Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteer poets for July 2021 are Jaimee Boake, Aaron Bradford, Kai Coggin, Sandra Faulkner, Erik Fredericksen, Dan Murphy, Emily Pease, Kayla Vasilko, and Nicole Winters. 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
Follow what sounds like echo / A Cento for and by Jaimee Boake, Aaron Bradford, Kai Coggin, Sandra Faulkner, Erik Fredericksen, Dan Murphy, Emily Pease, Kayla Vasilko, and Nicole Winters.
You can hold almost anything that scares you
if you give yourself time. Emily Pease
curl and vanish
Aren’t we all just like a sapling,
a shaking thing
stretching our selves in
the spring, the spine—
do we stay together?
do we fit
as the earth (our beloved earth) falls apart?
If I say rabbit you will know
a honeybee can hold a million grains of pollen
an u n d u l a t ion
living your minuscule miraculous lives
inches away still warm
like the sun burning,
the non-touch feels stronger, electric
whirling like a tiny dervish
spinning the moment
it’s no small thing
time actually stops
in the human heart
you can never catch
the person you
know how to
keep the sun even,
all I want
high holy feeling like
my bright shiny
how they love
fire so hot it makes its own
Frozen is a synonym
A summer nonet / by Jaimee Boake
We grew our first garden that summer,
watched sunflowers stretching, wished time
could too, could pause in golden
hour, those quiet moments
of light spilling from
sky but we keep
Metamorphoses Book 5 / by Erik Fredericksen
What’s victory without a little interruption? Once there’s a passion, the next one
isn’t hard to trip-wire intensity only makes more of itself and jealousy is tireless
violence, meanwhile, has its own intentions, wants whichever victim it can find what’s
the word, again? Bystander how he uncovered the weapon—but anyway. The god’s still
somewhere in the audience. Noticing all the nuisances knowing all the mineral rights
Afterwards people still want things people still lose things they like
Let me tell you about the newest harvest, newest margins: so much pollen in the air,
so much petrol from petroleum. How material are your politics, she asked before leaving,
leaving just like that river where it goes underground. Of course, even here someone
has to lose. Just ask the ones who lost ask those warbling malcontents
Small Lament / by Dan Murphy
Gary fell Gary fell
from a mountain from a wall
first he slipped then he jumped
then O Gary O Gary
we think pain ends
until on the eyes are tears
and we runaround every which where
Hands on your heads (!)
some 3D figure bends says Run there
with slipped shoelace in dismay
it’s disarray all misplaced
O Gary at 13 school folder leaving so little
only 60 something undone I guess probably the face
some part of it is truth undressed
and lonely and long gone
thank you for the song
O good friend Gary
Meant to Be Treasured / by Kayla Vasilko
Bad things happen to show you that goodness
still exists. Angels are rainbows
that reveal themselves after a storm.
Guiding lights; an extended hand after
you’ve been pushed. When someone walks beside you
after you’ve been stranded. Lifts you up
after you’ve been let down. Shows you that for every loss,
lie, moment of pain, there are three acts of kindness.
it’s all part of a plan meant to serve as a reminder: despair bleeds
hope when you start to fight against it.
what lies beneath the surface / by Nicole Winters
count the stains proud
shins and knees
amaranthine where capillaries
& blood surfaces indigo
jaded at the edge first
before moss creeps in
& vessels glow
wear them like armor;
these marks are visible
the stress fracture, diagnosed
six years late in an x-ray;
the bone overcorrected
frothed over the fissure
in the wishbone
unnoticed until after
a third, in femur’s neck
& the impingement:
lesser trochanter ground
the edema swells
but the bruises,
Poem 29 / Day 29
It felt infinite, that summer we spent with strawberry stains on our fingers, / by Jaimee Boake
ruby-lipped, and skin reddened by relentless sun.
Row by row we raced to fill our buckets, watching the bees weave around the berries, in a field stretching forever.
We lived for the moment we hit our pail-picking quota,
could cool off in the late afternoon with a sprinkler under the trampoline
or virgin daiquiris on the deck, made with the fruits of our labour.
A first job at my aunt and uncle’s farm was really an extended sleepover, evenings filled with
campfire smoke and stars and secrets shared in that canvas tent, cousins raised more like sisters, each night staying up too late, each day like an echo of laughter.
Now the fresh fruit section of the grocery store makes me sad. You see,
it felt infinite, that summer we were inseparable but the seasons didn’t pause like we planned and provinces apart, I long for strawberries plucked from the plant and popped straight into my mouth, for the three of us under the sun.
The Dixie Fire / by Aaron Bradford
The air in the valley fills with smoke again.
It will likely stay like this the rest of summer.
Our masks serve two purposes now, eyes stinging
as we mix with other parents gathered outside
our school, waiting for children to filter through
gates. We bought our first masks when smoke
from Paradise spread to Sacramento—
a child’s birthday party ended, and as we left
the bounce palace, a windowless structure,
yellow fog touched the roofs of surrounding
warehouses. We drove through the stale
mustard smoke, and I bought surgeon masks
from Walgreens on the way home.
The cashier asked if he should get some
for his pregnant fiancée. Are there more?
We never paid attention to particulate matter
before, and I had never checked an air quality
report. Today, again, I can’t see the Sierra’s
outline, snowcapped in prior years, looming
in the east. Visibility is down to five miles,
and trees blur and appear in the pale slate smoke.
When Paradise burned and our schools closed,
N95s were discussed ad nauseum—mask efficacy,
percentage of filtration, proper fitting, all
or nothing protection. Talking points repeat.
COVID and fires repeat. Are there more?
Everything seems like preparation now
for future disasters, each moment a catastrophe
to be erased by the next moment’s cataclysm.
The smoke makes my tongue feel swollen, acrid
at the tip and edges. As we drive past ancient oaks
bordering a new development, electric lines come
clear. They build fire buffers in now. The white
of the sky, now intense and blurring. Our sage
green house looks stark against the sky,
and we move quickly to get inside, sheltering.
The moon tonight will glow. A solace.
The sky as the sun sets will be beautiful,
too, deep orange, magenta, garnet, the sun
itself a lonely fire burning on the horizon,
softening as the day cools.
⌘ Signs / by Kai Coggin
how when a person you love dies,
suddenly everything is a sign—
Is this her?
This blue butterfly fluttering
around my head, dancing a slow
walk across the the rain-speckled deck,
opening her wings—
Is this her?
Suddenly there is a cricket
in the house, invisible,
singing a high frequency song,
a delicate perfect music—
Is this her?
A prismatic rainbow appears
shining on the ice cubes in my drink,
another on my blue jeans
splayed across my thigh as I drive—
Is this her?
The soaring bird against
open blue sky, just as I look up,
just as I call her name.
Is this her?
The candle flame
seeming to dance with my thoughts,
with the twists and turns
of the worlds I shape in my head—
I know she has left her body
and is now a transcendent thing,
boundless and beautiful,
wild without form,
earth and stars.
Is this her?
She is everything now.
And wherever I look, there you are.
Lockdown / by Sandra Faulkner
I’m used piteous
the hookah out
the other side
out of sight.
nibbled struck frightened
pressed so closely
against it at last.
Correspondence / by Erik Fredericksen
In the dream I was driving and had to turn the headlights on. In the morning the allergies returned. You can control your breath or you can forget about it entirely. You can think about it as it goes about its business. A spider left a thread from windowsill to wall. The air from the vent kept it dangling in the other air. No, that’s memory, sorry. The table was real, and the computer, and the gift certificate. The article, it seemed, was interminable. Then lunch. I wanted something but forgot what it was. Just like that. In a new window there was a crenellated skyline and I wanted to know what city. More mail through the mail slot. Fat blue jay’s size brought into question what you picture when you hear blue jay. You meaning me. Sometimes we say that something really says something. Who knows. I was thinking of the dream after dinner. I was back at the table. The junk mail was piling up non-metaphorically. All of its messages in all of its envelopes.
Mega / by Dan Murphy
I’ve won too much
lost too much
to get excited
this is real money
so get excited
and real blood
on TV at least
those oh so real friends
you cannot lose
I read stuff
at first seems a ruse
I do read all the time
when I say I read it
I mean I read the headline
who has the time
I’m finding out
a lot about myself
and fast for example
I was in the supermarket
line it was a 7-11
when I got it
found my mega holy
and cried O god
I got a good
feeling gotta good
holy moly mega
super roller coaster
super bonanza smile
before time collapsed
it does and I
cut my hair
a short buzz I
didn’t give a comb
didn’t give a care
It’s like that
only I can hold
it in my hand
show to another
it’s no small thing
time actually stops
in the human heart
Cauldron of Difficult Dreams / by Emily Pease
I have nightmares where I’m falling into a hole
My mind stirs a cauldron of difficult dreams—
A steaming cauldron, odor of fat and bones
A frog slipping backward in a boiling pot.
Like a mysterious dream boiling to the surface,
The night my mother died I laughed in my sleep.
I laughed out loud to see her fall from a vine
To see her fall from a vine and float like snow—
Like snow falling in the magic in-between
The spirit in the after-life floats and swings.
As, just after death, my mother came in a dream,
Now, long ago gone, my mother hardly lives.
So long ago gone, she seems like a dream.
I have nightmares where I’m falling into a hole.
