tyrone–said he
wanted to see was I good—check on me, like a friend should–
was there anything (I needed) he could do for me?
babe, I kept it 20/20   told Tyrone he’d best
split—wasn’t nothing I needed he could do
meanwhile, my body’s sayin’, whoa, don’t leave the pool—
stick your toes in a bit!

babe, wish you’d stop running,
come back, get this loving

how you been and how you do—oh I been
hot and all bothered with missing you, lover
and when I see you again— just imagine the things
I’m gonna do, with you, for you, and to you, babe
I ‘m hot and bothered with missing my babe
hey—Tyrone ain’t got nothing on you

babe, wish you’d stop running,
come back, get this loving

Waiting for Ham on White though I’d Rather Have Rye / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

On June 13th, I sat not half awake
and watched the man across from me eat lunch.
I waited for nurses to bring a meal I’d never had,
a meal I would be sick of come September.
Raised without much, though sometimes with enough,
it wasn’t my habit to turn down free food,
free to me at least. I’m sure my insurance company
was being billed quite prettily for it.
Yet this man had his own brought by his wife,
or girlfriend, I don’t know, it’s not
like in the movies where everyone makes friends.
I never spoke to other patients there,
just nurses, doctors, the volunteer with therapy dogs,
and not a one of them knows where I am today.

The Game / by Pratibha Kelapure

It is the story of the crying shame
I have looked at the longest artful game
It is the secret of a winner power
to make the pockets deplete every hour
if only I, an onlooker, could guess
as clear as mirrors or a piece of glass
how dealers cheat and win the game
It is the story of the crying shame
A man’s last dollar leaves his wallet
He’s hoping for a win when dealers call it
Before he knows his luck runs out, only
Doors open now, asylum walls, lonely
And drunk, he slowly stumbles into walls
The flickering neon signs berate his falls
How life deceives man often every game
It is the story of the crying shame

Scrolling on Facebook before Breakfast / by Crystal Stone

Time doesn’t end, it just continues
to narrow while it lengthens.
Sometimes we notice the clouds
sparingly in the sky, sometimes
it looks like they multiply. My last love
imagined I was an only child
rather than an oldest child.
I want to be that child again, only
with more love. My childhood was
a living room performance
of something I had seen once on TV.
I never understood fantasy and even now,
I’m bored of dreaming. The places
my mind goes when the lights
turn on. There are people I know
that are already balding. To think
the look of childhood could extend
into adulthood. To think the young
are beautiful, but unfamiliar. A filtered
past. I pay for highlights to cover
the ways the past has left a residue
on my beauty, foundation for when
the days are showing their years.

Right Size / by Centa Therese

Take the most obvious cases…the giant,
darkness at midnight, the gorgon, nightmares,

losses and reckonings. For shit’s sake, they call it
“a species moment.” The end. And the small…

such as the blade of grass, the heartbeat, trill of
the finch, one cell, protoplasm. Then, there’s

the bowl that contains a life. They call it “right-sized.”
A life, given to accept, eat from, weep into.

That’s the question. What is the right size? “Dignity
is inherent”, a poet said. “We never forget the

size we were born to.” Then tell me, what words
describe the sounds of birds in conversation?

Tell me how to convey the violence in a single sound
of a woman ripping apart the checkered dress

the girl had just finished sewing for the school dance.
How the hands did their duty, leaving the cigarette to

smoke itself in the ashtray on the bedside table.
How the red mouth laughed with contempt

as sky was ripped from sky, girl from girl?

Poem 17 / Day 17

This Evening / by Katy Abrams

Listening to swift poetry, the beat kind
that settles buzzing, anxious minds like mine.
Our rose garden filled with thorns

is dinner table debate: can the devil have horns?
While Cauliflower “pasta” gets mediocre reviews,
that grin promises you’ll keep me next to you.

Our troublesome front tree limb is down and stacked
but I still don’t feel safe, like walking too fast
when I met you on the outskirts of town.

Just how damn early did this sun go down?
A forty foot cross glows hills above the farm
but all I think about is karma.

Memento Mori / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

At the commencement of asking, which is only a continuation of the ongoing, what do you hope to learn or, should I say, to recover, for, notwithstanding the words of conquest we employ— exploration, discovery—isn’t there something of prior possession in knowing, or do I mistake expansion for confirmation? When the leaves turn, they say, then it is time to harvest & what lay beneath our fields of perception we can access, bring to light, consume. The object of waiting depends, in part, on the interposed: waiting to know, waiting for you to grow up, waiting between continents & down the aisle, waiting without a breather, without milk, or without conclusion. When the leaves turn, they say, then it is time to harvest. When the leaves turn, they say, then.  

Dot Dot Dash / by Carolyn DeCarlo

She kept a secret from her students
her whole life.
The school said it was for their protection,
but she wasn’t doing anything dangerous.
She told them she lived with a friend,
they’d lived together for years,
just friends –
nothing more to see here.
She loved her students so much.
When she had them around to her house,
she made sure her friend
wasn’t home –
who knows what the girls might think.
She wasn’t allowed to tell them
she was in love with her friend,
that they fit together in bed
in a way no man could do for her.
That would damage them,
maybe even make them think
it was okay to love another woman –
something that went against 
the school’s principles
entirely.
Was she hiding it even from the school?
They must have suspected –
us girls all knew the truth
and loved her all the more for it.
The pain of it all.
Imagine living in America in the mid-2000s
and still being made to feel fear
for something like that –
maybe not so hard to imagine.
An acceptable alternative to lesbianism
in my school was the sisterhood –
just become a nun if you’re into women.
God will forgive.
But then, the scandal when a young nun
dropped out,
declared her love for anoher woman,
got a civil union
(gay marriage was illegal in America) –
got denounced by everyone.
I remember her
coming to the school in plain clothes
super butch, and so happy.
What a difference honesty with oneself makes.
There was a professor
in my master’s program 
four years later
whose partner worked in the same department.
No one asked them
to keep their relationship quiet –
or, if they did, they both refused.
My professor talked about her partner in class,
had us over to her house
where they both hosted us
with open arms and Patti Smith on the surround sound.
It was a great house,
perfect for gathering in students,
cosy and warm,
and it made me think of 
what could have been
in that other, wonderful house.

A single vanishing point  / by Jessica Duffy

a film scripted
an unusual horizon

fixed lines 
drew illuminated

corners converged
beyond view

directions aligned
windows sang

the stairs disjoined
in transfiguration

my heart grew

UNTITLED / by Joanne Godley

                     -1-
“We called ourselves the REAL sistahs of Mercy hospital”

we say we are real
and sisters of the kin with an s
not sin but skin sisters
who are black and black and black
no one habit in sight
not kin but doctors
work in the hospital of mercy
mercy the doctor
mercy the black sister
house calls and call ourselves
real doctor sisters of mercy
an uncatholic joke
and no one reality tv stunt.

                    -2-
On May 13,1985, Philadelphia bombed MOVE members
in a residential neighborhood

Philly is so complicated so
and so nicely
the brothers love
Philly can ask you to MOVE
MOVE out of your house MOVE
nicely and hold your bones
so nicely for years
brotherly and sisterly
nicely and love
Philly needs mercy it does and no one hospital
city of cheesesteaks and liberty
burning cannonballs of houses bombed
and codified pain
Paul Robeson, a Philly son
sang I must keep fightin’
until I’m dyin’
I could       I could
go on and on and on and on
mercy me 
mercy on Philly’s MOVE


Patience III / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

I’m sick of my own stories, tales
I can’t imagine anyone will want to hear,
for very long at least. The sick as so…
so interesting for a moment, for a flash,
a brief insight to a world we hope
to never have to visit or, God forbid,
to live. But living here in healing space
is better by far than other options that have
presented themselves to me.. I say options
like there has ever been a choice for me,
like curiosity and stubbornness
aren’t multiplying daily somewhere deep,
aren’t holding to my soul like purple bush
clover seeds in the fall, just hitching a ride
to the next grand adventure, to the next fertile ground.

Taco Bell Poem / by Pratibha Kelapure

He craves at midnight a crunchy gordita with
Chipotle sauce, and gooey, cheesy, goodness
Who else but Taco Bell can fulfill desires
At late night, when a date goes badly, who
Will comfort you, who would care? Taco Bell’s here.
So, spent away an evening drinking whiskey?  
No fear, no better cure than crunchy nachos
A combo meal supreme crunchy Chalupa’s here
Who else but Taco Bell can cure binging?

After Heartbreak / by Crystal Stone

We make do
with what we can find. 
We corkscrew the center,
smoke from an apple 
with a plastic straw.

At the bar later, 
I brag about everything 
I could handle, show
strangers the videos 
we made when we still felt

whole. I’ll watch
the snow melt 
from a drafty window
of a restless highway.
I won’t miss him, but the ritual

of it. The long walk we took
where he admitted he went
farther than he would’ve 
alone. Someone new 
will tell me he wants 

to take his time 
& I’ll still rush him along.
In the light of the stage,
I’ll see through 
his hair to the baldness

beneath. His shirt will
wrinkle like skin, hide
the muscles I’d find 
he had below the translucent 
heart of a knit v-neck. 

Chiaroscuro / by Centa Therese

In so much darkness
Water gleams wet on the hands
We savor the light

Poem 16 / Day 16

Recuse / by Katherine Abrams

It’s not about saying no.
This is what I tell myself

since saying no has never
been my brand of self-care.

Instead, I am saying yes
to myself. Revolutionary.

I send the requisite email–
a watery apology. Breathe.

I send another. I notice
the world hasn’t stopped

and nothing is on fire. I
am not engulfed in shame.

Well this isn’t terrible I whisper
to emptying calendar spaces

that I will not allow myself to fill.

Ode to 80000 Honey Bees Found in Wall of Shower / by Maggie Blake Bailey

(Also, 100 Pounds of Honey)
reads the suggested headline
and I don’t need to click
I don’t need to learn anymore
than that.

Because what is this year if not
a bathroom wall alive
under a warm hand.
What is this hardship if not
closing your eyes
against the water only
to hear almost two
hundred thousand wings.

The year is almost over.
Someone found the hive.
No one will eat the honey.

Tutti i gattini? / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

So asked the fairy child as
if from a dream, switching 
languages when our smiles 
seemed too vague to mean
yes, or perhaps it was only
that speaking, like eating,
they say, can make change
real & good, given magic 
seeks the porous, & though
you ran down all the various 
paths through the woods we 
never saw or heard mention 
of any child or any kittens.

–       for Annie

In God’s Hands / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

My brain slid out
while I was sitting in my room,
slipped right out through my ear
and fell on the floor in a pile.
I hadn’t been doing much
when I lost my brain,
just contemplating
and working on breaking my heart.
I’ve been trying to crack that fucker
for years now
with a steady stream of self-sabotage,
religious guilt, and questionable morals.
It isn’t so easy to be liberal
when you’ve grown up Catholic –
every thought I have
is policed by the memory of being a child
in the hands of God.
When I take a step back from it,
I know the doctrine’s all wrong,
but that doesn’t stop me thinking
how many people have judged me –
are judging, will judge again –
and that maybe if I don’t do X, Y, Z…
I will go to Hell for real.
I have bargained with God before,
sitting in my bathroom
whispering pleas to his majestic holiness –
please don’t…
I will…
When it works,
I never follow through on my promises.
It’s hard to, when the thing you’re begging
isn’t a thing you think is really real
when you’re not on your knees.
So, what to do
when everyone you ever knew
when you were young
knows you’re living in sin?
Even when I’m almost 9,000 miles away –
thank God for the internet, right? –
and I didn’t even care what they thought
when I was in school with them,
acting like me and my metal boyfriend
were the coolest things in town
while everyone else wore Lilly Pulitzer
and did drugs on the weekends
(I know because I polled them
for Health class.)
And I mean, what a shock when the girl
I sat next to in homeroom
put down that she’d taken molly –
cute, since that was her name.
A preppy girl from the suburbs
who’d had bigger adventures than me.
Well, look who’s adventuring now?
I reject the Republican homophobes,
but fuck if I don’t still hate it when they reject me.

The Light /The Light /The Light / by Joanne Godley
                                             ~For Paul                               

                          After Jameson Fitzpatrick

How did it feel
when they wrenched you from the sky?
Was it like a forbidden dream?
Remember how hard we laughed
inside the champagne balloon in Napa?
Remember your horror—hearing I had driven your purple Camaro 
down a public flight of stairs?  
Twenty years ago?
Remember those untimely dead-baby jokes?
Do you need pillows to cushion metallic shock?
Do you know your leave-taking was a lyric?
Do memories of that last day summon awe?
I have been praying for your return.
There is nothing you need set right, little brother.
You were always into something, you say,
shaking your head. This was not my doing.
Come let me feast my eyes on you.
Come let me say a proper goodbye
before the vessel in your chest shatters
and they shine the white light on you.
Before you ghost us once again.

She is anticipation / by Jessica Duffy

“from the silent koto, she is
tapestry burned”

—Diane di Prima

she is text bed memories
fading green lights into transmission
she is “shhh, patience”
the uncomfortable

she is the marionette without
the dead that does not dance, she is
the pull of your shirt tail
the unaching wade in
sexualization, she is
the little bird pecking at your window sill

the forgotten crumb

after coffee on the dinner table
shared with daughters of strangers
she is bread baked in refusal
she is dusk rising
moon songs
she is disrobed atrophy
unarmored in your world of visions

she is your last face

you ever dare dream 
out of you, chasing
after what you think she is
while she stands behind
laughing a cry so deep

you hear your mother’s scream

Patience II / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

So, once upon a time I lifted myself
up high into a graceful arch from flat
on carpet in our small apartment above
the Aflac agent, or flooring made of bamboo
at the yoga studio I went to five
days a week, or even the asphalt of
the Wal-Mart parking lot on Tennessee Street,
without a thought to where to put my hands,
without a thought about the position
of my legs, the width of those hips that hid
a spreading secret timebomb I know
already had started to grow back then.
And now, I lay here struggling today.
I move my feet an inch up toward my butt,
my hands now closer, now farther away.
Three times I’ve tried to push the ground from me,
three times I haven’t budged. Some days I can
still manage full wheel, some days I can’t.
I never know which day the day will be
until I’ve tried and failed or risen up.

An Optimist’s Hope / by Pratibha Kelapure 

I love the possibility
Of beauty that relieves
Unease — erases cruelty
A land of noble thought
One that embraces another
Unlike the rest, one maybe
a misfit, a miscreant, who breaks
some social norms defined
by ancient pompous hierarchs
I long for this mythical land
I plant the seeds of restless
Revolt, to pave a path
Leading to light

My Friend Tells Me Talking to Me is Like Living / by Crystal Stone 

a Gertrude Stein poem, which is to say 
she doesn’t understand me, the way she doesn’t

understand walking birds. She chases them 
until they fly. You have wings, use them! Get out 

of here. I pick violets for the lemonade I’ll stir
after our walk. We’ve had nothing before 

so we use everything–the sprouting garlic,
the drying onion, weeds on the side of the road

growing among cigarettes and discarded red bulls.
If I had wings, I would never walk 

which is to say we think we could do better 
with what the cardinal has, if we had more. I think 

about how I’ve smelled skunks my whole life, 
but never seen them. How we’re all hiding 

behind some odorous fear. Maybe it’s not just walking that slows us down, but this: the gap between 

what we have and what we choose, what we know
and what we do, the placement 

of hope on an open country road where 
the toads are asking for sex and the birds are grounded 

picking discards they find instead of enjoying the view they could have from the trees.

What do you mean? / by Centa Therese

Embody trust?Absolved of thinking

some natural occurrence.Not a power exchange.

You trust in this (no powerdifferential to stop the exchange)The whole is nothing likewhen wind mourns.

You are the sound of my exhale.I stand agape, amazed or bemused?

