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.
Day 15 / Poem 15
HR / Hank Blackwell
I will do
to keep pace
will be all
“More Anti-Capitalist Witches and Fewer Capitalist Feminists” / Kevin Dublin
“I am more of a centrist than a radical when it comes to capitalism, in that I feel like… to dismantle capitalism before everyone has had a chance to enjoy it is the height of privilege…so yes let’s dismantle capitalism, but can we just get some of it first?”
— Roxane Gay, Roxane Gay, Feminism and Difficult Women | Appel Salon | March 16th, 2017
Fear of silhouette.
Shadow moves out of step
with a body—
gravel and malice
leg like guillotine
arms akimbo and crumble.
Candlelight flicker attempts
to keep up. Clouds
stretch thin across sky,
swiftly pull themselves together
& darken like flowers bloom
the color of bloodrot.
I won’t call it an omen.
I will call it work
of a witch, of a goddess
of selfless destruction.
She still dances. Holds
as rain washes away ashes
all she has burned.
Franklin Local, Part 1 / Lexi Eagles
Elementary school recess –
adventure stories played out
in the nearby woods – invented
lives and schoolmate families
roaming, building houses or forts
and challenging others.
Strife when others breached
our territory. Depth of deceit
the principal never understood,
all momentarily put aside when we
were called again to class.
The playground swings – long metal chains,
and believing on that day you would swing
so high you would complete a circle.
We were bombers, B-52’s, our lungs filled
with the importance of our flight.
At days end, the long school bus ride home,
rutted back roads and railroad tracks,
an odyssey, a wandering on the road to Ithaca,
at each stop, some of the crew departing ship.
Among the riders, those who tormented
others and those who rose to defend.
You leave Lorelei alone – the hero’s
voice and Lorelei, maiden disadvantaged
no more. Her protector, young and small,
still center stage in my memory, his words
of warning a wall of protection. Oh, Lorelei,
you were loved.
Soft Tissue Damage / Kimberly Ellingson
Memory doesn’t live in bone. It is held in combustible nerves, frayed ligaments, hardened tendons holding tight as a serpentine belt around calcified joints.
Not even the brain is a reliable narrator. Cells hold the record, like stuck gear linkages, or a lever that won’t budge.
A Silken Emerald Moon (after Robert Bly) / Mike Hackney
Once in that immaculate new place
we plant gardens together,
and grow in our indefinite love
for one another.
We tease the dead magpie’s
heart-bones for clues;
we pull seaweed bouquets
from the wild white ocean floor;
and like savages
in wistful water ballet,
we race brazenly ashore
under a silken, emerald moon.
Under a silken emerald moon,
I remove the veil from her eyes,
I taste her lips. I’m held by forces
unknown to me under
the silken emerald moon.
And we are new again, like children again.
Notes / Ava M. Hu
Three Passes over Page 139 / Christi Krug
Erasure poem from author’s book*
Boredom symptom comparison. Tattoos extraordinary antidote. Quaker pale—
Blame ordinary. Poet see, lusterless. Engages jay gift magical,
Boring experiencing: touch, you’ll beyond. wiggling. Won’t smack. indifferent.
Here’s doing. Acting. Humans potential. Activity ten-piece
Small. without sheen, force,
*Burn Wild, A Writer’s Guide to Creative Breakthrough
Ode to A Poppy / Judy McAmis
Day 14 / Poem 14
Perch / Hank Blackwell
a suspended kestrel
on the hunt.
the shallow breath-
a silent souls’
You are inside
wounded parts and all
a kestrel, floating
hunting for the
Give the Funky Drummer Some / Kevin Dublin
There are still poets in San Francisco. There are still poets and that means there is poetry. And not just with the bric-a-brac, not just in memory, not just the ghost of humid piss on Kerouac Alley walls, not just the hidden bump shoved under a stack of forms that need to be filled out in a cubicle between fluorescent hum and water cooler gargle, not just in the mist or smoke from prayers of being able to make rent, not just in the corner of a Marina condo engulfed in tongue on tongue, tongue around knob tongue against digit, tongue along plum that only foghorns play over; not just in the gravel or rather what’s beneath it whispering “who can you live without?” and “when have you been an entrance?” and “when were you cured of your oceanlessness?” There are still poets in San Francisco. There are still poets and that means there is poetry. It’s in the crumble of a wet Chinese takeout box next to a trashcan on the North West Corner of 16th and Mission at midnight on Thursday nights. It’s by candlelight and exhaled from Hayes Valley windows around the corner from excellent comic book shops. It’s written in Haight Street graffiti between two smokers taking a drag beneath the clock that’s stuck on 4:20. It crawls across the skin of someone who says she’s not a poet, but she writes poetry, and she listens to poetry and reads it too, and will soon melt minds like an asteroid that made it all the way to the sun on a fourth Friday of the month at Syzygy SF during a Living Room. It’s in the flowers of Golden Gate Park, not at the conservatory, but the stray dandelion between other weeds in the grass growing near the bandshell. It’s cozy in Bayview, on stools at the counter of Cafe Envy, tumbling from the gums of a woman as slick as your funniest auntie. It’s in the foggy gloom of dawn in the Sunset, just a few blocks from Irving in the second generation noodle shop. It’s in the final message of Malcolm X’s “Ballot or the Bullet” being played from a car driving down Geary from the Inner Sunset. This spot used to be a soup place. Someone could’ve sworn this spot used to be a celestial alignment, but now they’re all poetry. There are still poets in San Francisco. There are still poets and that means there is poetry, even atop Salesforce Tower greedy like Sauron seeking something precious in the East Cut and South Park, even though they were both once SoMa, and once the south shore, and once simply the hiss of the tide of the Bay. Between late star-shine gleaming off a misspelled corner of Bryant Street and a dark thick rock, I see the phantom tail of a rat dragging to the bush carrying a final line of poetry on its back like if it didn’t have it, it might die. Here, in San Francisco.
Valentine Whimsy / Lexi Eagles
in honor of the (almost-but-not-quite) rhyme-less word chocolate
It’s certain that chocolate’s a favorite gift
To give on Saint Valentine’s Day,
But chocolate (the word) is given short shrift
In the cards you will find on display.
“It’s a word you can’t rhyme,” agree the best minds,
“It’s hard to fit into a verse.”
So they choose other words for the ends of their lines,
Avoiding the chocolate curse.
How you pronounce it is one of the keys
To finding the optimal fit.
A desirable rhyme is a near guarantee
If your friends hear you say choc-o-lit.
Other good options are sure to exist –
Consider the choices you’ve got:
Deliver your poem with a valentine kiss
And a box of the best choc-o-lot.
If your love loves to party and dance and sip wine
Plan an evening you’ll never forget
That ends wrapping lips ’round a dizzying rhyme
That ends with the word choc-o-let.
No V-Day’s complete without sweet Candy Hearts
And the sentiments they can impart.
So, take a deep breath – get ready to say
All the things that you must
on Saint Valentine’s Day:
Kiss Me, Call Me, You’re Sweet, J’Adore
Hot Stuff, Lover Boy, Cutie Pie, Mi Amor
Only You, I’m Yours, Be Mine, Evermore
Thel / Kimberly Ellingson
I loved her because she was searching
like me. I didn’t ask questions to clouds,
worms, lilies, or clumps of clay. Instead,
I looked elsewhere, in the bottomless hearts
of broken men. When the truth was revealed,
I didn’t run away, I dug deeper.
n My Mourning / Mike Hackney
Stoned utopian, I clicked my clicker, watched
The Big Chill, the making of Apocalypse Now,
Ordinary People and Name Of The Rose
perused the Great Gatsby, which, Larry claims
is the quintessential American novel, and who
am I to disagree? I have no thesis of my own
on the matter
I’m giving an ear to a distant association just now—
Procol Harum, I believe,
(I’m a pop-culture spewing machine)
autumn moved in way too quick,
I miss toasty summertime,
years ago I folded the cards—
stopped playing euchre,
I got bored of winning, besides,
my father has gone away to the next world,
who could have been better than he?
not one in our camping circle
my skin is ghostly and pale without that sunshine.
Love Letter / Ava M. Hu
Cloudburst / Christi Krug
Chilled needles driving
into cheeks and backs of hands
Gertrude is the Name of My House / Judy McAmis
Inspired by Ed Gorey’s “u” from The West Wing
Day 13 / Poem 13
Self Contained / Hank Blackwell
Small bubbles rising.
In almost murky
rising or falling
cease to know.
first, calm breath.
Catsburg / Lexi Eagles
CATSBURG COUNTRY STORE the gabled sign announces.