Gone too Soon / by Kayla Vasilko
A week goes by too fast
a hard-earned vacation. A chance
to turn away from screens, to open eyes,
breathe. Unpacked in a blink, memories
overflowing from the luggage.
Butterflies and strawberry
ice cream; bowling shoes and movie stubs; first
love. Never meant to last. One in a million walk
out the other side of college hand
in hand, but they’re too sweet to
ever be forgotten.
A July Ferris wheel, a view of elephant
ears and corn on the cob. Fireworks
that fade like summer tans as autumn falls. Why
does time refuse to stop and enjoy the ride?
The first day of school marks
the start of the countdown to
the end of the day, the week of the test, the door.
Yet graduation day brings nostalgia. A fond
haze colors the campus, an unyielding desire to walk
the halls just one more time.
So many happy endings you want to just begin again.
daydream in summer / by Nicole Winters
send me a photo of the lake —
mountains tower behind
& the sun beams burning
skin and sand & I can hear water
fueled by blades
& coconut oil
for sun bleached hair
daylight coaxes new
freckles to the surface
while I scrawl in my sketchbook
about the lake
about the water
about toes digging into dunes,
the sun reflects
your arms wrapped
around my waist
does humidity slow
sweat beading at temples;
keep the sun even,
& drape an arm
Poem 28 / Day 28
A quiet place / by Jaimee Boake
Where branches bend under the weight of ripe berries,
the colour of the sky at twilight,
a black bear moves in the bushes.
The earth keeps birthing wonders in this wild;
a corner of forest not yet cut down,
trees meeting turquoise waters.
A soul hushed by fresh air and sky,
by the quiet way the mountain
Digging in the Dirt / by Aaron Bradford
The grass is gone after three mornings
spent digging up the front yard. I tried
to preserve the maple’s root system
as I went, tracing lines. Most knobs
I’ve watched grow and push, but one went
under the walkway, a large knuckle
pushing the edge closest to the trunk, tendrils
of roots spreading past the property line
into the neighbor’s grass. As I dug, I found
the roots of their willow, darker than ours,
clay red, the red of the branch tips in late
winter as shoots reveal dormancy was never
dormant. I tried to imagine communication
as I sifted dirt to leave the webbing,
their interdependence, intact.
Would this digging shock? I treated soil
before stretching ground cover. Rocks
come in tomorrow. If these walls could talk,
too much idiomatic drama. When these trees
do talk, roots tingling, will they know
rocks don’t need watering? Will they know
despite what Whitman said about grass,
this lawn in California doesn’t symbolize
the continuity of life, just the sprawl of suburban
legend? I sit under canopy as the sun sets,
slow watering to offset loss. I’ve known the curve
of each branch, tended since sapling. Able now
to sense the movement of roots, I dig my fingers
into soil as the gloaming darkens.
⌘ All The Colors Are Yours (for Beatriz) / by Kai Coggin
When I heard you wanted to cross over now,
that your earthly body was no longer strong enough
to hold your Pachamama warrior soul,
I cried silent tears that I would never see you again in the flesh,
that you and I would never speak Spanish to each other
sitting in front of the ocean,
or that I would never never hear you laugh again,
but those are all earthly things,
those are all my aches
which are nothing compared to yours,
your grandchildren swept away in a tsunami
your cancer and survival of it close to the end
the political oppression in Argentina and your tireless fight
the life you still wrapped in so much Light
querida hermana del cielo
no hay ninguna persona quien puede resistir su ascension,
andale, amiga de las estrellas,
todos los colores son tuyos,
y te amo, te amo siempre Beatriz
and I learned that when a body transitions,
when the soul transmutes decades of matter,
when the soul is done playing out karma on this devastating earth,
when the soul rises out of flesh and releases,
there is a clairvoyant swirl of a rainbow
that rises up and out and through to the other worlds,
matter transcending into spirit,
and I hold my sword up as high as I can
next to all who love you,
make an archway of light to guide you
back to who you always are,
Luz del infinito,
Light, endless Light.
and I will see you there, Beatriz
todos los colores son de usted
all the colors are yours.
Mad Libs with (number) Two (plural noun) Brothers / by Sandra Faulkner
Fill in the blanks with whatever words
you like, (phrase) the nastier the better.
Use a number 2 pencil, so you can erase
and (verb) rewrite the stories to make each one
(3 adjectives) disgusting, filthy, and vile
like the tube socks you wad up
and hold under your (plural noun) siblings’ nose;
you can’t help but breathe in the (adjective) effluvium
of (adjective) rotten (part of the body) feet.
Work in (room of a house) the basement
where mom and dad can’t hear
or (verb) wash your mouths out with the bar of soap.
When you are done, read out loud (active verbs)
with snorts and guffaws, you (adjective) stupid
(adjective) smelly (color) brown (animal) possum:
this is how you practice the art of the insult.
Sycamore / by Erik Fredericksen
After/for Tomas Tranströmer
See the sycamore pulling all
the residual light from the sky.
Those gaps in its branching,
the leaves’ faint vasculatures.
Another bee steers its way
up the balcony’s iron railing
to the flowers’ raised bed,
having been born two weeks ago.
You are still worried about being the blue-haired aunt
thinking they’ll drop you gagging in some police line-up
with clay-blue pigeons blue cigarette smoke curling up
into yellow lights smoked blue-gray with agitation
the blue underprint of 3M sheets from an expired
warranty but it is not 1973 not Kissinger’s
fascist blue heaven not for a long time yet you can keep
smoking and shooting those birds like other fierce gals
who light up plum customers in cheap-ass restaurants
keep ordering the blue light special with an azure
lifestyle and cerulean mythology they have you
unearth a valuable legacy a blue world beneath
you rocking a leg-numbing blues kicking vinyl seats
pulling deep on those Marlboro menthols you see
the police uniform walk in blue and black rayon
and how you feel blue baby so blue breathing out hard
Pigeon / by Emily Pease
In a study recently reported, scientists taught pigeons
to memorize certain words
–The Cut, Sept. 19, 2016
We know them by their red eyes and feet,
plumage of blue gray green hovering
under the overpass, shadowing
cars below, shitting.
Perched on statues, balanced on the arm
of the one who brings peanuts, his
one friend streaking his coat.
Some creatures are beloved, like doves,
some despised. Some a delicacy eaten,
Even so, we now know pigeons can be taught to read.
Once across America, passenger pigeons darkened
the sky. The sky disappeared behind them.
Their screeching sounded like death. Others said
Millions flew, millions slaughtered.
American sound of passenger pigeons: guns.
Junius Brutus Booth, father of the assassin,
watched flocks flutter from the sky, so purchased
bushel baskets and filled the baskets full.
In his hotel room, he laid pigeons on the floor, wept.
Tangerine-breasted, limp-necked, dead red eyes.
Next he bought a coffin for his pigeons, hired a horse
and wagon, drove them to a cemetery.
Grieving, he placed a hand to his breast, said
a theatrical eulogy.
Extraordinary / by Kayla Vasilko
The only thing ordinary is the imagination,
and only sometimes at that. Only when it has the capacity
to believe that there are ordinary things in the world. Only when
it has the ability to produce words
like: “Oh, you’re going to become a teacher? Just like everyone else.” Only
when it has the audacity to stop at the world “else” but mean for the words “like you” to
follow. Like me how? In age? In gender? In hair color? In dreams?
In history? In experiences? There is no one like me.
There is no one like anyone else at all. Did they know that my teacher was
an immigrant, a single mother who escaped abuse, a singer
who won many prizes, an artist who painted the sky,
with patience and heart who taught six classes a year, had more than a hundred
students, and stayed ten hours every day to inspire
a dyslexic child to one day teach writing. There is no one else
exactly like that.
There are billions of individuals
in the world. Trillions of different things. Infinite combinations. All exactly once
in a life time.
I’m tired of putting people into boxes. Labeling
them and forgetting their real names. Calling them doctors and police
officers. Thinking that because a person who was also a lawyer made
a bad decision, that all lawyers are bad. Never considering that they had their own
name, their own desires, their own history, their own mind. Simply striking
that profession, and striking the good people who work hard
and work under the same caption. Erasing what the title is truly
supposed to stand for, letting those who are cruel redefine it for themselves.
I don’t want to be on any one side.
I want to stand in the middle where I can see it all.
a night in death valley / by Nicole Winters
sit around the fire
& name visions gleaming
desert dunes migrate in a windstorm
mosaic canyon sandstone
the salt flat basin
below sea level
delicate droplets begin
to dance in ever
shifting wind subtle,
the fire doesn’t notice
& the moon rises so swollen
pinch my fingers
& take her pulse
ignore the rain,
it will stop —
keep an eye on undulating coals
hair rises with cold
there’s no warmth in moonlight
but the rain will stop
flames shiver yellow & orange,
a flicker of green
dry air peels away
skin on my lips
for the first time,
the rain tastes
Poem 27 / Day 27
A fantasy in which I try to confront my feelings / by Jaimee Boake
The fruit truck is parked at the end of main street again and its freshness makes me furious,
as much as the driver responding just peachy
when the lady from the post office asks how he is today.
It’s not his fault it leaves his lips sounding less like a lie
than when you said it in that hospital room
but I need someone to blame.
I pick up a peach, roll it in my palm.
It’s perfect, really.
