Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteers for July 2020 are Michelle Acker, Laura Apol, Mary Pacifico Curtis, Sandra Faulkner, Joseph Heithaus, Jacob Hunt, Jules Lattimer, Marianne Peel, and Jerry Rumph. Read their full bios here.
If you’d like to volunteer for a 30/30 Project month, please fill out our application here and warm up your pen!
Poem 30 / Day 30
Cento for July 2020
Lines contributed by Michelle Acker, Laura Apol, Mary Pacifico Curtis, Sandra Faulkner, Joseph Heithaus, Jacob Hunt, Jules Lattimer, Marianne Peel, and Jerry Rumph
Such a long, long walk.
I wish you seduction of your heart.
The hummingbirds know
honeyed ice mixed with sweetgum
A line half-remembered, my own or someone else’s
It is that kind of a day, midsummer hot
Sunshine somewhere in the back sky
under this twinkling sun i might just stay forever
in my mother’s arms
reaching out to touch
some wet for which
I had no name.
The Sky, The Trees.
This grey sky looks finite and flat
Look at how it mocks the hawk
Can’t you see it I want to show
in slow motion stabs
the sky, the trees so brilliantly right there
are birds and stones.
it has been nine years since the flood but you still dream of drowning
the mainland where I dig up poisonous bugs
How do you know where to drive?
Mine, I confess, is the rocket ship rage
as the sunworn glimmers of a spider’s line,
This is my daughter who enters
weight giving shape
to something half
becoming air, half
containing memories of a sea
with gulls above it spinning
as if these small tasks will save us.
Moving: Day 2 / by Michelle Acker
Telephone wires glide against each other
on an ash-blue sky, like violin strings purring
against the bow. My feet hurt too badly to write
poems. That must be why I need to write
poems. Everyone suffers like this:
that’s what the self-help podcast says,
crackling through the car speakers’ frayed wires.
A FRIEND ASKS IF I BELIEVE IN HEAVEN / by Laura Apol
while i was not watching
she split the chrysalis skin, emerged, wings
pulsing for flight. then thrashing against the mesh
walls. so ready now, so flutteringly ready.
i hold out the intimacy of lavender and she steadies,
steps, accepts. to the rail then—
a prayer as she takes the sky, wings into blue as if
she owns it. the far scent of blossom.
Hello Grief, Garden, Hawk / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
By now you are my dear friends, please tell me why a sadness
holds me, tomorrows appear like apparitions, Dickensian ghosts
whisper a future taking shape in every day?
The sun rises and sets. When is the day new?
I work to transform my Eden, not for perfection but production
of crops untouched except by my hands. Meanwhile my spirit
hawk shrieks, hunts, lurks and soars – there for me to imagine
I too soar, yet the sadness. Sunny skies heavy, longing.
Time now hangs like a weight, a bucket to fill with all that is
precious. As if to an alter, I bring our forebears, our new babies,
hope for health and soft landings. New dawnings.
Sapphires, generations, brussels sprouts, high nests,
safe perch. The first real tomorrow with Grief, Garden, Hawk
I dream it, time with old friends finding our way.
Cooking poem / by Jules Lattimer
I knife dark spots off the yukons Rub them with warm water hands
thumb away the black dirt This morning I’m early to the sink loiter
about the kitchenware The new house leans to the side and my body
notices before I do I fill a bowl with water and dry beans stretch and oil
masses of dough mix fruit breads out of yogurt and flour The dog licks
breakfast off my hands The lady at the post office wears her mask around her
chin while I box books for my friends I had left the city in a hurry I have left
for now or for good Cut a semester in half escaped from my life exactly
how I’d dreamt it Except there my body was in a field of cattle and flowers
and sky And still the crisis has not ended I had ninety days of legal driving
in this new state where I think I live I need new identification and I’m dozens
overdue walking quietly from counter to counter to range boiling water peeling
ribbons off of carrots steeping coffee popping kernels in the salt
Today, I like getting old / by Jerry Rumph
I think it was Kubla Khan who said poetry
is the best words in the best order.
But we can reorder “Alph” and “ran”
like we can reorder pizza if the cheese
slid the toppings off the top.
And “caverns measureless to man” –
Who’s going to measure them then?
It’s tough being a tape measure wound
in and out all the time. No wonder one
would wear out. No one wants a worn
out tape measure or the dull drill bit
in the bottom of the toolbox. No,
we all want something sharp that can grab
us and spin us around, in and out, fast.
I still feel sharp, like I can grab hold
of a head and spin it around, but you
don’t want me. You want something new.
Make it new, make it new. Lady
Marmalade was new in 1974.
I’ll relax and read a book.
If a lovely recluse came to your door
selling terrors and made you believe
she lived in a house fairer than prose
by telling you all the truth, just slant,
it would blow your mind just as much
as it did ten or one hundred years ago.
Poem 29 / Day 29
Moving / by Michelle Acker
I’ve got dust on my teeth, I think.
Stuck between my molars like kernels
little shreds of ticket stubs, playbills,
photographs, handwritten valentines.
The taste of construction paper
wetting on my tongue, falling apart,
pocketing. Empty things wedged
into my sockets, like a toddler
tucking away all the chewed-up food
he doesn’t want to swallow.
OPENING THE FIELD / by Laura Apol
The frost heaves rocks to the surface each season
and all through my childhood we picked them, like fruit,
dropped them in the tractor bucket. Or tilling disturbs them;
through loosened soil, they rise and we carry them
to the edge of the field. Together, they form a rock garden.
Together they form a wall. It is no secret that my father and I
do not see eye to eye. We have learned to route around
our difference, water seeking least resistance,
though it is harder each year. Which of us stands outside
the stream of history? To the third and fourth generation,
I want to say. Now he is going door to door for the census.
Count and be counted. He speaks Spanish like a native;
Hispanics will trust him, he says. Responder al censo es importante.
Dale forma a tu future. I say they are right to be suspicious.
Many do not have documents, are here for the farms,
seasonal, planting, weeding, picking—work my father has done,
work I have done, too—or for the animals: birthing,
feeding, slaughtering, packing. Some send money
to their families back home. Some have children here.
They have reason not to trust. Can you be certain, I ask my father,
that no one will come for them? He believes the men who make
the rules; he voted for them, has never looked back.
It’s the unborn babies, I know, and Fifth Avenue
is so far from these fields where I came of age—detasseling
corn, walking beans, picking rocks. Everything rises,
however buried, however long ago. A childhood friend tells me
that her hair vibrated just before lightning—everything in her
reaching up. We walk around, lightning rods between earth
and sky, a lifelong disturbance. No matter how often we lift,
carry, remove—another frost, another tilling, another heave.
Year after year, we break ourselves on it.
A Call / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Family of mine,
let us sink soft roots in loam
leaving behind our thorns and barbs
to fledge a greening plant that gathers us.
Wrecked / by Sandra Faulkner
It’s that time in the pandemic
when I’ve given up drinking,
stopped scrolling through the wreckage
of our disconnections.
I pack jalapenos into jars without gloves
to feel the burn of the capsican,
no longer coping with helpless distraction
I’m done with being in charge.
Ode to Shores / by Joseph Heithaus
This one sounds like water being poured into a glass,
a bay against pebbles at high tide,
the shushing of a baby to sleep. It is just after sunrise,
the water crosshatched, multi-colored,
quiet, the texture of a million shimmering wings,
and below the lap and shatter of light
stones keep their secrets, words
inside that will never be said, shores
you’ll never step across. The mountains
on the far coast are a person asleep
with cliffs you’ll never climb and inside you are stones
on shores, shallows of somethings no one can say,
though, still, you try to cross
into endless waves of wonder (or loss).
Wednesday poem / by Jules Lattimer
You slide your hand over
a thick slick slab of bread dough
Pull the nozzle from the sink
and water the greens on the
windowsill Click open new
books on the website The dough
rises under a sheet of plastic You’re
looking at bruises on your leg
The dog pulls you outside
The internet connection cannot
be found which brings you
to the laundromat The house
is its quietest and your head fills
with bees A shower A cold
slab of sunscreen on your
arm arm and forehead You finish
your last school project Take out
the trash The belongings
under the sink need a system The
email inquiry has been denied
Leave the light on for me / by Jerry Rumph
There’s a gold in your hills and valleys
in every cleft and crevice not hidden
below but flowing molten-like
along your surface bright enough
to light the center of black
holes spinning in every home.
While you invite me to explore
you with the zeal of a conquistador
I know I should fleece you instead
to keep from rippling your shoals
to keep my core from collapsing
under the gravity in my chest
where we’d never survive.
Poem 28 / Day 28
Sweet Tooth / by Michelle Acker
You always teased me for
the things I ate for breakfast:
cold slices of cream pie with whipped cream;
colorful children’s cereals, stuffed with fudge
or crumbling marshmallows. Fluffy pineapple
and sugary cranberry salad. Muffins
heavy with sugar and studded
with chocolate chips. Well, some things I crave
in excess. I guess I’m not ashamed
MANI-PEDI / by Laura Apol
I bought it for her in middle school: a small suitcase,
lavender, with sparkles; a mirror inside the lid.
Her portable salon. She did my mother’s nails:
Want a manicure, Grandma?—soaked and filed
and filled and colored. Base coat, top coat,
bent forward, her blond hair falling over her face,
so focused, intent on each stroke and today I open
the suitcase. Three years five months. I count
on my fingers. She wanted to polish my nails and I
wouldn’t let her, didn’t want it, no need,
and there’s remover here, still, and things
I’ve never seen: brushes and files, emery boards
of all shapes and textures, toe separators, hand crème,
foot crème, cuticle softener, pumice, Insta Dri,
strengthening, hardening, glaze. My mother said
nail polish made her feel like a lady, pastel pink, shell pink,
coral and peach. Cloud 9, Charming, Delicacy, Rose Gold,
Pearl, Satin Slip. My daughter went for blacks, reds, blues,
purples and greens. I line up the bottles: Crème Noir,
Hot Wasabi, Empower-ment, Shock Value, Outrageous,
Raspberry Fizz, Kickin It, Ace of Spades, Shiver,
Frenzy, Wild Card. The glitter and stickers and bling.
Want a mani-pedi, Mom? I choose Crimson Fury
and begin on my toes. When I look up, I see myself
in the mirror. When I look down, I see blood.
Another Moment in the Garden of Eden / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
The mad surge of zucchini leaves overtake
artichokes, eggplants and cucumbers.
I cut them in a surgical removal all the while
hearing the hawk. She/he is frantic, a pulsing cry.
He/she circles overhead hunting reminding me
of the hawk that dipped over my windshield
carrying a writhing snake. My back seizes
from the work forcing me into the plastic
It’s so peaceful here. Tiny watermelons
form in a vine at my feet, a row of celery green
contrasts the blue of towering brussels sprouts.
This place is in formation with elevated boards
to support higher beds. Tonight I planted lettuce
starts as the sun slipped lower and leaves
perked up after a withering heat. Jays, crows,
towhees, certainly the leaf chewing finches
send their song into the canyon.
Today the hawk perched at the top of a tree,
defying a twig so small, perhaps not the girth
of his stocky legs, twigs gripped in talons.
What is it to be this god of the sky, Insistent
in a soprano call, perched with smaller birds
flying at him, attacking in their own shrieks.
He complains immobile from his perch,
they shriek. The nest they protect, well,
this world is imperfect but the dominant
hawk, now bored, moves on, lifts with
no riffle to the tree-top, dips low as if
seeing me, as if I am too large, too tough,
not suited to survival the way he understands
it. And I lift with him wondering at his loft
and toughness, talon strength, gentle landings.
He threatened the nest and the little birds
fought him off. They thought. Clever devil.
What was he hoping for today?
Spin Class / by Sandra Faulkner
summers, my younger brother and I
pedaled bikes far past our neighborhood
with the contained dogs and measured lots
to find the street with the German Shepherd
who jumped a fence to chase us
barking and biting at our ankles
we pedaled like our lives
were exciting we were special agents
outrunning the attack dog
delivering that message
written with invisible ink
on our hot pink summer skin
and now in spin class
I channel this mission
feel that pedaled wind on my face
as the indoor fans blow I crank up the resistance
and let the insipid gym music soundtrack the chase
The Yellow House / by Joseph Heithaus
Nature repeats herself, or almost does:
repeat, repeat, repeat; revise, revise, revise.
