THE 30/30 PROJECT December, 2022

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

The volunteer poets for December 2022 are Colton Babladelis, Angela M. Layne, Catania, Larson, Kimberly McAfee, Sam Niven, Dallas Outlaw, LaDonna Witmer, and Stacey Yu. 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!

Day 31 / Cento

The Natural Laws / A Cento

Comprising lines written and selected by Colton Babladelis, Angela M. Layne, Catania Larson, Kimberly McAfee, Sam Niven, Dallas Outlaw, LaDonna Witmer, and Stacey Yu.

I think I’ll grab a new life today.
I’ll bite my fingers and do this with my blood.
Isn’t every seed, and human, a fugitive?

 We’ll lie in the sun,
hands over eyes, beside the top layer of a jellyfish
washed up from the ocean, dry as the moon.
We’ll gape soundlessly
like fish. We’ll move slow as honey, as
a dying strip mall,
and swallow a bee—
how long until we can breathe?
Who is left to scoop our small hearts
from the still-moving heap?
I know everything about an empty room.

We are slow dancing now
to perfume waltzes in the wind,
the two of us spinning rhymes to the early dark,
tapping our toes in our sleep.
All I know
is that I’m close.
I can see
your face.

 I fantasize and curve;
you swarm and crinkle
and cry for ash.
I think I’ll love you
like a bloodied sheet.

 Someone famous or old or dead said
the tune of our own bliss
doesn’t need to be recorded,
invisible in these photographs.

 It’s the one thing
that can’t disseminate
in embers.
It is coming on the wind,
coming from somewhere
we can’t quite see.

The Oldest Song / A Cento

(a cento dezembro)

The sun has grown soft.
I blink, and the day
is gone. I would play it for you now
but I can’t remember

                             how it goes. Haven’t seen
a bee since August. All the trees I used to climb
are stumps. (What old gods have we lost?) The grass
was tall; there were warnings

about snakes. I hearkened:
not only could I walk away
from the game, but I could
howl. I sing the oldest song
the unsolvable mystery

                             because
                             obviously
I feel like a haunted child.
When you talk of me, say
I had wings. I became

a macaw. A magic
I thought I had
forgotten
                             roaring back.
The minute stood incredibly still. All this beauty

just for me. I was learning to pull
a hurricane’s many teeth, to bring back light
from the next brightest star, I was free-swimming
in the Atlantic

                             before I met you. You say
Let’s go home. When the floods come
it will already be too late. Playing dead
only works
for so long.
I won’t die
                             alone

not as alone as God.

There are millions of bodies
knocking on the doors. After all
is wept and done, don’t tell me
                             I don’t love you. It’s just you
                             me
                             and a holy
                             war.

(Cento lines from poetry by: Stacey Yu, Colton Babladelis, Sam Niven, Catania Larson, Angela M. Layne, Kimberly McAfee, Dallas Outlaw)

Day 30 / Poem 30

Death comes on silent wings / Colton Babladelis

All these things
Pile up
And up until
There is a mountain
Of lost memory
Where people I could have met
Go for extended trips
And bathe in the warm sea
That circles around it
And somehow stretches back
To the beginning times
All those pieces
Someone once cared about
And the young are probably looking for
As we speak now
Words slow and sticky like molasses
In January
The cold lingers around here
For it has nowhere else to go
So we do what we can
And we learn to make friends
With all the strangers
While we can still make a ruckus

Thank you, Tupelo Press    / Angela M. Layne

When I lost my Mama, I stopped writing.
When the man told me “what about the kids” when I asked to leave, 
I stopped writing.
When a mask covered my lips, and words were sheltered without choice,
I stopped writing.
When I began to question if I was a writer,
I stopped letting the words join the page.
This month, I wrote, and became again.
This month made me realize, again, there’s no stopping the words of a writer.

Lord of Lords / Catania Larson

1

To whom shall I bow?
He who changed water into wine,
flipped tables at the temple?
He who lay prostrate in prayer,
promising harems to holy warriors?
He who sat under the Bodhi tree
and rejected Mahaprajapati’s request?
He who flooded the whole earth?

2

These men.

3

I bow to the photon, to the
microbe. I bow
to the tick.
I bow to the fawn feebly feeding
alongside his mother.
I bow to the giant saguaro of Sonora, to
the blue spruce that weathers
wind and whipping snow
on the ridge of Clayton Peak. And
I bow to that peak;
to the intrusion;
to the plate;
to the globe;
to the orb that anchors that globe.
I bow to the moment—the
single moment—
when gravity swallows
substance and seconds
in a great gulp.

My Heart  / Kimberly McAfee

My heart is a 
field of daffodils,
bright and shining
under the golden sun.
There is a calm and
comfortable breeze,
just enough to dance
through your hair and
gently hug your skin.
A soft song plays in
the distance, the
melody soothing and
full of delight.
A sweet and aromatic
perfume waltzes
in the wind.

This place could be yours,
do you dare claim it?

Ode to Lucifer, Morning Star / Sam Niven

Who feels the shame for our wars?
Once, we gave our weapons your name,
we christened our children with God’s—
but you know better than anyone
the difference between an aspergillum
and a holy water sprinkler. We used to wonder
how the sun—that faithful morning star—
could fly without wings. Wasn’t it God
who created the light? So you were always
heading here, to morning
and glass shards, pendulate and crash.

American Refugee / Dallas Outlaw

from corner to corner
beneath these walls
lies a concrete city
of indescribable halls
an unfathomable lifestyle
created in contrast
living in the dark amongst 
our trash; discarded city folk
watch us
crossing tees & dotting eyes
before every car ride
praying not to succumb
to the streets we
cross or be washed away
with the monsoon tide

becoming apart of
the  pavements 
c r a c k e d
as spines croaked over
left unaligned
in the depths – descended
truly suspended 
hung over hell

where homeless is synonymous
with broken
yet still you are the token
taken for a joke and hoping
that if they knew how you
were taken from that to this
they’d be more prepared
to avoid this from happening
to that

-Las Vegas- not to be
confused with Skid Row
(Los Angeles)
just a row of hopeless people

who never knew a place
riddled with lights
could hold so much 
darkness
in its heart

Breadcrumbs  / LaDonna Witmer

Why is against our religion
unless the answer is
Because God
wills it.

 So too we frown
upon How
knowing God is
omnipotent.

What
Where
When
Who cares?
It’s all there in the Word

God-breathed and
foreordained. The clay does not say
to the potter Why hast thou
made me thus? Don’t beg

the question when the answer
means war when the truth
sets you free when the
breadcrumbs lead you
out.

Long distance / Stacey Yu

I’m sorry I keep missing you, 
but time is a sidewalk and 
we’re like lost pennies wedged
in its cracks, there to be wished on.

The clock has stopped knocking.
I know everything about an empty room.
Some nights I reach for the person of you
and find the image, instead.

Some nights I think it’s enough,
until you remind me it isn’t.

Day 29 / Poem 29

Sailing on an empty vessel / Colton Babladelis

Upon an empty vessel
Into the night we disembarked
In search of water to quench our thirst
And a piece of rock to plant our feet
What seemed an endless voyage
70 nights we floated on
A spring filled with sadness
Gave way to a summer burnt by desire
The young blossoms we left behind
As I drank the nectar from your cup
Although the sun loomed on the horizon
We became drunk with the distance
We looked behind to the stars for guidance
The sea air stripped me of my arrogance
And the smell of jasmine restored my youth
70 days we were delirious
Until the day broke the silence
A piece of land was in our future
A place we could embrace our very being
Into the night we disembarked
Upon an empty vessel
In the darkness we found salvation
As the tempest swelled inside us
Upon landing in the port
We discovered a new ship below us
That had been filled by love and time

Me, The Limping Dog    / Angela M. Layne

I’m sorry you went through so much pain
You are why I have a gun to my temple

I want to spend every moment with you
You are controlling me. Do I have to tell you when I’m taking a shit?

You are the kindest person I’ve ever met
You ruin everyone’s lives

Where are you? Why do you seem far away?
You’re as as needy as a limping dog

Why aren’t you answering me? Is something wrong?
I can’t even grab a coffee without you messaging me.

I love how your brain works
You hear and see things that never happened

No, I’d never hurt you.
You made me this way. You turned me into this.

I want more than anything for you to be happy.
How is your life so good and mine so bad? It’s all your fault. Why are you always smiling when I’m so sad?

I want to protect you always.
You wanted a monster. You’ve got a monster. 

You are the most caring person I’ve ever met.
I’m going to make sure I destroy you. You’ll have no one but you, just like me.

People don’t know you. Don’t worry about what they say.
I’m going to make sure everyone knows how shitty of a person you are. 

I’m sorry
I’m sorry, but it’s all your fault.

You are why I want to live.
You are why I have a gun in my mouth.

I didn’t mean those words.
I’d be a better person if it wasn’t for you. You push me to it.

I’ll never leave
I’ll never leave

(Overlook) Celebrate! / Catania Larson

(overlook)
     Celebrate!
(fat)
     Curves.
(moles)
     Beauty marks.
(emotional)
     Passionate.
(bitch)
     Direct.
(flighty)
     Fun.
(irresponsible)
     Spontaneous.
(messy)
     Relaxed.
(irrational)
     Optimistic.
(weird)
     Unique.
(dreamer)
     Creative.
(crazy)
     Crazy.

Growing…Still  / Kimberly McAfee

My emotions have
turned shades of denim,
like the kind I wore in
middle school
(tight-rolled, of course).
 
My face is the shade
of ten applications
of bright gel blush.
 
There is no straight
road before me.
No, my journey seems
as wild as my old
spiral-permed coif.
 
But, I must move
forward, no matter
the searing feelings
within. I must lock
them away, tiny diary
key in hand,
and walk towards
growth.
 
 

What I Can’t Tell You / Sam Niven

I’d plant the blue irises
for you. They would bloom
at the start of summer,
and I’d cut their stems at angles,
leave them in mason jars
on every surface in the house
we’d rent together.
You’d put your palms
to my palms, to the soft skin
at the backs of my knees,
to my wine-warmed cheeks.
We’d coil our bodies in the bed,
choose housepaint together.

Open Carry / LaDonna Witmer

A bit of honesty to disarm you: I know nothing
of AR-15s. I wouldn’t recognize one
if you shot me with it.

My father had a BB gun for chasing coyotes
from the chickens. The only thing
he blasted was barn windows. I
didn’t even own

a nerf gun. I preferred a bow from a bough
stripped of bark and strung with
baling twine. It had no twang
and sent my arrows

(made of sticks) tumbling
to the ground. No matter.
I was Maid Marian running
with Robin’s merry band
and when that got old

I searched out a straighter stick
and swished it like
vzzzzzzz vzzzzzzzzz
because it was unfair

Princess Leia didn’t get her own
light saber. Boys have all
the fun and
all the guns
and every fall

the hunters parked their F150s
in the ditch and hiked to the woods
in vests as bright as screams.
I would beg permission

to gallop ahead like
Revere for the deer
and I’d pray each
distant bang missed

its mark. The marks are
children now aren’t they.
That’s what you won’t admit.
You’ve taught my daughter to
cower in her elementary classroom.

She can’t stand Star Wars and she
won’t read Robin Hood because
all she ever played at was being

a deer
a fox
a small
prey animal.

At the Tate / Stacey Yu

Someone smells like bergamot.
Someone else smells like bed.

Cappuccinos are my new thing.
We order it to share, sip it under 
the watch of a severe bronze sculpture.

People in museums are generally attractive, 
although never more than the statues. 
I guess that’s why we’re here.
At least you can touch people
without contributing to their slow demise.
(In most circumstances.)

In front of some terrible futurist portrait 
depicting the fusion between men and 
machinery, we kiss. 
It’s nice to be alive.

Day 28 / Poem 28

While the world sleeps / Colton Babladelis

Wind rages against the windows
Unimpressed by busy hands
Small things blossom
Beautifully and fully
Waking dreams and 
Sluggish nightmares
Move inside me
In tired circles
Lost in the mazes of
Long nights
Again I toil
While the world sleeps 

Contract Complete    / Angela M. Layne

Earth, you did not overlook me (as I once believed)
however; please admit, of your carelessness in 2020–
when sadness baked on my skin in the night (whereas you’d normally tucked it in like a devilish child)
you allowed it, hungry, into my house
it seeking skin my body needed in order to cover the thinness of my own heart.
it cooed at me, and I held it like it was my own.
I loved it’s red-rare eyes
convinced myself there was a spec of the sea within them, waving
atop an angry sea it didn’t choose. 

Upon my chest, it slept. Walking, England and America, I wouldn’t 
let its feet drag the golden stone, nor pavement–even as it grew larger than I.
I faced the east windows each day, hummed a hopeful tune:
Calm its seas, I cried. 
Eventually, I spoke for it, ate on its behalf, cried as if the sea had an alarm
and it had upset my spirit level. 

My solemn life, you did not abandon me (as I was sure of)
however; you must know my life has a new signature
the contract amended, after ratification. I owed so much, I couldn’t nullify.

 

Back Porch Eden  / Catania Larson

December: Sonoran spring.
Pots of clay—
deep red with patina outlining
the rim and etchings. All day
the sun heats the vessels. But no ray
scorches. A slight
earthy aroma drifts my way.
Terra cotta Eden. Redolent delight.

Spilled dirt—a ring
of excess soil lays.
Sweeping.
Scooping. I notice the fray
of odors. Decay,
nitrogen, roots, night.
A rustic disarray
in this terra cotta eden, this redolent dellight.

Johnnies are jumping
their faces say,
“Hello! Smile!” They sing
and they sway.
Madame Deficit loved how they
smelled of light
honey—each smile a sachet.
The terra cotta eden, the redolent delight.

The vessels. The peat. The cheerful bouquet:
pleasures. All senses ignite.
Small jewel on the balcony. Joy on display—
in my terra cotta eden, my redolent delight.

Me, Cassandra  / Kimberly McAfee

I am Cassandra, 

but it is me
who doesn’t heed my warnings.
I know the path to take,
I feel it in my bones,
but my mind always coerces
me to walk another way.
 
I am Cassandra,
but it is me
who doesn’t heed my warnings.
I am doomed to
see the outcome
of these situations,
where my original
thoughts were proven right.
But even though this
happens again and again,
I can’t seem to
follow my initial inclinations.
 
I am Cassandra.
 
Am I fated to not
trust my instincts?

Your Ghost / Sam Niven

Now that you are dead,
whose body frays for you?
Who twists the sheets
beside me in the bed, who strikes
the sulfurous match?
Your shadow lies in tattered pieces,
blue and black, ripe as a bruise.

 I fantasize and curve;
you swarm and crinkle—
but what mirror reflects your dark room?
Whose whisper sounds
as your whisper sounded? At night
I see your dreaming skull. In sunlight
I wish upon your bones.

Small Town Disaster / LaDonna Witmer

White pickets and a shotgun
in the closet God love ‘em.
Everybody knows your
name or your momma’s.
Wouldn’t be so cold out if it
weren’t for the gol durn wind.
Decent as ducks with shit
on their shoes. Keepin’ it real
folksy in the condiment aisle
but vile as all get out back
where no one can hear.
Knee high by the fourth
fuck it. Racist as common
as Reaganomics. Hotter
than a scalded dog. Church
on Sunday morning Sunday
night and Wednesday for
cryin’ out loud. Never
thought it could happen
here. Never thought
it could happen.

Southwold, Winter / Stacey Yu

Half-empty pier.
Sky white as sky.
The ocean a tongue,
our bodies lingering on the tip
and the faraway people
cold flecks of spit,
after the fish are
finished frying and
all shops have shut.

Day 27 / Poem 27

Moonlit Preamble / Colton Babladelis

Chasing the moon
Like a coyote in the night
Barreling through the fog
You defied the natural laws
That everything else must abide by
Everything about your place
         And your time
Was dimly lit
Yet driven forward.

The Things Stitched Into Me   / Angela M. Layne

Silence was always meant to keep the world still–
to halt curiosity, personality.
I was once taught that sullen language–
smooth daytime whispers, ending in tsunami nightmares.

If anyone had dared to look closely enough, they would’ve counted the split ends of my soul.
If anyone had held a hand out to catch me, I would’ve taken all the weight off my tippy toes. 

I can answer the question of how many years a woman will be the sole search party of her own disappearance. 

The panting dogs, sniffed a while, but
gave up,
accepting my departure at the sun dimming,
with my knocking heart nearly escaping the earthly tent–
my rib cage fell still.

A woman spends her whole life waiting for the voice of the world to speak clearly
To hold itself accountable
No matter how late, we wait
we will tap our toes in our sleep to remind it
of our presence. 

I used to beg life to remember that I was here. 
Now, I demand of it: if I can’t sleep, neither will you. 
I am your daughter, and what hurts me, what hurts my sisters–
whether you feel the pierce of the blade
you are being cut by the same blade too.

Waiting for the other half of my heart’s rhyme to appear. 
Alive 
Alive, my heart repeats.
The other half of my rhyme is not just to DIE. 
So, world, stand up.
Be here now. 
Sit with me and I’ll show you that every woman is 
built from serving in war, after war, after war.
This strength wasn’t build by muscle. I was build by:
 
Field grass waving. Sing-song voices of birds. Fixing my eyes on a single snowflake and watching it melt. 
Words bruising my blood. Hands too close. The hands I want disappearing. Red roses. Blue Morning Glories.
Dirt roads. Hair tangled by the southern wind. Skinned knees. Praying that I never get caught back in the rain.
 
These are the things which made me. 
I built a highway even life can’t see.
There’s a song so pure, a hymnal repeating inside of me. 
I commanded life move aside and let me create me. 
 
Walking down the aisle.
My children laughing. 
My toes touching the ocean for the first time.
Running through field grass. 
Birdwatching.
Tasting snowflakes.
My pen to paper.
Loving hands are holding me. 
The hands I didn’t want disappeared. 
Red roses. Blue morning glories.
Dirt roads. Hair caressed by the southern wind.
Beautifully scarred knees.
Praying for the flowers I planted to receive rain. 

Walking as Worship  / Catania Larson

For now, I am in Chester County. I walk, playing a game of
     hopscotch—from one crunchy leaf to the next. I have to dodge
dropping acorns. I think about Midway—rose hips and golden
     aspen leaves; sap sticky pine cones. I think about La Jolla—
mussels and sand dollars nestled in kelp. I think about
     Nantasket Beach—seagulls. Seaglass. I think about the Valley of
the Sun—untouchable treasures of scorpions, rattlesnakes,
     and the tarantula hawk. I think about O’ahu—the crotchety crabs
kicking up brown-sugar-sand as I walk past them. All 
     along God has been right here, beneath my feet.

