Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for February 2021 are Gordon Adams, Peg Duthie, Elizabeth Fields, Gaby Garcia, Ava M. Hu, Deborah Kelly, Joanna Lee, Kayla Long, Donnelle McGee, Anna Priddy, and Scott Williamson. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!
Poem 24 / Day 24
Ropa de Memoria / by Gordon Adams
The shirt wears a memory, a time, a place;
formal, white, Acapulco style, revealing his thin chest.
A smell, the human that lived there,
his musk, the odor of his hair on my shoulder.
A glance, “across a crowded room” thing.
No word, then unannounced, uninvited,
Oh, so welcome, waiting by the door,
an irresistible invitation to disrobed intimacy.
Always the clothes horse, short and slender,
a film noir detective in an ankle-length coat,
mouth moving, rat-a-tat-tat, waiving a cigarette
for emphasis, or a persona to which he gave voice.
A party guy, too, always there for a gala,
costume ready, like that shirt, its laces dangling,
an invitation to dance, boogie, embrace,
or weave a daisy chain of desire.
He took my breath way far away for decades
until his breath could not feed his body.
Inhalation by tortured inhalation he grew smaller,
An invisible, flaco recollection of my lover.
The closet hangs with silent memories,
long coats, white shirts, tight-fitting jackets,
no longer moving to the music of our dance.
I give our love away, one garment at a time.
Selection / by Peg Duthie
“Why twelve?” my husband asks, as tinsel-colored cows
amble across red borders on my monitor. “Is every zodiac
based on months? “Why twelve,” I repeat
as I ponder why the apostles
chose Matthias to take the place
Judas had abandoned. I hear
the denials not spoken aloud
as corporations crow about their culture
to prospective cogs. Matthias’s name
might have been drawn from a pot.
Was it a wait-and-hurry for balance
or was it ordained? Whose will and whose gods?
February 24 is the Feast of St. Matthias, patron saint of carpenters, Gary (IN), and Great Falls-Billings (MT),
among other entities.
Cristal’s Black Power in Four Parts / by Elizabeth Fields
Darryl Cowherd, 1940, “Cristal” “Black Power” 1967, photography
Eyes look to your heart
her hand holds black power sign
patented leather shoes.
White bow in her curls
panthers run free with her love
little bobby socks.
Mouth open wonders
sitting on weathered concrete
her foundation cracked.
Sweater off shoulder
tiny fists show her future
Black is beautiful.
My Milchstrasse / by Ava M. Hu
Spilled river of milk, backbone of the night,
composer of nocturnes, salt path, way of the birds,
haymaker’s way, snake of the skies, heaven’s river,
channel of reflection, road of scattered straw, winter way,
deer’s leap, milky circle, river of light,
fish jumping in shadows, road of warriors,
cow’s path, serenade of sugar, great fence
of the stars, dragon’s river, cloud eating sea,
the shepherd’s road, elixir of the moon’s white hare,
milk road, the calm unhurried one, field of stars,
way of the white elephant, silver-haired creek,
trail of fire embers, halo of gas and dust,
mirror made of water, sky, and hope-
Luminous ribbons for my hair.
My milchstrasse. My electric valentine.
This is how I find you.
Death / by Deborah Kelly
I don’t venerate Sta. Muerte.
She has only one face
and it is acquisitive.
Swallowed down or toyed with,
she has no sympathy
for her meal.
Still, some give her welcome.
Death is no better,
he fills mourners
with all the mourning
and keeps pouring, until
we are emptied-out.
Still, some call him holy.
To these two, we are only
soil mixed with sugar-water.
We like to pretend
they live in the cemetery.
Visiting angels, painted skulls.
Still, they are in the leaf pile
and nail clippings,
in cut tulips and fish scales.
Purple and black,
I do like to watch them dance
in November, their bones
decked in marigolds.
Burning daylight / by Joanna Lee
I am signaling you through the flames
The cat comes with her wet feet.
The signal tower blinks red.
In the city, they want to build casinos.
In San Francisco, a light goes out.
What other signs of the apocalypse
do you need? Panic slowly.
With your legs and your paintbrushes
and your untried palms.
Let there be a meaning to our extinguish,
grace in the un-filter of our smile,
all crooked skies and new
constellations. Come sun-up,
when we’d dawdle at the yardwork,
Dad would rap
at the bedroom door with mud
in his growl We’re burning daylight.
Yawning we filled our arms
full of deadwood for the next fire,
reluctant smoke signals
that rose for miles. Our footsteps
in the moss-covered dirt fall
harder now, our bodies
overnight, quick not
to frantic. Still wonder
in the moonlight. Still
pulse in the river’s
slide, past a past
that was and is. Tearing down
is not the same as building up.
There is more I could say.
The bank tower blinks red.
The cat comes with her wet feet,
blots the ink before it’s written,
in the cradle of dust.
Wondering / by Kayla Long
I wonder the wasteland
Inside of my mind
Searching for something
I cannot find
There’s a path through the darkness
That guides my way
To which I stay close-
I dare not stray
For the second my foot
leaves the trail
I become lost in the desert
Stranded in the vale
I can no longer tell right from left
The fallout stretches on around me
Path finders and landmarks are indistinguishable
So I wonder my mind
On a not-so-clear path
And I fear if I leave
I’ll never find myself again
Brother, Show Me The Way / by Donnelle McGee
-for Julio G.
Let me not forget the hands of the builder
Let me not turn voice/body
Away from those in sun drenched fields
Let me acknowledge those behind counters
And doors that lead away from where I sit
I do when I look this man
In the eye and tell him
I love your story. I love you.
Hammer in hand
Your son by your side as you
Create art again
Shelves of white
A barn door that opens to love
Concrete poured over rebar as
Life softens you
There was a quinceañera once where I
Watched you glide on the floor
Saying familla is all we have my brother
Let me not forget
Them smiles and laughs
We share my brother as
You show me the way
These Blazes you Must Not Take for Fire / by Anna Priddy
In the midst of flames, may you find yourself
burning, burning, with the heat sinking in
even unto your bones. May you find your
body, turning, to take in the color
that changes and moves and will not stay still,
taking in, in the flames, with all senses,
color, heat, sound, the sweet smell of woodsmoke
that is in your eyes, mouth, and on your tongue,
in your hair and your skin, enveloping,
encompassing, closing in, in the midst
of flames, may you find yourself, saying, I
am native here and to the manner born.
The Glass Tea House Mondrian / by Scott Williamson
sing above sun-blasted rocks
water ripples on
blue mosaics supporting
the glass tea house Mondrian
find St George and the Dragon
wrestling with Jacob
It’s all cosmic dust
we dance to a secret tune
intoned from within
Lover of the Sun
is Shadow – Form is their child
we are all exiles
Poem 23 / Day 23
Journey / by Gordon Adams
He lies silent on the leather couch in the dark room
on Avenue B, the beige walls a cone, tilting toward him,
Scratches the stubble on his shaved head;
smells his fingers, another exudate to explore.
Weeks, months, even years, this is what it has been,
the video loops cycling through his mind,
in his mouth, hovering halfway to the ceiling,
visible, familiar; he could almost touch them.
The facade of a yellow brick office tower
or, perhaps, an apartment building,
against a blue sky in a nameless city,
it was never clear, maybe New York.
Inside the mirrored elevator, looking for the button
to a penthouse floor, doors sliding closed.
Rising in the narrow box, watching the cage slip by;
then a sudden tilt from vertical to horizontal.
Speeding dangerously along the levelled cage,
feeling the air now, seeing the rooftops,
a sliding sarcophagus to nowhere
disappearing to white, and then, fade.
Staring now at that suffocating ceiling,
strapped in a Boeing 727, tray table up,
at the end of the runway – was it Laguardia?
The engines whining at maximum revolution.
The jerk as the pilots release the brake;
the unmarked passenger jet lurches left and right
as muscular cross-winds whip the fuselage,
before the nose lifts off; he tilts backward.
Trading ground speed for gravity’s pull,
the nose pitching hard skyward,
the aircraft reaches for the clouds,
forcing him unremittingly backward.
Then, the sudden loss of power as the
nose tilts toward the earth in slow motion.
The gathering cityscape grows larger
as they plunge down, then, gone.
Facing the stone wall, reaching past reach.
Large, granite blocks, no seams, no light,
no grappling hooks to scale and then jump;
too deep to tunnel underneath.
No corners, left or right, no way around;
stopped, secrets hidden behind the wall,
yearnings that never reach the sky
grasping a trip to nowhere.
Sonnet / by Peg Duthie
Here’s to peanut butter and cups of oats
and the other staples baked into treats
that my late familiar (and shiny coats
to de-burr and brush after future feats
by their floofy yet muscular owners
but I get ahead of myself) might sit
to acquire, but possums, squirrel bones, her
people’s beer—she preferred stealing a bit
or morsel she hadn’t tasted before:
Like gal, like pooch. (Some’d say, “Like bitch, like bitch.”)
She knew how to keep one eye on the door
while dozing on the couch. To reckon which
dog to dote on next won’t be very hard
once I’m truly keen to let down my guard.
February 23 is National Dog Biscuit Day.
At the Bar in Grill / by Elizabeth Fields
Jacob Lawrence 1917-2000, Bar and Grill, 1941, gouache on paper
The divide is wide, but the results are the same
men drink to beat their mental heat all the same.
The difference is but surface deep, black skin
and white mingle in burnt gouache—its the same.
The whites, of course, have better amenities, separate
but equal was never the aim, though all bleed the same.
The reds and yellows of New Orleans city heat
Louisiana summers haunt the soul just the same.
Look’n for work on the Mississippi docks
ain’t none too different, both dream ‘bout the same.
The businesses, man they don’t give a rat’s ass
throw’n up a divide and charge us all the same.
It seems a game, this conditioned divide and conquer
‘cause the human in us knows we’re all the same.
The Bar in Grills where we all go to get away, laugh’n then
stagger’n home ‘cause, yep you guessed it we all drink the same.
Home Video Of My Mother in a Corduroy Dress / by Gaby Garcia
She says hey girl, she says gimme another smile. Her
voice is like new grass before it grows accustomed to the
cold, dead earth. Chime-like she speaks, riding the tender
pitch of summer straight into my obedient skin. I am
writhing in the sun, staring up at her from under my
flock of eyelashes as if to say, how come you love me
How to tell her I still listen for her woman-ache as
it bursts toward me in wholeness—how her hands
still smell like creamer and stripped wood and all
that is right. How to bottle that voice so I can live
it all again—the hands, the sun, the raucous tunnel
of becoming human.
Milk Statue / by Ava M. Hu
the day statues of the Hindu god Ganesh drank milk across the world September 21, 1995
Bearing a basket of marigolds
In temples, houses, village huts
the gods drink milk.
Godmen and snake charmers.
Earthen jugs, steel pots, spoons, and cups.
Temple bells ring.
The statues are thirsty.
The mind ceases to function.
Vermillion smears across bark.
Paint eyes on silver trees.
Holy men are coming out of the mountains.
Miracles are happening everywhere.
Watch as the milk disappears.
If you think of milk
stone statues have teeth.
They have mouths for song.
Offer a leaf, flower, or fruit.
Let the snake dance begin.
Let the trumpet
of the elephant sing.
The tide went out as unexpectedly
as it came in.
Natalie’s Chairs / by Deborah Kelly
Natalie paints chairs
that hip-check the canvas.
Their sagged, slid cushions
are deep, but narrow
between the arms,
like her ladder-backs with thatch seats.
Bun or spindle feet,
she says the upholstered ones
are like haiku: three lines,
legs, seat, back,
Such lop-sides in a metered chair
overstuffed and in
multiples of yellow,
red, orange, blue, and buttons.
I tend to twirl in the free-verse tire swing.
Exquisite / by Joanna Lee
body, always listening
body that expands and contracts
like a ghost of sound,
machine that combusts and consumes,
engines, fires lit by sparks of dying stars, body
of singular pathways plumbed
by god’s fingers, of valves and pumps
installed with no warranty. body
shaped in sweat
and in anger, body,
clay-less, clinging, harboring oceans.
body that bears the weight of so much
hatred. body stuffed in impossible corners,
body porous and poisoned
and still precise. body,
why did you choose me?
what did I do to deserve you?
body, betrayer of my nihilism,
body, exhausted, expendable.
body, if I can ever lay claim to you,
body, if you can ever forgive me, if we
can abuse each other and walk home bruised
friends at the end of the day,
body, wrap me in the cocoon
of you, carry me
in the stream of your salts, body, remember
what it was to dance
You know those truck stops
Out in the mid-west
Flat land in every direction
And everything is kind of dull
It’s almost dusk
You pull of the interstate
Because you have to eat
If you don’t you’ll die on your feet
The air is stagnant
But some how you feel a breeze
When you step out of the car
You expect it to be cold
It looks cold
But the temperature is exactly the same
Yet the non existent wind makes you shiver
And when you walk into the freezer of a restaurant
You long for a jacket
If only to cover yourself with one more layer
After you get back on the road
You try and forget the
Ghost town with people
there are times when spirit
One May Smile, and Smile, and be a Villain / by Anna Priddy
One may be the villain and still not know.
Don’t we all feel we’ve done the best we could?
In that is forgiveness, because we must
believe that all people are, all the time,
doing the best they can with what they have
and know at the time. Near to my conscience
are the things I do not know, nearer still
the memory of the things I have done.
We sugar over the devil himself.
Canto: Motet: Amara valde / Amor veris / Sweet-bitter love ensnared me in its Rose-thorns / by Scott Williamson
Poem 22 / Day 22
Philia / by Gordon Adams
“I have hymns you haven’t heard”
Rilke, The Book of A Monastic Life I.40
Friendship is like a thought;
It cannot be seen,
or touched, or bought;
it has no sell-by date;
it has no weight.
The word is anodyne, dull;
It does not say love,
And yet is love,
With its own specific Greek
Friendship glances sideways
as it sidles into the room.
Comes with a call, a card, a note, a text;
almost form-free, it evaporates
with inattention or neglect.
The sturdy infrastructure of friendship
sinks pylons into our lives,
rooting its meaning.
It is a brotherhood formed by work
in a shared soul-less Manhattan space,
besieged by an unruly tyrant at the top.
Lunches shared in the same French café
over checkered tablecloth and soupe à l’oignon,
disagreeing, peaks of difference
eroded by time and familiarity.
It shares vulnerabilities lovers hide,
their shadowy shame concealed
behind scaly armor born of fear,
hardened by marital proximity.
It is a hand extended in personal pain,
willingly returned when a partner dies,
an invitation to company.
Truth delivered to stubborn incomprehension,
to shadow concealing thoughtless judgment,
holding up an honest mirror
to the reflection of a mistake.
Friendship is not renewed by Hallmark
but by an early morning text;
a call from the airport, passing through;
a remembered day of meaning.
Friendship is a daily plebiscite.
Fighting (Des)pot with Kettle / by Peg Duthie
I do not want Navalny
to become a holiday
the way we remember
saints and MLK.
I want him to prosper,
to live long enough
to preside at weddings
of multiple stripes,
to die not of poison
or an “accidental” fall
but fading away in a bed
after many more cups of tea
sweetened with cherry jam
and glasnost more real
than preacher’s trees
or trunkfuls of leaves
seasoning icy harbors.
Washington’s birthday has me thinking about who writes histories. So are reports of Navalny’s trials.
Dusk / by Gaby Garcia
Coins rust in the back pocket of a drunk man walking
in Orange, New Jersey. He has a family. He has an electricity
bill. The club around the corner is flooded with the furious
smell of dead pig and charcoal. Two men fighting beneath
the thinning neon rivers. Not too burnt, now. Not too bitter.
The fever pitch when the goal is scored on the TV inside
the bar. When the man punches his prey into an open shadow.
High ball glasses in the air. The struck man purrs in Spanglish.
Hijo de puta. Little bitch.
Notes on Plant-Charms and the Primavera / by Ava M. Hu
Amulets, knotted cords,
beautiful melancholic figures
weightless in an orange grove.
Contrasts of light and shadow.
We are a story without a myth.
Saints lean in towards one another.
Glyphs, hieroglyphics, inscriptions.
Naming of the species of flowers.
Flowers springing from our mouths.
Flowers spilling on our dresses.
Saints lean in towards one another.
Intimate compositions. Patterns
of light and dark. Flowers
spill onto our dresses.
Love stares intentionally
from the center of the page.
Use the living energy of plants
to make charms, love philtres-
the same way moths burn
their wings in this kind of light.-
until love returns
the viewer’s gaze.
Seven Haiku, grand baby coming / by Deborah Kelly
to sew baby clothes
for a first grandchild pretend
to have tiny hands
i don’t want to see
a newborn in orange jersey
too sharp for new eyes
yet in tiny clothing finds
every small pin
cherry print for fall
the baby won’t be bothered
nor reindeer in June
how small to sew pants
for someone not yet born in
our changing weather
there will be carrot
stains in baby’s first winter
i find good fabric
sewing a layette
i cannot run out of thread
this is no mistake
some nights / by Joanna Lee
are right outside. wide-eyed
in an instant, we know
not to peek
through the curtains,
not to go to the door.
the cat? i whisper, not
feeling the restless
one a.m. weight at my feet,
stretching my toes
to the edge of the sheets, just
mmfph, you answer,
already slinging an arm
over my worry. we curl
closer in the center
of the bed, our hearts
peripherally, the cat
pads like a huntress
down the hall
to dream of birds at the pane,
the rap of a beak
sharp against the glass.
A picture is worth a thousand words
But what if I paint
You one in fewer
And gave you my feelings
A piece of my heart
In less than fifty-six
A picture is worth a thousand words
But not when they’re strung together
And make you see and feel
More than a picture could ever
i recall what came before
I Eat the Air / by Anna Priddy
Promise crammed, like the echo of a line
from Plath. I can exist on anything.
What is to come, what has been, even crumbs.
Wormwood. Only after it was brought home,
finding resin-like drippings on the floor,
learned that meant it was no good, that worms bore
through, eating the wood from the inside out.
I could interpret between you, your love
if I could see the puppets dallying.
You could show me. Turn yourself inside out.
Sonnet: Quasi una sonata form / by Scott Williamson
When you are teaching sonata form in
music, the intro and exposition
seem clear: set up your piece memorably
and launch a catchy theme. But the next part,
the development? It’s the section where
one’s attention lags. In a novel, you’d
reread those paragraphs. Yet the devil’s
in thick details, where plot-lines snake, weather
changes herald omens or rainbows. Next,
the recap, the return, the big moment
this goal-oriented, patriarchal
aim was always heading towards: release.
Called “a howling from the climacteric,”
it’s form “yelling at Joy,” driving it home.
(quotations from “The Ninth Symphony of Beethoven…,” Adrienne Rich, 1972)
Poem 21 / Day 21
Life, and… / by Gordon Adams
A sturdy wire links
partner Cessna Skyhawks
at 5,000 feet.
A wire delicately joins them.
The acrobat turns on the wire,
in total control, shifting, hand over hand
against the sky; swings, kicks,
twists, reaches, and seizes air.
As she falls, her body twists to level
in a fateful, skydiver plunge
toward the breathless watchers.
Pilots release the wire;
One dives toward the rising earth.
Flying a loop, it passes under the dying daredevil,
decelerates to a dangerous drift,
cuts the engines, becoming a silent glider.
Facing downward she grazes the wing
And somehow grasps the strut beneath.
Moving so slowly that lift holding the aircraft aloft
is challenged, the pilot slows even further
to stem the wind pushing her hands from the strut.
The grandstand knows that airspeed is too fast,
the wing too fragile, the effort fated.
As dangerously solid land approaches,
the acrobat pushes away from the strut,
against her forward motion.
As her feet touch the earth
she accepts the speed and flips
cartwheeling across the ground
at landing speed,
resisting the rush toward death.
Was it all a dream?
Tilting at Mushrooms / by Peg Duthie
I see you, Sarah Bagley,
charging at the Bezos
and the Limbaugh wannabes
of your day. I see you railing
against twelve-hour days
in suffocating hives
and gaslight galore.
I see you getting out the vote
and getting words into cables
and getting mad at being paid
75 cents per white man’s dollar.
Mrs. Sarah, things haven’t changed
enough, but what else can be done
but more of what you started?
The necessity remains: debts are to be paid,
an aged mother to be supported,
a brother’s ambition to be aided.
Sarah Bagley appears on calendars as the first woman to be hired as a telegraph operator. She was better known during her lifetime as a labor organizer. The italicized closing words in this poem are hers.
The Young Herbalist / by Elizabeth Fields
David Driskell (1931-2020) The Young Herbalist, 2000 color lithograph
forest green, browns
the color of healing
(if powdered fry in butter
and place in bathtubs
The young herbalist
sits in his garden
any town serves
as he she we they
it has always
been our history.
Born of this land.
Stardust and Lilly pads
snake root and rose
In the hands
of our creator
and witch hazel dreams
our human potential
and understanding love.
Walk / by Gaby Garcia
Another five blocks
until warmth—the kind of air
that feels like a funny box
Somewhere a pencil is breaking.
A dad’s shoe is slipped off
by the door. Home is coming
the way you feel a screw
in the wall begin to secure
and you lean, lean as you feel
it tighten. You’re holding too tight.
To let go now would be
A tiny death.
Poem 21: Daffodils & Wriggling / by Ava M. Hu and Soleil Piverger
Every Sunday for the month of February, poet Soleil Piverger and I write poems in conversation. Soleil is 15 years old and attends Saint Anne’s high school in Brooklyn, New York.
Sing or be recognized.
Your yellow fingers
burst into spring.
First love, return
bright lanterns, ageless
her flower duet,
currents of ascending
crimson seed of pomegranate,
shore in bloom,
dress made of fire
lifts me up-
The Statue of Liberty
flickers in the distance.
My feet in the tide
long past morning.
–Ava M. Hu
Sing or be recognized.
Hold me once I´m pruned
burst into spring
As you did my door
as lovers do. The bell´s
Clanged until I fell, a new bruise
My feet in the tide
I washed away, lost my pride
The Statue of Liberty
She watched as we climbed
flickers with light
Birds, we danced all night
Writing History / by Deborah Kelly
Lake where the moon folds
if only history were written in the dark,
salty flowers, peat fires,
Or as night’s weed-threaded water,
a history of touch:
clay, fur, web, stalk.