Everyone has a yellow house,
the place to say you’re almost there,
a turn in the road, an Eat at Joe’s,
a mailbox with a sailboat on the side.
For us, after half a country, ferry ride,
we cross a bridge, take a right,
and up the hill, a bay of blue,
Bishop’s islands there that seem of move,
the yellow house is on the left
like some deconstruction of the sun,
a pale square spot among the bedstraw,
purple vetch, a spruce or two,
to here, this haven with the view,
the distant thudding of a lobster boat
pulling in its traps, the specks of buoys
on the blue and gray and almost pink
striations of the sea like a perfect stone
you find along the shore, the lines
of time where you feel the deep repeat,
the drive, the sea, the drifting islands,
a breeze both warm and cold, some
seals just now browsing by, nudging
themselves out of the bare ripples,
grandchildren or great of what Bishop
saw when she looked out across
the mystic blues thinking of her sad friend,
those circles we repeat and try
to revise, revise, revise with words
or gestures as some respite from repeat,
but for now I bask in Lili’s grandma’s house,
the steady click of a coffee pot, water
splashing in the sink, the heaven haven
of this unchanging space, the sun
now up on its deliciously predictable
course, another day, a swim later, perhaps,
or a hike, and tomorrow: up early, write, repeat.
untitled.28 / by Jacob Hunt
do not leave me to the dust i i beg of you you who
once sent me home, packing
stacking doubt on fear
forcing me to carry on
down the boulevard yet again
when will this year come to a close
the gates were found, locked
so we walked around
to the other side where we
climbed over the top, in the shoes of henry, he
who made his way through
disgrace and shame, life
a race to the top of the mountain
hill of bodies
tonight i will drown out these speeding thoughts with music and
three dots on a torn page
once a chord ran from me to you and you and you
today, i open my eyes
to see the chord
cut, on the floor
blood flowing, pooling underneath
we are bleeding, you and i
footsteps marked by red
bleeding out from a wound we have not yet seen
The draft / by Jules Lattimer
Yellow flowers lean over the sunset road
now that it’s almost August and they’ve grown
and grown and wilted These drives punctuate
the day There’s a dog and several cows
a road-runner purple yellow and green wild
blossoms a jackrabbit a Border Patrol trooper
two tourists taking photos with a tripod I’ll be
living in this place for some time For nine weeks
I’ve asked a government for livelihood lost days
in phone calls and screenstaring and gobbledygook
letterreading and I wait and drive go to sleep
wake up and wait In a new poem I’m working in words
like verisimilitude ignominy vituperative
shamelessness I took them from a book I know
The draft which is this poem will fill the time till then
The Burbs / by Jerry Rumph
When I stand at my window and look outside
no matter which one, you see, I see a few
maples and pines
slightly sagging power lines
streaked asphalt shingles
Sarah heading out for a run.
No one looks in my window unless I
stand there naked or Lucy’s there barking,
drool streaming from her maw. She’s not angry
just alarmed at the sight of pollsters and strollers
with towheaded heads poking over the edge
with lollypops. She wants folks to know
that a cart ate a baby that’s trying to escape.
She looks back, question marks in her sockets,
and I tell her no one cares about the child
or wants to steal the glass trinkets on the shelf
over the sofa or drink from the coffee station
on the back wall of the dining room.
And that’s okay with us.
This type of living will never be named
a school because there’s not enough taxis
or crags. But I’m not doing this
for the academy award anyway.
Poem 27 / Day 27
Unexpected Visitor/ Michelle Acker
Behind the square glass vase filled with pebbles and tall stalks of heart-shaped lucky bamboo—
an old Valentine’s gift, now well-inundated with algae and speckly mold—
I find them, two mouse droppings stacked so deliberately they might have been carefully
placed there on purpose. I’ve never found any others, nor seen any evidence
of any mammalian pests. Anyway, I’m moving out in just a few days.
I clean up the site; I scour the room for any additional signs of what now
I might well be imagining, but now, four months into our social distancing,
two months into solo self-isolation, and three weeks into, ill, not working
at all, what sweeps me up, before disgust, is wonder: that I, drifting back and forth
between rooms for days and weeks and months, could have been all this time cohabitating
with something deadly in its germ-incubation, and soft, and silent as a ghost.
How to Write/ Sandra Faulkner
“You’ll never know what you think until you escape your outline.” -Verlyn Klinkenborg
1. Unlearn everything you know
taught by well-meaning teachers;
damn the scourge of standard testing.
2. Place fresh flowers by the screen
and a trash can beside the snoring dogs
who guard your right flank.
3. Kill your sentences
unshackle them from needy transitions;
let silence suggest your meaning.
4. Slash those unnecessary words
like the advice to always have a road map:
How do you know where to drive?
5. Eat pie for breakfast.
There’s not a write food.
6. Build a habitat of language
where you can patch holes
with your curious spackle.
7. Don’t follow the natural order
lest you introduce the kudzu of cliche’
that strangles clean concentration.
8. Write sentences that interest you,
the residue of your thought
sprinkled on every word.
9. Read like you mean it
to shape every sentence into
a hometown showstopper.
10. Disregard all of the points above
authorize your own thoughts
splash your thinking on the page.
Ode to Rooftops/ Joseph Heithaus
Shingles fit around chimneys, set on slats
or plywood sheets, tarred flats, terra cotta
stacked in neat rows to follow slanted beams
whatever’s there to put over your head—
even umbrellas. Cathedrals’ spires’
steep angles meet to arrow toward the infinite,
every roof a prayer against rain or snow
or sun, a hat for every house, a cap
for the capitol. On the roofs of heads:
bowlers, berets, sombreros, fedoras,
pork pies, bonnets, boaters, and cloches, French
for bells which are the roof for tongues, clappers,
mouths sounding out hours, warnings for storms
which send us again under our gables
to huddle as we do, tiny creatures
below the mammoth sky that broods above
like some sorcerer conjuring curses,
but even on perfect days and twilights,
nights of endless stars and round moons hanging
by invisible filaments, mornings bright,
we mostly gather under these gadgets
we only give thought to until they leak
or when some drunken man leans a ladder
up to curse the sky, shouting from the peak.
This whole season/ Jules Lattimer
after Adrienne Rich
This whole season a misunderstanding
the confusable truth
and finally a four-walled room of confidence
pressurizing toward its collapse
concrete breaking open concrete
testimonies liquified like chocolate
over a burner
The newly lost body buried
under the bylines
trying to find the spelling for invisible
like the worker
who has lost the connecting train
a whole livelihood the fish bouncing on a boat deck
and there are no solutions here
Gourds of Peace/ Jerry Rumph
Benevolence Pumpkin Road runs
east to west perpendicular
to Highway 27 not far from Blakely.
There may not be anything more
benevolent than a pumpkin,
at least in this part of the world.
Pumpkins fill patches outside
churches in the fall, bringing
some Jesus to All Hallows’ Eve.
Pumpkins are happy being
both gourd and squash
not needing to be “pure.”
Pumpkins love being nicknames
for children and lovers alike
much like “shooga” and “honeybun.”
A single-wide on the south side
of Benevolence Pumpkin flies
hate through diaphanous pride.
They would probably discriminate
against certain pumpkins
in their church’s pumpkin patch.
Tornados are indiscriminate coming
from west to east, wrapping
hate around the flagpole and tossing
the mobile home to Oz where
they’d land on the East Witch
with no Glenda to save them.
The twister may catapult the pumpkins
from the patch to Macon, too
but they’ll be back, benevolent as always.
Poem 26 / Day 26
Bouncehouse/ Michelle Acker
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
-Robert Frost, “Birches“
I’m inside today at my desk, but the window
reaches out with both hands, holds an inflatable
yellow castle—with a waterslide—that appeared
between flits of my distraction. The flat grass lawn
between the apartment building and the road,
I don’t think, belongs to any of us, but I’m glad
my neighbors have gone ahead and claimed it
anyway. It must be the toddler’s birthday,
I think, or else his grownups want to plant
a nice summer memory in his future. The kid
has the belly of kids that age, round as a mound
of ice cream. Someone places him at the top
of the slide, and for a long time I watch him stand
there, afraid to slide down, until some big and safe hands
relent and ferry him back down to earth.
HURRICANE HANNA/ Laura Apol
I keep finding smaller and smaller caterpillars
—monarch larvae the size of a pencil lead—
and this morning I started collecting eggs.
There are so many in the garden, and so few
It’s windy today so I put them all on the porch
where I have cakepans, netting, wire cages,
and a supply of fresh milkweed that is daily
stripped down to the stems.
force of nature heavy blow
I would like to imagine this as an act of love.
Mostly, I would like to avoid the news.
floodwaters. storm surge
It’s haha-funny when a hurricane shares a name
with your daughter when she’s alive. But
she is dead, and it sends me to the milkweeds
to drown out
She loved Padre Island, where her father
took her summers, where this hurricane
is making landfall—at least she wanted to love it,
like she wanted to believe he loved her.
I couldn’t protect her.
On their own, monarchs have a five percent
survival rate. So many predators.
So little defense.
Foreign/ Mary Pacifico Curtis
Sometimes at night
while he drifts to sleep
I think of nothing in particular
and notice that I’m hearing
my own thoughts
in a Southern drawl.
So natural, as if from
a prior life except
I know this instinct,
a new consciousness,
the foreign accent
a heartfelt desire to speak
my hopes to the folks
as the core of this country’s
fear, political endangerment.
And now, virus spread.
Giant Ginger Snaps/ Sandra Faulkner
My ex texts to ask about her gazpacho
the taste is too sharp, the after-bite too acrid-
I advise her to try a teaspoon of honey,
though I am always less precise
tossing in garlic until it smells right
tasting my way through a recipe
like my dad taught me
when I was his commis chef.
We cook by intuition and feel
follow our inner hunger,
he liked the onion chopped in big pieces
so you could see it in the finished dish
have something substantial to chew,
no disguising the bite of allium-
Once she, or some other ex, called me
a kitchen nazi because I know
what I want in the kitchen
and I won’t back down,
my sense of self too strong
from the time I learned not to smile
for the camera because I’m
not smiling on the inside so why lie?
I mail her a box of ginger snaps every Christmas
because they are her favorite of the recipes
I copied down by hand from my parent’s cookbook stash,
my inheritance from a line of family cooks.
My Brother’s Rage/ Joseph Heithuas
Man hands on misery to man -Philip Larkin
I think it was my father’s first,
born somewhere in his father’s
death or maybe in his sisters’ & brothers’ punches
at the great depression, their own somber
lot of chipping in what they earned
or found for their family of nine after losing
their dad in 1927 when my dad, the youngest,
was only two. When I’d ask him about the grandma
I never met, he’d say she was old,
even when he was kid, hunched over laundry
or lifting her tired hands to pinch
sopping sheets onto a line. Maybe she raged
too, no husband, nine kids, money always short
as tempers tend to be
in my family.
Somehow, my brother’s rage made a greater impression
on me with its stirring the air
into a cauldron of curses, the way it edged
into everyone around him with stings
& cuts & switches – the innocent
& guilty equally catching the shrapnel of the burst
& release damning god & all creation
with the fire & crack of an M-80, the kind
of explosive that can take out
a mailbox, the firework that celebrates
Now, I’m remembering my mother’s fits
which were sudden as a summer storm & just
as quick. My father’s had a longer burn
like Dresden after the American bombers
let loose their payloads & my brother’s more
jet-like & atomic with fallout
& geiger counters clicking for hours.
