The 30/30 Project, January, 2023

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

The volunteer poets for January 2023 are Miriam Calleja, Carly Chandler, Katharine Cristiani, Jody Drinkwater, Carmen Fong, Donna Griggs, Chasity Gunn, KS Hernandez, Amanda Karch, Joanna Lee, and Sharanya Sharma! Read their full bios here.

If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!

Day 28 / Poem 28

The joy of Dickinson’s herbarium— / Miriam Calleja

jasmine, the first flower, 
lends sensual cadence
to paths denied

pressed thoughtful as scripts
loved by touch
green-cloth bound
gathered extinct

bloom classification
composition
“to be a Flower, is profound
Responsibility—”

A Single Word / Katharine Cristiani

I reach for poetry
because it is tea,
fills a ceramic cup
when a word or sentence cannot.
But what if my tongue is twisted? ¹
What if a single word call fill a vessel
just not by my native tongue? ²

1 Aguantar (v): Spanish. To put up with it; bear the weight of, carry with. Sometimes a carry-on, one
with wheels that swivel smoothly. Nimble, it protects shoulders from carrying heavy things.
Like this: It is what it is. It’s part of me. I’m strong.
Other times, a full steamer trunk with no wheels. My wingspan not long enough to embrace it, my
spine splinters under its weight. To survive.
Like this: What other choice to do I have?

2 Aprovechar (v): Spanish. To cease an opportunity; take advantage of what is in front of you,
but not in the way that a man takes advantage of a teenage girl who is delighted by a fancy dinner, not
in the way that you step on the heads of others as if humans are mushrooms; to capitalize on, but not
in the sense of extracting profit or blood – there is no needle, no need for a quick artful pinch, no tray
of tubes with orange lids. No, not like that.
Like this:
Buen provecho! Enjoy your meal. It will be decadent and drip off your tongue. Your napkin will be
dirty in the end & you will suck your fingers because that is more appropriate
than licking your plate.
Hay que aprovechar! “Cease the day!” except, a normal thing to say when offering a blessing: May you
jump in the back of a pick up truck, let hair blow wild across your eyes. It may not be legal, but it will
be worth it. May you thrive. C

‘Tits out’ / Carmen Fong

Insatiable lips on my sore, aching nips
Flapping my boob at her face
    like a peace offering
Barely getting my nightgown open fast enough  
before her crescendoing cries reach 
                  debilitating decibels
Why do I even wear clothes right now?
An hour on, an hour off
Eat, pee, sleep
Eat, pee, sleep 
I am her milk machine—
Responding to every distress call 
with my lactating bits 

What’s for breakfast, moo mommy?
La leche today tastes of lightly buttered toast, with a slight scent of orange juice and a hint of hash browns 
For lunch, a milkshake made of burger and onions, mustard, mayo, ketchup, lettuce—
Yum. 
Dinner milk is a 2023 vintage with notes of asparagus, redolent of tuna casserole and a molasses cookie finish. 

She eats well, this one.

Impact Redacted, One Bullet at a Time / Donna Griggs

       ~An erasure of the White House Statement, “From President Joe Biden on the Shooting in Monterey Park, California” January 22, 2023

For the Nichols  / Chasity Gunn

For God so loved the world
he gave his only begotten 
son. Well, I ain’t God
and this world took my son
and refuses to give him back. 

The world beat my boy, stomped
his sweet hands that took photographs
that captured the sky. He always 
loved looking up. The world 
ripped the wide smile from his lovely

face. While they beat him, he
cried out for me. He cried
out for me, but I wasn’t 
there to protect him. I could 
not stop the world from 

crucifying him.  
The world is merciless
But I guess that does not
have to be said. The world 
took my boy before he lived

three decades. Now all I have 
left is his memory, a few articles 
of his clothing and his piece of sky. 
World, why did you take 
my son? Wasn’t God’s son enough?

At least he resurrected 
on the third day. My son
ain’t coming back. My 
boy ain’t coming back. 

Tennessee Gatdamn / KS Hernandez

I don’t dream of the change
that Sam Cooke sang of
just like I don’t dream of
a white Christmas
or money magically appearing
under my pillow
or bunnies that deliver chocolate
I don’t dream of a government
—leadership that really
includes me—gives a damn about me
I don’t want to find the good in people
I don’t want to read between a line
I want things to be plain
and fucking simple
and free from despair
and lingering what-if’s
and invisible strings
I don’t want to watch that video
I already know it’s five demonic
men drunk of lies and hate
in murderous delight as they kill themselves
stomp the life out of Tyre, their
brother and sister and auntie
and mother and unborn
children. 
I don’t want to think about
the very real probability
that they’ll get away with it
that this justice system would
rather they not see a day behind bars
I already know—
And I don’t want to talk right now.

 

 

They Tell Me / Amanda Karch

(an erasure of Ada Limón’s “Give Me This,” from The Hurting Kind)
 
I was the fledgling —
moving, still green and
taking such pleasure in the
why. Am I not allowed
the demanding of joy when
I create so I survive?

We put our hands   / Joanna Lee

into the howl of January like a heart 

surgeon, splaying ribs & rummaging 
for the right valves, tying off where it bleeds, 
pressing the white of our pages down 
into the muck of the body’s canyons,
sponging up a clearer view. 

         We put 
our hearts into the hands of January 
like a kid who’s never been cut 
or kicked or expected to be 
anything other than what they are. 
We will be taught, we say. We can learn. 
We have something, still, to give. 

We throw our ego at the heart of January, 
in our head maybe skipping stones 
but more like dead weight to the deepest center 
of the lake before the last freeze, where 
another nimble-fingered hopeful 
is already tying on their skates.   

god (n): a dynasty of insurgents[1] / Sharanya Sharma

history & i, we strike a match to lungs
in the dark. inhale. call it madness. call it
blessed. somewhen, we learn the secret
to womanhood is to love you by writing
prayers shrieked from the pistol’s mouth.
somewhen we learn to tuck steel against
womb the way mothers pleat their saris
before stepping out. call it holy. call it grace.
somewhen we learn the secret to freedom
is to vomit hope onto earth’s brown flesh –
ugly, lumpy splatters of death fracturing road. some
when we trace those fault lines & say love, see
memories become sparks creeping up our
throats. see them dance riotous through fortress
of tissue moldering easier than coal in our chest.
love, there is no exhale in this poem. call it
rage. call it worship. call it ours.

 

[1]after Pritilata Waddidar. and Shanti Ghosh. and Suniti Chaudhury. and Bina Das. and Aruna Asaf Ali. and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. and Kalpana Datta. and every woman who has refused to unhook her claws from her freedom, before, then, and since.

Day 27 / Poem 27

The joy of Alabama / Miriam Calleja

A freestlye/blankout exercise from ‘Alabama’ by Julia Coley Duncan

sweet
she opens the window
a lattice of green leaves
sweet
past the mouth of a shallow cave
a steep drop
sweet
the first light fades in Alabama
carefully preserved
sweet
quiet beauties of land
catch the last unchanged pleasure
eerie kudzu landscape
weeping lovegrass
sweet
camellias converse
and each step a ball of sweet gum
winter slips on
matted fallen leaves
sweet and
drunk on muscadine wine

A Walk Through Chinatown in Winter / Katharine Cristiani

Wind burns cheeks red and raw,
a glass door swings opens, a dark restaurant 
calls out 
             or is that the voice of lobsters in a tank
             rubberbanded hopeless, but gracious?  

Scarf falling onto chair 
                       an unwrapping
coat to cardigan to shirt.
It is at this 8” foot round table 
above this white table cloth 
that winter spins on a lazy susan into summer. 

Here is the secret: cornstarch.
A snow powder 
can melt street sludge – 
the kind that is native to Boston– 
wrap the sea 
into fetal position, nestle it 
until golden 
             popping with a crown of crunch.  

Fingers greasy, bones warmed, 
the sunlight lengthens  
in a single bite of salt and pepper shrimp.

SEVENTY-FIVE JACKRABBITS (Continued)  / Jody Drinkwater

Scene 210

EXT:  A protracted dirt road stretches into the vanishing point on the flat horizon.  Purple alfalfa fields edge each side of the road and wing into the periphery at sunrise; backlight casts colorful blazes over the landscape.  A two-story farmhouse settles in the distance.  A tractor and a pickup truck hunker in the yard.11

TWO RABBITS, BARLEY AND RYE, munch on alfalfa flowers along a wooden fence lining the roadside.12

BARLEY
You know what that farmer does to the rabbits he catches?
 
RYE
Nope.
 
BARLEY
It ain’t good.
 
RYE
(agitated)
                                          Gimme some of that clover.
 
BARLEY
What clover?
 
RYE
(angry)
                That wild red clover, took hold across the road, all purple on purple
                                               in the red clay dirt. 
 
BARLEY
                                                        This?
 
                                                        RYE
                                                    No.  That. 
 
RYE yanks the fragile clover from in front of BARLEY and nibbles angrily 
on its sweet florets.
 
RYE
(cheeks full)
You don’t know clover?  Clover, man.  Clover, the nectar of hummingbird moths 
and butterflies, clover?  The flora of amour?  Crimson and clover?13
 
BARLEY
No?
 
End Scene 214, 15
 
10.     This is part 2 of the extended poem.
11.  Still.
12.     Still.
14.     See how familiar RYE has become?  How he has changed his tone and form 
       of speaking?  In other words, he’s not happy.
14.     Okay, sorry.  We’re already at the end of the second poem in the series 
       due to limits in how the text posts onto the website.
15.     It’s all good, though.  We’ll continue this tomorrow—and the formatting 
       seems to be working out well, anyway.

Baby Time / Carmen Fong

We have 
an immeasurable amount of stuff but also 
an immeasurable amount of love
for this tiny being who is newly a visitor to our shores 
Learning the ways of being human 
Make your needs known.
Do
what you need to do. 
Stare 
blankly into the distance when you’re unsure. 

The way she buries her little face 
into my chest, my neck
Making funny little faces 
It makes me sick
with love, with worry, with dread 
that one day she’ll turn fourteen and hate
everything 
about me.

Her warm round butt sits cupped 
in the palm of my hand.
In the depths of my stomach 
I’m already missing her.
(At this size, this shape.)  
I was never one of those women who was all about being a mother. 
But, overnight, 
you become one 
No longer need maternity clothes because
you’re no longer pregnant 
You’re a mommy. 

Whereas we didn’t deserve you or expect you
We surely conjured you 
An immaculate conception 
Two moms are better than one

Liner Notes:  Life From the B-Side / Donna Griggs

Featuring the lost recordings of Jarts (with some pre-existing tracks from Sneeze and Hayseed & The Bubble Shrugs)
mixed with scratch material from DJ LoopFruits.

All tracks produced and arranged by D~aFT studios

  1. “Brother Can You Spare A Rhyme” (0:12) improvised double snap solo by Bag-O-Cats
  2. “Little Debbies/Little Heaven” (just 1 or 2:00) mixed by performance artist Lite Snacks
  3. “U Can’t C My Good Intentions” (5:27) featuring a mime interlude by MuM
  4. “Holly Hobbit On The Rocks” (1:10) 1970’s remix
  5. “Are You Afraid Of The Dark Side Of The Moon” (102:00) synchronized by W.O. Oz
  6. “So, I’m Staying Alive?” (2:20) disco remix by the Ah Ha Ha Has
  7. “All in All Is Alright” (0:09) club loop by The Dead Donkeys
  8. “All Right, All Right, All Right” (3:00) spoken intro provided by M. McCoughenhey
  9. “I Gotta Go See About A Janitor” (1:49) duet with Hunt For GoodWill
  10. “It Came First: Chicken” (0:45) deep hmms provided by Causality Dilemma
  11. “Hope Is A Good Breakfast” (1:56) background vocals by Burned Bacon
  12. “Listen, Was All She Said” (1:00) spoken overlay by Between The Lines[1]

This poem made available for personal, non-commercial use and free sharing

Special recognition to:

– “Rock Notes” located on side four of The Final Rip Off[2]

– Toad The Wet Sprocket[3][4]

[1] The majority of us live on the B-Sides—weaving streams of rumpled gold, holding on until our luminosity is recognized and listened to. Who made A better than B? In a world of ridiculousness, though a sense of humor is key, we need to remind one another to mine what treasures lie on the other side—which are often more valuable.

[2] Rock Notes – YouTube (special shoutout to Rex Stardust and Monty Python).

[3] All song titles here are regurgitated versions of titles from the alternative band’s album In Light Syrup, which is not a comedy album at all but a poetic nod to B-side songs and rare tracks.

[4] A far superior name to both Dead Monkeys and Poached Salmon In A White Wine Sauce

Say my name, say my name  / Chasity Gunn

When you say my name 
say it like my grandma
who cuts off of the -ity
like the pecan tree
that grew on the 
side of her house
keep the -a- short
and end in a long -e-

when you say my name
say it like my momma 
who combines my first 
name with my first 
of my middle names
-ann- and end on a
high pitched intonation

when you say my name
say it like my Elgin family
drop the -sity
replace it with -z-
but when you say it
you have to draw the 
last two letters until it
sounds like jazz,
smooth and breathy

when you say my name 
don’t add a second -t-
that’s not how my
parents wanted it spelled

when you say my name
don’t say like a chastity 
belt. i am not here to restrict 
or restrain. but i am all
about refraining from what
is unpure and 

from what defiles
when you say my name 
don’t exchange the -s- 
for an -r- 
because that’s not 
my name. 

when you say my name
read all of the letters
and don’t make words that 
are not there like
chesney, chelsey, 
chasidy let phonics 
be your guide

 

Nature / KS Hernandez

Nature, mechanic, architect—a cruel exquisite invention
as new life springs from                                                 agony
there’s  nourishment                                         rejuvenation
in                                                      death                           
and                                                                                           rot
what does a                                                          woodpecker
care of it’s imperative                  to                               pierce
the flesh of trees                          hollowed          heartwood
is home                                                        does it grow giddy
from                                                blood                              sap
centuries sweet                            as time
old as lightning and                                           mountain tops
rivers deep and thick                                              of minnow
leeches and piranha                     curious
as sunshine in rain and hail         in sunshine
does earth find                              humor                in a thirst
for dead things                              the aroma              of shit                 
                                                         a promissory
of generations                                and magic                beans
and Swallows song                        the return           of Spring 
Nature, truly a cruel and exquisite                         invention           

How The Word Is Passed (after Clint Smith) / Amanda Karch

“but words were the only / way I ever knew how to fight”
— Clint Smith, “How to Fight,” Counting Descent

champion (verb):
support¹
the² cause³ of;
defend

1) To bear the weight of our past means living with it in our present.

2) A definite article defining a hard truth — the stories we tell are but a fraction of it.

3) The roots buried in this country choked the lives of some so others could grow tall, reach a darkening sky.

4) The only owner of a human being is the one holding the heart in their chest.

5) This heart we are born with is governed by love — let us protect it, let us know we are worthy, let us share our stories, let us raise our voices, let us.

In which a middle-aged woman attempts to cheer herself up by painting her nails  / Joanna Lee

the same color 
as the last color
she ever remembers on her mother’s 
hands and I swear I’m that close to anti-
depressives, she says with a little
laugh. The sunset-hued 
fake-it-til-you-make-it
attitude only leaves her feeling 
sadder. She can’t see the beauty 
in sunrises the way her father 
can, anymore, either. As if joy 
were a box of paintbrushes 
packed away in the attic to sweep 
the dust off of when needed. 
As if the ghosts in the rearview 
were a raison d’etre instead 
of a closer than they appear warning. 
Everything is just so heavy, 
she says, but ghosts don’t make good 
listeners; like poems and mirrors, only
reflecting in daylight what is already there,
in darkness giving
nothing away. 

god (n): a savagery of hymns / Sharanya Sharma

of course

            i love you

the way prahlada loved
your fangs. gleaming

 electric. toothed
pennant unfurling

staking devotion
with its murderous

grip. love,
always you

make us a galaxy,
this demon boy

& me. neither
dawn nor dusk.

neither sky nor
   dirt. neither

air nor fire.

a pillar birthing you
  with a million

fractures & ocean
winching boulders

    together for you
to climb on her back.

                love, when we
paradoxes say “prayer”

we mean promise. when
our lungs expand may

            breath remember. when
            our palms kiss may flesh

remember. we carve
this hope with your

            tongue. may your love
            always taste of iron.

                        may it never rust
                         in our mouths.

Day 26 / Poem 26

The joy of vaudeville / Miriam Calleja

Step right up! 
Step right up!
Ladies and gentlemen! 
Welcome to our show!

There is no backstage
so the makeup artist 
applies my eyeliner with a cigarette in their other hand
under the best light we could find
stay still!

A puff of whisky tickles my vibrating nerves,
cold in this rising and falling adrenaline
and barely-there tights, and
more exposed skin.

In the back, someone practices a song, 
it must be Joseph
warming up his voice
peeping through red velvet at the crowd.

The sound guy asks for another 
five minutes as we gather
a disarray of actors
in the intimacy of pre-show spaces
shuffling costumes, scratching at wigs,
that very last loo break.