Those People  / Kimberly McAfee

I want to be one
of those people.
Those people, with
wildfire in their eyes.
Those people, surrounded
by air buzzing
with electricity.
Those people, whose
midnight speeches
are like honey
to the ears.
I want to be one
of those people.
Fiery and unafraid,
sharing the song
in their hearts
with us all.
 
Those people, who
inspire us all
to be more.
 
I want to be one
of those people.

December in the Gulf / Sam Niven

Get what you can
at the local Piggly Wiggly:
mushy strawberries, Blue Bell ice cream,
shot glasses. Wear a windbreaker,
a beanie, loose pants
you can roll above your knees.
You’ll want to wade in deep.
You’ll want to use sunscreen
even if the clouds are so thick
the ocean can’t reflect a sunray—
the sky, the water, the sand
all furrow in the same way
anyway, like a brow. Pile your shoes
at the edge of the boardwalk,
fill a grocery bag with other people’s trash.
Walk up the coast for lightning whelks,
down for banded tulips.
Rinse the sand off
your hands in the tide.

The Climb / Dallas Outlaw

Callused hands course
a blistering map of twine
roping around coarse vines
emphasizing each step
up a ladder still benign
women have no agency
in the legacy of man
qualifying by default
consequently hand raising 
children to be different – exalt
fallen
d
o
w
n
hidden beneath rock
a world unknown
too faithful at being secondary
laws have written it sedentary
theres a ceiling to be shattered
in a world anew
never forget
who
birthed
who

Ishah the 1st / LaDonna Witmer

I dream for you
a different story
in which the fruit
is not poisoned and
the god does not identify
as a man.

A different garden
in which the serpents
have no agenda and
the men cannot claim
dominion over fish or
fowl or female.

A different rib
one that was never his
and nothing of you
can be traced back
or tethered.

A different genesis
in which your choices
are not divine experiments
and your descendants
cannot be blamed.

What it’s all about   / Stacey Yu

To kiss a dying man on the cheek
To eat peach meringue in the summer
To watch bad weather from a window
To fall asleep without realizing
To love the sea so much
To witness a puppy tumble
To see your face in a crowd
To be the body you like

Day 26 / Poem 26

Dance in the dark / Colton Babladelis

Come,
Dance with me in darkness
To the tune of our own bliss
The cacophony of lights
Will catch us eventually
It is coming on the wind
We can spin under starlight
As our ancestors once did
Before the storm arrives
Revel in the old ways
For none can escape
The coming of the day

The Old Wheelbarrow / Catania Larson

(After William Carlos Williams)

not much depends
upon

an old wheel
barrow

pocked with rock
craters

under the black
starling

Good Job, You  / Kimberly McAfee

You have done well.

Know, deep in your
bones, that you have
worked so very hard.
 
It has been difficult.
You have tried,
and pushed,
and committed yourself.
That is nothing short
of amazing!
 
Take a deep breath.
Let that fresh air
fill your lungs.
Now, release the air
in your chest.
Let all your worries,
and insecurities,
and doubts
go with it.
 
Celebrate yourself today.
It does not have
to be anything grand,
but applaud yourself
for all that you have done.
 
You deserve it, friend.
 

Advanced Decomposition of Disposition, or: Skeletonized / Sam Niven

The curtains close on these old bones,
these hushed, hollow, forever-cold bones.

 Your flowerbeds have turned into tombs
for cornflower, rose, and marigold bones.

 Instead of blooms, the garden’s grown over
its green with mushrooms, molds, bones.

 After death, everything gives in to you.
You close eyelids, shut teeth, fold bones.

 This is one of those bad bodies, full
of those nobody-wants-to-hold bones.

 They still say Sam has self-restraint—
but who would call these controlled bones?

Questions I Don’t Ask Myself / LaDonna Witmer

What if every wardrobe is just a wardrobe
real or imagined
and there never were
nor will there ever be
doors
to snow-stalked
forests?

Who would I be
if I had
stayed?

What really happened to Beauty
while she lay sleeping
all those years in that tower
with only thorns
keeping watch?

Knock-knock.
Who’s there?

What if the Force belonged to everyone
and not just photogenic
white boys
and girls with gifted
but problematic
fathers?

Would you still exist
somewhere
if he wasn’t
your father?

In what version of the Multiverse
is god a She and society
tended by matriarchs?
Follow-up: How can we
get there?

  Knock-knock.
Who is it?

What if I said yes
to anyone other than
you?

Would losing the sun be such a sacrifice
and consuming blood such a chore
if immortality provided
endless opportunity
to get it right
the next time
or the one
after that?

Would I have loved you as well
if you were
a boy?

Knock-knock.
It’s the wolf.

Stranger    / Stacey Yu

In a crowded room full of new faces
and lively conversation I discovered 
I’d lost you, which led me to panic 
because I’m no good at being alone 
sometimes (it makes me act silly),
until I caught the eye of a stranger 
holding an empty glass making 
Alex and Erica laugh, the sound 
flushing me with vicarious joy,
and so I thought: here’s someone 
interesting, do I know him from 
work or childhood or a friend’s
friend’s internet presence, maybe 
I should introduce myself, try a bit
of small talk—all this happened  
in two seconds, which is all the time it
took, strange and exciting as it was,
for me to realize I’d found you.

 

Day 25 / Poem 25

Holly Day   / Angela M. Layne

On Christmas Day I’ll allow myself to forget,
I’ll live the way I should each day. 
I’ll pretend there’s no assignment,
No presents to pay off,
That resolutions I never reach are approaching.
There will be cheesy movies in the background
where every person wins love with quirkiness,
where snow is not a deterrent, instead is a sign of humble peace.
There will be giving and accepting,
A time to exist without true identity.
I’ll return to my mind’s home the following day,
the scenes holiday movies don’t allow,
With endings I am unsure of, 
Snowless years in my past,
With new fuzzy socks 
a full heart and credit card statement. 

Love Has a Nasty Habit / Catania Larson

I once had a girl, and
she’ll never walk down Lime
Street anymore. My head 
is filled
with things to say, but what is sweet
now turns so sour. She wakes
up, she makes up—stirring up
the dirt. We have lost the time.
I’m in love, but I’m lazy.
In the beginning I misunderstood—
wonderin’ how come nobody told me:
it is shining.

[A Cento with lines from The Beatles: “I’m Looking through You,” “Norwegian Wood,” “Maggie Mae,” “I want to Tell You,” “Savoy Truffle,” “For No One,” “Piggies,” “You Won’t See me,” “The Word,” “I’ve Got a Feeling,” “Tomorrow Never Knows.”]

This Day, a Gift / Kimberly McAfee

Today is a gift.

No matter what you celebrate.
No matter who you are.
No matter any descriptor or
label that exists.
 
Love for humanity is in the air.
 
Allow yourself to feel it.
Allow yourself to dive
into sweet positivity.
Allow yourself to be happy;
it is a blessing to be alive!
 
Today is a gift for you.
 
Let warmth into your heart.
Let a smile be found on your face.
Let your demeanor be friendly and kind.
 
Today is a gift for all.
 
This is a great day to celebrate
all that is good in this world.

Elegy for Joyce Summers / Sam Niven

There wasn’t a mark on you until I broke
your rib trying to pump your heart back to life.
The paramedics never opened their bags;
you were already cold. I’ve seen so many people die
in Sunnydale, but nobody ever died of natural causes.
It was always a neck bite, ritual sacrifice,
skinning. Some of them dug themselves up
and died again, my stake in their heart.
But you went to the couch, felt nothing, fell.

Did anyone tell Mary? / LaDonna Witmer

All the songs say the night was perfect.
The stable serene, the straw soft and
scented sweetly. Behold the divine
choreography. The cattle are lowing, the
the shepherds are on their way. In the sky
glories streaming, choirs singing. The baby
lays his sweet head and there, the Virgin
beatific. Beaming. This is the holy night.
The one nations gather ‘round. This is
the public relations campaign.

Of course the stars were brightly shining
They’re balls of gas what else
can they do?

Another day, another angel, another
kind of announcement. Do not be afraid
says the celestial creature.
How can this be says the girl.

Yes, angel. Tell us exactly
how.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you
The power of the Most High will
overshadow you. There will be
deity inside you.

 The angel stands waiting.
The girl takes a breath.

May it be done to me she says
I am the handmaid of the Lord.
And this is the evidence the church
holds up like a bloodied sheet
to cry Consent!

 While all the handmaids who have been visited
could testify: saying yes
is just the thing you do
when no one tells you
you have the power
to refuse.

New Year’s Eve    / Stacey Yu

After all is wept and done,
the bodies in the mirror becoming 
just one and the band gone 
for good despite the encore, 
who is left to scoop your small heart 
from the still-moving heap 
of wasted afternoons, yeses that 
should have been nos and poems
that could mean anything,
but you—returning it to
the gyre at the first sound 
of fireworks.

Day 24 / Poem 24

December Snow / Colton Babladelis

The beginning and end
Winter came and went
An aloof lover
In a cold season
As the snow fell
Our love arose

Remember   / Angela M. Layne

how you held your head up long enough
 
to hear the song which leaks from the
 
smallest cracks of earth,
 
know how far you had to kneel to hear it,
 
embrace the solemn pride of it finding you,
 
even though you never would’ve chosen it.
 
Remember
 
how your fist shook the earth, however slight,
 
and commanded it to hold you near, you reassured
 
it would learn to love you as its own again.
 
Remember
 
this when the corners of your mouth slide
 
flood waters to the droughted heart,
 
insist on the ability to rekindle self-love.
 
Remember
 
Remember
 
what it takes to stay alive,
 
what it takes,
 
and you’ll do it again.
 
You must.
 
Remember.

Anna’s Hummingbird  / Catania Larson

What do I know?

I know that the Anna’s hummingbird’s
chip, chip…chi-chi-chip is a
war cry as he dashes from
flower to foe. He
will only sit when
comfortable: when he’s drinking. Or
just watching.

I know that this Anna’s
hummingbird, the one
in my view, will sit
on a short limb of the mesquite
tree, if he’s not on the
top left branch of the yellow
bird of paradise bush—which,
if there is a gust of wind, he will not be.

And I know that now that I’ve filled
and hung a feeder in the
cascalote, he will sit, 
frustrated,
on the adjacent ficus as a 
hornet robs his spoil.

I know while he
waits on the branch, his
tongue coils into his
head, and then
flicks out of his beak—lapping
imagined nectar.

I know he’s more shy than
hungry, so I look away—
pretending not to notice him.

And I know that I should be thinking
about God. The afterlife. Time.
Eternity. I should be trembling
with fear for my salvation. But,
right now, all

I know is that the hummingbird
with the ruby throat, emerald
back, and onyx tongue has found
his chance, and he is guzzling
the prize.

A Kiss For You  / Kimberly McAfee

I thought of you

today and blew a kiss
to the clouds,
hoping it makes its
way to you.
 
Will it have
far to go?
Will it travel over
mountains, rivers,
and ravines?
Or maybe it will
find you in this
city, where you
and I once shared
beautiful times
together.
 
There were days
I spent missing you.
I hoped we would
find each other again,
and reignite a passion
long lost.
 
Now, I appreciate those
moments, when I was
introduced to love.
So I share this friendly
kiss, as a final
‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye.’
I hope it makes
its way to you.
I hope you appreciate
those moments, too.

No Flame Could Ever Rise: An Erasure of Henry James’s “The Altar of the Dead” / Sam Niven

He waked to his feast of memory:
a pale ghost, a sovereign presence,
forever widowed.

 He hadn’t seen death,
asked so little, got even less,
and died again, died every day—
no honor, no shelter, no safety. 

 Within everybody’s compass
was that range of feeling.
The dull brown air
lingered long enough
to see that hired performer,
to hear her scream
as regular as the moon makes the tides.

 Eyes fill—no eyes—his eyes
in the swarming void of things.
The closed eyes of dead women
could still live. The newspaper
could resemble a stone
in the dreadful cemetery.
The gathered dusk
could show him anything,
could burn clear, the sound
the silent rollcall
of his dead. There were gaps
in the constellation,
the greatest blank in the shining page.

Simple Math / Dallas Outlaw

doesn’t take a rocket scientist
to qualify that PEMDAS is
simple math; it’s the one thing
that didn’t disseminate in embers.
who remembers?
proper explanation mends
disrectful ass solutions
it’s evolution for pretenders.
you multiply your words exponentially
while dividing your emotions
it’s seamless
add boundaries, subtract regret
and there you have it;
a heart attack.
since theres no plaque
for the substance
you lack.
disputes are the leading cause
of failed friendships, relationships
kinships deteriorating, disintegration shifting words into atoms
bombing the notion
that the science behind
argumentation is benign
yet debating is aligned
ditching and dodging reality
a facade in totality
learning to be individual
nonidentical  both sides of the sign
offering something quite whimsical.

To the victor go  / LaDonna Witmer

The spoils are stories
and men keep writing
them, baritone voices

shouting down the
millennia. They say
Medusa was a monster

Mary Magdalene a whore.
Always the heroes are
men and we are

the girls in towers or the
stepmothers who locked
them there. Bravery is

the birthright of princes
and hobbits. Swagger
the currency of

cowboys. They write us
roles to keep us playing
nice. Manic pixies and

Mary Sues. Mad girls, forever
drowning. We are always
asking for it.

California / Stacey Yu

All those nights you spent alone
in your room trying to find the perfect 
song. And all the friends whose dreams
you made your own. 

All along California
was in drought. Woodchips
replacing grass. Empty fountains. 
If you jumped in you would hurt yourself.
You couldn’t wish on a penny,
everyone would hear the clink. 
Spot the coin. Know you were a fool.

The way rain made people act,
like crazy little dogs. It came down
in sheets. Made the highway sparkle.
Our faces fixed upwards, 
open and grateful, begging
can it be this way forever? 
Where do I go when it ends?

Day 23 / Poem 23

New American Wasteland / Colton Babladelis

I awaken in this American dream
And I am unsure
Whether my grandfather
Would recognize it

To live and die
All within a dream
Is this really a nightmare?

Day by day
I trudge along
To rows of desks
And rows of data
I am but another number
How many of us
Will never be counted?

Things are all out of place
Plastic in the water
Water in plastic bottles
Endless shelves that bottle our rights
Too much in the air
We can’t breath
When our wildest dreams are burned
But a select few
Tip their champagne flutes
Toward those drowning
With leaden shoes
And say
“They should have learned to swim”

Limerence Unrequited  / Angela M. Layne

There are millions of bodies knocking on the doors 
of other bodies, wanting shelter, longing for warmth 
beyond a night. 
I’ve always wanted shelter–more than 
the broken home and body I was born to.
That has been my existence–
I’ve waited inside of empty houses. 
And when I decided to become a house
leaving my door open,
I was vandalized, 
everything mine alone, stolen.
There are words graffitied on the walls that I cannot paint over
no matter the layers of years I slather on top of them,
I stare at the floor to avoid seeing the damage, 
the reminder of why it’s best not to leave your door open.
 
When I met you, I’d already closed the door.
The blinds didn’t allow the daytime light.
Before you, I’ve pressed my cheek and fingertips
to my pillow, called for you until I wept myself asleep.
I’ve kissed you through the wind every breath I’ve taken,
I called your name before knowing its syllables.
But how I dreamed of you before I knew you,
as though the clouds whispered the secrets of my future to the stars
and Life would only allow them to tell me in my sleep.
The first time my eyes met you, I’d known you many years 
without ever meeting you. 
I knew you were what the stars promised me. 
 
Love has never stayed beside me, but when my body’s gravity
falls inside the pillars of your stare
a poem begins
the poem of my entire existence
spread out vulnerably in the folded petal of my
rose, pollinated by your gaze,
nectar for a lifetime.

Self-Portrait (Arthropoda Series)  / Catania Larson

Worker Bee
From hive to bud
to hive—I fly, collect,
and deposit until
I’ve worked myself to
a golden, sticky death.

Orb Weaver Spider
Clip, tuck, fasten,
shuttle, warp, weft.
The black widow—she
has a reputation, but I
do it with beauty.

Praying Mantis
Only when I’m hungry—
only then will I strike.
I’m a predator: I’ll go straight
for the lobular complex. Otherwise,
I’m as gentle as a quahog.

Mosquito
You probably forget that
I relish nectar and honeydew.
But, my children, well—
their desire is
utterly sanguinary.

Queen Bee
The mother of all.
Really.
This hive. The field.
The forest. You—
reading this poem—
need me.

Year-end Rain / Kimberly McAfee

It seems so fitting,
that it’s raining so
close to the end
of the year.
 
Let those waters fall.
Let them wash away
this past year,
to invite the new.
A rebirth is coming;
an invitation to
a new you.
 
But before the
different can arrive,
all that was must
fall away; like fiery
autumn leaves, like
shining winter snow.
 
Then, the spring of
life can come,
like sweet cherry
blossoms. An enchanting
and heart-warming bouquet,
all for you.

Used / Sam Niven

I hope you come to me clean
and intact. I hope your cover is smooth
and that you’ve never met
a cup of coffee or red-tinted ebony ink.
I hope your margins are bare, your edges
a sun-scrubbed cream.
But if they’re not, I hope your last companion
left something useful, or scrutable,
or impermanent. I hope I don’t fade your ink
or lose my rubber shavings in your creases
trying to undo the damage done between postages.
I hope your Used sticker peels off in one piece.
I hope to find a stranger’s name on the inside cover:
proof that someone had once called you theirs.
I hope your binding has known
that deep, full-spine stretch of a backbend.
I hope your corners are dog-eared and even.
I hope to find browning magnolia leaves,
clovers, and tomato seeds
pressed between your pages.