Mine, I confess, is the rocket ship rage
from the decade in which I was born
that blows in stages from quiet countdown to ignition
which leads to the slow-motion inferno, take off,
that carries the pain into everyone’s stratosphere
with more sullen burns
in the space of my brooding head
shaking quietly in anger until
the dark vacuum of writing or work
makes me a scary still, off in some orbit,
like I am right now, the hurt of my own making
all around me, while my pathetic sorry
slips from my lips
like the complex curls
of an ampersand that end abruptly
like loose strings pointing nowhere
or toward another horrible moon shot
into the next generations
saying and & and & and
untitled.26/ Jacob Hunt
a horse drawn carriage carries a lion across the bridge
where bodies were broken and
blood ran into the river, red
how many heroes will die before the end of the fight?
entrenched in warfare, sending greatness over the top
engaged in conflict, a sea of churning bodies
left in the wake of a sinking ship
my grip begins to slip
how many men have died? raised glasses stuck in place
trapped in a forbidden race
i am afraid, i am afraid their deaths, in vain
those below, a disgrace to the brave
men and women who rose to the top, for life they fought
with signs and peace
white men pretending to weep
one last time. he crosses. the bridge where. he had though he died. one last time
a lion laid to rest
and a promise left,
to refuse the status quo, no, unlock the secrets nobody knows
over the river and through the smoke wondering where this road will go
two horses and a hat, tipped
with as many questions as when the lion first broke the silence
will the world return
Halfway/ Jules Lattimer
I had a friend
in high school
who brought her
pet rat to campus
in a shoebox she
tattooed us in the
hallway brought me
to her dad’s house
in Bon Air to drink
champagne and wear
black lingerie we left
soiled food wrappers
on the floors of our
bedrooms gave our
phone numbers to older
boys like children and
childhood which includes
that time is not a
destination and I don’t
wish it were I just
mean to say that in crisis
which includes this
time I reach my hand
into the bucket looking
for liberty and scenarios
like this one rise
Riddle me/ Jerry Rumph
read the note jammed
in the locker louver –
is just to say this
morning’s so cold
and you’re so sweet,
in the men’s room.
I hope you’re hungry
and wore a long-sleeved shirt.
Poem 25 / Day 25
Line/ Michelle Ackerman
A line half-remembered, my own or someone else’s.
The line a roly-poly tracks across the concrete,
stubborn terrestrial crustacean wobbly and cocksure as a tank on the front lines.
The ragged chainsaw barking of a dog choked back by its line.
Lines braided into rope, bracelets, cords, as intricately woven by rough hands
as the sunworn glimmers of a spider’s line,
as the bloodlines trickling from heart to lungs to fingertips,
as the skin-rippled river of a lifeline.
A child stares out the car window and imagines something running on the telephone line.
Imagines something hooked on the line at the barest tug.
Reels it in. Feels dinner on the line.
The dark lines between which notes are plunked,
their stiff tails thrust up or down into the marginal ledger lines,
which are identical to the ear, all parts of the vocal line
graduated in the throat by muscles and air in precise line.
Line as in a continuous expression from one point to another,
as in What’s my, as in the line I could never figure out how to say,
as in the line I could never quite put it all on.
POSTSCRIPT, RWANDA/ Laura Apol
D’Amour has been raking dead grass from the hill beside the
house all morning, gathering the stiff brown thatch in his
arms and carrying it to a fire he started while it was still dark. And
Perhaps D’Amour has already finished with the yard;
perhaps this rain will bring the end. It is the last day of my visit, a
morning that dawned dove gray. The lights in the hills were
swallowed into birdsong. There was no breeze.
The wandering cats love D’Amour; they go with him up and
down the hill; they roll in the grass. They watch as he tends
the fire. They wait patiently as he goes about his chores. He
calls each one by name.
Tomorrow he will rake again. The cats will follow him across
the yard. There will be fire and afternoon rain. At dusk,
D’Amour will pull weeds from the garden. He will sweep the
fallen leaves. He will set out food for the cats.
I will think of him, when I do, from half a world away.
13.1/ Sandra Faulkner
Race medals hold up your wall
gleam like testaments:
miles could not sprain your will.
Ribboned medallions sewed tough
hewed from sweaty flesh
blister rubbed feet pink and rough.
The cities are numbered, embossed
like drunken tattoos
when you felt your time was lost,
running behind like a flying pig,
you think of a car with wings
metaled proof you did not die.
Muscles of Your Tongue/ Joseph Heithuas
The future is somewhere
at the end of this poem and beyond
are beginnings that look
like clouds or their shadows
on vast landscapes
of mountains where you feel
that shift of light
on a sloping open field
or a slanted forest with its own shadows
and before you speak
the future is inside
the muscles of your tongue,
the words still forming
there or further back in some memory
you make again to find
some new detail
that twists back further
from your orange bike
riding over the cloud
of dried brown blood
on the sidewalk to the sirens
of the day before
when your mother offered up
her prayers and your brother
shut the door to keep
you away from that tragedy
(you were only seven)
that began when you heard
(you only now remember)
the squeal of brakes,
the sound of metal,
a woman crying
out across your neighbor’s yard
into her own future
that was, in an instant,
without some person
that she loved
and so we go into some next,
that’s made from what
we have right now, what’s left
of what we’ve tried to keep
of those we love
and clouds and shadows
from a nowhere still to come.
untitled.25/ Jacob Hunt
riding in a car headed for land lock
still smell the ocean breeze
eyes closed and listen, listen
all else fades
a symphony plays beneath willow trees
a tired generation in need of a moment to rest in the shade
free from shame, confronted by the disgrace of the past
a broken sail on a now sinking ship
how many great men died for pride?
what if we step off this boat and onto another instead
hold out your hand and
leap from the ballast
angels whispering, breathe boy breathe
Saturday in Marfa/ Jules Lattimer
From the kitchen I see the swallow swoop
from her nest above the window down toward
the street in a straight line she looks like a fighter
jet passing over the Superbowl I don’t easily
recognize patriotic traditions of this type I am grateful
for the birds They have their babies in that mud nest
and I get to see them when they’re young as bobbing
cotton balls with beaks It storms every day in Texas
and across the state a hurricane takes land and washes
all the streets and during the virus time I worry
about the people who can’t take interruptions
of that type even brief electric failures a road
that’s made of river up here I’m looking at sunny
green leaves and birds bringing bugs back
to their children I never considered myself lucky
but I might be out of trouble for the moment
Mama, do you repeat something you want
to remember one hundred times? / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Annelise
With the passenger window rolled down
I watch my daughter tumble out of the car,
approach the high school on her very last day.
There is no hesitation. Her hair
long and loose down her back, bounces
as she walks. She navigates the world on tiptoes.
When she was five, after shaking her hair
all over her head, she told me, My brain tells me
to slow down. Does your brain talk to you, Mama?
This is my autistic daughter who refused
to be defined. By labels. By doctors
who said she would never read. Never
write her name.
This is my daughter who tells me
I like the way the air feels
on my feet.
This is my daughter who enters
the Early On program at age three.
Yellow school bus in our driveway at 7:15.
She journeys to school with children
who negotiate the world on their own terms.
In braces. In wheelchairs. With breathing tubes.
Once seated on this truncated mini bus, I cannot
see her. Her head disappears below the bus window.
How can I send someone
off to school?
I want to follow her in my van, make sure
she arrives unharmed. I want to lurk
in the rhododendron bushes outside
her classroom window, make sure she finds
her way down the path to her classroom. Want
her teacher to greet her bounding self
with wide arms and an even wider heart.
This is my daughter who will learn to play
a plastic soprano recorder in fourth grade.
Ambidextrous, she seamlessly reverses hands
in the middle of a concert.
This is my daughter who will learn all the registers
of the clarinet. Will learn to wet the reed between
her lips. Will learn to cover the octave hole
with her thumb. Notes on the page an indecipherable blur
of staff and stem. Notes floating on the page.
She plays not by eye but by ear, echoing
her music stand partner.
This is my daughter who will run
cross country. Emerge from the wooded trail
red-faced and arms pumping pushing
herself to the end of this race. Always
the last to reach her mark.
Sometimes fifteen, twenty minutes behind
her teammates. They cluster around the finishing line
banner. Cheer her on. She propels herself
across the finishing line to a standing ovation.
Nothing will be the same after today.
I fear the world will not always be this kind
to my swishy-haired daughter bounding
through the schoolhouse doors.
Better/ Jerry Rumph
I don’t take or make bets.
I’m not a bettor
except on frogs.
I’ll always wager
on a yellow poison dart frog
transforming to prince
after you plant a sloppy
smooch on its cheek.
Too bad you can’t turn
a bulbous melanoma
spot sprouting some
into a prince
with a simple peck.
I wouldn’t recommend
you break a kiss on one anyway
even to save the world.
I’d bet you’d never survive.
Poem 24 / Day 24
Ochlocknee Storm/ Michelle Acker
New rain sloughs off the road like a skein
Sunshine somewhere in the back sky
turns it silver,
though bruise-colored clouds swell wide
over the taste of pilsner,
sweat frosting on the bottle, cars
gently rotating by,
and the dam clotted up with rushing water.
Too wet to fly
and buried in the rain, some bird makes almost
the cartoon sound of a shotgun with its cry.
LIGHT YEARS/ Laura Apol
I am a patient man
when I write you
about the comet
you may have missed.
Because there’s a comet
in a song
we once loved, and I
am a voice from your past.
It won’t be back
for 6,800 years.
Guess I’ll have to catch it
But I’m wrong; there’s
another night. It’s still here,
and I want you
to see it; no— I want
to know you are seeing it, like
when we walked out to see
the same moon
so long ago, and
the same lunar eclipse
—states apart but
landline-asking each other
what do you see
now, what do you see
now? You say
you are a patient man,
but I am patient too.
I want to see
how your hair has grayed,
time has brought.
I want you
to drive for miles
a dark sky just to see
what I see. Tell me
A New Way to Bake/ Sandra Faulkner
My feminist friends admit
they take store-brand muffins and
grocery-store cake to bake sales,
slipping off the plastic packaging
nestling them onto compostable party trays,
but I can’t shut off my joy of baking
my love of butter and buns,
won’t call my meditative practice
of food chemistry anti-feminist,
so I infuse my goods with some theory,
adapt and accommodate and recreate
because I like a calculated challenge,
like the summer I worked at Pizza Hut
with Fred, the Nation of Islam student from Morehouse,
who addressed me as Caucasoid
and never by the label stamped on my name-tag:
We exchanged words of the day
trying to one-up one another
as the smarties in the kitchen.
The day he ate my muffin with the crumb top
as he made the pizza I was to serve out front
and told me “this is pretty good,”
I couldn’t keep my mouth closed-
You just ate a muffin that a caucasoid baked.
I would like to tell you that my food
healed the world. I would like to tell you
that a muffin eased some of Fred’s pain
that the taste of cinnamon sugar
got him to call me by a different name
that my bakes made a difference
during that summer of shared logophilia.
Misheard Syllables/ Joe Heithaus
“We have great agreements where when Biden and Obama used to bring killers out, they would say don’t bring them back to our country, we don’t want them. Well, we have to, we don’t want them. They wouldn’t take them. Now with us, they take them. Someday, I’ll tell you why. Someday, I’ll tell you why. But they take them and they take them very gladly. They used to bring them out and they wouldn’t even let the airplanes land if they brought them back by airplanes. They wouldn’t let the buses into their country. They said we don’t want them. Said no, but they entered our country illegally and they’re murderers, they’re killers in some cases.”
President Donald Trump
White House Rose Garden
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
as reported in the NYTimes
We can have grace and achievement
by biding our tongues
and not blame
or bring out killers.
O say, can you see
we don’t need to bring back our country,
we don’t want that. To be well, we have to abide
by our aspirations.
We don’t want a them and an us,
don’t take us there.
Now the U.S. will be united someday,
It will be you and me and x and y, someday,
no whining, but to take us there,
take us very gladly there
we must bring everyone out
and try to be even,
just, let the plane be even,
bring on our backs an even plane.
We don’t want bosses in our country.
We don’t want them. We say no
to big bosses, but one entered and our eagle’s ill.