Someone in the crowd whoops!
laughter in a cascade
warms us in this melting of makeup
the camaraderie
is the melding of our bird-cage
chests, opening…

It’s Not Funny / Katharine Cristiani

Why is it that people do not warn you
that toddlers are chipmunks untrained?
They duck under bathroom stalls, 
                                                 open doors
          run 
into the grocery store or parking lot or out 
of the women’s changing room into the men’s 

and you, the parent, are stuck in that stall
your wet swimsuit stuck on your left shoulder half off,
                                                 head covered 
or your mid-movement in a grocery story emergency, 
                                                 poop half out. 

They say a parent’s body surrenders to the child, 
but bowels and shoulders do not. 

                                                 She runs away. Again.

SEVENTY-FIVE JACKRABBITS1 / Jody Drinkwater

Scene 12

EXT:  A protracted dirt road stretches into the vanishing point on the flat horizon.  Purple alfalfa fields edge each side of the road and wing into the periphery at sunrise; backlight casts colorful blazes over the landscape.3  A two-story farmhouse settles in the distance.  A tractor and a pickup truck hunker 
in the yard.4

TWO RABBITS, BARLEY AND RYE, munch on alfalfa flowers along a wooden fence lining the roadside.5 

RYE
Look how the sun, like a horse, gallops up the road beyond the farmer’s house 
and the pond, how it stamps like an oil derrick over the crust of earth, and the birds reverberate with the flapping of their hollow wings.6 
 
BARLEY
(munches)
O–kay?
 
 RYE
See how the deer hawks, and redtail hawks, and foxes trot through the fields, 
and I feel no fear?7 
 
BARLEY
(mouth full)
Huh?
 
                                                         RYE
                      And the lavender in its flowering season steals the thunder 
                                            from the peaceful sky?8 
 
BARLEY silently gnaws on a lavender straw.
 
RYE
Eh, Barley? 
 
BARLEY
Huh?  What? 
 
RYE
Well, whatdya think of all that?
 
BARLEY
Uh, I can’t say, Rye.  I can’t say.  Say, you know, Rye?  It’s just the two of us here, on this desolate road, in this desolate field, and the farmer could drive up any minute?
 
                                                         RYE
                         Don’t give a damn what the farmer’s doin’, Barley.  
                                       Don’t give a good god damn.
 
END Scene 19
 
1.     This requires seventy-five highly trained rabbits.
2.     This is the first of a series of poems.
3.     This requires the stage be layered with soil and sown with lavender several     
     months before the production.  Plant lights will necessarily be planted.
4.     This requires small models of a house, a tractor, and a truck be placed 
     strategically on the stage to give the illusion of distance.
5.     This requires imagination.
6.     It’s sunrise.
7.     This requires that deer, hawks, and foxes trot across the stage.
8.     The sky is peaceful.
9.     This is a false but necessary break due to formatting.

in which: we consider the weather / Carmen Fong

Is there a sound to the sound of rain 
or is the sound of rain
the sound of rain hitting 
the roof      the leaves     the earth
the.   r i c o c h e t 
off asphalt
the pummeling 
of the car—
Droplets make contact & slide 
squealing down the window. 
Or is the sound of rain the sound of rain falling?
Slicing 
           through     air 
                  between locks of wind 
My baby self-soothes
to the sound of rain in the outdoors/ finds — 
comfort in the largening whispers.
Maybe it sounds like her sound machine 
Or the secrets of gods in her dreaming

A Lump in the Throat / Donna Griggs

            “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” ~Robert Frost

This morning,
           I caught a glottal stop
high up in my register
                        just behind the uvula.
It was verse rising—
     lees from the gritty free verse
            I ate last night I imagine
—and though rough, it tasted
sweet somehow.
Some find bitterness in nouns
                        or mistakes, yet
            time taken in epic flavored articles
season me.
My poetry isn’t for you
                        but it can be—
if your appetite is open
My common spoken
     in stress and crisp consonants,
sometimes sour,
            but definitely everyday.
I catch my poetry simply,
            usually in echoes quaking
around my vocal cords,
the casual nabbed quiet in agita
and uh-ohs.
It’s hidden in the tongue root
     of my ancient days, it’s
the here and now, it’s
     in every day everythings.
At one time, it was adolescent ague
                        rhyme spells that spit back
a painful warrior from the mirror.
It’s the water font fallacy at the front
            of Saint William’s Parish,
dotted along my chest and forehead—
                        it’s salvation drops burning.
It’s in the now, knowing the difference.
My poetry is the dust collected in
            50 years of footprints
and the time it took my voice
                        to unrestrict its own airflow.
It’s my own idiom because, though loaned,
my odes aren’t owed
to you.
My poetry is verse set free
it’s the tended trust
that everything will be okay
            and that okay will never be finished.

Instructions for Life   / Chasity Gunn

Wash your hands


Once a cautionary tale
your mother told you

as you were potty trained.
Trained to sit. Trained to wipe away

the dirty parts of you.
Trained to obey.

Now your mother can’t tell you,
to wash your body parts


under warm water. Be sure
to use soap and clean between


your fingers and under your
fingernails. She’s not

here to tell you 
to let the toilet seat


down as you contemplate
why you made yourself

release what it once
devoured, what it once savored.

Mom is not here to tell
you food is safe

Being / KS Hernandez

There’s beauty in             being

                                            human

glass hearts chime in

winds like love
                                             sings in rain

There’s                 joy                 in being

frenzied               wild
                                         
                                curious fingers roam

differently                                      in love

trembling              an off key                   sweet

in the ear of a lover               Tane         maker

a deluge                                   fashioned

being                                        South Carolina

red clay                                    kiln fired

                           Being

Last (An Erasure) / Amanda Karch

(found poetry from a creative nonfiction draft entitled “Last Race”)
 
It is all you hear —
release of heartbeat
clawing at caged walls,
bleeding more from the wound of time.
Your heart, left behind
to fight for each breath
to set it free —
body leaning towards home
like a badge of courage holds
the key.

When asked by workers at the café if I know Spanish, I say no, but  / Joanna Lee

“…Y planteo, con un verso, una verdad” 
            –Silvio Rodriguez, “Sueño Con Serpientes”

Because mention of that name strummed guitar chords in my head I thought I’d lost. Because trying to keep the footnotes out of this. Look up, yourself, the lyrics, if you’re curious. Because I’ve never been to La Paz or Antigua but I learned to play the love song from Titanic on the Bolivian quena while in Philly on a missions trip. Because they’re always wrong about the best way to learn languages. It’s through song. I could tell you how Silvio’s most famous tune translates “blue unicorn,” which is symbolic for something, sure; Silvio being one of the most recognized trovadors to come out of the Cuba of that era. I think I may have done a thesis on it. But that’s hardly the point. The song, the song says he’s lost his blue unicorn, he’ll pay anything to get it back, he won’t take just any old blue unicorn as a replacement. Which I’ve always thought was silly, you know—how many could there be out there? If blue unicorn were code for “hero’s quest,” mine was maybe a Greyhound to the west coast to see the rock group Maná. Or the one south to the border town of Del Rio, where I did my best to OD on Tylenol and hard lemonade. Or the one with Shakira’s face on the half-frozen bottle of Pepsi that I will swear broke me of the 102 fever in a Honduran orphanage. (I don’t even like Pepsi. But because I spent far too many hours of my freshman year translating the tongue-twisters of “Estoy Aqui.” And I can still sing along to that motherfucker if you give me enough tequila.) Because I fell in love with the wrong person for the first time to Ricardo Arjona’s “Duerme,” sitting in a second story window in Williamsburg where we dreamed of being doctors & opening a clinic in some obscure Mexican village. None of which is the point, either. Go back to the opening lines of “Sueño,” the quote by Bertolt Brecht: “Those who struggle all their lives are the ones we can’t do without.” Because maybe the unicorn was only ever smoke and mirror, the left turn before the coming of age, never the point at all.   

god (n): a quarrel of love notes / Sharanya Sharma

              yes, even now

i love you the way cooks
love liars. isn’t hope

just starvation

unquelled? love, my poems
have begun to devour

their own tails & i
still love you the way rivers

swallow silt & the way
equations can shed

             limits. yes,

i know i am loving you
all wrong, the way ships

             love anchors
             hoisted & sunk,

the way planets
love storms,

the way liars love
hope. but then,

             isn’t hope
             just a truth we

haven’t invented
yet? so yes,

             i’ll love you

wrong. the way a moon
loves her shadow. the

way sun wishes he
had one, too.

Day 25 / Poem 25

The joy of waiting hearts / Miriam Calleja

After Dream House, Later by Susan MacMurdy

one can argue about which day the week starts
skating on black ice, the thinner the better
the laser sounds. Their lopsided hearts wait crowding
the doorway, eager to please, excited to please
get some rest. It’s best if the fallen trees don’t
bloom in January while we are almost still
waiting for winter to show its full face
and it said it never tried any of those tricks
from TikTok, never dyed its leaves, only ever
drank green juice and bone broth and it apologized
to the vegetarians because it would call the liquid
golden, because it held all the previous nutrients
around the carcass of the fallen tree chalk
marking the crime scene, the corpse cold yet blooming
and no one wanted to step over it and wouldn’t
walk around it and so the hearts stood waiting,
waning, like bears stung by honeybees, dazed,
shadows of their former selves.

The Pictures in my House Tell of Travel / Katharine Cristiani

I have lost count
of the countries, flings and break ups 
that wreaked havoc in my gut
              motion sickness   microorganisms 
but they say 
              the best way to learn a language 
              es en la cama 
                                                        con la lengua.

When choosing language, I choose 
the mountains of Guatemala, 
                                                                                                                                        6 hours on a school bus with no seat padding
                                                                                                                               a man drooling on my shoulder, grabbing my crotch
                                                                                                                                                             the person in front of me vomiting 
                                                                                                                                                                                               out the window 
                                                                                                                                                                                                   blown back in
I only smelled green against blue 
the magic of vertical coffee fields, brimming lush 
                                                                                                                                                                            clouds hanging, humming                                                                                                                                                                                                  Silvio Rodrgiuez
                                                                                                                                                                                          oh, the mountains.

Later, I chose freedom
almost tipping over after the break up in Cordoba. 
Me, myself and I mounted a bus     
             to a train     
                          to the triangle where 
                                                                                                                                                             Argentina, Chile and Bolivia kiss,
past salt licked flamingos
               to the pink orange desert 
                                                                                                                                                      rising towards sky, the resting ground 
                                                                                                                                                         of Butch Cassiday and Sundance Kid. 

I was comfortable 
asking for antibiotics at the pharmacy window. 
I was grateful for the street vendor who served banana licuados 
made with yogurt. 
                                                                                                                                                  I whispered permission to the probiotics 
                                                                                                                                                                                  to go at it while I slept.  
                                                                                                                                                    I settled into my skin, full and slept until

tomorrow, I would continue north, descend
                                        into La Paz
my ears would pop     so I would leave
pass through a festival     because of course there
so that it could be ferried across a river 
                                                                                                                                                                                  on a wooden platform, wobbling
the women would invite me to pee with them while we waited
                                                                                                                                                                                                       a safe circle
I would continue on a boat     back to the bus     to the ferry
then, I would arrive at Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca 
                                                                                                                                                                                         golden grains wave 
                                                                                                                                           at the water’s edge until they fade to shadow
                                                                                                                                                   an orange ball rises, I will think sunrise 
                                                                                                                                                but the Southern Cross will peek through. 

It will have chosen me
                                                                                                                                                            the largest harvest moon on earth, 
                                                                                                                                                                                          a notebook, a pen 
                                                                                                                                                                                     and altitude sickness.

Warning  / Jody Drinkwater

The sky came down like steel, 
like in the cellar with flashlights
and canned tomatoes in jars,
heaven gashed the atmosphere.

It was like alarm or like
we planned to be there summer nights—
or were they days?—
in that black shelter.  How safe
we were when the sky bladed.
How easy to laugh in that spiderweb sable.

We’d even moved a bed down there,
so soft and easy, so comfortable 
beyond the green light and hail,
the churning clouds, so weightless,
under blasts of lightning,
thunder raging at the wooden door,
the humid warmth of mother 
in the flashing light, 
how brothers climbed the shelves 
because they could, and mother let them.  
How sister curled in mother’s lap 
and me under the covers.
The sky gnashed down, 
and no one bothered.  
The warning blared above the din.
The radio chimed its bell,
and no one cared.

My body, my baby part II / Carmen Fong

I/ forget      that
               I/         am healing, too 
amidst
running around with the baby all day.
Pain is nothing 
                    as long as the baby is okay. 
But when I/     sit 
                            just for a minute 
My neck aches, my wrist is tender on the tendon
My perineum, while no longer on fire 
                        t  u  g  s 
when I stretch a certain way, or when 
walking too much. My back hurts, dry skin flakes around my mouth. 
And why am I hungry and cold all the time? 

But the baby cries and I race to her side. Her
soft/      body on mine 
warms us both. Her sweet/      baby scent 
soothes my throbbing migraine. 
Her sounds/      keep the blood pumping 
in my veins. Till I/      forget 
any discomfort. Who 
would’ve thought? 
My baby is my body’s medicine 

Stellar Corona / Donna Griggs

A mass of gravity that charms in 28x the sparkle;
in violet splendor, whose rays—
cheap peals of light & energy—seduce me.
Today, she blushed my cheek. And her smile
in rapid variation,
flared like solar winds
across the sky. Its brilliance
deluding me against danger.
It’s her atmospheric scattering
that shuddered me stuck
upon her sizzle;
a perfect sphere of passion
pressed hard against me.
My poor insides felt volcanic, I couldn’t
look away. But she blinds
my naked eyes
with her lunar eclipses.
I am but a grief traveler, mesmerized
by a miraged kaleidoscope—
an optical illusion of fire
that burns poison and leaves me thirst

A Bedtime Prayer   / Chasity Gunn

May we raise children
who create buildings 
from cardboard boxes,
instruments from cookware.

May their imaginations
never run dry. May 
they always believe rainbows
and rainstorms are holders

of promise. May they always
laugh at cheesy knock
knock jokes and ask question,
after question, after question,

after question. May we raise
children who speak with their
emotions and reddish faces.
May they always love to snuggle

with those they love 
and color outside of the lines. 
May our children see the divine 
in difference.

May we raise children 
who dance offbeat 
and delight in opening presents
from loved ones. 

Children who never have
to hide under their desks
to flee from gunshots
or bury a classmate 

before their 10th birthday. 
May we raise children
who open their mouths
wide and know the boom

within their voices. Children
who are loved and safe. 
Children who bloom and 
cross-pollinate goodness. 

Fervent Prayer / KS Hernandez

Dear Jesus,

Please help my daughter find a good husband. I was young when these
words first met my ears—a plea—my mother’s prayer. Guess that “Tom Boy”
phase wasn’t just a phase, but that didn’t stop her from praying. She prayed
that same prayer for years—decades. Graduating to praying the words
while maintaining eye contact paired a drawn and disapproving frown.
I was sure to return the look with a respectful yet unbothered expression
of my own. I mighta rolled my eyes. Not sure when she finally stopped
praying for me to find a husband. Maybe she realized if the onus was on me
to find this husband, he wasn’t ever gone be found, so why would I need
God’s help with that at all? Perhaps if she’d worded the prayer differently.
Dear Jesus, please bless my daughter with happiness in life. Or Dear Jesus, please
let my daughter find real, genuine love, a prosperous life, free of struggle
and subjugation and the support to pursue all of her dreams. 
Maybe these
fervent prayers would’ve found their way into God’s inbox instead of the
constant redirect to spam.
 

Mother Knows Best / Amanda Karch

“Having died / all the way back to the root, I grow again / into a version of the thing I love.” — Jenny George, “Sunflowers,” 
 
Burnt feathers singe the air,
ash tracing veins on arms like
tributaries, but all I see is the
possibility of reclamation—
after all, a phoenix must falter in flight,
in flames, to be reborn
anew— a rekindling of self is
a kind of reckoning, a revelation of
potential to be more than
what was given to you,
wings or not.

The moon takes a cue from ancient Troy / Joanna Lee

Unlike Cassandra1
who, despite both brains
& beauty, felt the fate of so many
raped princesses2 & never 
got her own place in the sky,
tonight’s waxing crescent 
as it grows toward the first quarter
does as any smart prophetess:
rises at noon, comes out 
in the early evening, 
pulls the oceans up like a blanket 
& heads home in the middle of the night,3
keeping the news to herself. 

1 Cassandra, a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. There are two versions of the story of Cassandra’s prophecies. Both agree she was given the ability to see the future by Apollo, who hoped to sleep with her. According to Aeschylus, she promised Apollo she’d go with him, but after having received his gift, she went back on her word. Even the Sun God couldn’t revoke a divine power, so he added to it the curse that nobody would believe her prophecies. Other sources say Cassandra broke no promise to Apollo but rather the god gave her the power of foresight as an “enticement to enter into a romantic engagement,”4 much as men give jewelry to or buy drinks for girls they want to take home today. The curse was added only when it failed to produce the result the god desired. (Times have changed. You can still keep that bling, ladies.)

2 At the fall of Troy, Cassandra sought shelter in the temple of Athena, Goddess of Wisdom. There she embraced Athena’s statue in supplication for her protection but was found and brutally raped by Ajax the Lesser. Cassandra clung so tightly to the statue that Ajax knocked it from its stand as he dragged her away. For his sacrilege, Ajax was drowned on his way home to Greece by the combined powers of Athena and Poseidon. Take that, “Lesser.” 