Too Many of Me / Dallas Outlaw

intersectionality

    — existing

between the cracks
living in the grey areas
being a site unseen
a natural wanderer
guessing what each role 
is supposed to represent
often leaving the question
“who am i?”
lingering in descent
several instances of
misinterpretations led on
by misinformation
perpetuated by a
self identity crisis
trying to exist in
too many places
at once
believing that having
multiple personalities to fit
multiple definitions of who
you think i’m supposed to be
just drives me
crazy.
-intersectionally

I’d like to file a complaint  / LaDonna Witmer

These things just aren’t working out
as expected. Not that I had many
expectations at the outset. They just
showed up uninvited when I was
far too young to know what to do
with them. Luckily it was a slow
introduction and eventually I learned
to manage but still I was given no
choice. No options for small, large
or medium or even perhaps nothing
at all. The size is another issue since
it keeps changing. What began as
two fairly innocuous handfuls
evolved into more equipment than
any girl would ever want. Unwanted
that’s the word. At no point did I
sign my name to a consent form.
(Typical for your institution’s modus
operandi.) I suppose there is an argument
to be made for utility. For one entire
year of my life, the pair did prove
useful. They functioned as advertised
and performed an important task
quite well with only a few minor
malfunctions. Despite the complete
lack of operating manual, I got the kinks
sorted out. Then just as I got used to them
having a higher purpose these heavers
called it quits. Reverted to their former
futile state only worse because now
they were limp. Deflated. Depressed
even, since their life’s work was done.
Speaking of which, they came without
any sort of lifetime guarantee and yet
I am required to tote these useless
accoutrements about forever. I will admit
to a certain amount of entertainment
they’ve afforded me, but that was
long ago when they were exuberant
and new. Now they’re tired. Aren’t we
all? I’d like to give them a good rest.
If only they were detachable, able
to hang about on their own in the
closet. I’m sure I’d trot them out again
for a party now and then but for the
most part we could be rid of each other
and all the trouble that’s been caused.
So tell me now if I can’t get them
off my chest how am I expected to survive
them. And remind me while you’re at it
why you are qualified for management
and why the manager always seems to be
a man.

What my grandfather sees at the end of his life    / Stacey Yu

A calico cat.
Everywhere, ants.
Rows of rectangles
on the roof.
A small child
stacking sachima
in the pantry.
Boy or girl?
asks my mother,
who has always
been superstitious.
Girl. Pretty? 
Not bad. 
Tea with my 
sister and me, 
then charity work.
His wife, making
him laugh from
memory.

He can’t say
what any of this
means. He doesn’t
know we installed
solar panels years
ago, or that 
I have always
wanted a daughter.
All he knows
is that he’s close.
He can see
her face.

 

Day 22 / Poem 22

This long night / Colton Babladelis

As a storm barrels down
Nothing new for us, we say
We brace
For the silence and the wind
And the things that come after
The ice that threatens to hold
Us hostage for a thousand years
Or the fear that permeates
The dark corners
Of the things we can’t quite see
This day is short
And this night rages on
It stretches
Reaching for a few more moments
Full of futile and grand ambitions
But either way
The storm will pass
Sometime in the long night
And the sun will rise

Melancholy Is Obsessed With Me / Angela M. Layne

Some days I can’t find myself
no matter the reach of the lantern’s light,
no matter the etching of name, face, and
ticking clock’s reminders.
I’ve wandered long and circled back
like a homing pigeon into a fold of time—
memory papers the ceiling, walls and floor, 
like an interior decorator mad for a pattern–
a place where all my tears
wait for me to return home to them.
Nothing has ever been as familiar;
no one has ever sought the depths of me so completely—
holding the air in my lungs, 
like an obsessed lover embracing
who they believe they love—
injuring the very one they cannot live without.

Alpine Shooting Star  / Catania Larson

I remember her. In the snowmelt bog at Lost Lake.
     I wanted to be like her: yellow core, glowing corona,
violet petals—plummeting down to earth. She
     smiled at me. Now that I think about it, I think she
wanted to be like me, too: golden-haired, green-
     eyed, also smiling. So we clutched each other hand-
in-hand and giggling. And then we grew: she—
     into everything I was too scared to accept; I—into an
upholder. We came up with a compromise: I would
     soberly day trip with her, and she would give me the
real-time play-by-play. I sat on the phone as she told
     me about whirls of colors. I listened while she gasped,
but I couldn’t see the bald baby that grew into a
     hairy man and then back into a bare, crying babe.
And I could not understand, even when she
     spoke slowly and explained, the meaning of nonsense.
We tried this again. And again. She saw sounds,
     tasted music, and she witnessed the entire universe;
I held onto my childish pacts. We tried. We tried.
     But, in the end, it was me that had to stop. Sober-tripping
was too tiring. It was getting impossible: keeping
     from looking upward beyond the indigo. So, I let her go
on, and I stayed back in this arid soil—a saint.

Joy / Kimberly McAfee

There’s so much
joy to be found
in each passing day.
 
Yes, your day may
seem ordinary.
But small invitations
towards happiness
always beckon.
 
See a neighbor outside?
Share a friendly ‘hello’
and a wave. 
Hear the birds singing?
Stop for a moment and
take in their song.
Tossing and turning in bed?
Why not take a moment to
gaze at the nighttime stars.
 
There are so
many ways to
accept joy’s call.
May you find many
each and every day!

Pea Crab’s Ode to the Oyster / Sam Niven

I was free-swimming in the Atlantic
before I met you.
You and I were only larvae then,
but you were the most gracious host—
you took care of me, always fed me first,
even in hard times. You grew
so thin once,
before the short blade
pried you open,
cut your body from shell,
took me from you.

Pretty Hate Machine  / LaDonna Witmer

Now that we stare into screens
instead of mirrors we’ll never
run out of new ways to hate
ourselves.

There’s no money to be made
if everyone looks fine
just as they are.

Go on girl, pony up tuition
to amplify your ass. Before
you can cut the bandages,
thin is in again.

Our bodies are commodities
blood the down payment.

Spinach  / Stacey Yu

Summer in the city and my heart’s stuffed
like a bad party. Forgot my keys again. 
I wonder if Heaven’s shared or savored—
a place where nobody feels alone or just 
a very good peach—at this point I’d take 
anything. At this point I’d swallow pennies 
for kicks, just to get heavy or feel slightly rich. 
I know all live things go to rot but I don’t like it. 
I keep losing money on spinach and fruit juice 
that go sour before I can finish writing my poem.
Oh well, there’s no such thing as a perfect day.
My friends are coming over, I’ll do it later…
They’re bringing peaches and playing cards, 
beer and cheap cake. I am going to 
get so drunk tonight and forget how it feels 
to love living so much.

Day 21 / Poem 21

When pain goes free / Colton Babladelis

What things
Does pain set free
As it rampages
Through my heart
Things left
To fly into the night
With no regard
For the edge of the sky
Or the falling stars
Flashes of nostalgia
Running in frenetic circles
Things better off
In the wide open

The Promise / Angela M. Layne

In my young age, my grandfather taught me to seek true love,
He said oceans, the rain, the sun would come and go,
but nothing was worth living without true love.
I suppose I’m cursed for believing it,
the way he explained its meaning.
In a world so faltered I want nothing more than to be the one,
chosen,
it poured over,
not having to bed for its presence.
To never be empty armed after making love,
someone to kiss my forehead when all hope disappears,
to stop chasing affection, and it seeking me the way the sun does dewy grass on a somber morning,
to be the one light hovers upon the curve of my breasts and seeing the body as natural as a heartbeat.
In this age, I am still a body,
still aching skin,
pulsing for one that never harms me.
I am waiting to be soothed,
I am hopeful of the light,
but when will love show itself without harm?
When will I be loved and it come without pain?

Honey Bee  / Catania Larson

A honey bee buries her head in the depths of the Wasatch
beardtongue here on the top of Empire Pass.
Mountains rising.
Snowpack dripping.
Aspen trembling.
And this bee, working. Her labor:
a dance from blossom to bloom.
Drunk and staggering,
haunches laden with golden treasure.
Does she consider all that she does, while drinking
the nectar of flowers, those little gods, then flying
back to her home, sharing the spoil?
Only to repeat it all?
Does she know she symbolizes
industry? Busy-ness? A pie that will grow
until it consumes itself?

Ordinary Magic / Kimberly McAfee

Sometimes, magic comes
from the most
unlikely places.
 
Another ordinary day,
doing ordinary chores.
I was taking the
garbage out, just as I
do each week.
 
But something was
different this night.
The cold had arrived,
and along with it
came the frost.
 
It covered the ground;
each blade of grass
sparkled like diamond
dust.  It covered all;
the entirety of outside
looked like a dream.
 
It was quiet; I felt
like I was the only
person in the world.
I felt like all this
beauty was just
for me.
 
An early, simple,
and most welcome
gift.

Longest Night / Sam Niven

The hail overflows off the mountain now,
turning everything to white honeycomb
while the sun presses itself into the glass
of the horizon and burns out, like a cigarette
in an ashtray. Grey asphalt cracks and bleeds,
black as a pupil. Earth turns her cold shoulder
toward everything green, and good, and alive,
and we shiver, as flames do, on our porches,
in our thawing grief. We gape soundlessly
like fish. We move slow as honey, as seasons.

All Hail the Harlot  / LaDonna Witmer

*

Jezebel knew they were coming for her
the way all witches know the pyre
was built before we were born.

When the battle turned and death
marked her, that queen refused
to panic. She took a breath to fix
her hair and wing a perfect cat eye.

I’ll bet she looked fabulous when
they threw her from the window,
black hair shameless as smoke
all the long way down.

**

In Sunday School they still talk of her.
It’s been three thousand years and
these pharisees can’t get over
a woman who dared.

                        ***

Even now they will throw you
to the dogs if you don’t know
your place can’t keep your
mouth shut won’t go back
to where you came from.

And so the story goes, for
they’ll never reckon it right:
as long as there are men like them
we’ll always need more Jezebels.

Confession    / Stacey Yu

You taught me that 
around the world, non-Americans 
use the American accent when
they want to appear unserious.

Toning down the register—
like how an emoji at the end
of a text can turn a serious confession 
into a bit of a joke.

Well, being American,
I guess I have nowhere to hide.
I think I’ll love you for, like, 
ever and ever.

Day 20 / Poem 20

Hand cut Christmas tree / Colton Babladelis

The Christmas tree
One year
When I was maybe seven
Came from behind hour house
A verdant and frozen sea
Awash with waves of snow and
Resin from friendly white pine 
And sharp blue spruce
By mid September
I had found the candidate
Twice my height
Branches straight and strong
Good for extra ornaments
So began
An autumn full of begging
And pleading
Until late November, when
My dad finally let me use his saw
I’m not sure which
One of us 
Was the bigger kid that day
As many bugs came inside
As needles fell
But I knew
The presents would look better
A little more at home
And there would be
Just a little more magic
Somewhere between the milk
And cookies
And that Santa would appreciate
Our hand cut tree

After the Near-Death Experience / Angela M. Layne

Isn’t the ground and sky two eyelids covering celestial moons
with the mind orbiting around them?

Isn’t every seed, and human, a fugitive?
Aren’t the wild ferns rebellion made green,

in their heedless excess, crowding, drunk with love 
at forest edges, groupies willing to do anything for trees?

What I once was taught of gorgeous things
is dimming behind my shoulder blades now–

everything, once invisible to me is 
breathtakingly, obliterating and mesmerizing.

I want to see beyond what everything seems to be,
you out from the syllables of your name.

I want to taste light—maybe it’s more like
fingertips kissing fire, than butterflies in flight.

I want to know pain as the author of epiphany,
rather than be a jilted lover of life’s infidelities.

I want to know what can never be known of you,
to fear no more the heart’s intensity, and even horrors,

celebrating madness pouring off of me like river water,
the sun swelling into shadow, the sun carried inside my tongue.

Triptych  / Catania Larson

1

A few facts: there are 613 arils in a single pom;
28 pies in a cherry tree;
there is an orb spider living in my window.
She has caught a moth, a hornet, and a multitude
of little, black gnats. She deftly wraps her prey, eats,
then reverently disposes of the spent meal.
Every day at 11 AM, she snips and rolls
her intricate web until there is no sign of her
trap. Clean. 
Beyond the window and the hiding spider, a
vine of poison ivy climbs the trunks of
red maples and chestnut oak. Too many blades
of waving grass grow in between the
flagstones on the front walk to be counted. The
pool, once chlorinated and sterile, now brims
with dayflowers.
Tonight, the evening star will shine on the orb
spider as she weaves again.

2

An olive pit, wildly sown between discos and day jobs
should not have germinated. But, to the horror of the sowers,

she woke. She sprouted.

The caretaker had her roots clipped; her leaves stripped:
hoping to obliterate any memory of her nature. Perhaps, if

that plant never saw the Nocellara Etnea, she would
not know she was an olive. Perhaps she would grow
along with the spruce and assimilate.

She could not rid herself of the swirling bark.

The relentless gardener cut branches, scored the stem, and
moved the tree north. Far north. The gardener planted this
olive among clover and commanded: This! THIS is who you are!
Her silver-green fingerling leaves tickled upward—searching
for Sicilian sun; dark loam froze her roots.

She wrinkled and cried for ash.

3

Did Venus once teem with life? Before she became
a spinning, sulfurous hell?

Whatever.

She is the hottest of the planets: burning with golden love,
golden beauty.

Born in her sky, I too, am a volcano.

A New Life / Kimberly McAfee

I think I’ll grab a
new life today.
While I’m out at
the store, picking
up milk, and eggs,
and other things I 
forgot during
my last trip.
 
I’m sure it’ll be
easy to find, no
need to ask the
employees what
aisle it’s on.
 
I’m ready for something
different, something
brand new.  I’ll pick up
that new flavor of
mixed cranberry juice, too.
Why not?
 
This old life has
gone stale.  I’ll surely
be able to find a new
one, piping hot and fresh.
I bet it’s right next
to the bread.

Our Life / Sam Niven

You’ll drive us through the mountains
and teach me the names of every wildflower,
tree, bird. You’ll show me water hens

 and, if we can’t find them, google the bower
nests of bower birds. With you, I’ll see
my first red cardinal, identify my first safflower,

 distinguish an aspen from a birch tree
by the shape of their leaves. On the coast,
in the right sand, we’ll find spiny

 jewel box shells, black scallops, ghost
crabs. You’ll harvest those pink wild onions
yourself, knowing how lethal a dose

 of death camas can be. We’ll lie in the sun,
hands over eyes, beside the top layer of a jellyfish
washed up from the ocean, dry as the moon.

The Memory of a Sound  / LaDonna Witmer

Sleep has become a prize that cannot be earned
only chased.

A wild rabbit twitching out of reach. A tetra
flashing from the net. A mustang impervious
to lassos.

You remember the feeling of falling, the easy drift
of gravity. The reckless wash of dreams.

All the sleeping dust you squandered as if
your supply was bottomless. The years
creep up on the stealthiest paws.

A wolf searing through the veldt. An eel
stashed between the rocks. A cowboy
crouched around the corner.

Escape is not as easy as it used to be.
Just when you think you’re going under
you startle at the memory of a sound.

Portrait of a home   / Stacey Yu

On the list of the world’s most useful metaphors,
an empty room likely takes a top spot, falling just 
short of the four elements (poetry submissions always 
spike the day after a heavy rain) and flowers (beauty, 
love, virginity, loss of virginity, they run the gamut). 

Picture it, a big black house full of empty rooms.
If the doors are closed, you must keep many secrets.
If they’re open, you probably feel very lonely.
If they’re just ajar, congratulations 
on starting to open up your heart! 
The doors in my big black mind-house are 
neither closed, open, nor ajar. They aren’t there. 

There are no rooms. There is no house. 
It’s all a metaphor for something, but the 
nice thing about metaphors is that they don’t have 
to exist. If I want, I can just tell it to you like it is.

I don’t live very far from home.
I can visit whenever I like, but I often don’t.
Upstairs, my room is untouched, a shrine for a girl.
The doors are closed; it has an ant problem. 
We don’t try to fix it.

Downstairs, the family dog is dying.
Downstairs, my grandmother is already dead.
Downstairs, my grandfather quietly waits to join her.
The room is half empty, which is to say half him, 
and we always keep the door wide open
because he asks us to.

Day 19 / Poem 19

What may pass through/ Colton Babladelis

A fool for winter
For the falling snow
A sheet pulled over the landscape
And the silence
Of a night time storm
Padding the windows
Whispering through them
“Come see what wonders
We can create”
Of making trails
In the waist deep powder
My boots filling
With little balls of ice
As we carved
Through the fresh land
Glimmering white tides
That lolled and spilled
Under every weary tree
As the storm passed
Some roaming animal
Would surely find our tracks
In the morning
And it would make their day
A few steps easier

Tis Life / Angela M. Layne

On my last birthday I walked into a knowledge of life I had never known,
Of course they say each year we arrive only to arrive some further distance again and again,
however, now I truly understand what I never could. 
A person can be broken and still not break.
A star can shine and never be seen by the human eye.
A memory can morph and stall you all at once.
To stop, or leave, is sometimes moving forward far more than to continue running.
A sunset and sunrise is as beautiful as the other.
A smile can be warrior paint for the wounded.
Wrinkles are not avenues to the end of beauty.
Existing is not living, but sitting in your thoughts might be the most meaningful life poem you can complete.
Life is not easy, even to those that have earned it.
All these lessons make years worth their glory. 
Glory is not without defeat, 
but to live this life has not defeated me.

Culmination  / Catania Larson

As stern as a general. He panted.
The whistle blew. He charged.
The keeper dove right.
He shot left.
You know what happened next:
     raised arms,
     whooping,
     falling to knees,
     sliding across the pitch.
His mates jumped and piled.

Pure jubilee.
*
I could see his mother scrubbing
grass stains out of
his shorts—night after night
after night.
I could see a nine-year-old boy
and a thirty-five-year-old man.
A dreamer. A dreamer.

Perfume / Kimberly McAfee

What a strange thing
fragrances are.
Spraying a particular 
scent takes me back
to high school.  Full of friends,
puppy love, and imaginations
of potential futures.
 
I spray another.
I am taken back
to college; when
I was young and free and
excited to join the world.
 
I spray another.
This is the scent
of work.  This is
the scent of cubicles,
multi-line phones,
and business casual attire.
 
Each one of these seemingly
innocuous fragrances are
actually teleportation
devices, able to take me
to places I haven’t
seen in years.
 
 

Beach Trash / Sam Niven

We fill a grocery bag
with another grocery bag,
shredded and worn thin by sand;
fourteen water bottle caps;
half a pair of yellow goggles;
a dried out bottle of eyedrops;
one bendy straw, forest green
and split down the side; a foot
of rope; a crushed beer can; dozens
of candy wrappers, glass shards,
pieces of paper and cardboard,
fishing lines, broken flipflops,
reflective sunglasses, empty
sunscreen bottles. The sea shifts
sand over the folds of a small sail—
it burrows deeper—the canvas
too heavy with water to exhume.