The distance between myself benevolent witness and

the loneliness in a cat’s eyes.  Don’t tell me there’s no water.

“We are always standing atthe gateway of awe.”

Yet, we keep ourselves distant,outrunning beauty in an unholy dare.

Poem 15 / Day 15

4:00 pm Reminder: Time Sensitive / by Katherine Abrams

Write a 
goddamn poem

every day, 
thirty days. 

Randomly chose 
4pm scolding 

pocket buzz 
(more often

bag-buried 
somewhere else). 

But today–
hear it, 

see it– 
can not 

avoid (if 
I wanted).

But also
can’t pretend 

to ‘real
live poet’ 

if there 
aren’t actually 

some real
live poems.

Ode to the opening band / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

I saw you tonight—
laptop standing in
for the band you
lack, one guitar
and a girl in the crowd
dancing to every
word. It is not

your fault. And I hope
you know that.
Your voice is just
as clear. But each night
when the headliners
take the stage,
you know they are
better. There is never

a reason. Is there?
I want to wait
after the show, not
for your autograph
but to say
I am so sorry our best
is the start of the show.

On the Second Birthday after Your Passing / by Kate Bolton Bonnici 

Overnight, once-a-season
rains came careening down
burn scars & boulevards.

Amidst the morning slickness
to what do we turn & if this, 
then, signals an anticipated 
advent, have you taken heed?

Meanwhile, mourning moves.
We can no longer make out its signs
in the lean, postdiluvial light,
for light too lengthened 

we will feel wholly in the form
of heat or, as here, we will feel
acutely heat’s absence.

To the River / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

Walk down to the river to find calm,
instead, find the water churning with 10,000 eels,
black bodies surging and writhing,
breaching the surface and tunnelling deep below,
fighting for space against their comrades,
the sharp rocks, the rushing current.

Walk down to the river for an escape,
instead, find a near-dry bed,
thin trickle of water slugging its way
toward the coast, piles of stones
worn smooth from years of battering,
laid bare, exposed on the shores.

Walk to the river to find solace,
find rapids where you expected glass,
a clear sightline to the bed,
barely a hint at the shifting suck downstream,
visible only when a leaf lands –
instead, whitecaps, drop-offs,
a hundred things to bash up against.

Walk into the river to feel alive again,
slip on a slimy thing under your foot
and open your mouth,
take in water and plant life and insects,
cough and choke and feel deader
than the dead thing you found
in your lawn that morning.

Walk into the river to find your old life,
dredge her up from the bottom
with a fishing net and your bare hands,
carry her on your chest to the shore,
pump her heart, put your mouth to her mouth
and blow, feel something hard in her throat,
stick your finger in and hook it out,
stare hard at the chrysalis you find there –
an agent of change that caused her lungs to stop,
brought on the death of the former you,
face the truth and laugh, because
it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Leave the river to find a new path,
move squarely into your life as it is,
time is marching forward and so are you –
ready or not – so make the most of it,
if you are able.

Walk until you find the way to your home,
embrace that that means something different now.

All flowers in time bend towards the sun / by Jessica Duffy
After Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser

isn’t the only apostrophe
validating love

watering our 
bleeding cognizance

interflowing
real as reconciliation

I, the elusive thing 
becomes you in twoness

weeping sweet fuses

my eyes
angry darling susans 

hold an empty future: 

          elucidating  

pillow        newness

Protocol / by Joanne Godley 

As a first-year medical student, it was my responsibility to take the history of a patient on the drug and alcohol unit, a locked ward. I was assigned Mrs. Wilson. Sadie, the head doctor called her. A tiny silver-haired woman in a worn house dress covered in oversized pink flowers, she was like a drooping pansy swimming in an oversized pot. When I asked Miz Wilson her age, she smiled and spoke in a low musical voice, I believe, I’m the oldest one here. Out of the corner of my eye, the more youthful residents moved wordlessly, like apparitions, about the beige meeting room. I nodded, You’re correct Ma’am. I could not bring myself to call her Sadie. My mother would roll in her grave if I spoke to a woman thrice my age as though we were pals or equals. Titles like Miz, Miss, Ma’am, Sir, were part of a cultural dogma to which African Americans very much clung. Give me my ‘propers’ when you get home. Miz Aretha crooned, Respect. I wanted to know why Miz Wilson was here. I sure do miss Mister Daniels, she whispered to me, after she’d answered my standard litany of health-related questions. Is Mister Daniels a friend of yours? I asked. The best. A little Mister Daniels in my coffee each day–helped chase them old blues right away. Miz Wilson said this with a smile that lit up her face. It turns out, she was referring to whisky, Old Jack Daniels. When I asked her if this was so, Miz Wilson tee-heed, with her hand over her mouth, her head bobbing up and down. I come from the South, she said, and I know better than to address a white man by his first name!

Patience I / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

I stop to pull some weeds and never think
of how two years ago, this simple act
meant stretching, massaging, and Epsom salt baths.
Removing one small seedling, no more than an inch,
that grew from an acorn that dropped itself
first to the metal chair, its rusted seat
creating a clamor like the end of worlds,
then to leaves that fell from the same oak tree
just weeks before their own hard crash,
to ground where they’d wait for squirrel or shoe
to crack them open just enough to germinate.
That waiting must have been hard on them.
Uncertainty, anxiety, and hope, three sides
of the same unflippable coin.

The Book of Why / by Pratibha Kelapure 
         — Thanks to Crystal 

Someone ought to write a book of why
Thorny questions like why does grandma
Walk so slowly, and why does she tremble
Why do leaves turn yellow and fall
Simple ones like why do the birds fly
Why are the thunderclaps so loud
And the most daunting of them all
Why did she stay with him even after–
As if a one-size-fits-all definition
Of abuse exists when there are no
Black and blue bruises or broken bones
When someone cries in the closet
Day after day after the broken furniture
Broken spirit in the void left by all
Her cherished activities, old friends
Lost in the fury of the perfect husband
Fury – like a tree falling in the forest
When no one is around to witness
A woman can’t even have an
Certified attacker, a guilty target
To point to, all she’s got left is
Her wounded self-esteem and
gradually eroding self-worth
Everyone wants a victim to becomea hero, but what happens when
You can’t even offer proof of victimhood
There’s only rock and a hard place
And you squeeze somewhere in-between
Not a hero, not a victim, not a valid human
Just a crawling bug the in crevices of
The functioning, bustling world?
She needs a book of why and also how.

Selfie Ekphrasis / by Crystal Stone 

If this picture was a poem, it’d say
I can’t remember to take my meds. 
The mania benefits me sometimes. 
I made three meals today. I skipped
the gym, but my traps still showed 
in my cut off. Wine stained my lips. 
The clouds move with such speeds 
the night fast forwards through the day. 

When it Comes to This / by Centa Therese

When it comes to the end, hold me,at least by the hand. Sing like the wind.I want to hear you with all my senses.

Bring silence with you as honorary guest.Wash me tenderly from limb to limb.   When it comes to the end, hold me.

To you who love me, lay next to me and rest.  Don’t let me die alone, as though I’ve never been.I want to feel you with all my senses.

I want to leave you with all expressed,to feel the touch of your hand on my skin.When it comes to the end I want to be held.

To have dropped all doubt, the heart’s final success.To my grown children, don’t turn away, better open.  I want to feel you with all my senses.

I want to leave my body without shame or regret,Ready forever I’m led, whether life ends or begins.When it comes to the end I want to be held.To feel the world complete with all my senses.

Poem 14 / Day 14

Free Range / by Katy Abrams

Backyard chickens
enjoy a lot more freedom
than modern children.

You can’t get arrested
for letting poultry wander
around the corner, out of sight.

Animal control won’t even start
up the truck for a stray hen
roosting in my azaleas.

Ode to What I Can Still Offer / by Maggie Blake Bailey
            for the D-T sophomores, smartest in the land

What have the last two years been
but crossing of the list
of what I can give my children

do they have special permission?

my children ask, about friends,
about grandparents, meaning

is it safe to hold them? each month
the math changes, when are we
the threat and when are we threatened?

My father is old enough that I am afraid.
My children young enough that I am afraid.

Fall asleep to the math of what I can still
offer them, counting in my mind:

the wind of Chicago, a pencil pouch,
 puffer jackets, flags, bookmarks, take-out food.

Anything that once made me smile.
Anything I can draw on a piece of paper.

Even where we cannot be: Egypt, Toronto,
a wedding, a lake, my grandmother’s house.

Home can be Atlanta, home can be the kitchen
of this messy house, lit too bright
in LED lights half turned to the wall.

I tell my children the trips we will take,
how we will sit in the window seat
of a new restaurant, watch the rain fall
and eat rice and curry, tired from a day
made entirely out of the new and unknown.

We will thank the waiter. We will hug the owner.
We will dance toward sleep in all that lasted.

On the Verge of Sliding / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

I’m wearing your gloves
Because the heater broke

Though winter is mild here
I have kept these gloves

Balled up like socks beside
The tube of vanilla lip balm

I brought to you in the hospital
Hospital lip balm doesn’t form

The shape lipstick takes
Over and over the same

I could tell ours apart
Your angle of repose, mine

The Best Summer Ever / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

She wasn’t a child –
so she had to make a fake email account
with a birthday saying she was only 14.
She needed to get access to
the Summer Reading Challenge
at her local library
for children and young adults,
and though the oldest age group was 12+
she guessed 75 would be too plus to qualify.
She read the rules,
none of which said anything about scammers,
or what might happen if identities were faked,
so she signed up as her alter-ego.
She deliberately chose the team with no points –
she wasn’t in it for the prizes,
surely they’d figure out what she was up to
if she won something
and had to appear at the library
for some kind of awards ceremony
at the end of the summer.
No, she just wanted to participate,
she wanted someone or something
to hold her accountable,
and she wanted to read YA,
particularly sci-fi/fantasy,
something she’d never give herself
the permission to do outside of this challenge.
She had never been able to join before,
in previous summers,
when the challenge wasn’t online –
had to be conducted in person
to registered library card holders only.
Thank God for the pandemic.
Now everything was done on Zoom
or Boom or whatever –
her generation wasn’t supposed to know
how to do any of those things,
shouldn’t think of tick tock as anything
but the sound a Grandfather clock makes –
too busy being a grandparent
to care that life was whizzing by
right in their periphery.
But she wasn’t a mother,
let alone a grandmother,
and her boyfriend would laugh right in her face
if she pretended not to know
her way around the internet.
Signing up was simple enough.
She changed her profile picture
to Shang-Chi, her favourite new Marvel hero,
refused to answer their binary gender questions –
they had no right to ask her for that,
and plus, maybe she didn’t have one.
She waited eagerly for the confirmation email
and squealed when she found it in the Spam.
She really was too smart for them to win.
The only thing she had left to do –
besides the reading itself –
was to make a pile of all the children’s books
she’d accumulated over the years,
watching the children win their pizzas
and seething in rage that that couldn’t be her.
She pottered around (but to be real,
she was really zooming now)
gathering the books and forming her piles.
If she got through all of these, though,
her team would definitely win.
Maybe she didn’t need to record all her activity –
or maybe she wouldn’t actually read them
as quickly as she thought she could.
It had been so long since she sat down
with a book and a cup of tea
(had she ever done that, really?) –
taking care of an aging man could really feel
like a full-time job, at times.
She’d have to hide the books in her closet
and tell her boyfriend they were for research
for a present for her cousin’s boy,
a child she thankfully only had to see on holidays.
After the pile was stacked and stashed,
and she’d decided on one to read first,
she crept into the bathroom,
sat in the tub and opened her book.
This was going to be the best summer ever.

Flower Myth / by Jessica Duffy
After Paul Klee’s Flower Myth

A yearning womb
Abides the contradiction

Of nature’s insemination
With its gentle conifers

The gestalt turns
Thoughts to structure

Her red body holds
This new landscape

Phallus sound washes over
Lingering bulbous desires

A blue abstraction
Made concrete its gesture

Of buds blooming
In this timeless season

be not / by Lane Fields

I’ve seen you before. I’ve seen your body
bathed in light. I’ve seen you offered up
so I might be changed somehow. It’s all
right now. Sundays pass like parades—
I’ve learned to sing for you alone, adrift
with song. I’ve learned to love you, man
who comes in quiet hours & says not to
be afraid. But—my God—I am so afraid.
My heart is a typewriter & you can read
every line because you wrote every line.
I am covered in your dust. You carry me
through the darkness. I’m all right now.
How great you are: nucleus of my heart,
watching from that ancient, distant star.

Sonnet for Auntie Toni (and an imagined addendum) / by Joanne Godley

Love the look on the face of my shero,
Toni Morrison’s fixin’ to get fierce, and
cut this interviewer to pieces, who,
has the chutzpah to ask her about race.

He asks when she plans to become mainstream
and add white characters to her lexicon.
Her eyebrows shoot up to the moon, and she,
with a smile, fixes her mouth to reply:

Race is not my monkey nor my circus,
my Black characters and I are mainstream.
Race is a construct white folks seem to need
to improve their well-being and self-esteem.

She had class and sass; she was a literary badass.
Toni Morrison was our lioness.

                           *****

Toni Morrison adds:

You all are mainlining race for wellbeing–
What happens if it is taken away?
In a world without race:  who and what are you?

No white person has answered to this day.

Well, Don’t That Just Beat All / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

*CW: Suicidal ideation

Near to the brink of the moment when everything turns into darkness,
eyes far more clouded than Syvia’s bell jar, that distanced, distorted but
showed the full picture, if only in outline, if only translucent,
tired and true image and never quite spoke to my teen angst and troubles.
That’s not a typo, so don’t try fixing it, don’t try fixing me.
Give me an image of puzzle piece faces and macrame fingers
broken and categorized by self-made protections so necessary and foolish.
Give me an image that speaks to attempting to pass for some version of agency.
Thirty-one years I swaddled myself in the cotton balls, fluffy and covering,
took what protection they offered and accepted a wrong diagnosis,
general anxiety disorder, rather than PTSD, a form of it anyway.
When they prescribe for me a better solution for problems I actually do have,
EMDR finally clears out the fluff balls and lets me go days, sometimes months
comfortably touching the world and content with my daily existence,
then cancer comes knocking, I heard you’d requested an exit, so sorry I took my sweet time.

A Rainy Afternoon / by Pratibha Kelapure

Gray clouds stretch as far as the eye can see
The relentless sky — much-needed rain all-day
Drought-stricken humans welcome it with glee
Shivering in the sodden feathers, a blue-jay
Under the hibiscus leaf, hides a chick-a-dee
Silence of the warbler, wings folded as if to pray
Sheltering in the foliage, sanctuary of an elm tree
A lone mourning dove tired of idling flies away
Chill in the air, in the darkened kitchen, a pot of tea
Steaming, brewing, and noisily whistling away
the birds unseen, no end to rain I can foresee
carrying the birdseed, I step outside the doorway
Hoping the little birds come out of the elm tree

Drinking Moonshine in Hot Springs, AR / by Crystal Stone

Everyone wants a victim to become
a hero, but sometimes we don’t. We drink
in our free time, edibles into philosophical
fermentation. My s’mores moonshine 
cocktail campfires the distillery 
into a woodsy cabin. Boredom inspires 
romance the way day always inspires night. 
The bartender has a possum named Crystal, 
but I don’t have a dog named Doug. It’s not 
meant to be. Sometimes breaking a family 
curse just means breaking the family line. 
My mother should’ve never been a mother,
but I’m not mad at her for trying. Love 
lingers until it doesn’t. Loneliness is easier
than boredom, the constant empty nagging.

Ransacked / by Centa Therese

My world has always felt too small, my life bandaged, constrained,
and so tedius, having to name everything before you experience it.
When I was young, I thought my hands excessive.

I imagined chopping them off. Not for the shame of any idea they
expressed, or for how misshapen the clay pots turned out. My best
friend’s hands were small-boned. Feminine. Mine were not.