It is burdened. Still our will
is to have one country, no killers,
a place for all races.
untitled.24/ Jacob Hunt
he cant breathe
though the same colors we bleed
he cant breathe
a walk in the park
he cant breathe
a morning run
he cant breathe
she cant breathe
they cant breathe
each week a new headline
(we were taught school that racism was dead)
each week a family in grief
black men and women living in a state of fear
black children shed a tear
while wealthy whites watch
in outrage over a man who kneels
“make america great again”
tell me when, this nation was ever
“great” for them
(a nation that will never be
until we end the hate)
kneel at the grave of this country of hate, a disgrace wearing red while black brothers and sisters are dead
when will the sun rise
when will black men and women truly be free
i have hope that tomorrow
we will see
the value of human beings
where you and me
will run free
and all who have been lost
to senseless death
Storm dog/ Jules Lattimer
I push his
my chest. My
palm wide the
rain drops bullets
from the wind
Flight Plan/ Marianne Peel
Be patient to all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves…
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Frankie was in love with Michelle that summer
after 5 th grade. Michelle, who punished us all
with I’m a lady and you’re not when she was
the first to spy the blood oozing from
somewhere onto white lace panties. The first to
wear a bra. The first to go in at the waist and
out at the hips. She was all curves in her brown
body stocking topped with an open weave
crocheted dress. She and Frankie used to meet
at the fire hydrant, lay on their backs, find
pictures in the clouds. Make up stories about
where each plane was going. About the
adventures the passengers would have.
Sometimes their fingers would touch. So much
That summer Frankie’s pilot-father went up in
his plane and never returned. Somewhere
around Gaylord, they say, his craft went down.
I imagined his plane spiraling through the
birches that line Interstate 75.
The divers found a piece of a headrest from the
plane. That’s all. No hat floating to the surface.
No twisted fuselage or black box. Just a
headrest. I imagined him buckled to his seat,
sitting upright with his head bobbing on his
neck. With no place to rest. Trying to nap or
doze, eyelids so heavy. But he had no place to
rest his head at the bottom of that lake and no
chance to close his eyes to dreaming.
That summer six pall bearers carried an almost
weightless coffin down the aisle of St
Constance Church. Empty, save for a satin
pillow. There was incense and calling on the
angels in paradise and cold cuts and potato
salad and icebox sheet cake spread out by the
Frankie’s mama didn’t believe in the dying.
Frankie nuzzled his bloodshot eyes into his
mother’s shoulder. Both refused to wrap
themselves in grief clothing. Black pants, a
black tie, and a black dress with a string of
pearls– an admission he was dead and gone.
The only black between Frankie and his mama
was the fighter pilot jacket. His daddy’s jacket.
How hot that jacket must be in August.
And when I asked Frankie where he thought his
daddy was, he told me somewhere along Lake
Michigan. He was certain his daddy had a deer
hunting beard by now. Long and tangled.
Certain his daddy didn’t have a hairbrush or a
toothbrush. Certain his daddy had lost his
glasses and the world was blurry for him.
Certain his daddy had forgotten his own name.
Because the crash banged his head into
And then Frankie told me, that summer after 5 th
grade, that he would wear his daddy’s fighter
pilot jacket, zipped up tight to his chin, until his
daddy remembered his name and walked his
Frankie claimed he could smell his daddy, all
wrapped up in his daddy’s fighter pilot jacket.
Claimed he could breathe in the cherry
applewood pipe tobacco his daddy always
smoked. Claimed he could smell the Old Spice
cologne his mama missed so much.
In honor of the Baroness/ Jerry Rumph
Conceptually, the conceptualists say
everything’s been written, been published
on the web. The only task now at hand:
all the words in a traffic report
and move them around a little
and orate to the Oval Office
like this is something new
like a fried Frenchman didn’t make
a fountain spout out a piss pot
most folks were too poor to piss in
when the first global flu-war raged
like a German spectacle didn’t
all over the place about coy flappertoys
when flapper twenties roared
like children all over the world haven’t
snippets out of newspapers and moved
them around mom’s refrigerators
like all the words in all the world
haven’t become archaic now or in the future
Poem 23 / Day 23
Two Times / by Michelle Acker
overcast highway / gum-shaded backroad
gulls and pigeons / buckskin horsehead
soppressata / pulled pork sandwich
cocktail menu / leaking beanbags
celebration / something like it
intimacy / something like it
WHY I HATE LIVING ALONE
DURING A PANDEMIC / by Laura Apol
It is that kind of a day, midsummer hot
and humid. Mornings I like to hear the birds
and open the house to the damp of leaves
and river. It is that kind of a day, filling feeders
for hummingbirds, food bowls for kittens, fresh
milkweed for the caterpillars I am keeping, water
for the black-eyed susans, and the door—bang
bang bang—is tiresome so I let it stay open. It is
that kind of a day, and a small bird, brown and
innocuous, a house finch perhaps, female, flies
through the open door onto the porch. Window
glass all around and she is frantic confused—
the sky, the trees so brilliantly right there
and her own wings beating wildly against into
toward into against toward what she knows,
the world of oak, beech and poplar—hurtling
from ledge to table to window to desk to window
to ledge. The room is alive with her terror,
and I am frozen by her frenzy until I hear, so loud
and singular, over the panic, not this bird,
but another, perched on the rail of the deck,
reddish head thrown back, small body brimming
with sound. So clear, that warble, a clarion summons,
one unmistakable tune—repeated, repeated,
repeated, repeated—as if he could sing her
back into the sky.
The Sequence of Parallels / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Teeth are gross, the auntie says of the 9 month old,
human teeth are so gross and weird. Just the idea.
The baby is born with bare gums softening the hardship
on the breast but he is already growing baby teeth
in those gums, and right behind another set of adult teeth.
Why don’t the first teeth just grow with the baby?
Way out of my league, I embark on an explanation
of the expanding mouth, growing gums and why
the adult needs a larger structure properly formed
to keep the teeth strong and masticate.
Those feeble words distract me instead to the idea
of teeth as a metaphor for a parallel universe, or perhaps
a sequence of universes. Here we are a staging ground
for a universe evolving in some shifted time. One with
expanders, headgear and braces to right the poems
that haven’t reached their prime.
Then are we not just ourselves, our
poems a parallel of what we are today,
with seeds and strands that linger
in deepest recess to become?
Surviving higher education without any trigger warnings in 19 non-poetic stanzas means: / by Sandra Faulkner
1. U.S. American Literature class every Tuesday and Thursday and Sean being called on instead of you. You state your opinion anyway with your arm raised into a fist, your perspective invisible to the male professor who only hears your words when they are regurgitated out of that male mouth. Genius is male. Calling out sexist behavior can ruin a man’s career.
2. Your professor telling you his sexual fantasies instead of talking about your comprehensive exams. As you sit on a bench outside the bucolic university watching squirrels beg, drinking the coffee he bought you, you change the topic again and again. But he keeps talking about his sexual fantasies and asks about yours. In the moment, you cannot call this harassment; instead you think his fantasies are insipid and boring.
3. Your fellow graduate student teaching assistants rating their female students on hotness in the TA office. They don’t bother to whisper or mask names. You wonder how they can be effective teachers when female students are pieces of ass and not learners.
4. Teaching a special weekend course on communication and conflict, and the male executive talking to your breasts. You do not say anything because you are a graduate student teaching for extra money. Besides, this is not the first time. It isn’t even close to the last time.
5. The professor commenting on your hair and labeling your feminist critique of sexual norms as critical. But you should relish the attention because he usually goes for blondes (two former students and counting), and you know what they say about fiery redheads? You only admit years later, in a tenured position, that he was sleeping with fellow students and his comments were advances. You think now, again, sexual harassment and assault means women students are pieces of ass and not learners.
6. Your male colleague calling you a nickname in front of a large lecture hall full of undergraduate students. This is your class, and you don’t even use that name. He repeats the diminutive nickname two more times, while addressing all of your other male colleagues in the room as “Dr.” You do not have tenure.
7. Standing by the copy machine in your department’s main office waiting your turn when a colleague drapes his tie over your shoulder and asks you to stroke the soft fabric. You smell what he ate for lunch when he leans into your personal space.
8. Keeping your office door locked when you are inside because of post-traumatic stress flashbacks of your colleague fake knocking as he struts into your office to press his penis against the back of your desk chair as he reads over your shoulder. He tells you how to spell his name as you type the report you feel forced to write for him.
9. Being asked by a male colleague if you are a rabid feminist when you accept a position as Director of Women’s Studies. You are pissed you didn’t think of a response—feminists bite back—until he was gone from your office with his tainted congratulations.
10. Recusing yourself from a personnel committee decision because of a personal/professional conflict and a colleague saying, “Oh, that’s right you are sleeping with them.” You try to move the meeting away from your personal life, but the colleague continued. “Aw! You are blushing!” You consider this retribution for calling out sexist behavior in another meeting.
11. Telling your colleagues that you will not make them coffee after a senior colleague, a woman, opens a meeting with apologies for not making coffee. A male colleague raises his hand and asks if you will make him coffee. When you tell him no, he makes it a challenge, even after you tell him it will never happen; stubbornness is your superpower. The laughter in the room does not feel like a joke.
12. When men, but not women, in the department receive summer teaching assignments because “they have families to support.”
13. Reporting harassing behavior and being called “girl” by the administration.
14. Being called “logical” (read WHITE) when you call out harassing behavior toward a colleague who is a Woman of Color. You are supposed to be a good WHITE girl and stay quiet.
15. Being told how you should act by a senior male colleague after your first promotion.
16. When a fellow student slams you against a wall and shoves his tongue down your throat at a campus party. As you struggle to break his grip and get that wet worm out of your mouth, he says, “You know you’ve wanted me all semester.” He breathes his beer breath of male entitlement on your cheeks, and you ask him about the friend of yours he dates. You understand his nickname SleezeJay on a personal level now.
17. Junior year being flashed outside of your apartment every morning in March before you manage to laugh the man away. He even wore the clichéd rain slicker.
18. Drinking with friends in your apartment and waking up in your twin bed to find J inside of you. Your hamster, the one your friends try and rouse with smoke blown into his habitat, the only witness as you try to move out from under J’s weight. Your hamster is the only one who hears you say “No, No, NO!” as J penetrates you again and again. When you leave the next semester to study abroad, J sits on your couch mooning over you to your best friend. You do not moon over him waiting for your period, which does not arrive for weeks. You take a pregnancy test and ask a friend for advice. No one calls this rape.
19. Crawling out a window in the back of some friend’s apartment and running around the block in clogs to avoid being gang raped. You are drunk and high, but not too wasted to know that you and C are being watched from a closet as C feels you up. Yes, you had slept together before, and you had yelled at C’s friends that U.S. American women are not sluts. You used your feminist logic: If they slept with women that they called sluts, then they were sluts, too. You called the police on C’s brother when he yelled at, pushed at, and slapped his “slut” girlfriend in the parking lot of your apartment complex. You flouted their rules when you tried to fuck like a man. You stumble to the bathroom in the back of the apartment, open the window in the bedroom of the ground floor apartment, step on C’s bed, and pull yourself out of the window into the spring air. You graduate the next month with honors.
Tiger Lily / by Joseph Heithaus
The stem forks upward
and forks again
like a map of roads
to dead end heavens
or hells, the pedicels
to thin long buds
of sepals pressed together
like three green
backs of conspiring
men hiding fire
from the wind. When
the men fall back
the bloom flares
out in six syllables—
come to me, see inside
to find more flames, the seeds
of light itself, fire
of filament, anther,
kindle me and kiss me
coddle me, see inside—
the flower colored
marigold made of marmalade
with cathedral spires
dyed inside a solemn mass
of tiger tails that curl
in almost circles and spread
like wild cries that call
you to a blazing
feast, inferno of bonfires,
bone fires of tigers
releasing the heat of July.
untitled.23 / by Jacob Hunt
under this twinkling sun i might just stay forever
from my trouble, a thousand miles away
the page against weathered fingertips
and no care, a vacant stare
a vacancy you can see
for the first time in how long? i can breathe
let the phone ring
another day or two and
listen to the music of the beach
peace, in reach as time stands still
Some July / by Jules Lattimer
I walked on
the flat rocks
at Belle Isle
remains an island
in the middle of
the James River
City clocks and
train tracks and
even now framed
by green and blue
and dark brown
metal My feet
burned on the
and the rest
of my life waited
A Peaceable Kingdom at Denny’s / by Marianne Peel
Mean Gene was a regular. A counter fly.