History’s too much machine oil
recorded under task light.
Cut the power off.
Still life / by Joanna Lee
A child’s pink coat, faded
and puffy, hangs
empty by its hood
on a crooked post
in a vacant lot,
limp in the cold
around, the dead
winter grass stands
on all sides glare
and tired, the type of place
where no one
sees anything. Traffic
stops at the light,
Slow afternoon sun
sinks without comment.
Dawn / by Kayla Long
They say it’s the darkest
Before the dawn breaks
It’s the hardest
Before a new day makes
I find it hard to believe
There is an end to what life takes
But maybe right now
I walk with longest shadows
Because the sun’s on the horizon
And daylight waits ahead
ASILOMAR / by Donnelle McGee
Here is my resting place.
Where pace slows and
Ocean rolls. Not to be stopped.
Spray of whitecaps holds soul.
No need to run.
No need to cling.
No need to fear.
Here is my resting place.
The Undiscovered Country / by Anna Priddy
Should also be a part of infinite space,
but that is the territory from which
no traveler returns, excepting those
two poets. I would go there for you, love.
Until China and Africa meet, ‘til
the seven stars go squawking, I go there
in my mind and seek you out. I cannot
find you. God knows, I cannot bring you back.
Those two, their beloveds, their art, even
so, could traverse and map the place, but failed
to bring anyone back. Could not overcome.
There is no looking back, but there’s the map,
the only map is cast into the past.
There is special providence in the fall
of a sparrow, like the fall of a tear.
Other people’s music / by Scott Williamson
1. The red-headed woodpecker
played a percussion solo
on the bare resonant
huckleberry tree in
the corner by Wagner’s
fake headstone, another
opera prop gone astray
he raps in quintuplets
he knocks he
beats like a drill
on this hollow
trunk, dead as
so let us go dancing
with Lenny on
the grave of
the Master of the Green Hill.
Is he piercing the
bird-brains of Dick’s
or was I day-
dreaming the Ring’s
twilight? Is this
the real world
or the Matrix
Poem 20 / Day 20
Timeless Day / by Gordon Adams
Could he sleep through the day?
The rising sun passing in, passing over,
head firmly tucked into the amber cotton pillowcase.
Fade to night, a solo trip he won’t see.
Someone else can feed the cat,
take the mandated blue trash bag to the curb
beside the grey recycling bin,
sentinels awaiting the insistent whine of the trash truck
as the stained grey metal blade sweeps it in
to embrace the neighbor’s detritus,
a week of pizza boxes and Amazon deliveries.
Let all of it pass unnoticed, for one day;
peanut butter on toast, one yellow scrambled egg,
brown shell cracked with just the right force
against the grill edge over the central burner.
Water from the gray metal kettle, whose whistle must stop
held by a hot pad for fear of a steam burn.
Tea lapping at the lip of the Brown Betty’s spout,
ancient relic from London long ago.
A cup of tea in a giant china cup from The Bean,
Not carefully steeped the English way
But bubbled to a deep brown by the microwave,
Milk added after, to make the Brits happy.
The short fork frothing the egg each morning
different only by the opportunities
offered by the spice shelf – ras el hanout or chipotle –
sprinkled from a recycled glass shaker,
all slid onto a white ceramic plate
with a nameless black dog outline in the center.
Dip a dropper into the bitter tinctures of Chinese herbs,
warding off stray pandemic particles that intrude his isolation;
mix the Asian powders in a glass whose yellow sides
erode with each washing of the plastic color.
Will he reach evening, once again forgetting the day,
only to begin again tomorrow?
Clear / by Peg Duthie
Oh, whom am I kidding? When I have ten
minutes at my fingertips, it’s not on Chinese
or Russian or any other workbook
waiting for the daydreamed dedication
I had thought I’d apply to it. Instead
I’m reaching for the vacuum, cursing
ad infinitum at how much hair we shed,
or being myself a mouth and a fan
gobbling up gossip and scattering heat
instead of smithing slugs into blades
or honing my handle on hacking.
I’d need a dozen lifetimes
to reckon with all the reading already
waiting for my retirement—
and how I am both an unprintable page
and the splendid streaks of Buckingham Fountain:
a plate in a book you may never open
or a wind from the east and the south
scalding you with the words of holy ghosts.
February 20 is National Clean Out Your Bookcase Day
Revolutionary Fractals / by Elizabeth Fields
Wadsworth A. Jarrell Sr., Albany, Georgia, 1929. Revolutionary. Color screen print on wove paper.
woven through the cries
of our Afro follicles
each strand a testament
curling through the blue
black of impassioned heat.
Colors rising, spiraling pink
and red amplify our voices
of struggle, of resistance.
Vibrancy frames collective
slogans because Black is
beautiful, is multifaceted
is everywhere. Black. Brown.
Born here. Our birth right
though we strain to hear
the chorus—a thousand voices
painted in unity singing our
praise songs in Technicolor
we are the superstars of our
own making. Keepers of this
place as we travel back home.
Weather / by Gaby Garcia
Takeout lunch is going to kill
the planet and the planet is going
to kill us. Do you like that
because sometimes I do—
Winter like a gauzy scarf
that can’t keep the heat in,
an ever-failing summer
collapsed in its own rot.
I am tired of each season’s
ill smile. I am tired
of politicians making
announcements in the snow,
playing rescue against
the big, orange sky.
Can you imagine
how exhausted the clouds
must be sweeping up
all that color. Trauma
is a riot, funny enough
to melt skin.
Shell Collector / by Ava M. Hu
Mornings I walk
a small beach spotted with shells.
So many shapes aand colors
it’s hard to name every one of them,
hard to name every emotion when you see a fish
glimmer just beneath water.
This is a different life.
Not one I regret
but somehow relish, unexpectedly.
Not a list I have to complete
today or the next. Just this
poem. Just the tiptoe
across the page.
Desert Comets / by Deborah Kelly
In the desert, comets,
because water is born at night.
Comets, when water is born.
From seeps, spirts trail
odor of rubbed silver
rather than rainfall.
Blistered tuff releases the floor.
The discrete springs,
awake as turquoise
Anibal / by Joanna Lee
i first met you in the procedure room, pale observer when they ground the 18-gauge into your hip, all the way to the marrow // i wondered then if anyone had ever told you the story of your name, how Hannibal was one of the greatest generals ever to swing a sword at the giant that was Rome, crossing the Alps into Italy with his elephants—both hero and underdog. still a student, i spent hours on the computer, learning the hard words in Spanish for things like morbidity and // chemotherapy and // acute lymphocytic leukemia but // only too late, having stumbled through the diagnosis of cancer as the only Spanish-mumbling somebody on the floor. Perdoname por eso; no fue a proposito even if i’d known // the right words, // how could they ever // possibly be right // to a sixteen-year-old boy // flown here because // you had a flu that wouldn’t // go away? my hands that fluttered nervously. the bruises on your hip. every day we talked: therapies and tests, tu iglesia y familia–never futuro. that month, i gave little fold-up valentines, the ones that kids give, to each of my patients on the hem-onc ward. the next month, you were gone: on to another wing, another hospital, and i was on to my next rotation. i wish // i could have told you about the elephants, how it was the fear, fear of that new and monstrous existence, that allowed Hannibal to crush the Romans. instead, every day for months, i lit a candle to San Judas Tadeo, // a slip of paper with your name // folded underneath.
Gem Stone / by Kayla Long
Moonlight sonnet #3
Gem stones and gold glinting in her hair
Gowns of silk and tulle with swishing skirts
Gardens deserted in the silver moonlight
Stairways to run down, dangers to flirt
Engraved dagger hidden in a sleeve
Cloaks covering stab and slash
Secluded staircase back way passages
Pacing under stars, waiting for backlash
Snatched conversation while you waltz
Threats and jibes passed back and fourth
Crowns and countries stand to be swayed
Wine glasses shattered, try to find north
What will you do with the pieces at your feet
Luxury as a price you must meet
LONGBOARDING AT 6AM / by Donnelle McGee
my daughter is 19 today
and so we skate
purple blue blooming sky lights our way
as sun begins to arrive
i watch her glide on her longboard
see that smile
and i am reminded that
she is okay
i let go
as she rolls away
her left foot
leaving the board to gather speed
as i watch her find
A Mote it is to Trouble the Mind’s Eye, II / by Anna Priddy
But to see him here as he was in life
is a remarkable thing all the same.
A dream itself is but a shadow, no
substance to be found. Reaching out you find
your hand passes through. And we do not know
what dreams may come, nor can we bid this one
stay, or seek the place where it may be found.
Whether under the cold, unyielding ground,
in the firmament, a dimension slipped
just beyond this one, matters not to me.
What matters is that I cannot touch him.
Green Harmony Lesson / by Scott Williamson
Poem 19 / Day 19
Le cancre / originally by Jacques Prévert*, translated by Gordon Adams
Il dit non avec la tête
mais il dit oui avec le cœur
il dit oui à ce qu’il aime
il dit non au professeur
il est debout
on le questionne
et tous les problèmes sont posés
soudain le fou rire le prend
et il efface tout
les dates et les noms
les chiffres et les mots
les phrases et les pièges
et malgré les menaces du maître
sous les huées des enfants prodiges
avec les craies de toutes les couleurs
sur le tableau noir du malheur
il dessine le visage du bonheur.
*First published in Paroles (Gallimard, 1949)
translated by Gordon Adams
His head tells him no
but his heart says yes
yes to what he loves
no to the teacher
he is questioned
the problem is laid out
then with a sudden insane laugh
he erases all of it
the dates and the names
the numbers and the words
the sentences and the pitfalls
despite the teacher’s threats
ignoring the smart kids’ scorn
using every color of chalk
on the unhappy blackboard
he draws the face of happiness.
Bounce / by Peg Duthie
These are dark days, yet the deep
and crisp and even snow
is serving up sunlight
like a photographer’s floordrop.
No wonder skiers
and snowboarders look so healthy,
glowing from phones and albums
but today I am also dwelling upon
bodies at the foot of cliffs—
not Icarus gamboling too close to a star
but men whom neither friendship nor skill
could save from feeling yanked around by fate.
One was renowned for astonishing grace:
to dance to his direction
was to swirl and to sparkle
within a human constellation—
paths and places precisely fixed
yet pulsing with the wild energy
of wishes soaring through seasons and centuries.
To yearn, to tumble, to fail—these aren’t new
and neither is to lose: I once knew a man
with a shy, sweet smile
who had a gift for making light curve
and caress the corners of stages.
We spent a lot of time on ladders,
hauling up lamps and coaxing wires to connect
to switchboards and speakers.
I wasn’t in his orbit when he disappeared.
It’s not a regret—it wasn’t up to me—
but it stays with me as a sorrow.
I gaze out at the bright expanse of snow,
the bite of the air reminding me how
we laughed and swore in our too-thin coats
up and down 57th Street as Chicago’s
gales relentlessly shoved us sideways.
There’s music you would like,
and still stars to wish upon,
so how I wish you were still here to see them.
The body of choreographer Philippe Callens was found three days ago.
Today is National Tug of War Day.
This poem is in memory of Adam K. Powers (1972–2001).
Untitled / by Elizabeth Fields
Jean-Michel Basquiat 1960-1988. Warrior, 1982, acrylic, oil stick and spray paint on wood panel.
Two days ago the art world
was all in a buzz. Your Warrior
is to be the most expensive
western art work auctioned
$31 to $41 million the article
said. It is 2021, your time here
cut less than three decades. Cuts
through the canvas of our decadence.
The warrior always wears
his armor. Always keeps
his light sword close. Stands
in position. The foundation
of his soul exposed for the world
to auction blues always in the back
ground white slashes through
the dark night of retched you
flickers through Fibonacci
swirls, squiggles through
the kind of pain that clenches
teeth in a grimace hell bent to fuel
the red in your eyes the hatchet
ready to pierce through all these
versions of these gnarly
skyscrapers of the mind get stuck
in the funk, in the stick figures
pretending to be on top.
It takes about 21 days
of daily use to become addicted
to whatever substance takes one
out of this experience. Is it the
torture of being a warrior where
snakes slither between eye sockets
of our perception while watching
wars waged for a millennia?
The progression notched in like
dull knife marks on bed posts.
The gradual decline of
a reality in our own making.
Classof1994 “I am going to give my
nephew some paint and a canvas.
Let it dry up and hang it in my living.
Anyone asks I am going to say it’s
a Basquiet. “ And from disqus_run
You’re simple and your nephews
art will be just as simple. Just as
simple as this life. Hang it up in
my living…this painting is “simply
a masterpiece,” and Albu goes on,
“in 1982 he was at the height
of his artistic power. “ Your power—
energy sprays forth paint on wood
panels of hope and remembrances
kingdoms long ago crumbled into
rubble on roadsides. Under bridges.
Wedged deep in ancestor memory of
your warrior can never be understood
by anyone over the age of reason
and under the skin of those outlandish
ghosts rotting in skull heads dancing
in memory of your 27 year becoming.
Body Transcription / by Gaby Garcia
bright green walls and the marble counter
in my hip crease as I leaned against it
to spit in the sink. He said I’m sick of being
a virgin. I had nicked my Achilles’ tendon
shaving and it wouldn’t stop bleeding
went to the Renoir exhibit the next day,
watched the women in their lushness,
curled against lakes and sky. We slept
in the attic that night. I wore rhinestone
route 22, route 10, cabin fever
green walls just watched—
I didn’t feel anything
I was a fucking pet
Sparrows / by Ava M. Hu
Language of myth or love
in the sound of rain.
Our hands in the folds
of the mountains.
We bow under
the weight of water.
Don’t tell me about
the winter to come.
Let me sing songs
in the mountains.
Let me summon
Neighbors Shovel / by Deborah Kelly
Good snow! Been a long drought, I said.
Remember when we used to leave our cars
to warm up in exhaust plumes, in idle?
Half of what we know is less than half of what’s real,
she said, as a layer of snow slid off an ice layer
between snow layers on the fence rail.
Tantalizing formula, I replied.
But what we know we often express
in action and effects.
True, some knowledge is indirect:
a clock-face for the experience of time,
a speedometer to steer a curve on four tires.
Yesterday the snow was scant and wet,
today it is knee-deep and flossy.
Consider, how snow reflects
an act of deception or the mind of denial.
Andromeda / by Joanna Lee
Hope is Dangerous / by Kayla Long
People say Hope is
One of our greatest gifts
The thing with feathers
Our spirits it lifts
Pandora might have released
The demons one an all
But at least we have hope
To cushion our fall
I see something
Not quite the same
Hope is a thing
That cannot be tame
And not in a way
That is dancing and light
It is more of a danger
Of fearing and fight
It’s hard to explain
With out feeling it first
The falling of hope
Can make any heart burst
The worst part is
You’re never through
Because hope is addictive
Every part of it too
You get so high on
The needs, the wants
You block out reality
And all of her taunts
So next time you find yourself saying
I hope that is true
Remember usually it ends
With you black and blue
each morning there is an opening
Nobody’s Poem, a Ghazal / by Scott Williamson
Once, I thought I would turn into somebody,
until I found I’d grown up a nobody.
Had I grown up, changing thoughts into bodies
or were these daydreams a trick of Nobody?
Lore-filled tales spun from books and bodies filled
sci-fi nights we dreamt we had no bodies.
A voice whispers from the cracked-open closet,
waif-spirit essence with no form, no body.
Ur-Father can’t face the comic-book bodies.
Now somebody wishes he were nobody.
Once upon time I turned into somebody:
he escaped, scot-free. Who am I? Nobody.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Desormais / by Gordon Adams
Walking through the Gare du Nord under grey metal arches,
The rhythmic churn of the engines evaporating in the hall.
Slowly, the train moves north
through the drab industrial wasteland toward Lille.
Quadrilingual instructions at every window of the couchette car
E’ pericoloso sporgersi
Prière de ne pas se pencher au dehors,
Please do not lean out the window,
Firm German instruction:
Lean out and you will lose your head to the wooden poles whipping by.
A head already lost, left behind on the Marseille platform
where the brick corners of the stucco station wall
held their place as fingers let go between the train, moving on,
And the earth, standing still.
The entrails of memory strung along the tracks,
each clickety thump a cascade fading into the past
down the dark tunnel of recollection.
Now, in the green couchette, layered passengers
lie tiered, three to a side on banquettes
in the dark.
Through the window, an early riser on his velo Solex
putts steadily toward his early factory shift.
A young woman, écharpe de soie over her head,
(certainly not Hermes), her high heels hammering
hastens toward the boulangerie to be certain
the baguettes, croissants, and pain au chocolat
are be ready for the petit déjeuner.
Plain, cream-colored factory back walls slide by;
the winter grass sleeps brown on the hills
between blurred rows of dappled plane trees
lining the roads.
A cold sliver of sun at the horizon
brings a touch of light to the terracotta rooftiles,
promising another day.
The train wheels sing
from now on, from now on, from now on.
Tug / by Peg Duthie
A mere year ago, I’d just gotten home
from my big brother’s marriage celebration
and even though a rumble of trouble
had already reached my desktop
I’d kept my spreadsheets open, pushing
ahead with plans to sip rosé
on windowseats and riverbanks
from Boston Harbor to Charleston,
flying kites and paddling kayaks
down the Atlantic coast. I’d dreamed
of scribbling cards from bingo dives
and rest stops, of turning yellowed pages
seasoned with both sand and breadcrumbs,
butter and lipstick staining the rim of my glass.
It would have been the kind of trip
where on a middle half-baked day
I would’ve had to abandon getting lost
because my phone hadn’t recharged enough
for me to wander at will without a cord.
These days all my dancing depends
on mics and headphones and codes.
Corrections boomed from miles away
don’t have the pull of expert hands
directly coaxing my arms to comprehend
how it feels to form a true circle
nor can the airwaves transmit the cluster
of cocky and clueless miscalculations
that add up to near-misses. One closed door
or if that motorboat hadn’t happened by
to pull me back to my runaway board
and I’d be a corpse in Jerusalem
or Percy Priest Lake. I believe
in travel, in how leaving home
makes me more grounded—down-to-earth—
because more sky means wider perspectives
but now I also know how much
depends on staying tethered to one’s post
until the wind dies down.
February 18 is National Drink Wine Day, National Battery Day, and National Crab Stuffed Flounder Day.
Respite / by Elizabeth Fields
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), Dreams No. 2, 1965, tempera on fiberboard.
to a dream?
through the color
of one’s skin.
Do I get a respite?
A moment to sit back
and stare. Experience
What it’s like to wake
up and have noting
but the self.
of who contributes
in this world
a person to lift up
to love, just to help
for Christ’s sake
the calloused heart
of scrubbing, polishing
someone else’s Illusion.
Self Portrait as OCD / by Gaby Garcia
the planetary wound,
the raw world
spinning on a lone
of air and space—
too close—not close
bodies loose and lit up
my two green eyes
in the mirror
wide and drinking
the world in—
I am a child—
of the unending—
I am afraid.
Seabird / by Ava M. Hu
Chanting and tobacco.
Yellow heads of wood violets,
of tiger lily.
Your pointer finger
on two merging planets.
Her hooves crush
How desire is pulled
by leaf fall.
It’s nothing compared to you.
Chanting and tobacco.
she runs fast as a deer.
What god thinks they are
more powerful than desire?
Your hands rise
like a seabird.
Languages / by Deborah Kelly
Everything looks and tastes differently
when thought has different sounds.
At times, rather than under a tree,
I’d sit under an arbol,
its arms around, a bowl of boughs.
Any language is a microcosm.
Words skid to a stop,
palabras roll on a tongue.
I walk down the street or camino por la calle.
I escribo en mi cama or write in bed.
In a foreign country, I’m like a child,
seeing everyone’s vulnerabilities,
listening-in on couples and crowds.
I taste each item on handwritten menus.
I forget to bite-to-bits the words in my mouth.
Pantoum, Early Lent / by Joanna Lee
It is so quiet tonight, the world with its held breath,
waiting for the exhale of snow. There is
mourning all around, no good news on any channel.
Our eyes tuned to the glow,
we wait for the threat of snow they say is to come,
stay up too late watching for tomorrow.
Our eyes are glued to the glow, tuned
like new seedlings toward any promise of light.
We stay up too late waiting for tomorrow,
our eyes dropped with sleep when it finally comes.
Like new seedlings, we are buried promises in daylight,
wear hope in the dark of our hearts.
Our eyes are studded with sleep even when day comes,
the light of morning all around: still no good news on any channel.
We tuck hope in the dark of our hearts
like a quiet night, a world yet holding its breath.
Swings / by Kayla Long
Since I was young I have had an affinity for swings
Always on the playground, they would be my first stop
Maybe it is the pendulum motion that calms my thoughts
Or the wind in my hair that makes me cast my lots
Back and fourth, up and down
Soothing my anxiety in which I drown
I still love to swing
But now I look for longer cables
To throw me higher
And reach for the stars
TRAINS AND STARS / by Donnelle McGee
Let touch renew our bodies.
Fragile bodies of yesterday
Retracted, disappearing within screens.
Now, we hear trains.
Their steel wheels a beautiful grind
Two bodies that were left.
And too, there are stars
Outside our bedroom window;
We see them now.
Their soft, white-blue shine
Above us as our bodies touch.
A Mote it is to Trouble the Mind’s Eye / by Anna Priddy
Surrounding all sides of the world’s prison,
dropping over us like freezing rainfall,
insinuating itself between sheets,
worming its way into bodies wishing
for dreamless sleep, the ghost of our father
spreads its arms. What to make of the vision?
A harbinger it must be, but of what?
The unthinkable that seeks out us all,
here in full battle dress, its full powers.
Closing the eyes does not will it away.
Does it mean the entire kingdom will fall?
As far as ourselves are concerned, it does.
Deep Time / by Scott Williamson
(inspired by the music of Harrison Birtwistle, b. 1934)
How still the wave-pulse
in the bat-
where blank pages
haunt the study
Poem 17 / Day 17
Mind and Body / by Gordon Adams
Up the stone-strewn path
to the deep, green-black
in the Sierra foothills,
each step a rattler peril
but certain, secure.
Climb the pine in front of
the white clapboard home
On Magnolia Street,
one branch at a time
far past human height.
Sit, at one with the tree.
Crab-walk down rocks at Mohonk
in winter; ice in abundance.