Eugene Belvin’s store – Cat Belvin he was called –
Sheriff of Durham County twenty-eight years,
arresting bootleggers, pouring out quantities of beer.
On the tall facade behind the gable, painted marquee-size,
a black cat appears. Belvin moved like a cat, they say,
small and crafty, with stealthy skills that best
served justice when he raided whiskey stills.
Easy moves. Confederate veterans, requesting whiskey
to celebrate their cause, found Cat Belvin not averse
to bending laws. Moonshine from the Courthouse –
that’s the story told. Public opinion would not object,
it’s said he said. The store survived intact for decades.
A ballpark and a team, semi-pro, took the Catsburg name.
CATSBURG COUNTRY STORE, eponymous icon of a time,
a community, and a man who helped define them.
Understandings change. In photographs of later years,
the store-front window advertises beer in neon red.
Inside, the rules spelled out: no beer without ID.
Public objection has since brought down statues
honoring Confederate veterans. Fort Bragg is now Fort Liberty.
The country store, too, is gone. Disassembled – in storage.
Nothing beside remains, as the poet says,
but greeting cards and photos of its storied days.
Sad Magic / Kimberly Ellingson
Walk with me to the coffee shop past
extinguished flames and other people
we dislike. We watch leaves float
down the river, drink indifferent
coffee on our way back to work.
We don’t talk about the silent current
flowing between our electric animal
mouths. Now and then, one of us tries
to speak plainly through the white noise,
to cut the sad magic with a sword.
Poppies drop from my mouth, one by one,
until we are surrounded on the sidewalk.
The Watermelon Secret / Mike Hackney
Old supposed reality
held so dear fell off
like a supposed swim
in the crystal meth
of an alternative pond.
Walls closed in. Poison
‘help’ was then injected
into the weak body/
to aid deep sleep
and dissolve voices.
To find purpose
in the psych ward
under the hot
I grew a watermelon-belly,
deep inside thrive the seeds
Saint Anger grows
my fruit-husk strong,
Flower Sutra / Ava M. Hu
Yellow / Christi Krug
Curtains, cotton ankle socks,
snow. Things white before
their promise was lost
under the bed, the eaves. Yellow
clawing at you with fingernails growing
from a grave. Darkening the urine
of a body lately hydrated by one half-pint school
lunch milk, and a sugary Capris
Oh, but there’s much better yellow.
Cheery tooling of Volkswagen van
Daisy middles. Con-
centric flower patterns on
Little House in the Prairie sunbonnets
sewn at Campfire Girls meetings. The song:
Oh What a Beautiful Morning!
You must open your eyes to see this yellow,
and opening your eyes is frightening.
Mother doesn’t. Unless she’s having
a nervous breakdown.
It’s safer not to see, but to squint,
shielded from banana popsicles and the glory
of egg yolks and a sunny buckled rain-
coat on rainy days.
Colors will save you, but salvation is
terrifying. Owning a pair of eyes
Can we all just keep our eyes closed
please and stumble along in the colorless
dark? Holding out arms, Blind Man’s Bluff,
wish-wish-wishing for not-stumbling.
Lemonade haze fills the cracks
in a too-clear world;
angles down through dusty blinds
and stripes our faces.
If uncolor yellow buffers and borders,
you never feel the searing blaze of truth.
You wait for the dark.
Unyellow swirling around body and heart
like a tepid sea.
I’m fine, going for a little swim is all.
Those screams are splashes of sea life.
Yes, they have invaded the apartment and made
us all legless, eyeless, soulless.
Squids and octopi who are more squish
than feel, who compromise,
adapt. They never cry out.
Break no shells,
oozing along the ocean floor
in a yellow mist.
Changing to match
currents of nothing.
Everyone knows that hope is yellow
and you can breathe without air.
A Delicate Youngling / Judy McAmis
After a time of purposeful planting
A celebration of rest
An ear to the ground to listen to the sprouting
A cautious call to Tefnut to release the rains
A welcome to mud season
A careful desire for delicacy
A meaningful gaze up to the heavens
Keep watch over the younglings
Birds, bees, and butterflies
An appeal, please keep returning.
If you love them, keep planting.
Day 12 / Poem 12
At the Gate / Hank Blackwell
in the darkened
raven, jay and
heard in this
Opening Drawers / Lexi Eagles
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought
And the thought has found words. Robert Frost
It’s like this:
You open the drawer, wondering what,
after all these years, you might find.
An old set of keys. A greeting card. A ticket.
You dig cautiously. Move things around. Look underneath.
Trinkets, mostly – clutter as tired as cliché.
One more look – time allows.
What treasure here amid the dross?
Sharpen your lenses. Light your lamp.
Search. Something will be found.
What is it you are looking for?
Provoking, unanswerable question –
it breaks against you,
a surging wave of longing,
leaving you breathless, and
unprepared to witness the amulet rise
from time’s rubble.
First glimpse sparks ignition –
lightning link to memory.
Thoughts enflame your imagination.
Words swirl like sparks in the night air.
They will help you preserve
what you have redeemed
from its long-buried life.
They will set you on the way
Breathe is a Verb / Kimberly Ellingson
Frigid air snatches my half-deflated
lungs, siphoning them until they are
empty like crushed paper bags. Unable
to inhale fully, I dizzily think of how people
often misspell the word “breathe,”
leaving out the e. Breath is a noun.
Breathe is a verb. The crushing chest
pain of fearing an abstract future
crisis deprives my body of both
noun and verb, inhale and exhale, that
spark of sunlight on a brumal day.
House Slippers / Mike Hackney
These angel specks: these
clear droplets on window panes
are nothing whatsoever,
just temperamental Eastern rains.
At the pinnacle of an afternoon procession
holy and whole comes the Eastern rains,
while I am still in house slippers, shuffling
through dad’s vinyl collection for the song
I can never find.
Such mighty umbrellas of courage
we carry with us, my friends. Through
these long dark hours of Eastern rains.
Pitter pat. Flash. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Why Look Back / Ava M. Hu
Three Days into A Month Writing Residency / Christi Krug
Light angles through
white wood panes
making triangles and
my midday page.
I lurch into the kitchen,
fumbling with bread
as I make a sandwich,
tossing water bottle
into pack without
filling it. The day,
the day is getting on.
the Holocaust after
the war were
freighted to Windermere,
where they pocketed
biscuits under mattresses,
stuffed cabbage rolls into socks.
The not-having was clearer in
their minds than the overspilling
tables at every meal.
My hoarding of time
ramped up decades ago,
behind desk prisons, or
driving driving driving children
to where they needed to get.
I still fling up my hands
say there’s never enough.
Perhaps the scarring is
from earlier scarcity, where
life was hard and creating was
unaffordable in a family dis-
No time. No time.
A table has been spread for me.
And will be—again.
Tomorrow, the next day, the next.
I don’t have to stash scraps, clinging
to moldy remnants of this gift.
I’ve been rescued, released.
I go back to sit beneath the light.
Sub-Saharan Blues / Judy McAmis
We drove by about 80 mph in the Berkshires
Just past the sign that marks the highest elevation
east of South Dakota. This is a thing
I had never bothered to consider. One day,
I’ll ask you to take a picture of me
standing in front of the sign, feigning excitement,
hiding the fear of being taken out of the universe by a passing vehicle.
I was already thinking about the decline and the Dream Away Café
and its history as we passed a headless mile marker
covered by streamers of tattered plastic.
The wind had been wicked all weekend
and in the seconds and milliseconds of that instant
I saw a woman in white face covered by a defiant scarf
standing on a sand sept hill in the middle of the sub-Saharan.
A woman I had seen or been, a jump skip time hop.
Despite the -8-degree temperature
I felt the heat of a thousand suns
and then I lost her, but not really. She was a part of me.
I didn’t mention it. Best to keep some things
to yourself and we still had an hour and a half to go.
I am sure no one on the bus would care to hear my version of events.
Day 11 / Poem 11
Brother’s Shadow / Hank Blackwell
now empty space
to be cradled.
A Story for Ella and Charlotte / Lexi Eagles
The summer the great hickory tree fell on our roof,
you were upstairs, both of you visiting,
curled in one bed watching television,
and hoping the cat, Otis,
would join you again.
I climbed the stairs and stepped into your doorway,
and asked (as I remember it) if you needed anything,
and (grandmotherly like) what you were watching.
But I wanted really nothing more than to see you
and to hold the fragile moment.
That night a wind – wild, momentary, and unexpected –
seized the skies, and toppled the grand old hickory.
I heard the thunder of its fall
and felt the deep reverberating blow
as it struck our home.
As the gods or fates would have it,
you slept safely on the other side of the house,
far from the delivered wound, Otis curled at your feet.