I objectified them. My feet too. They were an idea to hate,
that I might change them to fit into another’s idea. Little did I know
birds, and yet they spoke to me without me even seeing them.

Someone is playing the trumpet down the street. I wrote a manuscript
of flying dreams. The afternoon light wanes but will come again.
Like any child needing to be seen and seen again.

Poem 13 / Day 13

Why Women Cry / by Katherine Abrams
-“137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day.”
-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Because
having loved ones
is our greatest risk–
beloveds are more likely
to kill us
than dark searing
strangers
on late train,
the ones who lean
against shadowed platform
columns
to watch us walk
our way
to the front car,
closest to the conductor,
closest to help
if we should shout
as though shouting
would save us–
meanwhile
at home
someone shifts the weight
of their weapon
and waits
at our dark window
to watch us walk
our way
to the front door.

Ode to the other mothers in the park / by Maggie Blake Bailey

I understand the children:
bright, chaotic colors, games that change
as soon as they are made.

Some parents seem beyond
me, tidy and thoughtful,
red lipstick and monogramed keychains.

Uncomfortable shoes, shiny ponytails
caught up in matching ribbon,
nails a soft pink better than real.

What I had assumed was easier
turned into defiance when I wasn’t
paying attention.

No makeup, no hairdryer.
How brave of me to care so
little about the things that matter.

I understand the children,
feral in sunshine the color
of egg yolk. Begging not to go home.

“What bright soft thing is this?” / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

–       Richard Crashaw, “The Tear” (1646)

Midway between the thought
& making what comes of it,

lies the space—call it caesura, call
it interlude—of the possible,

which is a pilgrimage site
brightly summoning. How slight

& wondrous the angle
of entry. Midway

home you mentioned
a story I couldn’t place

& our conversation veered
to steering recollection:

situating the body’s once-position
demands a magician’s ambition

& tactile facility. This town
& this house & this room.

This sunlight, this sound
of footsteps running.

Midway between 
thought & recognition,

memory—conjured
loose—comes closer. 

Her necklace clasp is broken.
Her perfume layers tea & smoke.

Going After Cacciatore / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

Cacciatore means ‘hunter’ in Italian,
and also a meal with tomatoes, onions,
herbs, vegetables, usually wine or vinegar,
and chicken or, more traditionally, rabbit.
Alla cacciatore means ‘hunter-style’.
In the war novel by Tim O’Brien,
Going After Cacciato tells the story
of a Vietnam War deserter who heads for the French hills,
pursued by his comrades in arms,
desperate for him to not be AWOL.
Cacciato means ‘hunted/caught’ –
in effect, the cacciatore becomes the cacciato.
Going After Cacciato is considered to be
Tim O’Brien’s most experimental work,
and one with questionable values
regarding honour and duty to one’s country.
Despite being the hunted,
Cacciato is portrayed as happy,
self-sufficient, and purposeful.
Paul Berlin, his pursuer, on the other hand,
is frustrated, nostalgic,
obsessed with getting to Paris.
He fantasizes about life outside of the war,
he daydreams, has reveries,
while Cacciato is dull-witted, not bright or gifted,
untroubled by the morals of war itself.
Berlin’s squad is saved by a refugee from Burma
many times,
they have names like Frenchie and Ready Mix
and their doctor prescribes them M&Ms –
nothing is real, nothing can be pinned down,
everyone is scared, afraid of death,
would prefer to kill their first lieutenant
than be blown up by Vietcong.
The new lieutenant suffers from homesickness,
is probably too old to keep fighting,
falls in love with a woman in India
who studied in Baltimore, Maryland
(my hometown).
There is a soldier named Oscar Johnson
who pretends to be from Detroit,
when all of his mail is sent to and from Maine.
He desperately wants to be seen
to be someone he is not,
and who can blame him
when the white men in his platoon
give him a racially charged nickname?
(This is 1978, and what else can we expect
from a 32-year-old cis het entitled white Harvard graduate
who spent two years in Vietnam and never got over it.
But tbh would you have been able to get over it?)
In cacciatore, the implication is that the hunter
is hunting wild game – birds, small mammals,
things with quick, black eyes and nervous bodies.
Cacciato avoids the hunt, plays it cool,
decides if walking is what soldiers do
he’ll walk across Asia back toward familiar ground,
safe, European soil, someplace nothing bad
could ever happen to a person like him.
Cacciato is a fantasy, a fairy tale, a fable –
something sad boys like Berlin invent
to make them feel better,
to give them purpose, to stop the creeping thoughts
that death is lurking around every corner.
The hunter fears death –
the hunted is absolved of this notion,
blissfully unaware, climbing hills,
enjoying the forest, expecting life to continue
and never come to an end.
The hunter has an ongoing awareness
of the fragility of life
that the hunted is never subjected to –
the hunter holds the stress for themselves
and their prey.
Cacciatore is seasoned,
seared in olive oil in a large frying pan
until the meat is cooked for several minutes on each side.
The fat from the pan is then used to fry the vegetables,
after which peeled tomatoes, rosemary, and dry red wine
are added, the meat is returned,
and the pan is covered and left to simmer.
When ready, cacciatore is often served with rustic bread or pasta.
Do the men in Going After Cacciato ever find him?
At one point, the men spot him in the mountains through binoculars.
They believe he is emulating a chicken,
attempting to squawk and fly.
A heavy storm is brewing, and the soldiers can tell
Cacciato is speaking, but they can’t hear him.
Berlin is the only one who can –
tells the lieutenant he’s saying ‘good-bye’.
Who can say which is better –
being hunter or hunted.
Would you rather be Cacciatore or Cacciato?

The Second Hand / by Jessica Duffy

I never loved the moment of exacting home
the awaited gaze holding my foundation
erect as skin passing through

walls decaying taste in those seconds
no dream slept but body contents

these feeble footnotes prefer preface 
over artifice & another chance home

I write wedding chapters
routes of departure:

mudroom memories
the faintest scent: her tepid address
monosyllable REM whore

Where are her cables?

the binding loosens

Rome / by Lane Fields

field of Mars, maze of buildings,
measurable degrees of decay; sweet
alyssum, exploding white pockets

of petals; all roads lead somewhere
I’ve never been before, ruined cities
along the way, stone upon stone;

an hour west the sea roils, rocking
small boats adrift; children play
in tidepools; cracked sky, yolk

-colored sun cradling the eternal
city; we are suckled by wolves,
surrogate parents, because we might

have been thrown to our deaths,
unnamed, our graves upon the water,
like those who came before us

The Art of Dying / by Joanne Godley

if dying is now an art form, then I confess,
since it’s a road on which we all will (eventually) travel,
to not knowing the measure of an artistic death success.

how to know who, on the first try, was destination-blessed—
versus who was asked to die again-next time with greater dazzle.
has death become an art form? if so, time to confess

we all share the same medium; perhaps, a source of increased stress,
the time, place and mode of leaving is always a gamble.
I don’t know how we’ll measure an artist’s death success.

we laud the artist whose works provoke feelings in the audience that are substantial—
if dying is now an art form, then confess—

-since the ‘product’ is the End-what will be finessed?
one’s final appearance and apparel?
who’ll be the final arbitrator of artful death-success?

so much ado at what constitutes exit and egress!
now obsessed, I refuse to let this matter simply rest.
if dying is now an art form, then I confess,
I don’t know how (or who’ll) judge a death-art practitioner’s success.

Star of Munster / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Fingers grown rigid from disuse and chemo, can’t play the tune like they used to,
don’t fly down the bore shaping air with a delicate purpose.
Songs that once came out so easily, thunking and chunking instead.
Missing the holes, the notes never quite find their way.
Scrambled, all scrambled with holes but half covered as
brain remembers the tune and says “Go! Go faster, get up to tempo!”
and eyes and fingers do their damnedest, but just can’t make it happen.
These are the tunes they have played for years at the side of my parents
on stages, on hay bales for corporate parties that made us into a sideshow
and I can’t get my body to remember them.
Looking at sheet music, I try to coax them into a
dance that I know they must still know
somewhere in the tendons or maybe in the joints,
something must remember. So, I play slowly.
Letting my eyes and fingers take their time.

B         C#       D         B         D         C         B         A         C

B   C#           D         B   D          C   B   A   C

BC#  D  BD  CBAC

Just like when I first learned to play
when my father was away on a business trip.
Practicing every night for a week I wanted to impress him when he returned home.
Was this the trip he got held hostage during a labor dispute or the
one he got hit over the head with a shotgun butt?
Maybe it was just the one he left his book on the plane,
his return ticket used as a place marker.
Conway Twitty found it, returned the ticket, but not the book.

Moon Over Memories / by Pratibha Kelapure

The Moon has my mother’s face
Smiling, always telling me stories
I loved to hear because
The stories of my life — so trite
Well-worn like the saris
my mother wore that night

long-haul flights crossing oceans
crying babies, bulging bags,
achy shoulders, rattling stroller,
arrival hall & swarms of people
mulling around after midnight
sudden ambush of humid air
the relief seeing my mother’s face
sister trying to reign in the chaos
settling in a taxi for a drive home
catching up on flight stories
warm air making babies squirm
when a brief midnight breeze
enters through an open window
the nerves and the babies calm down
suddenly the full golden Moon
hovering over the dusty landscape
and an ingenuous smile lightens up
my mother’s face like the Moon
the babies are now asleep
and so is my poor tired sister
just me and my mother
and the bright Moon hanging
over the lasting memory
and the Moon borrowing that night
my mother’s face for eternity

New Hair / by Crystal Stone

The hairdresser’s hand keeps falling 
asleep while she foils my hair. It takes 
hours for the color to be placed
& developed. I want the kind of curly 
love I can’t predict, the kind that grows 
to your hips. But that’s not why 
I’m here. Today I just want to feel 
confident. I wake up every morning 
to the sound of my neighbor’s chickens, 
the dogs yawning well rested. 
But sometimes conventional isn’t enough
to keep going. I almost ran out 
of gas to finish the poem.
Maybe poetry is just a habit 
I can cultivate like the dogs’ chirping yawn 
when they’re ready for their morning
belly rubs, kibbles, and runs. 

The Worst Villanelle Ever Written, by Anon / by Centa Therese

The key to functioning is not having to think.
A prototype lets you know who to trust
The world was made to drive you to drink.

Reduce mental effort, keep your money in the sink.
Use the least amount of effort, don’t ever fuss.
The key to functioning is not having to think.

You need a formula easy to see, like blink – blink -blink
Find the easiest way to look cool without muss
The world was made to drive you to drink.

Just quickly strategize with whom you’ll link.
Pull out the stops, salt and pepper your lust.
The key to functioning is not having to think.

dummy down; it’s no Starbucks coffee drink
Find the easiest faster way not to go bust
The world was made to drive you to drink.

decide who’s the pencil and who, the ink.
employ a mental shortcut or go dust to dust.
the key to functioning is not having to think.
The world was made to drive you to drink

Poem 12 / Day 12

Afterlife / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

Something sneaks up to you at night,
tap tap taps on your back door,
a small black shroud in the moonlight
creeping beneath your window.
In the dream where you’re leading
the animals to freedom,
you are too busy communing
telepathically with the elephants
to feel the changes in frequency
in your own backyard.
In one fluid motion –
if ghosts are capable of movement –
the cat has entered your home
through the open window
in your bathroom
and begins to busy himself
pulling down books from the shelves.
When you wake in the morning,
you will wonder the significance
of excavating the Brontë sisters,
Michelle de Kretser, and
Molly Brodak from the shelves.
You are being haunted by a spirit
seeking self-recognition in your books.
You think this small creature
wants you to find him.
The next night,
you leave the window open
on purpose, place
a bowl of yoghurt on your desk –
when you wake, you can’t be sure
if it was the ghost
or one of your own live cats
who licked the surface clean.
You wonder if the ghost
is a cat you once knew,
or a stranger, lost soul,
or former resident
before you occupied the house.
You think he’s friendly,
but you’re not sure what he could do
to prove otherwise.
When you fall asleep in the bath,
you feel something pushing on your chest,
small, heavy feet standing on your ribs,
but when you open your eyes,
nothing is there.
You make a habit of setting out
an extra tin for the ghost cat,
much higher than your own pets
could ever reach,
but the meat goes mouldy
and you’re not sure if the ghost is gone
or if he doesn’t need food any more.
Several weeks pass without remark,
and you wonder if it can all be explained away
by sleep paralysis.
Then, on your way in one night,
the lights flicker and you see something
crouched down in the corner of the kitchen.
You know your ghost has returned ¬¬¬–
you walk slowly not to spook it.
When you open your eyes,
you are standing up but your body
remains on the ground.
As you float away from your body,
a small shape winds itself around you,
presses into your chest and vibrates.
You have met your ghost cat at last.

The Exhaustion / by Jessica Duffy

I.
As we lie sleeping
The belligerent sea moans
Harnessing trials
From the mouths of monstrous love
Still kept under soft pillows

II.
The callous air whirls
Through dandelions wishing
For a softer blow—
Storming past our empty homes
To bear everlasting seeds

III.
After winter rain
Night grows dim and resolute
Seeking out shadows
Through deepening corridors
We touch hands at dawn—rising

conversation / by Lane Fields

You are candor & mesh, you say.
You are honey-sour, I say. 
You are watery jewels, you say.
You are dapple & starshine, I say.
You are bearing lightning, you say. 
You are golden armor & paper silk, I say. 
You are another country, you say. 
You are wildwood & jonquils, I say. 
You are buck & anchor, you say. 
You are arterial arrow, I say. 
You are to the quick, you say. 
You are bloodlines & oaths, I say. 
You are mine, you say. 
You are, I say.

[Savage Re-run] / by Joanne Godley

There

                                                                                                     on the couch

Melting into lascivious space

                                                                                                  His bulky body

Head thrown back legs spread wide

                                                                                                         He Snores

Heavily now, having consumed it with gusto

                                                                                                           Imagine

an apple in his mouth could complete him

                                                                                               (Such a picture)

Red-rimmed lips

                                                                                     Blood-smeared mouth                    

Remnants of your still-warm soul

                                                                          There it pulsates in his palm

unfurl his fingers

                                                             Mind the gaping hole in your breast

Note them

                                                                                          Those tooth marks

 murmur    as your eyes fill with wet pain                                   

                                                                      “Never again, give your heart”

“Never again, give your heart “

                                                      murmur—as your eyes fill with wet pain 

Those tooth marks

                                                                                                        Note them

Mind—the gaping hole in your breast

                                                                                            unfurl his fingers

There it pulsates in his palm

                                                                  Remnants of your still-warm soul

Blood-smeared mouth

                                                                                              Red-rimmed lips

(Such a picture)

                                                             an apple in his mouth completes him

Imagine

                                                 Heavily now, having consumed it with gusto

He Snores

                                                               Head thrown back legs spread wide

His bulky body

                                                                         Melting into lascivious space

on the couch

                                                                                                               There        

It’s Bruno! / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Summer heat searing the skin of my forearm
wrapped in a napkin I took from the washroom
soaking it in the cool waters that flowed while
trying to keep it from dripping all over the carpet
trying to keep them from asking me questions.
This is too hard to explain, and I just want to talk about Bruno.
It’s a very good show with good music and
dances surreal and inviting in grocery stores.
Just pick it up for another season,
Netflix, you cowards!

Resistance / by Pratibha Kelapure

when the evening rolls in, it matters
whether you have secured enough grain
laid in a warm bed on a cold night
the things that give you the stamina
to confront injustice and voice
your plights, fight the sordid system

but when you are rolling in the quagmire
the obscured sight, breath breached
reaching for a safe hold, forever slipping
losing footing, gasping, shallow breath
when next breath is the only concern
to see the next day’s sunlight, survival

the movements go on
the healthy bodies
well-tended minds
move and shape
the world optimized
to quell the pangs
of conscience
How many sorts of injustices?
How many ways to be discriminated?
How many margins exist for one to live in?
the people who will never witness
the light of hope?