Plump, the pale shade of sunset.
But the fuzz under my fingers is too like your hair growing back after treatment.
So I squeeze and squeeze until the skin gives under my grip,
juice sticky as it drips down my arm.
I grab another, tear its flesh with my teeth,
spit its sweetness on the sidewalk. I only let bitterness on my tongue these days.
It’s not enough. It’s never enough.
So I hurl the crate to the ground,
peaches rolling like thunder down the pavement.
Stomp on some and scream that they’re rotting from the inside out,
you just can’t see it yet.
You think things are fine, but they are not.
And when the peaches are all bruised and broken,
I do not let myself look away.
⌘ Midwifing Tadpoles in the Anthropocene / by Kai Coggin
She made a siphon
with a long black tube
and through some water sorcery
sort of vacuumed up the hundred or so
wriggling tadpoles that were
clinging to the side walls of our pool,
not to be sucked out into oblivion
mind you, but moved swiftly,
as if worm-holed,
into their own private
pond we made out of the blue
plastic bin that used to hold
our Christmas decorations, now a makeshift
manger for a hundred or so baby froglets
almosting into their other selves,
and you should have seen their little black bodies
shooting out of that tube all slow motion,
like the softest bullets moving peace,
wiggling into this smaller ocean
one after another until every tadpole
was safely transported into this new den
of development, and normally we would just walk
the big blue container over to the koi pond
and dump them in there to live out their metamorphosis
but the koi fish have been insatiably hungry lately
and that just seemed like a raw deal—
they wouldn’t have stood a chance, you know?
So here we are, in the peak of summer,
midwifing tadpoles in the anthropocene,
my wife and I in a legitimate wildlife
sanctuary creating a safe little stillness
for these hundred or so babies to grow,
what’s a few days?
we say to ourselves,
then we find out a few days
is actually 12-14 weeks for these
squiggly adorable things to become frogs
who can actually fend for themselves.
Maybe mama frog singing her night trills
out our kitchen window from the gardenia
knew the koi pond was a no-go, and desperate times
called for desperate measures, so she released her
jelly clutches of eggs into our human hands,
and yes these are desperate times,
and it’s about time humans did something for
a species other than their own,
so here we are,
midwifing tadpoles in the anthropocene.
Is there ever a threshold of tenderness?
I never want to cross it.
Sometimes I go out and sit by the baby blue
transformation station, watch them all wiggle,
give them silly names like Jane and Barnaby,
even brought a couple of floating lily pads
from the koi pond and plopped them in,
tilted a nice stone to the wall,
really spruced up the place,
and they seem to like it,
so here we are—
doulas of evolution,
midwives of metamorphosis,
helping a fellow mother of the world,
who sings her trills of thanks out our window
on the gardenia branch overlooking her children.
Why we are not getting another hamster despite the imploring post-it notes my daughter has plastered on my bedroom door / by Sandra Faulkner
The hamster freed herself from the habitrail,
her tunnels were a prison, she leapt over a rail;
the dogs lay in wait by the bathtub moat
to execute their perfidious sting—
the domestic curs broke her throat.
Now, she lies like a martyred queen
with the silken fur of pet shop dreams—
her hair coiffed like sugar and cream—
entrails pulled out like a string of pearls
the incomparable luster and sheen
set off by tendrils of whisker curls.
Never mind the ruptured spleen
splayed out on the antique rug.
Focus on how the kaleidoscoped pattern hugs
the intricacies of the perfect hamster,
your memories of impossibly soft fur
how she became the perfect rodent
that no other can follow.
Agenda / by Erik Fredericksen
Anything is infinite
if infinitely divisible. If
after the news you
still desire, it
would still be good.
Would you wish
for a minute,
for a month,
not to, it seemed
to say. The videos
of the rain as if thrown
against the window, the
insect holding, somehow,
as though in the pocket
of some fundamental inertia.
There are things
like the muted television
and there are things like
the lamplight, flickering.
Anything is infinite
if infinitely repeatable:
a video, or an insect,
or a pause in the rain.
Penal Code What Penal Code / by Dan Murphy
We weren’t arrested but did the small crime we weren’t shot
but told to sit and stay we were cuffed and told stay the cop
leaned in close his old man pale face with blue vein like small
earthworm a parasite on his face he leaned in his breath foul
like grandfather’s cured with pipe tobacco he said you ain’t
coming back I don’t have time for you understand don’t faint
girls he grabbed my balls squeezed he spit in my face he left Vince
alone we weren’t arrested we did a small crime hopping a fence
the trampolines we were 15 we weren’t shot a cop told us off
a tale for college roommates but Vince started an off road shop
The One that Got Away turns out it was a bar where bottles
were passed around we weren’t cuffed we walked home not rattled
just kept spitting into the bushes hosed off my face walking home 2 am
we weren’t arrested we weren’t shot we were shown cuffs then
told to sit the old cop Grandpa Badge said you boys from around here
you got families wanna bother about this I don’t think you will dear
remember this happened tomorrow and squeezed his eyes shut
he squeezed and laughed squeezed and laughed and spit
(an erasure) / by Emily Pease
I was so weary of the world/I was so sick of it/
everything was tainted with myself
D.H. Lawrence, “New Heaven and New Earth”
another morning another sun
and t takes all my strength
to do th s over again
so s ck of myself ’ve
s ck of look ng out on the world
through these same eyes
hear ng the no se n
th s same m nd
at the table
cup and plate
you’ll be there whether
‘m al_ve or not
and the cup and plate w ll rema n
when step out the door
the dog w ll cry
Lost and Found / by Kayla Vasilko
What happens to the flowers that never get planted?
Rows of orange, pink, and lavender, in pods
at the nursery. All fresh, full of lime green new growth, springtime. Sought
after. Desired. Hundreds remaining in the late summer, tinged
with fall, brown and brittle. Robbed of the chance to stretch
their roots in the garden, to invite the butterflies
and bees to the yard of a house.
What happens to the seeds that never take root?
So much hope in the beginning, tiny spots
of life, dozens of holes. Bright sunshine, water, warmth. Many never
end up sprouting. Few make it beyond that, trampled, pulled,
poisoned, mistaken for weeds, never blossoming fully, never budding.
Never really whole.
What happens to the birds that never soar?
Blessed with the gift of flight; soft blue feathers meant
to be above – trees, mountains, clouds, all. Clipped
before they could ever be tested, mourning
a height they never got to reach.
Everything beautiful, forgotten.
Worthy only as long as memory has space to spare.
sunrise in acrylic / by Nicole Winters
lay out the tubes neat,
cadmium yellow & red,
each color gets a pool
put the palette knife
in yellow first,
just a touch of blue,
so the wave reflects
before it peaks
bristles into currents.
under the surface;
a sandbar collapses
& I’m three again
barefoot on the patio
thumbing each break
the water in me swells
painting my first love
the same ocean
Poem 26 / Day 26
Things that are vulnerable / by Jaimee Boake
(after Sei Shonagon, prompted by @kallorywrites)
Hazy beginnings in a shitty bar with cheap beer
hearts that tried to quit each other
but couldn’t last 24 hours
getting a dog//getting another dog
the little ravine-edge rental with a forest worth of leaves to rake
and the real test if this was it
a pearl ring offered like a promise
a tiny church in the heat of summer
the space stretching between two I dos
potted banana pepper plants lining the windowsill
in a house with a yellow door we call home
walls lined with photos of it all
how far we’ve come
Uses of Enchantment / by Aaron Bradford
A fairy tale theory casts The Little Mermaid
as an allegory of Hans Christian Anderson’s love
for a man who spurned him to marry a woman—
the mermaid wants to live in a world she can’t,
loving a man who ends up marrying a human
woman. The dots connect. Letters support
the claim. In his original, the mermaid doesn’t
get her prince. Instead she turns to sea foam,
dissolving into air. A Christian moral is added,
where she can earn her way to heaven with good
deeds. Anderson tries to scare us, taking pleasure
in the fear of children, desiring transformation,
unable to get it himself. But maybe now, we can
agree, at the edge of our climate, being human
and dissolving into sea foam are similar fates.