Were you dreaming of summer days ahead, and of friends,
and of all the sweet promises of life?
May you always live on the other side of catastrophe, my loves.
May your best do you remember when stories be of near-misses,
and grand rescues, and discovery of what was once lost.
And may evening visitations of warmth and companionship
be always yours.
Divination / Kimberly Ellingson
We drive across the country and once again try
to shove a new life into a window small as a porthole.
These days, I’m fragile as a houseplant
that becomes stressed when moved, sere leaves,
roots exposed at the surface, yet at the bottom
of my coffee mug, I see two dancers in the grounds.
Life Involvement Day / Mike Hackney
A new life plan began to take shape
out back of Chevy’s Place,
where the soft window candlelight
implies a steady crowd.
I’ve stopped in to see the head doctor
with a whole new field to harvest;
and rodeo posters adore beige walls;
and a fresh decanter brandishes its daisies.
I’m threadbare and winter has driven
my demons back inside. I sit stoically,
hands in holey pockets, having acquired
this leather jacket in a barroom fight.
Law of Falling / Ava M. Hu
What the Troubadour Didn’t Know / Christi Krug
They’d lived long already.
They wanted their gardens, their morning
coffee; and their hair, massage, and medical
appointments in neat rows like ropes
of buoys over a quiet marina.
The arguments long ended
the lovers having changed names,
the police cars returned to the station,
the broken dishes awaiting the
mosaic-making class on
They’d been stunned by life,
had money by now or didn’t.
Hoped for tidy, bright
thoughts, cloudless, clear,
and long as summer days.
When the plague came,
they shrank into themselves,
lidded their thoughts into boxes
of one hundred percent
recyclable material; they brewed
organic coffee in smaller pots,
sat stiffly at their tables
and looked out at the rain,
edges blurring. They wrapped
fingers around their mugs but
could not feel the warmth.
Even their gardens softened
from spicy peppers and bristling
asters to pulpy things,
geranium leaves gone gummy,
brown stems in winter chill.
Their appointments were pulled into
one dimension, timed to precision,
hypnotic and strange.
They removed their rainboots and
outer layers but cultivated calluses
shuffling from one room to another,
forgetting and remembering and forgetting
what day it was.
When the plague lifted and the doors opened,
they stumbled out into daylight, blinking—
everything too bright, too loud.
They sought quiet in corners, looked for relief
in muffled dens and at tables in shadows.
When the troubadour came singing
knifing sadness, crumpled grief,
devouring rage, pulsing exultation, strang-
ling jealousy, they watched,
listened. Digested their breakfasts.
Checked their watches.
Picked up their coffees, sipped carefully,
and set them back down.
A Myth Giving (Part 4) / Judy McAmis
Run into the rainstorm.
Don’t miss the chance—
dance with your precious electricity
arms outstretched and ready to receive.
Dig your toes downward,
touch the souls of before,
love the unknown.
Send it all down,
and up, and out into the ether;
this is your chance to Rumba with Zeus.
Take great care, there is power in your words.
Summon the light,
bask in the clearing clouds,
howl into the sky,
call your name into being.
Bring your soul to the surface.
Grab hold of the sapling and thank it
from the depths of your essence.
Let the willow sway around you,
feel it stir in your base,
seduce your shakti.
Ascend from the base,
uncoil the serpent.
Alchemize your wounds.
Erase your dis-ease.
Raise a glass to Panacea.
All the world is here for you.
Do not be afraid to change it.
Day 10 / Poem 10
Ronnie / Hank Blackwell
written fifty years ago
all of us
it did not happen
you fell heavy
onto the sword
drowning in the
Wake Up /Kevin Dublin
in the first second of falling,
I always wonder where I’ll land—
eyes to the sky as laughter blooms
like a timelapse dahlia opening
to gravity and gratitude—
Unrevised / Lexi Eagles
Like three-legged racers, their cadence unstable,
Troublesome words awkwardly run from the page.
Seeking escape, they trip as they travel,
Searching for refuge and scorning their stage.
They stumble and slip, they slither and slide,
Touchy and testy, unwilling to play.
Chasing companions and drowning in meaning,
Desperately clinging to passing clichés:
It’s light as a feather! It’s easy as pie!
He’s old as the hills! She’s sly as a fox!
Scared out of my wits! Hit the ground running!
Frightened to death! Think outside the box!
Mid-line they adhere in messy old chestnuts.
Loose platitudes, jargon, cheap sayings run free.
At the cliffs of the lines, they put on the brakes – but
Some fall, leaving wordy debris.
Combining together, they rise from the rubble,
Beset with redundancy, plague most unique.
Trapped in tautologies, they limp and they linger
Knowing their end results surely won’t speak
To their devilish whimsy, creative potential,
Ultimate grace when they’re called to the task
Of creating a poem, that lump in the throat,
A moment fresh-fashioned when others may bask
In the wonder of words that awaken the sleeper,
The lyric, the chorus, the magical line . . .
Thus ruing their clumsy, contrarian fever,
They search to discover poetic design.
There’s no end to this story, it goes on forever,
Words gather, encountering the most weighty call
Of a poet and poem this side of creation,
Of chaos and order, and what may befall.
Silent Synapses / Kimberly Ellingson
Each morning, I take
my temperature and wait
for silent synapses
in my brain to release
an egg. Suspended
I fill gaps in my education
with random facts like
how dairy cows are kept
pregnant all the time,
or how some believe
what a mother eats
during the first postpartum
month sways her health
for the rest of her life.
The Lion / Mike Hackney
The laughter of thieves
and cries of lost orphans
haunt my sleep. The mighty golden lion
Restless, I trek out
to the village where
the mercenaries run.
I haggle feverishly
in the marketplace
with the ancient gurus,
buy crates of melon,
rare books and wood
to build my fires.
I conjure the spirits
from beyond the red sky,
and adopt again my old
rogue and barbaric ways,
the lion forever
The lion I become.
Big Atmosphere / Ava M. Hu
Magnet / Christi Krug
Combing the remodeled
classroom for an object, my hand
alights on a shelf near the weeks-new whiteboard.
Warms in my palm: black
coal for a snowman’s eye,
tiny as a toothpaste cap,
cylindrical as a can of muscle-making spinach,
drilled with one hole as if to string
a necklace, endowed with stickiness.
Give it something to pull.
Clink, clink, clink, I bring it
against metal chair leg, into
force field of imperceptible whir
in tandem with the wingbeats of a bluebird
passing overhead in the February
sunshine. I play, finding lurch and leap,
like the fire at home
flickering with its tongues.
Magnets opposing each other
wobble like teetering bicycles.
Attraction baffles, chunked
deep in the metal of Earth’s core.
What am I repelling?
How am I pulling you close?
What snaps to?
How to collect and straighten the
A Gift (Part 3) / Judy McAmis
Advice for growing:
Choose your seedlings carefully.
Tend to them like children.
Choose what is hearty,
Love the weak.
grows well in compost
We all return to earth.
mixes well with hair-y rootings
As above, so below.
and broken fingernails.
There are no mistakes.
This garden is your legacy.
Leave something beautiful.
Much better to be part
Many parts make a whole.
of a garden, a brave patch of bright
Feed yourself on moonlight.
Position Datura next to Nightshade
Make a crown of belladonna.
for permanence. For this selection
Pull the moss tight.
will not be removed. At least
Care tender with kid gloves.
not without careful consideration.
Day 9 / Poem 9
Fusion / Hank Blackwell
Closer to the sun,
home nodding ever so slightly
a thin dime
steps away from
the harbinger, teasing
elipses of sun,
Larkin Street /Kevin Dublin
This Is Just To Say / Lexi Eagles
after William Carlos Williams
I have stolen
from your most
they were exquisite
and in the
Bride / Kimberly Ellingson
of getting pulled away from
myself, like how stones
are pried from fruit. The life I
built before, an erasure.
In the Pit / Mike Hackney
The cart rolls backwards down; straps pulled tightly
by a nurse practitioner who quotes Outlander.
Medicinal drip auto-shock and instant snooze
beneath the knitted handmade and patch-glued rugged cross.
Chess games dusted in rollup cigarette ashes.
You are hustling bare-chested before the Lord
Dr. Lancelot brings Zen books, a PC, and a secret map leading
to herbal treasure. He knows his king. There is no out.
Inside a chain link fence, a Gordon Sumner lookalike
is doing cartwheels on the lawn. You listen to James
and to a little Love and Rockets.
You shuffle various soldiers into the sunlight and
into cool rippling shade. A checkmate.
Dervish / Ava M. Hu
Pigs in a Blanket / Christi Krug
At the IHOP
silver-quarter horse in the lobby—
Giddyup! Pat the shining mane.