Four points of contact,
moving one appendage at a time
steady, feeling, knowing
Flying down the backwoods road
in the Delaware Water Gap
at a run, each foot finds its place;
a gazelle at play,
over the stones, the grassy weeds
past the scrub pines
Racewalk up Mount Lassen.
Rising 2000 feet and 2.5 miles long.
Reverse, the run back down
one stable heel at a time,
at one with the rhythm
of each step.
Kayak under the cribstone bridge
between Orr’s and Bailey’s Islands,
six inches above the ocean’s control,
one with the boat; one with
the waves, the wind,
the current, the tide.
Walk half a mile from the house
to Maine Street.
Caution in every hesitant step.
Pain is now the teacher.
Resistance only harshens it.
Acceptance the only option.
Twenty Seconds / by Peg Duthie
The time it takes
to play through the start
of “Für Elise”
or carol through
the first two verses
of “My Favorite Things”
is how long it takes
to get your hands clean
as a matter
and as a matter
the pigs to become
your breakfast should
be getting twenty seconds
of focused devotion
and twenty seconds
is how much time
a superglue needs
to staunch a wound
that is small and clean
in theory, at least.
So much depends
on so many things
beyond the reach
of our just-washed hands
and the hands of the clock
through a twenty thousand-ands
On February 17, 2002, Michael Leidig reported in The Telegraph a new regulation in a western region of Germany, requiring pig farmers to look at each animal in their care for 20 seconds every day. According to a later article in the Wall Street Journal, the decree became known as the Kuschelregel (cuddle rule).
Light Mirrors the Soul / by Elizabeth Fields
Shape-Shifter / by Ava M. Hu
Mountain. Red earth.
Go there on your knees.
We are vortexes.
Turning wheels in temples.
Leaving relics. Memory.
We are weightless.
Words they listen
to red earth, the heart
makes no decision
to leave or stay
here in the red rain.
Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Altitudes we cross over
delicate and fragrant
as madonna lilies
in the churchyard
in the lap of the blue saint.
We are repetitions.
Promises of mountain.
Keepsakes of river.
Altars of everything.
Everything turns itself
February / by Deborah Kelly
I can read outdoor temperatures
by the sound of road-snow under tires.
Today’s low-octave styrofoam sounds
slowly crushed, and a muted squeak.
Long winter sequester,
curtains and skimmed-milk for sky,
skimmed milk for skin,
and pile of steamed dumplings.
To get by, I conjure up July by
thinking of ripe corn.
From the field, ears of corn,
fire-roasted in their husks—
summer’s butter, Meso-American gold,
tasseled aboriginal majesty.
They don’t need anything,
not even salt.
I worship plants: tomato and chile.
I also worship rocks and trees,
my neighborhood creek.
I’m happy with this,
and thinking of summer’s butter,
as I wait for the south-facing
icicles to drip.
Ash Wednesday, 2021 / by Joanna Lee
A friend tries to teach me to meditate: to set
my emotions on a quiet road & watch them go. I miss
the wistful optimism of prayer beads, soft monotone
of a different kind of decade. I am still angry
with the same anger at forty that I was at fourteen,
my body a thing the world is determined never to let be mine.
blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit…
Each emotion visualized a separate color,
a point of focus, something to watch fade.
We all used to be better Catholics, didn’t we?
our wombs a brighter pink, our self-
worth so much more easily muted.
In the city, there are drive-bys
setup for the imposition of ashes
between noon and six, put on by a local church.
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the stigma
of sinner. Maybe I’ll just go, practice
watching the cars pass by, count
the traffic light changes like beads on a chain.
All that anger a physical darkness
Q-tipped on my forehead. Mother
of God, pray for us…
My hands cold, curled in fists.
My womb growling like a wild thing.
Roses / by Kayla Long
I like to grow roses
In my little garden bed
When they bloom it is
A cascade of pink and white and red
Up the trellis
I let them grow a little wild
But I do take care of them
And keep their branches filed
When a branch starts to fade
I struggle with the thoughts that fill my head
Do I cut away the branch
And leave it for dead
Or do I try to save it
Nurse it back to health
Bring it back to life
Return it to wealth
The problem really is
If I don’t cut it away
There is a possibility
It harms the branches that stay
So I fight with the possibility
Of saving a branch in spite of the rest
Or protecting most by abandoning one
My life is full of times and test
STOCKTON TO VEGAS / by Donnelle McGee
Never an ending
New beginnings fuel spirit
When I hear the reasons
Time to put self at the forefront
So that life does not
Settle the soul
In your journey
Where you hold red clay in hands
Walking a path of your choosing
Feel where body guides
More than Kin and Less than Kind / by Anna Priddy
They say there is nothing good or bad but
thinking makes it so. Yet, there are bad things,
aren’t there? Don’t let me come too close to it—
Family is a nightmare to escape,
if escape were possible. In one way
the mind can arrange it, and distance, death,
but not really. It’s a double-helixed
rune, a Larkinian shelf, a cage
of blood and bone, a story written down.
It is, mostly, a trap. A conclusion.
Think your way out of it. Move far away.
Die, if you will, but it is still all yours,
as sure as a sword striking its appointed
mark, stage directions playing themselves out.
Orestes at Delphi / by Scott Williamson
They looked at me
like I was crazy.
A stranger in town
swatting invisible flies
cursing gods no
one believed in.
Would they listen to my tale?
Like an avenger
I killed our mother
and her lover-tool
heedless of the furies.
Sister’s purblind rage
brought courage and dread
in equal draughts. She
danced herself to death
as soon as I left. The house
of Atreus is crumbling
like my head. They’re
torturing me again,
their voices pierce
my brain like hat pins.
The “doer of deeds” will
soon be done in.
Poem 16 / Day 16
Canine Journey / by Gordon Adams
(for Abby & J/LB)
Fear; the snout of a nameless dog
that knocked the two-year old toddler
to the ground.
He was large and I was very small,
each new encounter
Imprinting a life lesson.
Fear; the squinting
old fart in his rocker,
and the German Shephard
he sicced on me with a finger snap
as I cycled past
on the only road
to the schoolhouse gate.
Biting my flashing heels,
He would only stop
When I fell to the curb.
I could sense his satisfied grin
And his owner’s satisfaction
That he could control my fear.
Love, the love for my light brown
Cocker Spaniel puppy, Uno,
who licked his returned affection,
until he was carried home one day
in a cardboard box, entrails exposed,
struck by a car, breaking my love in two.
Fear compounded, as Mädchen
the Shephard barked and scratched
at the metal door of Roger’s apartment
when I arrived and pinned me,
circling my chair, daring me to rise,
growling with menace.
Acceptance; a fragile unfolding
the day the Doberman, Luna, visited
my apartment on West End Avenue,
ate Smithfield ham from my hand
and ever after, when she was walked
would turn at my entrance for more.
Trust, as the Pit Bull
guarding the computer shop
from behind the counter
on Georgia Avenue.
asked for a nose rub and a treat.
Safe to reach out; safe to touch.
Then love; she had to be a Border Collie,
the most beautiful dog I ever met.
Long nose, pointed short ears, and the perfect name.
As Louis B. Mayer said of his new discovery,
“It was her eyes; I can make a star out of her.”
Garbo was the star in my eyes.
She walked, pranced, with regal abandon
down cobbled Prague streets.
Cuddled, insecure, needy, even fearful.
But how could I not love after
one glance from those almond eyes.
Lightening Up / by Peg Duthie
Last week’s batch of pancakes
was fluffy af—and didn’t taste right.
Too much cream of tartar, or soda?
Jesus, it’s hard to get things right
even after the first cup of coffee.
Let’s not even start on how
the ancestors’ ghosts are wailing at me
about the receipts I’ve just thrown out
from 2008, or the cupful of unpopped
kernels from 2012, or the dingy slipper
whose mate has been AWOL since 2016.
Days like this, I realize it’s a miracle
how we end up with room to move at all.
Never mind the promise of rising from the dead—
what’s here, it’s immense.
Help me make it real as bread.
Courage / by Elizabeth Fields
Grafton Tyler Brown (American, 1841–1918) Sailboat on a Mountain Lake, oil on canvas
this journey is
be too choppy,
but in this
left to climb.
to find your
gone to no mans
land, in search
of what speaks
most to your heart.
Early Evening Drive / by Gaby Garcia
The car groans up a hill in the winter sun,
a girlish voice on the radio. I am not used to
the world anymore, and it is not used to me—
two strangers we stare each other down.
Best to stay inside, where the sharp edges
of the mind can cut their own cold—sculptural
pain awash in the mirrors, the refrigerator light,
the unused shoes stacked by the door. Instead,
I steer toward the most biting corners of Brooklyn,
where even the rivers and trees look like industrial
shrines. But I am the bad neighborhood—I am
making wrong turns and flicking the volume up
until it cracks open into a static flower.
Poem Fifteen: Notes from an Italian Journal / by Ava M. Hu
The architecture of time passing.
She from the halved shell.
Am I always making my way to this field?
Placement of the I among the I of things.
One learns the balance of two feet.
Rib stacked upon rib makes a fine replication.
There were many bodies you inhibited before this.
A handful of wildflowers will suffice
Understand me when I was just a fragrant wind, a ghost.
Annunciation, the lily of a god or a ghost who would come into your body.
How often I would wait at an empty table for a good song to be sung.
How long did the god have to wait for the universe to be recognized within you?
Death to the flower goddess.
You, soft-hearted with the miraculous.
These are dictations of the sea.
The light of our little lives fused somewhere.
Naming of fruits and flowers.
The uncarved stone that holds the masterpiece within it.
The moment you discover it is a god who emanates from your hands.
We framed with light; what is subtracted from the form, what is added to the negative space.
The violin is such a haunting ghost.
Key West / by Deborah Kelly
I walked the gutter from Jack’s Bar
to Hemingway’s villa. I tried,
but couldn’t imagine
him crawling home.
Writing well’s harder than hunting.
We can say he did both standing up.
I stood by his desk: high, narrow,
in a wide-open room,
a lecture hall—for concision.
I could hear the sweat drip,
the sands shift, the rifle be cocked.
Monstero Delicioso lifted their leaves
around the blue pool, lacking its rich and fey.
Cats with six toes on each paw.
I heard he was tender as an oyster
being washed down quick.
I may complain too much.
So I went down to the ocean,
waded with the rays who swim like kelp,
tried to see at least one pelican,
how any times in a mile, if at all, they’d flap.
Cool sea grapes, gentle sea oats,
Dehiscence / by Joanna Lee
–for D., as promised
Sometimes all it takes is the slightest pressure.
The smallest lapse in communication
between two bodies, a miscalculation of angle
or look or force. The whole world wears genes
frayed at their edge: barely breathing disturbs
the cadence of waterfalls, the equilibria of
countries crisscrossed by suture lines & stapled shut
by hands who never studied anatomy.
Listen: no wonder the view through the windshield
is dark and out of focus. Everything trickles down.
The sky barely misting, the gunshots closer to home,
my father in his faraway wood forgetting
the phone on the bathroom sink. Listen.
Distance is a tricky thing.
Who’s picking up when you’re calling?
What names do you cry out to the starless night?
This is where it begins again. You and the rain,
the songs you choose to sing when no one else hears.
Breaking open, your body
spilling its secrets all over the driver’s seat.
You see? It doesn’t always smell like death.
The burn in the back of the throat says something
is changing, that it’s ok to come apart
before we are put back together.
Outlast / by Kayla Long
From my mind, sometimes I slip
And it’s as if the world gave a flip
I lay on the floor, lights blurring
A beacon through fog, gently whirring
I am looking thought frosted glass
The people on the other side pass
It is just a blur of movement
I try to look for improvement
But the world is spinning so fast
I just close my eyes hoping to outlast
THERE ARE NO TAKE BACKS / by Donnelle McGee
the slow sway of the birch
reminds me of steps
into rooms i enter
rooms of red steel coolness
stiff shoes on stained carpet
and touch from another does
little to numb
there are no take backs
when intimacy eludes self
even when it is all done
one can not touch the other
as touched before
that touch will
always feel unfelt
there are no take backs
be careful with body
be careful with words
there are no take backs
even when the other
humanity expects more
and loss can be gain
and gain can be loss
like the birch
continue to sway and
in order to
We Defy Augury / by Anna Priddy
Today is all coated in ice, slickly
dangerous and dripping. Would that each drop
foretold an ending. Or a beginning.
But that downward motion tends to the ground,
where all things end. I count myself among
the lucky ones. Nothing can touch me here.
I am the fattened calf, the golden child,
forever beautiful, the thing itself.
That’s one version. You can find another
by asking someone else. Repeatedly,
as a child, I was warned about getting
above my raising. And then once told cream
cannot help but rise to the very top.
There may be another version written
in the stars, or in the Master’s great book,
the one that subtracts out agency.
A forgone conclusion. I cannot say.
Sonnet for an Artist: Marian Anderson Poster in Greenwich Village (1951) / by Scott Williamson
(after Beauford Delaney, and for Ted)
from Sonnets for Summer past and future
In your shape-shift-ode to city and song,
the singer tops a Duchamp staircase of
music staff-lines, presides over a scene
D.A.R. denied her in Jim Crow’s home.
Fruit-slice moon shines in oil; a lamp-quartet
spots the Diva. Green blue orange night lights,
color show canopy over Langston’s
dreaming streets. Village in the Renaissance,
where Africa and opera queer the
color lines and pitch a spectral rainbow.
How “strange” then, Sun and Moon, 20 years on
looks. “Vision” or “madness?” Why is that still
the question? Artaud rants for Vincent. Your
voices weave the golden thread’s mosaic.
Poem 15 / Day 15
The Ides of February / by Peg Duthie
Today began with ten kinds of mess
before it even got going, but also
with twenty kinds of possibility.
Today is for buying chocolate on sale
if you love chocolate or sales enough
to brave black ice and contagion
or if you had to report to work
or if you’re trying to stretch two dollars
into twenty. Whether the beans
roasted or saved are your jolt
of mental medication or to pacify
after-school appetites, I am not
the police of diet or grammar,
but I do judge if you shriek SAVE THE BABIES
while herding the hapless and homeless toward hell
and if you cheered Kaep’s career getting kneecapped
while slobbering all over Putin’s boots.
Today is not the Ides of the month:
Roman days had a different flow
just as we joke-not-joke about how
the plague’s infected our sense of time
and it is not a joke these days
about how many entertain dictatorship
with all the vicious glee of Fulvia
stabbing Cicero’s tongue with a pin.
We are none of us safe from conspirators
or the civil wars they choose
and in their choosing doom us all
to decades more of strife and strain
but then, that was the ever after all along:
cruelty baked into our hymnals’ chords
and truths never held as universal
but these are also woven into psalm and command:
you do not get to wimp out of the story
even if you won’t make it to the end.
Every last sparrow putting its weight
on the ancient branch will bend it closer.
Hands of Grace / by Elizabeth Fields
Henry Ossawa Tanner, Hand of Henry O. Tanner, ca. 1930, conte crayon on paper.
Creation of presence
To caste out
and cleanse the soul.
There are landscapes
in your hands
down to moments
sketched in graphite
of inspired action.
Even your tools,
manifested of need
grades of harshness.
and the desire to create,
of your survival.
have a touch of grace.
Christ runs through fingertips
your light in the world.
Dog Poem / by Gaby Garcia
He was curled into a pool of gray light.
That’s the way I would like to go, too—aching
to kiss everyone in the room, even the doctor
with her sticky plastic hands. I hope people
tell me I have been good, I could not have been
any better, as I wear a soft necklace with my
name and number. Let me out to lick the rain
in the softening hours as my eyes go dark
like plums left too long in the bowl.
Eclipse / by Ava M. Hu
If you feel afraid
cry wolf. Shoot
arrows at the moon.
Blood is like a parachute.
We are obscured by light.
Body minus body.
Armatures. Binaries. Equations.
I call you my other half.
My swallowing mouth.
My moon eat sun.
Pleasure of root finding root.
Day birds stay silent.
Night crickets feast
on the fruit of the night.
Sea creatures rise
to the surface
and sink back down again.
Look at me.
Look at me.
Look at me.
As if I were hands
pulling you out
of the dark.
Bonsai / by Deborah Kelly
My feet are at least ninety years old.
They had baby fat once,
then were sculpted by ballet,
by cumbia & salsa in tight-toed suede,
by running seventy-mile weeks training
for fifty-mile races over rocks,
by four pregnancies and heavy packs.
Their graceful veins and cultivated calluses.
Since the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
they’ve been knobby-jointed, with skinny bones.
Close to home / by Joanna Lee
It’s one of those things
we never talk about.
how the drip of ice
melting in the dark falls
like the saddest rain—some line
from Neruda, some trigger
how the glistened drops die
a thousand small deaths,
shudder drying on black asphalt,
become the tracks of another
Chicago greyhound midnight
skidding into tomorrow.
we do this: change the pronouns,
lay the lines down like sheets
to soften our endings,
and break and break
until we are more wound than muscle,
held together by thread not our own.
close to unwinding, we pass grief like a bottle,
leaving the thaw to find us on wet knees.
Endings / by Kayla Long
There is the everlasting wish
To know you’re living in the moments
That you’ll look back upon
And think that was the height of my life
It’s the desperate feeling of
Wanting- no needing to find out
What happens next
But the exponential dreed of
Reaching the end of the book
It’s the reason a happy ending
Is still melancholy
Because no matter how you spin it
And everyone gets everything they ever wanted
It is still and ending
It’s the reason that beginnings
Are just as bad
You know at some point
They turn into endings
Under the scrutiny of time
But trust me, when I tell you
It doesn’t get better,
But you can find beauty here and now
And maybe someday the dull ache
Will just remind you- you have lived
ORCHID / by Donnelle McGee
On her return blooms
soften edges of despair
her rebirth divine
A Prince out of your Star / by Anna Priddy
This is the very ecstasy of love,
that shutters the eyes to better breathe you
in and exalts at the scent and the sound,
breath comingling. Your air should be my air.
Out of orbit and out of reach, above
and not below me. I cannot see you,
but I saw you once, and that was enough.
A Poem for Nerval’s 222nd birthday / by Scott Williamson
(a cento of titles from Philip Levine and Frank Bidart)
The white city in another country
The future you gave more than
By the waters of the first hour of the night
In the book of the body ruin
Now hate and love in your hand
Remain another life
To the dead Self-portrait
Guilty dark night of dust
The lost names of the arc
The sacrifice of love and other disasters
News of the world language problem
Elegy during the war
Burial rites by these waters
Two magic voices
the death of –
the heart of –
The music of time.
Poem 14 / Day 14
Memories of Love / by Gordon Adams
I love you;
I understand you;
We need no words.
I get you, without words.
Only children think that.
No, love is an audacious journey
two people take on a road
to recognition, somewhere
down the line,
after the party is over.
It comes, if it comes, after we have
Shouted at each other
About serious matters,
Like whose job it is
To clean the toilets.
I humiliated you.
You humiliated me.
Not with sweetness,
Or patient understanding.
We would never tolerate that
With our own children.
We bend to them
Reality: we are both
hard to comprehend;
hard to tolerate;
hard to accept.
I’m quite tricky,
you should have said.
I am lonely most of the time;
And only partially acceptable
The rest of the day.
So leave me alone,
most of the time.
Love transubstantiated somewhere
From the time we held hands,
sealed our intimacy
with a kiss.
With a mating of two
facial appendages that open
our souls, our insides,
put our essential being at risk
to each other.
An act we would never
do with some stranger
In the subway,
Passing in the office
or on a street corner.
Love, ah, yes, love
is the ultimate
genuflection of acceptance
before the imperfection of
another human being.
As Cowards Remain, So Dumb and Grayer Gray / by Peg Duthie
Three cheers for the schoolgirl
waltzing with the moon
even when the rabbit band
bounces out of tune.
Three cheers for the neighbor
serving tea to bears
even when the soufflés
prompt a flood of tears.
Three cheers for the feathers
brushing clouds from glass
even though the smudges
mock our time in class.
Three cheers for the activists
speaking truth to power
even when the fascists
lie through every hour.
Three cheers for the gardeners
tending to the flowers.
Three cheers for the pastors
tending wounds from wars.
Three cheers for the law clerks,
the kneelers and the fighters,
the managers and line cooks,
the nurses and the writers.
That Blue Kinda Blues / by Elizabeth Fields
Beauford Delaney, Can Fire in the Park, 1946, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum,
My eye is drawn to the blue
applied in strokes of inspired
motion that forms like blue
rising to meet the sea. Beings,
some with arms crossing over
armored hearts, others, captivated
by the energy, tend a can fire
sits central with crackle shades
of orange and red burn with electric
frequency cast shadows off arrows
showing any which way one wants
to go to perhaps the many moons of
maybe other orange yellow lights
cascading through lamp posts.
The radiant swirls of that East Coast
Swing vibrates through the canvas
a tabula rasa, a some kind of togetherness
camaraderie created of need warms that
blue kinda blues dancing off into the night.
Poem Fourteen: Balcony / by Ava M. Hu and Soleil Piverger
Every Sunday for the month of February, poet Soleil Piverger and I write poems in conversation. Soleil is 15 years old and attends Saint Anne’s high school in Brooklyn, New York.
Found poem from Romeo + Juliet Scene II. Capulet’s Orchard + Soleil Piverger’s Poem Balcony
Inklings swell on
the window pane.
Hieroglyphics of hope.
Portends and predictions.
Dew trickles down glass.
kneel beneath your footsteps.
My chamber speaks
in riddles and rhymes,
the flutter of bees
in the knots of flowers
you climb to the balcony.
Balcony of a million
days and nights I would
baptize the air
you push against.
Bright sail of the sun, our faces
pressed towards the east.
Would we be faster
I would be the eulogy
and the resurrected.
Romeo appears at the window.
Even the stars lean in to listen.
On a window pane
Can’t feel sane
These nights, they´re always the same
Claimed a difference
Now we´re here, different sides of
The fence, there´s no more time to lament
Begin my descent, rabbit hole
My limbs paid the toll
Swayed, thrown back and forth
Slam the door, still breathing
Hit the floor, thoughts seeping
Cleaning my sores
Kissing, kneeling, surrounding
The ground: my chamber
Sang my only song
Stopped mid walk
Your clues, clung swaying on mute
Wished to symphonies
Blew my horn, swimming out through
killed night, scrounged through three slouched storms adorned
Clearing my headaches, closing doors
Plowed through clocks not sought
Chased, sips crawl up throats
gasping for air, my knocked drink soaked
Hit the floor, thoughts seeping
Piling up corridors
Simply a clash
A well being, lovingly crashed
Sympathized it developed its commute
1st Villanelle / by Deborah Kelly
In Defense of Curiosity
Curiosity killed the cat, he said,
a dullish, rigid intercept.