⌘ Only the Infinitesimal / by Kai Coggin
It seems I can’t get my head
out of the magnified
graces of infinitesimal beings
swirling all around me
in this season of burning,
this season of heatwaves, wildfires,
and cataclysmic destructions,
this apotheosis of climate warnings
and global temperatures steadily warming,
polar icecaps and glaciers melting into memory,
into oceans and flooding, China had a year’s worth
of rain in a matter of hours, and I can’t get my face
out of the flowers, can’t stop watching
bouncing from the bright petals of the giant zinnias,
coral, violet, red, back to coral,
the velcro of her body
pollinating all the colors, playing bee footsie
with the tiny yellow star stigmas open and waiting,
on her hind legs golden saddlebags
stuffed swollen with nectar-sticky pollen,
a honeybee can hold a million grains of pollen
in each of those saddlebags,
and she is just here, in our garden,
doing her undaunted bidding with the planet,
here with her other honey and bumble friends,
spreading gametes to ovules, propagating flower
sex and hope for some semblance of tomorrow,
she works, dances, dives face first into colors,
as do the tiny tongues of hummingbirds,
the minute feet of beetles,
and the iridescent wings of butterflies,
all pollinators, so that later, there may still be
I watched a milkweed pod crack open in the summer heat
and reveal dozens of sleeping seeds inside
all lined up like soldiers about to jump from a plane,
the war against humans perhaps, the battle of time,
so glorious is their perfect milkweed seed design,
as they loosened in the wind, I saw each brown wonder
was equipped with its own ethereal feathery white parachute,
ready to rise into a drift of air and land in some willing soil
to bury and grow and sprout and feed again
some Monarch, some unappreciated Royalty—
these things are happening
while the world is burning, friends,
and maybe if I name them,
if I lend them my pointed attention,
and signal in keys my undivided gratitude,
that vibration will pound its own subtle harmonies
into all of the breaking around us,
if we are, in fact, all connected as matter evolving
to Spirit, perhaps if I genuflect my poems
to the holiness of only the infinitesimal,
something will bloom that is infinite,
perhaps if I just focus
the whole of my cosmic heart
on these small mundane miracles,
I am helping somehow to build a new world,
heavy with my golden saddlebags
and ethereal feathery parachute
pollinating the thoughts
that energy can
The Wrath / by Sandra Faulkner
came into our room
a decade of Sundays
Source: Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic, p. 80. New York: Simon and Schuster
Morning / by Erik Fredericksen
What was the joke
about living in a simulation?
Article: everything you need to know
about seasonal hair loss. Outside:
wind rousing the tall pines. Across
the water, horizon-woods like
an uneven carapace, like just
enough force could pry the forest
from the shore. Phone gives
the time. Gives a memory in
photograph. The dog is
sighing, now. The weather
the forecast. Inside:
someone is playing, again,
the very popular song.
Someone is asking a question
of someone else. Someone is
searching what kind of fish
they saw yesterday, or
what kind they ate. Advertisement
says time is running out, but
not gone yet. What was the name
of the song about the morning?
Breaking Silence / by Dan Murphy
Tonight the moon stays hidden just behind a tree the edge
on top is round the belly full but still won’t break through
to sight that yellow gem old Fox found she hoarded and
swallowed then disgorged pregnant with world worry sick
over the plains and mountains we creep along in blue sedan
with one gallon left before the road ends I’m glad we didn’t
take S along with us he likes my girl too much he breaks my
heart later in the story but tonight we just want to get high
and watch the moon break through the stringy web of clouds
filtering out sadness holding back darkness there’s Coyote
following beside the car we don’t let in to ride he wants to
speak his mischief above the din the chitchat of stars an audience
we’ve ignored so far I don’t know what you want neither of us was
ready I didn’t think you’d be so mad and you won’t talk still
or is it again with the rule we could make it to the shore tonight
but not back we can sleep inside our car shushed like pilgrims
For Bobby / by Emily Pease
On Franklin Street at that curve in the road,
a bright white apron, blond-curled cook
shaking a pan of flour, breading fish out
in the open, smiling as if to say Doesn’t
everyone cook this way?
Outside, watching cars go by, sliding
flounder filets in rhythm, flour &
salt & pepper.
Smiling, with a chipped front tooth.
A good life you had until the darkness came.
In my mind, you smile perpetually,
shaking a pan of flour on Franklin Street.
It’s spring, and on a day this balmy,
a shame to stay in the kitchen.
You taught me how to cook, Bobby.
Season & shake. Don’t let a good day
go to waste.
Just a Face in the Crowd / by Kayla Vasilko
Numbers are deciding
factors, not words. It’s no fun to join one
person, standing in a corner, shunned. The joy is
in the crowd – being welcomed in, heard
amidst the loudest, propelled. Not two against
the world, the world at the will of many. Symbols
matter too, dollar signs over decimals;
12.000 vs. 12,000
color counts just as much; green adds up
the fastest of all. On paper, people are just
numbers anyway. Seven billion hearts. A lot
of pain. Many needs. One planet, controlled
by a select few.
keepsakes / by Nicole Winters
when I get home, I sip coffee
from the earth
mug I found in santa fe
back in the canyon,
feel the warm rock
under my palms,
against my legs the river
when I pour into the oak
my hometown it
around the pier,
the sun beaming
from the local clay store
colored the landscape around it
rock faced ridge & green
coffee on the inside mirrors
water I waded through
what am I reliving next?
clay has a memory,
so I take a sip of coffee & remember
the moments that led me to it
Poem 25 / Day 25
After “This Gentle Surgery” by Malachi Black / by Jaimee Boake
the jagged edge of mountain sky slices
straight to my hardened heart, reminds me
to breathe pine scent sharp enough to excise
heavy city, pressing upon my lungs.
just as stone, my brittle bones will be carved
by the cold stream trickling through old wounds.
remake me in metaphors, i ask
this holy place. i want to be
fierce and free and whole. To be a bear waking
at the first hints of spring, blood stirring with gentle breeze
and the birds, stretching winter from my limbs.
I let the the land cut me open and
kiss all the broken parts until I am
pieced back together like a poem.
Out Late / by Aaron Bradford
The full summer moon
slides between peach tree branches,
ripe unpicked late fruit.
⌘ Damper / by Kai Coggin
Reporting back (bink) on the blue
(bink) mud-dauber wasp
making a (bink) personal pipe organ
inside our Japanese wind-chimes,
(bink) she’s building away at a small
nesting (bink) complex system of mud
tunnels up through the (bink) singing
metal shaft, making holy our music
with her steady (bink) growing labor and hum.
It is extra (bink) breezy this morning,
the sounds of the six singing wind
chimes (bink) vibrate in the full octave
of their intention as the heavy
wood gongs (bink) against them
in the breeze, tubular Japanese harmony
reflecting the (bink) zen of the moment,
the music of the spheres,
the (bink) melodious movement of
sounds in the air with perfect pitch,
all except (bink) one—
all except the tunneled mud tube
and its dampered a cappella,
(bink) the softened blow
of that highest-tuned tube
all chocked and (bink) full of future blues.
She’s been busy making separate rooms
for each of her (bink) eggs,
at least four mud tunnels (bink)
all with their own stacked unknown
chambers, and (bink) only in this poem do I
rationalize her motives, her development
song that humans (bink) only name as pest,
(bink) her elaborately designed rooms,
her individual (bink) living quarters per egg,
her mud-cordoned cells (bink) for spiders
she paralyzes and (bink) keeps alive
so her babies can feast
(bink) when they wake,
this single mother—
(bink) and all her building,
all her determined working,
all her (bink) pupal planning
putting a damper on the music,
muffling (bink) the wind chimes’ complete song,
filling our pipe with dreams. (bink)
And I’m out here every morning
watering the garden (bink) with her persistent
soundtrack of hope singing in the
(bink) breezy background.
Her solitary buzzing and vibrating
inside that tube (bink) is something
resonant in the ethers,
(bink) the gentle damper
is a song that says a human
lent her (bink) this decadent instrument
to tunnel her children’s’ becoming,
and when I (bink) hear that
I think of her
and it makes me smile,
because this song (bink), I know by heart.
In the Attic / by Sandra Faulkner
Stumbling in broken pieces
Source: Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic, p. 23. New York: Simon and Schuster
Going / by Erik Fredericksen
Inlet by which
bay becomes river,
through which the sun
commutes in the evening it
makes by leaving. Boat’s wake
rising then canceling. The clear
purpose of fuel, its smell, its
exhalation. Propelling west,
which is going forward
or going home, which is
going up or going away.
A fish jumps up from the water
and falls back in. The surface
smooths the disruption
outwards in all directions.
Water’s memory being so
capable, short and long, water being
able to leave and able to stay. Going
nowhere until the motor starts.
Small Tribute / by Dan Murphy
My old roommate would not wear a shirt with labels to save
his life he shaved his head weekly smoked a small pipe of weed
to sleep after study turned me on to Big Joe Turner Louis Jordan
Johnny Burnette Trio Con Funk Shun and Fang he studied plant science
and kicked the walls when neighbors next door yelled and he couldn’t
sleep then became a bike messenger in the city for 35 years he’s old
and gray like a cartoon goat with golf cap quit smoking still knows
the best Chinese food in Chinatown I told him oatmilk was good
in espresso he laughed missing his cigarettes tapping his finger on
the spotty table top outside Trieste he’d been indoors 2 years his
mother died and his old college roommate came and toured him
around his city drained of Big Tech money finally I think he smiled
and love is funny not a label you wear more a scar some have
above the lip where a beloved just missed once years past
Too-Bright Light, Human Skin / by Emily Pease
In the museum, a beetle clings to the docent’s hand:
razor legs, shellacked shell, horn like a knife.
You can hold it if you like.
He offers the beetle benignly, a minister lifting
the holy host, enormous beetle planted
on his hand like a captured bird. Prehistoric peat-
digging rhino, child-sized. Able to carry
eight hundred times its weight. Able to hiss with its
legs, grapple and fight for a mate. Hold it.
You can hold almost anything that scares you
if you give yourself time.
The beetle settles over the top of my hand and I
feel its grip, sticky, as if the nubs of its feet
are coated with glue. It looks through black
impenetrable eyes past its sharp black horn.
In its brain: too-bright light, human skin.
Power is Control / by Kayla Vasilko
In its brain: too-bright light, human skin.
It takes only a large group to turn
a lie into truth.
An invisible scene is painted
by desire alone; someone shouts, “I see
it!” Someone strong. Someone loud.