Get down it’s time for breakfast.
Sun glows giddy amber and cherry
through glass jugs of table syrup.
Grandma Mimi—Isn’t this fancy?—
orders for Mother, Theodore, and me.
Your mother’s doing much better.
Probably we won’t have to stay
with Grandma Mimi like we did last year.
Mother won’t roll out of bed.
I pull a sock soft and wheezy with dust
from under my twin bed, doing things I don’t know how
while Mother drools on her pillow—
pills on her nightstand, numbers by the phone.
I go looking and looking for a shirt,
the gruel of the day.
At the end of every line, lunch, recess.
Unchosen to bat, run, catch, kick.
Bitter as the thin skin of the red apple I eat for breakfast.
Late to school, a bad time to walk in,
heads turning, teachers frowning,
I wait on the swings for lunchtime
spooning the porridge of loneliness.
Theodore doesn’t bother eating,
walks out with math book,
hand-me-down shirt dragging its tail.
I shake down the rattle of cereal with no milk.
Log Cabin syrup on Wonder Bread
kind of like french toast.
Last drops sweet like sugar all the sugar all the sugar.
Find dirty pants, wear those.
Lincoln Logs on the floor.
Breakfast an idea forgotten in the tall stack of the day,
Grandma Mimi says it quiet, like other tables shouldn’t hear.
Doing better, aren’t you, Marilyn?
Mother’s hand halfway to her mouth,
ruffly egg white on her fork.
Theodore pokes his over-easy.
It pops and runs orange yellow.
My plate. I unfold the blanket.
Three brown-pink sausages, safe together,
hot, close, stuck.
Roll out of bed, piggies.
I pick up the syrup and pour, drowning all.
A Gift (Part 2) / Judy McAmis
I give you this:
will build a garden of chicory.
Add Daisies, Rudbeckia, Poppies.
Watch the wildlings weave
Take a long drink of time.
Watch the cotyledons grow.
Love the weeds
as much as the proven winners.
Dig a hole
Let the wildlings overtake you.
Let the earth take you
like the lover you never lost.
Lick the salt
off the mist.
Let it cocoon your garden.
Wait for the Luna moth.
Let her hover over
Let the moonlight burn your skin.
Let the nitrogen do its work.
Let the night in.
Day 8 / Poem 8
between sleep and awake / Hank Blackwell
The big dark is here/crawling cat-like/over landscape,
fence line, gardens turned/long sleep ‘till spring
long, shadowy finger to lips/begging we listen/
heart pressed to rails/vibration absent/
5:30 the new 9:00/wait or eat
sleep or wake/know/
do not know
sunrise now a lifetime/
arrival now question
as the cold moon
creeps into the empty
to ready them
for a dusting of snow,
will scratch holes
Impressions of Moments /Kevin Dublin
Impressions of Moments
This flock of birds
with no storm
seeps through clouds
Light of stars
fallen from the sky
to light up the city
on tree limb
silent about why
before or after
will again be ice
one day vapors
of this view
Pine wafts on the wind
child killed by gun violence—
bark rustles like leaves
was once a glacier
who was here
to love the glacier?
Short, abandoned boat
long on Candlestick shores—
another early sunset
Whiff of sage
after night of rain
a desert hike
Offstage Rhapsody / Lexi Eagles
Step into shadows deep.
from the spotlight’s glare.
Dialogue and music fade
to wasp-buzz murmurings.
Embrace perfect freedom
from eyes and expectations –
a fleeting moment
when all the world
is not a stage.
Here find the Sugar Plum Fairy —
her manège of pirouettes complete,
her fouettés accomplished with
flawless grace – find her now
moving just inside the shadow.
Picture her moment of artistic agony.
See her bent, gasping, breathless
as the performance
she has created for her audience.
In this moment, the gift of
she becomes once again
her untouchable self.
Autonomous, precious, whole.
At Night / Kimberly Ellingson
I dream of the oranges we studded with cloves and brought home each December. One of these ornaments hangs from a tarnished door knob for months. After the scent of seasonal warmth leaves the air, the skin turns ochre, then a fuzzy blue-gray as the fruit prunes itself into a stone half its original size, and the cloves become thin and brittle as rusted nails.
Ardent Unflinching / Mike Hackney
An ardent unflinching desire is now required
to climb the countless misty, mystical anthills
of the collective, to place sweaty, greasy palms
on the summit’s peak and bravely gaze out
onto the immortal realm. At day’s first blush
we silence alarm clocks, pull our weary bones
from slumber, let dogs out; and once in a while,
a restless mind stirs, or, is hastened by melodic
bell-chimes, or, by those tough, fast trains
that rush through faraway places we long for.
Some will go exploring; yet sadly some will not.
To you of the latter disposition, I offer this:
find inside the gift of deeper courage; head
towards bold, exemplary light; an ardent
unflinching desire is now required
The Earth is In-Between You & Heaven / Ava Hu
Sipping Tea, Watching the State of the Union Address / Christi Krug
Found Poem from Tea Bag Wrapper
Spear a leaf.
Bag a bud.
Get the most from
Root for statements.
Steep warning of
Consult cardamom, cardadad.
Bring water and sarsaparilla.
Support every individual for
health and digestion.
Fennel everything down
into a cup of
A Giving (Part 1) / Judy McAmis
I gave up my wilding somewhere along the way.
I took up a life of transience in order to see more
of what, I cannot be sure.
I gave up piano because I didn’t care for the swatting.
every mistake made my knuckles more sore,
and I lost connection between fingers and keys.
I gave up tennis, I was tired of being called ugly.
The joke had worn as thin as my skin,
and I was too young for that kind of torture.
I gave up nature for tall buildings and concrete,
still pausing for flowers in the sidewalk,
still smiling at the tulips surrounding meticulously planted trees.
I gave up bare feet for high heels and weak ankles,
but still stubbed my toes and got stuck
in the gaps of sidewalk grates.
I gave up the desire for love
but never my heart – I got older but never wiser.
I gave up on words,
but never lost them.
I gave up on childhood,
but still miss it.
I gave up on giving,
but still gave.
Day 7 / Poem 7
Sara / Hank Blackwell
stray dogs learned
it for her.
their will is
when they lope
And who will
shall be determined
After Miłosz /Kevin Dublin
Do not feel safe. The poet remembers. You can kill one, but another is born.
The world, where you see a green valley,
is a mid-20th century portrait hidden
behind his smile. You, who wronged
a simple man in beautiful times, dozing
by the capital. You, alien city
on a dusty plain. The spirit of history
when gold paint flakes from Natura,
the garden of nature opens to ode.
O October! No more. I should relate
sometime how I changed happiness,
how warm the light from the glowing bay!
What once was great should—should not
a man not love the moon? It does not
know it glitters a frivolous conversation.
My past is a stupid butterfly’s album of dreams.
November 18th he showed us a road
which led down November 23rd:
a long train standing in the station
of December 1st, the halls of December 14th.
I move my strong wings to march.
It is a country on the edge of far West.
“Gently, my lambs, move gently.”
On the other side, falling, I caught
the curtain, and the city stood
in its brightness when those corridors—
I walk those corridors, three talks
on civilization—the dark blush of anger.
Sentences: what constitutes the training
of the hand when the moon rises?
I looked out the window
with trumpets and zithers.
The gift was never named.
Growing up Jesus / Lexi Eagles
could not have been easy.
They were poor, his family,
his temple dedication made
with two young pigeons,
a sacrificial lamb being
well beyond their means.
It could not have been easy
growing up Jewish
in the shadow of Herod,
murderer of infants,
shame of Israel.
It could not have been easy, all the news.
Talk of Herod’s death, whispered stories
of Judah’s failed revolt in neighboring Sepphoris,
names of friends among those who died,
stories of destruction from those who witnessed
Roman soldiers turning the city to ash.
It could not have been easy.
As Jesus grew and learned his father’s trade,
were they called to help rebuild that city,
poor Jewish father and son called to work for Antipas –
posturing, posing, treacherous, fox –
to create for him the new Sepphoris,
jewel of all Galilee?
It could not have been easy.
Mary and Joseph – what did they think
when inklings of their son’s differences
came to their attention?
Were there dinner conversations?
Did they question his brother, James?
Seek the Rabbi’s help?
Talk quietly in bed at night,
fearing he might be crazy?
And what did the boy know?
It could not have been easy
growing up Jesus.
Journeys to Jerusalem every year at Passover,
did the family look forward to them,
a week on the road together?
Was Jesus nervous his twelfth year,
a young Jewish boy coming of age?
In the temple, what questions did he ask
that so impressed the teachers?