Whose cat & whose curiosity?
The cat slunk below a boxwood row,
yowled like a knife on a grindstone whet.
Curiosity has killed the cat, he said.
But cat took a nap where the chickweed grows.
He’s nobody’s pet, nobody’s.
Whose cat & what curiosity?
Then he jumped the twitch of a shadow’s toe,
an irresistible threat.
This will kill the cat, he said.
Through all his toothy peccadilloes,
like midnight matches to the death,
curious cat & cat curiosity.
Man hankering, drenched on
an awkward sweat,
curiosity killed the cat, he said.
Whose cat & whose curiosity?
How to write a love poem / by Joanna Lee
First, study tango and some sort of Eastern
martial art, like jiu jitsu.
Climb an impressive mountain, maybe Fuji or Everest.
Commit the view at the summit to memory.
Pay attention to foreign languages, how
the syllables bleed one into another.
Pick up at least three and practice conversing
casually at swanky dinner parties.
Study calligraphy, and yoga.
Learn how to box.
Spend free hours at the local animal shelter,
just watching the doors swing open and close.
Take your first attempts at a love poem and fold them
into a thousand origami swans
to swim in your love’s kitchen sink.
While the ink dries, leave the words to speak
for themselves, and take up metaphysics. The beauty
of the equations will eventually become
too much like Dante’s Paradise;
then, start with a physical attribute
and work your way inward,
letting muscle fibers give way
to the bones that cage us,
to the heart that keeps the only rhythm
worth knowing by heart.
Remember: no roses. Nothing red.
Ignore the flashing lights outside.
You know where this is headed.
Your second attempt at a love poem
should include specific constellations
and some oblique reference to the infiniteness
of the ocean. It might smell
like rust. That’s the blood in it.
A real love poem is never sterile,
and usually a mess on Sunday mornings.
It should be barefoot.
It likely will sing badly and want
more from you than you’re comfortable
giving. Give it. Tattoo it
on your palms and place them
on your love’s cheekbones, then hips.
While the ink dries, kiss them.
Again, and in every language.
Like a battle. Like a god.
Like a puppy who’s
just found home.
Distraction / by Kayla Long
14 BULLETS / by Donnelle McGee
for Alejandro Nieto
a love song for the people unafraid of revolution
a melody of
for it all resides in love when one corrects the wicked
a rift of
being done with black and brown bodies taken
and how officers took the life of
alejandro nieto in san francisco
we need more love songs for the people unafraid of revolution
a melody of
The Play’s the Thing / by Anna Priddy
And here’s this: how it perpetuates it
self, moving through all our selves. Once, a girl,
it comprised nearly all my life, just that
and the pain I could recount to no one.
Cried at the injustice, the boys shirtless
all summer, while I at age four was forced
to go about covered, uncomfortably
different. Complained until my mother
gave up; had maybe two months of bare
brown skin to match my bare feet, nothing but
pull-on polyester shorts, like a boy,
free to play. It’s exhilarating,
that feeling, like one is moving toward
something raw and elemental, instinct,
maybe. It has to do with the body
and motion and the senses, a play
within a play. Grown, it comes rarely,
I sometimes have to seek it in the dark.
Pandora and Prometheus (scene and duet after Aristophanes, for AJC) / by Scott Williamson
(Prometheus and Good Hope/Pandora interrupt the Birds’ assembly)
Prometheus: Another reaches out from the realm of sleep
A glowing eye harried me from the Nightingale dream
Oh magic forest voices / so sweet to my soul’s ears
Prometheus: Away, far away / far above heaven’s canopy / higher than you know
Good-Hope/Pandora: Oh no! the god’s eye has found us!
(the Birds begin to stir, twitching and cawing, as Prometheus sings)
I was once to humanity / an all-too-true-friend
You all / here in the between-world
of pure fantasy / are dear to me
An ally / I come only to warn:
All-Father sleeps / for now / but time is short
(maestoso – accelerando poco a poco)
Atop a golden throne / empowered / laughing at his game
The eternal / turning one eye
sun-brilliance unseen / light-Ocean unleashed
See here / the carved runes
scarred wrists bare / un-healed
Stop / while Time lets you
even my pride / they forgave
(the Birds, panicked, fly away in every direction; Pandora and Prometheus remain)
Pandora: Wherever you go I shall go / Brother / What is left for me here?
Come / Sister / grace me with your god-like face
I come / Brother / I come at my own pace
(diminuendo al niente, slow fade to blackout)
Poem 13 / Day 13
Still Life With Vase / by Gordon Adams
The cabinet of yellow pine, worm-holed barnwood
holds a nested set of ceramic mixing bowls
in fading depression green,
bought on a far-away drive with my first wife
somewhere off Route 7 in Connecticut.
A wide, shallow Italian pasta bowl,
glaze a riot of purple grapes
and green maple leaves,
a wedding present from a colleague
for the second wedding.
A twisted deep blue ceramic cat
By a famous Cuban artist,
bought from a struggling former teacher,
auctioning her Cuban artwork
to pay her Sheridan Square rent.
On the top shelf a glass vase,
a swirl of deep red and wheat-sheaf yellow
rising from every corner of the base,
Sweeping in full flower to the top.
A gift from a lover long ago.
Every morning, this dusty cavalcade
of memory awaits me.
Through a Screen, Darkly / by Peg Duthie
Eleven score and seven years ago,
Philadelphia was reeling:
thousands died and thousands fled the city.
A white man blamed Black people for the plague
and also for theft, and gouging the dying for coin.
The nurses wearily pamphleteered back
having done their utmost
sans sufficient rest, their own
dearest connections sick and dying
while for the common good they tended
men like the one who “threatened to shoot us,
if we passed by his house with a corpse:
we buried him three days after.”
Absalom (Absolom) Jones died on February 13, 1818. Born in slavery, he became the first African American priest in the U.S. Episcopal Church. The closing quote of this poem is from On Black Philadelphians’ Conduct During the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793–1794, which he wrote with Richard Allen.
A Myth of Possibility / by Elizabeth Fields
James Lesesne Wells, 1902–1993, Looking Upward, 1928, woodcut in black on laid paper.
Each paper cut a prayer
wood working out hopes
upon skyline buildings
erected by the labor of
dreams. The contrast of
black on white on black
body stands taller than
this life allows, larger than
all of those cityscape
realities, buildings bend
and sway around him,
protection of the Gods
structures held in honor
to create an oasis out of
concrete. Order out of
chaos. The urban land
scape—a myth of possibility.
Poem Thirteen: Paint Brush / by Ava M. Hu
notes on the Sistine Chapel
Your face pointed towards heaven.
Can you see the lark ascending?
Brushstroke. Sand and lime. The saint holds your own skin.
If Adam didn’t have a mother.
Can you see the lark ascending?
Focus on the masterpiece in front of you.
If Adam didn’t have a mother.
Bright garments of prophets. Gold bronze of nudes between thrones.
Focus on the masterpiece in front of you.
God didn’t have a face until you painted it.
Bright garments of prophets. Gold bronze of nudes between thrones.
Umbilical cord. Hand of God descending. The ceiling painted to look like the sky.
God didn’t have a face until you painted it.
Your face pointed towards heaven.
Umbilical cord. Hand of God descending. The ceiling painted to look like the sky.
Brushstroke. Sand and lime. The saint holds your own skin.
Hungry Ghosts / by Deborah Kelly
Hungry ghosts, yurei: beyond living, not alive.
They are feral in their crossings,
especially through outer walls,
just to pin a tail on somebody.
They are tacked to an episode of betrayal
or just left hanging, footless.
A form of disheveled vapor.
For peace, burn rosewood
to these and their ancestors.
Lie down in weightless sun-warmth
that will fill-back your bones with marrow.
I’ve been on both sides,
yearning between the wallpaper and plaster
in someone else’s room,
staying occupied while some fog
pouts on the divan.
But I’m satisfied.
And my real feet feel good in the toasty sand.
*Yurei are spirits in Japanese folklore.
Helen contemplates her beginnings / by Joanna Lee
There are more names for a group of swans
than for most creatures. They were hunted, too,
once, and the names changed depending
on where they’d been chased. In the air, a wedge,
on the ground, a bank. Ballet, my favorite:
seeing in my head thin-legged dancers with wings.
Irrelevant, though: bevy, herd, game, flight: These
were words never uttered when we were growing up.
Nasty things, you’d call them, when you’d find us
playing by the reeds, trying to imitate their voices.
Get back, now! they’ll spit! There’d be a rock
in your hand, then, sudden as lightning,
and a look like thunder. How quick and beautiful
your wrist as you flung at the great fowl, breaking
the water into rings like kingdoms that went on for miles.
We had this between us, Mother, this
of being coveted, chased. Yet you never spoke.
Sometimes I feel it is all you can do to love me.
Mother, I never needed all those dance lessons
you wouldn’t let me have. Sufficient the charms
I got from you, from wherever I was hatched.
Did you love him, Mother? even for a second?
Do you dream at night of the reed song sighing,
feathers against your thigh? does your heart beat
as hard as mine, lying
in the marshes?
Cat nap / by Kayla Long
If I could not be a frog
Or a crab upon the beach
I think any feline form
Would be the next thing that I reach
It’s obvious why I would want sit on a leaf
And why I would like to scurry along the shore
But a cat is quite different
Let me explain some more
Cats are quite majestic
In the way they move
They saunter with an attitude
Showing they have nothing to prove
All their freedoms aside It’s
Not the best part, imagine this
Sleeping in a greenhouse
With a pond full of fish
The sun rays warming fur
Plants growing all around
High glass ceilings
This is were I’ll be found
SUNSET BOULEVARD / by Donnelle McGee
for Thera Denise McGee
I see you in dreams.
And when blessed, I hear your voice
As if you were still with the living.
And scars fade into a body.
Your body endured it all.
From heroin to men trying to find
Their souls on streets and bodies they failed to
Yet I understand.
The night I said goodbye to you.
You in bed.
The white/yellow hum of light pouring
Over you. Our last time
Together up high on
Son, I love you.
I love-smile you.
Look at you alive for a final
Time. Your body will end.
I hold your hands.
Embrace you softly.
Then I rise from your hospital bed.
I love you Muh.
Before turning towards the door,
I turn back to see you once more.
I say it again; I love you Muh.
Then I am gone.
You gone soon after.
And here you are again in my dreams.
Perhaps I never lost you.
The King of Infinite Space / by Anna Priddy
But that I have bad dreams. Why, just last night,
whole kingdoms slipped away while I lie trapped
in a fluorescent hospital room, drugged
and unable to move. The corridors were dark,
but noisy, with cart’s wheels squeaking, machines
beeping, but no voices. My mind went down
the hall, all dark. I was the only one,
solitary patient in an empty
place. No one was coming to help me.
Without speech, unable to scream,
but screaming, screaming with no sound coming.
Only mind trapped in a nutshell body,
bounded by self with no help. Did nothing.
We know what we are, not what we may be.
Dialectic of light and darkness / by Scott Williamson
(a Celan* cento)
elliptic paradoxical impossibility
desperate voice dialogue
(extreme) imagery progression
Heidegger Heidegger Heidegger
Rilke, Bachmann, Malina
celebrates the only kind of victory
the survivor’s botanical reality
(the negation, the lacuna, the time hole)
Negation and blasphemy
(intimate Jewish devotion)
*Paul Celan, 1920-70. Translated, M. Hamburger, Persea, 1972, 1995.
Poem 12 / Day 12
The Contractor Speaks / by Gordon Adams
(being a poetic reinvention
of the quarterly report
of a military contractor.
Trigger warning: some real words here)
We surprised investors
by making an 800 million dollar
voluntary pension contribution
with funding earned from aftermarket sales
That were for us a total cash cow;
Better than ever, at least up to now.
“in Pfizer we trust,” is our cheer.
Vaccinated Americans can fly so
those full fleets of commercial jets
will have to be serviced again.
Thank you American, Delta, Jet Blue.
Our business will grow, all thanks to you!
“Cash is king!” we boast, as we work to purge
bloated working capital/inventory,
shrink fresh production, and lower our costs
by laying off 21,000 aerospace workers and engineers.
We’ll do all these difficult things while we take
Conservation actions for our profits’ sake
Can we continue to reap those
Juicy direct sales operating margins,
That may also be the margins of someone’s life
On the receiving end of the munition?
No, we may snap back to previous sales
To preserve our liquidity, fill our lunch pails.
Fortunately, we discovered we had
3 billion dollars of excess cash on-hand,
which we immediately ear-marked for
opportunistic share repurchases.
We now have 9 billion of cash still on hand,
But only need 6 for immediate demand.
It still remains true we said we’d return
3-5 billion in cash to investors by 2024.
Thank God we had beefy overall growth
Of 14 percent in military sales.
We’ll swing on our newly-built corporate trapeze
This diversification lets us do that with ease.
Will the next office holder make business harder
by forbidding our selling of weapons to our partners
like Saudia Arabia or the GCC seven?
Or perhaps our traditional buyers in Europe.
“Defensive weapons” we say; that depends
on who is holding the front or back ends.
Life is not simple; obstacles lie ahead.
COVID may surge again; might not be stopped
That military budget may well decline
Yielding smaller future opportunities;
Will we be a behemoth defense contractor
Or simply become a corporate dinosaur?
A Foot-Long Tongue / by Peg Duthie
Felled by the bites of kissing insects
and the unceasing
buzzing of his nerves,
Charles curls a fist against his skin
instead of cursing aloud at how
his body’s own container hurts,
how blotchy and bloated he feels
but as he tries to coax his brain to let him sleep
he cannot help but travel down its lists
of what he’d like to study when
he’s next on a horse or a boat.
The room is full of orchids and climbers,
some from the banks of beloved rivers—
purple Anacamptis pyramidalis
looking almost fluffy next to violet loosestrife—
sharing close quarters
with guests from faraway countries.
Ant orchid, bee orchids, sword-leaved helleborine—
a galaxy of blades and tendrils
awaiting thousands of nights from him.
He’s feeling too rotten even to walk
to the comet orchid glowing three feet away
but not too far gone to imagine its nectary
tickling his nose the way he’s sometimes fancied
storybook stardust might feel upon one’s face,
scattered from the wings of gentle moths.
But what a mouth would be needed to suck
such sweetness—what a tongue
to taste and tell of this honey—
Charles finally drifts into slumber,
already hearing the snickers his latest
theory will trigger, yet feeling sound
about what he’s seen and what it’s saying.
Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809.
The Coming Together of Things / by Elizabeth Fields
Barbara Chase-Riboud, “Le Manteau (The Cape),” 1973, bronze, hemp rope, copper
When two of more material
objects, beings, metals come
together, merge into each other’s
fractals, intentionality becomes
fused, braided, knotted, woven
in a magically integrated way
to create that which is greater
than it’s separateness. Collisions
of nature bending light frequencies,
elementals coming to guide the artist’s
vision, the strength of numbers, woven
becomes a force, a cape of protection
grows in the sculptors hands, flows
shades of brown—create beauty anew.
The She Pretty / by Gaby Garcia
The She moves snake-like,
polished as a clean seashell.
She is air eating air,
soft like clay warmed
between two hands.
I speak into a crystalline vase
and echoing back, She comes
dressed in black, fingering herself.
She wants to write a bad poem
about the night She nearly flipped
her mother’s minivan—
how it teetered on two tires
and lingered for a breath, a brief visitation
before hitting the pavement.
She is blissed out and mangled
like an exhausted ballerina.
She is so tired of being good.
Spell / by Ava M. Hu
Now I am falling.
I want you to catch me.
Sinking ships. We are
sinking petals in soil.
Fleeting bright air above.
We are water absorbed in sand.
The river snakes beneath us.
We are filled with falling snow.
of blank space. We
Whether spoken out loud
or in silence. Words
are fig leaves we use
to cover ourselves.
We calm fierce animals
by saying their names.
We can turn metal to gold
by chanting. Words like spells.
Words like the moths
to burn themselves
in this kind of light.
Metabolic Memory / by Deborah Kelly
I’m told memory is protein under fascia.
A strand in mind, not exclusively my own.
Photo of me, age six, on a boat at Niagara.
Photo of a grandparent fleeing war by ship.
Their hunger is my hunger.
I want to store-up the needful things,
leave home almost empty-handed, to start again.
I could chart generations of troubles,
but what if the child lost by my great-grandmother
is the faith that holds me up.
All our ebullient cells and twisted tendrils.
And still, right now, sun on cedar,
a palm on my belly, the heritable quality
of a mind about to change.
millennial aesthetic / by Joanna Lee
the scene is crisscrossed with telephone wires. it could be anywhere.
monochrome soothes tired eyes; snow almost pink in the streetlight,
rounding the edges of cold corners. from their perfectly arched windows,
a generation bred to global warming practically melts. on the screen,
we watch time tick down with an ever greater sense of urgency:
tomorrow always comes early. there is never enough charge.
the almost-glow of the hour, the soft dimpled white, you could close your eyes & believe
you were dreaming, that we are on a cloud inside the laughing head of god.
Playful Nature / by Kayla Long
Human nature is quite a tricky thing
Philosophers for millennia have tried
To find what makes us sing
There are theories that say
Thinking is existance
But the modern conclusion is that
Humans were made to work
I don’t really find fault there
Except my careful observation
What is more human than
The things we do without the fear of judgement
I believe it starts when you’re allowed to play
And that urge to do something never goes away
If you leave children
To their own devices
They invent games to occupy their mind
Adults have been taught
Play is looked down upon
However, when you leave them alone
They will find something to occupy until the time is gone
Through sports and toys and even rocks
Humans real nature plays and talks
VUONG/ABANI/NERUDA/LORCA / by Donnelle McGee
Ocean Vuong tells us on earth we’re briefly gorgeous.
Chris Abani believes that when we are at our ugliest is when
We are most beautiful. Both remind me of what it
Means to be alive.
Neruda and Lorca knew that in the body, the land,
And heart, resides humanity.
Though, I must look. Look hard at our differences
With the intent to understand.
And on days when I
Neglect to show compassion, to self, or other,
Is where I forget what
It means to be among the breathing.
I’ve lived for more than half a century. Yet,
Words, Words, Words / by Anna Priddy
To be or not to be comes down in part
to a question of words versus actions,
whether ‘tis nobler to speak or not,
as when at birth that first intake of air
is followed by a scream. Does sound
equal life? The poet I loved more than life
used to say that one had to choose between
the life and the work. One lifetime is only
enough time to perfect one. He chose work.
Young, I thought, I can do both. And older,
I choose life. And older still, wondered why
he didn’t say that both are impossible,
neither can be perfected; we’re bumbling
through. But we believe words will outlast time.
When I read his poems I hear his voice.
Still here, though I would trade them for his life.
To all those endless freshman composition
students I say essay derives from French
essayer, which means to attempt or try.
Every essay should be an attempt
to say something. This is an attempt.
Grand Fantasia and Toccata / by Scott Williamson
(after Gerald Finzi’s op. 38 for piano and orchestra)
Neo-baroque landscape mirrored in a
piano fantasia on a snow day
all these years hence returns me to the crazed
heady terms of privileged indebted-
ness known as grad school. We two lounged nude like
Arcadian lovers some twenty-five
years ago. And though he wasn’t quite so
many years older than I, the age gap
added to the giddy arousal of
youth, feeding clichéd odes.
flourishes and cascades, crests and crashes
to the sound floor in a final pulsing
tremor, like a post-coital frame’s last fizz
The Toccata takes off, all
English Musical Renaissance bluster…
racing forward a quarter-century
of fantasies, faux-regattas, moonlit
pathetic sonatas, roses and wars,
we’re right where we started: thick block-chords, like
ancient stone walls, ominous brass blaring
us back like Gatsby or Joyce to the past
a piano concerto, a snowy
Neo-baroque day so many years hence.
Poem 11 / Day 11
Garden Yearning / by Gordon Adams
As like a flower that waits till May
To spread its colors to the sky,
I stay and wait for you to say
Regrets for when you said goodbye.
The fertile beds you left behind
Grow cold and hard beneath the snow,
As shorter autumn days unwind
And leave no place for flowers to grow.
I will not see a single fern
In earth where blossoms quiet lie.
They’re waiting now for your return,
While roses’ thorns reach for the sky.
Hosta slumbers ‘till the spring
Brings gentler wind with warmer breath.
Crab apple fruit that robins bring;
Stands by the redbuds now near death.
The garden you bequeathed to me,
Echinacea pink, ageratum blue,
Shasta Daisies spreading free,
Await to know your love is true.
Gathering Up All the Fragments / by Peg Duthie
Nothing is trifling
in saving children or aged people.
Fools bite and scrap
to romp with bad answers,
sick of questions.
A theatre of advantages may be too dear:
they who never meet any whistle
drive from society
the happiest and most respectable course for industry.
Fail to lace in ambition
and you will realize
a house that we do not want
will be painful and inconvenient
to view in proper light.
Lydia Maria Child was born on February 11, 1802. The words in this poem come from the beginning of The American Frugal Housewife.
Standing in Optimism / by Elizabeth Fields
Emma Amos, 1937-2020. Look to the Sun, African fabric and acrylic on canvas, 2014
There’s a cultural frame
that surrounds our being
but it’s outside over there us.
Our boarders. Every shade
of vibrancy patterned
African fabrics these are
the frames, encompasses
all that resides inside, still
the blues magnify the true
body, those tied to memories
dyed textiles the colors of red
clay twisted and pleated in parts
of self naked and standing
in optimism looking towards
sun in the front, though the moon
behind her conjures other days,
cycles continued. Perpetual.
The cloth she pulls from her
boundaries can not cover up,
or rather should not cover up
the imperfect perfection
of gazing always forward
the rays act as guide towards
the light shinning yet depending
on which way one turns. The nuances
of position. Illuminates bodies
in spectacular kaleidoscoped ways.
Valentine / by Gaby Garcia
The kitchen light burst open and ripped a hole
in the universe, but you did not notice. I like you.