Then a group joins in, and just like that, it is newly
categorized. It is seen. Anyone without
benefit from the mirage
is silenced before they have the chance
to ask what’s there. Anyone on the outside
who says they can see
something – bad – is labeled
as blind. You can’t win a war
The victors rewrite history anyway. They’re the only
ones loud enough to make word travel, and strong
enough to hold the pen.
craft / by Nicole Winters
it doesn’t even hurt when the skin rips,
the sting sets in later,
rawness swells with pressure
clip away the dead pieces careful
two days later, clay burrows under the edge
from the wheel, peeling it back further
just enough to split deeper,
enough for blood to trickle
into the earth spiraling
between my palms
tattooed later with memories
some that feel like dreams
blurred at the edges, but carved
clean through white against tan
to make good art
you have to pour yourself into it
Poem 24 / Day 24
After “Special Problems in Vocabulary” by Tony Hoagland / by Jaimee Boake
I think there should be a section in the dictionary written by the dreamers, the children.
The ones who see most clearly.
Then maybe we’d have a word for the way
sea foam sweeps sandcastles away and the
destruction is delightful because you get to rebuild.
For when a puppy stretches out after play, all pink belly and paws scurrying in sleep.
They’d give a name to grass tickling backs while summertime popsicle-stained fingers pointed at the sky, searching for the clouds’ secrets.
Drinking water right from the hose and the bite of a carrot pulled right from the garden, the bit of dirt in your teeth could be found under synonyms for delicious.
Bedded down in a blanket fort while chocolate chip cookies bake would deserve a mention in that big book,
along with the way a ladybug lands on your finger and lingers.
Maybe we could learn, when asked about love,
to write the embarrassed giggle that escapes when your parents kiss or dance in the kitchen.
Maybe, a page left empty for us to fill.
Trash Day / by Aaron Bradford
The play structure is out for large item pickup.
I had built sections in the garage eight Christmases
ago and set it up during a rainstorm. Two droughts
have passed since then, one extreme, the other
exceptional. A third wave has moved through—
the worst yet. I refresh daily a color-coded
map charting conditions to stay current. This one
ignores the county lines that mark infections and
voting, matching the air quality indexes and fire
pages I also watch. I had been helping Santa
that rainy season. The curtains were closed so no
peeking eyes could watch, but our daughters heard
me cussing as I slipped in mud and cut my hand
after my gloves sogged, but our oldest swung
Christmas morning under an umbrella. It barely
holds up now, exposed so long to the elements. Heat
keeps the girls inside most days—the grape vines
and weeds they decorate with have dried. Without
replenishment, their fairy webs cracked in my hands
as I prepped to saw rungs. Rusted bolts needed cutting,
too, but soon the pieces were stacked, redwood drying.
Clutch (after Diane Seuss) / by Kai Coggin
Dress Rehearsal / by Sandra Faulkner
my hair hung
flimsy like voile
the fancy costume of
Source: Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic, p. 121. New York: Simon and Schuster
Auto Poem / by Erik Fredericksen
If I say rabbit you will know something has happened
to it. Amazing the power in moving
or not moving my foot, keeping still my right foot.
I am a device turning time into distance, or distance
into merely time. The rabbit’s body stays
where somebody left it. There is a delivery truck
passing. They call it fulfillment. As in getting
what you want. Scenic means you
are what passes through. Time-lapse means
you lose it. No new ornament
without some loss. We are different people.
Hey Hallelujah / by Dan Murphy
Don’t leave me this way don’t put me on your once
muscled arm gone to fat some cheap tattoo you don’t
put baby in a corner not me you see that spray paint
tribute to Memo 1929-2013 in military outfit at freeway
onramp that’s how you remember him when drafted
at 19 what war did he serve what line brought him in
from hiding I fought like Hell too for my country I hid
from my God my heart was broken and I called out I
called like the soul singer her bouffant hairdo like Sufi
headdress addressing the microphone as witness then
the wonderstruck crowd yes I called out freestyle poetry
why hast thou forsaken me Lord your only son but why
do you have to make my mark this loss my failure my
egregious death this stupid damn cross dragged hard
We Were Jewels / by Emily Pease
Hand in hand on ice, wrist to wrist, a hundred eyes
watching us, white and black, fingers touching,
gliding thigh to thigh, speechless, thrilled
with fear, blades of our skates singing
we dare, we dare—
you and I skated, James, North Carolina, 1965.
Who drove you to the coliseum that night, two
dollars in your jacket with a mind to skate?
If you came alone, which I think you
did, you were brave, brave.
Brave to lace your black skates, brave to tiptoe
over black rubber as if you made it. Brave
to place your black hands on that hard
white wall and step through. To take
a girl by the hand, ask her to skate.
Hair so white she matched the ice.
Poor skater, wobbly, ankles folding.
You squeezed her hand, glided her
out, circled her past the stands,
tinny loudspeaker playing
That day we were jewels, James:
fingers touching, gliding thigh
to thigh, speechless.
Afterward, we never touched again,
The End is the Beginning / by Kayla Vasilko
The burial is always the final
stage of passing, meant to suppress, put to rest. But coping
isn’t forgetting, with me. Time heals all wounds? No matter
how many years
pass. The loss is still fresh, for me. Facing more
stress or trial, I think of you
more. I wonder what you’d say, to me. I
imagine your advice; I want to
ask. When life gives gifts—
success, peace, beauty—I want to show you, all excited
hops and rushed
words, like Living just threw in some wonderful new epilogue
to the story we’d never thought we would get. These things keep you
right there, by me;
not lost, never
breach / by Nicole Winters
sometimes words spring
forward a river
stream of consciousness,
it’s a rivulet
a creek in the desert
after all the snow has melted.
the moon is full,
& I am swollen, too —
the sky suffocated
ready to burst
at any moment
but despite sweltering
it won’t rain,
& I can’t find the words.
Poem 23 / Day 23
Conversation with a student / by Jaimee Boake
I see the ways you make yourself quiet,
want to tell you all about blue whales.
They’ve got blood vessels you and I could swim through;
I think ours also have room to let people in.
Their hearts can weigh as much as a car;
I know yours feels heavy too.
Let me carry you like a sea until you can
break through murky depths, come up for air.
Did you know you can hear their heartbeats from 2 miles away?
Yours deserves to reverberate across oceans just the same.
A House No Bigger than Your Hand / by Aaron Bradford
The ocean’s waves come up the beach,
but never quite reach,
a little house no bigger than your hand
that sits at the base a large palm tree.
The palm tree’s fronds sway in the wind,
and the moon, full and heavy, is high.
Clouds drift and pull apart,
pushed by the wind,
and a fairy gets ready for dreaming
inside the little house.
She closes curtains, turns off lights,
climbs into bed, pulls blankets high,
and shuts her eyes to start to sleep.
The wind calms,
and the palm tree’s branches grow still.
The waves quiet, shallow now,
and the moon is at the top of the sky.
The clouds have vanished,
blown by the wind,
and the moon’s light shines on the dark water,
reflecting, casting a halo around the little house
where the fairy girl is fast asleep and dreaming.
And everything’s calm.
And everything’s quiet.
And everything’s peaceful.
And everyone’s asleep
under the light
of the silver white
Trip / by Kai Coggin
Day Drinking / by Sandra Faulkner
Source: Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic, p. 378. New York: Simon and Schuster
Shoreline Almanac / by Erik Fredericksen
The water crinkled over its own body,
the fisherman hurled a line into the ocean,
and the seagulls sat in the sand, twitching in turn
their heads like automata. The salt in the air
kept scattering and concentrating, heat
extracting it from every object, silently.
From the land the dolphins seemed to arc silently:
their gleam another extension of water, each body
an undulation of light, pure movement of heat
the way the wind picks up and resettles on the ocean.
The fisherman waited, periodically telling line from air
in that broken colloquy, ready for expectation to turn
to answer but letting each wave take its turn
at arrival and erasure. The tern walked silently
as if in preparation. Tested the solicitous air
before trusting it. Shadow like a body,
the fisherman erred, dragging from the ocean
mere intention. Waited for the patient heat
to dry the dripping line. That the sand could heat
whatever touches. That the day itself would turn
to a tissue. So much was certain as the ocean,
constant as it, too. At a distance it was silently
that the boat cut across it. Made a wound in the body
of refractive blue like a human ready to air
its every desire. Its wake sent some water into the air,
same air through which the fisherman whistled at the heat.
Same heat that would not finish. Crab surfaced its body
and then rethought it. The flies and the breeze, in turn,
alternated their quasi-hums. The fisherman silently
stood; gave in; walked shin-deep into the ocean
and said something that sounded like open, or ocean,
or oaten. He felt the storm coming in on the air
like a word about to be remembered. Silently
inhaled and silently exhaled. Measured heat
on his phone. Looked out and refused to turn
toward the sun. He marched half his body,
at least, silently into what was still an ocean,
was still itself a body beneath the air,
was one more thing heat could hope to turn.