Was he embarrassed when
his anxious mother scolded him ?
All this could not have been easy.
What ideas troubled him,
leaving the temple that Passover?
What was the first law that he broke?
It could not have been easy,
growing up Jesus.
State Street / Kimberly Ellingson
I was in love with a dead man, who cast
a cloud over my mind. Most evenings,
I walked straight from the bus stop to the liquor
store on the corner for bottle after bottle
of cheap red wine, the kind which tastes
deceptively smooth at first, but soon leaves
a sharp metal aftertaste in your mouth. Later,
in that brick-walled studio, his memory unspooled
like a lightbulb swinging in a pitch-dark room.
Claw / Mike Hackney
the soot sky smog over-
–transients, chain smoking, whispering into
Orchard of sour sweet brain bleach
its fruit basket into wet, splashy spongy
this rock in my gritty palm;
my fumbling, floppy, too big boots
traverse the frost clumps
toward the factory worker’s
camper van, perhaps.
He courts my muse
while I am streamlining the vapor trails
of a past life storm;
here, I am scent of pine in the city. I am
smoke from the moon; carrying my kitbag
of weaponry and bad intention.
–Claw-handed, bailed hay, field dung.
-bellyful of empty angry seeds, mom.
black angry wine, bitterroot sassafras shovel
I could kill. I could cut watermelon dreams
and burst him and his slushy heart-seed.
The Magic Trick Alternate / Ava M. Hu
Pink Mold / Christi Krug
It’s a party. Did you forget?
A tiny circus of decay careering
out of control; things gone
so terribly, perfectly, unaccountably,
wildly right that all your brain knows
is to call them wrong.
of calling off the party.
of being the party to whom I am speaking.
of trying ever and always to properly use “whom.”
Wonder, medicine, spore. Something so symmetrical
and microscopic and wondrous you could never
create it with your feeble day-mind.
All you know is the dismantling of it,
All you know is a shame you remember, a story of dirt
and poverty. Cannot cannot cannot go there again.
Have you not seen it? Gape. Glory. Sigh. Be awed.
Get out the magnifying glass!
The Human Body is 100% Made of Stardust / Judy McAmis
(if you don’t believe me, read: nhm.ac.uk/discover/are-we-really-made-of-stardust.html)
There is a shape to silence
a morphing takes place
inside the body.
The same misshapen identity
of lost feelings that linger
in the dark, a stretching;
the start of a blackhole
in space, a thing generally unseen
when it begins to consume.
The shape is: beauty.
The images only now
transmissible through science.
A picture of peace
a picture of the void.
A contemplation of what lives
inside the body.
Let us reimagine the shape
of silence, reconsider
the darkness, reconsider
space and the in between
in each of us. Let us reshape
spectrum of light.
Black is not the absence
of color or feeling.
Space is infinite opportunity,
a chance to explore the silence
that lives inside.
The body is a form of imagination
a shape of sound and light
a composite of tiny stars
(the human body is 100%
made of stardust),
a twinkle in a limitless sky.
Take pause. Breathe in the silence.
Make a wish on yourself.
Day 6 / Poem 6
Grace / Hank Blackwell
cyclops steady stare
missing from this
soon to knock
at this door.
will you be masked,
weakened from virus
powerful from the
bones of your relations?
old or young,
do not linger
in the doorway
there is so much
for me to learn.
Newlywed Phase /Kevin Dublin
for Mrs. Dublin
Whole lunar cycle at once—
our kisses: birch branches
in the wind. Stars upon earth:
leaves leaving to become heap
of shadows at night.
Mosquito tangles between beard &
drinks itself to death.
Splash of cabernet from lips
stains blanket under snow moon.
Highway woosh, crickets,
and quiet mellow between promises
glisten as a stone in the distance.
Rehearsin’ / Lexi Eagles
Evenin’ come and dishes done
I stand beside the chair,
An’ Mama brings her po’try things
An’ as I’m standin’ there,
She has me say the words the way
She wants ‘em to be spoke,
An’ says that when I’ve got them good
I’ll speak ‘em to other folk.
We start with Orphant Annie,
Who fills me with a fright!
The Gobble-uns ‘at she speaks about
Might come git me tonight!
Next comes the po’m Plumpuppets
Who’r Fairies for your bed.
They plump your pillow nice and soft|An’ guard your sleepy head.
Now that po’m it don’t scare me
But to tell the story true,
I’d rather say the Gobble-uns one
An’ scare them other-folk, too!
When mama says we got to work
On just one po’m more,
An’ I’m the one that gits to choose,
Well then there’s fun in store!
Cuz I got sev’ral special ones
I like to say out loud,
An’ I’m of a mind to think
They’d please most any crowd.
But I ain’t gonna tell you which –
I’ll keep that secret close –
An’ let you look’n yur po’try book
Tuh find one you like most!
“Little Orphant Annie” James Whitcomb Riley
“The Plumpuppets” by Christopher Morley
Best Practice / Kimberly Ellingson
The world doesn’t care if you fade as long as you do it
with dignity and look stunningly hot in a sugar-white dress.
Best practice is to execute a show of strength and clemency
even as your sense of self crumbles like day-old pastry.
Darkness is only meant to be sprinkled like black
pepper over the marshmallow fluff that is life’s constant
highlight reel. Flash that simple syrup smile and accept
what is offered, even if it’s crumbs of your former self.
Amarillo Sky / Mike Hackney
Low afternoon at the farm
forcing uppers and blackberry wine,
welcoming an argument with anyone
who’d dare speak of rules for living
Pull plug from dusty jug
as appendages of Oaks wrap rooftops…
Rain pierces bones under my shivering skin.
I light newspapers to find spare warmth.
Swathed in a straw loft, “Amarillo Sky”
lulls me to trance-like slumber.
Clouds roll through.
The incessant barn owl nestles
The Magic Trick / Ava M. Hu
As Good a Place as Any / Christi Krug
When she writes she’s not
attending to the mosquito on her nose or
the puff of scar on her wrist but holding
the pages of her notebook in place.
This is a flow gentle as blood being sipped
into a mosquito’s beak, an acknowledgment
pale and slight as an old playground scar.
She notices noticing but doesn’t let it become foreground.
No swatting against the buzzing and droning.
Nothing to cover her skin.
Look, the paper has dented her arm in
even diagonals, like chicken breast browned
by the grill. A writer is meat.
From the front deck she sees a
coyote. It squats with shaky legs,
relieving itself of a breakfast gone wrong: rat,
or trashbin pizza, or tainted rabbit.
She is spying at an unseemly moment,
but then offended: Who do you think you are,
sullying our street like this? Why did you pick
this spot when you have all the woods?
She walks to the rail as the coyote straightens.
The coyote sees her and stares, shakes itself and
trots off beyond the neighbor’s house.
She returns to her notebook, dropping
insights strange and undignified as a coyote
passing runny feces. Standing to the side, letting things
happen. She should be ashamed, but this
is her furtive survival.
32 Years with Bear / Judy McAmis
Day 5 / Poem 5
The Turn /Chances / Hank Blackwell
you did not
see me, illuminated
in ruddy lightning
did not thank me for
bent by reckonings
did not reward me
no second chances.
seduced to fill
of your revenge,
no outstretched hand
to save me from the fall
no second chances
my stride is|
|to walk away
ever looking back.
Song of Myself as My City / Kevin Dublin
The fog comes like cotton on the gums
As a cloud able to kiss a cheek
Like darling condensation
An aria made of mist
Gray way of diffusing light
Chilled breath of the earth breathing
Silent exhale made visible
Child of air crawling between Coit Tower and Twin Peaks
Skyline a living room carpet of dead skin cells
Tired pup of smoke, pulling itself into its own bed to slumber
Soprano’s final note reverberates from last night’s opera
Gas left from collective hiss of a heroin needles left on the streets
Returns with dawn over ocean and pollen and ships on the bay
Stretch of cumulus to the earth in harmony with dew
Releasing the grasp of grass
Gasps and moans in Castro backseats like monuments covered indiscriminately
Hot piss when it’s near freezing at 3am in December on a Mission alley wall
The breakage we all forget:
Burnt meteor particles and acorn dust made the same
What’s between the lamp-lit kisses of sea lions
Fear of threat in weather’s language to the sailor unfurled gracefully
An exodus of spirits climbing on top of others to exit another realm
Peace offering of droplets
Cousin of virga
How many multitudes do you contain?
Robert Earl Keen / Lexi Eagles
When Robert Earl Keen rolls into town,
The line goes on forever
at Poor David’s Pub.
And you can bet some clown
will bring a can of Copenhagen.
You can see it in his smile.
Everybody’s smiling at Poor David’s.