Curmudgeon slamming his cup
onto the saucer when he reached rock bottom.
I knew not to ask about his day:
always a litany of grievances
Gene lived out of his 1965 Chevy Malibu.
Candy apple red rustbucket of a vehicle.
Always parked in the spot closest to the door.
He lived in that blown out muffler of a beater,
lived in that leather- upholstered jalopy with four cats,
six canaries, one goldfish, and a ferret named Myrtle.
He’d push that car door open, left hand pressed
on his aching sacroiliac, and all four cats, the six canaries,
and one goldfinch would migrate to the roof of his Chevy.
Friends they were, these felines and avians, grooming one another
right out there in the parking lot of Denny’s. A sight for sore eyes,
Gene used to say, keeping an eye on this menagerie from the coffee counter.
And one blizzardy night, when I’d been assigned to scrub
the rubber seals on every refrigerator, scrub them clean,
Gene smuggled in Myrtle the ferret.
She coiled in his parka pocket, a furry spiral of rope she was.
Poked her head out, wriggled up the inside of his sleeves,
slid across the back of his neck, then scurried down the other sleeve.
Myrtle’s been de-scented, Gene told us.
But she was redolent with smoky earth, musk always clinging
to his hands. Glandular secretions in the cracks of his palms.
Gene carried a miniature toothbrush in his shirt pocket.
The vet said he was brave to attempt such dental hygiene
on this weasely creature. Gene was damn proud of his courage.
I took to saving paper towel rolls, even toilet paper rolls,
for Myrtle. Gene taped these tubes together with duct tape,
creating a maze in the Malibu for Myrtle.
Learning the carnivore Myrtle craved meat and eggs, I began scraping
the scraps off Grand Slams. Would save broken bacon bits
and scrambled egg fragments in a mug under the counter, for Myrtle.
That bluster of a night, Gene showed me a dwarf harness
he’d scavenged for Myrtle. Was training her to go for a stroll,
waiting for the snow to disappear, for the ice to melt.
And that night, I saw Gene nuzzle Myrtle between his chin
and shoulder. I swear she looked him in the eye,
sighed a contentment chortle out of her lips
and nibbled the lobe of Mean Gene’s ear.
Poem 22 / Day 22
Forensics / by Michelle Acker
In the middle of making coffee, I notice her:
a C-curve of shrimp, a nest of straight legs.
Flip the switch on the kettle. A miracle she avoided
my feet as I shuffled back and forth between
the sink and the counter, though she’s assuredly
already dead. Laying on her side. An aquarium
shrimp; Amano, specifically. Sometime in the night
she must have found some small crack between the glass
walls of the tank and the plastic cover, and launched herself
an inch upward from the surface of the water to reach it.
A shrimp in flight. Then she fell, or maybe somehow
scaled or rappelled the four feet to the floor, and proceeded
to crawl six or seven feet to the kitchen,
where she died. It’s a miracle she avoided the cat,
unless she didn’t. I have no way of knowing
what cruelty escapes my notice as I sleep. With a paper towel
I gather her up, sink her into the garbage. The water is ready.
I wonder what it is she was looking for.
On Children / by Laura Apol
News feed: Eighty-five children under age two tested
positive for coronavirus in one Texas County 
Trump tweet: With smaller testing we would show
fewer cases! 
Headline: Trump administration pushing to block
new money for testing, tracing and CDC in upcoming
coronavirus relief bill 
Trump Remarks: It’s incredible how the – it’s very
unique how the children aren’t affected 
Trump News Conference: So we’re very much
going to put pressure on governors and everybody else
to open the schools, to get them open 
if no one tests
and no one counts and no one
traces and no one
reports are there any sick
if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it
can we open the schools
and get back
 The title is taken from the poem from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
 NBCNews 07.18.2020
 Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 06.23.2020
 Washington Post headline 07.18.2020
 Forbes 07.07.2020
 ABCNews7 05.07.2020
 Conference on Safely Reopening America’s Schools,
White House East Room, 07.07.2020
All the Dirt I Can Glean on What We Aspire To / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Elizabeth and Emily were introverts,
one had a cheating husband,
the other had a secret. Eliza-
beth corresponded with Robert,
the grandiose bipolar Brahmin, Rob-
ert wrote back, years of friendship.
Plath, Sexton follow, with their embrace
of all that is not spoken
collapsed to sift like sand falling
into still new words.
Red Cloak (after St. Jerome Writing by Michelangelo Merisi da Carvaggio, 1605-1606) / by Sandra Faulkner
Write your way into death
wearing the red cloak of sorry.
Research the mistakes and harm
of a life you meant to live.
Tap the pen of reluctance
in slow motion stabs,
the callus on your pointer finger
an arthritic reminder
of the books you could not read.
The words like indecipherable scribbles
on an eye chart too far to see
too many letters you cannot unscramble.
After the Rain / by Joseph Heithaus
Even the wind
wants to be a cart
pulled by butterflies
My first rain is lost
in my mother’s chin
against my head
in some dry place
with a window
and all that’s left
is a cry inside me,
half birdsong, half
hinge to a cellar door
that opens into a living dark
wet with accumulation
of the seep of skies
and dust. Yesterday’s heat
has found its way
into tomato roots
and the shoots
of lolling tiger lilies
rising to reds and oranges
to prove the sun
has memories that become
flowers and fruit
just as time leaves
and dross in drips
from leaves or kisses
of gray light against the legs
of chairs. The rain
has left behind steam
rising from rooftops
and plodding across
the air like a band
of refugees. The rain
itself is a migrant’s pack
carried on the backs
of clouds and dropped
on the ground. There
it becomes the muddy
mirror where I try
to catch myself
to find some memory
of who I was
in my mother’s arms
reaching out to touch
some wet for which
I had no name.
untitled.22 / by Jacob Hunt
when will books burn again
writers, outlaws once again
on the run, in the fringe
society has a squeaking hinge
when did authors become
polished pages and short, meaningless phrases
we were once more
we were once more, or
we could be?
could we be?
words meant to bring down kingdoms and
create new worlds a new world a new world
one where every man has his own vine and fig tree every man, every man said without pause and with cause to be remembered by, the history books lie while lying on dusty shelves.
each of these tired souls deserves to have their own vine and fig tree
a moment in the shade
at home, in their world, one in the same
hearts aflame, the blaze set
by words meant to slice, sharper than swords
comfort, finally sacrificed for a better world
until then, when the sun breaks through the clouds, i will write without being heard
The Shipping News / by Jules Lattimer
My dad had a floppy edition of The Shipping News sitting
on the toilet tank for years. I liked the way it fell open in my lap,
the spine broken and the cover creased. The way newly
washed hands left fingerprints of water damage and the
edges of the pages fanned upward as they passed. My dad
preferred the North Atlantic, the rain and the gray and the
smell of salt and the sound your boots make when they kick
the muddy snow. Years later when Kevin Spacey was Quoyle
I fell asleep sideways in a college apartment,
Newfoundland quiet, grayscale, and rocking with despair
Pro life / by Jerry Rumph
So that infants are still born
swaddled in IRAs
we advocate grams succumbing
to serving happy meals
bagging polos at the mall
gathering to practice essential
singing for heaven’s sake
so long as the pro’s life
by critical reflection
on those poor little verses.
Poem 21 / Day 21
Refuge in a Memory / by Michelle Acker
Soft dawn came through the snow,
the skylight blanketed with gray
and air suffused with straight-down falling flakes
all knowing where to go.
I’d never seen this snow.
Small crusts of dustings only, or
the fabricated ice of ski resorts
I’d been to long ago.
I called my friend. She lived
nearby, and I from Florida—she
from Alabama, also snowless—we
had made this plan to give
ourselves the childhood treats
we’d read about in books or seen
in movies—maple syrup poured in clean
canoes of snow, though we,
unknowing of the way
to do this, made only a mess;
made nothing edible but fists
of snow, still fresh that day.
We rolled a snowman. Stirred
sweet cream in snow, fed spoonfuls to
my cat and to ourselves. Hot cocoa, too.
I know the taste, unblurred
by memory. I don’t
recall the month, or year, unless
I count it backwards. But—I remember, yes,
the taste, the cold, the snow.
I Take a Realtor Through the House
I’ve Lived in for Twenty Years / by Laura Apol
Once again I was there and once again I was leaving
and again it seemed as though nothing had changed
even while it was all changing
Here’s the porch where I slept the first night
—windows that wouldn’t open, a door
that wouldn’t close; the wallpapered
room of my son, cobalt
room of my daughter, flowered-over grave
of the backyard dog. Sump pump,
shingles, emergency contact and every shadow
a ghost. Up these stairs I was young, filled
with tomorrows as I took
lovers and lit candles; laughed
with my children and prayed
for my children,
and wept and bled each month
and it is all past. The laundry off the line.
Pears rotting beneath the tree. Fireflies
and maple leaves, lost cat’s print in concrete
like the stories I read aloud
to my daughter before bed, my son
at the piano, Rachmaninov
in his sleep. New stove, used fridge,
all the dishes I washed, lunches I packed;
push mower, extension ladder, gutters cleaned
spring and fall. Wisteria and weeping
penciled on the painted
frame of the door, painted over. Each mistake.
And now? Siding and ceiling fans,
hard-wood floors and fencing;
trees that fell and dreams
—as nothing, as everything,
Thatched Lives in a Cotswold’s Pub / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Despite the summer breeze and lavender flowering far as the eye can see,
to push against the solid door is to enter a cave-like pub where the cold hearth
must host a warming blaze against the chill of damper days, a room so small,
seating only a few – a scene worthy of Mnemosyne. Across a few wide planks
I take a table in the middle to sup and suppose about the couples seated near.
Perhaps once Eos to his Tithonus, both have aged and now divert their gaze
in the silence of opposite directions, waiting for coffee in the land of tea, folded
hands at rest, white islands against dark wood. Between them his large beer
emptied, her small one half full, still waiting for the goddess to swill.
Rhea and Cronus at another table break from whispered words, their locked
gaze glancing at the bar, the low thick ceiling beam and back at each other.
There’s something in your countenance that makes me want to… They stand,
he takes her arm with urgency, escorts her to mythology.
And what of me? Well, I’m no Edith Hamilton but unknown stories
call me to them in the dim light and murmered din of other
diners, the ceiling’s ancient rounded slope, the hope that ghosts
still shiver through keyholes, adding to the eons in this place.
Sky Inside Us / by Joseph Heithaus
Inside the sky or us are paintings made
in caves of mammoth kills or living
stills of movements we admire, our sacred
darkness lit by storms we hold within
our eyes then tear apart like bread. We feel
for contours on our walls that feel
like backs or bones or flesh, we press
our palms against the stone to coat
with ochre we have dug not knowing
what will last ten thousand years
in the cool relentless dark like amber
catching flower’s petals, spider’s eyes
inside of me or you, just standing there
and taking in and taking in and taking in the sky.
untitled.21 / by Jacob Hunt
and a question posed
to those who may have been here, so I am
supposed to honor a horrific past
build a statue for a man you call
a statue still standing
for those same ideals, idols are golden calves or
copper and bronze
these men you celebrate are one in the same
a collective who now burns
for the lives they took
take my life
for i am. one of them. you will find me
complicit in my existence
enter the descendent of hate that resonates through time
my skin a true crime
locking up innocents while i walk free
telling the judge above to
take me please if it means
life for my brother
i am another
there is a parking lot where hitler died. no german calls him great so
why would i allow evil legacies to survive
i must take the time to offer a bit of resistance and provide assistance. thankfully these thoughts will one day die with those who hold on to white pride
we will leave graves unmarked
Greedy poem / by Jules Lattimer
You woke up
late this morning
with a trazodone hangover
Lauren yelling at the
dog you yelling at Lauren
the sleep zone you knew
ripping into chaos The
dog had been tearing papers
with his teeth and Lauren
who couldn’t sleep had been
leaving little evidences of life
around the tables and couches
and living spaces you have available
in this home You took a
pain-killer and a shower and a drive
around town snapped a flower
off a bush the dog tugging at the blue
leash around your other wrist
concerned as he always is with running
out from beneath the storm
9:45 pm at Denny’s / by Marianne Peel
They always requested my section,
this late night couple.