She tucked her stray curl behind her right ear gone red
to teach me her new boyfriend to kiss leaning first
learning to touch and hold hold me close and hard
it’s summer the grass is soft my stomach growls
I could sleep 100 years the stucco house she lived in
her drunken ma now dry and fixed and dating
occasional prescription meds ma conversing
I don’t condemn but I don’t condone the stairs
to her room the bed and carpet she cleaned weekly
all is tight and marked its place keep it down go
easy she’s down the hall you can’t always get what
you want so have it then but we could have learned
eventually I shouldn’t have quit my job so soon
too much time together we lost our sense of humor
beer was for awhile an antidote we built against
Where You Live Is Where You Live / by Emily Pease
Sometimes all I want is to see a camel downtown
or just one moose in Virginia, where I live.
I want to see zebras.
I want to see bighorn sheep,
see a donkey in the checkout line.
I want ball lightning at church,
burning our retinas with blazing memory.
I want a peacock at my doorstep in full display.
where you live is
where you live
what you see is
On the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, horses
wander everywhere, pushing their long
faces into garbage cans and bathing
in the showers at the public park.
Sometimes a loose Palomino walks
among the cars in Isabel, golden
as Roy’s Trigger. At night, she’s
gone. On the dark asphalt, crabs
carry heavy stones on their backs.
On Vieques, a naval testing site, bombs
once exploded. Because on an island
this remote, almost no one lived there
but horses and crabs.
Sometimes we would give anything
to hear a camel say, Would you like a drink?
Sea Glass / by Kayla Vasilko
The tide brings in
memories, the waves,
like a telegram, carry messages. A lost red
pail, a forgotten ball cap, a faded rainbow
parasol, drifting, lost, glinting, catching the sun
and trying to hold on. Waiting to be claimed
again. Dodging the debris; seagull feathers,
insects, an empty bag of shells, —peanuts, not sea— all
passing camps that make up the “before” photo
of the scene, Palm-leafed towels clamped down
against the breeze by warm, oiled bodies, fresh grapes
and sandwiches, a sand castle mold full of sand. From the shoreline
the waves fold and crash, a booming mist, a whisper roar. Calling, shouting,
“I was here, I was here!”
I was dancing when my patella slid out of it’s groove / by Nicole Winters
just one misstep on wet tile,
one palm grasping
at a misplaced
knee cap, before
the partially torn
ligament slingshotted back
the impact bruised the bone
swelling like tides during
it’s better now,
over a year later,
no lost range of motion, atrophied
but the memory is a scar
a freak casualty
measured the angles
of my bones
just to be sure
but the fear scar laces still
what ifs swarm.
Poem 22 / Day 22
After “What’s Left” by W. S. Di Piero / by Jaimee Boake
How it hangs there, the little yellow birdhouse in my backyard.
Some days I can’t tell if it’s hopeful or just something to fear.
Scared of the way they swoop with no regard for anyone else,
I want to take it down but there are
eggs I don’t want to crack open like a fragile love.
Because before me someone loved the idea of a nesting place
but they blinked and they only had the birds and boxes.
A for sale sign and a new family moving in to wipe
from the walls.
Mechanics / by Aaron Bradford
Our youngest brings me her favorite pencil.
The spring no longer tightens. Our oldest
brings me her hair tie, the one with a cat
charm you found to help console her after
her best friend was put down. The concave glass
that magnifies the image of a tuxedo
and a grey tabby lost its stick. Our friend’s
husband is at the hospital recovering
from spinal fusion. You’ve gone to her
to give support and wine. The numbers
of fires and floods rise every day, so do
COVID counts while vaccine protection rates
decline. The stick, the spring, the spine—
how do we stay together? How do we fit
as the earth (our beloved earth) falls apart?
⌘ I don’t want all of your tiny secrets / by Kai Coggin
I don’t want all of your tiny secrets,
the pulsing world vibrates
with all this human destruction
and there you are
in your small wonder
aching to shape yourself into the vastness,
molecules and mitochondria multiplying
into vibrant colonies of life,
mycelium speaking in mush-rooms
in a language we cannot hear,
and just last week a thousand baby
preying mantises hatched
in my blooming anthurium,
small murderers wandering
in green blurs, so tiny
hiding under leaves in clandestine clusters,
and the small jumping spider
friendly in the corner, the silk-spun
cocoon of hundreds of her babies,
thick galleries of fiery ants
and little black frog egg globes
interconnected and brimming in our pool,
and the hummingbirds in all of their humming
vibrating the universe in their wings,
all of you—
I don’t want all of your tiny secrets,
I want you to be safe and free,
I want to offer you shelter in my large largeness,
a human being that just leaves you to be,
there, singing in your unheard frequencies,
living your minuscule miraculous lives
that have nothing to do with us,
your breeding and breathing,
your building and feeding,
flying and fucking—
your existential beauty is yours,
whether we humans name it or not,
your vastness is more grand
in its design than anything our
feeble human minds can even mouth
with our heavy tongues.
Keep your secrets, almost invisible ones.
Live and flourish
Excavation / by Sandra Faulkner
I turn over my office like in a crime novel
sleuthing for a journal from 30 years ago
after reconnecting with a man I dated as a junior in college (I think)
during the siege of adolescent malaise and drama.
We talked over breakfast (which this time is not a morning after affair)
sifting through the rubble of memory intombed in years of experiences
recollections of different needs and punctuations, reaching for
an adult-self broken by youthful insecurities (smart enough? sexy enough?),
the trying on of personas a fruitless pursuit
because you can never catch the person you don’t know how to be.
The flashback scenes of parties, intellectual flexing, and sex
easier to evoke then the affect of push and pull (the vulnerable soft spots)
I refused to define what we were and couldn’t be (because it didn’t exist)
couldn’t recall why or when or how we ended (ghosting before it was a thing)
searching the penned in words for clues that would uphold
my memory like it wasn’t cast in dust and sand
the poetry hurts my aesthetics with the abstract depictions
the stabs of friends, the everyday papercuts of sorting through the hyperbole
slanted script belied the heart break and the rape
the background of relating like a long-running soap opera,
too young to connect the experience with the abstractions
and a distaste for the confessional as feminine (the Bell Jar was my favorite novel then),
I didn’t get that excavating the gems from the mud
makes the floodwater of hurts recede.
After Horace / by Erik Fredericksen
Do you see in the shadow
the stump on which
to sit? Walk past
the tree grown pliant
through the fence’s metal mesh.
Follow what sounds
like echo. Where the snake
once turned up and stilled, only moving
its tongue. Here’s a single
grass blade, here its white
tip. Will you come back?
The sun is behind the office,
dousing the field in shadow.
Wind keeps baring
abrasions in the dirt. Through
all of it, a music through the open
window. As if for you now.
O Smallest of Dreams / by Dan Murphy
O to drink again to know like Borges said in high school Spanish
Quiero dormir un rato un minuto un siglo pero que sepan todos
que no he muerto and feel nothing but blissed numbness after 3 Schlitz
Malt Liquors at Market Basket I knocked over a stack of cans laughing
hysterical we watched Welcome to my Nightmare midnight showing the Fallbrook
Theater everything new everything brand new and fresh everyone stood out
the crowd waving I forgot my name talking to a girl I forgot my mother father
my sister brother like shame like baby fat
all I want all I want I want this high holy feeling like my bright shiny teeth how they love
Pepsodent a winning smile oh like a bomber loves clearing his head a cleared space below
loveboy likes your legs around his back that 7 inch single scraping and grinding is that complaint is that love
the 1970’s accommodating punk rock until the needle
hits the groove the needle hits the red until Side 2 is done Basement 5 There’s a Riot
por un rato that blissed numbness un minuto the tongue is thick
un siglo the words are stuck words slurred the singer is screaming what thing is dead when another comes alive
All The World We Cannot See / by Emily Pease
Half the planet is dark with cities on fire/At night, and half the
planet, light, with cities/Burning by day
Brooks Haxton, “Leaving the Drugstore, for Example”
July haze, tired white sky the color of smoke
three thousand miles away, sun the color
of blood. Half the state of Oregon is on
fire—fire so hot it makes its own weather,
zigzag lightning in the center of flames—
while in Egypt people keep waiting in line
for the pyramids. They lift phones to their eyes,
snap photos of the tombs to send back home.
So half the world is winter, half is summer.
Water, water everywhere, not enough.
In the desert, rats scurry in the blazing heat;
in Tennessee, toads burrow to stay alive.
Meanwhile the package magnateinvades his
sliver of space, tiltawhirling like a monkey
in a shiny blue suit, spaceship shaped like a yurt.
He’s asked: now that you’ve been out in space
in a weightless crawl, what do you think, sir?
And he answers, we’re evolved for this, says
Zero G, how serene and peaceful and floating.
In another world, a good and painless death.
Used / by Kayla Vasilko
I made her flashcards in neon green, yellow
and teal. Calming colors, bright
enough to stick in the memory. You can do
anything, I said. I helped her study, carried her
prep books, picked her up from the test, threw her a party
when she got accepted to Stanford. She stopped calling, stopped
texting altogether when she got invited to her first college
party and made exciting new friends.
I made him cupcakes on his birthday, white chocolate, the ones
with the ingredients that were always so hard to find. I mopped
the floors, did the shopping, swept the porch
so he could rest. I made dinner all week
so he had a hot meal to come home to, even though I got off only an hour
earlier than him. I loved him with everything I had.
Everything. Still, I came home to find him with another woman.
I watered their plants while they were away
every summer. I left brownies on their porch
on rainy days, invited them over for Thanksgiving, gave their kids extra
treats on Halloween, helped them put up a new fence, lived across
them for twelve years. When I left
my door unlocked that day, I came home to find
they had taken everything.