Seated or standing, they’re here to hear
the man with the graveled voice
and the songs they love, and
they don’t want to leave, when
it feels so good, feeling good again.
The year he played main stage
at the Texas State Fair,
everyone standing (no seats there),
and folks packed chock-a-block,
one impudent, elbowing cowboy,
angling for a better view, told me
I was too old
for Robert Earl Keen.
Now that’s a lie right there.
Because no one is too old
to catch a moment in his songs.
To hear the memory of Mariano
and know it so hard you weep for him.
To sit beside your Jennifer Johnson, getting
three for a quarter black and white portraits.
Or, Lord have mercy, to have a
five pound bass kind of day.
Trash Elegy / Kimberly Ellingson
A flash of hope floats assuredly down the river
among clouds of garbage, dead fish, and pollution.
The current will take it all out to the breakwaters,
and from there, the rust and blue waves.
There is no such thing as away, not even when
all that one discards over the course of year–
the frayed toothbrush, the cracked mug, the worn-out
slippers–winds up in some unimportant mountain,
or an unseen cloud in the ocean.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking hope is gone. Look
closely and you will no doubt see it there, flickering
in the fetid organic breakdown of other dead, discarded
things humans think they have no further use for.
Minimum Security / Mike Hackney
When I had shaved my head complete and the heads
of a few of the men who curiously emerged from cells
upon hearing the buzz, I unzipped to a comfortable level
mid-chest standard uniform 69193445. Perusal through
a stack of books resting like rapturous treasure
on a wobbling cart lead me into Ku-to-en.
Stately crows on my window ledge blocked out
a winter sun. They dropped their heads with sorrow.
My sentence for loving you strongly is a full 161 days yet.
Presently, my shaky hands pull at the full unkept
wiry-gray beard— The guise in which I hide from these.
Poem Five: Notes on Houdini II / Ava M. Hu
Folgers / Christi Krug
I’m sure what I can do
for my brother to make his life better
involves coffee. Sustainably sourced
fairly traded organic, full bodied and
sleekly pouched, outdoorsy-themed,
fresh ground. Named for
mountain passes, river canyons,
coastal byways. Places I wish I could
take him. Peaks I wish he could climb.
My brother who has lived in tiny rooms,
care homes, locked down facilities,
and barred hospital wards with heavy
handed doctors and carts of medicines,
all in the same town where Starbucks
was born. He was nine when that
empire started using its bean.
It’s a good time now.
He’s on his own, with support.
I visit him in his new place,
bring Saigon cinnamon,
a nonstick pan,
but I forget coffee.
Aromatic, sustainably sourced
northwest blend. Wakes you up
to the little pleasures that fill a life.
So many choices, from light roast to—
It occurs to me to ask, What would you like?
Folgers is good.
use this pour-over plastic filter
Fits on my shelf.
Who needs fancy coffee and
all that stuff to go with it?
With sugar, some
half and half—
Folgers. I like Folgers.
untitled / Judy McAmis
I am watching the sunrise over an unnamed lake.
The surface of the water is frozen or desperate to be;
It is -13 degrees and the sky has just begun to stir.
It has painted itself with a palette of primary colors barely blended,
red holds the strongest grip on the mountain top.
Did you know a woman has thirteen menstrual cycles?
One for each cycle of the moon.
If my charts are right,
my astrological moon is in Gemini at 13.05 degrees.
A cloud holds steady in the sky-
a perfectly manicured eyebrow raised in the center,
appears curious about what is going on down below.
Often seen on the belly of the goddess is a spiral.
A labyrinth is sometimes formed into a spiral,
a swirling symbol, a path leading to the center:
the source and cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
I ask myself: Will you join me on my journey inward?
I’ve been waiting all this time to see the comet again.
The last time it was visible was the Stone Age.
We join hands and silently wander in.
Day 4 /Poem 4
Tranquilo / Hank Blackwell
We all go.
Into the great
Ready for a next
Instead of Checking the News to See if the Murderous Police Were Relieved of Duty, I Have a Spa Night /Kevin Dublin
hunger moon holds itself high, pools
in the hot tub water warm as my flesh.
The collapse of darkly shadows thrown
to the brush around us. I don’t want to
remember. The light flashes blue.
I don’t want to remember. The light
flashes red. The feel of rough shoulder
beneath new tires. The same moon:
like the opening eye of a falcon
which a moth feeds from.
Writing Doughnuts / Lexi Eagles
When your story begins,
and it’s easy to begin –
as easy as starting on
a dozen doughnuts –
when it begins, well then
The smell of the idea!
You grab and begin
to devour it.
Those first lines
You can’t eat them fast enough.
Sweet they are and
so promising. Your mouth
waters. You lick up the
first crumbs of detail.
Moving on, things
A dozen lines and the
queasiness sets in.
What was I thinking?
you ask yourself.
that consumed you,
that memory of the
first delectable bite,
fades. Nothing special here.
Oh, the regret.
Heaviness weights you.
Put it away. Put it away.
Perhaps it will appeal
to my taste
How to Fail English Class / Kimberly Ellingson
My sister called at noon on Thursday to ask whether I was writing the paper I promised to work on that morning. I was drinking in a bar with a boyfriend and some of his friends whom I didn’t know or like very well. Upon leaving, I stood alone in the entryway, where I noticed rows upon rows of candlestick telephones nailed to the walls. I picked up a receiver and pretended to speak to the operator, sliding the worn, woven black cord between my fingertips. All the words ever spoken into each receiver appeared, suspended in the air.
Across town, my mother was in surgery, her skull sawed open, her thoughts mixing like alphabet soup in the ether above the operating table.
A Slice / Mike Hackney
I am a secretive gardener, I hoard my goods,
I squander perfect fruit. I latch hold for dear life
to other broken lamps, car wrecks, orphans. I need
them like a mile needs the extra yard.
I’m Zen Buddhist, a single dude, good in the kitchen,
neat, battered, not enough oxygen in my back-room
mental laboratory. I punch. I bite. I whore my melon-ball
around like a suitcase turtle. I carry a past: an old shoe,
a bone-used crackle-heart.
Notes on Houdini / Ava M. Hu
The message never came.
Spirit bells. Jingling tambourine.
You promised you would
The days we spent
fire eaters, sword swallowers,
stone eaters, all of us,
wonder workers. We
like magnets. Through clouds
I watch you go beneath
water. Bound and chained.
My darling, just one last kiss.
The key always on my tongue.
The art of touching fire without getting burned.
For ten years we lit candles.
We waited for the levitation.
Tell me, how long can heaven
THE UNWANTABLES / Christi Krug
hold your breath
and keep holding your breath
and keep holding your breath
by the time you breathe you don’t
Waiting for news about when I can
go home and live with my mother
and brother in our own trailer again.
In bed my mouth is dry
unswallowed peanut butter
all I can’t spill in this house
of aunt and uncle and cousins—
every mess and scream
cramming my throat with stuck sobs.
Cecelia sleeping. I go slow
downstairs. Clinks and
rustles at the table.
I stop on the fifth stair.
After-dinner drinks clinking in glasses.
Hate to say it, but I don’t think Marilyn
will ever get her act together.
She can’t run a household.
We can’t keep these kids forever.
They don’t want to be here.
They didn’t ask for this.
The end of forever for unkept kids.
Their knowing what I didn’t want them
to know about what I didn’t want.
Sensible not to be wanted—
there’s unwanting all around.
A glass of water isn’t going to help.
I hold my breath and go back up the stairs.
The Pattern of Cold / Judy McAmis
The pattern of cold looks different on different things:
the snow twinkle that chases itself scattered by a strong wind,
the pattern in the worn flannel shirt I kept,
the hardened edge of the hole in the front panel
from his ever-lit cigarette.
I had hoped it would still smell like him
when they handed me the box of his personal effects.
It seemed they cleaned everything except his glasses.
He was meticulous about his glasses,
but I guess a person loses focus when the days melt together.
I wish the snow would melt today.
I wish it would break in the middle and create a little river
to sit by so I could listen to the story of how it transformed
from thousands of intricate patterned snow sparkles
into a conduit for the whispers of spring,
sunlight bouncing off the tops of each tiny ripple.
I take great pleasure in refractory light,
in knowing glass is an amorphous solid,
that some windows sag with old age just like the human body.
I admire their misshapen, bottom-heavy distortions.
I draft stories of their slow migration,
who they belonged to and what patterns they left in the walls.
I always think of you, Dad, when I proudly explain the warp
in the glass windows of old homes, the way you observed the night sky,
how you studied the frost patterns on the windows of our house,
why sunshine hitting a crystal casts hundreds of rainbows,
hundreds of bits of refractory light caught just right,
just like the light I used to catch in the corner of your crooked smile.