The Patience of the Fire Starter / LaDonna Witmer

He’s got all night.
Makes himself
comfortable.
Prepares to
kindle. He
understands
the pleasure of
a slow build.
Knows how
to sweet talk
a spark. Can
coax a flare from
embers banked
since morning
with a strategic
and steady stoke.
He’s not above
a little artificial
accelerant here
and there
and there
and there
priming the pulse
points for sudden
combustion. He’s
a 5-alarm-blaze
sort of pyro
fully committed
to conflagration.
He’s not satisfied
until you are
wholly engulfed.

Another December  / Stacey Yu

It doesn’t matter 
how often years end

or how small
the bathtub feels 

I am younger with you
than I have been my whole life

Day 18 / Poem 18

Pieces of my soul / Colton Babladelis

The artists always show
A glowing sphere
A white marble
Soft and radiant
Or a delicate thing
Like a will-o’-the-wisp
Coming from somewhere
Deep inside
Like a piece of candy
Lodged in the throat
No, they have it all wrong

It’s fragments
A jigsaw pizzle
Of the things we see
Out of the corner
Of our vision
And colors

Amber and sparkling
A rye whiskey on the front porch
During a thunderstorm

Lilac and windswept
Unwaveringly joyous
And splendidly boastful

A bed of crimson and orange coals
Where visions of the past
Dance in step with innocence

An eyeful of turquoise
A gem lost in the sea
Sitting on flat white limestone

Fingers full of brown splinters
From branches broken by climbing
Nails full from turning the earth

Verdant singsong
Of chickadees and cicadas
On the edge of a mossy forest

Fragments of color
And pieces of places
Thin lines of memory
Outline the pieces
Of my soul

Strength / Angela M. Layne

In horror movies, when the woman runs upstairs instead of out of the front door, 
I understand.
When a kid is being bullied, and becomes silent instead of fighting back,
I understand.
When the beaten woman serves cakes to the neighbors instead of sharing the harm,
I understand.
When the child hugs the parent who harms them,
I understand.
We’re taught to be strong,
but isn’t strength sometimes pretending harm is not there.
In our own ways, don’t we all understand?

The Smiles I Saw in Mormon Chapels  / Catania Larson

Everyone in the chapel smiles.

Some wear a plastered grin
that may crack into ten-thousand
pieces: the great burden of perfection.

Others wear the warm smile
of friendship. They sit down—longing
and reaching for their phone—
sending a secret, irreverent
text: interrupting worship
to worship.

Far too many leer like proud salesmen.
They are jackals
selling salvation and
looking to increase demand.

Once, I went into a chapel—
as itchy as sackcloth—and I could
not muster even a grin.
I bowed my head. I
took my kids, alone, to the
pew. I saw him: the father of
this congregation—it was his duty
to smile.
And thank God he shirked.
When he saw me, his eyebrows
knit, he winced, and my pain
became visible in him.
He did not glance down at the
child who shook his hand.
He looked to me, trembled, and wept.

Untitled / Kimberly McAfee

Today, the sky is
gray, but the air
is crisp and clean.
Joy is found in a
simple deep breath.
 
Today, the air is
chilled, but I can
finally wear my
cozy winter sweater.
It provides a warmth no
other season can match.
 
Today, the neighborhood is
silent, but families stay
inside to spend precious
moments with one another.
 
Today, it may seem
to be a bit dreary, but
this day shines as
bright as if it belonged
to summer.

Ode to Port Saint Joe / Sam Niven

Your empty bodies fill with other empty bodies.
I find dried worms inside the narrowing scoop
of broken cockle shells; I find the former shells
of creatures with holes drilled into them
by other shelled creatures. Everything understands
something of death. Even your water flattens the footprints
of the small blue heron that flies out over the water
when I get too close. Out in the ripples,
the sun turns every silhouette black:
a dolphin’s dorsal fin emerges and submerges
among a flock of buffleheads, dark among dark.
The heron stands still and watches for jumping fish,
while I watch your clouds change color
against a background of changing colors
in the unmown sky—scarlet, lilac, periwinkle—,
everything holding everything in.

Spirited Away / Dallas Outlaw

implied principals of things
i never learned
turning into behaviors of
the richless famous curds
making commodities out of
oddities, presenting depthless
paintings in place of living
faces turning ash into
waves at the parted seas
who sees you
when the stars misalign
causal wreckage by design
counterfeit personalities
as a result of inorganic redlining
switching places to experience
telepathy in real time
outlawed classifications
meaning zodiacs are not
a reflection in  the mirror
you chose to ignore
everyday
bring back light from
the next brightest star
combustible material is
exactly who you are

Shorn / LaDonna Witmer

The first cut is commitment.
I am doing this. I am doing this
now. The second lock falls
like freedom. Before long
the basin is brimming a
brew of mahogany down.
The scissors snick and sever
any lingering pretense of
participation. You can’t
thumb your nose at the
cult of beauty while carrying
their membership card. Out
come the clippers to buzz
a revelation. I have never
seen the shape of my skull
before. Oh hello, there
you are. Here I am. I am
here.

Burp Castle*  / Stacey Yu

We were at *a bar where the patrons shushed you if you were too loud.
It was the perfect place for me, who hates loud things.
I asked for two glasses of syrah but they only 
served beers and shushes. Across from me 
you sat looking fond. Did we play 
something? Table chess?
I can’t remember.
It was quiet,
until a glass shattered and
(Shhhh!)
someone hiccuped a little too loudly, 
giving everyone a vacant liberty 
to mumble with more 
passion, and so I leant over 
and whisper-shouted “I LOVE—”
(Shhhh!)

and so it was quiet again, 
just how I like it, as I…
as I searched for a silent way to say
I think we should go forever together,
I think there is nothing that could save me if you died,
I think if you were a glass of milk I’d leave you on my bedside 
table until you were curdled and sour and nobody wanted to go near
you except me, but it wouldn’t be too bad because
I’d finally have a private place with you 
and just you, where I could drink 
you whole in one great 
big regretless 
gulp— 
(Shhhh!)
okay, let me try again—
(Shhhh!)
or you try again—
(Shhhh!)
and you do, 
bless you, you see my fear
and grab my hand and whisper-say:
“Listen, we have already found each other,
so we have nothing left to be afraid of,” which 
reminded me that if one thing had gone differently we 
might have missed this, which made me think of a world where 
we’re still looking, but tonight we’re in this one thank god, 
this world of warm beer, squished hiccups and your 
shining fondness for me, the blissful realization 
of it like how I imagine letting out a loud 
burp might feel, it hit me in 
the chest with so, so,
so much 
(Shhhh!)
relief.

Day 17 / Poem 17

In pursuit of modern comfort / Colton Babladelis

The steep price we pay
To scrape away the monotony
When I finally lay to rest
My mind is stretched 
And thin
Thoughts trailing outwards
In long spiral arms
Through distant constellations
My fingers dance restlessly
Ripping at the pallid stagnancy
How long
Until we can breathe
Without the weight of the world
On our shoulders

Love, Whatever / Angela M. Layne

So what if you thought they would buy you flowers 
and they never came.
So what if the mouth that soothes your forehead
also calls you names.
So what if you wanted them to walk life with you, while also opening car doors,
but instead they walk two feet ahead.
So what if everyone thinks you’re happy when
you’re not.
So what if you thought you’d feel beautiful
but now you’re invisible. 
So what if the years of your life are pouring into a sea that’s 3/4 full.
So what if you keep believing that you don’t deserve it
because that’s easier than leaving.
So what.

The Problem with Sight  / Catania Larson

I saw the viable past. I saw
     myself, invisible in these photographs—
right there, between N and C—
     my arms raised, praising Bacchus at
his oaken barrel. I saw it! That damn
     love! That damn embrace—pierced 
deeper than the oversight. It said:
     Here. Here is the void.

A Day at the Park / Kimberly McAfee

The wind runs

through the trees;
it sounds like ocean
waves, embracing
the shore.
 
The leaves are
vibrant; warm shades
abound, like the flowing
locks of a titian-haired
goddess.
 
The sounds of life
surround me: children
playing, adults conversing,
nearby cars in a hurry to
get to their destination.
 
And the birds!
Who can ignore
this sweet symphony
of nature!
 
Isn’t it amazing,
how so much wonder,
so many possibilities,
and limitless stories exist
on a simple,
ordinary day.
 
 

Crystal Prophet / Sam Niven

You’d think I wouldn’t need it,
wouldn’t you? The way my hotboxed bloodstream
put my brain at God’s right hand
after a third joint.
But eventually I couldn’t hear his voice
over the smell, couldn’t add up
the date to reveal some holy number.
If you asked me to forgive your sins now,
I’d tell you that my stomach’s full
of hunger pains for you,
but I’ll condemn anyone who says
I don’t speak to God—I do. He’s warned me
that the ice will itch, that I shouldn’t scratch,
or I’ll be stuck living on these streets with this rising vice.

Nice Lady / Dallas Outlaw

People remember what you
will them to forget like
the times you showed up drunk
there was a time when all
that mattered was nursery
rhymes and bubbled baths
when monday mornings 
smelled fresh unlike
your breath, i remember
7am stumbles sounded
like rumbles from the
kitchen to the back room
i remember
forgotten birthdays and holidays
much more in between
like the time she walked outside
before putting on jeans
congregating with neighbors
appropriating misbehaviors
functional alcoholic by definition
translation: i face demons on a daily.
mental instability is tranquility
now that alcohol causes plausability
she was such a nice lady.

The Distance / LaDonna Witmer

It’s not fair. Nothing
is fair. Life certainly
isn’t and you never
get used to it.

The biggest thing
she feared is the
one that’s come
to pass.

A massive misnomer
since it won’t pass
‘til she does.
It isn’t fair

the miles I put
between us not to
run from her but
to run toward

something I wanted
more. She doesn’t
remember enough
to begrudge me.

In the distance my sister
rehomes the goats
and the girls’ pony.
Picks up their life

by the corners
and folds. She’ll
circle back to the
prairie with her

family on board.
Not fair to trade
five lives to help
a mother but here

we go. I ride the
pendulum from
guilt to sweet
relief. Should it be

me? Should I be
there? Or do we
all make peace with
what isn’t fair.

Ode  / Stacey Yu

What I am is a mortal girl
with an immortal goose in her brain
just like everyone else on this 
planet overstuffed with birds. 
Geese are good fun, you know.
They demand knowledge and 
excitement, love to play as much
as performing occasional harm—
the life-altering kind, not the kind
you can forget about over a long 
phone call and a glass of rosé.
My goose doesn’t like rosé.
Doesn’t like that I try to forget
about it most mornings and afternoons
and midnights and, okay, all the time,
doesn’t like that I call myself by my
name and not its, doesn’t like that
I’m dating someone whose goose 
is just a bit cleverer, a bit sweeter, 
but not that much, I promise! 
My goose is always listening.
We argue about who decided to love
ravioli first. Whose idea it was 
to write this poem. Whether I’d 
be better goose or the goose 
a better me. Who’s more fit for
the twenty-first century. I detest 
that the goose always wins, 
but it’s true. When I die 
my goose will crawl out of my 
head, do a little shake, and live 
the life we have always dreamed of.

Day 16 / Poem 16

Look Up / Colton Babladelis

More often
For the world around us
Is huge
And magnificent,

Let your arms
Reach ever upward
Like the towering oak
That shades your backyard
And just like leaves
Fluttering in a gentle breeze
Let your fingers
Play the lyre
On the strings
Of the morning sunlight.

Look up
Because the sky
Sings to you
In the same serene voice
In which it calls
To the songbirds,
And don’t you hear
How they’ve learned to sing?

Those same little birds
Are flying far away now,
But you’ll never know
To say goodbye
If you don’t
Look up.

Look up
To see the sunset
Kissing the earth goodnight
With a godlike radiance,

Drink in that sun
Long and deep
For tomorrow
The rains will come.

Look up
To see
The dying of the light
Or you will forever lose
This chance
For farewells,

And tomorrow,
When the floods come
It will already be too late
To look up.

Self-Portraits Over the Years / Catania Larson

There is one where I’m
a brunette. One where
I’m blonde. There is one
in 3/4 view that I drew
with a 3B pencil. One
time, it was an acrostic.

There is one where I’m a
libra. An INFP. An
Italian-Irish-Danish-English-
Typical American.

There is one where
I’m a mom. A single
mom. An administrative
assistant, a poet, a daughter,
a wife, a sister, a friend.

In my very first, I resemble
a potato.

And in this one,
I am
the ATP that powered
the tail of a sperm.

Relax  / Kimberly McAfee

Everyone’s in such
a hurry these days.
Buy presents,
get all the Christmas
dinner ingredients,
just go, go, go!
 
When you feel the
stress bubbling up,
when worry starts
to creep into your mind,
just take a deep breath
and remember to 
relax.
 
Take a moment to
reflect on what you’re 
preparing for:
happy moments with
the ones you love.
Let the joy of what’s
to come wash over you.
 
Take your time.
Enjoy the preparations.
Take a moment to just
relax.
 
 

Elegy for Medusa’s Body / Sam Niven

Forget me.
Forget who I was
before Pegasus and Chrysaor
sprung from my bleeding neck,
before I suffered in plain sight,
before the sea overtook me.
I want you to forget I ever had a body.
When you talk of me,
say I had wings
and remember my snakes.
Forget I was woman-shaped
before I became a weapon,
a monster, something unseeable.
I want you to forget that before Perseus
and Athena passed my head around
like a dead man’s sword,
anyone could look upon my face
and say I was beautiful.
You’ve already forgotten
how many ways someone could die
before I became one of them.
You’ve forgotten that death
was not made from me;
I was made from death.

Suicide Watch – A Triple Poem / Dallas Outlaw

This is a triple poem. ¹

be mindful of the ways
     i move mountains that
light and love
     can come undone
just won’t will me
     around the clock
for I am human
     seven days a week
understanding
     life’s a great mystery
it’s not astounding just
     never imagining
a moment without laughing,
     smiling, but seeing is believing
knowing is the battle
     hide among the working class
this day’s an hour glass – slowly passing
     sands flowed south
waving goodbye to
     every second passing by
tonight i’m signing off
     please be much obliged

¹ The lines that are not indented can be read as poem 1, the lines that are indented can be read as poem 2, and the entire poem can be read line by line as poem 3. There isn’t really an order to which each one can be read.

Dear 25 / LaDonna Witmer

The creams have failed to achieve the desired results.
I think you’ll agree.

How about we get together? Fake a handshake. Make
a deal. A blood oath if you’d like. I know your
fangs phase is full on right now.

I know more than you can bear.

We should talk about it. About you and me and
what we could do for each other. I know you hate
the proverbs, biblical and otherwise. I know you

fear clichés: hearing them, becoming one.

But sometimes truth comes
wrapped in ugly packages and youth
is wasted on the young.

Pick up. Your future self is calling and she wants
her body back. Let’s cut the cute semantics.
She is I and I desire a do-over.

Timing is negotiable. I could do so much
with 24 hours or less.  Of course
there’s a catch.

If you learn anything, learn that.

I want your body (mine) but not your brain.
I want a day sleeved again in those sleek thighs
swinging that sable hair unbothered by

petulant bones and the cringe of muscle memory.

You hate them anyway—thighs, hair, bones.
Give me a day of my youth with the mind I have earned.
Take me back and I will unwind

the trip wires of all your unsprung snares.

You have to admit I can see further than you.
I can call it back. A different answer here,
a left turn there and suddenly

we’ve redrawn the whole damn map.

You want to know what’s in it for you.
So glad you asked. Imagine a version of you
who refuses to second guess or seek permission.

Less dithering. Less angst. Less apologies.

Imagine yourself boldface. A you who wears
the short skirt. Seizes the microphone, the chance,
the balls. What would happen

if you stopped punishing yourself for the very parts
that could propel you skyward. What if you
were no longer afraid?

That’s who you’ll be
when I am done.

Surrendering / Stacey Yu

Everything is gone
the moment it happens

such as birthdays birthing
       new birthdays and 

laughter becoming 
       pause

the quiet of a night train 
       full of weary people 
wearing gorgeous shoes

You feel it all the time,
this acute and contin-
uous loss

Day 15 / Poem 15

Wild Conversations / Colton Babladelis

He learned to hold
Discussions with the finches
So riveting was his birdsong
For a moment, their attention was held
And he debated with ants
A cacophony of small voices
From under an upturned log
He played percussion
With the bullfrogs and grasshoppers
Makings the pond ripple with bass
He silently signed
To the creeping bobcat
Lounging in patches of sunlight
And left ruins and letters
For roaming coyotes and wolves
Drawn by hand next to the water
Learned to commune
And to be
And to speak
And to listen
That these wild languages
May tell the story
Of this land

The body plundered like an over-fished stream,
can whirlpool the mind like sudden vorte your everythings,
sprouts hell’s whispers in your lungs,
double-breaths to your one–my skinhouse will never be a home.

You can’t recall where you left your first self—
which field or treetop or passing cloud
Does any hunter see the caught fish’s gills rising and falling in gasps,
as it begs return to its element?

Tell my mind what to do with its own body,
a graffitied house with every door and windows
open to love, as I call through the sheltering pines 
of my childhood to those who might save me, 
and a ravenous wolf answers.

Headwind / Catania Larson

There is no windsock. No warning
of speed nor shear. It’s just you, me

and a holy war. The olive branch a
weapon we are glad to brandish. I

hear you hobbling up the stairs,
and before you can even knock, I

seethe.

Last time, I turned around, your
winds at my back: propelling me

to the scorpions. The time before that,
your angry turbulence had me seeking

for tranquility in the crags of mountains.
Now, God’s threats don’t bind. I’m a foil:

screaming, glaring, cursing, barreling.
You pray for lift.

Baking  / Kimberly McAfee

To me, baking is

a warm hug
from a dear friend
who has been away
for far too long.
 
To me, baking is
a well-deserved win
after pushing, and trying,
and working very hard.
 
To me, baking is
a cozy holiday back
at your childhood home,
surrounded by those you
love most.
 
To me, baking is
the epitome of
love and specialness;
an activity that is a gift
unto itself.

Corkscrew / Sam Niven

Caught in each other’s spirals,
we’re fired up
and we can’t stop the noise.
The creaking bedframe

 fires you up:
you get mad, throw the cat, and swallow a bee.
The creaking bedframe
screams beneath us.

 You get mad, throw the cat, and swallow a bee—
you want to shock me
into screaming back at you
so I’ll sleep in the bed again.

 Do you think you can shock me
into you? That if we open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc,
I’ll sleep in the bed again,
head spinning like a hurricane hitting the coast?

 You want to empty another bottle of Sauvignon Blanc
and I don’t get up,
head spinning. My hurricane hits your coast,
and your hands are leftover sand between my clothes.