You’re too nice. That’s what
everyone says. You’re too trusting, too naïve.
But isn’t the problem that the world is full of those who
are the opposite of “too nice” and then some? We need more people
who are too nice, not less. What does too nice even
mean? Why should we always expect the worst?
growth / by Nicole Winters
when she was nine, a boy told her
no one will ever like you, if you tuck
your hair behind your ears
“I don’t care”
but every morning after
she brushes it straight
she cut it once, from
waist to shoulders, & cried
when she looked in the mirror
too short to hide behind.
her hair is long again, but now
she’ll wear it pulled
back in a bun,
or a french braid,
she’ll wear it oily,
saturated with leaves
she won’t shower
after a week in the woods
& she’ll wear it
tucked behind her ears.
Poem 21 / Day 21
Aren’t we all just like a sapling, a shaking thing / by Jaimee Boake
stretching ourselves in hopes we might find a home
to root, and grow, and hold our ground
to shelter the rest, standing guard
in the east corner of the garden
if we manage to get closer to the sun,
we must teach the children to weather change,
encourage them to climb higher and higher,
in the green hum of May morning
Under an emerald canopy,
they’ll share picnics, secrets, first kisses,
and their names will be forever
carved into our hearts.
And when our limbs grow weary,
amidst the bright embers
we’ll return to the earth
Night Dreaming, A Play in Four Short Acts / by Aaron Bradford
“It was conflicting interpretations of a dream that destroyed Freud’s friendship with Jung”—A. Alvarez
A bearded man with a conductor’s wand stands before a room of men wearing masks with the
bearded man’s face painted on them. The bearded man speaks first.
“Interpretations about dead dreams?”
Spies speak mystical visions,
the code, algorithm, and temperament.
“Fellow scientists, meaning given room!”
A bearded man with a cigar shadow boxes a man with a moustache who holds a pipe.
A bearded man with a conductor’s wand taps on the hand of a man with a moustache. The
bearded man speaks first.
“Secret of dreams?”
Rococo furniture, ephemeral
kaleidoscope, Roman cellar,
a low cave, disinterested
A man with a moustache gazes into reflective water. The man with the moustache speaks first.
“Jung, the dreamer is Freud.”
*Lines taken from Night: An Exploration of Night Life, Night Language, Sleep, and Dreams, pages 124-25, by A. Alvarez
⌘ Loving an Old Dog / by Kai Coggin
he sleeps at my feet
while I write poems and his snores
are the music my heart slow dances to,
and yes, it’s true reader,
that if he is really quiet
I will check to see
that his belly is moving up and down,
rising and falling like a soft tide,
check that he is still breathing
while he sleeps,
(a trick I learned as a kid
when my single mom had a heart attack,
just watched her sometimes as she slept,
made sure she was still here)
just like I want to make sure
he is still here
our only son
(who wears a suit of fur)
in his quiet tufts
of love and protection,
in his never-ending grace.
We used to wrestle every day,
he has a stuffed brown buffalo hand puppet
that I make come alive with my hand,
man, he and Buffalo-Fluffalo used to tussle
and push and flop and bounce together,
furry wrestle-mania friend
attached to the end of my hand,
and we don’t wrestle too much anymore,
but that playfulness is still there,
his fiery spirit roars in his little lion being,
and I know he is still a young pup
with a young heart,
just that his body is getting along in years.
And it’s okay if he can’t make it
all the way around
the circle driveway anymore,
we are glad to lift him into our arms,
walk most of the way holding him,
his proud boxcar chest out,
sniffer up in the air,
couple of licks on the cheek,
we will gladly become his legs,
set him down in the soft grass patches
where he still kicks up the grasses wildly,
walks the rest of the way home,
makes sure all the ladies get into the door first,
because he has always been a gentleman,
the gentlest man I know,
always has been,
the embodiment of tenderness,
if love had four legs.
And he is not going anywhere
anytime soon if we can help it,
he, the yang in our yin-yang pekingese pair,
the temple dog with a heart of gold.
As I write this poem, through my open
office window a red fox screams in the night woods,
over and over as if in agreement with these words,
as if to say in wild canine song—
Genghis is more than an old dog,
Genghis is what every one of us strives to be.
I remember when we first moved to Arkansas,
Genghis howled a low song of thanks to three wolves,
but that is another story, another poem,
now— a fox, a window, singing back to him.
Sleeping underfoot, Genghis hears the night fox,
lifts his head, and I swear I see him smile
before he goes back to sleep,
the song of snoring dreams and fox screams
entwining in a language that builds
invisible bridges under stars.
COMMUNICATING THROUGH VOICE / by Sandra Faulkner
makes his songs
precise t error
p. 221 Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, Steve McCornack, 2013, Bedford/St.Martens
Poem Without Birds / by Erik Fredericksen
The translation literally erred.
Infiltrative: the kinds
of memory once
okay. Take another
template of image-and-
ask for any
to think about garbage
before e, mostly.
So much refuse being
availability of it.
to be sorry but it
Rumi was singing for Lorca his thin-boned
lyrics for Emily Dickinson and Philip Levine
arbiters of spirit in bedside workplace
also Neruda and God and solitude
the bit-lip sugar syrup sonnets
his brothers and sisters composed
the parrot of our Sufi’s soul cleaved by smoke
he sang for one last cup of wine-dark wine
one last hand rolled cigarette one embrace
in dark colonnade before swept to sea
before marriage to his Lord
and trying to sleep at night shivering
in summer’s endless abandonment
Across Brittle Hills, Wildfires Blaze / by Emily Pease
Life is a home you did not choose
a broad tent in the desert, smoky, loud
prize you’re bound to lose.
On the gold horizon, a flamingo flies.
This, and your lover’s face in the crowd
sweetness you did not choose.
Beneath a winter sky, black with stars,
you held her close, meteors raining down.
Such life you did not choose.
Such love you’re sure to lose.
Viral / by Kayla Vasilko
Everyone is different. All
of us, so busy. Never enough time
to make that trip to Utah and see
grandma and grandpa, to write the great American novel, to paint
the living room a new shade of blue. We spend minutes, hours, days, scrolling,
posting, scrolling, rating, scrolling. Decorating
photos with hearts, thumbs, and frowns.
Inscribing our comments
criticism. Experts on everyone’s life
but ours. They didn’t ask us. The internet started as a web
meant to connect like interests. It’s your right to click
or not to click. To listen to Queen
if you enjoy rock music. To play country if you don’t. Why would you ever waste
the time leaving
your mark of hate if you had already committed
time to viewing and didn’t like what you saw?
untitled / by Nicole Winters
the teapot screams water is ready
& I snatch it off
the stove, hoping
not to wake you
the memory that blurs
on the edge of being forgotten
feels more like a dream
the braid seasoned by hot coals
dried wine leftover in a mug
dust swarms over a dirt road
adrenaline murmurs in veins
water whispers over grounds
press it quiet
let it steep
like the dream written
into memory before
fingers tracing jawline
tuck a flyaway behind my ear
staining the sketchbook
after coffee spills.
Poem 20 / Day 20
After Ada Limón’s “How to Triumph Like a Girl” / by Jaimee Boake
There’s something about elephants,
their infinite remembering,
and atypically shaped hearts,
ears in the shape of a place. Have they heard
all the world’s secrets? I think so.
All wise eyes and wrinkles worn proudly.
I try to learn the way they are both
tusk and tenderness, testament
to their sturdy spirit despite being hunted too.
I ache to be as wild, as gentle.
Wonder at the way the earth
shifts beneath their feet. How it
must feel to take up that kind of space.
And have you seen them play?
How can I carry such heaviness
yet trumpet inexplicable joy,
feel all the stories
vibrate in my very bones.
The Thunderbird / by Aaron Bradford
Lightning broke over
the rim, our window
sparking with each
strike. We watched
from the bed, curtains wide,
our first night at Grand
Canyon, in a lodge named
for the thunderbird.
The storm sent
white tinged blue—and
we stopped under trees
during flash floods
the next day, but that night
we stayed by the window,
ions charged and colliding.
⌘ Aerial Caterpillar Ballet / by Kai Coggin
on my daybreak rounds,
swinging wildly in the breeze,
I spot a tiny acrobat,
white, thorny little wiggler,
possible stingers or maybe spikes,
dressed in morning light,
a caterpillar too small to even identify
dancing in the wind like that,
I wonder to myself, how—
how is this lilliputian creature
conducting her own aerial ballet,
writhing, flipping and floating,
bobbing in the forest before my eyes,
spinning with all of his cares tossed to the tress,
her ballerina body bending in glorious arcs,
how am I the only one seeing this right now?
am I imagining this?
am I dreaming? high?
and this was weeks ago now,
on a typical morning
where I could’ve used a miracle,
that morning watering
the garden and thanking the flowers,
and suddenly she appeared,
gleaming like a Tinker-bell rendition
in a community theater
children’s play of Peter Pan,
rappelling down from the rafters
or a tall mighty oak
on an almost invisible silk line,
right to my line of sight,
plump little spiky angel in white,
whirling like a tiny dervish,
spinning the moment holy,
dancing, dancing in all her freedom—
bungee cord shot from her mouth
in a liquid stream,
and as soon as it touched the air
becoming fine silk,
spinneret miracle moving
though her lips,
dancing from her own daring
to drop from the sky,
oh, how I wish my words,
spinning silk pure
from the consciousness
of my heart,
would tumble out from my lips,
touch the willing air,
and become something
I could hang onto
when I am
in a daring ballet of my own.