Day 3 / Poem 3
Capricorn / Hank Blackwell
Instead of Listening to another Eulogy Given for a Black Man Murdered by the State, I Plot Revolution /Kevin Dublin
as fine as dust
or as large as an ocean.
Move away in a wide arc:
Rainbow from the entrance
of Golden Gate to Bay Bridge
with Coit Tower between
at the center. Green
shines the brightest
through sunfuzzle, reminds
me of the third kinda
little death: orgasm,
giving birth, and being born.
What good is it for someone
to gain the whole world
if you can’t share it?
Baldwin said not everything
faced can be changed, but
nothing can be changed
until it’s faced. Masks:
still grin and lie, tho.
Masks: shade our eyes, tho.
My love: swears she’s the truth.
City promises to return a love
I never knew.
Must’ve got that from its country:
a kinda mama. Maybe Baldwin was
wrong when he believed in change.
Maybe I’m wrong for believing
in change and should stop
rehearsing for a world I want
to live in. They say every poem
is a stay against the madness
of society. Lick of winter
heavy in the late evening,
so I shiver. Man, I’d never
take a life, but I’d own a gun.
If they’d let me have one.
See how fast a license can get
denied. I’d kill a thousand
if it meant there’d be millions
saved. Take to the pen
on my Rick James ‘ish. “Why
you think every bullet fired
now reported as a mass shooting?”
Disputes between the crows
and sparrows over bread
beneath telephone poles,
but humans. They’re useless:
those who would trade freedom
for protection deserve neither,
just leaders guided by money
and manipulation from media.
Sunset pinks the cloudy sky like
earthly Elysium. I can’t tell
if I’m supposed to cry
or close my eyes to them.
Measles / Lexi Eagles
It was measles, all right. What a surprise!
I felt fine eating my cereal that school morning,
quite unaware of anything amiss.
Pre-vaccine years, of course. Long ago.
I loved Franklin Local, my neighborhood school.
No need of convincing me to wait for the bus
that would deliver me to my friends – Annabelle,
Ruthie, Arden – and my favorite teachers.
Mom had already packed me a lunch,
and I could expect to sit with classmates
in the school gym-turned-cafeteria,
enjoying my sandwich and thermos of soup.
And even if a teacher scolded me for
speaking out of turn in class, or reminded me
that my older sister was better mannered,
life was good. Yes, life was good to me.
What is that? Let me see your face!
My mother’s hand gripping my chin, words
Raining down in massive concern.
I believe you’ve got the measles.
Well, that was that. Spots migrating
Down my face and arms, across my chest.
It was quite exciting. I had to stay home.
And though I would certainly miss Franklin Local,
I did have my books. Yes – I could read!
Brighty of Grand Canyon. Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Rascal –
These, too, were my friends, my idols, my traveling companions.
I would gather them in and spend glorious hours reading.
Marvelous luck! I began to prepare home base –
A blanket and pillows to cushion me. My father’s
easy chair to embrace me. Walls of books to
surround me and keep me company.
And then, my mother’s voice again. Words falling
on my ears that I could not translate to belief.
There would be no reading. Doctor’s orders.
Measles damage the eyes. Put those books away.
I heard the bus stop outside and listened
To the cheerful voices of my neighbors and friends
As they boarded. I longed to join them.
I closed my eyes. It was measles, all right.
Pandemic Field Notes / Kimberly Ellingson
We often drink
from the same cup or
feed the dog two dinners
by accident. It’s always winter,
our days buoyed by the same
landmarks: sunrises reflecting
snow off the glacial plains,
the 6:00 news, (mostly) silent
dinners after dark. We want to go
on living despite the circumstances.
Shield / Mike Hackney
With the gap-toothed grin of the common rat,
mother is a month of savage and rainy Sundays
as she stands before me in her bloodied apron.
I’m struck on my ass with the roaring striker,
sent to my room crying without even a prayer
for love. She caught me humming folksongs
in the rock garden again and would not have it.
Fingernails cut scars across our innocence.
Mother boils a pan of rice, only to fling gobs
of it at her hungry children.
Mother cracks our sandcastles over her knee
with maniacal laughter.
She invades our dreams.
My father is gone far away in the rice fields
with a rifle and his knife.
When all is quiet, sometimes, I run fingertips
along the edges of my brother’s crib as he sleeps,
still as an iron girder under a blanket full of holes.
When I hear mother approaching, I hold my breath
and hold my Mickey Mouse close to my chest.
The Yellow Christ / Ava M. Hu
After “The Yellow Christ” Paul Gauguin, 1889
His arms cannot rest
because they are nailed to wood.
His arms cannot reach out
because they are nailed to wood.
He cannot see because his eyes
are closed to withstand the pain.
In the fall of this scene,
bodies of yellow hills
become human, longing
desire for touch, they
reach for one another.
His arms cannot reach out
because they are nailed.
They are bleeding.
The earth is the same color
as his skin.
His heart is flooded
He is the blossoming aria
of a blushing cherry tree.
His arms cannot reach out
because they are stilled by anti-matter.
The gravity that will take him,
will tear leaves down with him,
will take down tall buildings,
will tear the very stars from the sky.
The man in the background
turns his back, disappears
over a stone wall. He does
not look back.
His eyes are the same color
as water. His chest is the same color
as water. Will these fields yield
The women bow their heads.
Their hands become floods.
His arms cannot reach out
because they are nailed to wood.
Anti-gravity is inhuman.
He is the son of God.
Would violence be a proper
representation of what God
would want to show us
so we can learn to be good?
He is the same color
of wheat in the fields.
Would violence be a proper
punishment, would the piercing
arrow become the wine
for the many?
His arms cannot reach out
because they are nailed to wood.
God told me we are all
as feeling as wood
Smudge / Christi Krug
Brown spot on the fabric cover of
my notebook. Furtive eye of a spooked
groundhog, here where I’ve penned
an almost-novel that changes titles like seasons.
Two thin hairs of lambswool or human head
swirl in the bookcover nap. Grubby, with darkened
edges, tinged with red and pink, splashed with
a stripe of yellow and a soak of blue. Coffee
splat. Evidence of brushes with lipstick and
leaked baggies of corn chips, jostling in my duffle.
I stuffed it down, zipped it up, tripped with it
to Hood Canal in a string of weekends for years.
Hoped for a bolt of inspiration or a peaceful swatch
of time to unroll my story smooth and clear like
that northwest fjord on a summer’s morning.
My entries were days, weeks, months apart—
years apart, in cobbled-together moments.
Scenes trickled or waited while pages stretched
empty and I helped others dare the pen, write stories, try.
The notebook has been to two writing residencies,
untouched at both. It has seen nine versions of New Year’s
resolutions, a divorce, a nest emptying, a repartnering,
and one, two, three, four moves;
also black ballpoint, blue uniball, purple marker, jet sharpie,
sky-blue highlighter, number two pencil, purple gel, Kool-Aid-red ink,
every mood of handwriting from neat script to scrawl.
Mistakes and blurs. Rememberings, forgettings.
One day a novel might drip from the pages
shimmering and shocking like the Creature from the Black
Lagoon. But the true prize of captured moments is
recognition. Here is my life. It may be well-traveled and ordinary—
but I’m keeping it with me, under this sun.
Astir in the Belly of the Mother / Judy McAmis
An alter is set.
A journey made
a shift inward
a call on the goddess,
for wisdom, warm fires, and seeds of inspiration
astir in the belly of the mother.
A planting for the new year,
for the coming of Ostara.
On this day, Imbolc, an offering to Brigid.
A candle inscribed and melted,
a cross patterned out with childlike precision,
a gift of bread, and a cleansing for my spirit.
A joy to see her fiery mane rise above
the hilltop mid-winter,
a cloak of sunlight to embrace
a breath taken sharply, cold and restoring.
This is the time for the Cailleach
to gather her sticks or stay hidden.
This is the time to tend the fires for Brigid
and the keepers of the well,
to mix mythology like an alchemist: a gift of words is woven.
Day 2 / Poem 2
Sterling / Hank Blackwell
it was your wrist
and right hand
where the bracelet
and silvery, it
did not conceal
the aging skin
nor the steady
of your unwelcome
Instead of Watching Bodycam Footage of a Black Man Being Murdered by Police, I Take Morning Walks / Kevin Dublin
Knock. Knock. It’s Roscoe at 6 o’clock
the morning before Halloween. “He’s so crazy!”
Nosferatu shadow across empty Black & White wall
“It was a dark and gloomy night” in the mouth
over tongue cupped while wind cuts through
open door. Trouble from a man in hell, not college.