 I don’t get up.
The storm lingers on the nightstand.
Your hands are sand left between my clothes
and a bad sunburn.

Our storm lingers. On the nightstand:
aloe vera and apple whiskey.
We are a bad sunburn;
the sting of us could fill two spiral notebooks.

 Aloe vera and apple whiskey
can’t stop the noise.
We’re two overfilling notebooks
caught in each other’s spirals.

Sugar Water / LaDonna Witmer

after Maggie Smith’s “Where Honey Comes From,” Emily Dickinson’s “To Make a Prairie,” and “Wild Honey” by Raymond Holden

It seems everyone writes poems about bees.
Perhaps I am not as different as I would
like to think. What can I say that has not
already been? I won’t speak of the honey

Maggie’s daughter drizzled gold on her breakfast
toast. I can’t aspire to the reverence of Emily’s prairie
reverie, won’t chase the heights of Holden’s
starless breeze. I won’t remind you of extinction

or recommend you google what happens when the
bees all die (as they go so do we). I will not bore you
with the boyfriend who flung himself to the freeway
because of a small buzzing frenzy on the dash (how

 angry he was when I laughed). I want only to tell you
the shape of my father’s hands, square nails rimed
with engine grease and a bee crawling within his
palm. The way his voice would gentle as he talked

of pollen baskets and the tasks of workers, drones
and queens. One day my daughter runs up crying
one curled bee in the curve of her hand (Mommy
help me save it!) To the rescue I come with a spoon

and sugar water and the memory of Illinois
hives. We watched the tired creature unfurl

an eager proboscis, furry legs ashake with
need. My turn now to whisper Did you know?

You too were once a cute baby  / Stacey Yu

It’s cute to be a baby
Cute to have a tiny mouth 
Cute to have no teeth
Cute to shit yourself
The difference between us and animals 
is that we try so hard to be cute
If cats could faint and fall in love
they would simply step on us 
though they might spare the babies
Nobody could hurt a baby

There could be peace on Earth
if only we were cuter 
If only our pupils were bigger 
and our breath didn’t smell 
we might actually know happiness
Still it’s cute that we try
Cute that we wear socks 
Cute that we follow the law
Cute that we make more babies
with people we call baby

It’s cute to be a baby when
you’re a cute baby
It’s cute to chew on doll heads
Cute to burst into tears
Cute to annihilate kitchens
Cute to want the whole world 
Cuter still to try to get it when
you’re finally old enough
but of course by then 
you’re not nearly cute enough

 
 

Day 14 / Poem 14

Blackberry Court / Colton Babladelis

The lethargic beat
Of summer
Calls us to court
We must answer now
As blackberry juice
Trickles down our chins
Soon the leaves will brown
And berries become wine
Left on the branch
Insects around us
Buzz in fury
Working against a timeline
Laid out by instinct

What will there be
When autumn comes?

Thorns remain
Poking at old memories
Just under the skin
Days shorten into nostalgia
Cool and violet and orange
We can breathe deeper here
Now that the weight
Of summer has gone
We can take our time
As we search for
The things we want to say
While we eat
The last wild berries

Taking a Selfie in the Bathroom Mirror / Angela M. Layne

My true eyes swallowed by the years
My skin a cocoon of protection.
One would hope to be softer after harder times,
but I remember a friend in highschool who played drums strapped to his chest,
The louder the opposing team’s crowd was
The louder he played. 
This is my rebellion,
Not disappearing,
Holding onto my conflicted instrument of a heart,
Sharing my song until it’s piercing
Against any opponents chants. 
There’s a beat roaring underneath the cage of my body,
It carries on when I am quietly petrified,
No matter what sadness forms underneath my eyes,
I choose to archive it in a photo,
By self, 
To self,
Of self.

Late Fall / Catania Larson

 I found six ticks on Clyde.

The tick, I learned, crawls up a blade of grass
and waits on the tip, upright, with his first two legs
outstretched. That little bloodsucker—all he
wants is a hug.

October’s crimson, gold, and pumpkin
spice is now a soggy brown.
The sun has gone to slate.
Cold wind bites through my tattered sweatshirt.

I complain.

But, now that the leaves are gone, I can see
the stars. 
I pause, shivering. 
The ticks wave Clyde down for a warm embrace.
I hug him, too.

This moment is heaven.
And knowing it is salvation.

Winter Snow / Kimberly McAfee

Isn’t it beautiful,

the snow carpeting
the earth before us?
How it sparkles like
stars in the
midnight sky.
 
How it brings
forth memories of
simpler times:
days off from school,
rushing outside to
make snowmen,
recollections as sweet
as gingerbread.
 
How it enables
us to make fresh
and equally lovely
memories: walks with
new friends,
wishing others
holiday blessings,
quiet moments when you
can reflect on the
triumphs of the past year.
 
A gift of nature,
a wintery delight.
How that glittery
snow shines,
not only in our sight,
but also in our hearts.

Reduction / Sam Niven

The doctors said they took the equivalent
of twenty-four sticks of butter
off my chest. Six pounds—a small
newborn child. The lines they drew
for the scalpel to follow stained my skin,
and I couldn’t bathe myself well enough
to wash the pen marks off. For weeks,
I wanted only two things: iced vanilla lattes
and McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
Well—I wanted a third thing,
but my partner couldn’t put their mouth
to my cut-and-pasted nipples
while the skin was still held together
by stitches and a compression bra.
I couldn’t lay flat. I’d sit propped up
by every pillow we owned while my partner
asked me where the doctors
put my nipples while I was out,
and how I knew they weren’t
reattached upside-down.

Unnamed Poem / Dallas Outlaw

time traveling through
memories everything feels
so distant from reality
not realizing that i lived
through most of those
tragedies
separating the past
in meditative spaces
lighting candles around the
trees that once grew
a stump just for me
to be where bees
and butterflies
take flight amongst the sun
to watch my pride kill
everything my soul asked for
twisted in knots
squeezing the life
out of me
blinded by pain
i couldnt resist
or escape
or explain
i miss life i almost had
the one i almost made.

Earth Suit / LaDonna Witmer

My mother always treated her body
as if it didn’t matter. No sunscreen

or treadmill, lipstick or calcium pill.
This old thing? she’d say, It’s temporary.

Nothing but soul clothes, nothing but
 an earth suit. When I get to heaven

 Jesus is gonna give me a body that’s
brand new. As if she didn’t have

an entire life to live down here
and might need that getup to get

her through. Surely the Lord won’t
begrudge a gal a bit of moisturizer?

Or maybe neglect does a body good
after all. Eighty years have layered on

a bespoke sort of garb, gilded her hair
and gentled her face. It’s not the celestial

attire she’d pin her prayers on now
but a whole new mind, if only

she could remember how.

Things have been good lately  / Stacey Yu

This morning, colder than yesterday.
The year, thinning, in mid-wink.

Like always, the coffee brews while 
the mirror becomes white with light.
Like always, new dogs meet below
my open second-story window.

Sometime between what’s always been
and now, the muck has slid out 
from below my eyelids and

the sun has grown soft 
enough to look at, even so.

There are many things I could change 
about my life if I think about it, 
but I don’t.

 

Day 13 / Poem 13

When the pond freezes over / Colton Babladelis

The mud has turned hard
And the ground crunches
With every step
Below the ice
Frogs and turtles hibernate
Heartbeats at a standstill
I push the snow aside
And peer down
A mirror of pale blue
Lumpy from cold winds
On the surface we
Play boot hockey
On the bank we
Make a small fire
From spruce and pine
To keep ourselves
From slowing down
To a standstill

Hometown Song / Angela M. Layne

I used to dream of beautiful mountains in my sleep,
escaped the hometown in real life,
to feel the soles of my feet on their peaks.
Eventually, their rain became the tears I used to weep,
Before I left the town that killed the old me. 

I saw a valley in my sleep
Its peaks were the secrets I used to keep—
the truth became,
but the lamb’s never the same;
when the lions around you refused to be tamed. 

Those who hurt you never stay to see
a broken woman’s never free.
Two-faced monsters chameleon to sweetness
like a coyote hunting its prey.

Of Soulmates and Skeleton Keys / Catania Larson

1

I thought that what they said was true:
there are no soulmates. Just find God and invite
Him in. He is the skeleton key, hollow and
omnipotent; and we are locks.
I thought that what they said was true: marriage,
and love, are built on the assembly line.
Parts in. Parts out.

2

I once heard a man say, with the pride of a true
saint, that he would suffer his companion’s imperfections—
driven by the faith that God would perfect her
in the next life. If the key doesn’t fit, then God will
change the locks.

3

In a dream, a beautiful man: milk
chocolate skin, lithe, supple, naked—wanted me!
He wanted me now. Before God had lifted
me into perfection.
This Adonis pleaded.
I didn’t adamantly resist. I just shrugged my shoulders,
lifted my brow, and passed. I said:
     “No thanks. I just want to be with P—”
He countered, “It can be all three of us!”
Imagine that: you, me, and this God, in bed!
He said: “P— and I can share: our only
work to please you.”
But the math didn’t work out. And I knew he
hadn’t run it by you. And, well, the
thing is, this dream wasn’t my dream, and if this
god had known me at all, he would have known that I’m
more goose than duck.
I don’t have to explain any of this to you.

4

The exquisite exchange is not one-size-fits-all. There
is too much:
too much love and hate,
too much confidence and fear,
too much of our naked selves to simply hollow
out a key and expect it to unlock a door.

Joy Returns / Kimberly McAfee

I remember what it was like,

staring at the Christmas tree lights
when I was young.
 
Such amazement, such wonder,
filled my little heart.
What a time of magic it was,
seeing those tiny twinkling lights.
 
I am older now.
Those days of childhood
are long gone.
But to see my nephew’s eyes
as he gazes at the first lighting
of the Christmas tree,
brings back
a flood of memories.
 
A magic that I thought I had forgotten,
roaring back with a thunder.
A special joy,
returning.
 
 

Why I’m Like Finland / Sam Niven

I’m always cold. I snow
late into June when I feel like it.
My shoulders brush borders
with opposing countries,
and my airports are always on time,
although I don’t always end up
where I think I’m going.
I’m closing the gender gap.
What I call myself
sounds only vaguely like
what others call me.
I’ve got a rainbow splattering
of street art tattooed across my capital,
and I’m not bothering to clean myself up.
I think I’m handsome.
I speak English
almost beautifully, but less
than a thousandth of humans
understand my language.

The Trouble with Visitors / LaDonna Witmer

You drive to the airport at midnight, fizzy with anticipation. You
made a sign. You made the bed. You turned on all the lights to welcome
the ones you left behind. Good friends. Best. You’ve missed them
like a heartbeat. Counted down for months. Made lists of delights
they can sample.

But the truth is you just want to fold them into your life like laundry.
Come with me to the grocery, the hair salon. We can pick up the post
and belly rub the dog. Let’s fill our teas with ice and loiter on the terrace
gossiping about everyone we’ve ever known. The light in Portugal is
so baked-bread-looking. We’ll watch it dissolve into the Atlantic while
we reminisce about the Pacific. Let’s stay up late and get up later.
Let’s just be. Here. Together.

The airplane puts wheels to pavement. Progress comes in texts.
We have landed. The passport line is short. Waiting for bags.
You scrutinize every body that exits. Is this them? Is that?
Finally the long awaited faces. Squeals and embraces.
Arrival gate smiles from all around. They’re here.
They’re here.
They’re here.

The next day is jet lag. The day after, reality.
Because this is not their life. This is their vacation.
They love you. They love your dog. But they raided
their savings account to travel 5,687 miles. Of course
they have an agenda. Tram 28 and Pena Palace and
Ponta da Piedade and the dolphin boat. They have
missed you yes but/and they are here to Pack! It! In!
Make! Some! Memories! go and Go and GO.

You understand. You’ve been them, too, with 21 vacation days
out of 365. You had that life that requires you to maximize.
You can’t expect it to work the way it used to when you
shared a street address and a carpool lane. So you seize
every liminal moment. Squeeze the juice from every ticket line
and ten-minute drive. You obsess over the details of their person,
their outfits, their inflections. How much have they changed?
How much have you?

Too soon the week is up. You sit on the suitcase so they can zip it.
One last conversation on the way to the airport. You park and walk
together as far as the rules will allow. You hug and the promises
fall like tears. We’ll call. We’ll write. We’ll see you soon. 
And then their backs, even these are beloved. A wave as they turn 
the last corner. The silence all the way home is desolate 
but welcome.

Lovepuke, Montmartre / Stacey Yu

You’re brand new and I’m coming on strong
off conversation so fun I put my glass down

The girls around us swirl ferocious as geese and
nearly twice as loud while fireworks burst over 
the church and the French stare as they’re prone to do

Still I have no shame 
I want you

A drunk man pissed on the door to your flat and
leaning out your window I can smell it all: 
the piss, our dinner, sweet perfume

Still I believe in romance
and you too

After you fall asleep I puke crazily
in your toilet and discover I have 
no ego at all to be embarrassed

It’s love, it’s love,
I know it’s true

Day 12 / Poem 12

New and old gods / Colton Babladelis

What old gods
Have we lost
With a dying breath
As languages topple
Words on the wind
Falling in silence
Monsters in the night
We create
As much
As we destroy
What stories
Have we told ourselves
To keep the shadows
From creeping in
What new gods
Will we envision
As we sail
Through the stars
Just trying
To fill the emptiness

In The Wake of Change / Angela M. Layne

At age fifteen, when she says, you don’t understand, you’ve never understood me, 

I remember my daughter at seven, 
as I carried her on my back,
her grass-stained fingers veiling my lids
with the sap of exploration.

I followed the weaving path through her laughter,
as she applauded my blind dance.
vision expelled; 
haphazard as a turning leaf brushing against winter’s teeth,

souls hooked to azure mountains of cloud–
the sun’s firelight never hinting
at my youth’s oblivion.

Our dances and fumbles, separate,
how I do my best to prove that I do understand
but that I am slow dancing now.

Withdrawal / Catania Larson

Survival:
anger, apathy,
achievement.
I bounced
between
the three like a
pinball, and
then that Ace
tilted the
table.
Alrighty then.
The high priest
of the absurd
spoke with his
ass. His foolishness
may not have been
Shakespearean,
but he could sell a ticket.
I hearkened: not
only could I walk
away from the game,
but I could
howl.

Happy Life / Kimberly McAfee

Maybe we should redefine a “happy life.”
Instead of everything going your way,
being draped in riches and wealth,
maybe it’s better defined
as overcoming obstacles,
seeing your hard work pay off,
and creating meaning in your own life.
 
Maybe it’s small moments that
make you laugh,
cherished relationships that
bring great joy,
and making a positive impact
on others.
 
There is so much a “happy life”
can be.
There is so much a “happy life”
can give,
to you and others.

To the Delta Maidenhair Fern / Sam Niven

I

Haven’t seen a bee since August.
Fourth night of the new year. I’m in my sweater
and overcoat; you’re in your paper bag.
On the platform, perfumed hands
crumple in pockets like loose paper.
Windbreakers and goosebumps
drift in and out of trains. Newspaper ink-prints
on the blue-black metal bars.
The tracks carry us, and we wilt
through the cold Utah desert.

II

It’s not enough: the tortuous sunlight
and homemade humidity.
You haven’t grown. Your life,
in my south window and scorched hands,
withers. The desk, the windowsill,
the desk again. I dream of bringing you
to Florida. Admire old drawings of mangroves,
salt water, scrub jays.

III

The disease paints your fingers—sponges them, rather—
the color of pollen, a sun-cracked yellow
not yet bleeding. Still the soil mites
nestle like lice beneath your browning curls
and come up to breathe
when I hold you under the bathroom faucet.
One by one, your fists, small
as grains of sweet rice,
unfurl then dry. I clip your parched fronds,
shave my head to match, measure how
we grow back.

Malady M’Lady / LaDonna Witmer

Somewhere on the internet a man
thinks he can help or more likely
rack up those likes by sharing
symptoms of body dysmorphic
disorder. He drops this knowledge
delicately as if it were a chrysalis
or a lit fuse.
                        Consider he says
                        your habits.
           Do you check yourself constantly
in the looking glass or avoid shiny
flat surfaces altogether in case a
sudden glimpse might ruin your day?
           Do you exercise excessively,
comb your hair til the teeth fall out,
or hide an offending appendage |
midsection | back bulge | thigh dimple |
all of the above with scarf | tunic | wimple |
makeup | housecoat | prosthetic device |
bandolier?
           Do you think that everyone
literally every single person you see
looks better than you?
           Do you ask your friend | partner |
spouse | child | random co-worker on the
zoom screen if you look okay and when
they say fine | great | fantastic | wowza
you call them a liar not to their face
but with a camouflage fist and a
cough?
           Do you feel anxious | depressed |
ashamed | apoplectic | utterly baffled at
this turn of events?
           Do you avoid social engagements
keeping vampire hours so religiously
your neighbors have forgotten
what you look like in the daylight
and begin to mutter amongst themselves
that you might indeed be one of the
undead if only you were more prone
to velvet and dental bleaching?
           Have you ever considered a facelift |
 small rejuvenation | botox | divorce | lipectomy |
breast lift | suicide?
                        If you answered yes to any of these
                        says the man as he maintains
                        sincere eye contact with his
                        iPhone 13, it is quite possible
                        you have the dysmorphia.
Except
what he has described
is the daily experience
of the average American
woman.

Spoiling / Stacey Yu

By the sea, we darken together.
The hours dissolve in murky saltwater.

Ants discover our sandwich wrappings.
The paper, greasy, grows black and alive.

Across the stretch a man advertises sundresses.
They shake in the wind, sheer and headless.

You say Let’s go home like we have a choice,
as if desire could deter the creep of time.

 

Day 11 / Poem 11

Full to the Brim / Colton Babladelis

An earthen vessel
Deep red
Like a river bank;

A river of flowing stories
Iridescent languid words;

I held the vessel loosely
And let the river quench its thirst,
Let it overflow with the words
With the stories in every tongue
Let it fill, and refill
With a love for humanity

Light & Sting / Angela M. Layne

I carry pollen to heavens like light,
like powder on indestructible moth wings,

flying eternally out of fire’s reach,
to the unquenchable sea, purifying itself, 

Reviving through its own swallows.
I sing the oldest song, the unsolvable mystery,

against the bodiless death of the ineffable
a rare songbird trilling my ear, so close 

I feel its throat pulse, its quivering skeleton
you are a Mason jar stopping one lightning bug from completing its love;

you are a wasp 
writing a cursive letter of everything burning 

and true, the glow near my opening door, 
a homecoming for the sting.