                                                                        

Ars Poetica / by Crystal Stone

Sometimes sourdough needs to take 
a breath. Bread doesn’t immediately rise. 
Sometimes it won’t, the stubborn stretch
of dough. The poem goes farther 
than the plate. Past the heart 
and into the gut of it. The crispy doubt
of flaking truth. The future is an airy 
night with a sliced and bitten moon.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Ode to True Crime Podcasts / by Maggie Blake Bailey

If they called 911.
If they found the body.
If they suggested the hike
or knew they’d get money.

If they just got married
or were happy for years.
Sat in the front row of the funeral
said nothing, wept tears

It is always the husband.
Still, I listen again.
It is always the husband.
You’ll know out at the end.

Tune in again next week and find
a heartbroken husband, a terrible crime.

Do You Get Déjà Vu? / by Carolyn DeCarlo

Lying on the misty bed,
your ribs create a mountain range,
the highest point on the body.
It is time to shake off sleep,
get to work, start the day,
but the sky is a white sheet
I want to wrap us up in.
No one in the history of poetry
has ever felt the way I do.
We’ve retired the winter sheets
because it’s summer now,
but that doesn’t mean much
in our climate.
Things are changing between us,
and I want to hang onto these moments,
wrap my arms around your arm
and keep you pinned to the bed.
Eventually, you pull away,
so much more responsible than I feel
in this moment.
I’ve been listening to Olivia Rodrigo
and feeling like a teenager again –
my thyroid medication has me sprinting
down the street,
hunger hitting me as hard
as it did when I was swimming for medals.
Sometimes, my energy overwhelms you
but it also means I’m not sleepwalking
through my days any more.
I sit in the car, blast the radio
and scream along to every rock band
I forgot from the ’90s.
You widen your eyes in mock horror.
We’ve been doing karaoke 
at our friend’s house,
and I like it when you belt the lyrics
off key.
I catch myself wondering what we’ll be like 
in six months,
if maybe we’ll be happier by then
than we are now.

The Guardian’s Post / by Jessica Duffy

High above treetops over clouds swinging 
There’s a perpetual eclipse, lunar tides ringing

She is the pendulum silent are her ticks
Mighty arms spinning in hours spent

Past time nameless & remote
despair comes with ill-conceived projections

Accomplished longings, so too comes pride
Anger on angstful wings, wakefulness to keep

A rhythm of sentience beyond humankind
Eve awaits these midnight hours

Collecting falling stars shooting across dreams    
A new horizon beams

Growing luck like mother’s tongue
She snakes her songs unseen

Is there a Doctor in the House? A Ghazal / by Joanne Godley

In pain and penniless, the physician went to see a doctor.
The visit was courtesy and, she discovered, free for doctors

English traditions persist into professional life.
In London hospitals, nurses say: “Time for Tea, Doctor.”

A surgical intervention restored her failing sight.
She declared her eye surgeons, ‘sight-see’ doctors.

He adored red wines but bombed his first sommelier exam.
After passing it, his friends anointed him, The Chablis Doctor.

Physicians used to be looked up to like veritable Gods.
No patient had the temerity to disagree with doctors.

A nerdy PHD studies agriculture and pesticides.
His mates nickname him, the ‘DDT’ doctor.

We are fearless in our exploration of the body’s nether lands.
This poet suggests gastroenterologists be called the ‘gutsy’ doctors.

Challenge Accepted! / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

There is a metric I run now my life by,
it’s called CA-125.

It was over 200 the day of my surgery,
30 and under is normal.

After the first treatment my number was
ten, and she said with an air disbelieving and trite

This is as low as I ever see it.
Saying such things as that to an overachiever

sets us all up for a game we shouldn’t be playing.
August this year, I had dropped down to six,

but sometimes, studies say, that with ovarian cancer
the number’s not always the best way to tell,

sometimes that number doesn’t mean shit.
Sleep well!

Memory / by Pratibha Kelapure

It is a wonderful fantasy
Harken that glorious past
Golden days, yesteryear
joyous thought — short-lived though
memory- such a capricious beast
murmuring wonderful promises
quietly plotting a thunderous jolt
bringing forgotten events back again
phantoms that haunted will return
come back to stalk again and again
memory – cruel shapeshifting beast

Yard Sale / by Crystal Stone

The clouds hang back at first. I hold
my grandmother’s love on a leash. 
I’m looking for nothing–I’ll know 
when I find it. Everything laid out:
clothes of every gender and genre,
used, overpriced. I didn’t fit in
any of their shoes. They ask me
if I’d like to rescue their cat, too,
but I refuse with my father’s allergies.
I wear my mother’s apology when I leave,
hush the barking past. We’re all still
learning, even the dog. The clouds
drop in and it doesn’t cleanse us, 
it just muddies the yard. Trees flake
like plans beneath the weight of the water.
We’re all here because of what’s been
lost, what we still haven’t found

Cat’s Ear, / by Centa Therese

At ten, a cat’s ear was the universe.
Having a knack for dispensing feline pleasure.
Sex would be, by comparison, too much to rehearse.

At sixty, I bought myself a ring, interspersed
with chocolate and vanilla diamond chips.
At ten, a cat’s ear was the universe.

On the common estate of a branch, we birds conversed.
When clouds roused hunger, I married myself.
Sex was, by comparison, too much to rehearse.

A cat’s ear between my fingers made perfect verse.
I descended out of the blue in pointillist array            
At ten, a cat’s ear was the universe.

Ah, to be a cat scratched beyond thirst.
I once flew inside the vortex of a wave,
Sex, by comparison, was too much to rehearse.

I lost a dream in a voluminous purse.
Yet now, I see the high ground as if it were my eye.
I watch hummingbirds fly in reverse.
Sex was, by comparison, too much to rehearse.

Poem 10 / Day 10

Lessons I Refuse to Learn / by Katy Abrams

Just because the moon is loud
and I am smoking chicken feathers and sage
in the neighbor’s front backyard
doesn’t mean I am magic
even if it does
mean I am witchy.

Ode to when I don’t write a poem / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Because I call my mother.
Because I do not call my mother.
I weep.

Who do I owe for being sixteen
once, quick to wear
a tall boy’s sweater,

quicker to cry in my mother’s
red Landcruiser, where had
she actually wanted to be?

Where did she go
when I wasn’t
home, young, wasn’t

back right after school?
Once, briefly, she
was a lawyer, took

me to see her office.
I burned my fingers
on the hot water dispenser

but I don’t think she got
mad. Lawyers bill
by the hour, so now

I think maybe all those years
she counted the time
spent keeping me safe from myself.

Maybe now when I call
and she only has cruel words
to say, she is just making clear

my debt. Billed time—
those years in her bright red truck.
Billed time whether I call or not.

Inclinations / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

For a taste

For urgency

For a definition of care to include labor and also love

For the black and white picture on a plate of my mother with her mother

For that one, the one we kept the syringes on

For today’s Tarot reading because I must understand it, which means both the day and the cards

For thinking the mothers (dead and/or performed as bad) through which a play like Cymbeline
and a play like Pericles interact—and what about Coriolanus

For every point halfway to elsewhere but I don’t know when or how

For thresholds to stumble on upon entering

For proximity to intimacy and warmth and a/the poem

For a tale of travails

For another

The Third Eye / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

Chinese water dragons haunt
the banks of freshwater lakes and streams.
Despite their name, Chinese water dragons
are arboreal, spending most of their time
in trees or plants. Their diets consist
mostly of insects, though they will eat
vegetation, an occasional small fish,
mammals, and other reptiles.
Chinese water dragons are prized
for their brightly coloured throats –
blue, purple, or peach,
some with a single colour,
others with stripes.
Chinese water dragons
have crests on their heads,
necks, and tails –
a powerful tool they use
as a weapon, for balance,
to assist with swimming.
All Chinese water dragons have
a small, iridescent, photosensitive spot
between their eyes
known as the third eye
that recognizes differences in light,
helps with thermoregulation,
prevents predation from aerial threats –
jolts them awake at the smallest change overhead.
The Greek name for Chinese water dragon
is ‘inflated jaw.’ They are known also as
the Asian or Thai water dragon,
or the green water dragon.
Chinese water dragons are capable
of reproducing by parthenogenesis –
a true virgin birth, no god necessary.
If threatened, the Chinese water dragon
will drop from their tree into the water,
swim away to safety –
can remain submerged for 90 minutes
when necessary.
Chinese water dragons are native
to China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos,
Cambodia, and Burma.
In Hong Kong, they are an invasive species –
former pets having established themselves
after being released from their homes.
Chinese water dragons are docile,
allowing physical contact from humans,
but they are resilient,
growing up to a meter in length,
living 10 to 15 years in the wild.

Serene Surrender / by Jessica Duffy

it’s a travesty
this weakness

parts cultivation
in blanketed curvature

this entrusting
bellows in defiance

through skin rays
you return

hazily to the deep
binaural

memories percolate
in discomfort

you return
wholesomeness aside

your scattered vision
awakening lust currents

tirelessly inflamed
thick skim-scorching remains

you caution the screeching
toughness arches

over pure dust
enfolded back

you return

glass city eclogue / by Lane Fields

I turn to face you in the open air,
the mirrored streets all made of shine.
Giant clear windows embedded in crystal

towers that reach up, further up. But down
here, there are a thousand selves returning
eternally unto each other. You reach a fractal

hand to me & smile: a prism, a wave
of light, an answered question. I ask you
to look up, into the dizzying gyres of infinity

palaces, the colored landscapes of our
togetherness in this radiant night. Aren’t
you afraid? But what do I have to fear?

In this glass city, I see myself reflected
completely. I see what is true & what is
possible. I see you, standing next to me.

Edible Humans? / by Joanne Godley

      —Tasty for food, nasty for hues, Alex K., Thorne

“As if skin the color of Almonds
         As if skin the color of Brown sugar
     As if skin the color of Cafe au lait
As if skin the color of Carmel
         As if skin the color of Chestnut
    As if skin the color of Cinnamon
            As if skin the color of Cocoa
       As if skin the color of Coffee
               As if skin the color of Dark chocolate
          As if skin the color of Ginger
      As if skin the color of Hazelnuts
               As if skin the color of Black Licorice
          As if skin the color of Milk chocolate
                   As if skin the color of Molasses
              As if skin the color of Mushrooms
          As if skin the color of Nutmeg
                   As if skin the color of Pecans
              As if skin the color of Toffee
           As if skin the color of Walnuts”

My Oncologist Defines Constipation as 72 Hours / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Tricky hegemony poo in my
soul and duodenum,
capitalism making its
living by turning me
over to standard procedure.
Yet, if I’m
hurting, every chemo is different.

The Gentle Art / by Pratibha Kelapure
Upon noticing an old couch on the sidewalk with the note “Free” written on it.

the gentle art of rummaging through
sidewalk sales about the town
the smoky smell of an old crown
the smooth touch of mahogany wood
loungingon an antique divan
sun breathing down on you
on a chilly winter afternoon
under the open sky, so blue
now
reimagine that bargain find
from some grandma’s dusty attic
strip it, bare its soul, one of a kind
wrap it in pretty purple fabric
stitch, sew, hammer in the poles
to frame the traits of your baby
put on wheels, so the crib rolls
color it in her sunny disposition — maybe
then someone’s heavenly grandma
will smile and watch over your child
sleeping in her much-loved divan!

My dad tells me I rush into everything / by Crystal Stone

The shelter told me my dog was blue
and coveted. She came out her kennel grey,
and smelled like five day old
heartbreak. Her fur was
patchy. It’s since grown back
and it’s only her dreams that tremble.
I wake her when she barks in her sleep
because I’m afraid of her nightmares.
We travel everywhere together.
Friends complain about the length of her nails,
her smell, her voice if she chooses to use it. 
I don’t even notice the inconveniences.
I wake up with her head on my shoulder
and tell her good morning, 
you’re beautiful, I love you. 
I used to dream of being remembered, 
but now I’ve settled for being loved 
with bad breath kisses, global eyes, 
and a body that sheds grey rain

Exile / by Centa Therese  

New to the caravan of poor entertainers. I solicit my act.
I tell whoever is near what I can do.
At first light, I stand by the Ginkgo tree, aiming skyward.
I enact how I get off the ground.

I tell whoever is near what I can do.
But they refuse to acknowledge my gift.
I enact how I get off the ground.
Persisting, I emphasize what precision
                        steadies the body in flight.

But they refuse to acknowledge my gift.
They will excommunicate me from the troupe.
Persisting, I emphasize what precision
                       steadies the body in flight.
I conclude, Though, it appears effortless, flying
demands extraordinary sensitivity, conviction and courage
.

They will excommunicate me from the troupe.
At first light, I stand by the Ginkgo tree.
I conclude, Though, it appears effortless, flying demands
     extraordinary sensitivity, conviction and courage.

New to the caravan of poor entertainers. I solicit my act.

Poem 9 / Day 9

That Glennon Doyle, she gets it. / by Katherine Abrams

She saw the missing
piece of her personal nucleus
slide into a dinner party
with the infuriatingly casual
confidence
of someone who has no idea
their future just happened,
and she knew
she knew in the way that knowing is
cellular
and atomic
and filled with air
that tastes
like everything good
you ever
witnessed
hits you all at once
the way only knowing can
when it’s been following hot
on
your
heels
since those two Xs met
in a bar
and a goddamn cheetah stumbled out
blind arms wide open
receiving–
she knew this was it,
this woman was the beginning
of her.

Ode to what happens after / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

I finally get some sleep.

I organize the bedroom,
living room, the drawers
that have anything but silverware.

You take it back and sweep
me into a something
tender and wanted.

The book opens to the last
page, everyone where
they should be, all
the questions answered and

no one crying.

I go to the grocery store,
the pharmacy, the one
place that has the one
thing that can fix what stays.

All the rats are caught.
All the traps emptied.
I finally get some sleep.

Network / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

We carry a choral consciousness.
This is a borrowed phrase, meaning
We borrow every tale we tell. When we
Remember “The Story of Grandmother” 
We do not have a source to credit,
Only a possible language of origin. 
What will we carry to what’s coming? 
The given—freely or without notice.
We could call this a remainder.
Wake up, wake up! we might say.
We will tell you the stories
Of the rose & the bear & the snake.
Sleep, sleep! we should whisper.
Collectives of sound spun around.
We will sing ships & bees & briars,
We will sing rings & wrongs & fire.

Adoration of the Poet / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

The poet requires privacy,
utter silence, time to write
a word, and another word,
and another word,
until the poem is finished.
The poet requires sustenance,
a steady offering of three course meals
morning, noon, and night,
a hot bath run in a deep tub
with Himalayan bath salts
and an invigorating scrub.
The poet requires assistance
from three cats, a greyhound,
their bodies alight with rhymes,
taking it in diligent shifts
to allow the poet to find the poem
within their fur.
The poet requires a companion
suited to performing acts of service
in the language of love –
it is necessary to prove
the poet’s needs are more immediate
than the companion’s own.
The poet demands stimulation
from beautiful things,
works of art, sun-soaked landscapes,
a view from their room –
inspiration is drawn from one’s surroundings,
after all.
The poet needs attention
from the world, but also open-mindedness,
a lack of judgment, total freedom.
The poet desires to be praised,
enjoyed, consumed, shown love
from millions of adoring fans
who are prepared to tell the poet
that they are their favourite,
no other poet or person
compares to their intellect
or physical beauty.
They are the one
that other poets write poems about,
they are the one
that artists paint, songs are written for –
data is coded for them,
ancient beasts and solar systems
are named in their honour,
streets and boats and libraries
all in their name,
everyone gleefully shouting
their praises from every rooftop.
That is all, the poet thinks,
they would ever ask for,
all they might ever require
just for some basic semblance
of self-satisfaction, to feel worthy
for one minute –
maybe two.