3 Defining characteristics of a First Quarter Moon: rises mid-day, is visible in the early evening sky, and sets in the middle of the night. Much like a college student. 

A spade, a spade: a bribe to go to bed with him. 

god (n): a bereavement of metaphors / Sharanya Sharma

today i love you

the way beggars love
their hands. i

paint you as desert, as
famine, as planets wrenched

from a dance, as lightning
embraced by tar-thick sky,

as fire swollen & rioting
drunk on trees,

& just as easily an

                 exhale

of balmy spring rain.
which of you do i love most?

the thing is, gods lie
but prayers lie harder. 

Day 24 /Poem 24

The joy of seeing the shape of things / Miriam Calleja

The poet makes me notice
for the first time
that Africa is shaped like a heart.

I think of my own island
a little fish afloat at the head
a speck barely known on most maps.

My day becomes an exercise in shape-recognition
of forest broccoli that I tear down
brain walnuts
heart apple heart-stopping
heirloom tomatoes.

Clouds an array
of others ever-changing
I close my eyes
to see negative projections

eyelids that are clouds
and every cloud
a fish afloat
a heart a heart

Eye of the Storm / Katharine Cristiani

My mother did not sew. 
She grilled with an umbrella 
in the eye of a storm. Storm as in hurricane
as in steak seared rare. She drank beer in cans 
wrapped in coozies
wrapped us in wooden shutters 
plywood shadows
the glow of her cackle 
candlelight staving off fear. 

I was seven when she smuggled limes
across an ocean. I was eighteen when it was Cheezeits 
to Paris, umbro soccer shorts
to wear to the museum. Comfortable. 

She did not sit with her back to the door. She
whistled loudly to call her chicks home to roost 
across grocery store aisles. 

She shared her chest graciously, boobs
more comfortable than a pillow, she’d say. 
Head on chest, a place to rest 
to run to
to call on Sundays. It was always a drive
in the sunshine with the top down 
or a hailstorm knocking at the roof.

Either way the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet
            rise and fall
            green to muddied.
Either way, she floated with the current
                                          stargazed in awe of heat lightning.

 
 

PLAY1  / Jody Drinkwater

EXT:  Riverbed at dusk.  Bare cottonwoods, a thrum of low fog, and an eerie glow of light embers up from the ground.

TWO SPECTERS, husband and wife, hover over the sandy riverbed.  

SPECTER 12

I can see right through you, Dear,3 you with all your branches for hair and your feet like river stones.  How you disappear from me, how you hide in plain sight4

SPECTER 25

It’s as if you don’t know me, Sweets.  I’m here as steady as this hollow stump and this waterless riverbed.  How I crave the surf of your curved body.

SPECTER 1

It’s as if I don’t know you at all.  You are a stranger, foreign as the fox at new moon, cunning as the skunk in racoon season.6

SPECTER 2

It’s as if the wind rustles through your bones, as if the night birds call and echo through your ribs.  It’s as if my words boomerang from this bed of river.  Do I have to dig you out?7

I suckle at your milk thistle, I whistle at your womb of wonder.8,9

SPECTER 2 WHISTLES. 

SPECTER 1

Hush now, Husband.  Look what you’ve done.  I’m starting to spark.  Take me down to the cedars along the bank.  Make sweet, sweet love before we start another forest fire.10

SPECTER 2 LOOPS his ghostly arm through HERS, and leads his wife into the trees.

SPECTER 2

Come, come, Wife, down to the cedars.  I’ll show you woodpecker, holly and honeysuckle vine.11

END

1.            Verb (used without object):  to do something in sport not to be taken
         seriously.
2.            The wife.
3.            She couldn’t.
4.            He couldn’t.
5.            The husband.
6.            Can you tell?  She’s flustered.
7.            He meant this in a metaphorical sense.
8.            He meant this in a literal sense.
9.            She blushes red and fog around her cinders and throws hot sparks.
10.        89% of forest fires are started by amorous specters. The last 11% are started   
         by horny apparitions.  This has yet to be proven.
11.        He meant this both literally and metaphorically.

Baby’s first new year / Carmen Fong

She is a water tiger 
Adaptable, confident, calm
Perceptive, brave, convincing 
The king of all beasts and you would agree 
If you’ve heard her lung-rattling cries in the middle of the night. She will get what she wants. 

We tried to FaceTime with my family in Canada 
But she was working on a poop and 
Didn’t much cooperate. It was all we could do to
Get her in a red onesie and put a bow on her head. 

There’s all these traditions to uphold 
Eat something round
Walk in a circle 
Don’t shower or bathe
Don’t clean
Wear new clothes 
Wear red
Even if I didn’t pay attention to them for myself
We won’t take a chance with her luck and fortune
So we did all the things to a T. 

We wished everyone well and received our lai see graciously. Everyone just wanted 
to see the baby. 

Floriography / Donna Griggs

One word tilled under
Peat powder feeds on the rust
—Up buds edelweiss

Meditation   / Chasity Gunn

I am learning
to be comfortable
with slow progress
like a snail
crawling along the
asphalt sidewalk
after the rain
no one asks it
where’s it going
you just know
it’s headed 
somewhere
one inch
at a time

The ABC’s of Joy / KS Hernandez

abandon
bitterness
connived of
deities,
even
fabricated
godlike
havens.
Instead
justify
kinder
life
master and
neophyte
other
proletariat
qualities
reap
satisfaction and
treasures
untold be
vigilant
wait
xanadu
yields encompassed
zeal

An Aubade Where He Stays / Amanda Karch

Dawn calls even in her
darkness — cloaked in blankets,
we fight it with closed eyes
and figments of dreams sprinkled across
skin, warm to the touch —
your touch, drawing me in as if
we were nesting dolls, each
built to fit within the other,
so here I lay, cradled in love
as light slips through drawn curtains,
awakening city from slumber
and us from this dream
we live — each sunrise,
each sunset showing the world goes on
and still you choose here as your home.

Dead air / Joanna Lee

some
days                                are choked
                    with

                    so much
                    such                      heavy                                                     weight
we

lose
track                                         of their names

& survival
kicks in                                                   over
              the growing pile                                                                                     of laundry, un-

answered                        emails, un-
realized               flights
& signals                                          slow like

the clogged                    artery of                                                                                    a California
freeway

synapses                        shut                      down
like night             clubs

after                                                                                             .                                     a shooting
&

white                    space                     the only                                                                way               to fill            a sky

god (n): a screeching of bullets / Sharanya Sharma

tonight i cradle your name with blood in my throat
again. tonight i cradle your name with blood in my
throat, again. tonight i cradle your name with blood
in my throat again. tonight i cradle your name with bl
ood in my throat again. tonight i cradle your name
with blood in my throat, again. tonight i cradle your
name with blood in my throat, again. tonight i crad
le your name with blood in my throat, again. tonight—

            (i keep expecting an interruption. love,
what are we now, if not interruptions incarnate—
a breath caught & strangled on a thought before

it can flee
from lungs?

love, i rifled through wars for you because
i thought there was some meaning to a thirteen-year-
old boy having his larynx crushed under a wheel wren
ched from its spoke. but on nights like this, as i cradle
your name with blood in my throat, again i think maybe
Abhimanyu wants me to know this: the destiny of an
interruption is just interruption. so i walk into
classrooms, & trains, & restaurants, & libraries, &
coffeeshops, & temples, & cars, & interviews, & clubs,
& yoga studios, & movie theaters & some days even my
own home gagging the breath flooding up my trachea
with your name drenched in iron & salt. love of mine,
on nights like this i imagine the day i become destiny ful
filled, interruption unbirthed, a body split open between
navel & gorge & wonder: if it’s your name that is being caught
& strangled in the soft pulp of my lungs, then, then
will your aching ear learn to hold the shape of each
tearing, gasping heartbeat that say: enough? Enough?)

Day 23 / Poem 23

The joy of my first oral presentation at school / Miriam Calleja

for Ken

I hear my childhood voice rehearsing the little speech.
Not what my classmates expected,
but my teacher, amused, probably gives me a good grade.

Now, at dinner parties, I have just the thing:
I bring up duck-beaver-otter,
my platypus friend.

The duck-billed platypus
so evolutionary distinct
that the British wouldn’t believe it was real.
Australia’s Frankenstein monster
is perfectly sewn and propelling itself
webbed, waterproof, and wonderful.

Superpowers: 
longest REM sleep¹ of any animal on the planet

Weakness: 
prone to possibly-fatal ulcer-causing fungus²

Bonus fact that further proves the platypuses’³ impossibility: 
they don’t have a stomach, neither for food nor for facts.

*1 Big dreamers
*2 Infected by frogs and toads
*3 The official plural of platypus, that’s right, it’s not platypi

Down on Nashville Row/ Katharine Cristiani

Our room at the Knights Inn was recently painted bright white, smelled too strong to sleep, but it was 3pm and we were in Nashville. There was BBQ to eat, beer to drink, a promise of never ending music. I did not expect to be pulled into every honky tonk on Broadway. I expected a venue: the modern brutalism of the Grand Old Opry or the intimacy of the Bluebird Cafe. I expected Iris Dement, but Johnny Cash lulled me into the souvenir shop. Me, in a souvenir shop. Buying a shirt with the name of the town in that cheesy font that you can only find in tourist towns. I was not a tourist. I was on a road trip. I knew every Johnny Cash song. And so did he. 

We met three months before. Set off in a bright yellow Ford Focus, dipped down the Blue Ridge Parkway, crossed the Smokies, dabbled along the way. We were going to get married in a fever. Well, not married. I didn’t believe in marriage: women are not property and the government shouldn’t sanction my love. Thank you, Ani Di Franco. 

How many times did I drive alone between St. Louis and Lorian County, Ohio? A car full of plants and Ani CDs. Buildings and Bridges raising their eyebrows at my singing. I never could carry a tune. When I was in third grade, my mom told me I probably should sing quieter. I did sing quieter or not at all. Except when crystal clear bottles of Miller High Life flowed like the champagne of beers that they are. Well, then you might find me singing. 

The two of us two-stepped with Artemis. Stomped our feet on hardwood floors stained with beer and vomit, wood panels clinging to the memory of cigarettes. That familiar smell of bleach. I imagine someone was paid too little to get on their knees and scrub. I should have left a bigger tip. Did I remember to tip? That night we wove our feet between sidewalk squares and open doors. No covers. Now, this is a city. No covers. Free to swoon at swinging saloon doors, scratch our initials in a bathroom stall in case the next day we rose with amnesia. We didn’t. 

I didn’t sleep. Too much noise in the parking lot. A party? A fight? It was the whiskey that slammed car doors. Sheets scratchy, paint smell sickening. This was romance. It was hot. But I couldn’t take it. I turned on the lights, closed the window to shut out the noise. The breeze went with it. Then, I saw: a bleeding triangle inverted on the size of the mattress, red running up. I thought of a razor. Not the kind you shave with. A straight blade or switch blade. Who’s hand was it in? What was the difference? The paint was fresh. The mattress flipped over. We should leave. We should leave. We should at least get our sleeping bags out of the car. At least not sleep in these sheets. Pillows too. Get the pillows. I had cradled my head on this hard thing. Was it even a pillow? In country songs, they ask for mercy after murder, cheating, gambling. The romance of it. So we stayed. I closed my eyes, envisioned a recording studio with a microphone the size of the sun. Satisfied that I, we, had truly been to Nashville.

You Might Have Caught  / Jody Drinkwater

What kind of things were they, you might have caught?
How the deep things pale as they go deeper.
What bait you chose for your sharp hook,
and the tug of the line goes down and down.

The longest white line on the longest two lane,
the longest road west of town.

How the rains fell over the lake,
how they fell and fell.  For weeks,
the rains came, and horses were nowhere
then.  Nowhere.

How the horses whinnied in the ink
of dreams.  How the horses neighed
and neighed.  Or was it the owl above our tent
and the flood in the trenches?

How was it day and night were turned?
All day the sky was dark with wind 
and gray matter.  All night the water
troughed on the beach; the sky breached
its surface.

How was it the lady walked on water?
How was it we walked
all day on the strand and only caught
one fish? 

A walleye with its wavering eyes,
so fleshy in its beating, how was it
the water took him in, how generous, slipping under?

How the horses sang in the crashing,
how they sang and sang, how the horses might yet return,
again, and the lady walk on water.

Finally, the sky crashed down.
The long road home grew longer.
The lake fell and fell
into its own mirror.
The lake, like a mirror,
drown and drown.

Yet, the horses return.
Still may the horses return.  In the ink of dreams
the horses return, and the lady walks on water

 

An immeasurable mound of baby stuff / Carmen Fong

                               Get
                            a baby 
                     they said. It’ll be 
                  fun,  they said. Get a 
                 crib, they said. Get a bouncer
               swing changing table rocking chair    
            dresser, get  newborn clothes 0-3, 3-6, 
          6-9 months. Get socks bibs shoes hats &
   get swaddles burp cloths blankets sleep sacks.   
  Get   bottles formula pumps flanges nipples, get a baby wrap a baby carrier  a car seat a stroller & diapers Aquaphor a
diaper pail. Books toys play mats teethers cups plates. A sound machine &&& a baby cam, a touch lamp, also blackout
curtains. Get pacifiers a baby book you won’t want to regret it

Taraxacum Officinale Means Nothing When You Wish on a Lion’s Tooth / Donna Griggs

They say it’s if you play your cards right, but it’s really about accessibility.
A common colonizer of disturbed habitats,[1] not enough taproots are found

 in urban environments (and far too many in the rural) to spread sturdy seeds
to germinate. Some we see bloom, stunning us in beautiful bumblebee flower

 heads that line the countryside or inexplicably pop their dogged crowns up
from sidewalk cracks. Some we find leafless, their shriveled bulbs worn

 down by life cycles that have left their pretty petals transformed into silver-
tuffed filaments, waiting for the stage where their soft seedlings are tossed

 to the winds of change. Left rooted, these slender stalks balk at time, standing
tough among the swaying seasons while flicking their perennial corolla at gaps

 in the sun. They’re unable to hide from their weed status. Their bitterness
highlighted above eons of redeeming properties, most are trampled or go

 unnoticed. As kids, we are ravenous for wishes. When our existence makes us
look down—that’s when we notice them, their feathery fantasies billowing

 in the breeze. We pluck them from the concrete and strangle-hold them with
our aridity. We squeeze our eyes tight and blow, expecting them to deliver us

 and when nothing happens, we can’t help but hungrily search for another.
Ripped from their roots, we see them as worthless and toss them to the side.

 We tell ourselves we didn’t know any better, but the sage soil knows—
without floriculture, there’s never enough wishes to go around.

[1] Wikipedia page on the common dandelion, Taraxacum officinale – Wikipedia

How Many More?   / Chasity Gunn

How does one begin a new poem
with questions that have been 
asked before?
What was the shooter’s motive?
Where did he get the gun?
Is there anywhere that is safe?
Why are so many innocent
people dying?
Shootings from coast to coast.
In the most ordinary of places. 
Grocery stores. Churches. 
Fourth of July parades. 
Lunar New Year celebration. 
Schools. How can a single 
poem hold all of the sorrow
of lives abruptly ended?
Narratives cut before
reaching their turning point. 
Relatives left to make sense
of the senseless.
But, you can’t. We can’t. 
America, America,
how many bodies will be buried
before a change comes?
How does one end a new poem
with questions that have been
asked before?

fRiday night revival / KS Hernandez

Friday night revival feels like
last call to fatten the soul
before fleshly tempations
haunt chance meetings with God
to ask what do you want of me
I’m only human and that apple won’t mine
Friday night revival is weekend eve
when everybody’s more alive
when the devil’s on the prowl
and every—body is weak.
Friday night revival is power — full
cast out, cast in — cast iron skillets
collard greened hot rolled fried chickened
church ladies dressed to the nines. 
church mammas blessed, divine
pound caked anointing oiled, delivering
heavy hands.
then there’s Monday. 

Unrequited / Amanda Karch

Sometimes a dead thing is just a dead thing,
and other times
it is a once-beating heart
repressing itself for fear of
unrequited love.
And what an execution of life —
the crumble in despair, the
yearning hands never finding a pair
to hold — a dead thing is gut-wrenching
but to love and not be loved is
what cleaves hearts in two.