Sabbath at Seven-Eleven / Catania Larson

Mired at a Seven-Eleven. I saw the man parked
next to me: tattooed. Gnarly. Getting Ding Dongs and
Red Bull.

I felt bad for him. I felt a very righteous pity for
every other patron so clearly spotted by this
evil world.

And he smiled at me. He nodded. He held the door
open as I walked in: sanctifying this gas station.

I covenanted to God, before this man as my angel
and my witness: that I would spend my Sabbaths
drenched in Babylon.

My Promise / Kimberly McAfee

And then, you will finally see me.

When my wings have
fully formed, and fire glows
bright from within my veins.
When my voice roars
with a might that
shakes the heavens,
and my heartbeats rattle
the ground beneath
your feet.
 
I will rise from the ashes.
Each day, I grow
even more; just a bit
better than yesterday.
Time is my greatest
supporter.  I am
becoming the person
I am truly meant to be.
 
Then I will re-emerge.
A butterfly breaking free
from my cocoon, I will
fly to new heights.
I will be a new creature,
magnificent.
One day, our paths
will cross again.
And then, you will finally see me.

Moth / Sam Niven

I found you in a drawer full
of half-finished knitting projects
and scooped the mouth
of a mason jar around your closed wings,
careful not to tear a leg. I held you
up to the light. Not a King’s Hairstreak,
American Lady, or Olympia Marble.
You were fingernail-sized and left
nothing behind: nest, larvae, piece
of antenna. Your blue-greys and browns
layered each other like fish scales,
nearly a Bride Underwing,
dead.

Cracked Petals / Dallas Outlaw

In Season
and
for the duration of
this story
the minute stood incredibly still
time forgot to pass
having to choose
when my flowers bloom
is yet exhausting
and somehow taboo
broken pavement
it saw me, it saw you
blossoming chrysanthemums
gossiping among the sidewalk
gazing at strangers walking by
pick me from the root
attach me to the finest hairs
that lay beyond your ears
sat me upon your vases
in spaces so calm
you forget the day existed
while you persisted
expanding the cracks
amongst the concrete

Bleeding Heart Heathen / LaDonna Witmer

She counts cats in the medina
one hundred twenty eight today
she worries about their futures
finds them names that last
only through lunch.
On the way home the 
speakers in the minaret hiss
alive and the muezzin calls us
to prayer. Not us though
we don’t pray like that
or like anything at all.

She has so far resisted all
attempts at conversion
from cousins classmates
and clerics choosing instead
to run wild with possibilities
Holy Books cannot contain.
She says Jesus is just as
preposterous as Santa
Claus and Mickey Mouse
and really who can argue
with that.

She swears off eating
birds after seeing a
chicken die for dinner
and this is how I know
she’ll always find
her way.

The last nap / Stacey Yu

Seven years old and tanned by the lake
with a Fisher Price bike and flair for
funny dancing. The grass was tall;
there were warnings about snakes.
I fell asleep and woke in my parents’ bed, 
fuzzy-limbed and perfectly alone. 
Do you remember the last time you did that? 
Took a nap on your parents’ bed? 

There was a way to make dreams last longer.
It was simple, you know how it goes:
just keep your eyes closed.
Slipping back to sleep, my body floated
somewhere I knew I could never find.
There was no question about it—
I would be a child forever. 

Underneath me the sheets stayed cool
long into the awaiting evening,
past the break of another day.

Day 10 / Poem 10

Flaws we love / Colton Babladelis

The art we make
Haphazard splashes
Of fleeting colors
The way we live
Burning bright
And fast
Our ragged fighting
Against death
The idiosyncrasies
Of daily happenings
A single snowflake
On an otherwise sunny day
The strands of hair
Out of place
From gusts of
Angry northern winds
The feeling that something
Is missing, or forgotten
The bad choices
And the sleepless nights
Some sort of
Incorrect closure
A false goodbye
Pieces of the whole
That never quite
Add up right
Yet compose this life
Full of the
Flaws we love

Again and Again  / Angela M. Layne

The men all have hands.
The children all have bodies.Neither should interfere
with the other.

In her lap,
is moving light. She winds
a ballerina’s twirl. She controls
the dance.

The dancer’s skin doesn’t move; it
shines, it reflects, deflects.
Its pose is set in happiness, 
never knowing a reason
to run away.

In her twirling, is a universe,

tangible in her one tiny song,

holy muzak, redemption,

a satellite to new a new body.

Cautious Agreement / Catania Larson

1

Berry, I cautiously agree.
This record should be transfered
by chord and drum.

2

I use a computer, software, a
journal and Signo pen
Perhaps I should exchange to
vellum, quill and ink. Or an
earthenware tablet and stylus. Maybe
charcoal, bison fat, and Lascaux walls.
How far must I go if I want to
righteously disavow?
I’ll bite my fingers
and do this with my blood.

3

(No I won’t.)

4

Where is that line? 
Here is a secret: I like living
comfortably in Chester County,
PA. I will not imagine life without
my Mac. And I hate this about
myself: that the wind is howling,
the last few oak leaves are 
swirling, but I’m too cold.
I hate that cumulus does not
come to my mind when I think
of the cloud.

Frozen / Kimberly McAfee

Time is frozen here.
Her icicles surround me
like the cold steel bars
of a jail cell.
The cold has permeated my body.
I am not chilled to the bone, no.
The cold has stabbed through my skin,
my muscles,
and ice crystals have replaced my marrow.
Do you think yetis don’t exist?
Friend, I am one;
a creature of ice and isolation.
Nothing moves here;
all is in permanent stasis.
A frosted menagerie fit
for the great Boreas himself! 
This place of forever winter.
This place of the forgotten.
This place, my home.

The Beginning / Sam Niven

We’ve drunk ourselves bare—
the whiskey a caul over
our eyes—wet, alone.

Nos ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos* / LaDonna Witmer

(We bones are here, waiting for yours)

The bones don’t rush.
They have acquired patience
watching centuries of travelers
hurry past. The living spare only a glance
a caricature of contemplation
lit and posed for mass consumption.
But the bones know there is no
greater concern than this silence.
The weight of the air a comfort.
The diamonds of dust in the sunlight.
Another day brand new and yet somehow
the same as all the ones before. Ponder
the living. How many have passed through
and then passed on all headed eventually
to the very same end. This the bones know
stacked femur to ulna like yule logs
with no thought for which belongs where
and to whom. Death is an unselfish companion
and this gives the living pause white knuckling
their spectacles testicles wallet and watch
still thinking “mine.”

*inspired by the Capela dos Ossos in Évora, Portugal and the sonnet on display there, written by António Ascensão Teles in the 1800s.

The Trees on Octavia Street / Stacey Yu

The leaves outside my window
are flushed and gossipy. 
Some titter and exaggerate
while others hang still, listening.
When the weather gets colder
people get closer, marching arm 
in arm and breath to breath
as the leaves watch and whisper.
They’ve circled this block for half an hour!
Do you think he’ll finally kiss her?
Just as he leans in—
as precariously bent as an 
overeager branch—
a wily wind knocks his hat clean off his head.
All down the street is the crimson display
of foliage shaking with laughter.

Day 9 / Poem 9

 December Dandelion / Colton Babladelis

Oh, cheerful face!
How dare you be so defiant
as to smile on a cloudy day,
and that you dreamed of more,
is a preposterous venture!
But, what was that?
You’ve bloomed,
here,
mid-December,
and proved us all wrong!

Over-Thinking  / Angela M. Layne

I’m attempting to figure out
if a seed was once another species—

or an evolution of a sick cell—
or two cells trading loneliness for love,
creating this ephemeral winged being,

flying downward to ground

to plant itself–
and, yet, resilient creature,
living to live, taking what it needs
of earth and sun and rain
not caring what’s taken away
after its bloom—

or does it wilt mentally as well?

Influences / Catania Larson

She sits in half-lotus, anjali mudra. Her caption: pithy, funny, wise. She reminds me to embrace my authenticity, my trauma. I am enough. Her long, shiny hair frames her pore-less face, her thick fox-fur lashes. I want her shorts. I hope she linked her outfit. White on white on white. In every book recommendation, she wears non-reflective glasses, messy bun, with a pencil in her mouth. And when the algorithm fails, we may even see a little ass. My guru. I don’t fault her for trying to make it in this machine that spins faster than the earth. She seems nice in real life—whatever that is. I want to shop with her. I want to hold her and whisper You are also enough (even if she can’t do a pancake split.) I want to stroke her hair and ask her about the editing software she uses for cellulite. I want to buy her an almond chai latte, and insist she give me her exact skin care routine.

Autumn Leaves / Kimberly McAfee

I’m letting the past fall
away, like old
autumn leaves. I will
feel barren for a time,
yes, life will seem
cold, but new growth
will emerge.  I will
be transformed, though
it will take time.  And as
my strength grows, I will
be as bright and warm
as a radiant summer day.
But first, these old
thoughts, feelings,
and ways of being must
fall to the ground.

Guinness from a Can / Sam Niven

You said the nitrogen was the best part.
The widget released the bubbles: draught beer.
You opened it with a snap.
Soft boom.
Aimed for the right angle.
That is, forty-five degrees.
White foam.
Glass full of cloud.
You waited for the ocean to stop rising.
A dark sea unparted.
You said everyone should have a full pint.

year of the purge / Dallas Outlaw

soul ties not slip knots
more like wet ones
heart song is beat box
love notes say
“please stop”
wombs cry with laughter,
cus bitch you thought.
minor aches
but major pains
yet, wedding bells rang
little echoes of silent cries
white lies when youre
trying to hide from
your own insides
Don’t break me with you.
projecting your reflection
isnt going to lessen
today’s perception of
fake love and depression
projectile vomit the present
constantly regurgitating the past
dont tell me i dont love you
when I’m still digesting
yesteryear’s mystery meat
using all my senses
to get a sense of 
who you could’ve been
listening at you
seeing through you
& still feeling helpless

snatched is the waste
of my body
losing fat so effortlessly
eating is laborious
yet I still drink the tears
flowing from my face
drown me in your sorrow
ive caused nothing
but defeat
an unpleasant reality
has come into view.

everything aint visual,
doesnt need to be recorded
and even less needs to be said
You’ve  learned my lesson.
if you are a blessing,
life will continue to provide
you with understanding
for I am love,
not the message.

Parking Lot Confessional / LaDonna Witmer

After all these years this is the place we finally do it.

In the dark 41 kilometers southeast of Lisbon.
In the car with windows sealed and steaming.

Outside, shoppers wrestle carts through a salvo of rain.
Inside, we clutch fast-food napkins to our cheeks and wail.

This parking lot our cathedral. This car our shriving pew.

In the dark, in the rain, after all these years.

You exist to want something / Stacey Yu

We long, as proven by all good literature.
Lily Briscoe does the same with her painting
as those fools in the play do with God(ot) as 
Hemingway’s men do with the sun,
which never rises in quite the same way it
did when they were boys, despite being the sun.
Ophelia’s desire drives her to death
and a man can’t eat a madeleine without 
memorializing everything. You could build
a career interpreting what this all means:
if the sun represents reprieve or closure,
if killing yourself is a symptom or solution.
Or—you could eat a cookie and try to find
what you’ve been meaning to, whatever that is,
the thing that’s obsessed you since you were a kid.

Day 8 / Poem 8

Pathways we walk / Colton Babladelis

Forking and winding
Step by step
In search
Of a destination

Pea gravel and dust
For hot miles
That scorch the soul
Undulating 
Alpine switchbacks
A precipice to one side
An eagle eyed view 
On the other
A river Crosses
And we learn
To swim, or
To build bridges
A sidewalk lit by
The glow of streetlights
And the red flash 
Of brakes
A beach grass trail
As dark as midnight
Where we can hear
The stars sing

Step by step
We choose
Pathways we walk
In search
Of our destiny

To the Woman Who Said That All Will be Fine  / Angela M. Layne

It was 7pm at the start of liquor shots
that a woman told me it would all be fine.
She said the worst times only happen to those
able to live it.
Lady, I’ve lived and lived, 
how much more living does a soul need to live
before it’s near not?
 
It’s a positive way to move forward,
to think the worst happening is a sign of strength,
I’m the power of muscle and tears combined,
But when is it time to rest in happiness?
When does it all mesh to become a time without worry?
 
The woman said it will all be fine, and maybe that is true,
years add up and experience tells us luck and vulnerability equate to pain,
but the woman I don’t know said it will all be fine,
maybe that is the truth,
because believing my own faith is the hardest thing to do,
after so many in my life told me it would be just fine. 
 
Maybe this time someone is telling the truth.

Mirror Musings / Catania Larson

I recall his story as I stare into my own
eyes. Though I want to be stoic and self-

righteous, I’m overtaken by my own beauty
Not typical beauty, but the beauty of existence.

Unlike him, I can, and I must look away, and
when I do, everything else is also more beautiful:

the old man at the supermarket, the squirrel
in the driveway, and even the strange green globes

of a praying mantis. Imagine. If we were more
like Narcisuss—and I don’t mean that modern

definition we haphazardly give to our exes; they
should be called Zeuses or Jehovahs: jealous

tricksters with motives and manipulations. If we
were really like him, maybe we’d sit next to a

pool and rejoice in our own beauty
until we all became flowers.

The Day It Rained a Rainbow / Kimberly McAfee

It rained a rainbow;
drops of kaleidoscopic colors
kissed my face.
Those colors had overtaken me;
I became a macaw,
no longer the simple girl
that I have always been.
I was magnificent!
Shining in bright shades
that made you squint
when you looked at them.
Oh, I was a sight to see!
My heart flew to heights
I didn’t know existed!
But alas, nothing lasts forever;
those brightly-colored raindrops
dried and flew away into the ether.
But I still have those memories,
I still remember it all,
the day it rained a rainbow.

This Poem Identifies as a Sestina / Sam Niven

They want the blood
both ways—soft as lake water
and sharp as an ocean salt-breeze.
Their gender
lies with them
on the floor: body

 to chimera body,
pelvic blood
pooling on tile. They’re
learning to pull a hurricane’s
many teeth. The man
in them draws an indigo wind

 out of the day-harsh breath,
like harvesting the bodies
of raspberries from brambles. The woman
in them wipes the bloodstain
on their jeans, knowing what kind of water
will rinse the juice out and how to keep their

 hyoid dry and quiet, their
throat open to the cloudless sky.
But they never learned to surf,
couldn’t entrust their full body
to another’s force. They were both bleeding

and bullet-shaped, they slept in girls’ 

 tents, confessed to loving a boy.
And if the fraud was theirs,
it was a blood
moon’s con, twisted vein, forged marrow of dusk.
It was never shaped into a body,
or lit like a match, blown into the ocean, 

 drowned. 
They wanted their gender
to predict the weather, wanted to embody
a thunderstorm. But they couldn’t pick themself
out of all that vapor,
so they separated their blood

 cells from the blood-orange ocean
and the unpeeled sky: their gender
a warning sign, their body an emergency exit.

Filly/Filha / LaDonna Witmer

She is long like a summer solstice
legs freshly foaled, akimbo and brown.
She gambols through the lawn
down the driveway, up the stairs
feet bare and mud-caked and
exquisitely unaware.

She trails the dregs of her childhood
the full blue length of August,
a reluctant finale.

Sometimes she still
holds my hand.

Claire Danes / Stacey Yu

I don’t watch many movies
I don’t know who anyone you’re talking about is
I mean Spirited Away’s good
because obviously I feel like a haunted child 
but let me tell you
the only movie with real people 
worth watching is Romeo and Juliet,
the one with the guns and the fishtank
I watched Romeo watch Juliet through that fishtank 
and immediately decided to become beautiful
and trusting of the world
it doesn’t matter how things ended
that stuff happens to all of us

Day 7 / Poem 7

Where hope wells up / Colton Babladelis

Just after sunrise
I go out back
Crossing through
Damp prairie grass 
And orange Indian Paintbrushes
Fog hangs above the grass
Lazy and cool
Tendrils of obscurity
From the nearby lake
Reaching upwards
That I might lift them
From the earth

In the forest
The fog breaks
Every step
Deeper
Into the wood
The haze clears
Remnants
Of yesterday’s malevolence
Get caught
On beds of soft evergreens
As I make my way
Deeper
Somewhere back there
Is where
Hope wells up

What Is Real  / Angela M. Layne

For Rob Layne
 
A life is only a life
until you add love.
The meaning amplified,
a dance you do 
whether the world can follow or not.
It is a strange thing to be half into life,
maybe more,
and to finally become,
to learn the dance that you’re 
taught only exists in fairy tales.
I spin in pure wakefulness,
red cheeks and gripping hands
over your back as we are one.
There is love, and then there is
togetherness, where my body 
is a haven that another
calls home.
In these late hours 
where some can only find a body,
I open to you,
my heart,
my lips, 
my legs,
my entirety.
Here is what the soul calls for,
and is answered.
On my body is a map
only your fingertips can decipher,
the body is the terrain,
but the heart is pulsing with all
that brightens.
The stars, 
the sun,
the moon,
the grass upon a dewy morning.
I give you what once was my world, alone,
now ours,
as one. 
Always come here with me, my love.

Corvid Wisdom / Catania Larson

A red tailed hawk, nonchalant,
alighted on a branch in the midst
of four crows. Their immediate

reaction was not a warning, but a
full-on declaration.
I watched the caw move through his body:
he summoned it from the base
of his tail, growing into his belly, chest,
and curved wings—
shrieking for a murder.

A moment later there were six crows.
Seven. Eight.
Ten.

That hawk noticed the crowd, but only
shifted from one leg to another. His beak
smart and searching
for prey below.

The cawing cacophony swelled.

Those crows did not call for a rational
approach. They did not whisper amongst
themselves, saying, Oh, really, we are fine!
Let’s be civilized—show that we are of a sound
mind. After all, this hawk only wants a chipmunk
or a wood mouse. It’s what I would have said.
Those crows
refused to make peace—God would eventually
claim every living thing as his peaceful
child anyway. Those crows insisted
on remaining crows: flying and free.

Twelve.
Thirteen.

They dotted the tree, the fence, the wires
that supported the dormant grapevine. They
raised their rowdy, unceasing anger.

And still, I, when visited by my hawk, as
she stretches her talons, puffs her hackles,
I righteously bow—perhaps this time, reason
or peace will prevail. And still, she remains
a hawk: tearing into exposed flesh; ripping,
devouring my vitals.

Freckles  / Kimberly McAfee

Stars lay upon my cheeks,
what constellations do
they make?
 