Theta Waves / by Jessica Duffy

I dreamt of you like a kite flying away 
through the starry esoteric
waking from the protrusion
of anxiety-rich metallic waves
your absence left metabolizing
veiled in seas between dreams

there are things I want to tell

like what is lovely happens at night & inside I am
melting tears ablaze humidity in fresh snow

lies lunar love & clover meadows full of salt

how alive childhood is
in between your death & my own 

if I must take this foremost narrowing
path there remains
a constant thudding
unable to blink for days:

insights pound into the still bleeding 
day with its green midst darting away

from the underskirt:
I want to admit temptation

be not / by Lane Fields 

I sit with my lover, eating outside
the café, masks down our chins.
We haven’t been out to eat since June.
A small brown bird approaches us,
its head tilted at my tomato tartine.
You never know where Christ might be,
so I say hello to It. It flutters down
from the table & takes a few
hops toward a scrap of bread.
It chirps in asking & I tell it yes.
I don’t need to know the question.
This is what love is like: you are
more valuable than many sparrows.
& yet this one, this little one—

Platitudes from–––an Old Fart / by Joanne Godley 

––with apologies to all GI docs

Please don’t take this as an insult,
I’m giving you this curbside consult:
life is— if you wish to know—
wildly gastrointestinal!
And, full of hairy borborygmi.
(My colon has hightailed it to the city.)
Tenesmus, torsion, bilirubin, belch!
I heard your pancreas plans to welsh—
Try hard not to pour on the acid,
dysentery can be yours with only a salad.
Savor the ischemia; it digests flatulent polyps.
Never ulcer a woman, it upends partnerships.
Splenic your tidings and liver it up,
the antacid way of life is a dull rub.
Spread your esophagus far and wide,
intussusception is yours to bloat and hide.

Extravasation / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

Cold from the saline they pumped through my hard veins, I
slid hands beneath the white blanket they gave me.
How to explain this new level of cold that I don’t want to remember,
even though I know you’re not able to understand if I don’t,
safe in your body, your shell that would never betray you
safe in your click-baity titles that sell you perfection,
health and longevity, one simple trick for staying alive:Follow our method, our diet, our plan,
only ten easy installments of 99.97!
Watch me avoid the reason the Taxol leaked in me:
Once again, people who should have been watching me
left me for others who needed them more and
I was in no state to fend for myself.

A Woman and A Girl / by Pratibha Kelapure 
               A Sestina (In progress)

the afternoon stretches long, but the girl
rapt in reading the thick book doesn’t care
alone she remains day after day in the house
too young to know there are things to fear
the walls talk to her, say she’s strong
tell her she will become a loving woman

chill in the morning air, the woman
frazzled, wrapped in worries, hurries the girl
to get ready for school, she’s getting so strong
what does a mother do when the child doesn’t care
how can she tell the girl what is there to fear
travails of a mother alone in a lonely house

Family duties, money matters, and the house
Work always calls — no time to be a lovely woman
not being enough for her own child is always a fear
incertitude makes her wish she were a young girl
to do away with worries, someone to offer her care
wishes she doesn’t always have to be strong

The steps of time are swift, the tempo strong
Work, family, and the dancing girl, the bustling house
Every slice of life demands so much effort and care
A mother alone, the world constantly at odds with a woman
She instills the concepts of right and wrong in the girl
The child’s spinning pirouettes, the speed invokes fear

the dance is ferocious, the child with no fear
the mother is wary, the outside influence strong
causing one misstep after another, the girl
losing her footing, her tantrums taking over the house
a rite of passage for a young girl becoming a woman
the mother explains the birds and bees with utmost care

If love alone could shield the child, all that care
Keeping the girl in a warm hug, away from the fear
That haunts the child trapped within the grown woman
Memories of one dark afternoon come rushing strong
The four friendly walls failed to protect her in the house
The mother losing her sure footing turns into a little girl

Time to get a grip, the woman determined to take care
Of the past demons for the sake of the girl, shedding fear
She will become the solid pillar for holding steady her house

After René Magritte’s This Is Not a Pipe / by Centa Therese

“This is not a Vulva.”
It is only a rendering, a fake in pink.
I smiled at first to think it mine.
It doesn’t quaver from frame to frame.

It is only a rendering, a fake in pink.
You cannot wear it. It will not touch back.
It doesn’t quaver from frame to frame.
It doesn’t scream in silent hunger.

You cannot wear it. It will not touch back.
You have your own, can you feel it?
It doesn’t scream in silent hunger.
It only sleeps with me.

You have your own, can you feel it?
I smiled at first to think it mine.
It only sleeps with me.
“This is not a Vulva.”

Poem 8 / Day 8

High and Dry / by Katherine Abrams

There’s Christmas music and a bag of weed,
so naturally we’re tits deep in family photos.

We had hot moms, I say, flipping my wrist
to successfully channel my inner Rizzo.

Of course then I wish the original cast of ‘Grease’
had made a holiday special, like the animated

movies do: ‘A Very T-Bird Christmas’? So I sing
And we’ll have fun fun fun now that daddy

took the T-Bird away except doesn’t that mean
categorically less fun, losing the car? To think–

I listened to mom’s Beach Boys tape, side A,
after 193 fourth grade school days, never truly hearing

Brian Wilson, that surfer poet, that legend. Icon.
Hey, come to think of it, why is the beach

icon, like, always an umbrella anyway? Seems
to suggest unpredictable weather patterns.

Which reminds me it’s going to rain where
I live and snow where I work on the same day

next week. Better pack extra dry socks.
In movies about Vietnam they’re always yelling

for the guys to keep one pair of socks dry.

Ode to Everyone Else / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Would it be enough to write
a thousand poems—

to tell you about the redheaded
girl in high school

that I thought I envied
but I actually wanted,

or the time I watched
shooting stars

lying on my back
on an old tennis court,

August in New England
believing in me then

more than I believe in
anything now.

Once I saw a boy who broke
me, waiting at stoplight.

He must have been walking
home, I was in a cab

slunked in the backseat
on my way to see some

other boy who wanted a
chance to be cruel.

I rolled down my window,
called out his name

and he waved as the light
turned green.

There are not enough poems
for December. Not enough
poems to make any of it hold.

Process / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

For Lucretius, bodies move in space.
Moving in space, bodies

Connect to form
Others, which is spectacular

& ordinary. Ordinary
Because all-encompassing

& also unseen. Spectacular
For the same reasons & for how

We imagine it looks.
At this moment, you are asleep.

Is sleep safe given your age,
Given the momentary difficulty

Of emergence & when
Do we say emergency?

For Lucretius, sight is touch.
Taste is touch, sound is touch.

Every action a physical rippling,
Spinning out & out & out.

Information Disinformation / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

When the information banks dry up,
where will people go, desperate
to check their leaders’ facts,
unable to stomach the fake news,
pub quiz trivia forgotten forever.
When the information banks dry up,
there might be anarchy,
second guessing, inquiries launched
and never solved, foundations shaken.
When the information banks dry up,
experts will be mined for their knowledge,
torn open, inspected, flattened by mobs
of angry townsfolk with questions,
questions, never ending questions.
When the information banks dry up,
people will rely on instinct,
the five senses, gut feelings –
dangerous things to base a life upon.
When the information banks dry up,
the rich will try to eat the poor,
stockpile canned goods, go underground.
Their bunkers won’t need wi-fi,
no one to tell them what to do,
their thorny hearts left to fill
with anything to make them more content.
When the information banks dry up,
surface-dwellers will create new pathways,
leave the rest to their own devices,
fight to keep things free and open,
create a new and liveable system –
change is best when it comes from outside.

Shrouded / by Jessica Duffy

My tendons pierced with buried fears
Releasing thirsting throbbing truths
Upon the blazing fire
I danced with rain and bled
Ignition keeping quiet watch

As harvest mourned the muted
My understanding dawned
As clearly being hurt before
So scorched by falsehoods born anew

I can’t explain the pain though we’re through

heavenly mother / by Lane Fields

I know you must be there
because they keep telling me
you are. Sometimes I have dreams
of you, your long hair covered
in a veil. You don’t say much
most of the time. You don’t have to.
Faith is the lone string you tie
to my finger. Faith is the awning
in the rain, & the rain. Mother—
I don’t know what else to call you
because when I wake up I’ve already
forgotten your name. How could it be
that I was made in your likeness? How
could you want anything to do with me?

Haint Blue Bottle Trees / by Joanne Godley 

sunlight scintillates on blue bottle faces
high-pitched whistling with the rising winds
bottoms up bottles hang from naked tree limbs
upside down cerulean glass Christmas trees

ghost spirits coming as the moon is ripening
announced by smells of sea breeze and lilies
chortling at bottle trees, fingernails plucking them
‘pinging’ sounds peal against blue bottle glass

spirits pull you from your bed–laughing and wailing
holding serpentine masks of monsters and things
bulging eyes stare at you; snouts where the chin should be
colors– gold, mossy-green, blue, blood and tar
feathers, fur, shells, straw, hair, hides of all kinds

fire haunts teach you to shapeshift and howl
growl, yammer, yowl, hiss, razz, boo, cry
breathless, you gyrate hoops of rainbow-ish smoke
exhaling brown girl-inhaling grey-haired fox
exhaling brown girl-inhaling large Black crow

Mama brings soup as the last smoke wisps lift
Asks you to eat since the haunts have gone on
Soup made of letters in a tomato-y base
Drained, you lie under a haint blue bottle tree
letting the brown grass caress your brown calves

next day, you’re back in school–seated near your BFF
sharing bologna sandwiches and laughs for lunch
Hiding your shoulder blade wing-nubs poking up
under your oversized lavender shirt

walking home from school you turn into the yard
there, next to the house where Sun and breezes dance
there, across oceans of bottles—arms in the air–
Mama’s planted another haint blue bottle tree—

Wherein I Spend My Entire Allotted Drafting Time Pretending to be an MRI Machine
Rather Than Writing a Proper Poem /
by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Music like raves I slept through at Menlo’s, a club in the
nineties, more abandoned building than hot spot.

BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS
WHEE-ar-ar WHEE-ar-ar GRIND GRIND GRIND

Grim radiologist sees on her screen a part of me pulsing along to the beat,
BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS

sees eighteen centimeters crowding my hip and my lung and my colon,
WHEE-ar-ar WHEE-ar-ar GRIND GRIND GRIND

can’t let me out or change my position, her voice
lets me know she would if she could.

BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS-and-a-CATS-and-a-BOOTS
WHEE-ar-ar WHEE-ar-ar GRIND GRIND GRIND

Musing on Passing of Years / by Pratibha Kelapure

How robust is the human brain
To safely store, a formula here
a word there, away in the folds
to retrieve it quickly in future
year after year, it learns and stores
exabytes of data within the creases
names, dates, words, recipes,
money matters, body matters,
people come and go, and life
keeps moving on, absorbing more
wisdom in this enigmatic organ
but sooner or later, the clutter
grows and expands beyond limits
small bird nests begin to appear
in the crannies, the pencils poke
the tissue and remain lodged in
the old cells like dried leaves
fall to the bottom and decay
wonder if this mulch will reseed
sprout new cells again with each
passing year, and if only irrigation
skillful pruning is all we need

Cuffing Season: Accepting Boyfriend/Girlfriend Applications for a Limited Time Only / by Crystal Stone

I offer mom jeans and dad jokes. Home
cooked meals once a week. Lots of talk
about going to the gym while eating 
an edible and subsequently the whole
pantry. I’m motivated entirely by shame.
I buy boots and lipstick when I stop feeling 
sexy. Every girl needs a pearly barrette
to hold their hair back when they work.
I walk through nature once a day 
and end the day cuddling the dog.
I’ll never cut her nails. I hate folding 
laundry and washing dishes. I clean
compulsively, except I won’t do that.
My clothes will be wrinkled like a frown 
every time I leave the house. If I stop 
singing, I’m frowning too. Dance with me
in the kitchen. We don’t need rhythm, 
just music. A steady, eight count beat.

Pantoum / by Centa Therese

Below harbor boats, along the shore,
silver-white sand dollars, crab claws, ribbons of plastic,
ribbed clams, pearl-blue mussel shards,
sea-scrubbed, sand-ribbed, churned and tossed.

Silver-white sand dollars, crab claws, ribbons of plastic.
The staid heel of the body lifted off its toe-hold.
Sea-scrubbed, sand-rubbed, churned and tossed.
Bi-valved mollusk doors unfastened, pried open.

The staid heel of the body lifted off its toe-hold.
So many barren houses cupped with falling light.
Bi-valved mollusk doors unfastened, pried open,
the sea flooding their bed.  

So many barren houses cupped with falling light.
Below harbor boats, along the shore.
The sea flooding their beds.
The body released, the self flushed out.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Something Old, Something New / by Katherine Abrams

Of course we talked about death
on the way to the cemetery.

She chooses burial at first,
so her body would return to the earth

and be converted, over a millennia or so,
into something entirely new.

But we didn’t come from the earth—
I remind her that our cells are 97% stardust,

once shot violently across the universe
to be slowly collected, like pocket lint

or her father’s baseball cards (also
stardust) and then redistributed.

We are older than time, I tell her.
And we are that something new.

Ode to the Next Failure / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

Out with the old, out
with the new, bring in
something that burns.

I want the next failure
to sparkle like costume
jewelry, I want the next failure
to boom like a midnight
drag race, screaming
through the streets, houses
all asleep. I want it to come

sloppy and handsy and hard
to steer to the car door
when you try to say, the party
is over, it was so good to see you—
go home, go home.

I don’t imagine a garden, I don’t
picture a bookshelf, I think
of my grandmother, first married,
all of twenty something,
given a setting of priceless
china, all wrapped in a bag.

My faultless grandmother, dropping
the bag to the gravel drive,
shattering it all in sight of the giver,
her husband’s family,
her first test so completely
a failure. Come with the sound
of all the plates breaking.
My next failure takes up all the room.

After the Entry for “Cura” in The Dictionary of Syr Thomas Eliot Knyght (London, 1538) / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Maintenance chemo is a kind of care
occurring after repair & before salvage, which you thought—
I should say worried—about because salvage transcends study
& is defined only by diligence
In performing the stubborn work or labor
Of sorrow & also love.

Waterworld (1995) / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

If the ocean falls out of the sky,
what is the response on the ground?
Where do you hide from water
poured as if from a tap?
Do you seek the rivers and lakes,
submerge in more of the same stuff,
cover the fear, stay in plain sight?
Do you find yourself a mountain,
brave the slips, use caution,
hike to the top and hope
the waters don’t rise that high?
Do you build yourself a boat
float above the world
in a ship of your own making,
do you invite your friends
or make pairs of animals
to keep you company?
Do you expect the end,
write off humanity
and mammals in general –
except for whales and dolphins,
maybe an intrepid seal, a walrus?
Do you go searching for Nessie,
for narwhals, for sea elephants
to save you from the depths?
Use a siren call to catch a mermaid
at her own game,
bargain with a sea witch for a fin
in exchange for your voice,
turn the narrative on its head
to join the people down below,
start an expedition in search of Atlantis
with unmanned robotic submersibles
scouting light patterns into the seabed,
turning their attention from the wreck
to search for the city?
Imagine the feeling of sinking,
in reverse.
Imagine the water rising
to meet the clouds.
Imagine a waterworld
as predicted in the film –
Kevin Costner as the mariner,
Mad Max but make it underwater.
(Who did it better? Mel Gibson,
or Tom Hardy?
We all know the answer:
call on Furiosa or Aunty Entity,
they’d know what to do.)
And the end may be near,
but there’s still time
for great American cinema,
a final viewing of Titanic
as you all go down.