Becoming ghost / Joanna Lee

On the front sidewalk, brown tattoo 
of a giant maple leaf, blown 
late from the neighbor’s yard, its outline etched against
cool cement though it hasn’t rained for days. 
Like the tread stained across the asphalt at the intersection,
tire tracks mascara-black over the starfall of broken glass. 
Like the handprint your father 
had you press into the wet concrete 
as they laid the foundations for the new side path, 
some echo of you still in the childhood home 
whose walls you can’t now remember
without digging deep. 
Here’s the thing. Becoming ghost

is easier in the past of memory, easier 
without a turn signal, 
easier if you’re a woman. At the dinner table,
grace said, we kept our silence, 
mother her cigarettes. No being excused 
until dad was done eating. The floor
a yellow linoleum, same dirty sunset as the walls,
but there was blue somewhere in that kitchen, 
too, a ghost of blue
like snake-charmed smoke rising from the table.
If you were to run a hand through its flame,
the smell of the burning might yet choke you
awake. 

god (n): an atmosphere of daughters / Sharanya Sharma

once upon a time the ocean taught stone
how to float. sometimes i think about
what it must take, for molecules
to stand quiet long enough for basalt
to drape itself in a bridge on their backs. love,
i want to root into water’s
womb & find the remnants of those
boulders. surely, they will tell me what
a creature incapable of stillness could
do to balance the galaxies of you. in
my dreams i hear the waltzing roar
of its laughter. asks why should i
always be the one in charge of adaptation?
love, i pick up pieces of planet
dropped from its maw as offering
on sandy shores & feel the lightness
of air. once upon a time i too will
make miracles. an ocean who dreams
itself universe. stars who dream
themselves islands. girls who dream
in compasses & maps.

Day 22 / Poem 22

The joy of the unbelievable / Miriam Calleja

I wonder whether there’s any way 
to know how many spoons Uri Geller bent
from his hot air balloon. 
How many families had that one member
the last born
eating soup upside-down 
burning their foreheads
cursing magic. 

 
 

Sea Voyage/ Katharine Cristiani

Fresh salmon pulled from water
slices smoothly with a sharp blade,
cuts soft like a paddle in water. Loosely knit
fibers separate, disconnect, drape 
over rice onto tongue. 

This is not the case with opening abdomens –
a six-walled maze, doors to wander through,
shuffle tough cuts of meat 
like bloody legos. This is the seeking,
the lifting through, the raising
                                  a breath.

Uterus cradled in the arms of a medical student,
they turn you inside out, clean you
call you by a new name: 
                        Mom
discard
for now
who you thought you were.  

Double stitched, they send you home 
with  granny panties
and, if your lucky, a stool softener.

There is hush that seeps in between stitches,
a numb crease that never speaks again
               an echo,
rocking against an island
the soft cry of life, wet diapers, milk soaked sheets, tears  
damp cheeks in the whisper of the ocean breeze,
four foot prints embedded in sand.

 

Where have the jackrabbits  / Jody Drinkwater

gone in the patch of cactus
and snow and winter quail? 
What has been 
the sound that carries
in the long waiting?

I bet you never knew
what I said that day
I whispered in your ear
so quiet even your child
could hear me, but when 
you asked him, he already
couldn’t remember. 

Do you remember how
the ice held me for hours?
Do you remember me
on the ice for days, for years,
how I walked such treachery
and you sat sipping coffee?
How your coffee steamed
and you must have had pie
and maybe you shared it
with that other woman
and the two of you watched me–
I hope you didn’t laugh–
as I skated over the ice
for days, for weeks, for years.

How now the jackrabbits
skuttle in the lamplight,
how you might remember
that whisper, how something
you said once hangs in the air
like frozen haze, and one good 
deeb breath, has you listening.

 

The (H.M.S.) Overwhelm / Carmen Fong

We’re lying in bed 
Up to our shoulders in the icy Atlantic

Clinging to each other as
Survivors of a sunken ship 

Trying to snag every shred of sleep
Before the summoning cry 

It may be minutes, hours, days 
Before help arrives 

It would be unfair to immortalize the snuggles 
Without mentioning the mornings we cried 

Midnight moments of doubt. Circular arguments because we had no idea what we were doing 

Eating cold pizza, takeout, gifted meals
One-handed 

Not washing our own pajamas because of the unending loads of baby laundry 

Holding her till our arms and backs were sore
Rocking, patting, burping her tears away 

Trying everything, buying everything 
Googling anything that could make this easier

Maybe desperation, could be frustration 
But everyone says you forget these first few weeks and then you want another child. 

Good ghosts don’t use periods, They use commas / Donna Griggs

The day after he died,
I laid in my bed and repeated my mantra
don’t come to visit me, don’t come to visit me
I’d enter every dream with timid feet
and stomach full of phobia
as if I were eight and looking for monsters
under my bed, over the years
my siblings would describe
these wonderful dream sequences,
He and my brother on a bench in the park,
he and my sister at some quaint little coffee shop,
gorgeous scenes spent filling him in on life,
My mantra seemed to work
with deep sleep uninterrupted
my night visions thickened with every figment
but him, The hair on the back of my neck
would prickle at times
when the scent of cigarettes & Old Spice
snuck into my nose
or I’d see Tom Bosley flutter across the screen
in tv reruns, There was his laugh
that lingered near the rotisserie chicken
at the supermarket, the image of his inky fingers
thumbing through the pages of the tv guide,
Again and again I’d listen
to my siblings tell their slumber stories
and wondered if I could be up for
letting down some of my irrational eidolon shields
yet my mind conjured pictures of the movie Poltergeist
Nope.
I prefer the more tender aesthetics of suspension
like enjoying documentaries, or a plain Hershey bar,
or watching his favorite football team play,
breaking time into bite-sized pieces
that have the power to connect the elements,
Last night I drifted off to find myself
at the edge of a vast elysian field
enamored how the sun backlit the other side,
And there he was,
so far away I could barely make out
it was him, smile beaming, he waved
to me with one hand while waving a tv guide
above his head with the other,
The epiphany made me chuckle,
my hand waving,

Landay   / Chasity Gunn

to write is to wonder/ to breathe is to 
run/ run child run/ your feet are wings/ no longer earthbound 

Conjure / KS Hernandez

Spring Hill Road / Amanda Karch

And then there was silence—
a hush blanketing salt marsh
and canopied trees as the
birds continued dancing,

yet they held the only song.

My ears, accustomed to tuning out
undesired music, grating to the
soul calling her muse to the page,
suddenly free—hearing
how loud silence can be
when she arrives unexpectedly,
out of the blue
sky, salt water, and shutters
of the house across the street—

a facade growing noticeable,
even with my lackluster vision,
as I sit on the porch and
wonder—

what secrets lie behind beauty?
What darkness is
mirrored in open waters abutting
deck where music was so loudly
enjoyed, until it wasn’t?
Shut off without warning,

a deafening silence speaking volumes
yet no one can tell its truth
from fiction.

 

Vigil1 for those at an end / Joanna Lee

Brother, it is always darkest 
after a warm spell. Though the bright 
of Easter flowers blighted 
by the latest freeze saps 
into your heart’s muscle, 
chilling the impulse to dance,

rhythm endures. The drop
of god in the chemistry
of your veins defies even
the deepest frost, the saddest broad
-casts. Ionic slivers whisper
their messages from one edge
of a wound to the other.

God is always an argument. Always 
infarction and the palm-heel thrust
of CPR. Look for the silver of god 
in those who never loved you, the sun
a certain broadcast from one edge
to the other. Re-read your notes: alchemy 
the study of god into muscle
fiber, into ice, into seed, 
where held tight in god’s fists: 
the bulbs in their dirt nests,
the dead in their own.
Child, for the love of every bright
new blossom, put down your gun.

1middle-of-the-night prayer, or night-watch; one of the 7 canonical hours of prayer in the Christian tradition.

22 god (n): a damnation of births / Sharanya Sharma

[1] they remind me The Mahabharata was written in 100,000 couplets, but i was raised a blasphemy, wasn’t i?

[2] they said my syntax wanted saving. don’t poems by women who sound like me – careful, considerate enough to phrase truth as questions that needn’t be answered – always want saving?

[3] Devaki lost six sons. Gandhari lost ninety-nine. Shrutasubha & Kunti lost one each. Satyavati gained one but lost two. Subhadra lost hers under a chariot wheel when he was thirteen. Draupadi lost five in their sleep. Ganga lost eight, seven by her own hand because even goddesses can ripen with lunacy. no, demons aren’t exempt, because Hidimbaa lost one too. we suppose Yashoda lost a daughter somewhere, but what of it?

[4] ah, there’s the third time i sinned against this sonnet. shall we see if i can make it past one hundred one?

[5] yes, I know a sonnet is supposed to have fourteen lines & yes, i know there are too many lines for couplets too, but fuck, you knew i was raised— oh, right. darling, didn’t you hear me when i said i was raised blasphemy?

Day 21 / Poem 21

The joy of the memory of objects / Miriam Calleja

in our home we only ever wanted this 80s TV cabinet
and everything else has been purchased to match it

a tiny dancer wears that green dress
that only ever existed at the edge of my poetry

we use stilts to make designs that emulate marbling
forcing materials that repel to come together

when we watch TV, the cat tries to catch 
whatever is taking our attention away from him

exhausted, she hands me a green and black
notebook, handmade and pinned together

I promise to write in it.

Cowboys Like You / Carly Chandler

The getting’s good. 

While the game is played. 
Cashing out while I’m ahead. 

When the chips are down, 
and the stakes are high.

Crossing my t’s and 
dotting my i’s. 

Cowboys like you 
don’t know when to stop. 

Ten Years After / Katharine Cristiani

She was a horse unbroken, wild hoofs 
gliding over Death Valley. She was the wind, 
my breath, daybreak. Have you watched 
the sun rise cradled in sand     cupped hands 
caressing each grain
slipping?  
This is what it was like with her. 

She was the the moonrise 
nudging towards mischief that would become night– 
             bared arms, drunk dance, clothes clinging, 
laughter untouchable.
The grubby, stubby hands of men
watched, reached. Only I 
wove my hands in hers, eyes locked our bodies in time.

             Lightning struck
she became desert fire, 
blood roaring through alfalfa, charring cactus blossoms,
a wall of red rising     crowned. 
She bucked, threw me to the bobcats.

I wrote one of those tear stained letters.
She never wrote back.

Heartland  / Jody Drinkwater

It’s when the irrigation snaps 
and rainbows over the sunrise, 
when the long drone of highway 
hums more ancient than 
milkweed, bloodroot, larkspur 
in the gullies, and the cars 
with their headlights still on, 
and the meadowlark 
and her soft feathers 
like the washed-out Kansas sky so fair
that the children turn tall as cornstalks 
and white on blood red beef 
and venison 
that the land is spare enough to listen.

And sundown, when the land’s laid bare
and shaking in the naked light,  
could the solitary lion lie, elusive and shy 
on long dirt roads and farmhouses 
where no one believes in her anymore?  
She’s rumored beyond 
their farthest reckoning now.  
Where once she stalked in grass high 
as a horseman’s head, 
and no one wondered.

Call the children inside for sleeping.  
Roll the haystacks down.  
Let the barn owl screech 
it’s ghostly shadow 
in the trailing light.
Let the children keep.  
Let the mysteries steep 
in the rattling 
spaces beneath the stairs.

There’s a man I knew once 
carried a silver bag of gold, 
and knew mountain lions 
and their musky scent.  
He wore bear fur 
and a bear skull hood,
and he smelled of blue spruce 

and cedar.  He hunts 
outside log houses now 
and lingers 
in the sunken trees.  
I know his name or knew it once, 
and now, like the lion, he returns 

moonless midnights backroads, boondocks, 
backwater gutters, ghost towns.
He haunts the heartland,
adumbral in dark houses, 
autumnal in the dead of night.

Sleep / Carmen Fong

My
life
exists

now

in 
    two-hour
                    chunks.

Between
feeding
& the baby 
sleeping.
According 
to my 
bean counting 
I sleep 
15-20 minutes  
                       every hour 
which makes almost 2.5 hours last night. 
If she gets 0.1 ounces
                                   per minute
And nurses for 15 minutes 
That’s 1.5 ounces, 
which makes 1.5 hours of 
nap
Enough for me to shower, pump, cut my toenails this morning in a semblance of being human 
I think I ate four pieces of toast and two eggs, I was so starving. 

Cliff drifting / Donna Griggs

   it’s unnerving, to see the naked stratum
bask itself in the sun, to awe
at the untouched bluffs shedding
their weather-worn yesterdays
into the ocean’s hungry mouth
a millennium of sandstone memory
dotted here and there with the Coast
Indian Paintbrush now bobbing
its artistry in the Pacific, the air
filled with ancient white tuff powder
sea-stacks masks eons of volcanic
piping—gone under the windshield
of erosion—I feel the talc of history
sweep my cheek like family
the briny part of a cruel brew
whose swill will say we’ll all be gone
eventually, i understand—
what an exquisite ache
to feel the pull of the eddy
to see the past drifting away
     on its back
            like an otter accepting sleep

untitled   / Chasity Gunn

My mother left home to pick up two pounds of strawberries. She was in the middle of making pound cake for the family reunion. It was what everyone asked for. She had been in the kitchen since 5 am. Hair wrapped. Apron tied. My mother had been stirring & sifting before the world began. She was on her last one. Cream cheese poundcake. She just needed the strawberries to put on top. Garnish. Decoration. A little bit more sweetness. She walked out of the back door as she said, “I’m going to the store to get two pounds of strawberries.” She left the door open and walked the six blocks on foot. Hair still wrapped. Apron still tied. Flour on her arms & her cheek. She almost looked like she had been powdered for a debutante ball. Ready to be presented to society. A belle on the cusp of womanhood. The sun set and mother didn’t return. I asked daddy if we should go and look for her. If we should call the police. He said there was no need. Sometimes too much sugar can be deadly. Then I remembered how he always called my momma: his little sweet thang. 

Kinfolk/ KS Hernandez

Look in on um, every now and then
I learned to laugh                       again
and then it happened                   my
sun emerged blazed and         bright 
but not until I looked in on um now
and then. When I forget             fate
shepherds the stars                    back
in twilight gourd                        great
heaping mounds                   of pone
honey dripped gold                   and I
looked in                               on them
and I laughed                            again.

A Woman Must / Amanda Karch

(definitions taken from Oxford Languages and Britannica)

reject (verb):
           to dismiss as —
                    inadequate¹,
                    inappropriate².
                    or not to one’s taste³;
           to refuse to —
                    consider,
                    accept,
                    or believe

1. All a woman wanted was a constant breath aligned with hers, equal in measure and count, giving life to her own. All it took was one snap to break the heart she thought she wanted. All she knew was the one that stayed.

2. All a man wanted was more, a hunger not unlike a caged animal except this monster hunted free. All of his teeth sharpened to a point, directing the devil’s eyes toward conquest.

3. All a story wanted was to be told, voiced to the vast unknown — those whose ignorance held truth and those whose silence lied.

4. No one saw the possibility as tangible, so palpable and thick (no) breaths were taken.

5. No acquiescence made, heads refusing to bow in (defeat — what she felt) was wordless.

6. No one believed her, even when the scars shone on skin and (soul — carved deep enough to lose what was left.)

Articles of faith / Joanna Lee

Before this poem, 2 margaritas, rocks, no salt, 
coming with a secondhand report that your father 
says he’s proud of you. A doubtful drive singing along 
in 90’s Spanish about a taxi driver who dreams of being a singer.
A catastrophe of sun that crumples Friday afternoon 
rush hour into a standstill, but is still devastatingly pink 
around the edges. 5 slow miles in the wind,
over the bridge and back, like faith in parentheses.
The gift of a cactus, left on a bar, furry, skinny, & full of redemption. 

All day you will offer “pet my cactus” to those in need of a smile. And giggle. 
Redemption: from the morning’s usual sense of failure, compounded 
by the text received from an aunt saying 
what a mess your mother’s tombstone’s in. 
It comes across just as you’re stopped at Broad 
by the new contemporary art museum, 
and the man on the corner has just gussied up his sign: 
Homeless. Veteran. Anything Helps. Meeting eyes, 
it’s hard to say who is sadder. Mid-

margarita, you will text the aunt, make plans
to plant plastic flowers by March, snap
a photo proving redemption comes
in doubtful forms, & half-lose track 
of the conversation, your head stuck
mira si es grande el destino1
in the traffic patterns of another lifetime,
the calmed storms of your father’s eyes
looking back at you from the glass.

1loosely translated “see how great is destiny”; lyrics from “Historia de taxi” by Ricardo Arjona

god (n): a villainy of hopes / Sharanya Sharma

     today i love you

                       the way cliffs surrender
                          to waves—

               yielding territory a craggy inch
                       every millennia. so

 by some             absence of miracle, i

               hail endings the same way others
                       greet kismat. i mean

what is fate if not               destination
                          winking light &

             believing there are
                          ships praying 

             for        unsighted earth? 

Day 20 / Poem 20

The joy of a well of souls / Miriam Calleja

(found poetry at The Red Cat Café)

the only thing we are spreading
footmad fall
firehouse
of the world                           great good
about damn time
big thief
hidden history                        heart
The music of retreat
the perfect time (self reminder)
is love.

Order here.

Story / Carly Chandler

Lines etched 
in the sand 
etched in her skin. 
Ingrained in her mind. 
Telling a story 
coming true. 

Hunter Gatherer / Katharine Cristiani

There is a stretch of desert south of Marrakech 
where dunes roll pink into blue sky, wave with heat rising
until the sky peels open up to midnight stars. 
This is the place plastic bags go to rest,
roll like tumbleweed in Texas, but are bright white
& crinkle. They run away,
do not decompose when the winds pick up. 
Blown from across the continent or earth, 
they rip dunes apart.

I collect egg cartons for fuel 
because there are not enough sticks in the city 
to start a fire with the precision I prefer.
Egg cartons are a substitute like ripe bananas in brownies 
when the eggs are gone. They bind
and we think that is all we really need.