Maybe the shape of
South Korea, the
place where I entered 
this world.
 
Maybe the shape of
a pen, a symbol of
my heart and soul.
 
Maybe the shape of
something that will
roar into my life, like
Leo of the heavens.
 
These little stars of
mine, these tiny
constellations, how they
hold secrets like their
celestial siblings.
 
 

When I Think of You / Sam Niven

I think of showers, the first ones
we took together. How you couldn’t stand
without me, or pee, after your knee
divided its cap from joint and muscle,
muscle from bone, scream from throat.

 

I think about how, for days, you couldn’t
walk, couldn’t bend your knee beyond
twenty-five degrees. It was unsexy,
you thought, you opening your body
to me out of necessity: I held your hips
from behind while you stepped up to the curb
with your crutches; I rubbed your brace-less
skin, your leg held straight in the bed
by my lotioned hands; and when we took off
the immobilizer, I stood in the spray
of shower water echoing off your shoulders
to catch you if you fell. You balanced on one leg
like a flamingo, the pink of your arms growing
pinker beneath the warmth. I wore my swimsuit
so that if we had to call for help,
only one of us would be naked.

Monsters in the Day  / Dallas Outlaw

living in a mystery of
my own sullen thoughts
fixating on skeletons
in closets i’ve yet to 
come out of

dressed down or
dressed up
i’m still hung up
on the past
where death lures

so close you
kiss it hello
every time
you walk out of the door
sanity is best kept whole

stray fragments metal tangents
unknown hitting strangers
in front of corner stores
ducking gooses
should be nooses

who let the crazy loose
in the bright of the day
taking all of our lives to
his dismay; they used 
to lurk at night. 

i remember. 

Invitation / LaDonna Witmer

A white flash
in the downpour
as the dove bares
the soft pit
of her wing
to the sky.

From the window
I read the signal
as distress but
fearless she steps
through the blowing grasses
flares her wings up
again
again
again
receiving the rain
like a balm.

A gust as the wind rises
driving the drops down
with vengeance.
A flicker as she flies
shelters in the cypress
and preens.

I could go out
bare myself
to the sky
axilla to ankles
let the deluge
wring me out.

The thought
is not complete
before I turn back
to the screen and
the life I have built there.

For an hour or more
the wild wet
lashes the glass
and begs me
reconsider.

Something slow, maybe Bach / Stacey Yu

In a dream I bought a house
stuffed with everything
I forgot I once loved

I couldn’t remember why I loved them
more than I could why I forgot them
any more than I could why I bought 
the house to begin with

Something precious and obvious 
crawled onto my lap and I
begged it to remind me 
while a familiar piano melody 
crept through the wall

I shouted who’s there but nobody was
so I finished the song and was overcome 
with regret at my purchase

I would play it for you now 
but I can’t remember how it goes

Day 6 / Poem 6

 A Better World / Colton Babladelis

I wish to live in a world
Where the arts flourish
Sketches blooming
From the margins
Of every child’s notebook
Like wildflowers in a field
Where science is not attacked
As sorcery and witchcraft
Like a torrid echo of the Inquisition
Where people are treated
At least
With the same regard as profit
And our happiness
Is allowed to unfold
Like an origami tiger
Falling into a glass of water

The Education of Poetry  / Angela M. Layne

The last time my mother held my hand 
was the final time I’d ever see her. I knew it then 
although I seem to not understand it now. Time 
is like this poem, I know the punctuation could be better,
and the words could’ve been chosen more intentionally,
or with greater use of education, however, sometimes 
the mistakes make the necessity of the poem, and  
seeking the appearance of perfection will keep
the writer and reader from learning from it.
My mother’s entire life was a poem that she never 
sought to publish, nor did she work to make it perfect.
She drank beer to soothe her, and 
cigarette smoke circled her as though there was a maze it would never escape.
Her right words offended others at times,
when she cried it was never half-hearted, or pretty.
The most important aspect of a poem is not always its intention
but what the reader takes from it so it will live on.
I will always be my mother’s reader,
and circle around her line breaks and terrible punctuation 
but I know the warmth it left me, nonetheless. 
All a poet needs to do is keep writing,
and when they can’t, the poem can still carry on.
Like this poem, her life was not polished 
or crafty, but it said what it needed to say
and I took what I could from it.
I’ve always been a fan of shorter poems
until I lost my mother.
Bring back her broken parenthesis, misspellings,
her saying in 30 sentences what she could’ve done in two,
shouting in CAPS.
Bring back poetry. 

Dear Son Poem  / Dallas Outlaw

spent a lot of time crying
about how to feel about 
choosing me
during the hardest
time in life
you quite literally
saved me 
from hospital to hospital
being diagnosed with a rare condition, having to be fed through feeding tubes, blood clots and pure exhaustion 
you decided you were here to stay long before i decided to live

im choosing to live because you chose to exist during a time that i was slowly becoming nonexistent in this physical world.

im choosing to be.
For you.
a mom.

The Rescue / Catania Larson

Maybe I expected a sense of
admiration. Or at least someone
who preferred the beauty of this
natural world over perfect
stripes. I wanted sweat in my eyes,
yes, and aching pangs in my hips—
I did not want to quit. 
But I could not go on, so I prayed
as I walked home: Please, even though
I work so hard, I know I’m not any
good. Please let them fire me!
I knew a gray catbird that lived in 
the brambles along Harmony Hill Road, 
and I heard her sing as I prayed. I looked 
for her as I continued down the road: 
scanning the multiflora rose and 
sassafras. And snap! The catbird fled. 
I cursed the curb. I clutched
my broken ankle and praised it for
rescuing my pleading heart.

VINDICATION  / Kimberly McAfee

We often think vindication will be
a hero’s welcome: a parade of
singing trumpets, a crown of
gold-encrusted laurels, a shower
of fragrant flower petals.
 
But sometimes, there is
no celebration to be had.
Sometimes, vindication is
10,000 arrows piercing
your sweet naive heart.
Sometimes vindication is
a sorrow-filled whimper, alone,
in endless onyx darkness.
 
Vindication, a seductive siren.
 
We always believe she will
delight us, like delicate
mousse-filled entremets made from
the hands of the finest chefs,
but no,
 
she can be as deceitful as she is alluring.
 
She can be the greatest
 
LIAR.

New Year, 2007 / Sam Niven

We were all standing in the gravel
of August. We caught fire
at midnight, watched the colors
explode against blue night,
thought it might be
a good year.
I burnt my sleeve
on a sparkler and wore the mark
for the rest of winter.

I became afraid of things:
the lit cigarette, the boyfriend,
the moon’s overnight
twisting, God.
Once,
my sister caught me dancing
to her CD in my mother’s stereo
and slapped me, hard,
her handprint on my face
stinging, rhythmic and red,
like the beat to a song
I couldn’t hear.

Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard / LaDonna Witmer

In 2009 a bird took a wrong turn
straight into the meatgrinder of a plane
engine and Sully Sullenberger the Third
who sounds like he was named by Pixar
crash landed Flight 1549 into the Hudson.

Ever since the birdstrike my father fears airplanes
will not trust his body to sea or sky or science
which means he’ll never visit me.
Trains don’t cross the ocean.

I send videos of all the things he’d love
cinnamon spackled custards and fuchsia
boughs of bougainvillea, a red flash
of pomegranate seeds, the dolphin fluke
in the river, parrots in the jacaranda and
a chorus of sheep bells bonging out
from woolly necks as they commute
from one green field to the next.

The shepherd grins at the camera
exposing a smile full of holes.
It is perfect. All of it, perfect.

I know he’ll never come.

I send the sheep anyway.

Untitled / Stacey Yu

At a certain point in my growing-up
it became embarrassing to call myself a girl

I switched it out for woman
and pretended to enjoy the reasons

In order to become a woman
you must surrender the girl

but secretly I believe
that mine will one day forgive me

My grandma died clutching her teddy bear
I’m just like that 
I’m just like her

Day 5 / Poem 5

Midwest Chili and Cornbread / Colton Babladelis

Some things are inextricably tied
To places and times
Certain foods anchor me
To memories and feelings
Nothing is more midwest
Than piping hot chili
And sweet cornbread
On a bitter fall day
The last few leaves outside hang on
And weep as the aroma escapes the house
Beans, earthy and thick
Tomatoes leftover from the garden
Still glistening with the last
Bit of September sun and dew
Cornbread sweetened with 
The last spoons of maple syrup
From my uncle’s trees
From the past spring
Through the smoky spices
I can smell home, warm and inviting
For a bowl or two, I am a kid again
Eating my mother’s cooking

Self-Love  / Angela M. Layne

Someday I want to be one who gives the gift of myself
to another in a clear box without any curled ribbon 
without any introduction 
“it doesn’t look like much but I saved up my whole life
to give this to you”
or
“it might not be everything you wanted; I’ll give more one 
day when I can afford it”
Who cares that someone else has all the flowery papers
to cover their exuberant light of self,
or that they folded the paper the way they used to in 
the department store at Christmastime for an extra fee
so that every eye is drawn to their gift before one like mine.
Not my recipient,
no, they will take my gift as it is
and see it as nothing less than a miracle, a masterpiece–
the reds, blues and sages of Springtime trees,
and behind it all a soft sunrise forever greeting my recipient’s eyes,
when others I gave myself left my gift up on the mantle 
to collect dust.
There’s something worse than giving yourself away
and being the only one to appreciate what you’ve given.
The worst is when you also do not see the magnitude 
of worth when you give yourself away to others.
Isn’t that self-love? To accept that who you are
and that what you give is precious
even if recipients do not? That no colorful paper or bows 
are needed. That’s what the recipient is supposed to add
to a gift as special as your love. 
My true recipient can see nothing else
but a horizon flashing the innocent spark that happens
when a child first sees a shooting star
and holds their hands out as though they can claim it
without damage.
I am the shooting star, never to harm my love’s hands,
but the greatest gift I’ve ever allowed myself to receive
is feeling whole, and wondrous, when the hands 
don’t open to catch me when I fall. 

Black Patent Stilettos / Catania Larson

The point is the point.
The function: form—
pedestals made to exalt
worthy assets.
The blades beckon: look!
They threaten: watch out.
They command us to adore
the one who has the audacity
to don a pair; laud she who
courageously takes a step;
bow to that Goddess
who effortlessly sports them 
with tight jeans and a
deep v-neck sweater.

Midnight Monsters / Kimberly McAfee

Darkness invites the
monsters.  No, not the 
ones you read in stories or see
in motion pictures.  The ones
in your mind, the
thoughts you run away from.  The night
beckons them, allowing
them to come forth and
dance in your awareness. Proud and
fervent is their dancing, they
revel in their freedom!  A freedom
that cripples you, for it is as
heavy as a ship’s anchor.  It is under
the midnight stars, when
time is still and the world is
blanketed in quiet, that
the monsters of your
mind reign over
all.

Reading Shakespeare / Sam Niven

Tonight, the poets and the wannabe poets
are filling with wine and various
copies of Hamlet. David brings an entire
ham—“for Ham-let, you see”—while
Danielle supplies the pickled salad,
Eric the bread, Sierra the cheese and crackers.
Jameson and Josiah read for
Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Sarah
for Ophelia, Shannon for Gertrude.
Shannon’s husband, wanting the villain,
gives Claudius a satisfactorily devilish tone.
The role of Hamlet gets passed around
the room like a ping-pong ball: over
the couch to Mary Jo, across the grand piano
to David. It reflects off the window
to Eric and Danielle and spills onto the rug
at Gabe’s feet. The dog barks
for carrots during the intermission,
while we stand in the dark hallway
refilling our cups. At the end of act three,
Brianna’s bracelet bursts—the beads scatter,
tiny, invisible, lost—onto the speckled floor,
and Spencer’s Polonius declares: “Oh, I am slain.”
The room bubbles with wine-scented laughter,
the warmth of us all getting to us. David opens
a window. We shiver in the sober breeze.

Fruit of Our Labor  / Dallas Outlaw

the agency of women
is given away so lightly
allowing people to treat
us as such
strong arming our will power
over running our
feminine spaces
infiltrating our grand stand
to house their insecurities.

babysitting egos
while y’all excuse
yourself of parenthood
quoting your access
to bread winning as
if us baking it
is so far less of a career
housewives unite.
single mothers unite.
child support isn’t enough,
but child support isn’t,
right?

remind me why women can’t
raise sons?
remind me why we
hate our daughters?
remind me how we
inherited this stubbornness
from your rib?
you’re embedding your
inhumanity into our genes
conquering our souls
although cowering
at our woes.

the patient
you want us to remain
the patience for disdain
the negation of women’s pain
just to take care of your children
your sickness and in health
for death does us part
you’re killing us, Larry.
& here we think that
allowing you in our spaces
is some sort of safe graces

i do not trust you with my heart
i do not trust you’ll do your part.
i do not want your regulations
i do not want your tribulations
i cannot accept your ring of faith
i will not accept your apologies
i am not your woman here or there
i am not your woman anywhere.

youve turned us from 
an army of wives
to a den of thieves
having to deceive
our own minds
stealing back our own time.
how dare you
mock us into a history
you try telling your
story without us,
you’ll weep.
its no easy feat.
you try having kids,
tending to a house
and still being perceived
as weak.

yall marvel at why we
stay to ourselves
its cultural
not a race war
but a race to
ignoring cat calls
and the such
i’m not your fkn animal

you don’t own me (singing)
lesley gore said it best

let’s put it to rest
many, many men
know we’re set
so they try
stripping us of
intangibles,
tangibly
unbelievably
undeniably
revoking our
womanhood

seriously?

Couldn’t Care Less / LaDonna Witmer

Someone famous or old or dead said you
are a little soul carrying about a corpse and
I think about that all the time now.

Now that I am soft
in all the ways I once feared
now that I require leverage
to lift myself from the floor
now that I know how quickly
everything/everyone/every day
disappears.

I stay up late scouring YouTube
for gray-haired women.
Exquisite harridans stripped of paint
dauntless shrews who have plucked
every fuck they ever had to give
beautiful battle-axes cut so close
to the skull you can see their
souls shining through.

They wear that hair like a crown of splendor.
They stare through the lens like take it
 leave it
love it
hate it
I don’t
give a damn
this is who
I am.

And I sit here staring back like
they can see me brandishing
my Wahl clipper like a
motherfucking sword
I am coming with you bitches.
Time to claim what’s mine.

Pigeons / Stacey Yu

Don’t move, the sun’s right behind you
and it looks like your head’s on fire, she said 
as I topped us off. Despite the best efforts 
of the New York Times, aperol spritz was the drink 
of the summer again. We laughed about this 
while secretly thinking about something else. 
I’d recently read about the history of pigeons:
how we gave them nice jobs, then abandoned 
them. There’s no way, she said, you’re this upset 
about pigeons. Despite the best efforts 
of the aperol, I was. We laughed about this 
while secretly growing sad about something else.
I didn’t know what was on her mind, but
I’d at least stopped thinking about pigeons.
Still there?, I asked, about the sun. No, 
she replied, can’t you feel it? 
Then I was cold and the glasses 
stopped winking and the evening was over.
Around us hung a stillness, like a lost bird.

 
 

Day 4 / Poem 4

Saturday Brujería / Colton Babladelis

Morning comes and goes
And we sleep through it
Restful and relaxed
As if you blew 
magic dust in my face
While the wind bent trees outside
The coffee tastes
Especially good today
Dark and strong
There are things to see
In the bitter whorls
I blink, and the day is gone
A flash and a spell
But another jewel
For you to hold
A ruby lens
Through which you do
Your brujería
As you peer into my heart

Creation  / Angela M. Layne

Part of me is someone’s kindness from when I was a child
the teacher that read my poem when no other words would surface
Another, is the man that said he loved me but that he hated me after I asked for proof. 
I think of the magnificence of snowflakes
but also how they melt when you catch them
the bitterness of some chocolates
but also how they disappear after tasting.
Words of affirmation, after an argument that cuts you into smaller than before you heard.
I think of the stranger that offered a seat on the train,
and another that told me he’d hurt me if he ever saw me alone on the street.
Of grapes that have been harvested in the sun,
ones so bitter your mouth withdraws.
I think of the stomachache laughs,
and the piercing cries of loneliness.
One might not matter without the other,
I pray that is the case. 
I pray that a prayer is not a prayer
without having and overcoming disbelief of it. 

Teuscher Chocolate Box Lament / Catania Larson

We got chocolates to remember our big day in the city. A
man, it could have been a woman, handed me a box—
chartreuse with a gray crepe-paper mouse and a single
chocolate truffle. No. It was a pink box, white mouse,
and a dark chocolate coconut chew. Though it could
have been a lilac box. Black mouse. Milk chocolate
praline. That box: a treasure holding another treasure. I
set it on my nightstand with a vow to remember. But there
was no pain to anchor the memory. The magic of beauty,
of the exquisite, was as ephemeral as that dusty and
forgotten box.

We, Humanity / Kimberly McAfee

We are stewards of the past – 
 
Preserving all that came before us, for those who come after.
 
We are explorers of the present – 
 
Pushing boundaries and discovering new possibilities.
 
We are facilitators of the future – 
 
Preparing our progeny to undertake the duties and challenges we now face.
 
And we do all these things, just as our ancestors before us.
 
And future generations will do all these things, and humanity will continue onwards.

Dear Dublin, California (after Hala Alyan) / Sam Niven

Dear Dublin,
All the trees I used to climb
are stumps now. You’re paying for their remains
to be exhumed, examined, exiled.

 Dear Siena,
I lost my Rubik’s cube
in your Rubik’s cube. My yellow side
worn to black, my chipped corners
tumbled through your curved streets,
thin smile, puzzle piece.

 Dear San Francisco,
Your late nights
follow me east.

 Dear Newport,
I most fondly remember myself night-swimming
at your beach, forgetting towel and swimsuit,
tasting the salt of you, the blood in me freezing
and unfreezing among your ocean,
your seaweed, your wet sand.

 Dear Dublin,
I’m not coming home.

 Dear Baltimore,
We all leave cardboard boxes of things
marked “free” on the edges of our rowhomes
for your residents without homes.

 Dear Sacramento,
You are dark music.
Cigarette afternoon.
Street food.
You are days before
the worst days.

 Dear Seattle,
Take care of her.

 Dear Florence,
I remember the murky water
beneath your Ponte Vecchio.
Your gelato al limone e basilico
and your shot of limoncello
still sting my raw tongue.

 Dear Salt Lake,
I wish you were more beautiful.

 Dear Dublin,
You still hold my mother’s house,
her mother’s house, her grandmother’s paintings,
her marriage license, her favorite records,
but not my mother.