The booth near the door. They fancied
the breeze of customers entering and exiting.
I knew their order by heart, these regulars
with bifocal lenses and matching canes.
Sanka. Decaf. A stainless steel teapot of boiling water.
An orange packet of grounds to sprinkle in.
And they would sit there for two hours,
this late night couple
Not reading the New York Times,
not buried behind sheaves of newspaper
not constructing grocery lists
or generating columns of bills to be paid
not filing their nails, manicuring cuticles,
or reapplying lipstick.
Just sitting there, in that booth, talking softly,
holding hands across the divide.
I vowed to be like them,
when I was done with waitressing
when coins no longer clinked in my pocket,
when I no longer served Grand Slams and Country Fried Steak.
when I no longer scraped cockroaches out of milkshake machines,
when I no longer poured stale coffee into the hot fudge warmer.
And now, forty-five years later, my beloved and I
are that nice older couple.
Landlords appreciate our rent reliability,
wait staff treasure our appreciative tips.
We sit, late into the night, regulars in our familiar booth,
still with stories to share, hands touching across the great divide.
Poem 20 / Day 20
5:32 / by Michelle Acker
I wake up from a nap though I’ve been in bed
all day already, my leg twisted over
a sandpapery pile of unfolded laundry
and my cheek in a cool slick of drool.
Home from work for two weeks, dissolving
into a third. Hard to tell the days apart. Today
I watched old episodes of Bojack Horseman; yesterday
I didn’t. Tomorrow I will bake bread, if I remember
to start it tonight. I’m empty and light in the post-nap way.
Temporarily absolved of feeling. I wish I had someone
to touch, but I don’t. I think about what it means to love.
The cat, glowing, knocks my glasses off the wobbly nightstand.
He wants my attention. The room fills with amber light,
becomes for a moment unbearably warm.
GIVING BLOOD / by Laura Apol
—Phnom Penh, 2016
So much need and we were there—my son and I—
to see the ruins. Children women carts carrying animals
alive and dead. Petrol and cigarettes. And of course
the temples: such stone grandeur in decay such
jostling for a photo a moment a sunrise a view.
And what after all could we give back?
We ate street food tipped workers and drivers
more than the guidebooks said we should. Even so
a dollar was just a dollar. Until he read about a shortage
of blood—road crashes maternal hemorrhage genetic
disorder in children and always too few donors.
Those who gave, gave for people they knew
but what of the rest and so
he led me to a place—my son my grown son my gay
son who still couldn’t give blood at home because he was
my gay son—led me to a clinic with a sign: Give Blood
Give Love. Side-by-side chairs my beautiful boy needle
in his arm squeezing squeezing the sponge ball. O
negative. He is the universal donor. T-shirts cookies
juice they told us if we sometime needed blood
we now had bags reserved—our blood still and always
ours. Later in the heat the stench of streets we were
together wary: crosswalks traffic buses wary; motos taxis
tuktuks wary; on alert for anyone for anything
that might have made us need to take back
what had just been given.
To Hold the Candle / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Some shield the flame
from a walking breeze
eyes riveted as if to keep it
some cup a hand to catch spilled wax
some linger as they place it in fine sand.
Flame after flame
topping spindly pedestals
anchored in particles
their numbers grow
names words verse
flames in voice.
How to Finish a Dissertation After a Hurricane / by Sandra Faulkner
-Hurricane Floyd hit Cape Fear, North Carolina at 2:30 am on September 16th, 1999.
Inside your first big girl office write this storm story
craft words that can flip such sad luck,
type in time to the wind’s clawing fury,
ignore the pages of your dissertation, mired and stuck,
slashed with your advisor’s purple tipped pen
and held like a hostage inside a FEDEX truck.
The watermark rose faster than a hem line after a bender,
be sorry to find there’s no Coors, Charmin, or Wonder bread
at the Piggly Wiggly. You may as well hit send
before you sit in your apartment holding your head
watching on TV an infinite loop of bloated swine
carcasses rotting in line at the side of the roadbeds.
You see your campus buildings not weathering the wind,
but don’t write a note to your newly minted Ex.
You can’t navigate a boat in such unkind
waters; the once familiar landmarks like the airport and FedEx
station drowned, towns turned back to pre-settler scenes,
buildings crossed out with fluorescent orange X’s,
your students’ books and papers slimed green
with the mold in their cars, submerged
and holding the weight of learning. Lean
into your self-made disaster; urge
this 500-year flood not to soil your plan
as seventeen inches of water are purged,
the storm like a furious drunk popped open a can.
You sit by your bathtub filled with emergency water
not sleeping, wondering if this place will still stand:
this is the cost of underestimated water.
Last Night the Sky / by Joseph Heithaus
When my son noticed tangerine light behind
the curtains, we went outside
and the windows of the house across
the street were rectangles of orange peel
becoming tea rose, persimmon,
this glow was from the north, orange,
we said, just orange, the west a gray-blue edged
by a single silver cloud, but just color
doesn’t cut it, because the air was coming
cool out of the south, the silhouettes
of power lines were so distinct against
the darkened powder blue above,
the constant shifting hues
and my daughter and my son
walked barefoot down the street to get
a better view and they were lit
by lightning at first behind
the periwinkle west and then
we saw long bolts that looked like sudden
roots, whole trees of light we gasped
at standing there beneath
the thunder running just behind
as seconds changed pumpkin
into gold which seemed like dust
on everything we watched—
the houses’ roofs, the neighbor’s
lamp post, our summer skin. The storm
was to the south, the breeze
a mix of warm and cold, you
could almost taste the grass,
honeyed ice mixed with sweetgum,
some perfect pungent sip,
and lightning came again and though
it happened fast, I swear we’d see
light branch or bloom or fracture,
some slow-motion instant show,
too many words for what
we felt and saw and smelled,
but as we walked back
to the house, I felt just two—
gratitude and love—
for being there with them
as we left the sky behind
and closed the door.
untitled.20 / by Jacob Hunt
when i am seventy
and look back
what will i see
i dream of a man
who is happy
when he looks back
he sees a dream
a blue sea
ebbing and flowing
as he lies with family
i hope he smiles
i hope he smiles
i do hope i have a reason
Monday story / by Jules Lattimer
This morning you pulled everything
out of your kitchen cabinets and came
up with a new manner of arrangement
determined how often you reach for plates
spoons glass casseroles and developed
a logic that you should stretch your arms
as little as possible throughout your day
you concluded that the most sought-after
cabinetries should be the closest to your
dominant hand at its resting point and
sacrificed a full morning of reaching up
and to the side and the other way to retrieve
and unsort these items from the perfunctory
and hodgepodge system of the past
At noon when you averagely eat a meal the
breakables and dry goods rose around you
in mountains covering the stove and crossing
even the sink and large table and in fact you
could take no more than a few inches of a
step in any given direction without shattering
or spilling so you twisted clockwise and
stretched while you unwound, opening and
picking up and looking behind for lunch
As the world burns / by Jerry Rumph
As a child, mom took my temp
with a mercury-filled thermometer
and read fever between the lines
etched in glass.
Now, a stranger guards the public
wellness with a probe displaying
an exact reading of block numbers
on a digital screen.
The truth is we don’t need
any kind of thermometer
to see we’re all burning up.
Poem 19 / Day 19
Particle / Wave / by Michelle Acker
huddled around sun-bleached branches
twisting shrub stem
torn by pale waves of light
umbrella of fine green leaves
cool sheet of grass
white as bone
ballooning cobweb crown
shining oak leaves
umbrella of fine green leaves
white as bone
huddled around sun-bleached branches
twisting shrub stem
ballooning cobweb crown
shining oak leaves
cool sheet of grass
torn by pale waves of light
Black Moon / by Laura Apol
(Similar to a blue moon, a black moon
is the second new moon in a calendar month)
Because your mother is dying,
because my mother
and each new moon is an empty
womb—luna, lunar, first home, the pulse
of our cells circling, cycling;
because we have ceased
Because I have my mother’s smile,
wear my mother’s rings, and you
have your mother’s eyes,
will soon wear your mother’s rings.
Tonight, we watch the scattered lights come on—
starlight, streetlight, firelight, fireflies, fires
in these hills;
because the two-lane blacktop rises
then falls, wrapping us breathless in shrouds
because there is only the call, no response.
Because she is distant, the moon.
Because we have learned to navigate
the dark because she is gone.
Two Lovers? / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
the first, freckled, fun, steady
the second a mystery –
I relived my husband’s death
in a misty diving bell
an act, a part in a Venetian drama
the vessel failed in a canal,
the man could not be rescued
he died within
remembering again a second lover –
a different name –
yet so like my lost one. I wondered,
now suspecting, then believing this
is my lost one, now
also lost to himself.
I have found him
embrace him, renounce no one.
Martha Stewart also died that night
As rocks edged into my hips,
something slipped through ground
outside my tent . I shone a light –
stirring wind announced rain soon.
Grass weeds flipped and rustled
against my flimsy walls.
the scrub jays I shushed
argued at dawn.
Alice’s Buttercreams / by Sandra Faulkner
My Uncle tells me family stories
asks me to guess which one is true
though stories don’t fact-check,
their science more like the art of truth-telling,
turning the family into what and who
and where and how we need to be:
Did Grandma Maude and family own the land
where Philadelphia City Hall now stands?
Was Nipper, the RCA Victor dog, our family
canine posed for the picture by the gramophone?
Where did my great uncle get his money for the boats
and the shore house on a petty officer’s salary?
I study the pictures of him with handsome men
and like where my mind wanders
cooking up a saucy sweet family secret.
Was my great uncle Hemerley’s Smith & Wesson revolver claimed
from the body of a dead Mexican soldier in the Spanish Civil War?
Are we related to the (rich) Habbersetts of Scrapple fame
from Middleton, PA? Is this why my parents made me eat it?
Did my Dad pay my Uncle $5 to eat a batch of his mother,
Alice’s buttercreams that she was going to take to Church?
Or was it $.25 for a box of commercially produced candies?
And are they as good as the memories?
I ask my mom for the recipe, and she confesses
she threw it out because the actual taste is not
as delicious as memories dipped in buttered nostalgia.
What if I tell you I have the recipe for Alice’s Buttercreams?
I got it from a college roommate and make them for my Dad,
and my kid’s classroom Valentine parties,
though they contain cherries and sometimes, bourbon,
and use whatever chocolate I have in my pantry
because this is how you turn the quotidian into family myth.
My Lamentations / by Joseph Heithaus
the young children ask bread,
and no man breaketh it unto them
A wooden spoon inside me stirs
Blood and dust and moons and some singer
Croons like my father, and all my
Dead and living gesture in a stew of stars,
Every made-up constellation sings a tune
Falling through dreams of bicycles, my sisters
Gabbing on the phone, one brother’s laughter
Honking like a truck, like x-ray fractures radiating out
I feel each swirl the spoon makes,
Jammed against my throat, my teeth, my words
Kneeling inside some prayer of me, but
Lost like pennies in the sand, I try to
Make that memory go away, children on their knees
Needing coins, scratching each other’s hands,
Pushing each other away, then come feathers, peacock
Quills arranged inside a vase, comets
Racing across a bloody sky, I can’t keep
Still the images and sounds and smells or
Understand my lamenting nights—
Voices spin against my mother’s lipstick smell,
Whisks filled with butter cream, my hand
Xeroxed by mistake, every circle circles into signs,
Zodiac of bones and bread.
The audience / by Jules Lattimer
Past midnight the cat comes back
I must be his only optics at this
hour the only blue moving light
in the neighborhood brings
him to my window where he
can sit on the wide ledge watch
stillness move into Keira Knightley
on the train tracks ––No, he’s
staring at me, big white and
iridescent eyes an inch past
the glass pane watching me
react to the gruesome movie,
the horrible tragedy the most
beautiful story in the world when
it’s over I pull dishes into the sink
bag dinner run water into a
nightstand cup and ––God
there’s two of them, four marble eyes
fifteen inches from my face across
the glass above the sink It is the
stillness of this lateness that keeps me
awake for it and now I am the actor
seeing house for the first time
A Good Pairing / by Marianne Peel
I have packed strawberries into the picnic hamper
Sonata strawberries that sang their roots into the soil
nourished and nudged by coffee grounds
these acid-hungry berries
reared on remnants of Hazelnut and Michigan Cherry,
on Jamaican Blue Mountain and Koffee Kult Dark Roast.