I rest next to you as the simplest attachment—
two bodies cannot become one, that’s not real,
but they can peel open into a split-lip smile and press
their gummy wounds together to become the strangest meal.
Perhaps now is the time to tell you, I am fond of your pain—
almost as fond as the usual calculations of hair and skin.
You hate how one of the bedroom blinds won’t open
and I tell you to breathe. You hate how I burn butter
with my shrieks and I tell you it’s just biology, it’s home
here, my voice will always shake in the presence of ease.
You tuck me in like a child, then stay awake, flooded
in the glow of very blue screens. I could lick that glow.
I could set you free.
Poem Eleven: River Offering / by Ava M. Hu
blood from hibiscus,
locks of a lover’s hair shorn,
coconut shells filled with fragrant
bells of jasmine, the oil
of what we hope for
organized in baskets
and set to float downstream.
Lips become flowers.
Legs become running water.
The spring breeze moves
in his cloak of straw.
The oar hits quickly
the sandy shore.
Can we flower
like a river
from the head
of the mountain?
Currents come in
and out of the rain
like friends with yellow roses,
bright umbrellas, smell
of desire and longing
in their palms.
Lockdown / by Deborah Kelly
I haven’t noticed anything in days.
Spelled, spoken, over-worded, projected.
Information dissociated from
startled muscles, stuck.
Sexiest object in the house is origami,
pair of 3-D lips on a middle shelf
of a tall & narrow bookcase,
a totem with one red eye,
whalebone ribs of the classics,
and many spines.
I’m somewhere mostly under
stacks of sweaters, over there,
with cedar balls against moths.
I need fleshy words, but
right now words,
like bodies, are too much.
Privilege / by Joanna Lee
Tonight, they feel like someone else’s sirens.
So distant they could almost be fireworks,
the shots whose thready automatic
softly tat-tat-tats outside the kitchen window.
They are not mine: the racing pulse,
the sudden, shuddering aloneness.
No flashing lights to make
a sad Christmas of the kitchen window.
Instead, I bow my head
over the just risen seedling who’s burst
through the dark of the earth in the cup
to seek the daylight from the kitchen window,
My breath checked for only a second,
hearing. Nothing more breaks
the silence. I turn away.
Secrets / by Kayla Long
Moonlight sonnet #2
The ocean holds secrets, good and the bad
Deep dark water under silver moon light
White caps flashing, crashing up on the shore
The moon pulling at the waves through the night
The beach is deserted while the stars play
Sand smoothed over by the receding tide
There’s dark all around, but I can’t complain
Water holds no judgement I do not hide
I have deep respect for the hidden depth
The things she has seen, the things that she knows
Could fill an ocean, or possibly more
In the blue black and green mystery flows
She is a place of unsettling ease
Give her a secret, her wrath to appease
BLOOD JET / by Donnelle McGee
–after Slyvia Plath
plath could only
as i move
trying to understand
the power that infidelity
has on another
death the ultimate
we are all
plath’s blood jet tone
in my lines
and i thank you
for your confessional
to quiet what you
could not endure
Your Noble Son is Mad / by Anna Priddy
When day is day, night-night, and time is time,
then all will be right, but who is to say,
what is time, or day, or night? Golden boys,
who start out with such beauty and promise,
and then, the slip of a record’s needle,
a fever dream, the wrong drug, a ghost’s walk,
and all is lost. I was full of envy,
thought my brother, my sister better loved,
thought every other child better placed,
thought every person superior, thought
every boy too good for me. Especially
him, all music and antic disposition,
who did not believe in madness, only
poetry. But I thought something was wrong
with me. He pushed me beyond my borders,
though I was scared, I learned, I am but mad
north-northwest, when the wind is southerly,
I know a hawk from a handsaw, I know
the day and the night and the time, how much
life was lost with your son. Alone here it’s
all southerly wind, hawkish sanity.
Thetis, a Canto / by Scott Williamson
1. In the old
Pyrrha of Skyros
3. Dear Mother:
As we are in the middle of it here I may be brief.
I wish I could just see you. To talk about this mucked-up world.
What a gift that would be now.
So I wear your memory like a bracelet, its brush on my
wrist’s thin skin conjuring childhood worlds. I taste
the salt of summer days by the beach with my brothers,
at the bay watching the sun set, or by the green-groved castle,
whose mythic rock we had no need to kiss a generation ago.
Like madeleines dipped in tea cups un-damming memories,
my skips through times past find me back with you.
The moon is already rising. I was hardly brief. Thank you
for always loving this, if not every one of my flaws.
Poem 10 / Day 10
Freed Verse / by Gordon Adams
Inside, they stay close while I wait for one,
just one courageous word, to accept my invitation.
Glancing back at my soul’s retention,
a word tentatively steps out into verbal recess.
Like children frightened to follow – there might be trouble –
two or three more peek around the corner
of my impulses and are tempted, so tempted;
little ones that want to come along for the ride.
The dam of hesitation shudders and falls;
a babbling brook of words rush out to play.
Jostling and shoving, like bumper cars,
they race around in disorderly stanzas.
I call them to form a line and behave,
To hold each other by the punctuation.
They don’t listen; off they go to the playground,
breaking away and scattering in anarchic chaos.
Some scoot down the metal slide of memory,
one at a time, forming a thought at the bottom.
Others bounce up and down, shifting the weight of
Generalization and specificity, a verbal teeter-totter.
Pitching metaphors like horseshoes,
twisting along the suspended rungs of rhyme,
crawling through the tunnels of imagery,
and slide down the fire pole to a poem.
These anarchic little things don’t listen;
you have no power here, they shout;
you are just along for the poetic ride.
We are freed at last, freed at last.
Imperfect Fragment / by Peg Duthie
When it is time
to speak of bells,
the man of sky and science
titles his treatise
The Art of Living Under Water.
In his dreams, constellations of pearl
glow from the wrists and collars of patrons
keen to fund the quest for more space.
Empiricism for empire! I have found
It not impracticable . . . to go out of our Engine,
to a good distance from it.
More than two hundred spacewalks later
still we contend
with finding room for us all.
On February 10, 1720, Edmond (Edmund) Halley was appointed Astronomer Royal of England. The phrase “imperfect fragment” is from a preface that either he or John Locke may have penned for a travel anthology.
A number of websites state that Colonel Andrew Becker demonstrated the use of a diving suit in the Thames on this day in 1774, but cited documentation suggests that this took place instead in August 1715.
The Artist Within / by Elizabeth Fields
Elizabeth Catlett, 1915-2012. Photograph of artist sculpting while at Howard University, 1930s. https://www.elizabethcatlettart.com/bio
Your essence so beautiful
Creator. Chisel in hand.
Intoxicating, studious stare
so intent you bend trees
to your likeness. Brown
the color of our natural world.
Wood—the connection of
our roots. Always together.
rising with dignity and
grace. Your subjects eyes
pierce forward. A gaze as
to say I am proud mother
daughter sister voice. My
lips will speak truth. You
give life to us. You align
with us and hold up
humanity in spaces they left
us to rot in fields. Gather the
remnants to sculpt up and
always remembered with
gratitude and grit. Thank
you Mother of Creation
without your hands of fore—
thought where would we,
the future you, creators be?
Of stardust, of energy,
transmuted within. The look
of precession is enough
to make me shout from
roof tops! I am A PART
of this—tribe, to create,
it is not enough-ness to
merely pay tribute, the
light must live in us and
through us to uphold the voice—
less. We are One. A human.
We are One. A woman. We are One.
Chick Lit / by Gaby Garcia
No house is safe
unless the floors are old enough
to speak up—someone’s coming,
they’re here, they want to shred—
A radical compilation of every boy west of Maplewood
A cartography of the weaponized curve
A dictionary of bodies folded over each other
A guide to puberty: how to have breasts that won’t get you murdered
Damp skin locked in un-redeem.
You can ask me anything.
The room burns
and you don’t have an alarm
The weight of a body
before your touch
can drink its bitter nutrient.
Spell / by Ava M. Hu
Sung, spoken, chanted.
Language of lovers
and leaves. Letters.
Images of deities.
We languish floating
to and fro in a boat
on a river of words.
Topography of what
we mean to say.
A nightingale’s call.
Verbs like mudras.
Adjectives like mantras.
Put your hand over the side
of the boat.
Language of angels
speaking amongst themselves.
First sight, first encounter.
The whistled speech of sleep.
The spotted honeyguide
leads us to the hive
hoping we will destroy it
so they can eat
what we leave behind.
Cosmology Translated / by Deborah Kelly
Neither we nor stars are sparks
from perfect vessels,
burst on some explosive start.
No perfection can restore us.
We collapse, burn holes,
tear webs, recompose.
There is no corpse.
When I break a cup,
with golden glue I make
a golden scar.
No landscape is restored.
When I translate the poet
of old Chiapas,
I caress her shoulders
while I make new art.
Ethics are always easier in hindsight / by Joanna Lee
Fictional worlds / by Kayla Long
I can disappear for hours
Buried in a page
Living in worlds
That exist in my mind
A camp in the hills
And a camp on the shore
Adventures and family found
With so much more
A city of snow
With falling lights
A country of green
And faerie plights
A packed in city
Cut by canals
Quests for the impossible
Broken people- less broken together
So why was I born
In this plane of existence
When I would much rather live
In the fictional worlds
POET / by Donnelle McGee
“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali
let me get personal
as any genuine poet must do
i am from the body of thera
a black body
a lovely woman with a
love smile felt
i too am from
a white body
roots of the african and sephardic jew
for many of my days i
hid in shadows
mixed race and so the
blend became imperative
i counted days rather
than living days
courage comes in the hands of my son
courage comes in the unmasking shown to me by my daughter
poets taste their
i too the poet buckle at hatred
when i’m not able to hold back my screams/fists
as america’s injustices
marvin in ’71 sang what’s going on
there must be more
and it is through his words that i don’t suffocate
I am Too Much in the Sun / by Anna Priddy
Whole summers I gave over to just this:
A towel spread on concrete next to chain-link
fencing at my head and a public pool
at my feet, and novels, so many books.
At least one year my mind was in Russia
while my body remained in Kentucky.
I willed my life away. Heat on my skin
and refusal of food made me feel like
a saint, some grand ascetic. If I think back,
I’m still conflicted. Then I wavered, thought
both that I was horrid, with a story
to ugly to tell or carry—and then
that I was magic, slim and brown and fine.
And here’s the problem, when you’re in the sun
too long and you stand, turn, or move,
nothing looks right. If I look at her now,
I still can’t make up my mind what is true:
am I exactly that same girl, or if
she’s someone I no longer recognize.
Pandora’s Box, or Bodily Harm (a Margaret Atwood cento) / by Scott Williamson
Poem 9 / Day 9
The Hermit’s Garden / by Gordon Adams
Every morning in the hermit kingdom,
he sits in his all-purpose front room
stretching, reading, writing, listening, meditating,
sharing the space with his itinerant cat,
and tending his miniature indoor garden.
Through the dust on the dining room windows,
the morning sun spreads across the ochre/grey rug,
flowing over the stems of the pachysandra
that reach out in every direction.
Mysteriously, the leaves turn to soft, brown jelly and die.
Paper whites droop and bend but refuse to flower.
The pteris fern curls and dries into black-green flakes.
Lavender, transplanted from summer’s raised beds,
struggles to survive in house-bound warmth.
As it fades, it gifts its velvet sweet scent to the room.
The weeping fig tree overruns the corner.
Its brown stalk and dark green leaves
turn to the window to catch the sun’s seasonal journey.
Its leaves fall, turning from dark green to grey,
sensitive to just the right amount of water.
Hanging in the window, the airplane plant
drops its spindly plantlets down narrow stems
like orchids without the flowers. The round,
serrated leaves of the Swedish ivy spill over
the edges of its home in the round brown bowl.
The geraniums that propagated endless ruby flowers
swinging on the summer porch in the warm, dry air,
are courageous survivors of their indoor isolation.
They hang in green plastic pots, revealing no blossoms,
their sparse leaves straining urgently toward the light.
This small universe of struggle and survival,
feline slumber, repetitious human activity,
and well-contained wild jungle waits
for those maskless days of spring
when they hope to emerge in lush abundance.
Sweet Spot / by Peg Duthie
Somewhere there must be a happy pause
between stupidity borne of desperation
and stupidity spawned by privilege
red in claw and out for more blood
and anything else it can get.
Men collecting more than five thousand
dollars per day balk at delivering
fifteen per hour to cashiers and baggers,
talk about heroes but turn away
when tasked with honoring hazards.
A lifetime ago, I trudged to my shift
even when my skin felt on fire
because I couldn’t afford to stay home
and there was a night when I nearly punched
a half-foot nail through my eardrum
because nothing on hand could tame the infected
tooth, and nothing was open, and surely
if I made a hole for the pain
to pour itself out, wouldn’t it comply
and let me sleep at last? Small wonder
how two thousand years ago
a girl in Alexandria flung herself into flames,
her jaw already splintered, shards of teeth
trampled and crushed like chalk beneath
the massive murderous mob. And then somehow
thousands of Apollonian molars
traveled from palm to palm across Europe,
currency for prayed-for answers,
antidotes for agony. How many bones
were scraped and sanded for so many lies—
some still enshrined, and some dissolving
faster than Tuesday sugar into Wednesday soot?
When at night I lay me down to rest
what I count is neither sheep nor bead
nor will I pray to saints until I find a one
who venerates the body not as burden but bouquet.
February 9 is the Feast of Apollonia, patron saint of toothache sufferers and dentists.
Apathy of the Gods (P.S. That’s Us) / by Elizabeth Fields
Camille Billops 1933-2019. 9/11 #4, paper collage 2005. Swann Auction Galleries.
I mean, is this for real?
A little girl says with her eyes
astonished but skeptical
at death on our doorsteps
while little newspaper man
with his sickle of fear spreads
discontent for our eager ears.
The lounging souls intermingle
on a cardboard chaise lounge
and only the paper made pup
sees the world, out the window.
Sees life falling. Sees the bodies
for more than the price of tea
in China. The system failing before
our eyes as we stay in our comfy
PJs. An apathetic lollipop for our
otherwise tortured souls. A little
lace pattern at the top and connect
the dots then perhaps you can see
like the dogs see. They sense danger
while we like to lay undisturbed
in our pretty polkadot fantasies.
The Night Watchman / by Gaby Garcia
A new father
with no bloody lip.
He muscles his hand
into a leather glove
and we walk the road
as if sanitized
by streetlight and tiny frozen birds
who have failed to find south.
We are lost, I say. What I mean is
He and I, two atoms
unfolding—still creased, still multiplying
in a lonely kind of way.
In his big brown coat.
In his pocket
until he turns it
Amulet / by Ava M. Hu
Notes on the Sistine Chapel
Sleeves of the painter
yellow with sunlight.
Your brush on the cusp
Coins and drawings,
plant parts, animal parts,
words and buttons
of saints caught in the yellow
sunlight on those sleeves.
Your head bent back
as far as it could go.
You are pre-history, salvation.
Lift, scribe, and paint.
Turn your face towards
fig trees, noon-time,
bells ring, ringing
poetry caught in the sunlight
of those sleeves. Were you flooded
by the essence of blue?
Your head bent back
as far as it go
while you swept your brush
across seas and rivers
so many people bending
and twisting, reaching.
If you had doubt
you would succeed
take the amulet
of your heart
out to seed, no
one would have believed you
if you said there was a time
without a god. The ceiling
all along, pushed up
by all this light.
Origami / by Deborah Kelly
Folds and creases
a paper koi,
a carp of joined edges,
toward a ledge of skin
and it is birth,
and from birth,
our eyelids’ insides
Our wet light and umbra,
our orange leaves
our private books.
burning both ends / by Joanna Lee
i get alarms
on my laptop
telling me i’m late
for a meeting
that was cancelled
two months ago.
on my phone
alerting me i’m early
that my cycle
in the next seven days.
(really, siri? really?
just effing now, i
was all grump & rust
in the middle
of lunch rush.
you almost ruined
my favorite vicky’s secret
valentine’s, and i am so,
so beyond the red roses &
candy hearts phase. just
let me take everyone
i love and cocoon them
on an island with nothing
but sunshine and water
the color of a thousand
let me dig in my heels
and drag out a sunset to last
across next week. (siri,
remind me to send
a card to dad.)
we didn’t come
but the snow,
and the hours…everyone
around me losing
ground, loved ones, sleep.
when i call him tonight
he will ask when i think
i will get to bed. i’ll
lie to him, and say soon.
Retired airplane / by Kayla Long
Today we went to the Tucson air and space museum
I’ve been before, but not for a few years
There are so many amazing planes
The history of flight organized in long lanes
And while the verity is beyond interesting
It was the field of retired planes that caught my eye
Outside the museum in sandy fields
Aceres of land occupied by white aircraft
Maybe five hundred per lot
And five lots at least
One time I was told- or maybe I read-
That if we ever went to war again
All those airplanes, with their insides stripped,
Could be outfitted with modern tech
What kind of disaster would call
For thousands of retired planes
What kind of disaster would all
Those planes cause
It’s almost imposible to fathom
The destruction on that scale
The civil war was the first modern war of its time
And look at the destruction there
So with all our advancements that we have
What could possibly happen
“From what I know of desire/ I hold with those who favor fire”
PAINTED NAILS / by Donnelle McGee
my son is stronger than i ever will be
each day i see him with no regards to
specified norms of what it means to be a man
i tell him with my words
i tell him with my eyes
i see you
no need to fit there
no need to fit here
my son is stronger than i ever will be
as i admire his painted nails and his
zest for life above the valley
These are but Wild and Whirling Words / by Anna Priddy
I am just doing the best that I can
with what I have. Blue and pink cloud feathers
lay strewn across the sky this morning, while
the moon unperceptively took her leave,
going in the dark. It’s bracing cold, early,
but there are appointments to keep, moving
along familiar roads. From my mind
I’ll wipe away all other memory.
Sometimes there is such joy. And then those gone
before us like the sun. Thou needs no ghost,
my lord, come from the grave to tell us this.
We walk first in sun and then in sorrow.
Words are not the currency of the dead,
the words whirl in the minds of the living,
phrases that once held meaning, divorced
from shared experience, I’ll be along,
but how will I find you when I get there?
Hammer without (René Char cento) / by Scott Williamson
O knowing caresses, o useless lips
Violent eyes in the one who wields destructive force
(The firearm arrives / The belly won’t bite the hand that feeds it.)
I dream my head on the tip of my knife
Like hot-air balloons of hell
(Iron Mask: You can’t hide rage without diplomacy.)
Inexplicable disappearances Uncultivated minds
(Love: Being the first to come.)
Love’s defense violence
Paralysis wandering ease
I leave you nothing to fill your mind The dreamer embalmed
Figures faded as soon as they’re composed
Their revolution celebrates the apotheosis of declining life
This fanatic with the supernatural power disrupts the accumulated harmony
O my translucent foxglove!
The stick of dynamite which pulverizes it
There is no irreplaceable absence
Dream there is nothing perishable
In their carnivorous tableau
(Those with truly a taste for the void
burn their clothes before they die.)
It is the transmutation of harmonic riches
reduced to insanity.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Remember the Time / by Gordon Adams
O fearful meditation, where alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
– Sonnet 65
We need time for this
Time passes, as best we know.
Linear time from birth to death;
one day at a time, to the last hour.
On the way it can slow to a near standstill,
passing until school starts;
or stops altogether,
marking itself before a prayer.
We can look forward to it, even to
the first time,
we found true love.
remembering that summer day,
the time we piled stones
at the very edge of the tide
and watched it
creep through our makeshift wall
leaving an undersea castle
for the crabs.
It takes and it gives.
Don’t propose on the first date;
Take some of this useful word
to get acquainted.
Once you offer me a ring,
give me some of it to consider.
Or it just gets – got a little of it
To hear my answer?
Time can be very small,
as tiny as a chronon,
between my reaching out
and you taking my hand.
Or it can be long, even infinity,
as you imagine that love will last
forever, or grow even smaller,
It passes into the universe.
Mars solar days are
39 minutes/35.2 seconds
longer than Earth days.
Living together on Earth
might be a fine time
for a while, but your bio-rhythms
will lose track of it.
It can be good or bad,
depending on the party and whom you meet.
Or just go round and round on the auto factory,
one cycle to make the car.
Or just plain hard, in a prison cell.
It can be out, in, or the same
You can pull it out and go to your room;
but I will come get you in time
for the Scrabble game.
We can do the dishes at the same time.
You can owe it forward.
In due time
I will come get you
for your cancer tests;
Or just borrow some.
When the cancer struck
I thought you’d die in a year.
But you borrowed some to live longer.
You can lose it or waste it
worrying about when death will come.
Or you can lose track of it,
as it scurries down the hospital corridor.
Time lasts a full life.
It stretches, warps,
Shrinks, turns on itself,
We need to keep it.
Free as . . . / by Peg Duthie
In Egypt, the fine for flying a kite
is one thousand EGP—
almost two days of wages
for the average Alexandrian.
Kites may have airlifted stone to henge
and pyramid. Kites were banned
in Washington, DC,
between 1892 and 1970.
Mabel Bell, who lived in DC,
sold a house in 1907
for what would now be
a half-million dollars
so that the lads on her husband’s team
could fashion kites out of thousands of triangles—
the Frost King and the Cygnet
both magnificent in red silk.
That red silk and good Canadian pine
would cushion Alec Bell’s remains,
diabetes grounding him for good.
Bell once wrote that figuring out how to fly
was terribly hard because one couldn’t
ask questions of those who’d died trying.
One year and a day ago,
Li Wenliang, whom China had tried to smother,
drew his last breath. Count him among
the seers who died trying.
Masks are slipping everywhere I look.
Some of mine are already ragbag-bound.
Maybe someday I’ll appliqué
across a quilt. Perhaps a girl in Egypt
will someday own the land
she currently cannot study
with her own eyes
or a dance of paper.
But down my own street, people get gassed
and punished for life for saying aloud
that liars are liars and the sky is blue
so first we have to fix our own splintered spines
before we presume (if ever) to swan in
with our reprimands and rescripting
but neither will leaving bad enough alone
spare us from the Book when God gets going.
It’s not your one job to solve all the things,
but neither are you free to desist.