Autumn Falls His Heart / by Jessica Duffy

The floorboards of no remorse
Know time slinks in the night

Immersed in beautiful driftwood
His golden roots ready to resign

Fog is the pain in his heart
He knows nowhere 

Like petrichor, he’s gone
Beneath mulch-dense decay

The dead cloud mirror
Stands faceless in ceramic

The blind contours of spirit 
Scab above ground

The protective winds curtail
As midnight ushers in

the rites of summer / by Lane Fields

anointed boy: oils & fountains
& the word all shall cover you;
each latin prayer, genetic

memory, the mass washing
over you, over your parents
from whose mouths the romance

flows freely but english weighs
upon their tongues like a leaden
stone; the incanted doxology

& the priest’s clean hands enfold
you; the cathedral’s doors flung
wide to announce your arrival,

your new life in the lord, bells
ringing out for your new life

Undone / by Joanne Godley
(in response to Rita Dove’s Incantations)

She Takes a Taxol Med, She Takes a Carbo Med / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

June 13, not quite a whole week
after my birthday’s when it started
cycles painful and full of terror.
Hard to write on, hard to live through.
Knock me down, then I get up,
like the Chumbawamba song,
like the rising of the sun,
like the changing of the moon.
Take it down a notch, you sense making machine.
Take it down a notch, you metaphor ghost.
Don’t try sugar coating this
in likes or as-es and please don’t start
dickering on petty differences
similes or metaphors, this is my god damn life.

A Morning Walk in the Fog / by Pratibha Kelapure

A fine mist wraps you in its caress
As you walk the trail this morning
The hidden expanse of the path
before you, a shrouded mystery
breathless, wordless, you and the world
the birds on the wire huddle closely
nary a peep, nor a wing flap, they sit
without stirring, exploring the horizon
waiting for the sun, hoping for warmth
perhaps then the worms can get out
and humans can refill the birdfeeder
The path is desolate, no bicycles
or little tricycles, no mothers with dogs
and Jingling strollers – only you
and an occasional solitary jogger
his black hoodie gives you shivers
until he passes you with a gentle
nod and a cheery “good morning.”
just an ordinary gesture, but today
it feels like a reason enough for
celebration of the quotidian rituals
in the face of the world seemingly
in turmoil, fraught with danger
lurking at every turn, eroding trust

Puerto Rico Dreaming Alone with COVID / by Crystal Stone

We made coquitos and sat 
in the hot tub to summer 

our Christmas with wet,
hot dreams. My hair was a beachy 

sand. His eyes were a wavy 
blue. Die Hard played

in the background. I got sick 
to the sound of glass shattering.

I woke up with a fever 
I shared. We quarantined 

alone. Something changed after.
His eyes sobered a ring 

of still water. His skin 
eroded joy, taste, smell.

Love has always been a version 
of loneliness. Temporary color 

that comes out after the daily 
wash. He was a day 

trader, committed to selling. 
I’ve always preferred a more natural 

look, a serious long-term investment. 
Our last meal together was comfort 

food, secrets, and tears. We became
strangers, friends, and strangers again.

Poem 6 / Day 6

Fruit / by Katherine Abrams

They split my DNA
as they came.
They split me

open
like a pomegranate,

each
taking the handful
of nucleic seeds
they wanted
for their own–

green eyes here,
full lips there.
One
chose my shocking
vocabulary.

One slams doors.
The other slants
eyebrow-
arched
silent glares.

One’s joints
are hypermobile,
the other’s heart
is the same.

Half of me
walks the halls
of this house

in two bodies,
each propagating themselves
like pineapples

split in half–
each seeded side
can grow
a new tree.

Ode to my daughter, swallowing her teeth / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

Of the three lost, two swallowed.
One in sleep and one at school.
She remains unworried,

believes completely the tooth fairy
isn’t bothered, her magic
covers this sort of thing.

My daughter loses the money
the tooth fairy leaves, laughs
at the notes and misplaces those, too.

She is relieved to be losing teeth,
like the other kids, the ones that boast
at lunch, when really mommy,
                            you shouldn’t brag.

Maybe that is how I write leave my will,
how I can give up what I love
and secret away, my small treasures

kept, move after move, life after life.
Why tell people what they can have,
as if they need more plates,

as if they want figurines and keepsakes.
I want the magic of swallowed teeth
to tell you what you need when I die.

Pines of Styx River / by Kate Bolton Bonnici 

The longleaf shudders into morning,
Dew-decked & seeping,
Too early, still, for first frost
At the rim of red roads where gasps

Of splendor & dread have passed.
Each longleaf, shuddering into morning,
Into midday under a lidless glare,
Comes upon the sometime unseen.

In their burrows, other species avoid
Grief as does the interstate downhill
From the longleafs. To shutter mourning,
Accelerate too quick from one

Stopping place to another. In three days
I could take this road home (tales
Need threes) & on the third day see
How longleafs shudder into morning.

We’ll All Float On / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

You find yourself
floating in the pool
at dusk in the rain,
orange suit soaked,
belly up in the pink
heavy clouds
awash in chlorine.
You can hear 
the distant chatter
of friends at the barbeque,
sizzling up vege sausages,
capsicum halves,
halloumi cheese.
You turn your face up
to the sky, 
close your eyes,
and still yourself –
body and mind –
in the water.
Your body un-swells,
head clears,
limbs lighten –
a weight lifted.
Your friends call
out to you.
You hear your name
over and over
and part of you
is hungry,
part of you wants
to stand up,
swim to the ladder,
join the others,
fill up again –
but you don’t.
You just float.

Untitled Series / by Jessica Duffy

heralded, waiting
open-throat nightingale sings
through thwarted storms—grey

she cries solemn hymns
red-bellied, high-branched hauntings
tremors in the heart

green with love, flapping
under soft shrubbery—gone
tender wings undressed

beaming with brilliance
sun-tailed toward horizons
beauty abides flight

laced with remembrance
the night peaks powerful blooms
landing at dawn—fresh

above higher grounds
squeaking tree line symphonies
solitary skein

( ) / by Lane Fields 
an erasure from Stone Butch Blues

I wondered how it would be

to not be afraid. The doctor reassured
me. It was true: I felt scared
all the time. Softened, I decided.

My chest was flat. I had breast
surgery. Construction—fantastic.
It was painful. What kind of courage
was required to leave or live alone?

A million eyes. I tried to conceal
the obvious. Their body turned,
question. All bandaged, hollow.
I ached, bleeding. Connected

hurt. I felt lightheaded. In
the bathroom I shook. Death
reached out to me. Misty
circle, love at first sight.

Nearest Green and the Untold Story of American Whiskey / by Joanne Godley 

if you’re a connoisseur of fine wines and whiskeys
for sure, you’ve heard of Old Jack Daniels
the first registered distillery in the US of A
that filtered whiskey over charcoal into new charred-oak barrels

JD’s secret? What was it? all wanted to know
smooth on the palate; wood and fruit on the nose
they used orange, banana, apricot and vanilla—
these flavor combinations caused JD’s popularity to grow

something about which you may be unaware:
this most popular brand has a tale to tell
and wrongs to right in order to restore
honor to the man because of whom this brand excelled

Dan Call was a preacher and the distillery’s first owner–
he heard of an enslaved man named Nearest Green
who knew a lot about whisky; Call rented his services
from the slave’s master—to keep his hands clean

like the Irish and Scotsmen, the Africans brought with them
whiskey-distilling recipes. Nearest Green,
although enslaved, became a master distiller–
creating the finest whiskey America’s ever seen

Ten years following the Civil war,
there, in a small town in Tennessee,
like in many places, folks formerly-enslaved
decided to stay put—despite knowing they were ‘free’

such was the case with Nearest Green and his family,
he ran the distillery although the Daniels’ now owned it
they distributed the whiskey under the Jack Daniels’ label
as to who master-minded the recipe-no one saw fit to admit

the history of this country is replete with such instances
Blacks built the infrastructure of this stolen land
backlash to the 1619 project be damned—
sweat equity is critical in reparation demands

On Realizing My Cancer Was Already in Full Swing When I Was on the Academic Job Market in 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

Did you know that I was dying
as you pushed me ever onward
as you sat at conference tables
answering questions, practiced answers
at your tongue tip, while the people
who were tired and bored restless
asked themselves in marginalia
Why’d she take so many breaks?
Why’d her stamina keep waning?
If you had, would you have changed course?
If you had, would you have left off
bowing at the cult of stars
bowing to its five/five course load
and committees begging softly
for your time and for your treasures?

A Triolet for Sorrow / by Pratibha Kelapure 

Sadness lingers until it turns bitter
Burrowed like a rabbit in a solitary cave
I miss the smile that spread like glitter
Alas, sadness lingers until it turns bitter
You stood your ground, never a quitter
The cave is no place for a warrior like you, so brave
Yet, sadness lingers until it turns bitter
Burrowed like a rabbit in a solitary cave

My Dog Looks Out the Window at the Sunset / by Crystal Stone 

and my friend laughs, tells me no,dogs are colorblind. They don’t 

notice the vibrant shifts 
the way we do. The supply chain 

clouds break like the dayand here we are, only looking 

at the colors. The supermarkets are using 
cardboard cutouts to hide the gaps

left by the supply chain 
and maybe it doesn’t matter if we can see

shades. Maybe my dog is looking 
at the texture, or the way the clouds 

smell. So easy, she licks 
my tears away as we look together 

at this trial-and-error horizon 
of our dusking world

Body as Muse / by Centa Therese 

The belly rumbles orwas it the thought of hunger 
or both?

The tongue rubsagainst an upper quadrantof hard pink plasticand squeaksThe front temporary implantpresses against one ofthe few remaining real teethBehind one fake tootha hole was bore from pickle juice.I sleep with a memoryfoam pillow between the kneeships like railroad tracksI go for days without combingmy feral white hair, which I adore

As for ice cream, bingedsince start of Covid, itshows not just in the profile view.

Trigger finger in left pinky,pain shoots across the eyeballsDreamt of masturbating beyondwhat I could at all satisfy, and
of this body of grace, purposeful
extension, skilled, firm legs,as if the body loved herselfin a way the mind had forgotten.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Dark chocolate whiskey salted / by Maggie Blake Bailey

Dark chocolate whiskey salted
caramel ice cream, in particular.

Because I think my sadness today
wants to be eaten.

Because I think my sadness today
is a sweet grief.

Each new year is a year without
someone.

The ice cream container is small,
barely a scoop.

Sadness should have sprinkles, sadness
should last longer than hunger.

Or do I mean my hunger is enough
to eat the paper cup and plastic spoon?

Do I mean we keep building houses
just to run out ways to stay in them?

I think I mean I am so sad and so hungry
and this ice cream is heavy and sweet
and my children will want nothing when I die.

Volta / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Such a tidy, accurate concept—the turn—
And one meriting recurrent exploration,

Where the poem opens into being
A thing other or most fully itself.

To turn is to revolve,
To start a revolution.

Also: deviation, inclination, swerve, torque.
I remember today marks your figurative fork

In the lived road, the day where the body began
To shudder and fold into its final failing, began

To shut down to shut down to shut down.
Done in 2 days, do we say the turn came late

Like an English sonnet continually untied 
Until the terminal couplet marks here lies

Hatching / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

Deep in the killing field,
bodies are suspended in amber.
The soldiers who survived
pass below them,
studying their poses,
their open mouths,
limbs bent back,
a testament to horror.
When the killing is done,
robed things – engineered,
strong, well-muscled –
remove the dead
in their amber cases
to the national museum,
where tourists can visit,
touch their resin cases,
marvel over the process,
imagine that death for themselves,
though they’ll never experience it –
never get that close
to an alien body,
more flora than fauna,
capable of such disaster.
The aliens would never
breach the killing field,
the agreement made
10,000 years ago in blood,
a document binding
both species to the land.
But still, the tourists can imagine
the aliens getting a bit thirsty,
moving left instead of forward,
heading for the towns and cities,
devouring cows and sheep
along their path.
It’s easy to feel unsafe,
they think, when aliens live among them.
They imagine the aliens arriving
from the sky, terrorising their ancestors,
when in reality, the mythology is clear –
they rose from the earth itself,
hatching up out of the fields
long before they were used for killing.
Their hibernation cycle is prolonged,
their lives began when giant reptiles
walked the face of this planet
and will continue long after
the tourists are all gone.

My mother calls to tell me about the moon / by Jessica Duffy

Refusing to look I’ve forgotten 
forgiveness is no longer fidgeting

Like the moon she tells me my secrets
& those of my lovers too

I am bliss bound to her bosom
agonizing stardust, burning rust all around her
gleaming like a newborn cat nipping

I am cradled by her kindness most days, 
but sometimes her light swallows 
& leaves only pain

Being on the end of the receiver isn’t so bad
her light has given what it could

All that distance in prayer 
she says chin up

I can always take her home

be not / by Lane Fields

God’s my favorite book: his gilded edges
& frayed corners of pages turned, his words
in red serif, a thousand careful folds
to mark the best ones. I take him along
everywhere: the office, the train ride home,
tucked underneath my pillow at the end
of every day. When I was a young girl
I would read under the kitchen table,
sounding out each strange syllable with care
& wonder. Sometimes I could even hear
him speak back when I listened closely. How
young I was then, years go by & I still 
know him by heart, but his leather-bound love
takes me back, says listen, be still, listen.

 Recounting the Cat-Child’s Birth to the Elders / by Joanne Godley 

this midnight traveler baby
she wears night like an indigo overcoat
guzzles the throat of warm rebellion 
daughter of a woman harnessed to despair
this newly-born child    Black as Ibo goddess  Oduda
Black as a forest panther by the Mamoni River  
with electric fur coils that defy gravity
and a body like a tailless lynx
she sips rage and hope from her mother’s teet
hope—she pats the vessel-breast with padded paws
hope travels with her-through her
while the family  bones 
rest   we wait before the before
we wait for her   drinking milky elixir
having seen the mirror of memory’s fire    
we wait for her    to tell us how 
marooned hearts  from bodies
weighted underwater swam
how was it passing through a womb of shards?
birth as a million small cuts
the lynching of Black liquid soul
how could we not carry what she saw?
how could  we not pick up those  tortured tombs?
she carries the whole plantation on her face
in her sighs     on her furry legs
where did pain not make its mark?    
she stretches her forelegs upwards 
towards the night sky’s bright eye
licks her ebony mid-parts, her dewclaw—
 caresses tiny wounds
hidden by thick underfur
pain disguised as rope bites—
pain    as small small shudders
we are surrounded by screams eager to rest
open  and prepare to swallow her grief
this cat-child—doomed with the delirium of history  
kiss the lynx bow tie
at the hollow of her neck
as night curdles into day
God, it‘s a wonder she even knows how to smile

Pain Management / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

Ativan and gabapentin
steroids, cookies, and some oxy
meant to change me to a floating
good girl, sweet girl full of poison,
one who’ll do without a question.
Sleepy rag doll with her Taxol
barely stirring to the beeping
of the sensors for the IV.
But I say, go fuck yourselves,
though I say it very nicely
with the smile that is expected
of the vulnerable and helpless.
Did I say it loudly, plainly?
Did I say it to their faces?