Consider this: I collect trash in the forest, build a dump
filled with corrugated roofing, vinyl floor scraps, styrofoam packaging 
because there is nowhere else to put it. 
The forest cannot eat it. No one collects it, so it sits. My own landfill. 

Yet in the city, I take the trash out weekly, diligently 
recycle as if I hadn’t just watched my neighbors’ recycling
get tossed into the trash truck. As if I didn’t know about China. 
As if I thought recycling plastic bottles was good for the earth. 

Blue bins overflow
crushed & dumped & shipped somewhere 
that probably does not involve recycling. 
The ocean perhaps. 

Haunted by desert shadows, I lay plastic bags to rest 
in my basement until brittle, they crumble 
waiting for a better plan. Here I am, hoping for the best.

This is where the fable happens / Jody Drinkwater

Once upon a time . . .1
 
Acrylic on Canvas2
 

1.      All that matters is where it took place—not who, not when, not what happened

2.     “Lost” by Jodi Drinkwater

Milk  / Carmen Fong

Cow                                      Sow
Flo                   and               Jo
She preferred 
Right boob
                     But now 
                                             Left boob is best.
Shame
at not producing enough 
                                             Guilt 
                                             for spilling a drop
Thoughts 
                 that formula really might be easier

Unnecessary   and               unmet
expectations
                 of what breastfeeding should be.

Nobody.                               Almost nobody 
pumps ten ounces at once.
You will have enough to feed her. 

Not to mention 
Swollen boob.                  Cracked nipples
Let.                                   down.
When she cries                at night 

Why do I wake up 
wet
under my 
arm                                  pits?

LABELS / Donna Griggs

box noun (1)
\ˈbäks\
plural boxes

       1 : a rigid typically rectangular container with or without a cover
           /. /a cigar box
          : such as

          a : an open container of a vehicle
          b : COFFIN

*me pronoun
\ ˈmē \
Objective case of I
             1 : used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition.
Me:
I am.

Introducing Lady Justice    / Chasity Gunn

lady justice
        has rheumatoid arthritis. 
        her immune system attacks 
        healthy brown boys by mistake
        inflamed, painful swelling 
        affects every state of the union.

her joints
        don’t bend
        they bind
        brown hands
        behind bars
        mandatory minimums
        death row
        lost keys and lost childhoods 

her hands
        don’t fold
        don’t embrace
        don’t caress
        they strike
        handcuffs handicap 

lady justice 
        lack of balance
                          deformity 
                                       misshapenness
                                                         chronic                   pain. 

on my encounter with a tree/ KS Hernandez

The human body is something else, ain’t it
get put through hell
take a long time for hell
to show up on the outside
except for that time I ran into a tree
that branch was hanging real low
I thought I’d ducked down enough
to the ground
that tree said, nope
I ran right into the pointed
end of a witch’s twisted finger
looked like something right
out of a fairy tale
landed on the fat part of my eyelid
 
if I didn’t know any better
I’d say that branch reached down to meet me
 
a few centimeters lower
you’d be calling me one-eyed Jane
Instead, the next day I looked
like I got into a righteous brawl
and my opponent got in one good lick
that was New Year’s Day
it all fit so I didn’t bother to correct
assuming, side-eyed lazy eyed, self-righteous stares
that shiner added to my street cred.
I wore it proud as if to say
you should see the other guy

Creative Etymology / Amanda Karch

“The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity.” – Abe Tannenbaum

To see ideas with half-formed
tongues unable to speak a truth
as vague is to discount
wandering souls searching for a
tangible kind of meaning,
the kind you can pick apart
into pieces and let
                                        go, scattered into the wind,
                                        released to the world from captivity.

Moving on  / Joanna Lee

Over Manchester 
in the morning, a dirty sky. 
Streets hung with cranes 
from the top of 7th damn near to Hull, 
backhoes, loaders, flat-
beds crowding curbs. Asphalt 

pockmarked from heavy tread 
like the cheeks of a kid 
who hasn’t learned to keep his hands 
away from his face—you 
can even see the cobble 
in spots underneath. Growing pains

we’re told, by the city government, 
the contractors, the developers who 
show up at neighborhood meetings 
in their shiny suits & appeasing smiles. 
Growing pains, we tell friends 
who ask about our welfare 

with polite indifference; they, like
everyone else, hungry
for a grocery store that could 
easily squeeze into our block. 
We’re only a small story 
in the grand story 

of progress, after all. 
Not even a chapter. 
In the master plan 
for maximum density,
a little white brick speedbump 
that was once a blacksmith shop. 

They shod the horses right here, you know;
on that wall across the alley 
you can still read the painted brick
advertising the wagon fitters. 
Just where you’re standing, a man 
was kicked in the chest 

by an outdone mare, keeled 
over, dead, though 
you can hardly hear the ending 
for the sound of the cement mixers. 
Anyway, ancient history. 
Go on then, turn the page. 

god (n): a shipwreck of lovers / Sharanya Sharma

love, look
how we manic
storms
pleat
you into
poems.

i gale you
into lines &
syntax st
               um
         bles

sloshed
across page
over &
over
& over
again.

yes, i do
think trees
remember
forest but
some days
i am

weathered
bench &
others the
polished gleam
of handle
sustaining
axe.

no one here
loves me
when tongue
slices your name
     all
  wrong.

& what’s
tempest
if not panicked
rage
personified?

syllables i
choke smear
atmosphere
in threes. be
     lov
           ed

if we all
came from sea
then tell
me who
succors
ocean drop
knotting into
hail. because

when iced
splinters
of us
squall
i fret

again you’ll
hoist
mountain
into haven

instead of
permitting
us
to kiss
your loamy
face

Day 19 / Poem 19

The joy of flow / Miriam Calleja

Good to go / Carly Chandler

Tip top shape.  
I want the world to know 
that I’m someone worth knowing.  
But the world swallows up 
people like me.  
With no money and nothing to show 
for the giving.  
Good to go.  
I’ll give it all I have.  
It might not be a lot. 
But who’s to say 
that you’re not more 
deserving of it 
than I am.  
I want the world to know 
that I’m a good person.  
How am I supposed to prove 
that I’m good for it 
when I still have.  
The world chews me up 
and spits me back out again.  
Don’t worry,  
my bootstraps are well-worn.  

Four Truths and a Lie / Katharine Cristiani

  1. I swallowed a bee. The sap of Welch’s grape juice rolled in a can out of the vending machine’s lips. It slipped down my throat, sweetened my brain for a test.  The teacher is late. I chug the last sip like a shot. A glass shard pierces my airway. Not the warm burn of Jack Daniel’s, rather a summertime barefoot step on a nail. I spit purple. A bee flies out. The school nurse runs for an epipen. I heal with milkshakes.

  2. I hate oreos. They say I’m un-American. And it’s true in a way. I do not pledge allegiance or wave a flag unless it is stolen and waves upside down. I do not understand the appeal of chocolate crumble that is not chocolate but not a wafer under the tongue or a graham cracker broken in two before a nap.  

  3. I have broken six bones. In this order: left wrist, right pinky, left heel, my only nose, right second toe, right hand; a twisty slide, a game, a horse, a water ski, drunken stairs, bike meets trolley tracks. Friends will point out none of these are significant. Not when compared to brain surgery. But I am ok. Sixty five or so MRIs say so. I ask my doctor the long term side effects of MRI contrast, she says, you are the lab rat. How do you feel?  

4. I love life overflowing with red wine. Full and sometimes able-bodied, hints of oak and coffee. Shirts always stained.

The lie is: it is all true.

Summer Nocturne  / Jody Drinkwater

           —“The Blue Circus,” 
                 Marc Chagall

Not only that it was all honeysuckle 
and skinned knees and peeling the screen 
from the hot bedroom window,

Not only that I crawled like the dog 
and the dog crawled with me
in the humid fertility beneath the house,

Not only that I slept there closed 
in and breathing all the pure 
damp air and only one star 
above the fields on the horizon,

But that I would have climbed 
the antenna to the slanted roof 
if not for my mother 
who would have captured me.

I would have lain there 
watching the dazzled sky
all night without sleeping, 
tucked in my sleeping bag 
and maybe rocks to anchor.

I’ll never know.

But the highway drummed 
the acreage home like a song, 
like the cowboy tunes 
from the bar next door, 
so quiet on Sundays I couldn’t sleep, 
but here beneath the house.

But here beneath the house, 
I flew over the patchwork farmsteads, 
sorghum and soy, sunflower, wheat.  
Here, under the house, I got away with it. 
I flew and flew above the prairie fires.  
I counted the myriad stars.

arms in the air / Carmen Fong

Tiny drunkard conducting an orchestra
Mathematician gesturing at a whiteboard
Wizard waving simultaneous wands to cast a spell
on us 
Hailing a cab
Raising her hand to offer an answer 
To signal a waiter for the check
Punching imaginary enemies in the face 
A fist in solidarity with the infants of the world

The Songs We Share / Donna Griggs

            ~In affection, from a Toad fan

I miss the way the air holds
smells of the morning hostage.
The lazy fog hiding smart salt crystals
behind the sky, behind
my nostalgic perceptions
of refracted light burning home-
town warmth into the branches
of bleached wood that wash up
on the sand. I can smell it here
in the steam, even
though my body is landlocked
in the Midwest. I hear the otters hum
while seagulls mew
behind my closed eyes. I swim
with the transient whales
(just like Toad had told me)
in a harbor that holds no ocean,
in the songs that foam at sea.

*lyrics from the song “Transient Whales” by Toad the Wet Sprocket

Sewist Speaks in Abecedarian for the Sake of a Common Language   / Chasity

alterations of body bolting / bobbin’ / bindin’ / commercial pattern designed to fit a natural body. Dart/drape/dress all you want. “Empire bodice may only allow three inches ease.” You want ease/empire/elastic: ability to stretch and return to its original shape with ease. Fit with ease. Figure. [We are] gathered here today. Tomorrow is not promised. Face the interfacing of your life. You know what I mean. Iron on glimmer and hope. Interline it with promises. Jersey knit. Linings line lies. Markings mark the way out of the woods. Measurements of escape. Muslin for mistakes. Notches show who has been here. Press /cloth until it looks like truth. Pin lies in place, so they can’t move around anymore. Pleat it. Pocket it. Press it in. Quit quilting right sides together. Ready to wear the Emperor’s New Clothes. Sequins. Sateen. Silk. Tailor’s chalk. Underlining the lies beneath velvet, Velcro waistband. X out of your zipper.

Zora / KS Hernandez

Zora, your life, a shattered window in Winter
Once forgotten disdained ordered in its disorderliness—framed, elegantly arraigned vine
Realized—as ordained, your life, an unwitting
Accomplice—your mother’s birth the first incantation
Notasulga, the inevitable downfall of
Empires, your emergence into the world from her womb—
Alchemic screams of ancient hoodoo, wise to the
Lesser-known languages                               splitting
Earth and atmosphere                   sun and moon and stars
Have betrothed your spirit
Unshaken—divested of imperialist social
Restraints—Notasulga, Eatonville blessed—nevertheless
Someone had to be first
Their eyes were not watching     God
Only you, a quiet sacrifice
Notasulga—Eatonville, bless

House or Home / Amanda Karch

Home makes sense of the world
beyond place — it is

 sight —
             fresh basil an emerald mined
             from the garden, garnishing
             dough spread thin across
             grill grates, smothered in
             smoke and cheese —

 smell —
             crisping sugar, cinnamon,
             molasses and ginger til
             tops crackle and mouths water
             in anticipation —

 sound — 
             peas sugar snapping off
             tangled vines in tandem with
             metal cans cracking open, a
             release of cold carbonation
             and sweet cider —

 taste —
             fusing sparks of
             spice into agreement:
             paprika, garlic and
             salt singing in harmony
             across budding tongues —

 touch —
             soft chocolate oozing
             down backs of throats,
             trail of lava leaving
             decadence melting hearts —

To call a house a home is
to write out its story as
more than place, more than points
on a map — our origin is dependent on all
we are raised with, love.

fast  / Joanna Lee

in the beginning, everything. 

a young sun winks its course overhead,
hangs heavy, moves on,
a lighthouse of distant loneliness:  
horizon, from the Greek “to divide, to separate,”
an end that is promised but never reached.

the hours go by a blur. 
the minutes, mountains. 
we, not yet with wings but stuff of earth, 

the mineral in our blood 
calling out for its brothers. 
the slow sad grind

of glass into sand. salt
become as much a part of our skin 
as it is the sea 

& we, waves, building, cresting,
breaking, rising to break again.
at the end of the day, love, the miles 

sink down into the bedsheets, fizzle 
out like seafoam just as it meets the shore, 
leaving their ghosts to dance in our bones. 

god (n): a museum of psalms. Or: in the South Asian Exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago / Sharanya Sharma

If the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
I would have adored a granite mountain years ago.
                                   – Mirabai

Mira, who dragged our beloved here     dropped him

in debris
               all over this hall? see     granite

you loved. volcanic

rock still kissed with sandalwood & vermillion, love still
       wearing our reverence even among limbs sliced—

some days i     see you. there, against that wall.           
folded cross-legged under jagged edges

of your Mountain-Lifter,   

the peak he taught us to adore. even his
cheeky smile is dashed, but
you lean into tamboori & keep tempo

to my pulse.

     Mira, i see you. pure coffee eyes

                                            rolling back, half-lidded

in frenzied bliss, pouring songs

                    down the well
              of your lover’s ear. you

              catch me staring & grin.
voice flushing swollen, sing: greed,

sharp-toothed & starved, splintered
our ranges to rubble. wanted to build

              a pageant of collision. but o, sister

              joke’s on them. isn’t jesus also loved
              most for surviving desecration, fault lines

chiseled into his limbs? sister, let them see

              how each mutilated stone

   becomes miracle & oath. a remembrance
         of all mountains withstand.

Day 18 / Poem 18

The joy of experiencing frissons / Miriam Calleja

From the French for to thrill,
an electrical impulse
rouses my wandering mind,
grounds my gravity in this plush seat.
I’ve been honing in
on each musician in this symphonic orchestra,
noticing, of all things, their choice of footwear
and, more appropriately, whether their expressions look pained,
my head bobbing like a beckoning cat
in an audience that is unnaturally still.
I don’t understand how they do it.
Why does Prokofiev not move them,
literally, as it does me?
Why do I shudder on swallowing strong coffee?
Fall into the abyss as I drift off to soft-edged sleep?
Dream in the contrast of naked trees with the sky?
Shiver, shiver, shiver 
when you touch me?
When I read about it, I am made
open
to the new.

Virgo / Carly Chandler

The first time I was told virginity was a construct 
I laughed in their faces and asked if god would just forget the first seven times
Or the first three 
Or the first. 
I was told virginity is a construct 
By someone who didn’t know that was what I needed to hear. 
I read religiously about virgos and their methodical nature 
So I could thank them for telling me I could be more than the fingerprints on my skin

We Select Repeat Event / Katharine Cristiani

Scratches on caves marked time
the only thing worth counting,
tracked fish and mammoths’ migration,
followed the moon to eat,

the only circle worth counting.
We are them and they are us.
We follow the moon to sip
seasons, gulp down tomorrows.

We are them. They are us
crossing rivers, stones catching feet. 
Time gulps tomorrow.
It is next month, we are in last month.

How did we cross rivers? Stones catch feet,
protect us from falling. We spark flint.
See, it is last month, we are in next month.
Winter rains into spring, buds into summer

prepares us for falling. Steel against flint
we slash squares on calendars, light fires against
winter rains. Spring buds into summer.
We scratch a screen     mark time then    lose it with a swipe of our finger.

The Garden  / Jody Drinkwater

— for Darrin

There you stood polishing your apple.
I said I didn’t like apples.
You said, “They’re good” 
and rubbed the red skin.
“A doctor away,” you said.
I said, “I could.”
The water behind you 
reflected something serpentine.
I blinked it away, lifted my eyes 
to you, your narrow slits watching,
caressing your apple.
I almost reached out to touch it,
so fertile, so subterranean.
As if you came from within the earth,
or a mountain, or some mythical 
paradise, maybe a knotted tree.
I fell in love with you there
holding your apple out, 
like you were offered
knowing your body, 
every constellation of darkness,
every galaxy of treachery.
And I almost turned away 
afraid of the snake inside you,
your forked tongue sifting my scent.
I almost walked away, almost
not knowing the taste 
of your bright apple,
the low longing 
and my own forked tongue flicking.

Postpartum blue-gray / Carmen Fong

My wife drew me a bath today 
dropped in a scented sachet 
until the air swirled with
molten lavender and shiny calendula. 
I steeped in this tea by candlelight. 
My wife handed me a mug
that smells like walking in Paris in the rain. Camellia, citrus, bergamot to warm me from the inside. I 
needed it because:

They say post-partum blues 
But from here, the sky is a shade of gray. 
Feathered rains fall, as fine as the hairs on your baby head.
The sanitation guys have already been by to pick up the trash and recycling.
I spent four hours in the recliner last night because you wouldn’t sleep unless you were held.
We both woke up crying.