Tommy begins a ghost story, ends possessed.
A vase is thrown. Cole beaten by invisible foe
after a joke about accidentally groping Pam
while searching for dip. What crevice is the chip
in? Martin is left alone after the lights go out
like we all are. This airs October 29, 1992.
Five months before a jury acquits three of the officers
who beat Rodney King after a traffic stop.
“Can’t we all just get along?” still hits
like “working nine to five with no health care”
in 2Pac’s “If My Homie’s Call.” Knocks, but
don’t call it a callback. Wherever we all come from,
we return. Old Man Ackerman’s hand over light switch.
Faint scream after the laugh track. I return.
Words, Words, Words / Lexi Eagles
A cento with lines from Shakespeare and Swinburne
Oh, the Words. What visitations
come, so trippingly on the tongue.
A roundel and a fairy song,
jewels of music, arresting
my ears. My soul hath her content.
Oh, the Words. What visitations
take custody, enthrall me,
bring fancy forth. O my soul’s joy,
haste me to know, beguile me,
for nothing will come of nothing.
Oh, the Words. What visitations
fair, and fairer than that word.
Content so absolute, my faith
awakes, draws breath. Enchanted tone,
remembrance of rapture or fear.
Oh, the Words. What visitations.
Specter / Kimberly Ellingson
Peace still feels temporary, especially
in the morning, when from bed, I assess
the energy of the house. A synthesizer
in my brain goes to work analyzing ultrasonic
rhythms moments before I am fully awake.
Uniform silence, socked footsteps, the way
a spoon clinks against a bowl of cereal
can be clues, preparation for what the day
might bring. Even after years together
in this placid home, I anticipate waking
up someplace else–back there, living
with a specter disguised as love.
Celebrations / Mike Hackney
(for Charles Simic, 1938-2023)
Today, a rote, unflinching, ardent desire is needed to climb
the impossible antenna-hindrances and anthills of our collective.
To gaze upon the endless earth. For the crazy deities deem it so.
We’ll discover many great adventures if we just get our weepy butts
out from under our covers; just set ourselves off like laughing gurus
or roaring train engines pushing fearlessly on.
A toast to luck not to lifespan. Celebrations in heaven.
Myth of Light / Ava M. Hu
for the magician
We are minus the myth of light,
my sorcerer, my winter king.
We are the breath of the cold, starlight.
Wind bending the tops of trees.
Monsoon rains pounding
the steps that lead to the temple.
We are the spaces in between
what we should have said.
Who we should have been.
Put a flower on your lapel.
Sing me a song. Soon
we will be ice patterns
on the river when it is so cold
the mountain goes to sleep.
Repeating holy words
I’m not sure makes a difference,
but I’m sure the way I loved you
Vanity Sizing / Christi Krug
of jiggle, clothes
hanging at home
not one or two but
seven sizes bigger ac-
cording to their tags as
they flank closet walls.
Someone Else’s Destiny / Judy McAmis
Some said there were signs.
I called them omens.
Everything was predestined.
Everything always is.
I dreamt about you for ages.
Before I was born, I knew you.
Before the stories,
before I got sent away for knowing you,
before anyone else.
I saw it in the stars and spelled it out in the cards.
My bones quivered a secret code
My light burst when you arrived
but they hid you from me
to shield you from me
and the stories I told about your destiny.
The old rarely heed the warnings of the young.
And so it became that I was forgotten.
My stories were buried, and your life was beautiful
until it ended. The world is desperate for a savior,
not another story of a boy who died too young.
And who are They? They are the keepers
of our history and they are empty and full of lies.
And I, I am just another messenger.
Day 1 / Poem 1
Flow / Hank Blackwell
amazon, nile, mississippi
in life’s saline
or in the delta
of our own
there may never be
is the aerosol
Instead of Watching Bodycam Footage of a Black Man Being Murdered by Police, I Take Morning Walks / Kevin Dublin
Late winter raindrop finds itself amid a large puddle.
If we die, shall we live again? Not birth, but waking
is when I begin. Lone great blue heron
lifts off Stowe Lake, morning dissipates in fog—
across hum of air, the maw of wasps as they feast
on soggy meat of fruit, threaten stinger: feign justice
onto a body like burn from final embers of bonfire
on timber. Distant voices impossible to untangle
from echo. Living: a temporary solution to eternity.
How many times must I forgive those who sin against me?
Come To Your Senses / Lexi Eagles
I cannot hear so well these days.
What’s that? I ask. Sometimes it pays
To ask in other varied ways.
Again? Once more? So sorry, what?
And no exception are my eyes.
I’ve often found to my surprise
The print in magazines belies
Belief. I cannot read a word.
In spite of hardships I have faced,
At least I haven’t lost my taste
Buds, who perk up when I replace
One teaspoon ground cayenne with two.
With certainty my sense of smell
Would say it’s doing very well –
The tale the litterbox can tell
Is one my sniffer’s never missed.
I know I haven’t lost my touch,
My sweetheart lets me know as much.
Of all life’s pleasures, this one brings such
Bliss . . . the others I scarcely miss.
The Last Bit / Kimberly Ellingson
I remember the date because I wrote it down
on countless forms, spoke it to a revolving door
of doctors, surgeons, nurses, and therapists, who said
it would take one year to heal, to assimilate back to normal.
So much emphasis placed on the timeline of a year.
No wonder I wake up expecting to feel different.
Yet the day began the same as all the others:
I wake up in pain, in a body that somehow feels even
more strange, stiff, weak. And the disappointment cast
a maudlin haze over the entire morning, and created
perfect conditions for repeating the same injuries twice:
I tripped over the dog’s bone on the bedroom floor, Slid
like an ungainly skater on the muddy curb while walking
from the bus stop to the office. Rubbing dirt off my bare leg,
I think of how they said the last bit of healing is the hardest.
The last bit: living in fear of falling, catching myself every time.
Mary O Moon / Mike Hackney
Sashay down to the crippled and shadowy pond, there—
She teems with a splashing and bellowing lifeforce, and a sway.
She’s offering, in her space along the banks, endless goldenrod
and lavender sprig…
She’s offering her patchy green meadow
where laundry hangs to dry near the dirt path,
where rickety antique two-wheel bikes trespass.
Tumble and roll out to the layered flower lair;
she grows there, in the tall, wet grasses filled
with curious insects and lasting promises.
Lay fingers on Mary O’s moon and grace spills
over you like a handmade childhood quilt.
The outlook for tomorrow appears to be even better.
For the River and You / Ava M. Hu
It’s taking me a long time
to say goodbye, I’m sorry.
And still, writing this poem
I don’t want to.
I set a flower here.
A camera in my hand.
I capture the deity of you.
I capture the sound of breathing.
All Geddoubt / Christi Krug
An amorphous creature honking, waddling
down the streets of Can’t-Even-Think,
flutes and valves and lights clanking
in a bulky pudding of multicolored flesh.
When you say:
I’m hungry as All Geddoubt
it shapes a mouth, cavernous, grinding,
shark-toothed, gawping at
unreachable fish swimming on and on
in bottomless lakes of inverted mountains.
I’m sleepy as All Geddoubt
Lifts blobby feet onto horizon-flat mattress,
bones melting into marshmallow ooze;
and snores like outboard motors racing
one another over peaks of dizzyingly warm
and lulling seas.
As angry as All Geddoubt
Swells, reddens, steams, hisses,
screeches one long foul oath in crow,
then breaks into sparking chunks like axed
coals and chitters and cheeps and scolds
with firy longtail whipping the sky.
As nervous as All Geddoubt
Shrivels, quivering white and taut
drawing thin-clawed paws over its eyes
while ice forms over its prone form,
the ribcage a rattletrap
for half-a-heart, peeping behind bars
barely daring a pulse.
As ridiculous as All Geddoubt
Clown-shod, daisy-eyed, with tongue
of braided lollypop, playing
sticky accordion keys—black, white,
black, white—and twiddling a fancy
bowtie as giraffe neck
pops above double-decker bus.
Giving similes reality,
lurking and toddling,
bounding and stalking, tooling
necessary things—dental mirrors,
toe-rings, scotty-dog licorice bites.
Tomorrow, in thirty-seven
Thursdays, last leap
year at noontide.
Hedges / Judy McAmis
I like to watch the birds flow in and out of the hedges.
In winter they shelter in the thick walls of the forsythia.
No blooms, just tangled branches. No blooms in summer,
the hedges cut close so the neighbors can’t see in.
Enough so I cannot see them. It is safe behind the hedges,
the world outside is better for birds. Bohemian waxwings
aren’t afraid, they come and go as they please
and I watch, waiting for my chance to hitch a ride.