And in the hollow of this canoe
a canister of dark chocolate,
assured the sun on the lake will melt
this bitter cacao into slippery liquid.
We will bathe each pulpy berry in chocolate.
I will lick the juice off your fingers
lips open, whole mouth open, famished
for the sweetness I offer from my open palm.
You will bring homespun quince mead.
An ancient recipe from a 1554 guide,
advice on running a country household in France.
One part honey, six parts rain water
boiled and then left to turn cold,
adding the juice of quince.
Sealed in miniature barrels, with no air to breathe.
Baked in summer sun for forty days, exactly forty days.
Wait for the scum to rise, wait for the heave of clarity.
I imagine your feet unsocked and set free
macerating quartered quince with your toes,
your heels, even the balls of your feet.
Such coordination of limbs as you pump
the concertina. This dwarf
of an accordion, in your hands. You are a one-man band,
wheezing breath into bellows and stubborn fruit,
serenading this mash of honey, rain, and quince.
You have brought real glasses to this July picnic.
Narrow stemmed crystal.
I hide my styrofoam cups behind my back,
bury them in the belly-hull of the canoe,
embarrassed that I have brought something
to the marrying of quince mead
drenched in dark chocolate.
When pigs fly / by Jerry Rumph
A Dassault Falcon jet flies over
five hundred miles per hour
and costs fifty million dollars.
Louisiana prosperity preacher
Jesse Duplantis thinks his faithful
flock should fleet him with a fourth.
Jesus wouldn’t ride a donkey today
to spread the word over the world,
he says. I’m more inclined to believe
sometimes God is worms and shit
and Jesus will fly with pigs.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Funnel Cake? / by Michelle Acker
Lately I’ve been carried
by memories of the fair
maybe—five or six years
ago—it’s hard to call
truth what comes in hazy
un-dreamed half-sights. The lights
I perhaps remember
as strings of pearls, all white
maybe, yellow maybe.
A drum to stagger through—
red, I think. The greasy
sugar sticking on my
or your warm fingertips.
THE GODDESSES WHO WOVE THE WORLD / by Laura Apol
Chain stitch, then a double crochet—
my grandmother made a cover
to hide the holes in my second-hand
sofa; coarse yarn, brown and tan and bone.
Serviceable. Of use. It has lasted
more than thirty years. Chain stitch,
then a double crochet—my mother made her aging
parent a throw; black, white, blood
red. Colors that demanded attention. My brother
has it now. Chain stitch, then a double
crochet—I crocheted, too; a baby blanket
for my firstborn. It was rough and misshapen;
I had so little practice and the stakes
were so high. Chain stitch, then
a double crochet—I taught my daughter;
skeins of colors I bought her but
have long since forgotten. What did she
make? Now I will never know. Chain
stitch, then a double crochet—so many
dropped stitches. The Crane Wife spun
using feathers from her breast. Penelope wove,
unwove a shroud. Ariadne used yarn
to guide her love to safety. Philomena’s loom
was her voice. And then you asked me
what I wanted. I chose the sea; you chose
an open weave, plush chenille with extravagant
stitches, velvety loose and looping—the kind
a woman can draw peace from, get lost in.
You wove in stories of ghosts and wings
and jasmine tea. Chain stitch, then a
double crochet—the softest yarn I know.
The colors of broken glass.
Onions and Ground Beef / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
I cooked every few months in our studio kitchen
She was a wonderful child watched Flipper when I
finally agreed to a TV we ate happy nights at home
radiator warmth I liked those days before backtalk
the influence of so-called friends hours on the phone
then she was no longer my child
until the boy the marriage people I don’t know
all around us the aura of their smiles she hugged
those people I returned to the regimen I made violin
dance water aerobics meals at Water Tower Place
the occasional flight to visit but mostly by phone
until the day she must have found me then she flew me
in my red fox coat one rainy night to live where garden
shrubs needed trimming after church I clipped
up and down the street ‘til they were perfect and
she picked me up brought me here people I don’t know
a table I return to morning and night smell onions
taste of the familiar ground beef.
Talking God with my nephew at Dairy Queen / by Sandra Faulkner
He stabs the red plastic spoon in the space
in front of my nose: Jealousy or Greed?
Evolution or Creation? The answer in this place
without my bourbon straight from the barrel
leads to an answer without the either/or.
His face folds a frown instead of a bite,
old enough to feel the crush of ideologies.
I am the Aunt who doesn’t believe in light
but the hell of these moments of little dead dreams;
there is no God that can save us from the damage
like a hangover of Christmas pounding in our heads.
I choose evolution without any caveats of hell, the image
that when I am dead he will remember to raise
a glass filled two fingers high with an ice sphere and praise.
Tubes / by Joseph Heithaus
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
My mind’s in tubes today that that spin
around the living stuck in stents or ports
or catheters fused someway to their bodies
made of ducts and veins and arteries—
all those liquids flowing through, sometimes
with machines that murmur and hang
above beds to cure or feed or relieve
those lying there and I’m thankful
I can get up to pee or drink my water
from a glass and the only tube I use
today is a hose to water plants. Not
far from here three men in four short days
were intra-veined. From behind a wall
an executioner sent in pentobarbital
and death was caught inside a thousand
jumbled pipes, a choke of human waste,
our failed attempt to close what can’t be
closed, because grief runs long into the air
and hope goes even further. Yesterday
the latest spoke his last with Hopkins’
poem. “Heaven-Haven,” he said,
in full, believing he is going there.
untitled.18 / by Jacob Hunt
my heart my heart my heart
beats on a table
just minutes ago
of my body as i watched
a masked surgeon who looked just like her who looked just like you
draw with a red pen on my chest
and pull pull pull and though i struggled
i tried, i tried, i tried
i heard a pop
and now i stare
at a table, right next to mine
with my heart beating, bleeding still
i once watched someone die on the street. right in front of me but still so far away
the funeral was nice, but my mind
it was back on the corner of ohio
where i watched him die
and saw myself in him, the end of life
i wonder when my time will come and who will decide that my life is over (hey, he has lived long enough, not well enough, what impact has he made)
i sing amazing grace
and walk home in the rain
Some definition / by Jules Lattimer
All day I’ve been tonguing
at a flat popcorn shell lodged
between my gums and one
of my upper molars The dog
barks at every truck that passes
our highway house And this
morning when we unloaded
the grocery store ice cooler every
paper bag and egg carton had
split into cold wet fibers We
aren’t getting a lot done At
training bra age I told my teacher
that there’s no way to know if
we’re hooked up to monitors being fed
life experiences through a computer
controlling our sensory intake
and then I played minecraft a while
I’m pretty sure now that the
screenthings are real including
this piece of writing is in
some definition existing
Estate Sale / by Marianne Peel
For Julie Maloney
I kept forgetting to pack
that plastic zip-lock baggie
of jewelry. I wanted to take it
to the Liberty Coin store downtown. A diamond
imbedded in an engagement band–
just collateral, here. They barter only
in pure gold.
The jeweler examines each linked chain,
each ring, each bracelet. He is the man at the beach
with his metal detector
ferreting out coins beneath the sand.
Behind his loupe,
pendulous magnifier suspended from his neck,
his eye is a beached fish, starved for air.
Rubbing each gold object across his touchstone,
he swabs acid solution onto the mark.
The higher the gold content, the less the mark vanishes
when doused with acid.
My mother was not a costume jewelry kind of woman.
The jeweler separates the contents of the bag:
to the left—imitations, frauds.
to the right—real gold, worth something,
something of value.
I had searched through the bag
when my father dumped the jewelry
on the bed. Wanted to find my name
attached to a bracelet or a ring. Even
a sticker with my initials
on the back of a locket. Anything
to identify what she wanted me to have.
Something she wore around her neck.
Something she slipped onto her wrist
before a night on the town, cutting the rug.
A ring she removed when gouging her hands
into the raw ground beef, flesh that would become
meatloaf sandwiches my father always ate, cold
wrapped in Wonder Bread and ketchup.
But the jewelry is unmarked, and my father wants
to clear the clutter.
I had hoped for a sweater,
the one draped over the kitchen chair.
Or a shawl.
Or a scarf she used to batten down with a broach
secured on her adam’s apple.
There is a kleenex there
on the dresser
dabbed with her lipstick.
My father has not thrown this
into the compactor. And I wonder
how he packed her housedresses for Goodwill.
Were they boxed and sealed
or wadded into a plastic bag?
Did he save a blouse to sleep with,
to tuck under his pillow, her Shalimar
lingering there, right beneath his face.
They slept in separate beds
There are six button down shirts
in my father’s closet. Ironed
into starched edges.
Hammered down with the weight of the iron.
He will not wear these shirts,
will not wash them, knowing this was her last act,
her last intention– ironing his shirts.
The Choo Choo / by Jerry Rumph
Concern doesn’t concern a six-year-old
throttling a two hundred ton
Electro Motive Division locomotive
along rusty tracks tied to soft earth
when his grandfather stands
behind the conductor’s seat
covered in blue polyester coveralls.
His paw paw’s there to ease
the throttle back to three when he
rams it all the way to derailment.
But when the six-year-old has a six-year-old
and paw paw’s a hollowed out wool suit
sandwiched between silk stuffed
with polyester batting, that old six-year-old
worries about each milligram
of a southern house spider
webbed in the crevice of a closet
and his wife’s ability to sleep.
So he’s there to push it in a clear glass
with an old grocery list and free
it in the grass on the back fence line.
Poem 17 / Day 17
Q&A / by Michelle Acker
What sets the birds all chirping at once, and why
is the sound like orange flowers clustered on the vine?
What does the cat dream of, tail twitching, and if I
understood it, could I put a harness on my mind?
Why do the flies just now emerge from their maggots,
or fall as weightless pebbles on the floor?
And if there’s a glass jar full of sunlight and air
under the window, and I drank it, could I think anymore?
PARING / by Laura Apol
It is still morning-dark when I read
your message in bed. Dog on one side, cat
on the other. You say you are checking out
a job in Singapore. You know how I like
to shake things up. I check in with myself
to see how I feel. Get up. Go through
the day-start routine. It is bitter
cold. The sunrise on the river is gray-blue-
gray-pink against slate water and
bare trees. All I can think is I’m glad
I found my missing glove yesterday—retraced
my steps and there it was, frozen in the slush
of the parking garage. But ruined by mud
and salt. I start the coffee, feed the pets, ready
the fire. The ashes look like cloth until
I touch them and they crumble. On the counter
the onions are going bad. I throw one out;
the other I cut in half.
Sean Meet Alice, Alice Meet Sean / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
a not poem hoping not to be found
We did tremendous opportunity, if you look at the opportunities we have given everybody -We had almost 160 million people working. Nobody has been close – And it – and it’s going to – a lot of things are happening right now – And many other things, you won’t have that you would like to have. -I watched that. I couldn’t really watch it for that long a period of time. It was over eight minutes. And who could — who could watch that? The event that took place yesterday was — I thought it was a terrible situation, but you can’t resist a police officer. And if you have a disagreement, you have to take it up after the fact. It was a very sad, very, very sad thing. And today and just got a report that the police officer’s lawyer said that he heard a sound like a gun, like a gunshot. And he saw a flash in front of him. So, that’s an interesting — you know, I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed that. I don’t even like to talk about that, because it’s fading away. It’s going to fade away. And we have had so many sign-ups. You know, there are lines of people now, and we won’t be there for three days. They have lines of people right now trying to get into the arena. I mean, they will be there. Nobody knew that it was going to be that contagious. It’s a highly contagious — there’s been nothing like this since 1917, over 100 years ago, where probably anywhere from 50 to 100 million people died. Look, he was a great rookie. And his second year was great. And then, after that, he started going downhill rather rapidly. And then he was out of football. And then he started suing everybody. We’re — we’re in great shape to put out the — I used to call them the embers or the flames. They flare up in certain areas a little bit. But I think we will put them out very quickly. China should have — China should have kept it where it was. They could have easily stopped it. They either lost control. They either suffered great incompetence. Something happened, or — I don’t know — the worst thing would be is if they knew this was going to happen, because, other than just, tonight, I heard and yesterday, they — it hit Beijing, to a certain extent. We made all the right moves, Sean.