My wife, your mama, made a beautiful lunch.
Fried chicken thighs, schmaltzy dill rice and 
crunchy sugar snap peas. 
She insisted I take two naps, a walk
I almost felt myself again— 
cracking butt jokes at least.
I kisssd your baby head.
We gave you a bath.
Prepared for another night. 

Please tag SHERO on my tombstone in spray paint / Donna Griggs

When the day comes—
where you see my demons
streaking tatty chemtrails against the sky
littering me in moldy
dark graffiti tags,
think not of my wounds
being scrawled in shame,
there isn’t any.
These cuts have clotted
a long time ago.
My body has rebuilt me
unbreakable.
Regenerating the bones
and living tissue
in warrior bands that glow
lucent in self-love
            and iron sinew.

Truth Has No Owner / KS Hernandez

Sky is above earth is below
stars shine brightest at night
flowers bloom in sunshine                                                                           cicada song is sweetest in May
my mother’s hands look just like mine                                                    my hands look just like my mother’s
green is the color of money,
green is the color of grass
and my grandmothers snap peas
the flecks in her eyes                                                                                      the color of envy
water is wet
water is soft
water is hard
water drowns
water gives life
I love to dance in the rain                                                                             I hate to swim
sunsets are breathtaking in Winter
that homeless Black woman died of exposure last January
my heart flutters at a Fall sunrise
my heart smiles at the aroma of orange flowers
dreams are more vivid on a full belly                                                       nightmares are more vivid on a full stomach
heat is prickly when it’s dry                                                                          heat burns flesh at 81 degrees Celsius
heat breaks chains
heat warms cold hearts                                                                                 heat changes hearts
heat warms feet and hands
heat enlightens
heat transforms girls into women
heat chokes the dis-eased
heat makes grown men cry for their mammas
heat gathers the table
heat changes laws
everything else is opinion. 

Corpus Poetica / Amanda Karch

To write in first person is
to invite the unknown into
your mind — full of strangers
tangible and not while
you bear witness to the revelation
of naked soul and skin.
Breached walls and depths of
eyes traveled — to lurk and look at you
is to be a caretaker of autobiography,
of poetic body laid bare for
the taking of self from self —
an intimacy unmatched.
 

For the heart  / Joanna Lee

like the Molotov smashed into the Peoria clinic late last Sunday,
breaking is the essence of the thing, 

the fire cocooned inside waiting 
for a hand

to set it free. Abort (n): 
the premature termination of a flight, 

a failure to launch, or, 
having launched, an early ejaculation
from its given skyward arc / 
blight of promise / nonviable future / yield 
to gravity. Freedom

rings many bells. Some of them 
sirens. Some of them chirps on an EKG.  
Mission control, 
where is your mercy tonight? 

god (n): an aubade of ghosts / Sharanya Sharma

love, some mornings i am so tired of missing you i

rummage through history & imagination,
tracing echoes of you splintering

in my own body. here, a vertebra claiming
to be sun of stars and here,

a metatarsal declaring kinship to bards &
wars. the muscle in my pinky whispers

a tale of lifting mountains. some say i should
miss you the way abandoned fruit huddle by altars

in the tarry dark of temples before dawn. others say
i should miss you like temples miss the flickering

contrast of lamps during the day. but mostly, i miss you
the way tulip buds miss soft heat of loamy womb. i miss

you the way a wood barrow recognizes itself
in the forest & yes, how the rain still remembers

being sea.

Day 17 / Poem 17

The joy of childhood LPs / Miriam Calleja

id-diska tibda ddur
u l-labra tinżel                                         the enchantment begins with the sound
                                                        of paper against paper
                                                        gloss rubs with cardboard
                                                        the noise of a time warp
                                                        white ashes the intro in space
żifna bil-papoċċ
imbagħad narmuh mal-ġenb
ħafjin
l-irħam ileqq
il-kamra ddur                                dancing makes me laugh
                                                        until I collapse, The Jungle Book
                                                        clicking to its end
                                                        I don’t know yet that these are stories
                                                        that become me
nirkupra ftit, u mbagħad
ejja nisimgħu oħra                                 as I ask for the next

Poem “Rules” / Carly Chandler

Don’t listen to the radio. 

There’s a reason the water looks like that. 

The sun is brighter than you remember. Take it as a blessing, but don’t forget to protect yourself. 

They come out at night. 

Don’t forget to grab what you can. Take as much as you can carry. 

Don’t trust bridges. 

Don’t trust other people. 

Have an escape plan. Have a backup plan. 

Try to stay as quiet as possible at all times. They come out at night, but they can be woken up. 

Remember that everyone dies. You’ve made it this far. Keep going. 

Good luck good luck good luck good luck. 

Ode to Fresh Mint / Katharine Cristiani

You are not toothpaste or a breath mint,
not a chemical to mask what happened before.
You are not saccharine film that clings
to an ice cream scoop after mingling 
with mint chocolate chip.
You do not respect borders
or neat gardens pruned for the neighbors

You are untamable, wild in roots.
You are a fan in fingers 
on a sweltering summer afternoon,
a breeze, the essence of the moment that is now. 

You surrender gently to sharp knife
become emerald ribbons draped on watermelon. 
You drip into glass dance with lime, 
swallow us with seltzer.

You teach us  
to touch tall grass, brush a field, lay 
in the smell of what is possible.   

Creosote / Jody Drinkwater

  —For Wendy Johnson 

That time in autumn, in the dry yard, 
we watched the rains break like glass.
The sky crushed in on the farmland, 
tossing the soil up.
Clods filled the air with the ancient smell
of earth and oil and water.
We never knew then what would take us,
how fossils emerge after a tempest.
You held your tongue out to taste the fictile air.
You held your palm out even,
and the sky pressed in on the flatlands, 
and the trenches held,
how you stirred your hand 
and the trees shook
as if you commanded the heavens,
as if you breathed bees to life
and startled locusts ringing.
And at half past seven and suppertime,
you snapped your tilted head,
and the lopsided sky blew west.

And everything is billowing with our love / Carmen Fong

It’s Monday, sixteen days since you were born,
ushering in tornadoes and severe storm warnings
followed by sub-freezing temperatures, the likes of which derail people in Georgia.
But your two old moms have been huddled indoors, barely leaving to check the mail and take out the trash.
Why would we need to leave the house? 
Our phones order up groceries, diapers, formula, and pizza with two clicks and a shake.
But we haven’t seen the sun, and we haven’t slept more than two hour stretches in a week.
The cumulative effects of which are much like your milk drunk face
or a real alcoholic driving. 
We wander through the hours in a haze.

And then, grandma is here.
She makes us breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. She takes you into her arms so that we can run errands. We go to bed at 8:30pm so that we can wake up at 11:30 and do the ‘late shift’.
The cavalry has arrived.

We go for a walk, even take a new route to the park under renovation. 
Kids on their pink bikes weave and wave.
Helmeted children with their adults in the batting cages, and pitching.
The week’s worth of rains turned the ground into sludge. 
The swimming pool is dry but the ditch is full. 
The runoff carrying shoes, plastic cups and decomposing leaves.
The concession stand is closed but everything smells of popcorn
and dryer sheets.
The echoes of summers past can be heard as we pass the announcers’ booths.
The slap, whistle, hush of ball hitting glove, air, bat.
The construction workers were there, and then they were gone.
Is this metal behemoth the new play set or the old one? Moms try to recall
if the old swings were wood. 

Headlights of cars turn round the bend into the parking lot as we circle back home.
A long-haired dog on a fenced-in porch, its owner tinkering in an AstroTurf-covered yard lined with empty pots—
winter soil inviting a spring reckoning.
The sloping sidewalk split by serpentine roots,
trees long since felled, driveways long since leveled.
Grandma helps carry the stroller over the rougher terrain
and spies: the blue-pink sky at dusk.
We make it home just as the sun sets.
Grandma heats up dinner while you nurse.
The beans make you spit up and shit at once.
Maybe no more enchiladas for mommy.

Abstract Blather / Donna Griggs

Words
that come bare
free of
tongue depressor
or static tenor—
that fumble off the lips
without flip
or façade, raw
or callow even
ripen
wonderfully
Words
when carved in art
—letter beings hung
like wet laundry
to be braised
just right by
a hungry sun—
appreciated
tender in
between
blank spaces
& time
In full color
or lack
thereof
unembroidered
Words

If Poems Became Metaphors Here’s What They Would Say  / Chasity Gunn

None of my dresses
       are finished 
 
They are all
        discarded heaps of fabric 
        across the floor. In the right
 
corner/ rests a heap of navy silky fabric 
intended to be a wrap/dress 
that flatters the body 
with its generous drape
 
but once the pattern instructions 
were more like Portuguese 
less like English 
I abandoned it
 
in the middle of the room 
lies a wrinkled mass of teal cotton. 
Bought it/on sale for $3
a yard. A steal 
 
in these receding times.
I had hoped/ to sew
it into a short sleeve dress.
Perfect for family cookouts 
 
or walks along a Costa Rican beach.
I became afraid to change/
Presser foot. 
Too precarious for mistakes.
 
Behind the door 
a cloud of gold sateen
meant to become a gown 
for a New/Year’s party.
 
My date called 
He had the flu or at least
that’s what I think he said.
Wish I had been confident 
 
Enough to go alone. 
Wish I did not have so much
in common with these barely
started, hardly finished dresses.
 
Wish/I had the ability to be consistent 
Wish/I had the ability to finish
Wish I was a complete 
thing. 

Ecclesia / KS Hernandez

great wells of unspeakable
fire—from which we
all draw
quench the thirsty
creatively maladjusted.
the new negro’s
distended wombs
—a brandished
weapon—the old negros besieged mantles
drenched in anarchy
                                             a Jericho Road
coming
a wail of the suddenly motherless
no wall can bear this weeping
no law can tame this fire
—We are coming

A Daily Dying / Amanda Karch

(a cento composed of lines from Jenifer Brown Lawrence’s Grayling (Perugia Press, 2015))
 
You know your hands,
sky strung with milky lies —
 
we stray, we stay, we have
fallen obediently:
 
fall to the fire, pleased
 
by the shine of
all
that
yellow —
 

there goes her shadow again.

 

Even though  / Joanna Lee

           “…that sort of wild strangeness…

                        –Ted Kooser, “A Warming”

I’ve set the heat
up a degree downstairs & go
about my morning wrapped

in a heavy robe, curling
my hands around the coffee cup 
like the handles on a life raft, 

when at noon I stick
my nose out the front door, 
a mouse in fleece leggings and thermals, 

sniffing for changes in the wind
while carrying out the trash,
I’ve got my sunglasses on, and the hyacinths

planted along the front walk 
are starting to show off their pinks, 
clumps of daffodils on the side of the house

poking through last year’s leaf fall,
green fingertips that reach out 
at the strange pale sunshine

as if to say I dare you
to all that’s left of January, 
& February, too.  

god (n): a misquotation of wars / Sharanya Sharma

“I am Time, the destroyer of all, and I have come to consume the world. Even without your participation, all the warriors gathered here will die.” – Bhagavad Gita11:32 (translation by Eknath Easwaran)

 

“I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”  J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) American physicist, known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb”

love, what kind of insolence does it take
for one of us to suppose ourselves

into lightning strike meeting skin?

i wrench this mutilated reincarnation of you
from my spine & think of your hands

nudging horses. how their reins were cradled in palms
more tender than the kiss of rain through battlefields

cratered with shrieks of the inescapably-dead. i
think about how they were there, those horses.

how they must have whickered & shifted

as you unstitched yourself
for your beloved’s sake.

how they too, were dowsed in horizons

unraveling. love,

sometimes i want to ask if their descendants
still discuss the moments your fingers unspooled

into gods & galaxies.

do they, too, attempt knowing 
you in a misshapen ligature of

slaughter & time?

even now, sometimes i think i can snag
a nickered exhalation of your name. but

from their mouths i dream it’s memory
unchained, a reminder of the

transience of reins

Day 16 / Poem 16

The joy of a lie-in / Miriam Calleja

My heart doctor sleeps curled up
In the shape of a cooked shrimp
His small furry body a source of comfort
 
In the morning, a rough tongue
Is tentative on my face
Asking for breakfast 

A House or a Home / Katharine Cristiani

My house is a mess of projects.
It is a headlight. I am a deer –
eyes unhinged, indecisive.
Should I play dead under a throw blanket
or leap with grace through brambles? 

I shower, smell mold
check my bank balance, wish 
for a parent     for a landlord    for someone

to fix it     and sort the mail,
unwind the basket of advertisements, 
probably a parking violation 
or two and medical bills
that hopefully have not yet gone to collection.

I consider cooking, but the pile of milk
stained bowls in the sink suggests
now may not be the best time. I consider 
weeding the garden, but can see 
mosquitos through the window – pterodactyls. 
It is occupied territory and we have surrendered.
I remember box mixed brownies
warm and half-raw –my mother 
pulled them early to share with a spoon –
that scent that made the house 
            a home
            a sanctuary 
                        to run into.

La Llorona / Jody Drinkwater

Tenderly, the unsung hero plucks
with the blade of her white scythe—
wild strawberries at water tide.  

Beware: the long hair undulates 
beneath the rocks—tangled as tackle—
black slick water, black salt flood.

Buried in the murk, she hangs 
her white neck under the sharp 
sickle of moon.  She moans.
She haunts the water’s ledge. 

There, she waits in harbor
for one stray seedling to reap—
deep within the mangrove trees—
rockweed, sea tangle, kelp.

Weeping lo, she’ll watch and wait
for the tender sprouts in spring.
Trust this, asparagus grows 
in a ditch.  Olives in a grove.  

We toss our seeds so far out 
beyond our reaching.  Did you not see 
where the hart fled to?  

There, the deer grazes on the seashore. 
The woman wails and weeps—
not for human child nor fawn, 
but for the callow leaves of grass 
on which the deer feeds.

Her soul is green with envy 
for the vernal saplings and green 
and green and springtide’s greening.

So she gathers flowers in her keening, 
harvests dense roses in their long gowns. 
She hauls them under the waves 
but only takes what is given.

My body, my baby Part I / Carmen Fong

In the land of fire crotch and milk boobs 
Violaceous rivers carved months ago on my expanding breasts 
Racing towards those coffee bean peaks 
Stretches of skin between them

Hairs on my unshaved legs 
Straggling succulents in a cracked desert floor 
Except no sun has seen them 
In many moons

The creamy topography of my empty abdomen already shrunk down enough for me to see my feet again 
The belly button a gaping sinkhole in this new cartography 
A dark runway charting through 

Inside, I still feel phantom flutters 
Echoes of a tapping foot 
But it is just my uterus contracting 
A mommy sense tingling thanks to hormones
Whenever the baby is near 

My body is slack and worn 
Lochia smells like wet basement
And unlike any blood or flesh I’ve encountered 
The sting is a ring of fire 
Brightly lit bramble bush, thorns, burrs 

But what wonders can one cavern hold 
blood and blood and a little elbow grease 
Makes a whole human being 
From a bean to a baby in nine months or so
Magic in our cells that we take for granted 

Some Woman for One Woman/ Donna Griggs

A thorn among blackberries, stock
yet, touched with the blush of deep eggplant,
the brix blend rendering itself just below
average on the charts of sweetness.
Invasive—because it has to be—
its garden tended regularly
by a collective of underestimation
and nightshade. Never dreaming
of hybridization or being red-fruited
rubus, its hardy leaves and stems
habitually favored by nature.
Grazed on by animals, big and small,
its beauty obscured by spiked armor
fortified by dark life yet highlighted
by the moon. One of the few
able to grow in the shade, it’s rich
in composition, an essential element
to the ecology. Abundant brambles grafted
by those seeking medicine, protection, or the scent
of berry-spiced nostalgia. Often robbed
of its goods and gratuities, besmirched
in bad weather—forgotten it was
good enough for the Haraldskær
Woman. Always vulnerable
to pestilence and folklore, and those
who attempt to cultivate it until
it’s prickle-free—but
it’s sweetest when left alone
to bloom on its own, where the sun
warms and nature roams easy.

After / Chasity Gunn

After dinner
After the party
After a midnight snack
After the dishes are cleaned
After a child asks his mother: why
After the mother explains grief using gummy bears
After she removes the wedding band and puts it in a drawer
After the moon menaces and the bed is graveyard
After trust bends backward to keep from collapsing on the linoleum kitchen floor covered in mop water
After he says goodbye to the chimera he called his father. 

Bitter Bombaclat / KS Hernandez

fiery temples pulsate syllabically
a dry throat
In tangled words weeping
but I
slice the bitter from the fruit
from a distance a
daggered tongue
is as sharp as this
a blade embedded in
your cheek would
be more
precise. Incision by incision
a decision bleeds
from me
bring me the once bitter fruit,
I cry. Never mind
 burdensome festering wounds
–salt waits patiently
in velvet wings tightly bound
to your chest
Peace be with you.

This is Supposed to be Over / Amanda Karch

(inspired by the actions undertaken by the Taliban to limit the freedoms of women)
 
This is supposed to be a story
of a girl’s choices through childhood
but it turned into horror —
a girl turning woman too early,
too soon.
 
This is supposed to be an educated
dream, books calling new worlds and
old findings til her mind
can’t make sense of it all —
but it turned into nightmare,
wisdom wrested from deserving hands.
 