 Dear Rome,
I lost God in your temples
and never came back for him.

 Dear Port Saint Joe,
Give me the empty bodies of your dead things,
the grand cockles, the Scottish bonnets,
the oyster shells. I’ll sift your small body
for all the sharp-edged things. I’ll strain
the mourning out of your still water.

 Dear Tremonton,
You will always be in between,
a partial journey, halfway here.

 Dear Dublin,
My childhood home
is still a child in your arms.

Overreach / LaDonna Witmer

you didn’t tell me
she chides as i
I am not telling her
now as if we are
more than what
ever this is as if
there is something
larger I owe her as if
she hasn’t been trying
to twist teeth
from my mouth
since the first
day we met.

Keeping / Stacey Yu

In an empty room on a dim evening 
I found a lonely strand of your hair.
It was worm-like and shy, nearly
translucent. I took it. 

I thought of many things to do with it: 
encase it in rosin, trap it 
in a locket, tape it to my diary,
swallow or frame or burn it.

In the end I only kept it.
I don’t tell anyone where it is.
You never feel it missing 
and I hope you never die.

Day 3 / Poem 3

Dreams in Silver/ Colton Babladelis

The night dreams in silver
Ghosts of lives gone by
Things in the dark
We can neither have,
Nor hold
Beautiful melancholy
How long do the stars dance
Before we know their stories?

I sit by a fire
Crackling and hissing logs
Embers jump, frenetic and graceful
It throws heat and light
Into the night
Hoping for an audience
And the stars watch back
Full of awe
All while putting on 
Their synchronous show
Well practiced and familiar
Reaching into the night
The same way my fire
Seeks their company

Untethered / Angela M. Layne

I am never far from my own heart
Though I find my way to step away from it
A leaf straying from the calling tree
Embracing the wind, too deafening in the
Dance of “what ifs” to return,
I don’t listen to the warnings
Or its memory.
Something deeper
Against all remembrance of past piercings
and constant knocks against the locks
Is a hand that continues to pull back the latch
to welcome visitors without formed faces,
and I believe this hope to be a gift
No matter the visitors’ intentions. 

Making Spirals / Catania Larson

You’ll need a white tee-shirt. Soda
ash. Procion dye and rubber bands.
Descend.
Put garbage bags on the floor
in the dank, dark basement, and
laugh.
Listen to reggae. Forget wearing
protective gloves—your stained
hands will be an announcement.
This will be more than a mess:
the sopping rainbow of dye
will collect and mix
together into pools of umber,
sepia, and brown.
Wait.
Let it soak; sit. Overnight. And with
just as much alacrity
as you had patience,
wring that shit.
Rinse
it. Rip off the bands and squeeze
until the dye drips
down your arms in long,
psychedelic 
veins.

 12-2-2022 / Kimberly McAfee

Driving down the road on
another lazy afternoon. The gravel
sparkles just slightly, in the brilliant
warm tones of the setting sun. So much
of life is this, driving down roads you’ve
been down many times before, a
monotony. But slight changes make
all the difference: a person you don’t know
walking to their car in a parking lot, a license
plate from a
faraway state. Where are they
going? What are they
thinking about? Will our paths ever
cross again? Questions that
remain unanswered, questions that
swim to the surface of
my mind. This mindless driving, these
familiar routes, made all the
more interesting by
recognizing the small things. Maybe these
simple thoughts can open the
door to bigger adventures.

Ode to My Father / Sam Niven

You hollowed scarecrow, you burnt-out
vacancy sign, you frozen dewdrop
on December morning-grass—
you’ve greyed early. They’ve taken your
stimulus check, driver’s license, fingerprints.
California Zeus, you can’t keep
yourself to yourself. You like women
who don’t know better:
you’re forsaking my brothers
all up and down the West Coast.
You’re remembering the days and the years,
the shades of our first purple screams,
and you are picking up the pipe
and not the phone. You crystal
savior in cut-offs and holey tee—you’re still
preparing your second coming,
still keeping your private vigil.
You’ve vowed to break everything
but your silence.

Hope / Dallas Outlaw

you want for nothing
ending up with everything
hoping for the best
enduring the worst
nothing left to wish for
only things to exist in

unwinding fantasies
into perfect fallacies
wrapped effortlessly
into pretty little bows

you know,
the kind that make a
presence to die for
i don’t know how
women could be so
trusting unboxing worth
given to them 
excited only by the validity
of how much they’ll put into it

you know,
the kind the that comes
with a bottle of wine
good enough to drown
out your own silence
while you’re crying
bloody murder
on the inside

you know,
the kind that fits
your finger, bedazzled 
with enough jewels
to count just this time,
that turned into that one
time
and
the next

things cloaked in reality
don’t seem so dull when
life is handing you the gun
yet you still chose to shoot
your shot, lets not forget
less chose to shoot
yourself.

playing dead
only works
for so long
living life
only works
for so long

being.
alone.
only.
works.
for.
so.
long.

when ignore-ance is bliss
deserves cards and candy
and flowers

not for the reasons you think
love aint got shit to do with 
your tits.

Brutal / LaDonna Witmer

What I think is a leaf on the driveway
is on second glance a baby bird
befeathered half-fledged
its whole hollow self shaking
with the strength of its cheeps.
My daughter cups it in dirty hands
proclaims its pronouns are she/shem.
We name shem Hopper and search
for the nest.

There is no Disney ending to this one
though we snarl our hair with leaves
combing bushes and bracken and trees.
Hour by hour shem’s call grows smaller
until there is nothing at all.

I wake in the night and wish
we’d never met.

Transportation / Stacey Yu

All my life I’ve chased after buses. 
Each time I can feel the passengers staring. 
You see it, right? The pity. 
My shoes are wet and my arms too full like always. 
I can’t go anywhere without everything.

You could get anywhere by bus if only you feel 
no shame. It would be even faster than flying—
but I’m not that kind of person. 

Day 2, Poem 2

When All That Remains / Colton Babladelis

When all that remains
Fades to memory
As it stretches away from us
Into the infinite
And all of the light
That you once held
Scatters into the darkness
I will go with you
To the edge of unbeing

When all that remains
Are photographs of dreams
I will collect them 
From between the stars
And bind those wistful images
Wrap them in white silken ribbons
Spun from the stuff of souls
So that we may remember
How brilliantly we once shone

I Could Speak of Loss / Angela M. Layne

One does not have to search far to be reminded of it.
There’s a doe on the shoulder of the road 
who’s jump to find safety was its last.
My mother’s life disappeared and simultaneously 
stained my steps on earth for good. 
 
I could speak of loss
of the indifferent caverns within the heart
lament the leaves turning brown 

Instead, I’m thinking of the adaptability
the embrace the wind accepts
towards its celestial parents.
 
Today is one I choose to see every sign of life,
hoping it will extend to all my tomorrows.
One must search harder for vitality sometimes.
My children’s eyes follow the scenery on every path I choose
and I must lead them to the beauty
 
so that they may someday have the strength to speak 
of loss and it will only be a phase of them, a solar occurrence, 
with their souls becoming a regular equinox composed of light.
I could speak of loss, but not today, not with my hands warming theirs,
on what might be the coldest days they’ve ever known.

 Cole Haan Loafers / Catania Larson

It was 1992. Houston, Texas. And for people like me—8th
graders at Paul Revere Middle School—you needed Cole

Haan loafers. I wanted the ones with tassels. It wasn’t that
I couldn’t have them. I could! But I couldn’t be them. I

didn’t try out for cheer. I was born in San Francisco. My
mom drove a Volkswagen Vanagon. I could not be them.

Now, before you predict my injury or chagrin, let me tell
you that this is a happy story—not having those Cole Haan

Kiltie Tassel loafers. I’m only guessing here, but I think it
was a dash of teen spirit and a heaping dose of Wayne and

Garth: their ripped jeans and sphincter jokes. They were
anything but Cole Haans. Without even realizing it, I knew 

that I could just be that girl with the strawberry socks who
likes pressing flowers and jumping into rivers.

The Beautiful Place / Kimberly McAfee

This is the beautiful place.
Where sunshine melts the cold
and wildflowers smile at the heavens.
Where a choir of birds gloriously sing
and squirrels prance in the tall jade grass.
 
Sit with me, in this beautiful place.
We will rest on freshly laundered quilts,
expertly stitched with motherly love.
We will tell stories and laugh,
and glow as radiantly as the setting sun.
 
This is the beautiful place.
Where moonbeams dance upon the earth,
and stars twinkle with delight.
Where lightning bugs shine around us,
like fairies carrying lanterns of celebration.
 
Sit with me, in this beautiful place.
We will gaze at the midnight sky,
and revel in her untamable beauty.
We will each share our greatest dreams,
and know, deep down, they will come true.
 
This is the beautiful place.
Filled with humble magic and simple wonder,
made all the more amazing because of
you.
 
 

Earthbound / Sam Niven

I won’t die
alone. I’ll die sweating
booze and glitter,
my messy corpse a strobed
supernova in a galaxy full
of other supernovas.
I’ll drown myself in a downpour
of broken glowsticks,
broken shot glasses,
broken hearts, broken heels
before I ever let myself
die in my own bed,
the air around my remains
still and unseen
as a frozen pond
on a frozen planet.
I won’t die alone,
not as alone as God,
who has probably never
made love to a moonlet,
small comet, black hole.
I won’t die alone.
We’ll choose each other
more nights than anyone
else will—our fathers,
our countries, our gods—
and we’ll keep on
praising each other
in all the places
we keep dying together.

Perspective / Dallas Outlaw

“Being a mom is the best
thing to ever happen to you”,
to me, says
nothing i’ve ever done
is good enough to be

worthy of being
the best thing
i’ve ever done in life
except carrying a life
because

except for yesterdays strife
nothing
was ever good enough,
right?
black women amount to

nothing but being mothers
nothing but being smothered
under the assumption that
the best thing to ever happen to
us is to carry another

listen,
although my hips spread like my
lips part im something more
than just smart
i can feed you better than a cow can

but you see my body as torn apart
ripped to shreds
post partum bred
you wont let me heal
just continue to heel bitch,

you’re barking up the
wrong tree
peeling back layers of names
carved in the trunks of hundred
year old forests

each one a woman
we are here to stay
but as more than a mother
not just another
back bending,

dick cradling,
piece of flesh
you think tight at night

unravel our head scarves
theyre too tight at night
pinch me back into reality
these dreams will incite
men to believe their right
cus the best thing to ever
happen to a woman

is not to procreate,
but to generate
abundance in a world that
continues to dismiss us
same thing though.

Crone/Maiden/ LaDonna Witmer

While I accustom myself to sudden irregularities
my daughter waits to bleed.

The two of us together
assemble an army of cotton cylinders
share herbal honey teas and headache remedies.

Thirteen years ago someone else’s grandmother
scolded me for waiting so long to get myself pregnant.

With a finger wag at my baby-heavy belly
she predicted the two of us would hate each other
when our hormones hit
mine ebbing out
hers flowing in.

But here we are roaming the hounds through rabbit fields
gathering crow calls and flight feathers in our wake.
The two of us spinning rhymes to the early dark
as we stack the wood for tomorrow’s pyres.

Wax or wane, woman, the world still comes for you.

In the end it’s the two of us
beneath the moon.

September / Stacey Yu

It is the middle of September and somewhere 
in a quiet room girls are practicing how to kiss.
Not so long ago I was swimming in the Adriatic 
sea, massaging wrinkles out of my feet. I think 
of seasons going, skin softening, hangnails 
I leave in different cities. Not so long ago I 
was asleep in my parents’ bed and waking up 
was easier than love. I was seven for ever 
and then I wasn’t. And then I was the body 
dragging across the shore, big as I’ll ever be 
and full of tepid thoughts. I was once in a quiet 
room. It was once summer. There was a lightness, 
even at night. I practiced everything and it wasn’t 
enough. I wake up and I miss something else.

Day 1, Poem 1

About Last Weekend / Colton Babladelis

The world has slowed
To a near crawl
Like pine sap barely moving
Down the trunk of a shivering giant
This late in November
A few days of rest
As rare as rain in a drought
Glasses and plates overflow
As I stuff myself, contentedly
The flakey snow on the roof
Falling like delicate icy saucers
This thick blanket on my back
To keep your warmth at hand
One of the dogs snores nearby
As they dream in soft ease
You turn a page next to me
Lost in a faraway land
Somewhere, my mind wanders
As the afternoon saunters off
To meet with an early winter storm
I daze, and I think
I have so much to be thankful for

Heavy Currency  / Angela M. Layne

there’s a look of soft, unyielding kinship
when one woman sees another crying
into her own fingertips
at 9 on a weekday night
above a bar’s bathroom sink
stained with mascara watercolor art
a drain that takes everything
but is not made to give 
maybe that’s why we are there
we understand
we’ve got to give what we carry to someone
and why not the one that will take it all
that’s how they also described my last relationship
 
“you choose these tears because you take it”
 
women take a lot but there’s so much we give
to a bathroom sink that will take it all from us
when it seems we need to cry alone 
for fear of the other side of society’s brush
a place where we aren’t sparkling 
 
being made to be shiny in a world that it seems
everyone else is shiny is a heavy toll to carry each day
we are breaking, overfilling 
 
when you see a woman cry into her hands
and her voice rise with a unapologetic sob
that’s the sonance we make when 
no syllables can explain the thing
we all feel but never believe another feels
 
how he never called back after he took 
how you found the questionable hair on his pillow 
when you witnessed love leave the look in his eyes
like a cloud, ready to water another garden 
when yours accepted any water spared 
when the new man is good to you and 
you are here out of fear of ending up here because 
of how the others treated you, because
we are gifted irony and worry
when life put a cent in your hand at birth and
made all of life too costly, no matter the currency–
because love has cost you everything, hasn’t it,

you’re spilling over with the act of taking so you give some back
in a bar’s bathroom sink,
somehow feeling comfort in knowing many have done so 
before and will after,
but one thing I’m sure of is
no one cries for the same reasons,
yet we know the weight each carries
underneath the wet lashes
and red-blotted complexion.
 
she wipes smudges of makeup out from her bottom lid
runs red over the paleness of her salt soaked lips
sniffs back any tears that weren’t smart enough to leave
this time,
smiles and returns 
with her absence unnoticed. 

Heaven on a Spoon, Mesa, AZ / Catania Larson

Life was a dying strip mall. Goodwill,
litter, and pigeon shit
anchored the vacancies. I
still thought God was a father,
not a deadbeat—denying
paternity.
I went looking for him, and

I found an Italian-American man—
espresso eyes, forte fingers—
scooping, serving,
sharing his paradise:
stracciatella,
pistachio,
mascarpone,
cioccolato.

I made the pilgrimage again and
again—traveling to those pearly gates
spoon by spoon.

 The Place Where Time Stopped / Kimberly McAfee

Time has stopped here;
it has grown moldy, proudly
flaunting its fur coat of spores.
 
When I was a child, I thought
stopped time would be the greatest
of adventures. I could travel the world
while everyone, immovable,
wouldn’t be able to end my fun!
 
But in actuality,
when time no longer moves
it atrophies, perishes,
rots, and molds.
 
I sit here in this place, the place
where time has ended its reign, and
 
wait,
 
hope,
 
for a resurrection.

Cowgirl, Take Me Away / Sam Niven

She says she’ll spread her
beeswax on my chapped lips
forever. She wants me
in a Las Vegas cowboy way,
wants my pink-and-lime skin
under spurs and fringe
trim and bolo tie.

She says she’ll smoke
the whiskey off my neon breath
and we’ll have sex under
a marriage license
for the first time.

And I’ll reach back as far
as Arkansas for a sweet tea
accent, a two-step body,
a humid love.

Cowgirl, take me away.
Bring me your shotgun
mind, put your barbed

chest to my chest,
let me taste
your honeyed palms.
I’ll cut open the painted-
over windows. We’ll listen
to the cicada song
bringing in every dusk.

Loc’d Up / Dallas Outlaw

Putting a ‘twist’ on my roots
doesnt qualify as a trend
more like a remedy
from the book of black magic
that you so effortlessly
acknowledge as your bible
or from the sweet whispers of my great
ancestors blood dripping
into the palms of your hands
You steal, appropriate l
and wear it as face paint
I mean make-up
But, you cant make up
for the tribes youve broken
and mocked for cultural glorification
“I stand with the black man” you utter
I know the truth;
you stand on the black man, grope the black
woman, and kill the black children
Yet your efforts…so unfounded
melt into black sands
under the white souls of your feet
like when you get to take the time to go on
baecations while the rest of us weep
and mourn for thousands of children born
Into this mockery
There would be no Amerikkka without the
sexual hymn to my ear with tones of moaning
and glass shattering screams from you raping us
and sewing us into the seams of your genes
I know my story
But who are you?
You cant tell yours,
Without me too!
While your ‘twists’ on my roots
makes my locs over flow
400 years of growth and counting.

Tinder / LaDonna Witmer

In July all this was on fire
the hills the homes the
olive groves.

The blaze tongued the
yellow stone walls
of the Portuguese castle
and when its caress
failed to ignite
it moved on
to the cork oaks
and eucalyptus.

There it found more willing
paramours as the trees
utterly impassioned
turned themselves to tinder
before our very eyes.

They passed the flames
like sacrament
from one green crown
to the next until
the entire copse
was engulfed.

On the ridgeline
we flinched
as branches cracked
and bark burst open.

Smoke rose like a dirge.

For 22 hours the fire
was all the rage
incinerating all
but the rocks.

The aftermath was a ruin.
We swept ash from the corners
all summer long.

Without the vestment of trees
the hills lay distressingly
bare, every fox trail and
private wonder put on
brazen display.

We couldn’t stop staring.

It is winter now.
The rains come.
The grass greens.

On the hills, skeletal trees
unfurl here and there
small tender fronds.

This, too,
is love.

Everyday Memorial / Stacey Yu

I pay attention to what lingers of you:
scent of your scalp on my shirtsleeves,
rash on my jaw before your shave.
Each morning I plump my pillow but 
hesitate at yours, which is not so much 
pillow as it is evidence of your head.
In the bathroom your trousers sit accordion-like 
and vacuous, your socks the shape of your feet.
The mirror reflects your spit.
My belly button pools after we’ve done it. 
And when the train makes a sudden stop 
it’s your shoulder I grab, more there than a pole.
At dinner the gravy curls to the speed of
your pour. We get full. We sleep close. 
When you go I grow quickly cold, my body only
needing seconds to shed the hours of your warmth.
But even the forgetting is proof you were there.