February 8 is National Kite-Flying Day in the United States. Egyptian leaders banned kite-flying in July 2020. Li Wenliang was a Wuhan ophthalmologist who spoke up about COVID-19 in December 2019. The last two lines are adapted from Pirkei Avot 2:21.
Our Lady of the Red Oak / by Elizabeth Fields
Selma Burke, 1900-1995. Untitled (Woman and Child), ca. 1950, painted red oak, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Our Lady of the Red Oak
carved with light energy.
Beauty. Cradles her babe.
So close. Made with her. Of her.
Her eyes closed to a world
Who would not honor her bond.
Our Lady of the Red Oak
has gone within. Her arms
wind around in protective
embrace. The roots connect
and raise up those in the system.
Intertwining beings connected
by birth right. Absorbing and
transferring love. Minerals.
Giving life forming nutrients.
Support for the still small voice.
Our Lady of the Red Oak
A medium brown with reddish
cast. Your grain is straight
with coarseness. An uneven
texture. Love so large it is said
a person could blow with all
their might and their breathe
will come out the other side.
The rush of energy through
Our Lady of the Red Oak
skirts whittled with care
and forethought. Stoic. Combines
with the natural elements
of your being. Woman.
The nurturer. Your coverings
hang in delight close to your
form. Flowing with the vital
function of this moment.
Bedroom Landscape / by Gaby Garcia
A cold window—
A crow pirouetting through sheets
of rain—I do not remember
framing that picture
of my father and his drum—
My wet hair is spidered
sticky black—tea in the cup, brick talking back.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was drunk
on color and I called
her last night to say
I called on her to come pick me up
and share a mouthful of the black cherry night,
bite the inner wrist I want to pain—
We can air-dry our daughter lungs—they heave—
They swoon at being noticed.
On Flower Divination / by Ava M. Hu
We are waxing,
with mouths full
of blackness, song,
a lover’s elixir
gallant and brave,
inspired by bright
frescoes, wet plaster,
the lovely dust
of immortals gathered
in the hands of churches,
bellies full of hymns on hillsides,
gathered in by red brush,
thistles, the heart gathered
the white hare
the lovely dust
of the immortals,
the lovely heave
of blood through the veins
of a flower so sweet
you would risk your life
for it. To be desired
and the desireless,
gifts in silence,
the blackness of night,
this, the sound a petal makes
when it reaches
Intense Foreheads / by Deborah Kelly
Poetry is a needle threaded in the dark,
and you ask me to explain.
That would take fast abstractions,
kinds that make me feel anaerobic
in the head.
They give me agoraphobia,
the suffocating valuation, disputation,
of intense foreheads.
A pigeon saunters,
leaves footprints of blue-black ink
in a book left open to an open page.
Poetry is footprints we tailor later—
making stitches, under light.
Ave atque vale* / by Joanna Lee
there are ghosts everywhere. between our old house in the city and the middle school that looked like a prison there was a boy named jason who made me giggle. i think // he made a lot of girls giggle. he had a dark in his eyes that could make you shiver. // i was too shy to say no // my science teacher had a yellow boa constrictor she sometimes wore draped over her mousy shoulders. i touched it, once, its cold like a dead thing, the dark in its eyes like the boy’s. // the eighth grade latin teacher wore glasses and spoke from several degrees away. // he made me giggle, too, and gave us mints at the start of every quiz, dollar bills if we aced them. i didn’t know what to spend the money on. // what i wanted // was to be a rock star. i wore my dad’s flannel and ripped jeans and studied guitar like latin. // my science teacher took us on an overnight to the chesapeake, where we stayed on an island and studied oyster beds & mussels & went kayaking at dawn. i was so cold i thought i might die. not there in the kayak, but in the oyster boat. i must have looked so pathetic. the captain gave me his heavy black rubber coat. i felt like a fat penguin. // i was always feeling fat then. i did situps in my bedroom in the dark, hundreds. i kept // a piece of blue velvet draped over the mirror. i kept // an old army pistol of my dad’s tucked // in the bottom drawer of my nightstand. // i wanted jason to do something, but i didn’t know what. i wanted all the words in a language not my own. i wanted to stay on that island and see the dawn forever. // so i built a dream catcher out of craft supplies i bought with my latin bucks and hung it from my bedroom window, //started staying late, // to study chess with the latin teacher. // it was the best //
i could do.
*From Catullus, Carmen 101, an elegy to his brother. Literally, “hail and farewell.”
Waves / by Kayla Long
When it rains, it pours
But I’m not sure that’s true
I find myself stuck at the beach,
No matter what I do
The waves crash
Forcing me under
And rolling thunder
For a breath of fresh air
My lungs always thirst
But between the waves
It might be worse
Because for a second
With the inhale I strive
I am given hope and
I think I’ll survive
The water and foam
That drowns my mind
But all too soon
Over my head, the waves I find
And my Hope, like drift wood
Dashed on the shore
I lay trapped on the beach
I don’t think I can take it anymore
BEFORE BED / by Donnelle McGee
Letting myself melt into her is where the living is.
I remember this before bed each night when
My fiancée and I share our day in words.
The sharing of fears, triumphs, and what it means to
Blend, opens our bodies.
I see the humanity in her soft smile.
There are tears in my eyes. Tears not of sadness but of the realization
Of knowing her.
I am privy to her humanity.
They Did Make Love to This Appointment / by Anna Priddy
Off they go. Summers in Massachusetts
are rare. There is a certain slant of light
and a heat just right, it’s as if a life
could be lived in open air. I was young.
There were fireworks in July, and an arm
around me, and oh, I was proud to be
held by a man. There was a beautiful
red-haired girl, older, who took me around,
treated me like I was grown. Christopher,
who clambered up to the open window
of my rented room when I was too drunk
to find my keys. All was open windows
and nights full of promise to walk through.
Green Plums Cento (after Herta Müller) / by Scott Williamson
I. When we don’t speak
we become unbearable
and when we do
we make fools of ourselves.
Because in this country we had to walk, eat, sleep and love in fear
the loudspeakers see and hear everything we do
But once her voice grows silent, thinks the child, everything will have turned out
to be a lie, since the truth has gone tumbling down her throat.
In his eyes he carried the darkness of the city.
Because father stashes his guilty conscience inside the damn stupid plants –
You can’t eat green plums you’ll swallow your death –
and hacks them down.
He made graveyards even in places where he had never set foot
II. Crevices, leaves, love
Everyone felt like crying, but couldn’t, so they applauded too long instead
Only peasants jump from laughing to crying, from shouting to silence
They were at home in their fear
The proletariat of tin sheep and wooden melons
the silence of the villages, which forbids thought
Here no one was a guest.
A handsbreadth of un-chiseled space waited for the date of death.
they never stayed long at the grave.
In the crevices of my skull I found every missing sentence
No cities can grow in a dictatorship,
because everything stays small when it’s being watched.
III. Our illnesses are a knot with which to tie our children.
Everyone lived by thinking about flight.
You could feel the dictator and his guards hovering over all the secret plans,
you could feel them lurking and doling out fear.
they proved their reliability by the number of their enemies.
They didn’t eat because they were hungry, they just lusted after the sour taste
which had ruled their lives
words would fall upon his silent countenance like locusts on a field already chewed bare.
I saw a barren province in her face…she would never venture within herself.
The city’s madmen never die
The more people died, the greater the obsession of those who remained
They become friends in order to hate each other better
Town is all around you when you have no place to go
The coffee tasted of strife
Transfinite is a window that doesn’t disappear once someone has fallen into it
Everything around us smelled of farewell.
Poem 7 / Day 7
Winter Sea / by Gordon Adams
Take Mountain Road,
After Whistler’s Road,
Then Goose Ledge Road,
Tibetan Track Road,
Hurricane Ridge Road
To Pott’s Point.
At the private marina,
The winter wind urges you to turn away.
If you resist, through field glasses
You can see Dolphin Marina
And Erica’s Seafood Shack, across the bay
It is quiet now over there.
No summer people coming for the breaded scallops
Or steak point appetizers,,
No loafer-clad Long Island sailors
In for a day or two on well-appointed yachts
Shuttled (one-way – $20)
In the dingy to watch the setting sun
From the back deck,
Corgi’s at the leash.
Their ghostly fleet,
Stands sentinel on the shore,
Beached for the winter.
The rest of them, from “away”
Have sailed south,
Where winter never comes.
Erica’s stand shuttered, too,
The modest shack dispenses
No fried shrimp or clams
The lobster rolls (and the lobster)
Aren’t doled out to folks
Who find Dolphin a bit pricy.
The marina piers are empty,
The names of owners
Are stapled to the planks,
But every slip is empty.
On a buoy, one small,
Weathered fishing boat,
The Erica Jade,
twists from side-to-side
The wind pushes the water
In crenelated ridges into the rocks.
And six brown ducks
Ride the empty sea
Rising from time to time
To shake off the cold water,
Then float away.
Gazing at Tennessine / by Peg Duthie
This quest for an island of stability
is cluttered with heavy stuff:
like any joust for prestige,
there is smashing galore,
pricey metals, treasures that vanish
faster than eight-hundredths of a second—
faster than the flick of a wrist
or the intake of breath
needed to shout
“I want” or “I am”—
and how okay are we
with how the quest will outlive us
and indeed could kill us
without pushing back
the hands on the clock
or filleting monsters
into loaves and fishes
or plugging leaks on liferafts
but how okay we are
with ten million dollars per minute
funneled into the fleeting ads
and festival of brain decay
cherished as all-American tradition—
or, are we? Like shores, like stone,
words are abraded—erode and are reshaped
by time and by their speakers
and so are chemical tables and truths.
Hovering over stats and sequences,
I recognize anew how the arc of the universe
sometimes appears as a filthy smile—
the pitcher who’s just unleashed a curveball
one can’t help admiring
while swearing at it.
February 7 is Periodic Table Day.
Transmutation of Pain / by Elizabeth Fields
Bitter the Chastening Rod, 2000. Pieced, quilted, stitched, and appliquéd fabrics, with cording.
Gwendolyn A. Magee 1943-2011
Each stitch a testament
to the anguish of her soul.
Each technique applied as a way
to strengthen worn areas—we
patch holes in long reigning stories
told by murders and thieves
those who strive to dominate the
Power through emotional pain—
wounds emit energy. Stagnant.
But now we warriors are
reclaiming birth rights. Black the
complete absorption of light.
Our collective energy will no longer
be used to strengthen the bodies of
the wicked. Colonizers. Earth’s cancer
on her skin. Scattering of the light.
Create in order to proclaim our
humanity. Our power in frequency.
The artist sews her energy
In motion in appliquéd fabrics.
Black fabric. Black body. Black . The seven
linked chain holding her subjects
soul body is grey. The grey of mornings
in winter. The cold tombstone not erected
in her honor. Soul bodies scream life force
out of mouths til all float above and around
til finally finding our motherland.
Her feet, her foundation becomes wildness
African plains of zebras roaming where
her soul goes. Her body, just a shell for
the unnamed. Torture. No stiches for the
oppressors. They have had their time.
This is quilting to transmute generational
pain. Still occupies spaces around our
heavenly bodies always yearning to go home.
Of freedom from this tyranny that still happens
to bodies that look like mine. Forced sterilizations.
Involuntary test subjects. Peons. Pawns. The needle
works a prayer for anguish living in muscles,
in spines, in fingers and toes. In the memories
of three hundred plus years. Three hundred plus
years in stitches, in drawings, our writing.
In our being, it is therapy and truth. It is voice
for this woman heavy with child. It is voice
because hers was stolen. We quilt truth back.
Straight stich, satin stich. We write voices
back. Sonnet, couplets. Verse by verse it comes
in bellowing waves engulfing all who come
near. The balancing of things dear. Talent with cause.
And where does your heart pierce through the collective?
Poem Seven: Bird-Watching / by Ava M. Hu and Soleil Piverger
Every Sunday for the month of February, poet Soleil Piverger and I write poems in conversation. Soleil is 15 years old, and attends Saint Anne’s high school in Brooklyn, New York.
Descent of wings,
we fall from the sky.
we two paired,
halved or whole,
maps and charts
to record bird calls,
call it bird-watching.
Call us quatrains,
les propheties inspired
by cake scattered for hens.
By the pull and float of a feather,
a watercolor stripe of wing
as it fans across air,
direction of headwinds
beneath the belly of the multiplying flock.
Call us the mirror and mirrored.
Namesakes for some divine inclination
as in heaven so it be on earth.
We, the visitations and vibrations,
seasonal incantations, prophets
of the rising sound of daybreak.
We two, we pair together,
we double together,
like two wings on the back of a saint.
Poem In Response, by Soleil Piverger
̈Like two wings
On the back of a saint. ̈
Waiting for the pennon
Appear, feathered extensions
Hearing, for a while that
The last clap would make me faint
That applause was the same
As glory, as fame
Knowing, as flowers
We were the same.
Ripped apart, we were buds
We could break
Our eyes would flock to
The clock, we were lost
Tossed by the time
Scattered by the scholars
We sung our groans
Through italics and static
Spent hours with the lilypads
Surface level, rooted by myriads
Seeds split and split
Same soil, same light,
No– you took the moon
I took the day sky.
How to Write a Poem / by Deborah Kelly
Filling paper is grinding ink,
for one good brushstroke,
on other paper, with room to breathe.
In Turner’s painting of ships at sea—
one red dot that rivets.
it is the eye through which
the whole picture is seen.
Miró paints one blue dot that bleeds.
Faith in the weather / by Joanna Lee
–for J & J
The bright yellow of the Dollar General blares on the corner,
its steel grey roll-down doors sealed tight against the cold.
Men still wait at the bus stop beside, where the black rail fence
has been fixed yet again. A matching canary shopping cart
sits forlorn in a corner nearest the alley.
From here, you can’t see any of it, only hear the bus as it comes to a stop,
see its lights pass as it rolls away, hear the recorded message
of its next destination sung out from the speakers
in a voice not quite human. From here, there is only a view
of rooftops and siren-echoes, the fluorescence
of two streetlights silhouetting the night.
From here, you can watch the moon melt
into their refractions and wait for the snow to work
its strange white-erase magic, softening the chill of the grief
with which god has touched so many.
The hours pass quiet. The bus is gone; the moon,
disappeared. The sky hangs empty
and undecipherable, yet unbearably heavy.
Some signal tower blinks red in the backdrop,
as if to say, yes, I am out here. Yes, you are not alone.
Above / by Kayla Long
I always think of above the clouds as some sort of heaven
But when you fly above them it’s not quite what you think
With less atmosphere to filter out the light
The sun is harsh, too white to be nurturing
Below the clouds the cities dwell
Unaware, normal, calm in comparison
Up here isn’t loud, per say, it’s just the feeling that you get
With the harsh white light bounced around by clouds
Like the darkness of the ocean
But the direct opposite
When you fly above them, it’s not quite what you think
It makes you wonder
SACRED MORNING RUN / by Donnelle McGee
For it must be done.
The glint of sun through redwoods awakens the body to what is possible.
Who are we …
Why are we here …
need not be questioned this morning.
For this trail guides the body to where it needs to be.
Let the crisp bay air and the scent of a new day keep us here with the living.
In My Youth I Suffered Much Extremity for Love / by Anna Priddy
Will you walk in the air? I could tell you
something. My cheeks grow hot, just as they did
when I was twenty. Touch the memory.
I knew him well. Twenty-four hours I drove
without rest just to reach the place his scent
would be. I was safe there. Wrapped in his sheets,
in a wooden bed, atop a wooden
stair, in a wooden house, in New England
woods. Though this be madness without method,
here are some things I did: I started when
he said my name; I noted the passing
of his car; I caught his eyes with mine,
held his stare. I read the books he assigned;
I fell to my knees in tears. I yielded.
There is nothing like love for a man,
especially when he is dead. I call
a number that means nothing to no one.
In my desk I keep the key to his door.
He doesn’t live at that place anymore.
Whitmania (a cento) / by Scott Williamson
Poem 6 / Day 6
Cacapon Creek / by Gordon Adams
Leaving ordered city life,
the four of us would drive
out Interstate 70,
our sights on Cacapon State Park.
(The boys thought it sounded like a stutter.)
Under the dark pine beams of the lodge,
past Adirondack chairs crowding the porch,
the upright piano waiting quietly for evening songs,
the antlered mementos of the hunt,
picking up the keys
to our little log cabin on the hillside.
Three small bedrooms;
yellow incandescent lights,
and the large living room
where the sofa’s broad wooden arms
invited us to stay.
Fry up burgers; open the wine;
break out the guitar
and sing “never smile at a crocodile;
cause if you smile at a crocodile,
he’ll come and eat you up
with a great big smile
so, never smile at a crocodile.”
(And the less fearsome version
Tim insisted on next.
“Always smile at a crocodile,
cause if you smile at a crocodile,
he’ll come and play with you
and stay around a while.”)
Every day we went to the creek,
a five-foot wide trickle
that ran over rocks down the hillside.
For hours three boys,
(for this was my game, too),
would play with the trickle’s intent.
Disturbing nature’s plan,
we would pile up rocks,
add branches like beavers,
make the dam so tight
the water would form a lake.
Then watch as the lake
began to flow around the edges
of our engineering feat.
Defeated by the creek,
we would start again,
create new channels,
delighted when water
that had flowed one way
slewed suddenly into the new path
we had opened.
We would spread the water out,
reduce it to a trickle here,
a minor flood there,
where the curved edges of the rocks
parted from each other.
Like life, that endless,
channels changing suddenly,
flooding the banks
around the edges of memory.
But the water always won.
More than a Single Bound / by Peg Duthie
More and ever more, I see myself offstage
within the fairy tales of princes passing tests,
standing with an axe and shovel
next to the graves of the ones who failed
and, when the chores are done, drinking
with peasants who have more sense than to fool
with fiddlesome riddles and death-defying feats,
seeing how death hardly needs any help
in showing up long before the answers
deign to peer back from mirrors. It’s not
that I dislike capes or tiaras
or even the giddy heart-in-mouth delight
of soaring—flying—across a dance floor
or speeding on two wheels through twenty borders,
the scent of bluebonnets rushing through the vents
of my helmet. But somewhere in my story
I learned which crones to heed: to beware
of affable tyrants who spin out the choices
as all or nothing, glory or death.
Better not to be afraid of the odd
or to be odd, or a drudge, or to plod
through columns of facts instead of promises—
there’s more to life, in short,
than beating or cheating the odds.
On February 6, 1977, motorcyclist Alain Prieur leapt over 16 buses in Montlhéry, France.
Gamin’s View / by Elizabeth Fields
Artist: Augusta Savage,
Gamin, ca. 1929, painted plaster.
is what they see.
I see questioning
in those wise painted
plaster eyes. Bronzed.
Why do we not behold
the beauty in sculpted
check bones? In the
barely wry smile just
waiting to crescendo?
To get past the little
pout, the tilting of head
with an uptick of chin.
As if in preparation to ask,
what you wanna know?
I got everything
I need right here
in the richness of my hat.
In the clothes you call
wrinkled. In this experience
you call less than. Why?
Because it isn’t yours?
Well guess what?
You can label me, put me
on a museum pedestal,
but you never never
ever gunna know my soul.
On Pneumas and Possession / by Ava M. Hu
We are pioneers in this land.
Instruments of the wind.
Motion of air caught inside a lute.
Even the lungs of the earth
expand. Sweet vapors,
mouthpiece of the god,
my mouth is consciousness,
clouds, so many clouds
bound by that which animates
first bloom. Motion of air,
the dreamer and the dream
circulate this body.
Am I not the sound
the sunrise makes?
Sound of ripening.
Sound of deities
greening leaves, the crown
of a baby in womb.
We are tied together
in the shapes of stars.
Constellations who tell stories.
Gravitas of the huntress and the hunted.
We hunt to capture the spirit
in the body like wind
pushing a bell.
Hemispheric Bus Ride / by Deborah Kelly
My dreams have been a hemispheric bus ride,
wrestling matches with places and people
who decode my face.
I do travel to get decoded.
I like the reciprocal strangeness
of being, for example, the only foreigner
in a foreign cafe.
Last night I was in a congested basement cafeteria,
in Chicago, with the exterior of Oxford, England’s
Natural History Museum.
I couldn’t untwist myself from the crowds,
lost my good companion.
What was my ex-husband doing there,
talking to me in the cafeteria line,
distracting me from conversation
with Andrei Codrescu, who had nice breath.
How my being seemed different
to the differently-habituated minds
of each of them.
I’d lost Codrescu in the crowd.
And couldn’t find a taxi.
So, I waded through a flooded subway station,
Got seated next to a scarab beetle,
a philosopher of natural cycles
who said we must always persist.
Nothing ends in a dream.
All I wanted was to get off the train
to someplace quiet.
Like getting home exhausted,
even in twisted sheets, to wake up.
To the daughter I’ll never have / by Joanna Lee
There were days I never thought of you,
whole stretches of hours I was happy finite.
Weeks I got lost just living. When I was your age,
I never thought in terms of legacy. And now,
what kind of world would I leave
as legacy for you?
There were other days, are other days still,
when I miss the tinyness of your hands,
get so angry I could punch the wall
thinking I’ll never have the chance
to hold you for the first time.
When I get lost in wondering
if you would have more red in your hair than I do
or the same crippling shyness. I don’t know
if introversion is inherited, but, baby girl,
I would hope you’re not a talker
who doesn’t use her head. I would hope
you’re smart and sensitive—things any mother
might wish… but also ones I might have had hope
of passing on to you. Just as I would hope
that decades from now, maybe, we might sit
as women do and laugh over a glass of wine,
maybe on the moon, if there’s nothing left for us here.
But don’t grow up in a hurry. Someone
will always want something from you. Know its value
before you give it. Study your blue book
before you name its price.
I want to tell you to take the curves slow,
but my opinions won’t fit on the dash,
and without the thrill there’s no point in the sports car, anyway.
Without comparisons, we’d have no scale
with which to weigh ourselves out,
hand ourselves to another, sell ourselves to the world.
I never saw you made to be for sale.
Your hips and everything that pulses
between them belong to you and you alone.
There are whole universes in the dark cave
of your blood; call them forth if you want
Tuck them under your tongue on lonely days
and whistle the rain away.
I never could whistle. We always want better
for our children. I miss you, miss
like hell the star charted possibility of you.
Buy the sports car, darling.
Find a desert road and drive through midnight,
just you and the sky.