This is supposed to be a free world,
golden threads woven with opportunity —
but it turned into knotted rope
choking air and forward motion
when all she wanted was to soar.
 
This is supposed to be equal
but they keep pushing her down
as she continues to rise.

More evidence on the existence of god  / Joanna Lee

The startle 
of the pickup’s bump
into the back 
end of my 
little red 
car 
produced 
no dent, 
no scrape, 
only 
the most doubtful chip 
on the prism’d topcoat
of the paint job,
carrying thrust 
through the frame
like a brief thunder 
up through the seat 
& under my skin, 
thrummed the pulse 
in my throat 
like a heavy metal ballad
so that 
the little scream
that came 
like steam from my lungs 
was my mother’s voice, 
she gone these past fourteen years.  

god (n): a lunacy of poets / Sharanya Sharma

every day i try to paint an absence
of death on paper in a language snarled

& knotted with a logic even it hates
to follow. today i write myself squatting

sloshed inside the moon’s silhouette.
i remember how stories tell us

the shadow goddess married
the sun. gave birth to Saturn, god

of karma. justice’s mother stitches herself
to us & forgets how to take a breath. my own

mother told me this story again just yesterday,
the way someone’s mother first told it sometime

in the second millennium BCE. love,
how do poets tutor themselves to crave

reason when you disobey time like this?

the best we can do is pretend mathematicians
know what they’re saying when they tell us

the limit does not exist.

Page 15

After Einstein’s Dreams  by Alan Lightman

Here, time is a classic piece
whose tickets were almost sold out
but it pays to know the right people.

Those in queue wait to live
only time will tell
in the future is denied to them.

As we quieten down and settle in our seats
everyone has had the chance
to clear their throat.

Knowing what the past held,
we look at it longingly,
clap for the shadows of players.

The Future Tense, roses at her feet,
curtsies after the last applause.
For Her, there will be an encore.

Those who are there also
are not, and elsewhere in cafés, in streets,
in hospital beds, in kitchens, in bath rubs,
the final note reverberates.

After a Parent Dies of Cancer / Katharine Cristiani

When you have had 20/20 vision your whole life, you don’t understand when the world blurs. License plates, a bit fussy. Words run into one another as fonts collide. A sharp piercing behind the eye. Reading is unpleasant. You are dizzy, unstable as you walk down stairs. It must be a brain tumor.  

You decide to try an experimental treatment, go to an optometrist who exclaims– as if it was written on the billboard you pass every day to work – You are over 40, of course you need glasses. So you get glasses. And they are cute. You look more interesting. 

But they smudge. Fingerprints blot out clarity. You wipe & wipe & wipe with that little square cloth & the world is foggier than it was before. Dirtier like sidewalks after a thaw. 

The glasses slip off your nose, fog your mask, fall on the ground at the grocery store. You cannot read the price or the ingredients without them, but you cannot walk with them. You lose them, again & again. Under the covers, by your hairbrush, behind the oatmeal in the kitchen. 

It is a known fact that people become wise with age, gain perspective & clarity. But, you cannot see. 

It is ok. Push the glasses up your nose when you can. Buy a chain, hang them against your heart. Wait for a year to pass. Your eyes will adjust to see through smudges. You will hold two panes, stand perhaps still unbalanced, but on the other side.  

Twenty Five Years / Jody Drinkwater

Twenty-five years, twenty-five years,
twenty-five years have gone by, my love.
Twenty-five years and three days, told true.
I was postponed.  I was detained.
I was confined on a subway train 
for three days.  For three days, three days,
for twenty-five years and three days, my love,
I was restrained on a subway train.  
Twenty-five years, three days, and ten hours, to be clear.  
I was held back on a bicycle in traffic
on an aching city street for ten hours
and in the rain.  For ten hours, ten hours,
for twenty-five years, three days, and ten hours,
I was held back on a bicycle in traffic 
on an aching city street 
and in the rain, my love,
for that long in the rain. 
For twenty-five years, 
three days and ten hours and forty-seven minutes
you’ve been gone, my love.

Or was it I  

who wandered off track to the water?  The lake
beckoned and I followed. 
I grant, I forgot you there, waiting for as long as you did,
those years, those days, those hours. 
It might have been those 
last forty-seven minutes 
that did you in.
If you had held out, otherwise,
I’ll never know. I’m here stuck on the subway train,
holding the rail, 
standing for so long, feet blistered 
from all that rocking. 
The bicycle isn’t so bad,
but it’s all this rain, so soaked,
hair curled against my cheek.  
And me without an umbrella.  And the lake,
I haven’t caught a thing, yet.  
I keep forgetting
to throw my line in, 
distracted by all this 
constellation of fishes.
I finally got my tent up though, and I’ve been waiting.
I only have twenty-five years, three days, ten hours 
forty-seven minutes and fifty-three seconds to go, my love,
and fifty-three seconds to go.

Slightly Ekphrastic poem about a children’s book / Carmen Fong

I love art, I do
Any chance I get, I’m in an art museum 
But these days, opportunities are few
And gloriously illustrated classic children’s books 
Are the closest I’ll get to divinity 

This one, freshly arrived in an Amazon box
Recycled packaging, iconic black swoop 
Easy returns via a printed sticky label

In my hands
Book board crisp 
Smells of new
Watercolor greens and blues 
Red head, mouth wide
Pages full of holes inside 
Painted fruit, leaves chewed through 
Chocolate cake, a pickle too
The very hungry caterpillar 
Forms a cocoon
At the end, we come to find
Caterpillar becomes a butterfly.

I poke your belly, round and full
At two weeks old, you still don’t know 
How fast you’re changing, how fast you’ll grow 

Clouds are a debris field from sky-writing our aspirations/ Donna Griggs

I often wonder what my dreams would look like
            sailing atop the orange dusk of summer sunsets,

tumble-drying over one another with the sea-spray
            tickling their toes, a light fervor mixed with nerve

blowing gently at their backs—eager to be someone,
            to get somewhere that cares they have something

to say. As many times as I’ve sat on the Avila sand
            and stared out at the ocean, it never occurred to me

until now that it was free. That vision of glinting life
            bobbing endless imagination out towards the horizon

and beyond, the Great Blue Herons swell their air sacs
            to stretch their wings so wide the sky looks painted

in azure plumes, an ocean view matted with cirrostratus
            clouds that are given gratis to those who only look

  1. Beyond the limits of human eyelines, there’s no one
               to tell the heron they should be a crowned African Crane,

that the deep sea is too salty is irrelevant—true beauty holds
           no court of hierarchy. Would I hold my heart in contempt,

in treasuring old taverns daubed thick with the whiff of wine
            and beer aged stale by whispers of disdain? Who are you

to peddle the hard stuff from Monday-Saturday, as if
            bait for redemption was the state saving us on Sundays?

I don’t buy it anymore, the pain of mispriced abatement,
            the forced shame painted in layers so thick a smell

it sticks to you as if you were born with it—the air,
            it isn’t something you have to earn. Our breadth

to soar the open skies isn’t priced by the eye of others,
            seeing as no one can harness the horizon and the view?
It’s free.

The Things She Will Not Tell / Chasity Gunn

Cornbread/burnt while hanging clean
linens on the clothesline 
black on the bottom
egg/fried too long
no run
yellow island with no running water/
unfolded laundry
dusty dressers

she tried 

couldn’t twirl the curling iron
to form a decent curl/
limp hair that doesn’t move. 

she could/

make a decent pot of chicken stew
sweep the floor ’til 
it was clean/like heaven.
sew a pleated skirt
better than a New York 
fashion designer 

she felt

a paralyzed man’s rage
has no diameter,
has no center. 
Constant direction 
it always has. 

her.

lumps in her throat
become/mountains
mute prophet
sings the blues/

Night Dancer / KS Hernandez

legs long — chiseled like a dancer’s
pretty and neat as the dead
wonderous and wild to the witching
hour tune
pirouette, twirl, it will even take a bow
my heart danced all night
and I the captive audience
awake and waiting
for the encore

Contradictions / Amanda Karch

I am both wreck and reckoning,
both prayer and promise —
one of open ends and twisted
minds, one of reclaimed truth and
rekindled selves. To the world
 
I fall short of a place to call home
when doors lead to different paths
but my heart knows its compass.
Each half of me is whole-
bodied, free-spirited, bold talker
no matter how little
 
my lips part. For no one,
my head holds high.
 

Déjà Vu   / Joanna Lee

I’m convinced the cat
has bad dreams, 

that they are all of abandonment. 
In the middle of the night

from the foot of the bed she’ll 
up suddenly &

rummage through the blankets
til she finds my chest, 

nuzzling each side of my chin
for the reassurance I haven’t

disappeared. I’ll hold her against me 
until her heartbeat settles & slowly 

sit, her front paws clung
to my left shoulder. Rising,

I stumble my way across the creak of dark 
bedroom floorboards, she rumbling

into my neck. We flip the switch 
in the upstairs bathroom, blink,

& together we pace the hall,
up and down, up and down. In the fog 

of the small hours, my eyes limned 
with sleep, I’m again 

a student in the pediatric ward,
the fluorescents dimmed over dun linoleum, 

humming a lullaby to some lonely
methadone baby, those long nights 

as close to motherhood
as I have ever been, ever will be. 

god (n): an astrology of immigrants / Sharanya Sharma

love, we keep trying to make stars the point
when it’s the inky black sea balancing light
on its back that matters most. which map

can say where horizons accomplish restraint?
you damn borders & wash across lands in the
darkest, softest pigment we can imagine. a miracle

my family makes too: unrepentant
composers of mutiny against each boundary
seared into tongues. sometimes, english

slips bruised & mangled from their mouths. love,
why did you make us the ones who could thrash
this language right back

for plundering ours? sometimes i think sita taught me
too well: when words stream whole from my mouth
the way you churned milky venom from sea, i cut open

earth. unsee constellations & drip scythes, putrefying
heads, tigers & night skinned goddess with her tongue
unraveled down my throat.

Day 14 / Poem 14

The joy of opening your eyes / Miriam Calleja

underwater. Everything comes in waves
look
you can count the possibilities,
muffled sounds approach 
light all around, 
your skin iridescent, forgetful, 
one with the surface. 
See how long
and how deep 
you can breathe. 

Sky / Carly Chandler

Prayers disband after their time with me. 
It doesn’t take long for them to realize
all signs point home.
There’s something wrong with living 
against the sky. 

Dearest Country Mouse / Katharine Cristiani

Did you fall 
out of a  children’s book, 
scramble
onto the floor, warm eyes slow?

Watcher of dusk, nibbler of dawn’s seeds, 
I offer you the walls, their passageways warm in winter.
I offer you ants, cheerios, perhaps pine nuts.

Can we make this deal? 

  1. You agree to stop gnawing my wooden spoon. It is for stirring. 

  2. You agree to stop clawing your way up the toilet paper to the counter, 

stop shredding the thin white squares as you go. 

  1. You agree to stop wandering across my bed. 

Let me be clear, your oval droppings are not an offering.

Can we agree to this? 

If we can, I commit to not kill you:

  1. I will not bleed you inside out with green cubes. 

  2. I will not drop you into a toilet bowl. 

  3. I will not stomp you with boots. 

Please do leave me gifts of dried berries in shoes, 
bundles between couch cushions. Let us squirrel
away our memories of summer, wrap ourselves in them. 
Let us weather the winter together. 

Highway Home / Jody Drinkwater

On the highway home from Springer, 
the tall grass plain
and middle mountains swing.

From forsaken blacktop, black crows wing, 
and Colorado drifts somewhere North.  

Empty, empty, the highway strains.  
One abandoned ranch too far out to water.  

Red tail hawk, new moon, blue grama—
in other words, darkness.  

Carry me home to mandolins.
Take me to those rare seasons.  

Train tracks vibrate.
A deep drag whistle in the night.  

The farmer’s peacocks scream and scream, 
and so do this plague of crickets in the elms.  

It’s all too much here in this richness.  
How the hoot owls coo from the branches.

The cacophony of Great Mother. And me—
lowly beast of fields and forgotten trees.

having a newborn compared to being on call  / Carmen Fong

No stranger to sleepless nights 
I was- I am- I was
A surgeon
And spent so many shifts with 
My pager on my chest, my cell phone volume on loud 
Lying on the thin twin mattress in the call room
My head on a standard hospital-issue plastic covered pillow 
Covered by an assortment of sheets and blankets
That people had no doubt bled on, peed on, 
died in
I stayed dressed in scrubs 
Praying for the pager to buzz, hoping that it doesn’t.
Wishing for a 10pm appendectomy instead of a 3am to thrombectomy 
And the wisdom to know the difference.

This sleeplessness feels entirely unique
My one tiny patient calls every hour, on the hour
And the need for an urgent diagnosis ensues
In which I have to read her facial cues
She does not follow the textbook, 
A textbook I have not studied. 
Butt, boob, bottle or bed? Those are 
Her only options. 
It occurs to me that I have to survive while still trying to keep someone alive:
Though instead of with drugs, with hugs. Instead of with needles, with cuddles. With breast milk and baths instead of incisions and swaths
Of bandages.

Tonight my charge smacks her lips in gratitude
Her payment comes in the form of these happy hormones 
Biological insurance 
That we will both see another day 

WESTERN UNION: “Please Tell Oden” / Donna Griggs

*To be delivered to Mrs. George Middlebrook this twenty-ninth of March, 1945.

ROUTE 1=
            OZARK ARK=
RECEIVED FOLLOWING WIRE QUOTE THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRES
 ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEPEST REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND PRIVATE
 FIRST CLASS CARROLL T WILLIAMS WAS KILLED IN ACTION TWELVE MARCH
REPORT FURTHER STATES HE HAD RETURNED TO DUTY EIGHTEEN
FEBRUARY FROM PREVIOUSLY REPORTED WOUND CONFIRMING LETTER
FOLLOWS SIGNED J A ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL UNQUOTE PLEASE
  TELL ODEN=
            =HELEN=

February 9, 1945

Dearest Carroll,

        Just droppin a couple lines here to wish
you well and trust that you are in good spirit
(with a cup a joe of course). Letters seem to be few
and far between these days. Here, I hope less
for the big things, like money or fancy things,
my mind drifts more in solitude and sounds
of the house or when the smell of flowers drift
in from our garden. The butterfly weed bloomed
earlier than I thought it would and I’m afraid
it’ll take over everything. If I let it anyhow.
That ol radio is still kickin. I heard our song
just the other day, the one you warbled to me
on our first picnic under that ol osage tree,
(thinkin you were Ol Blue Eyes or somthin)
I let it play and swayed like I was in your arms.
I’ll file that memory away for rainy days to come
right next to the blood plums and marjoram.
Oden is now down at Uncle George’s, forgettin
himself in the farm and small town life. Right
fine young man we have there. You’d be proud.
Quiet is how things are here, nuthin to write
about anyway. Last thing, I know you asked for
me to send a photo but I’m lookin such a fright
these days. It’s best to let me put a little paint
on the barn (you know how these old barns tell
the best stories) before I send it. Dreams stay fresh
that way and I’ll always be pretty in your eyes.
I guess this ended up bein more than two lines
and I best be gettin on.
Sendin all my love, keep yourself safe.
Hope to hear somethin soon.
        Love,
                Helen

*An actual Western Union telegram dated March 29, 1945. The letter that follows is fictionalized.

The Orange Laments  / Chasity Gunn

Tired of people 
digging their dirty fingernails
into my tender places,
scratching to get to the softness inside,
rip it open,
devour my sweetness,
drink until they are dizzy. 
Then tear my flesh
again searching for more. 
Insatiable appetites
lusty lips
leave me barren,
scattered across
the kitchen table.

Untitled / KS Hernandez

What is my heart saying to me first thing 
in the morning? Those fleeting moments 
drifting between sleep and awake the semi-
conscious state right before the sun fully rises. 
what is my heart saying in those times when
it begins to race while I’m stilllaying down.

I frown at the quickened pace. am I late?
I wonder. What if my heart is pissed 

off at me or maybe my heart pities me, cries
for me when I cannot. Maybe she’s better at 
articulating what we both need? she’s been 
through as much as I have if not more. She
does not sleep. She sees everything — hears 
everything. My closest confidant, never tells 
a secret or a lie. I wonder. What language does
my heart speak? I’ll bet my heart’s language 
is beautiful and complex — one that’s only 
meant for me to understand. It makes perfect
sense that my heart has her own language.
I’ll bet it has a country drag to make me long 
for the Saltwater Geechee kin that my physical 
eyes have never seen? and my arms have never
held? the food I’ve never eaten, the old songs 
that crossed the middle passage but never crossed 
my waking lips. Nor soothed my ears. I’ll bet my 
heart rolls her tongue, and swears, and says
prayers. 

A Woman’s Maybe / Amanda Karch

Maybe one day this world holds more than
it asked for, not less — for woman
means world because we carry its weight
stacked on shoulders struggling to stand tall,
stand strong in the sunsetting.
 
Maybe these colors symbolize more than
the end of the same day as the one before —
bright like the eyes seeking redemption,
constant like armored resilience coating
hearts ready for war.
 
Maybe this battle cry proves something
to someone — truth lingers long
after trust is lost; even the birds know when
migration means fleeing what kills you.
 
Maybe one day we won’t have to run.