If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see? Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction. Would you like a little more tea? Alice: Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more. March Hare: Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less. Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing. …and the moral of that is–Be what you would seem to be–or if you’d like it put more simply–Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise. Why is a raven like a writing desk? Twas brillig/and the slithy toves/did gyre and gimbel in the wabe/all mimsy were the borogoves/and the mome raths outgrabe. Only the insane equate pain with success. We are all mad here.
(perhaps an explanation is in order: the first section excerpts the PresidentsJune 18 interview with Sean Hannity, the second section is vintage Alice in Wonderland).
When Nature Calls / by Sandra Faulkner
for Jennifer Long
“People are defecating outside the Queen’s vacation home” (Rob Picheta, CNN • 29th June 2020)
Walkers are relieving themselves
next to Queen Elizabeth’s Castle,
busy paths and monuments repurposed
as an outdoor toilet wet wipes
mark their spot
as people socialize outside
seek quiet public places.
“If you need to pee
if you need to defecate”
move a bit further away
bury your contamination.
No public toilets makes
relieving oneself in the time of COVID
like so many wipes discarded,
so much displaced turf.
Garbage / by Joseph Heithaus
Back in my day you carried your garbage to the curb
and the cans were made of metal and the cans clanked and clattered
and usually had some dents and a man threw your trash into a truck,
none of this rumbling plastic bin on wheels, no big pincer picking
it up like it can’t be touched. We had real conversations with real
people. Everybody smoked so you could see
what was coming out of their mouths, even us kids stole
a few cigs so we’d look like the fuming adults who fumed
at us for real. None of this virtual hodge-podge, lap-top, tube-yous
to tell you how to get stuff done. We had paper instructions
we’d throw out the first chance we got and we’d figure it out
on our own. That’s how you did things. Solo. Maybe throw
a tantrum or two, but in a few hours or days things would be fixed
or put together or left in a pile. In those old days people’s voices
came out of a wire you’d twirl around your fingers or stretch
into the downstairs john so you could have a little privacy. It was simple.
You put your finger in a circle and moved the circle
seven times. It took a while so you could gather up
what you wanted to say before you said it, not this push button without
any real buttons, just pretend stuff on a screen. You said hello
and meant it, because you knew
some other person was somehow talking through
those wires to you. No robo-this or press-this-number-that
or some face facetiming to see your face. We liked our talk
inside those dark wires strung from house
to house, not willy-nilly words in the air, up to space
and back just to talk to a person in the same damn house.
We’d just get up and shout. Back then, if you wanted
to talk to your neighbor, you’d yell across the lawn, wanted
to talk to your grandparents, you’d pile into a station wagon,
and if you wanted to talk to someone real faraway, you wrote ‘em
a letter with a ball-point pen because long distance was something
only rich people could afford. And if you wanted the news
you’d uncurl some paper from a rubber band and you believed
it. None of this choose your own adventure with the facts on fox book,
face box, twit twat, tic toc toe. Back then facts were as solid
as that tin trash can with maybe a few dents, but you took the garbage
as it came, then carried it to the curb.
A lie / by Jules Lattimer
At a time that’s now a different era
I had gone out in a kayak without
my dad, turned a corner and beached
in a little alcove under the cliff. I upper-bodied
out of the boat splashed a few steps and
dragged the yellow kayak onto the gravel
landing by a rope tie. This isn’t an exciting
story. The rock walls were covered in sharp
sea green barnacles the beach gravel
was black and dotted with soft glass and
when I was mad or dramatic or a child
I would oar to the hiding place and lean
my back against the base of the tall cliff.
I have never since found a solution as clean.
A eulogy for the dead / by Jerry Rumph
You’re dead, time to forget about you
and move on to the next project – nationality.
I killed your Constitution in the middle
of Fifth Avenue and whittled
your principles, all with less
than half your permission.
They lied to you for me – vicariously –
and simultaneously told you what I meant.
No, I meant what I said.
I’m fulfilling a prophecy.
Page by page,
line by line,
the Revelation is here – time
to Make it Great Again – vicariously –
all through me, a compossible point of
chaos and singularity. Time
to take it back, way back, so very far
back, you’ve never seen anything like it.
It will be the best, hugest, most
amazing back you’ve ever seen,
will pay for it regardless.
After all, just think of the good
on both sides of Charlottesville
and a star-bangled “X.”
Poem 16 / Day 16
Wednesday Invocation / by Michelle Acker
Dry sound of thunder, follow me down into the space
between femur and the muscle that surrounds it.
Washed inside blood vessels. Neither dirty nor clean,
because nothing is dirty or clean, just touching
more or touching less. Water touches everything,
all the time—even the air is a few percent water
on a day like this, settling over the wavering
asphalt and all the tiredly squirming leaves.
Gift / by Laura Apol
The meaning of life is that it stops
Steeped in grief,
I longed for even a glimpse
hibiscus chords, hovering;
emerald plumes and a ruby
I put out sugar water.
Jazz, the calico,
reading my desire,
in the morning
laid at the door
a perfect blossom: iridescent
a clotted crimson throat.
The Barn / by Mary Pacifico Curtis
Can’t help but walk in, climb onto one bale, sit on another and pause. Dry hay, horse musk, mud and tack mix in thick air. Particles drift everywhere and I wonder if that’s what death is: particles spread fine into a place so much larger. Light makes no sense here, doesn’t belong, can’t perform any function in a place that needs its own darkness. Yet, light streams through siding and beams, making a glow of dust that should settle in the tranquility of a barn with life outside its doors.
There is a glow to this faded structure. Nature has romanced hollyhocks making them soar against the barn’s highest wood that slopes in parallel to its roofline, towering color and shadow against the knotty red. It’s a love affair of shadow against plank, purple flower gushing against faded red, feather petal against wood grain. In one moment with this barn as backdrop, man married woman, a child was conceived, new plants took root, animals calved. This barn stood, sheltered, vibrated against shadow and storm.
Mad Libs with (plural noun) Brothers / by Sandra Faulkner
Fill in the blanks with whatever
words you like (the nastier the better).
Use a number 2 pencil
so you can erase the stories
and make each one more disgusting
(like the tube socks you wad up
and hold under noses until the sibling
can’t help but breathe in the effluvium
of rotten feet). Work in the basement room
without mom and dad there to hear
your bad words. When you are done,
read out loud (with snorts and guffaws)
to hear the results and practice
the art of the insult.
Squeak / by Joe Heithaus
for Sarah upon her graduation of high school today
My kid is made of steel
sometimes, and sometimes silk
and other times some putty mixed
with tears. She keeps a cave inside her
with its requisite sign
that says Keep Out.
Still, I stay outside its mouth
and peer inside into her dark,
and know there are paintings
on its walls and light
inside its stones and laughter
in old bones that scatter
on its floor like clothes
she wears. Though I am a blind
and rash and stupid dad, I see
the thoughts inside her eyes
and catch the dazzle there,
the deep below. I know
she knows of human grief
and hurt and how resolute she is
to understand or offer
care, at least. And I admire
what my mother might have called
her pluck, some little lift
her shoulders do when her back’s
against a wall, that push
she has to see things through,
that little laugh you hardly hear,
a smirk that goes as quickly
as it comes. These are the hinges
of the doors she’ll open
or keep shut, my mystery girl
with some puzzles I have solved,
but with more for which no one
has a clue, even her, as her future
in this wounded world she came to
and explores unfolds. She’ll face
her share of walls and doors
and Keep Out signs herself,
but my little Squeak, I call her,
will gather up her pluck, and
like I said, our Squeaky
will squeak through.
untitled.16 / by Jacob Hunt
clocks taught to count down to three from seven
and over again
one stopped, followed by the rest
a stone table on the hill
red leaves rustling
wind, steady through
a flower blossoms
despite the odds
when did kings decide
to retreat rather
than lead the charge,
show the way
today, plump men in red hats
yet claim reward (a backwards ideal)
do great men still live
will new legends ever rise
or is this the end
has our fall begun
history tells the story, though we will never decide the outcome
a king will rise from the dust, only to return
calling upon what little strength remains
he moves, foes buckling as he goes
who wins when the battlefield becomes a graveyard for men who never knew why
promised honor and glory when they sacrifice
what for? what for
what have our ancestors and soldiers given their lives for?
(for thomas. who fought mans greatest enemy. defeating armies in africa, then on the beach of normandy. he was struck by a shell in france. his memory remains, a candle light somehow survives the wind)
one day soon the clock will tick again. and i, the clockmaker, will wait for time to begin
Outage / by Jules Lattimer
I was typing something about
coffee I could use later it’s
bitter sandy dirty? earthy,
ashy, I wanted to get the texture
right I called it soil smushed
in the bottom of a beaker and
then a flash and the power’s out
The blue bright screen lit up
the whole room and me and
the house went dark, dog paws
clicked past boxes and shoes
and bunched up rugs to come
find me. You were out, I met you
out, the lights outside were
out. Tall orange lights in a line
reduced to nothing big black shadows
like used matches sticking up
in the night sky. We drove
around to stabilize the car
lights worked we could charge
our phones I put my head out
the window and saw the
Milky Way which could be called
the Salty Way the Bleached
All-Purpose Flour Way framed
by moving shadows telephone
cables and boughs and bats
whipped through the perfect picture
rushing sideways I am leaning
sideways judging distance making
time out of the dots
Midnight Novena in a Coal Mining Town / by Marianne Peel
Dedicated to Therese Dawe Wood
“…None of us can help the things life has done to
us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re
done they make you do other things until at last everything
comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve
lost your true self forever…”
-Mary, from Long Day’s Journey Into Night,
By Eugene O’Neill
I want to tell you of my mother coming to me after death.
How she stepped into the kitchen with her back turned to me.
Always her back turned to me. Wiping the refrigerator
handle until the stainless steel is raw. Polishing off the shine.
Cleanliness is next to godliness. Bourbon stashed behind the
electric fry pan. Gentleman Jack Daniels is her buddy. Trysts
just after midnight. Adultery in a decanter. Accompanied
by bologna sandwiches and miracle whip. Her mouth a vice
of liquor and pickled lunch loaf. She takes her booze straight
up. Neat. No ice to dilute the click in her head. Glorious
click. She slurps with a straw drooping out of her glass. And
I want to tell you how she came to me as she slipped out the
window with her back to me. That same window she snuck
in and out of as a girl dating her marine. The way her mother
used to sit in the dark worrying over the worry beads praying
bead after bead of rosary imploring blessed virgin to escort
her daughter home. Protective halo shimmering. Blessed
protective aura. A hand extended to ferry her across any
bridge. Damn the troll beneath, lurking. Nine nights with
intention. Begging for intercession of Jude. Patron saint of
desperate situations. A plea to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.
Extend your merciful hand. Undo the knots that suffocate
your children. And only to rap her daughter on the head with
her black onyx ring. Hard. An oval shadow of a stone. Mama
never knew what clobbered her from the silence of the dark.
Just the sound of fingers moving bead to bead. Who would
have seen this coming down on her skull. Warning signal.
Trigger moment. The slow threading of fingers from bead
to bead. Glory be.
A Columbian-esque discovery / by Jerry Rumph
(A poem discovered within the lines of Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North)
En Mexíco lindo
no puedes comer belleza
you cannot eat beauty
in beautiful Mexico
The crabs can’t claw out of a bucket
of crabs that’s us
the crabs in a bucket of crabs
a pregnant she-crab
she’s our sister
I’m not pregnant
no men babosadas
How can the poor eat crabs
or beans from California
The poor eat armadillos
sold on the backs of lizards
and cornhusk dolls
on the highway
The highway smelled
smelled like cucumber salad