Stacked / by Kayla Long
A kitten is placed on a pile of firewood
A precariously placed stack
She cannot shift her weight
Least the pile come crashing down
Full of guilt for the slight movements
That send a log tumbling down
To crash on the ground
Splinters embedding in the people around
Some even sticking the kitten
Why would the kitten be to blame
For the disasters that occur
Someone should be at fault
To fix the issues at hand
But it’s just the kitten that gets left
On top of the pile of wood
Motionless- no way down
THE BACK OF AN AMBULANCE IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE / by Donnelle McGee
my daughter tells me i see beauty in the darkest things
i reflect back to my childhood
inside bedrooms with bodies with no boundaries
inside cars where fists end discussions
my daughter tells me the back of an ambulance isn’t a beautiful place
though i tell her to look at the blue glow inside and see the man at peace
i tell her we are all dying
my daughter tells me she fears what i welcome
my daughter tells me i see beauty in the darkest things
and to teach her how to because she is struggling to understand
and i don’t know how to be alive without making peace with those things that shake my body
those fears that eat my body from the inside
daughter the beauty in the darkness brought me to you
Give Every Man Thy Ear, But Few Thy Voice / by Anna Priddy
Every day I love it a bit more.
As for men, I have no interest there.
Dead men, though, dead men I like and the words
they left for me stir the blood and the mind,
as if increase of appetite had grown
by what it fed on. My ear, I will keep,
but my voice I will give to everyone.
Colette – Ravel Cento, after L’Enfant et les sortilèges / by Scott Williamson
(for my students at WLU, and opera workshops everywhere)
Poem 5 / Day 5
Deliberation / by Gordon Adams
They set out at night,
Departing in desperation,
Shoeless and silent,
Rickety rafts lashed together,
Slipping into the water.
The Advisor sits in his leather chair
At the polished, dark oak table
Wearing Burberry’s best gabardine twill,
Feet at rest in shiny, black Venetian loafers,
Chewing on a yellow Faber-Castell Velvet No. 2.
The buttocks of the bemedaled Chairman
Raise him firmly up,
To full, uniformed glory;
He elbows the Military Minister
For his attention.
The Foreign Minister is tipped forward
Head resting neatly on his chest,
Eyes closed, face expressionless,
A dormouse in the policy teapot.
His head slowly rises to demur.
At the end of the table,
The Development Minister tugs at her eyebrows,
Seeking space in the murmur to speak.
The Chief of Staff in informal turtleneck
Worries about the Ruler’s reputation.
A tired trickle of escapees
Becomes a torrent,
Hanging on to the gunwales
Of near-swamped rowboats,
Anxiety fills the air.
In the glare of neon ceiling lights
Creating white haze over the table,
The worried ministers of minimization
Hem, and then try to haw,
Deliberate deliberation well under way.
The Chairman falters;
I have no ships to send.
The Military Minister insists.
The Foreign Minister
Dozes away his concern.
The Security Chief inspects
The dollop of yellow egg yolk on his shirt;
Is anyone here as brilliant as I?
The Ambassador Plenipotentiary
Rising with the swells,
Falling off the edges of safety,
Tired swimmers and their craft
Angle for the lights ahead
Or for the waiting sea sharks.
Coffee is served, or water.
The Advisor licks his dry lips.
If they land, we will face protest.
Minions scurry about with stretched foreheads
Whispering their concern.
The Special Representative,
Dark, like the swimmers,
Pounds the table;
We must decide;
Do the right thing.
The Chairman shrugs;
The Minister sleeps on,
The Advisor wants to know
Who will pay, who will not;
And what will we do with them?
The water churns
As the swimmers clutch
Their childrens’ hands
And stumble ashore,
Uncertain of the reward for courage.
Getting Close to Venus / by Peg Duthie
On a long journey, you must be prepared
to cope with failing clocks and flaking paint
and trash impersonating stars.
If you are daring, you might also try
letting gravity fling you faster toward dust
and sulfur than the natural course of things
would take you into and under.
But on a long journey, you can also hope
to gaze at marvelous clouds
and study the traces of oceans—
to spin fresh stories and shanties
before you run out of gas.
On February 5, 1974, Mariner 10 flew within 3600 miles of Venus.
The Eclipse: A World of Different Colors / by Elizabeth Fields
Alma Woodsey Thomas 1891-1978, born in Columbus GA. Painting, The Eclipse, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
An eclipse, to pass into the shadow
of another body. Each brush stroke
a gathering of pigment around the center
sun. Yellow on outer circles of light
to Western eyes—happiness, joy,
and hope. To Chinese this is sacredness
and honor. To African eyes wealth and
visibility. In Greece–sadness. Yellow is
always the same vibrant color, but
it depends on what environment surrounds
the now orange strokes nestled between hope
And danger. The sweet insides of clementine’s.
An orange building should be erected in homage,
inside the rooms are scratch n sniff. Tangerine
pillows line walls and the aroma fills the air
in India this is a most sacred color of purity,
courage, and sacrifice and in Thailand it’s
Thursday’s color. Unlike Thailand’s red
the color of Sunday. Of Buddhism.
Red—passion of the heart so close this love
thing is to hate. Stop! Danger!
Anger! In Russia the color of revolution
and of weddings. In the West, the color
of painted nails on a hot date. On lips
parting into a wide grin. Swirls and dances
into purple rain purple mountains a small
row for a royal color. Round and round closer
to the center. The eclipse. To pass into the shadow
of another body. To drape oneself in robes.
To sing of majesty, though in Brazil it’s the color
of death and mourning. Bodies of light are
Always contradictory. The interactions
between worlds and suns. Planets so far away
could be blueberries, so blue like those sugary
sweet blues. Light blue then circled rows of
the deep blue sea. Blue gray mixes through
waves of brush strokes—each with a meditative
hue. My blue is Cinnamon Cove blue waters the
soothing of the soul. In Indonesia blue sadness
weighs down the heart. In Mexico trust, serenity,
and mourning. The blue of lips never to be kissed
again. In Belgium blue swaddles baby girls.
To pass into the shadow of another body.
all depends on the environment Color dances
in tandem—in an understanding of more
than our perceived duality. A relationship
of values, warmth, coolness. Colors mixed create
fades into the center deep blue world, sun,
covered with bodies of other light. It all
intermingles and creates spectacular harmony—
The dynamic equilibrium of being.
Poem Five: Pythia / by Ava M. Hu
Head full of snakes.
Beating, wings, give way.
Water wets both limb and foot.
How often captured
by the motion of the senses.
You, covered with ships and sails.
Snakes surround the altar.
The moon completes her great cycle.
Eyes pierced with spring.
What are these signs and symbols
among the branches? Faces
anointed with milk and honey.
Who will lift the face of heaven?
At the well lightning strikes.
Sideways roots from trees.
Open lockets of the future
foretold by the rustling of leaves.
This cold water.
The field moved
by the sway of futures foretold.
Sway and move. A crown
of rushes on my head.
Sway of water. You
pierced by spring.
I, the flowering laurel.
You, the motion of the waves.
Cymbals, trumpets, and bells.
Green in the lacework of trees.
I, the collision of two suns.
You, covered in ships and sails.
Listen to the sound of two
We, the divine ramblings
of yellow crocus frozen still in time.
Ongoing Lessons on Poetry / by Deborah Kelly
Poetry Lesson #One
To enter a poem,
arrive with all your senses.
Trust more than one of them.
Poetry Lesson #Two
No more interrogating poems,
or the body,
New York City, or the poet’s voice.
No interrogating the process.
No unpacking its strands.
No unpacking the future of packaging.
And no interrogating “no.”
No is no.
Do not interrogate the planetary boundary,
the single nucleotide,
notions of freedom,
or what’s in my head.
Let my rock ’n roll heroes alone.
And do not unpack arguments—
from your steamer trunk—
onto my goddam bed.
Poetry Lesson #Three
In a way, I don’t mind if you don’t understand me,
being unclear but free of debris.
A poem, like an apple on the wet belly
of bouncing water,
somehow leaves us full,
and somehow keeps us hungry.
Springs eternal / by Joanna Lee
Instead of telling you how long a day this was,
how many times I had to hit the snooze
before my feet ever hit the floor
how many times, as a woman behind a counter,
I was treated with less than respect,
or about all the people (and there are so many)
who come into a place
& have no respect at all.
Instead of describing everything that is wrong with the world
up to & including the man I can see from my office window
relieving himself against the alley fence
or how the neighbor’s dog, howling through the walls,
sounds always heartbroken
Instead of telling you what you already know:
that tomorrow I’ll be just as stressed, that we’ll all be just as stressed,
I’m tired of typing about bad shit. Listen.
The grape seeds I culled from the orphan vines out back,
that I cocooned in winter for 3 months inside the crisper drawer,
planted in paper cups with enough soil to make them a home
set on the counter under a grow lamp for 16 hours each day—
Wiki told me for sure they should sprout in 2 weeks to 2 months.
That was New Year’s Day, 5 weeks ago.
—there’s still nothing.
But this morning I stuck a thumbnail down
into one of the cups & poked, just to see.
There was definitely maybe a tendril of a pale root.
I didn’t kill it.
Birthday / by Kayla Long
There are approximately seven and a half billion people in the world
Considering there are three hundred and sixty-five days a year
I share a birthday with quite a few
I’m sorry I didn’t think of you sooner
I’m sorry I thought this day was my own
So, staring every year from now
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to my Grandpa
Happy birthday to the person half way around the world
Happy birthday to the person I saw in the store
Happy birthday to the baby born this morning
Happy birthday to all the people I do not know
Another year on this earth, together, we show
LONDON TO BRUSSELS-after René Magritte’s A Friend of Order, 1964, Belgium
a heart song through her body
a moon dance in her head
someone rescue her
for if she is real
blueness will overtake her
she would say
if she could
that it is all shaped by backstory
how one shows up to be at the ear
of the other
to sit with him without regard for chaos
she will hold
there is no rush to happiness
the soft pink blooms
will still rise this spring
Except my Life, Except my Life, Except my Life / by Anna Priddy
Nothing is important. If it is waste,
it has been, at times, completely my own,
and so mine to waste. And the great question
of being, answered only by the breath
keeping to its habit. How I love it.
When a child I was like a prisoner,
counting down the days, hoping to survive.
I wished and prayed, prayed and wished,
talking to fairies, then gods, to myself,
to whosoever might save me. None did.
I saved myself. Me, and time. Enemy
Time. Which is no respecter of persons.
And does cruel things to me. That currency
I can’t get back, or hoard. nor hold on to.
Sonnet to a Bald Eagle / by Scott Williamson
from Sonnets to Summer past and future
How can they be chasing you, bald eagle
barely out-flying the crows whose smallness your
large span accents. Bird, you’re legit. Mythic
white-shrouded head branding you ours for use.
Whose? you’d retort, if you were not in the
flight part of the fight. Speaking of wingspan,
buzzards circled nearby. They say vultures
have been “terrorizing” Florida’s coasts.
Not your problem. Bless those raptors: they’re born
vulturi, and are just being themselves.
Best fit for national bird? You can’t hide.
Blood-red beaks too deeply stained. Denying
guilt, Turkey? You’re no eagle. Stop shaming
both the crows and kids with your uncouth lusts.
Poem 4 / Day 4
That Smell / by Gordon Adams
The smell of death surrounds you.
– Lynyrd Skynyrd
I don’t know how I will die,
or when, or where,
for that matter.
My father told me once
he didn’t want to die like his father,
cursing his God.
But, through his oxygen mask,
he cursed the God
who let him die at 93.
Ten years ago, my brother-in-law
learned he had five years to live.
The extra five were borrowed time.
He grew thin in his Acapulco condo,
lived thanks to a five-liter tank.
Emphysema took him in his sleep.
His spouse sits alone now
In an Acapulco condo,
Waiting, with half his sight.
His blue eyes have turn hollow
and his spirit wavers
between recognition and…somewhere else.
There is no roadmap, no guide,
amidst grave uncertainty.
Hotlines / by Peg Duthie
Every now and then I fantasize
about a second phone number: one
for the forms and the politicians,
the wannabe tycoons
offering cash for my casa,
the robopests and the friends of friends
who look through me—I’m the plastic bag
the wind done knotted
around a branch of magnolia—
until they think I have something they want
because of where I sit
or whom else they think I know.
Sometimes I have their number before
they’ve ever fluttered a lash toward me
and that’s when I long for a separate phone
to help me winnow paste from mineral.
It’s not that I don’t have a use for tinsel
or throwaway gems—I have myself been
a princess of straw, a giant yowl
of greed: a user. But that’s how I know
the tow of regret and the tug of shame,
how an ill-stitched seam can rub skin raw
but also how the right amount of flair—
how a single inch of heel
can change three steps from a joke to a dance
how a bedazzled mask can change
the thrum of a throng
from mundane to magical
but most of all how simply being there
is sometimes what a someone needs.
Not an encrusted cloak or dagger
or super-pills or secret potions
but plain unvarnished speech
on the other end of the line—
No, you could not, cannot save them.
Yes, it sucks. Have you eaten today?
For the love of God, take a nap—
and sometimes perfect, undemanding silence:
when not a word has been said
nor eyelid twitched in any direction
but you both know you just exchanged winks
and on some happier day you’ll talk about it.
February 4 is Liberace Day. Zeki Müren was known as the Turkish Liberace. Twenty years after his death, hundreds of people called a hotline answered by his voice.
Loïs Mailou Jones, Les Fétiches, 1938, oil on linen, Smithsonian American Art Museum / by Elizabeth Fields
Les Fétiches the Fetish
the enchantment of souls
in the middle. Just his face.
The being of a thousand masks.
Eyes are closed. He has gone within.
Above him a higher self. Mask angled
with brown shadow and light haloing
a horn on one side, remembrances
Of the animalistic. Of sacrifice—
On the other side the dominant
Faced stripped ego sits for front.
A demon peaks from right corner.
Always lower. In crevices. Chides
the mask of double consciousness.
Pale faced. Surprised with round
Mouth and eye. A red beaked
Miniature deity. Orisha. Between worlds.
Radiating white light energy to guide
The painted self who resides below.
Les Fétiches the Fetish
To fetishize. Exoticism. The unknown.
The artist tells her students
To travel to Africa to understand its art.
Painted in Paris in 1938.
The soul in the middle.
It’s just his face.
The being of a thousand masks.
Windowsill / by Gaby Garcia
On the border of you, a bird landed.
Early winter jay, too blue for its own good.
We need a new sky, anyway. We need a new
radio station. You never sing to me anymore,
piano pressed against the wall, your head
tipped back and wailing. I hope you know—
instruments get angry if you do not touch them
in the right places. Birds die from oil spills
and ever-yearning flight. They are tired
of painting on the sun. Tired of living
in wallpaper that never breathes. The migration
is near, more beautiful than before.
It is warm somewhere. It is dawn, and you
are humming against the watercolor sky.
Purification / by Ava M. Hu
we take the vow,
we lie across the spring.
Strange words taste
like sugared grapes.
The body’s sickly sweet
slow rot in the eyes
of the god we are all
milk-white vessels from which
the froth of the universe pours.
We are water in aqueducts,
future lives, fingerprints
of what is to come.
Laurel leaves, imprint
these love letters,
give me water in the lungs,
will it cleanse
Desert and Snow / by Deborah Kelly
I am desert and you are snow.
Such various ways, we pile.
My shadows are iron,
they’re seeps under ledges
or dark, dry stone.
You are a nail of ice
in a tract of melt.
In a crevice,
you are a snow bone.
If your face is flushed,
it’s because I’m high-colored.
If I am white, it’s because
you graupel and shout.
None of our slopes
are a durable landscape.
plow their way out.
Sepsis Ghazal / by Joanna Lee
I hold your shaking shoulders, your lips pressed tight against the cold.
This, this, the first sign for fear: your hot dark skin white against the cold
your body invents, your body at war, your body losing this war,
your body settling toward equilibrium, yielding the fight against the cold
of January, I sit in the car, trying to remember the prayers of my childhood
while you enter the clinic alone, my whole being curled up right against the cold.
Then everything happens very fast: the lines the beeps the blood
Suddenly I’m standing, staring up at your hospital window, eyes bright against the cold.
At home, alone, I take down the curtains, wash them, hang them
up again, put them just so, to block out the light against the cold
of a world that has made us victims of this vacuum, this airless
space where no straight thoughts can stay, but take flight against the cold
of the fears that won’t sleep, all the questions and the unknowing;
all the connection we have mere pixelated megabytes against the cold
of two small screens. I don’t sleep in our bed alone, but pile
all the blankets I have into a nest in the spare room at night against the cold.
Even now, love, I listen close on your breathing, touching your skin
with the back of my palm—new gratitudes—like sunlight against the cold.
Lists / by Kayla Long
When I feel overwhelmed
By the insurmountable tasks ahead of me
And I find my self drowning in everything I need to do
I make a list
Lists for things that need to be bought
Lists for places to go
Lists for projects to take on
When I put my swirling thoughts in a neat row
The background anxiety fades a bit
They seem less daunting scribbled on a post-it note
Stuck across my walls
I won’t forget my tasks
Unless I forget the note
I TOO AM A LOVE SONG / by Donnelle McGee
Marvin Gaye was a love song
as was Donny Hathaway
On the go back I witness vulnerability in words
Complexities of what it means to be human and flawed
in their eyes
And I fail every day living as the man I say I am
Go easy though
I too like you am a love song
Get Thee to a Nunnery / by Anna Priddy
Would you love me if you knew all of me?
That is, all about me, the lies I tell,
the ugly things I’ve done. In orisons
let all my sins be numbered. Who is that
who could know us full through and love us?
I have been a child and a girl, and where
is one who could have seen what I have seen,
or see what I see? I did love you
once. But also, he and he and he. Sin.
I say we shall have no more marriages.
Shall I lie in your lap? Lie to your face?
Shall I lie among the lilies along
the river’s edge while the riven water
washes over me? Will you tell us what
the show meant? You are naught. I’ll mark the play.
Sonnet to my Summer twins / by Scott Williamson
from Sonnets to Summer past and future
You twitch and awaken with the Spring moon,
sneaking in like Gremlin tricksters. Bacchus
and Apollo inside the brain. Holy
mixed-episode, Batman, they got here fast!
Midsummer myth-flames or madness? Raven
presides over rites, heralds
rebirth. The egg must be carried until
Fall. Cyclic trials while hustling reminds
one to cherish sleep and every fuck.
One day they may stop calling. And then what?
Who would you be without those bi-polar
twins cycling through seasons, renewing life’s
lease. Dialectic of opposing fires.
Friends, stay. Kingfisher, Elders: meet Bella.
Poem 3 / Day 3
Coup d’Etat / by Gordon Adams
There are words for this,
But they are not our words.
They are foreign words.
Golpe del Estado
They belong less worthy enemies,
Places where governments
Or shithole countries
With porous borders.
A history of civil war
Not exceptional America,
The city on the hill
Who are these pinched faces,
Pot bellies in mufti,
Rifles at the ready,
Scaling the walls
Of the grey palace of power
Plastic zip ties in hand,
Shattering bullet-proof glass
Hurling fire extinguishers,
Whose fate was intended to be
on the makeshift platform outside
where nooses swayed in the winter wind.
Stopping the steal.
They are us
Or a shattered mirror
That reflected our myths.
They are our humiliation,
Our return to humanity.
Shepherd on a Narrow Bridge / by Peg Duthie
As I bandage a knuckle, I ponder
all the trouble I could get into today
weigh it against my appointments, mortgage,
what I think I can afford to lose
and how much of my soul I will lose
for not speaking up this round
but she is a fool who doesn’t choose
to stay alive when it is a choice:
there are battles a-plenty, and a voice
can make itself heard in ways without noise
though someday shouting in fire may be
the only route left while being routed.
I try not to drench myself in doom
before it arrives—I try
to hold onto faith, but this is also real:
the bridge is narrow because Nero’s heirs
continue removing planks and torching the piles
and wrapping our fingers around their triggers
and claiming we’re pressing the tines and tugging twine
into and around our own throats. Only
a certain kind of sheep would not be afraid.
Trusting saints and wannabe saviors
isn’t in my nature, and
sticking my neck out totally not in my nurture
but neither does standing still spare anyone
from sin or sorrow or slaughter. The world
is a narrow bridge and we must be the carpenters
in spite of the smoke and salt and floods.
February 3 is the feast day of St. Blaise, an Armenian bishop whose execution included having his flesh torn apart with wool combs. He is a patron saint of woolworkers, as well as people with throat disease (because he saved a child from choking). The Romans also killed Rabbi Akiva by metal comb. A later rabbi, Nachman of Breslov, said (translations vary), “The world is a narrow bridge; the important thing is to not be afraid,” which—like Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven”—is a text that I simultaneously adore and vehemently disagree with, and thus return to again and again.
Elba Light Foots’ “Toy Parade” vs. New York City’s Harlem Hospital / by Elizabeth Fields
1. Artist’s Statement
To a child awake
Gayly adorned characters
The appearance of
These are amusing to children
On their way to the land of nod.
These jolly little make – believes
Are only the toys
ridiculously come to life.
2. Board Members’ Response
Subject: Federal Art Project – NYC –
Toy Parade – location – Harlem Hospital –
Artist – Elba Light Foot –
NEW YORK: NEGATIVE 12709-C
FOR PAINTING NEGROES
Mural panel 2 described by board member Peter Dickerson:
There is clearly a young Negro boy here
Sitting next to a little white girl
They are both shocked. Sitting out
there like that for the world to see
on a perch of some sort.
And the nurse near them is likewise overwhelmed
By the stork above who seems to be
Dropping babies left and right.
On rooftops no doubt. Little colored
Babies dropped on rooftops?
What kind of message does this send?
Little Negro babies and white babies
Together? Being dropped on rooftops?
(Artist’s interjection: the children gave marvelous suggestions as to what they wanted.)
WE CAN”T SUPPORT THIS! The board members yell
NEGITIVE NEGITIVE NEGITIVE
FOR PAINTING NEGROES.
3. Interviewed Children ages 2 to 12
Ohh I love parades!
I wanna see clowns and people dancing
Ohh my daddy plays the guitar and sings
There’s gotta be music in a parade!
Everyone loves a parade. Will we—
all be in the mural?
Can we be birds on a perch?
Will the nurses be there? They gotta
Take care of the babies.