To change the way we see the stars   / Joanna Lee

Study your sources.
Some say 
Orion was conceived
from the pissed-on hide
of a bull that was served up to three gods and 
buried as a boon; others 
that he was a good-looking son 
of the sea-god himself. No doubt popular,
handsome, he was larger than life, 
a hand with a bow. You know the type.
The story goes he was once blinded by a king 
for raping his daughter. 
Though he walked on waves 
like they say Jesus could, 
he was drunk that day, 
and stumbled over the sea to the bitter horizon
where the Sun, in questionable wisdom, 
gave him back his sight.
Later, hunting with Artemis
(you know Artemis—
some say he tried to rape her, too), 
he opened his mouth, claiming 
he’d kill all the animals on earth. 
Now, we don’t know if he was just trying  
to say he was better than she was, or
if he felt a need to assert his male
whatever-ness, but Earth, alarmed 
by the threat or just tired of his bullshit, 
sent a scorpion 
to take him out. Sure enough—
you’ve heard the ending. The mighty 
hunter brought low
by the poisoned tail. Goddesses wept, 
(though myth says nothing 
about the king’s daughter),
and now he hangs in the sky
by his bright belt loops, forever
chased by that giant cousin of the spider. 
Think about it the next time 
you look up.   

god (n): a declaration of dead languages / Sharanya Sharma

                mispronouncing death
begins with defenestrating plundered

                mirages of you: diaphanous, muddied,
doe eyed & dream faced. only famine-mouthed

                windows can savor visions
from pirated eyes. now i

dowse you in dye made of dusk. bruise you
across canvass outlining lightning strike. love,

                i call this painting unraveling enlightenment, but

in a language no one buried we’ll
                name it वैराग्यम् अवहेलयन् & sculpt

                an astrology untethered
from planets

Day 13 / Poem 13

The joy of a new dawn / Miriam Calleja

for Alexia

Yellow, wash away with the tenacity
of a woman on her knees
putting in elbow grease
singing in resonance
with all the others
at this natural waterfall,
suds all over, and happiness,
as in Naples, smells of soap.

Orange, give me the strength
of birth, as renewed I set to count
my golden lines – blessings that make
themselves heard, that shout
from rooftops like the color of the sun,
unstoppable, resourceful
but even at birth wise
enough not to be fooled by butterflies
by shiny faux jewels.

Black, let me be majestic
long after you are gone.
I know your absence is temporary
that as I toss and turn
you are a weighted blanket
whispering sweet… everything:
bitter pills renewed, night, raven,
quiet, absolute, going bump in the night,
sacred as I sleep.

After Doctor Who / Carly Chandler

You are unique to the universe, 
they say to the little girl on the screen.  

You are a composition of elements  
from a star that erupted millions of years ago
to fall into place to create you.  

You are unique to the universe  
and the wonder you instill will be great.  

War and Peace / Katharine Cristiani

A fine line separates sleep from insanity
crossed arms, a threshold to lay my head on –
Take a slow, long inhale through your nose, 
exhale through your mouth. Blink your eyes shut, says the meditation app, 
picture yourself walking on pink sand, the ocean waves rolling. 
But technology is not the ocean & it feels wrong to instruct 
breath to follow a robot or to glue eyelashes where they do not belong.

Then stop it, brain says,
boiling with cortisol     ready to sprint away from lions
already running a marathon away from self
              the to-dos of tomorrow 
                          circle like vultures
                          black wings in flight
              watching 
waiting 
to pick apart bloody flesh the second sleep tiptoes near.

Grief does wave as an ocean 
              though sometimes, it pours 
                          a surprise summer storm.
                                       That much is true.  

                          Sharp nails ready to dig
                          or hold
                          a bent garden shovel, 
              the spade curved away from itself.
awaits the rain 
              yanks the net of roots
              those that protect against erosion.

                                       If I spay the soil just right
                          cut it into pie in slices,
              lift it like sod 
inch by inch
              I will 
                                       free fall

                          no, I am already spinning
                                       I am on a gravitron
                                       No ticket, no straps
                          nauseous  
              from want of sleep.

Luchar cannot be translated 
              into one word in English,
                          to struggle with oneself, with the world 
              to want live in the lions den but be stuck in traffic.

Alarm screams.
I am grateful for the madrugada.
I am already up.

Bird Watching / Jody Drinkwater

Twice today, pigeons, 
my hair all tangled
in their tethered wings,

prickled with burrs
and cactus burns 
on the lonely county hedgerow.

Twenty-seven pigeons, 
three ravens, and a dove 
dove the red-earth arroyo.

Hawthorn and juniper,
buckthorn, mesquite 
teetered in the glassy day.

And where are the 
birds of childhood, 
all prairie and brush stroke 

shocks of wheat 
and reeling fields
askew in the slanted air?

Where, the small brown 
sparrows flap 
in the sickly gale?

I climbed the fleshy elm 
as high as I could, 
my eye so large in the umbrage:  

a nest and four sea-foam 
speckled eggs clutched hard.
I held my breath.  I was a god.

I never knew if Mother returned.  
I stayed away myself, so soft
in the fragile haze after the rains, 

so tender and small, 
each crucial egg.  
Each sparrow’s falling.

Day 12  / Carmen Fong

Our home is sour milk scent 
On top of orange blossom baby lotion.
Pillows tossed on the couch, on the bed, to prop
Us up for feeding, for sleeping 
My nightgown flayed open 
Under an unwashed bathrobe 
Hair tied up, longer than it has been in years
To those initiated into parenthood 
The price is only tears and milk and sweat 
Upside down nights and inside out days
All for these sweet cheeks to smile.
At diaper change time, poop is still exciting 
Her shrill cries when the cold air hits her bottom
Draw soothing coos from her moms 
We’re twelve days in and we’re enamored 
We’re twelve days in and it’s like a tornado hit 
She’s twelve days old and yet she’s been here forever

I can’t imagine that these early days will end
Or decide if I even want them to 

How we slowly sipped the world in sunsets and butterflies / Donna Griggs

   ~“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

In air
A potpourri of orange sunset
Applies itself in streams
Across my mind
Like birds

We fall
In Apple Farm apple blossoms
In smells of childhood
We ride in hay
And dream

Of time
Unticking slow in ocean-blue
It found joy in buoys
And barnacles
Fouling

Like truth
In life cycles and dying light
We drink the tea slowly
At dawn we bear
The warmth

The peace
In the darkening of the leaves
Around softer edges
In the scent of
Flowers

My House Plant Taught Me How to Pray  / Chasity Gunn

I wonder how it knows,
knows when the day

folds into the night. Yet, it 
always knows. It stands

at attention. Its leaves
as wide as the palm of my hands. 

Hands that mend. Hands that knead. 
Hands that disinfect. Hands that shake. 

Hands that long to be held. To be raised
high each night and cling to what’s 

close. What’s within reach. They say 
it’s a praying plant. And I believe them. 

Each night, it bows its head and prays:
let her see what I see. Give her the gift

of sight. Imagine that. I am the one 
with the eyes yet, I am blind. 

Unable to see my softness. My wonder.
Locked in a prison of body shame. My 

plant prays that I get out. That I am set
free. At sunrise, it opens its bounty and invites

me in. I accept. Bow my head. Pray with one
open hand and one balled fist. 

So,you want to know about my yesterday? / KS Hernandez

first, I have to decide if you have
proper clearance to be in-the-know
about my yesterday. 

that information belongs
to a cannon of knowledge —  
from the past and this information

s closely guarded
by forgetfulness — a trauma response
built. honed. solidified. by years of abuse

and the generalized mistrust of everything.
To know about my yesterday means
I have to go back there — and take you

with me, somehow, and I don’t know if you’re worthy.
I don’t know if I want to. I’m tempted
to leave the past where it is, where it’s happiest

— without me. it’s gotten all of it’s use out of me
and I’ve gotten use out of it. just enough use
to not have to revisit a day like that. not

that it was a bad day, it was just, a day
like countless blurry others that I’ve lived.
I’m more interested in moving forward

in my life, not back to yesterday, nor sideways.
Only forward or up for me. I’m serious about that.
To ask me about yesterday says you’re concerned

or nosey or just making not-so-light conversation.
I’m taking it out on you when really that’s not why
you asked the question, now is it? It’s to help me 

remember things, to write down the bones and free 
my mind from forced forgetfulness, the turmoil 
that wages in between past and present energies

both vying for my attention. A tug of war, if you will
of what was and what is that threatens what could be.
What could be at 8am may be vastly different from 

what could be at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I think 
the past seeks to torment the present and future me 
with these tiny demented little details. One side says 

let it go. the other side says to let it out! 

yesterday. quiet, mostly, angry, periodically, triggered —  
constantly, yesterday. yesterday was me reminding me 
of the things that make me down to earth, funny smart

unique, a little broken in places, human—all of the things
that makes a writer’s voice important. I almost feel envious
of yesterday, but I can’t be, because, today.

Ask me again tomorrow.

Immortality / Amanda Karch

An artist’s blessing
bestowed upon the one
who loved with two hearts
when given only nature’s gift —
 
an artist’s curse
of memory stained on
ink and canvas,
tears marking the glimmer
stolen by the one who takes
and takes —
 
an artist’s eye
seeking details, seeking
what has yet to be found by
the one who fails to see
what a world offers if you go searching.

It’s late   / Joanna Lee

The poison sap 
from the potted oleander 
in the corner of my office shivers 

as the heat comes on, the second 
soda can is empty, and i push the off button
instead of delete

The rain comes out of nowhere, the gunshots 
from around the corner, once, twice; 
their reverb through the wet alley accompanied 
by the absence of sirens

This is not what I meant to say 

The bus’s exhaust left
grey dust on the café table— 
like something you could trace names in 

if you had them to hand

Faith, however early you find it, 
is one thing, belonging 
another. the drowning draw breath  
wherever they can take it. 

Not all life is art, your voice 
across the table under the gathering clouds.
Write that down. 

i roll my eyes, remembering
as if from underwater, 
listen for sirens.   

god (n): a thirst of windows / Sharanya Sharma

i love you the way robbers
love doors

moments before twisting the knob.
so i bludgeon

craters into my poems & measure
my nouns & verbs. does every tongue

in the world harvest a poetics for
immolation? love, look how i write partition

into lines & watch it behave
like a house of wax. 

Day 12 / Poem 12

The joy of monochrome ceramic calla lilies / Miriam Calleja

Oh to see and be seen
in our golden trumpet place of honor,
little demons tiptoeing around
our delicate constitution.
To watch as bridges have two ends
to live among this chaos
hear birds but never see them
have feathered friends be mere decor
have columns adorn our home
what a doric pleasure!
Framed as a starry night
framed as a Venetian scene
sea shells and masks, totem poles,
inoocence with devils’ tails,
tales of night.
A witch hides in the corner
but what are we but flowers?

Ode to My Ex / Carly Chandler

I prayed that you would miss your train.  

I know that you hate the seaside air.  

I prayed that you’d be stuck in this town 

with me. I’d hoped that you’d suffer same as me.  

Smell of shrimp and shit on the horizon, 

your hometown keepin’ you down. 

I know that you hate the seaside air, so 

I prayed that you would miss your train. 

Ode to Saying Goodnight / Katharine Cristiani

Orange light frames the door, soft ambient
bed waiting, wondering

the weight of the night. The door closes in spite of a kiss, 
protects warm stillness and the mattress midnight and vast:

moon rising, arms reaching, legs expanding 
the touching of corners, the drawing of an X.

Song / Jody Drinkwater

     For Darrin

For you, I am the purring manatee,
small nectarine of tossing water.
Green and gold of late December 
falling from the Northern shore.

For you, I sing the siren song, 
for you, I charm the thrashing fishes. 
Razor blades of blossoms hover on the surface
of your rib-caged bruise of heart.

The salt of your lips, the coral sea; 
sunset spirals in its levee.  

You are not unlike the manatee, 
bashful counter of cobbles on the sand.  
But you are man, and I am manatee, 
singing far out in the sea.

Ship’s Log  / Carmen Fong

Day 4,075
Of captivity 
The humans 
They’ve treated me well up to this point
Serving me as they should 
But this week 
They brought back a tiny one 
Who stinks of pink and 
Powder 
Her cries drive away the birds at the feeder

I clean my fur and between my toes 
The thick slick of my rough tongue taming the tangles 
The tiny one gurgles
I tiptoe up to her, her hair smells like milk and sweet
She startles, arms up in the air
I jump back, subdue a hiss and a snarl
Tail straightens and fuzzes and my bridged spine crackles 
But she is no threat— 
Her eyes are closed and she makes bubbles

My brother and I hide in the office all day
My arch nemesis, squirrel, scampers across the back yard
Acting suspicious, up to no good, no doubt,
But I only open one eye to observe him through the window. 

The tiny one makes many demands at night 
And the humans trudge back and forth to the kitchen 
Carting armfuls of plastic containers and appendages 
All in efforts to appease her

What about me, a displaced demigod, 
As the humans fuss over Her Fussiness
And in between, deign to remember to feed us 
Comb us
Spare us the scraps of their time to play with me and my favorite string. 
The tiny one raises a fist towards me, stares. 

In Hidden Chambers / Donna Griggs

   ~Upon vision of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’s La Grande Odalisque, 1814

slender plant ashes
synthesized on a bed of blue
white metal soft
common—essential
gentle orbicular teases
freed feathers performing
cream-colored homeostasis
lucidity suppressed
in tender divots calling
all erotic minerals
in the mists of raw moonlight
oxygen ignites
a heated reaction in lilac-
passioned flame
quiet eyes craving
something other
systemic pressure of female grandeur
blood-pulsed virginity
forgotten atop white clouds
of sensual solubility

How to Define Stitch  / Chasity Gunn

Into the Fire / KS Hernandez

– a response to imposter syndrome
 
ah the man warned us…the perils of imposter syndrome
are real. so much talent, so many unique voices in measured
and varied stages of skill — sharply honed — ready to cut their
moments, in the light, into a fine slice. Then–there was me. 
I fell. hard. victim to its callused, sweaty clutches. my pen, heavy
in hand, my brain covered in thick, unyielding layers of expired,
overly sweet pudding. oh, but my ears, they worked just fine.
acutely tuned to beautiful words written by someone else.
every word—marvelous, hilarious, witty, outlandishly original 
 I saw a bevy of giants poised on the edge of fame. then—
there was me. stock-still as the tripod holding the camera that
caught every exquisite phrase uttered, praying that no one would
call on me, praying to God that no one would call on me. Please
forget that I’m here, the reverb, pounding throughout every cell
in my body. that warped melody chimed from the tip of my
longest toe to my crown. high notes pierced the back of my knees
base tones turned stomach acids into molten lava, the hook,
—laced in psychotic Calypso beats, toyed with my guts like a cat
toys with a fresh kill, my breast suddenly felt hollow in mocked
reverence of my loss for words. and then, I hear my name.

Love As It Should Be  / Amanda Karch

The last time I saw the sky
flush pink, embarrassment written
on rosy cheeks of air caught in a
whirlwind dance, entangled
in turns with sun streaked smiles
and rumors of star-crossed eyes
appearing on the horizon, eagerly
awaiting a tryst with darkness
under moonlight’s spell, enchanted
with whimsy and want —
 
I released the camera shutter,
leaving no remnants of her
celestial rendezvous, letting love
love as it should be.

That dress, tho   / Joanna Lee

           –after Kim Addonizio, “What Do Women Want?”

on the patio, everything
is black or dying, dried husks of summer, 
empty pots, a gap
where a chunk of fence has rotted through. 
the crane overhead makes its dizzying circles
over the pale cement, the red umbrellas
in their spidery faded stands.
I do not take kindly to the workmen 
unloading on the edge of our parking lot,
their swagger, the dirt on their boots,
how they’re bricking up the sky outside our windows. 
I do not take kindly to the old woman’s words
as she pulls away, my shoulders hollow 
from hauling her regrets
I want a day with no one calling me “Dear” except you. 
I want you to look, and her to look, and to fall back 
in awe. 
I want the leaves out of the corners, the dead pansies plucked.
I want nothing left to equivocate
I want to walk out of there, 
hit the gas in my red Camaro, burn
asphalt past the stop sign on 7th,
where I’ll flick the cap off a bottle of Coke and tilt my throat back 
in laughter, like I’m the only woman on earth.

yeah, that’s what Kim would do.  

in footnotes for my persona poems / Sharanya Sharma

               i declare a bankruptcy of

bridges & write in personas no one
can decipher. pootana shikhandi ahalya – all

translations of you mutating

               from basalt to marrow & back again.
no one trusts us when i write you raw. are you

velvet night silvered by stars or glittering
islands limned by velvet dark? you tumble

planets without limbs & tip Earth
onto the cliff of my tongue. i balance her

there & picture it’s a game, pronouncing
your name wrong. i tell everyone

               it’s more fun to keep losing
my grip on the phonemes of you. to juggle mud

in my mouth like you did & call it misbelieving.
i hammer these memories we make of you again

               & again & again & again

like planks into a boat. it won’t hold – i know
it won’t hold because every time

               i thrust myself out
onto velvet dark sea & diagram

islands while craving a rose-gold

               horizon, softly
you kiss my feet cold & wait.

View Poems 1 – 15