A Pantoum for Poetry / by Pratibha Kelapure 

Poems arouse the spirit of the deadened world
The words of the poem may not be the panacea
Yet one poignant word may let you soar like a bird
Cause the neurons to fire, generate a lively idea

The words of the poem may not be the panacea
But for a mother mourning a child in heaven
Hoping for the neurons to fire, generate a lively idea
They give voice to the searing pain, an earnest expression

For a loving mother mourning a child in heaven
A woman surviving an unsurvivable anguish
Unable to voice the searing pain, an earnest expression
Refusing to lie down in defeat, refusing to languish

A woman surviving an unsurvivable anguish
Finds the meaning of her life gone so numb
Refusing to lie down in defeat, refusing to languish
Treasures the words that revive her heart so glum

She finds the meaning of her life gone so numb
One poignant word may let her soar like a bird
Treasures the words that revive her heart so glum
Poems arouse the spirit of the deadened world

Time Lapse / by Crystal Stone 

The interviewer says my resume is the most unique he’s ever seen. Which is to say he can’t pin me down. We kneel by the bed every night to pray, beside the scattered dollar store army men. We watch the video of Moses and the Pharaoh with the hardened heart. He is my camflouged reflection. I rip the radio out of my boyfriend’s car. I slap my sister in the face with a tortilla at our family dinner. We throw more food. The restaurant closes early because it runs out. I walk out of my Newark apartment naked in a towel. A man asks if we’re missionaries. My make up is smudged. My window breaks in the middle of the night. The homeless man sleeping in my backyard eats the stew my friend left on my doorstep. No one leaves soup again. I stop working, start watching. I eat dinner with the doppelganger of my late ambition. We reminisce. There are at least two trap houses on my street. The neighbor’s yard is a permanent antique store shelf. Nostalgia contours her face so that the old and the new are interchangeable. Cheek bones highlighted. Teeth a glossy white. Here’s what you could’ve had. Here’s where you could’ve gone.

First Snow Falls / by Centa Therese 
The first translation of a poem, by Josef Baran

The season’s first snow 
falls, and the quiet music of 
childhood rises toward the heavens.
First things don’t repeat, leaving clean 
the remembering. The first friend,
the first song, or season all pass. 
Though you call on memory 
to return that first snow
falling, you can only stand atthe window and feel yourself old.

Poem 4 / Day 4

My best friend says she wants a poem. / by Katherine Abrams

While I labored hard with my second child,
my broken point pendulum hips swaying
between an unfamiliar doula and my best friend,

I concentrated on the smell of her hair–
the same sea water clean I’d memorized
from long chestnut hellos and goodbyes.

I counted the poems of her voice
while she sang to me, clear as silver fork tines
against a porcelain plate, calling my daughter

into this world. I counted the diamonds
in her wedding ring, and the times she said
“You can do this. You can do anything.”

Ode to the girl who said she loved my dress in seventh grade / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

and did not mean it. It wasn’t really
a dress, a tiered velveteen skirt, polyester
poet’s blouse, a vest, and a pin.
Maybe shaped like a crescent moon.

Friday Night Assembly, ballroom dancing
for preteens, girls in white gloves
on one side of a gym, waiting to be asked
to dance. I’m sure I knew

her, the girl from some other school,
who walked toward me with such intention.
And I smiled and said thank you
as she walked away to her friends

who’d hung back. Did it ruin the fun
for her, the way my face lit up
at her praise? Did it ruin the game
that I didn’t understand for years

that my dress was a joke? I’m almost forty,
and a woman today paid me
a compliment, just sharp enough
to rattle old memories of patent leather

shoes and freezing when the music
stopped so you wouldn’t get called out
and forced to sit down. I smiled at her.
Who does it hurt, really? She meant it.

“Waiting is waiting for composition to happen.” / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

– “A Skeletal Thought,” The Hundreds, Lauren Berlant & Kathleen Stewart (65)

The other of you walks in the night-still fog, which would be perilous for someone else and which can clarify the mind & its compartments. Not walking, you are waiting. (Walking, too, may be waiting when one wants to walk into worldmaking or thoughtmaking. Remember this phrase, intones the walker receiving the lived world that is or isn’t apart from the created one.) I wonder (waiting) what to do with life or kids or whatnot, & the answer is read something adjacent. Still dark out. I pick Barad because entanglement & quantum physics might offer answers on how to address one who is no longer the previously written-about but someone-something-somewhere new altogether, a cranky & wondrous space, & I fear we are at the liminal. Barad writes: “With each intra-action, the manifold of entangled relatives is reconfigured.” I cannot fathom the particulate minutiae with which the theoretical particle physicist gets theoretically familiar. I can only ask: if I don’t awaken anyone else while I have another cup of coffee & the quiet will stay until they do get up—late, angry, hurrying, loud—is the writing a waiting for composition to happen or does the writing as waiting compose it?

Mother, Egg / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

We wait behind the curtain
for the space station’s reveal.
When the cord is pulled,
our breath fogs up the windows,
our bodies straining toward
the thing on the lawn.
White, egg-like, but mammoth,
soft-sided, something to fear
and care for,
we want to touch it.
The space station is touched down
on four black metal claws,
gripping the terrain
like it isn’t a flat shelf of land.
The grass may never recover.
A seam expands from base to top,
fills with light, rips open,
panels lifting out then aside,
exposing the interior.
A ramp extends in sections
until it links the opened egg
to the lawn in a diagonal line
The men walking down are ants
against the scale of the station.
Mother says, Enough, you lot,
It’s time for bed!
And we press our hands harder
against the windows,
asking them to break for us.
She reminds us there’ll be excitement enough
tomorrow, when she bundles us onto the ship.
On the way to our rooms,
we shuffle our feet down the hall,
looking through each window we pass
for just one more glimpse.
Some of us reach for Mother,
knowing this is our last night with her.
Others can only fixate on the giant egg
taking us off planet in the morning.
In our sleep, we can hear the ship
growling and purring, vibrating under our fingers.
It tells us, I will eat you,
it tells us, Your leaders are dead.
We nuzzle into each other,
a small smile on our lips.

Cold Refrain / by Jessica Duffy

you’ve tried problem’s melody
beyond scope time allows

burns

with itching need
to explain the mercurial

buoyancy is no meaning
numbness a rootless desire

all word-particles traverse
through beatings 

this congested muscle 
coagulates in sync 

with all that’s been
nothing’s left

the candles:
blown

be not / by Lane Fields

My mother holds my hand as we count
the flowers on our morning walk through
the neighborhood, my shy little fingers
gliding through pollen & petals that stain:
chrysanthemum, marigold, white lily.
The fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear. Everything
soft & small. Thirty years on I still remember
this gentleness. O, but mercy—there is always
mercy. A thousand gifts for my faults, a flower
I cannot name, a joy that comes in the morning.
Mercy, forever in memory’s gold-tinged fields.
Even in my upturned palms, even in the dirt
under my nails as I work in the garden. Even
in my mother’s eyes that no longer recognize mine.

Slant Kitchen Survey / by Joanne Godley 

box with bags of pokeweed berry tea
antidepressants-thanks to 2020

a yellowish-green mamba writhing in a chair
small Moka stovetop expresso maker

inside the corner cupboard, a skeleton’s head
sticky notes list: things the sorceress said

book of Wanda Coleman’s poems
dizzying array of Sour-Breakup potions

a mountain troll effigy dried and strung
over the sink, a Mexican Talavara sun

stacks of seasoned cast iron pans
Black-girl-magic taro cards-that spook plans

apron from East Africa in yellow, blue and red
some crushed bone and tar water, a prayer for the dead

crisp lettuce leaves in a container of plastic
a card from my favorite witch-saying I’m fantastic

calming pink crystals from that South African shop
black, white and grey granite surface tops

artsy pitcher holding kitchen implements
wooden rack of sulfur-based condiments

shards of pottery saved for mosaic art
fingers of old friends I’ve preserved in a jar

Not Long Before She Offers Me My Own Office / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

I closed the curtain of my cubicle,
purple fabric with white flowers
scalloped edges from the pinking
scissors I used instead of hemming.
Back when I made it, all I thought was,
Now I’ll stretch in private moments,
now I’ll have a break from watchers
passing judgement on my possum
screaming on his “cat found” sign.
Now I’ll have a break from watchers
seeing my back bend toward the wall.
Connie hears me cry, I know it,
but she never asks the question
answered easily in her own mind.
She’s a smart administrator,
MBA and fifteen years
moving data around in spreadsheets
waiting for the next procurement,
waiting for the doorbell’s chime.
Thank you, Connie in your sweetness,
thank you, thank you, dear lord, thank you.

When I am Dead / by Pratibha Kelapure 

When I am dead, my dearest
Think no thoughts of sorrow
Plant no seeds of anguish
Feel no yearning to mourn
Don’t sing dirges of loss
Let your heart sing joyful songs
Let the dancers bring in
dancing shoes, tinkling ankle bells
Let the sky fill with the sounds
Tatkars, chakkars, beating drums
Beating, beating — heels and soles
Stomping and leaping in the air
Let my heavenly heart surge
All my passions soar with my soul

Haiku with a Quarter Life Crisis / by Crystal Stone 

The future has no
red carpet premiere. The blue
prints need revision.

A Lament by an Elegist in Conversation with a Poet’s Ode / by Centa Therese 

By magic spell and tearless howl
call back what was has been stolen.

Remember the dare when you leapt
into the lake from hundred feet above,

beer-drinkers in big fat innertubes
cheering you over the edge?

All your sugar doled out young, during
that troubled, feral run when love

was only what you you could grab
for yourself, my sugarplum.

Call back the river of your dream,
the clear and filmy divide of your belonging

I never knew the ones I so badly
loved badly would be the only ones

I didn’t know the river was my home
as it was during the summer of love

I never knew I’d see a thing just once
or lose my sight or not feel at all

Meet me at the vortex where no one
has before, don’t let me fall in.

And that fountain you are so sure of
I am certain it is my pilgrimage to find

while rivulets, even whole rivers
pour down from the sky.

Don’t tell me how much water to drink.
I thirst more than the pines and the

tall grey stone painted with transient
winter light.

Poem 3 / Day 3

While The Men Discuss / by Katherine Abrams

I wait in the corner like a houseplant.
I know well enough not to fold my arms.

My face is mauve. Taupe. Eggshell.
My expression is Switzerland. Or

Lake Placid, water so pure you can drink it
from cupped hands reached over the side of a boat.

I swallow a salty sigh, choke, and splutter it into
some kind of fake sneeze. No one blesses me.

Meanwhile, the men discuss. I feel
unhinged, like the myth of snake jaws,

but anyway, there is nothing here for me to eat.
And we all know I am not the apex in this room.

Ode to Tylenol PM / by Maggie Blake Bailey

TW Suicidal Ideation

Remember when you weren’t
safe, I couldn’t have you
anywhere. Further back,
remember your little round

pieces of blue: robin’s egg
blue, sky blue, baby blue, lined
up on the couch cushion’s edge.
Counting and recounting.
Calling my mother
to say sorry I am so sorry.

For years, I found other
ways to sink beneath
the surface of sleep,
my body always kicking up
to the air. You weren’t safe
to have in my house.

So what, if now every night
is another nightmare. So what,
if the sleep doctor says,
I have never seen numbers like these.
Tries to explain a report
that reads: sleep architecture
severely fractured.

Tonight will be hot bath. Tonight will be
a slow book. Tonight will be early
and ready. Tonight will be one piece
of blue with a cold glass of water.

I could weep for joy, this only wanting sleep.

Installation / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

where I lived 

the county put 

fog lights on school buses

to avert 

more dead

no seatbelts only

revolving 

annunciations

in the disarray

of this room

what is encounter

bear, bat, baseball hat

a tree lit

with waiting

outside the fog

lights fuzz & widen

& move on along

they’ll be still 

burning 

when you arrive

Something about the Moon / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

after Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Something about the moon,
something about how it looks
reflected in the water,
your eyes, the hood of the car,
something about its rhythms,
your period, the ebb and flow of tides,
something about werewolves,
metamorphosis, a woman awash
in the glow of it,
something about lunar deities,
moon worship, ancient civilisations
getting on their knees for the moon,
sending up prayers to the moon
like she gives a shit about it,
like she’ll really consider whether or not
to kill your father, your lover, your newborn baby
if you just reason with her enough.
Something about the moon being trans-
itional, changeable, bipolar, moody,
hysterical, psycho, a danger to herself,
unfit to be a mother, going through something–
a nervous breakdown, a manic episode,
depressed, unhinged, panicked, shaky,
not to be left alone, c-r-a-z-y.
Something about the rest of the night sky,
set aflame in the low glow of her,
she’s not an attention whore
like her sister, the sun,
she isn’t greedy, she can share the stage,
but poets the world over
aren’t quite as transfixed by her hot-
tempered sibling, throwing fire into the universe,
can’t be found arrested on a balcony
in the middle of a party,
taking time out for their favourite lady in the sky,
don’t look up to make sure she’s okay,
don’t think on her like a touchstone
to get them through the night.
Something about the fear felt
looking into the sky,
wondering what would be done
if one of those things knocked itself loose
and came hurtling down to Earth,
would there be a sense of calm acceptance,
or would everyone start running around
like in the movies, like they’ve got something to prove,
like escaping into the bush, digging a great big hole,
living off the land, being kind to animals,
asking the government to help, weaponising,
growing vegetables, choosing reusable
over paper, over plastic,
doing anything at all,
would stop the world from ending.

Belladonna / by Jessica Duffy

Dearest flower, sweetest mistress
cut the thread of life

Doused in deadly preservation
pupils dance your toxic fusion

Wounded lovers vomit failure 
purple sealing fate of hearts

Sister of three, sister of three

Set her free:
marry berries

Cut the thread of life
happier is she

Patient ghost: divine thread

Spun & cut:
forgotten lawfully

Taproot / by Lane Fields 

Down the steps and out the door. Milk of day.
The city moves in circles, spins, refracts

like cherry glass. Everything’s cyclical
and sweet that way. I know I’m wasting time

on foxhunts, useless pursuits. My poems stink
of labor, worker’s grief all poured out pure.

 But where is God? the poet asks the priest
asks the prophet asks the poet. I will

find Him like this: hands in soil and rot,
digging among radish, turnip, beetroot.

How to Invite Her In / by Joanne Godley 

sit before the naked page
pencil in hand
for three days and three nights        
consume no alcohol     
white snowdrifts like scoops of vanilla gelato will mount outside your house
on the sidewalk   as will layers of ice   ignore it all
turn a blind eye to the elements     stay inside                  
wait        time will pass
wait some more         shed turtleneck  woolen sweater
shed corduroy pants    hiking boots and argyle socks  
After a bit   remove your bra    your panties  hair pins 
unbraid your hair   remove your glasses
wipe off all makeup    prepare yourself as one would an offering
open (really open)    your heart
come clean   come pure (well, don’t get carried away)
turn the  furnace on full blast   soon, you will begin to sweat
dim the lights in the study and close the blinds     just in case
wait   as if in a séance    you may scribble  or draw curlicues 
with a #2 pencil on   tauntingly-empty
sheets of paper  
on the third night    she will touch your shoulder      then your pen
your hand will tingle from her touch—
sending vibrations up your arm
your arm will feel—as if infused with  LSD    
she will slap sleep from your consciousness    
scatter poem—fragments like bird crumbs
on the desk and floor    your brain buzzing 
you will fall to your knees to collect them 
like a truffle-hunting  pig      
like desperate diamond-hunters in central Africa
searching word-gems  
you will quit drinking that same night 
you offer her all your vodka        
she will adore the chilled lemon Stolnichniya
her poem offerings will come to you regularly   
always before dawn   when
you gather the temerity to question the timing of her visits  
she will ask       (her voice teeming with snark)
whether poems would be better offered to you
while you are grocery shopping?  or—while in your car–changing lanes during your work commute?
or perhaps    while sweating through a difficult colonoscopy?
Or maybe when your lover is in town one weekend and you and he are in flagrante delicto?    
You never question her again 

TIP:  if your muse visits you at 4 am  
do not diss her
do not turn back towards sleep 
muttering ‘come back later’    
rise immediately from bed  
grab pencil and paper 
offer her coffee or tea 
muses–being needy and fragile  
are easily rebuffed
they demand  absolute adulation 
and require constant hydration            
they are partial to vodka

Electrolytes / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

Tight the sinews, tight the tendons
tight my jaw of holey bone mass.
Suck the calcium from my molars
to replace what my poor heart needs
to replace what kept my bones firm.