My momma says the stork just drops the babies off
Just like that. Some slide down fire escapes and through windows
I wanna see my momma.
I wanna Toy Land PA – RADE!
You so sweet to ask us what we wanna see.
I get board laying here.
I like parades though
And mariachi bands!
4. The Public Speaks & The Verdict
The adults: we the people of New York
Support Elba Light Foots’ “Toy Parades”
The children: there’s going to be a parade today
Cause Elba’s gunna win her case today!
There’s gunna be a parade today
And Elba Light Foots gunna lead the way!
Verdict: the hospital commissioner
reversed the decision
after public controversy was aroused
by protest from the artists and their
supporters (New York Times)… and the mural? Well, it stayed.
Milkmaid / by Gaby Garcia
A man once milked his long hair into my mouth
but instead of milk it was sweat and soda
and instead of hair it was a swollen summer flower.
I gave him my baby teeth in an Altoid tin
and he shook it like an instrument. If that isn’t
daddy issues, it sure is front page news.
The crux of my mattress is edible. The nucleus
is dissolved like a little white pill. I smile
in the mirror at my permanent teeth and wish
I could keep losing them, collecting dollar bills
under my pillow from fictional women. Leave them
trinkets in return while I trudge in the stale glitter.
My favorite color changes every time I blink.
This second, it’s pink-acid-nostalgia, and I drool.
I like Sundays. I like losing so many feminine gifts.
Ellipses / by Ava M. Hu
Take it back. The
sound of the bloom
of paper whites
come snow, come
this blank page. Take
it back, these black
inked rivers of words
frozen in the mouth
of the mountain,
or a man, nor hero
nor brightest star
by which to guide
take it back, these
long blue lights,
come morning, come
heave of the eventual
and I are apostrophe,
erasure, ink spill,
begin when you’re ready
when you’re ready begin.
September, in a Cabin on the Northshore of Lake Superior / by Deborah Kelly
When we were born dancers / by Joanna Lee
We expect to be able to achieve full generation within less than one second of receiving a signal.
–Chris Yendell, project development manager, Gravitricity1.
We hadn’t yet learned
to harness our pirouettes.
You were always best at thresholds, on the edge
of control (of failure of success of leaving), the dip
of a toe in, so deliciously liminal,
cartwheeling at the heavy tideline,
dreaming of salt-stained everafters. I dreamed once
of setting fire: the gas can, the rising smoke,
the flames that arabesqued into dark summer air. It is true
what they say about true friends:
you tall in the doorway with the matches,
your footsteps so quiet
it was as if you had already shed
all the slow hours,
no fragile in the muscle
language of falling.
There is no fear in run.
No his, no theirs:
with no dominion,
engineers in dark tunnels
throw their slick hands to harness.
Remember, only you
can turn yourself into light.
1Edinburgh-based company currently developing techniques to harness gravity for energy storage
Disappearance / by Kayla Long
(Moonlight sonnet #1)
Staring at the sky, waiting for sunset
Looking for the moon to be there again
She fell for the quiet moments alone
Dancing in her sweet light bathing the lane
But then for weeks the moon could be seen
A girl of silver hair and powder face
Fell for the longing and whispered secrets
They dance in the dark, both in finest lace
A cabin in the woods away from town
Gardens for food, bread rising in the sun
A near by stream, meadows, fragrant flowers
Happiness together, a want for none
The moon disappeared, she lives with her love
Away from the people, she calls her dove
MOVE / by Donnelle McGee
“I am not done with my changes.” – Stanley Kunitz
Here rests the gnawing of spirit
That one not be scripted to old beliefs set
By those who back away from their own shadows
Don’t you try to be someone different
Norms shape the brittle
Yet on the breakaway there is chaos
That is not the way we do things
This is how one must be seen
Keep peace even when deceit crushes a body
Just stay Just stay Family Family
This is good enough for you eh?
No it is not
Stutterer Addict Codependent
That was me
And I was asked one day
Baring yourself on the page like that, aren’t you ashamed?
Not all all I say
Poets write the unsaid
We are not done confronting it all
Even when the all is the poet
Our State to be Disjoint or out of Frame / by Anna Priddy
Something is rotten here. Too much gone slack,
dissolution and isolation, back
in the before time when there were people,
when there was light and music and tables
to gather round and ankles and knees touched
beneath, elbows and hands above, gone now
are the times when we laughed, when a glance
could ignite an adventure. When the night
was full of promise and guitar players
played the blues, but offered joy in darkness.
Their fingers moved so quick to stir the blood.
The life and the sound and the fingering
building and building, moving to something.
Now nothing stirs. On a chaise, in soft clothes,
The days go. Is it a judgement, a price
to be paid for the wastes of long ago?
Or the inevitable ugliness
of life slowing down, the rotting to come?
Sonnet to my Four Seasons: Summer / by Scott Williamson
from Sonnets to Summer past and future
As if you’re the lighter-fluid to my
seasonal grill whose flames flare like Vulcan’s
forge celebrating another Solstice.
You’re the thrust in my power-anthem, Babe:
80’s playlist, blasting at the Drive-in,
beach-week, rom-com summer. Manic mental
trips to 1985 and teen angst, those
first-sight loves, spontaneous inventions;
urgent ambitions of Midsummer fires.
North-light bacchanals, unafraid, thinking
ourselves free, our eyes wide and minds firing,
hearts beating like cheap drum-kits as we danced
our souls’ song, Don’t you forget about me,
high on each other, on living itself.
Poem 2 / Day 2
Omen / by Gordon Adams
Eyes fixed on the black-ribbed exercise mat,
white-sheathed legs deeply crouched,
moving one stealthy limb at a time,
Doc’s feline spine quivers with a hunter’s anticipation.
One paw lifts the mat’s edge as he stares inside,
certain there is someone, something,
an ominous shadow, a ghost, perhaps,
lurking beneath the undisturbed surface.
With silky whispering grace
each leg draws his body ahead;
the mat’s surface undulates left and right
as he disappears in the tunnel he created.
In an instant he is gone,
leaving only his tail behind, flicking
twitching across the carpet
like the back end of the Cheshire cat’s grin.
The mat roils like the sea as he rolls inside,
searching for the ghost, and then
his nose and white whiskers appear
at the opposite end of his imaginary excavation.
How satisfying it must be
To create one’s own darkness
And then emerge into sunshine
Sprayed across a grey and orange carpet.
Not Done, and Not Doing Things Over / by Peg Duthie
“You’re pandemic-ing wrong!” my husband says,
smirking as I roll my eyes. “Handmade pasta
without any pics on Instagram?
That means it didn’t happen!”
“I don’t like sourdough either,” I reply.
“Guess that means you married a unicorn
or the least hip woman in Nashville.”
He cheerfully toasts me with his IPA.
Wiping the counters and floor, I think
of how appalled my mother would be
at how much I spilled, at how much I spent
on oysters last week, at how much I weigh
and all the many other things
she and her friends would have said I was doing
wrong or not enough or not at all. I
have many regrets, a syndicate
of classes failed and friendships flaming out
constantly being restaged in my dreams,
but I’m also old enough to know
I would have found some way of screwing up
even if I’d been less self-absorbed
or studied much harder or not skipped track
in favor of reading 1960s sheaves
of Seventeen and (lord!) Good Housekeeping.
(Which now would be so hip, I suppose,
but back then it was just weird and sad
although the romance of those vintage pages
helped me drift to sleep on happier thoughts
than being chosen last or not at all.)
So here’s, my loves, to the things that didn’t happen
as well as the things that haunt us past distraction
into punching dough and being too loud
and being the girl that no one would want to marry
except that someone did, and his plate’s now clean:
“That wasn’t too weird,” he says of the pasta
tossed in lemon-anchovy sauce. “Good,” I reply.
“I might make it again,” thinking of what
I’ll try instead, now that I know
a little bit more about what works.
“American Mixtures of the Ethiopian Race” Mary Bell 1873-1941. / by Elizabeth Fields
Ohh La La
A swash of red on pretty lips.
Black curls crown three ladies of leisure—
three little miracles
Long rich fabrics—
Adorned beauties. “The girl in the center
Pretty as a pea.
Gold and blue tilted hat
Crowned curls as she
Looks off to her future.
She knows she rules her world.
Ohh La La—
Pretty painted crimson fingernails—
She has no duties
other than looking fine.
This dancing Philly dressed in gold taffeta
Fringed cuffs just a swinging.
She’s the Bella of the ball—
as pretty as she wants to be.
“The girl on the left the creole type”
She pretty too
but not as
always looking at the center girl
creole type girl got red and green zigging
and a zagging
she on tippy toes
just as dainty as she
“The girl on the right
Is the so called
She smaller than the other two. Scratching
Her head and of course looking at
The center girl.
The chocolate type she’s not smiling,
She got rosy red lips though and
Oh la la she’s wearing
A pretty pretty broach and brand new
Patient leather shoes. A deep forest green hugs her
She so small and chocolate sweet.
A Hibernation / by Gaby Garcia
Midwinter lifts like a ladle to the lips,
teasing its salt and grime and jagged
hunger. Strangers in the street call out
to each other, voices forced back
into silence by the white rasp of snow.
We are all home, now. Back of hand
to glass just to feel something. Screens
blaring to pretend we have a life outside
the tight lung of February.
Oracle / by Ava M. Hu
Wait here in the ribbons
Wait for the premonition.
Kernels of corn cast
in oil, the flip
of a playing card, bay leaf
tied to the end of a thread.
We, signs and symbols,
of wind through orange
of red flowers waiting
for song. Sickly and
of lovers or the strange
matter of flowers, strange
words who can do
so much. Wait
slowly and evenly
for the future.
I wait for a sign.
*quote from Thich Nhat Hanh
*artwork by Amy Sinclair
The Porter / by Deborah Kelly
I carry rain
through a wooded acre,
on flip-flops that sponge
the wet duff,
and potholes full
of leaf tea.
I bail the boat to the sun.
In the year of the ox,
the year of the cough,
a full pailful.
That the bottom falls out
again is not
It is a fugue of a storm
that repeats its surge, its weight
on the arms
Bottomed-out, upside down,
a pail is a risable crown.
I re-weld it.
But who can carry
a flood in a year
Blurred edges / by Joanna Lee
The blink of windshield glare
is familiar, like maybe this is a dream i dreamt,
how the christmas lights still strung
by the house beside the overpass
look like a strangled angel
though it’s almost valentine’s day,
and this is not a cupid type-angel—
which might make sense
if the homeowner had been,
you know, jilted—but a long, lean one
you could imagine with a trumpet
or a dove or even a sword if its head
hadn’t been bowed at such a god-awful angle.
the angel hangs from a maple skeleton
that might in fact be oak, but probably
isn’t. it’s hard to say in the dark.
i don’t come this way at night
if i can help it.
i have a friend who lives a few streets over,
near the Diamond, the ball field
they’re going to tear down and move
two blocks east, to make room
for the ABC headquarters.
this is the same neighborhood where,
two summers ago, a woman was taken
from her car and raped for eight hours.
but maybe that was a dream, too—
Google tells me nothing
when i go to look up the case facts.
still, i won’t jog this way alone.
still, the angel looks like it’s dying.
the shadows gather there strange:
dark pockets in darker sleeves.
the lights in the maple
must clink shrill in the wind.
white lights, mostly, with wings draped red.
you can’t see the stars behind for the highway,
and that is sadder than anything.
Walk-ing / by Kayla Long
If there is one thing I’ve learned
In my years of surviving
It’s that walking
Makes me feel like I am thriving
It is possible, I think, that humans
Were made to walk forever
That is why the slow and steady
Pursuit was deemed so clever
I don’t follow prey
But still I find
Walking helps to
Ease my mind
Maybe it’s the movement
The steady pace I sought
That calms my dangerous urges
Helps organize my thought
So my walk is endless
Across all terrain
If you see me on the horizon
Wave, and move on again
I WON’T ELUDE HIM / by Donnelle McGee
“And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us.” – Norman Maclean
Maclean may have known the loneliness of tiptoeing
around those we love. The circling steps of
not wanting to know what is felt.
For a loved one to elude me, I must turn away
in some fashion from a body that craves understanding; I back away from a
body that needs compassion.
No need to be me/love me/know me but I’m trying. Drops of love from
me to you, only to go quiet in fear of abandoning you. And so I
shield. I’m elusive because your trauma may break me.
And did you know that my fiancée talks to plants? She brings them
back from the brink of wilt. I look at her. Her brown hands on green
orchid leaves as she smiles before speaking lovely words that bring you back to me.
meant not to elude. Her words remind me that I have a brother
that I need to go see about.
Enter Ghost. 2. / by Anna Priddy
Remember me. Remember the garden
where secure, I slept. There slick poison
poured out into my ear, moving swiftly
into my throat. I was overtaken.
Remember me, lying on green velvet,
eyes closed, and he sat, perched near.
Rest, he said. She had said, I wanted you
to like me. And he, Like you? I adore
you. And it was the word, adore, coming
into her ear that closed her eyes. How large,
a word to stop time, how monumental.
Long quiet and then a hand soft against
the face, brushing back the hair, so warm.
Two acts intwined, so that to close the eyes
summons the hand back. There the soft touch,
there its heat. Remember me, said the ghost.
Three times he said it, and then, swear, swear, swear.
from Sonnets for Summer past and future / by Scott Williamson
5. Sonnet for a Summer Muse
You stirred early this morning, Calypso
encircling my frame with long-limbed ratios.
Your silk siren purr again, oneiric
archetype of want. Tall and lithe, nubile
they used to say. Flame-haired trickster goddess,
Diva, activist, priest or leather chic.
Almond, white, brown, black rainbow beautiful,
where Achilles dances in drag and sex
is free as retirement. Loves, vision, wealth
screen windows into our own occult rooms.
Circe wrestles Jacob. Nymphs and gods
flood night’s myth-rivers with fancy and flight.
How you read odd maps and pitch your voice is
shown in the red-pill choice the goddess gives.
Poem 1 / Day 1
The Griot’s Challenge / by Gordon Adams
Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs,
eaten by forest creatures.
There was no path home.
What will you leave?
A trail of memories
Dropped to the ground?
A sepia-brown photograph
of the unsmiling, un-named ancestor,
staring straight at the camera?
The metal door on the storage
unit filled with cardboard
boxes of un-curated clippings?
Brown marks on the oval rug
from the night Poppy
dropped the decanter?
A closet full of dress shirts,
grey and brown trousers,
a rack of bolo ties?
Grey sheet on the twin bed
stained with many exudates
of obligatory single elderhood?
Shelves of printed volumes
bought with the best of intentions,
Memos, mementos, memories,
folders never forgotten;
Now, all, still,
on the way home.
Observing the Holidays / by Peg Duthie
Groundhog Day is nigh, and yet December’s garlands—
some which have been up since All Souls’ Day—
linger on fences and lintels and trees
up and down my neighborhood,
some with pimpled pumpkins, some with pansies.
Papeles picados frame a scene
starring two frisky skeletons,
one with a fashion-forward face-mask.
Gold and crimson ornaments gleam
across the street from hearts and beads
calling forth sweet sin and gaudy saints.
One could play bingo or “I Spy”—
here’s a wreath with orange slices,
here’s some swag with pine cones—
or one could Slugbug masks vs. gloves
vs. campaign yard signs, one from August.
So many people sore and lost
it seethes through even this soft gray day
though at night I see from my sunroom
fairy lights and living room lamps—
strands of magic and pools of warmth
I longed for as a child. One year ago
the trees between those houses and mine
were thick and dark as the space between stars
and that was lovely as well—to speak to those stars
wearing only a towel, or even less—
but here we are now, a cyclone
and a pandemic later, and all those trees
now are dust and insurance claims, and me unscreened
while onscreen for hours every day. Along the blocks,
boughs of holly now bear berries
brighter than blood and louder than bells
even as tiny pastel flowerlets
start to spring from old dead beards of phlox.
I reach for shears and pitcher and planner,
every single page both blur and blade.
An Ode to Wild Fire / by Elizabeth Fields
(This is Edmonia Wild Fire Lewis’ great sculpture
Forever Free, dated 1867).
Wild Fire blows life into his stone eyes
looks upward towards his left arm
raised with broken chain. Muscles taunt and
clothed in marble. La Mazza, her tool shapes
elements. Creates his right hand gently laid
on the shoulder of a woman child kneeling
in anticipation as she too looks to her rising—
with clasped hands. The stooped daughter
knows a longer journey awaits her. This woman
child robed with precision and poise. Her delicate
broken as each curl winds a sculpted mountain range
down to polished stone. The expectation crowned
with hope. With it’s own desire as the creator,
Wild Fire bends down with L’ Unghietto—
a little fingernail. Breathes life through hands
into rocks, into bold marble feet. His foot, his
American foundation rests on ball and chain.
Though he is positioned to soar Forever Free
carved across the base that lifts up worlds
that blows new life as Wild Fire holds
La Subbia to make it just so—as the marble
dust settles across her studio. A red hat tilted
with strength and confidence looking forward.
All this when brown skinned women like you and
me were silenced. Our skin pealed back—examined,
lusted, petted as if an animal in European zoos.
So listen to me you brown skinned geniuses,
we are the flow of our foremothers’ creation.
Come with purpose to sculpt our birthright.
Gli Scalpelli—the chisels are ours! And so it shall be.
And so it shall be. And so we will forever—be free.
New Jersey Has A Body / by Gaby Garcia
Might not be home before twelve.
Meanwhile, a lake of clear liquor.
Meanwhile, a skirt up around my hips.
The yard is raw with dead ferns,
and when I vomit on them,
they sparkle a little. They say
power is a gun in your mouth. So
I look for the closest trigger. I look
for the closest breathing boy in jeans
and I let him cry on me after he cums,
after his hair is damp from want.
He tastes like a sad library, a math
problem. The night is done when
we smile at each other, when the radio
breaks and fizzes static. When fruit-flavored
vodka spills down my leg and reminds me
of eating melon salad in Uruguay.
I love that land and this bitter state
that looks like someone
took a bite out of it. It was me.
I took the bite.
Invocation / by Ava M. Hu
We are portends. Predictions.
Tea leaves crested in a cup.
Branches thrown in straight lines and crosses.
The weight of Viking stones.
Maps of lines written in our palms.
The scry of holy water.
We are lifelines, sails cast
to billow with the strongest
winds. Apex of the zig-zag
of the heart line.
We are repetitions of numinous sounds.
Shells beat repeatedly by tide.
Invocations of the jeweled eyed
of the jasmine-scented goddess.
Invocations of the fire-hearted
Move towards any sun
where no one
can see anything
artwork by Amy Sinclair**
on a peak, at one year of quarantine / by Deborah Kelly
From here, what I see is,
the Moon is a scrim.
Its phases are
our planet’s override
and Earth casts
its own nighttime.
I am affixed to my seat,
to watch such penumbras,
and figures running
clips in a zoetrope.
in spare strokes,
I’ve been writing on white
with black mascara.
But hungers are bruises
and thirst a gash, un-stanched,
elaborate in detail,
and shades of color.
show their bones,
stained and imprinted
with all the strain of their fibers.
They are the instances
between shadow and body.
They make all art shiver.
Northside, Richmond, Virginia / by Joanna Lee
Fat moon slings its shine low, washing the ball courts in Battery Park
a dull aluminum. From where the road transects
the playground, the huge old oak they cut
yawns to the left, its roots leaving deep scars in the clay
like the edge of some wormhole to the underworld.
Like maybe you could disappear there.
Maybe, if you left the road and stepped into the shadow beyond
the yellow caution tape, you could lose
if you let yourself shed enough of the city,
her catcalls & gunshots & sirens,
her past & past & past,
if you left her conflict buried in the cold earth
with the sounds of the corner liquor store
and the squeal of tires into the night,
if you ran your palms
over the rough withered body
of fallen trunk and knew
if dead trees know shame,
you could find yourself again.
Would you come back to her?
Introduction / by Kayla Long
Kayla is what people call me
I used to wish for something more fancy
But I’ve realized it’s part of my identity
I’m not that old,
So I’ve been told
Onto that, sometimes it’s hard to hold
Some of my likes:
Crafting, gardens, and hikes
Rivers, and plants with spikes
Jumping horses I ride
They tend to be my pride
To them my soul is tied
Poetry I like to write
To diminish internal fight
And try and bring more light
So come along with me
To support a tree
Together we’ll take this journey
NOW AND THEN I LOSE MY WAY / by Donnelle McGee
after the Isley Brothers
Before her homecoming
Cicely Tyson told us she was a dreamer of audacious dreams
Bold dreams require risk
I thank you Cicely for this reminder
Never to lose myself in the mundane
To forgive those who have crossed my line
Even when pride says otherwise
As I live on the fragile edge of humanity
With demons and stories of how I lose my way
On top of the other via words that cut
And blows that could explode
And the take back fades
Perhaps I crave redemption
The chance to save self and the other
And I lose my way
Amidst fear/something like a capitol under attack
Something like the brother from the Jersey mosque
Firing the fatal bullet into Malcolm’s chest
We all lose our way
Cicely loved Miles Davis hard
Davis worth saving even at his abusive bottom
This is where we shift the narrative
Even at the end of his experience
Tell Cicely I’m sorry
Enter Ghost. / by Anna Priddy
The dead are always with us, just beyond
the outskirts of our minds, stalking
the parapet. Sometimes no more than
a scent, the smell of old wood, smoke, the cold,
a cigarette, and then, full blown, battle
ready, at the peak of all powers, there.
Stay, illusion. Did you usurp the night?
Did I climb to find you? Do you carry
portents or prophesies? I charge you speak.
You charge me speak. I’ve never known how.
A step toward; you recede. The cock crows.
I shall not look upon his like again.
1. Reduvius: Sonnet for My Assassin Bug / by Scott Williamson
What’s with the “Assassin bug” outside
Elsinore these days? At least that’s what
my naturalist Father named it. “They bite
but they’re not aggressive.” Reduvia
originally meant “hangnail” or “remnant.”
As in a Terrance Hayes sequence, “my past
and future assassin” played dead today,
almost fooling me with his silent, dark-coated
armor act, martyr-posed against a green screen
of stamped clover. Damn! Tell me I’m not
facing an omen, a trickster “stink-bug,”
Spirit-god sent to warn, like Klee’s backward-
facing angel: if not here to bless,
falling back to the future, voicing the past.