Tight the sinews, tight the tendons,
tight my jaw of holey bone mass.
There’s so much I cannot say
to the nurses in their blue scrubs
to the helpers in the maroon.
There’s so much I cannot say
to the doctors in their white coats
who never come to see me.

Tight the sinews, tight the tendons,
tight the jaw of holey bone mass.
Every three weeks I show up
to have the poison put inside me
Tight the sinews, tight the tendons.
To let the poison make a playground
of my slowly hardening veins.
Tight my jaw of holey bone mass
of my bare scalp red and scaly
of my stomach crying softly
when it tries to make a few cells.
Tight the sinews, tight the tendons,
tight my jaw of holey bone mass.

The Prey Animal / by Pratibha Kelapure 

So much hopping, so much dancing
Popping corks Champagne flowing
This is beautiful, evening merriment
Harmless laughter, yet here you are
Always startled, always skittish
Like a little sprinting kitten
Hiding under the canopy of curtain
Which has made a stressful evening
Do you have a sensor sounding
Silent alarms in your psyche?
Like a creature being hunted
Always ready to flee swiftly
Worried that the evening may turn dicey
Who can promise you a safe haven?

Netflix is new the Hallmark / by Crystal Stone 

My housemate tells me
she isn’t hungry, her mouth is 
just lonely. My earliest memory 
is existential and bored. That’s not 
how I feel in this moment watching 
the sentimentality of holiday 
magic. But I won’t go home for Christmas. 
Life isn’t a Hallmark movie. We pay 
for a subscription & have to 
cultivate our own bliss. The heart throb moment when everything works out. 
The heart drop sparkle of lights, 
mistletoe songs. I’m not lonely anymore, 
but I still wonder why I’m here. What I’ll fill 
the mouth of time with when it begs.

Musings from Camper van / by Centa Therese

Jeffrey pine. The smell of vanilla in its bark is still there.Sprays of long green needles punctuate tendril-like branches. 

Generous and awkward. A communion ofvulnerable expressions. I have missed you all.

If I were a syllable, I would be a sound falling.I wonder how trees commune.I doubt they need to consider whetherthey are kind. Or what kindness even is.

Sitting by the lake, a surprise iridescent green, themallard’s head, body, mate, circling in quest for crumbs.

I trust body language, especially when it’s a tossup.Connection. Gesture of arms spread wide.

I’m afraid old age will be a thankless consideration.Latitude is the cello bow’s horizontal longing.

Hard won love. Where are the birds?Music of this body passing being nothing special.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Social Distance / by Katherine Abrams

My lover cannot watch her father die–
the CDC’s six feet is still too close for comfort,
even as his six foot frame quickly diminishes

so she paces my house: goes downstairs, forgets why,
comes back up, repeats, her elderly Shepherd
softly click-clicking right behind.

I sit and fidget on the edge of our bed, remembering
a driving lesson with my own father when I nearly
mismeasured the safe distance from an embankment’s edge.

All I want is to shove her in the cab of her pickup
with that same teenager’s unconscious recklessness
and storm through the hospital halls, shouting:

Distance is a social construct, and what good
is a social construct if you can’t, sometimes,
just tear it the hell down?

Ode to the woman on Nextdoor complaining / by Maggie Blake Bailey

about the injured deer.
No, complaining about how
when she stopped to comfort
the injured deer, stayed for hours
with the injured deer—

help came in the form
of a man who drove up,
shot the deer, and took it away.

She took so many pictures
of the deer resting, head
in her lap, like an old sonnet—
a hart or a hind or a prince
caught in an evil, magic spell.

What did you want, woman
complaining on Nextdoor
that the deer was shot?

There are so many reasons
we hate each other. I guess
you wanted a deer ambulance.
Here. In Georgia. A deer EMT
to turn on the sirens, to drive
straight through red lights.

The man who did come
plans on eating the deer.
The one that he shot.

The dead, injured deer who
rested under your hands. And you
posted the photo and cursed the
man and told our neighborhood
your grief. There are so many
reasons we hate each other.

We have no pity for the wrecked.

Parental Phenomenology / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

Are you (or am I) not sure
What you want these days
Or how you want, pure
Absence—so longing—the phase
By which you register & resist
Or, perhaps, embrace,
Angled away, to insist
All readings of your face
Glance aslant, saying: feel, see,
Know you cannot encounter
Where this occurs to me
Or define the deixis, only counter 
Perceptions of my world,
Which is ours, yes, but not yours—

Stuck / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

You enter the party in 2053.
Your chrome tracksuit
is sinched tight at the hip,
legs and arms billowing out.
The only way in is through
a long, narrow tube
drilled straight into the concrete
wall of the club.
When you try to get in,
arms locked in a swan dive,
pushing in
and then pulsing your hips
side to side,
up and down,
your baggy tracksuit
snags on a chunk of rock
and you wedge there
in slow motion.
You only get one chance
to make it through
so no way are you backing out,
Only forward!
But there’s no room
to slide your hand back,
unhook the fabric
so it tears away.
You kick the walls
of the tube, which
propels you onward.
The darkness in the tunnel
now you’re properly in it
is suffocating,
and you nearly wish
a cool breeze into existence,
a faint reminder of the promise
of light at the end.
It almost feels like
moving backward,
you’re inching forward
so slowly,
and soon there are hands
thrusting against your feet,
a voice raised behind you,
urging you along.
You wriggle your body,
the hands continue to push,
and soon you are sliding,
your speed is picking up,
the wind is stronger on your face.
A circle of light appears
and grows larger,
you’re nearly there,
you can feel it,
the fingers stretching out to you,
nearly touching your own,
still clasped together
in front of you
and just as you reach the other side,
just as the room sharpens
into view and a cheer goes up,
the tunnel narrows
and your shoulders wrench
against the concrete walls.
The hands behind you push
and push but there’s no
movement forward,
you are well and truly stuck.

Halved / by Jessica Duffy

A flashing light of waves reversed // so hot alone and pining touch
In twinned collapse the screams are heard // amongst atomic silver clouds

As angels die in earthly lives // they never lived before the split
Of shedding skin, returning home // to peeling off the bones of soul

A sky so grave its risk remains // to break apart the dust of flames
So sudden, turning faces in blame // creation: seeking a shameless God

To heal these holy wonders wide // as hearts and minds divide in pain
The burning wisdom vast and dark // they stand alone, afraid and fight

It pains the day, the time it takes // to reach a fearless union whole
And meet the one of two that split //

Asking for a Poet / by Joanne Godley 

poems are not bullets nor smoking guns
words on the page are not Molotov cocktails
the number of poets imprisoned would surprise everyone

a Haiku will never detain your loved one
an ode will not kidnap you for blackmail
a poem is not a bullet nor a smoking gun

let’s see how many pantoums have robbed banks and are on the run
how ludicrous to imagine a ghazal raping a female
the numbers of poets killed should stun everyone

a sonnet will not steal your wallet just for fun
no abcedarian has put a Molly in a person’s cocktail
poems are not bullets nor smoking guns

no sestina has sold the Brooklyn bridge and then played dumb
villanelles do not acquire stolen goods for resale
but, the numbers of poets imprisoned would stun everyone

how many poems have orchestrated a coup? None!
do poems torture by pulling out finger and toenails?
poems are not bullets nor smoking guns
why do the numbers of poets killed and imprisoned fail to surprise everyone?

Randi and Geni’s Tree Is Definitely Not a Metaphor for Cancer and My Body / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke 

When I started walking after,
as suggest by my doctors,
some days I couldn’t make it down there
to their house right at the corner
with the trumpet vines and the azaleas
with the creepers climbing skyward
up the trunk of the tall slash pine
right outside their chainlink fencing.
How I wanted to pull it downward.
Yank its tendrils with one motion
beautiful, fluid, and triumphant.
Me the savior of the poor tree,
Me the one who set its soul free
Fear no more the coming shadows!
Fear no more the gale force storm winds!
But the bark and vines were matted
removing one would take the other
leave the tree a borer’s buffet,
leave the tree all naked soft wood.
So, I left it growing skyward.
So, I asked for its forgiveness.

Shortfall / by Pratibha Kelapure 

The sun peeking through the slats of blind
might be the only light she will encounter
perhaps she will walk outside and won’t return
until her lungs are full of clear air and
sweet aromas of grass and Eucalyptus
No more darkness–
only sunlight and glow of the moon to fill her life
she promises her daughter who always brought air and light
The air so essential–
a newborn squeals as her lungs receive
air as she leaves her mother’s womb
Those few seconds –
the difference between light and darkness
for the rest of her life, a shortfall of air –
and the shortfall of speech, sight, movement,
the shortfall of love

Dog Days / by Crystal Stone 

The dogs wake up ready
for snacks. It doesn’t matter
what time: they are committed. 
If one barks, the other joins 
the gruff chorus. They whisk 
the dirt of the mixing bowl holes 
in their backyard digs. One bites
a leg, the other bites an ear.
They don’t need us to have fun.
They run cyclones around the backyard, 
swirl leaves like stormy air.
I see how they change us: the way 
we baby into lullabies and high-
pitched sweet nothings when we call 
them in. We’re always saying their names
because we like the mouthfeel. 
The tannins of dog breath, 
decanted with kisses and hugs.

Through Eyes of Amazement / by Centa Therese 

Resonant water blues, voluminous 
clouds, seven white sails below 
the horizon—

what storms once raged are now past

She tumbles headlong into the open-throated sky, 
tethered by sight to a red-tailed hawkwhose banner of gold wings soaravenues of softly arced wind.

Poem 1 / Day 1

After Peak / by Katherine Abrams

The tourists will stream back up in a week
or so, swarming to cut fresh Frazier firs,

tying them to the tops of SUVs and trailing
each other back down like picnic ants.

But for now their leaf lust is satiated,
and only the muted rust-red still clings

to these mountains. From the sky
I imagine it weaves in valleys like the patina

on my mother’s old deerskin gloves,
the ones she used to scour the scrapyard

for the interesting pieces, discarded only
because they had lost their sheen.

Ode to Foxing / by Maggie Blake Bailey 

Paper tarnishes,
spots the color of a fox.
Not mold, not singe,
just the browning
of what is loved and unused.

Or loved and old—
I can’t tell anymore if old
is any different than a book
on the shelf, carefully
placed and wanted

and unmoved, some books
we read once, no shame in a war
history, a forgotten poet
left shouldered against more
of the same and tired.

I don’t want the things you stopped
touching. I don’t want what you
cared for, lost. Damaged or not.

What World Is This? / by Kate Bolton Bonnici

–       after Thaisa’s awakening in Pericles

Postpartum, enshrouded in a coffin caulked & bitumed
From hatches to helm until—soft!—reading shore,
Reading recovered. (Lights! Tunes!) She, presumed

Swallowed by the sea’s womb, now once more
One whose hands (warm?) we might clutch, cathect, adore.

Behold: in my scene this queen’s nails set glossy & glass-dry,
Red for blood or other miracles. Boxed mom who did not die.

Nighttime at the Lake / by Carolyn DeCarlo 

A lake, covered in glass,
shatters
at the sound of a bell,
cracks forming
along the surface
at the centre
and spreading out
to find the shore,
breaking off into shards
and sinking down
below the surface.

Battered about
between weeds and silt,
the glass tumbles
as it might in the sea–
a bottle broken
tossed off the stern
of a yacht, drunken sailor
narrowly avoiding the reef–
wearing down sharp edges
that would have ribboned
the soles of your feet,
opened fish at their bellies,
cut through to the meat of things.

Over time, points become curves,
shiny finishes dull,
dangerous objects
turn into pretty things
that catch the light
and capture it in a jar.

Cracks form in glass,
in bones, in surfaces–
nothing lasts,
everything fades
from day to starless night.

I Want to Love Knowing Death / by Jessica Duffy

After Georgia Douglas Johnson’s poem I Want to Die While You Love Me

I want to waltz around unclothed,
Till love has nothing more to ask
Of fear and past affairs
While tender tears unmask.

I want to live while you become,
Unhardened from love’s trial,
And nothing hurts as deep as death
But living in denial.

I want to live with open eyes
As destined lovers dare—
To dream and bask in life so full
To breathe eternal air!

I want to waltz around unclothed,
Before the fading sun
Begins to overtake desire
And shadows love undone.

Salve / by Lane Fields 

      after Mary Szybist, “Hail”

Jesus who mattered to me, was offered
vinegar & bitter herbs: don’t leave me

yet. All the years I spent turned
from you but never out of sight—your dark

eyes, your mild eyes—don’t you know
I was heartsick everyday? I drew the crown

of thorns about your head, flames
obscuring your face, blood & bone

-white lilies beneath you. How I loved
to speak to you on Sundays, speak to you

from my baby bed with plastic glow stars
overhead. I colored in your beard, made you

fair-skinned just like the picture of you
in my room, just like me. I grew into my pain,

my little white girl sorrows—why didn’t you
say anything? You were there. The whole time

you were right there & never said a word.
Still I am on my hands & knees for you.

Always for you. For you I am a stone cast
on the water, a fool rushing for the horizon.

To Those Who Love Poetry and Poets / by Joanne Godley 

The knowledge that others have your back
is like struts supporting a wall.
It’s a dense wool overcoat for the chilliest of days,
allowing you to stand warm and tall.
It’s the wind that creates the puff in your sails,
and that little lift in your chin.
It bolsters your swagger, your handshake is firmer,
so, no matter how often you fail or fall,
you can get up again and again.

How does it feel to find your tribe
when you’ve been walking this path on your own?
It’s a drink of water to the parched dry throat,
a beacon /a balm /a lifeline / a light,
it’s a lot like coming home.

Shower after First Nadir / by Jennifer Schomburg Kanke

Beating water blending seamless
with the tears that flow like champagne
from my eyes that can’t see clearly
through the warm and noisy shower.
All the things turned to eleven
all the heightened, frightened senses
touch my hair and feel it falling,
feel it clumping like a horror
The Craft or Witchboard, either works.
Anyone could make a poppet
from the deadness I keep shedding
from the bits I leave behind me.

Holiday Cheer / by Pratibha Kelapure

Christmas – blinking lights on the slanted rooftop
Maybe the squirrels sprinting over shingles?
Maybe reindeer hooves are clickety-clacking?
This is magic, perk those baby eardrums
Chimneys clatter, let it beam you upward
Skylight awaits, starry wonder beckons you
Leave the worries for another night
The adult mind is not a merry place
On this evening of mystic ebullience

East Admiral Flea Market / by Crystal Stone

There’s a line of people 
selling tires out of the back 
of their minivans. A man 
a few blocks away with a sign, 
“Love Jesus. Ask me about it.” 
Who gets to adulthood in Oklahoma
without hearing about Jesus? All the Christians
I’ve met here are too selfish 
to date. After hearing I was lonely, 
one told me “you need a hobby.” 
I’m tired of shopping the used, 
back-of-the-minivan sales. 
I don’t need the Bible verses 
that come with my meals.
I eat a cookie and watch the flea 
market carnival into Sunday’s best. 
An outdoor church. A wooden 
dilapidated priest.

Listening / by Centa Therese 

Sitting on my bed one October morn,
back to the headboard and silenced the clock.
When came a knock, pronouncing itself in singular form.

Then another plus a roll came without warn’
not anything much, certainly it shouldn’t shock.
Just an acorn, fallen, not a storm.

More fall now, the battered roof casts a spell,
I am disarmed. Inside, a loosening of some ferocious lock.
Rather than silence, now sound is warm.

One acorn becomes a symphony adorning
the roof like pieces of colorful chalk
a detective came with to inform

of my cat who loves to stalk?
Into the living room she storms
the only mouse in-tooth from the catio
where the acorns, by far, outperform.