On the precipice of their 50th birthday, the overachiever realizes it’s too late to fuck up / by Sandra Faulkner
to drop the biscuit
and take up with someone 20 years younger
smoke in the tub smoke during dinner smoke in bed
make salad with the carrots of so many obligations
quieten the domestic din with a solo ride
wherever the hell they want
no whining or neat packaged snacks allowed
quit the gym forgo the extra helping of greens
throw out the map of knowing
torch the considered plans with the lighter
they stole from the corner convenience store
in a town they’ve never been
forget to pick up the kids from school
ignore the pleas for every piece of themselves
skip the team training to get too drunk
the liquor burn the slur of memory
hit on the hot dean
punch the colleague who asked them to make coffee
in a professional meeting piss on the pretention and preening
teach students off the record
blow up the learning objectives withered assessments
with youthful verve the smirk of a smart aleck
they can’t tell that younger self the fracture
of their personas the rejections of face
will soften and mold to their frame
like lying in some unreturnable overpriced bed
Diversion / by Erik Fredericksen
If they wanted
they only had to ask.
there is no other word.
They had to add a k
are the words we use.
They must’ve forgotten
to reply. Must not
have seen that one.
CD in the Car / by Dan Murphy
dodgem loose at fifteen / by Emily Pease
we were pimpled
skin we were
teeth we were
of throttle in rusted-
we were snaking
from a ceiling
we were adrenaline
we were rattle
we were take-
we were metallic
odor of spark and scorch
we were smile
we were drool
we were lit
on an unlit
we were ram
we were crash
we were neck brace
we were state fair
Winter Wonderland / by Kayla Vasilko
Cold water leads
to coherence. Ice, sparking
all feeling, igniting the senses, frosting the hourglass
stationary, making time stop. Frozen is a synonym
for awake. Preparing for the speech,
I felt emotion like walking through syrup,
honey, and water – everything was diluted
yet impossible to emerge from. Nerves buried
rapid heartbeats, which coated sticky, uncomfortable anxiety. A blur.
Then someone smiles in the audience. She meets
my eyes. She nods encouragingly. Time freezes. I think,
I strung these words together with the freedom of
my heart and mind, my voice,
unrestricted. I get to tell this story.
This story has the power to affect others positively. There are far too
few stories like that, and the chances to tell them are even fewer. I have this chance
to speak, and even more extraordinarily, I am surrounded by people
who want to take the time to listen. I started smiling
back at her, enjoying the words as I was speaking, using the clock
with icicles on its hands to stop and look at what
was in front of me. To be grateful, feel joy, and appreciate that
the present is a gift.
what coincides on an afternoon in july / by Nicole Winters
(into a handmade mug)
around the living room
(to indie folk)
(I slipped and dislocated my patella once)
burn incense, watch it
the moon is almost full
(a waxing gibbous, to be exact)
it rises early, flushed
on a rose cycle
tumid clouds hang sultry
(yesterday looked like thunder)
it’s the buck moon
deer shed antlers this time of year
(so it makes sense that I’m shedding, too.)
Poem 19 / Day 19
My love leaves cups everywhere. / by Jaimee Boake
Everywhere around the house like an Easter egg hunt.
Surprising reminders that I should have a drink of water.
I like to imagine what urgent thing required him to abandon them during the day.
Did the dog need a belly rub right as he went to take a sip?
Sudden remembering of the to-do list I left?
Perhaps a phone call from a friend. He always answers.
Probably, he was labelling leftovers in the fridge with love notes on sticky paper.
Either way, there’s a glass on the edge of the bathtub,
precarious and vulnerable when I sink in
and I’m amazed at the way nothing breaks in his hands.
Marianne Moore through Gary Soto / by Aaron Bradford
I couldn’t get back in my office
before campus closed last Spring,
so I planned classes based on the table
of contents the publishers provided.
My page for “The Steeple-Jack” had pictures
of seagulls, peacocks, and salpiglossis. A discussion
forum for “Diving Into the Wreck” and “Someone
Is Writing a Poem” started with, Why does Rich collapse
I and we? A video of “dear white people,”
a recording of “summer, somewhere,” and overflowing
interviews made the page Poet of the Week:
Danez Smith. And then nothing. My planning stopped.
I couldn’t imagine the rest of the semester.
I practiced ways of writing, Read what you can,
but I understand if you can’t. I finished a list:
“Oranges,” “Practicing Eulogies,” “The Drought.”
I promised to read, if I can, tomorrow. But I’d shower
after buying groceries after shoving outdoor clothes
in a bag in the garage. “I’ll read, if I can, tomorrow,” I’d promise,
and touch doors with only disinfectant wipes and wash
hands to cracking, and promise to read, if I can, tomorrow.
More Meaning / by Sandra Faulkner
a party to assess
nonverbal communication escalates
shoulders and mouth suggest
the two of you
closing the distance
wrinkle a hand loudly make a point
culture don’t understand your behavior
p. 213 Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, Steve McCornack, 2013, Bedford/St.Martens
Posy / by Erik Fredericksen
made from Life, by George Herbert
I made my remnant within this band. The
flowers, they cunningly did away.
And my hand. And my thinking,
in good part gentle. So sweetly.
Death’s mind sug’ring dear flowers
for ornament without grief,
my care as short as yours.
The day here will tie my life to the flowers.
Noon withered next to them, more admonition.
Who did convey my suspicion? Your time lived
for cures—without complaints, if good it be.
Ghost Most Holy O / by Dan Murphy
O Thank you Ghost I thought I lived alone
but now I know you walked with me Ghost since
we both were born me from my mother and you
one life one soul everyday shared
this afternoon we walked Ghost I know you
don’t ooze you are spirit waif-like and limber
not congealed but misting like light gleamed over
the trimmed sidewalks trimmed lawns as heat gathers
into the houses Ghost the day grows dim and
I thank you Ghost O faithful ghost who walks
before me who makes me sing ghostly songs
in holy pleasure who tells me we’re in it
shouting the voice breaks Baby Baby Please
and I am your ghost I your Ghost come back
Clouds Like Jellyfish / by Emily Pease
On the street where we ride our horses
stares at us
carved eyes looking back at the sky
from whence it flew.
It wants to talk about air and wind,
talk about clouds—
how wind and waves
are the same.
Our horses have nothing to say
as they don’t know fish.
will ever dive from above
drop them to the sea.
The Mood is a Lens / by Kayla Vasilko
When I’m in love, I notice that my office has a hot
chocolate machine. Hot chocolate! Such a delicious, unnecessary,
considerate perk for the company
to provide. The machine is such a pretty shade of teal, and it’s shiny,
compact, and just perfect. Walking to my car at the end
of the day, I see the hollyhocks blooming against the building in scarlet, blush,
and lemon. It’s so beautiful, it makes me sigh. The butterflies agree
with me and visit each bloom, landing on them one after the other with miniscule
feet holding up sails of vibrant wings. It is a joy
to behold them. The world feels like an incredibly well-rounded
paradise. But with a broken heart I see the potholes that threaten
my Honda’s new tire. I see the litter of the grounds, swept up in little cyclones
from the wind; plastic lids, blue paper cups, orange wrappers
swirling, blowing, landing. I think about how nasty
humanity is, so selfish, so carefree. I don’t glance at the butterflies
or hollyhocks then. I don’t even think about getting a hot chocolate from second
floor to combat the cold wind. I don’t consider that as I fall in and out
of love or live through bad and good days, my surroundings remain
constant. The nice parts of my office, the potholes in the company lot,
the butterflies, the litter, the flowers. It’s always there, I just don’t always see it.
memory consolidation / by Nicole Winters
blood pools slow
on my thigh where
I sliced skin
on the bark shard
of a fallen
pine laid across the trail.
that memory is real,
I can trace it
with my finger
where the scar shines white.
our fingers entwined
ivy crawling up the trunk of a tree
just a dream.
but I woke up,
with my shoulder still
warm where I leaned against you;
it reads palpable
scrawled in my journal —
poetry is just sketching in words,
allowing them to breathe.
Poem 18 / Day 18
Restless / by Jaimee Boake
Color Coding / by Aaron Bradford
Is the past irretrievable
(Why have COVID levels returned)
and the future unforseeable?
(to the orange and red of wild fire?)
Is the present (maybe) a slow burn
of (yes) insatiable desire?
The Power of Verbal Communication / by Sandra Faulkner
at the prognosis
on the icy shore
of verbal communication
impassable river to triumph
p. 205 Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, Steve McCornack, 2013, Bedford/St.Martens
Sonnet for July, 2021 / by Erik Fredericksen
Summer broke like a fever
then came back more unyielding.
Still, this morning, a memory of thunder,
its always-now-arrival, how after,
some rain drops clung to the power line,
budding down as if the line itself
were melting. If I could tell you
I wouldn’t need to, he said. But need
is no trickier than wanting: if you’re an object
you hold the light or you send it back.
There is no theorem. Irritant sun, in whose
& by whose, etc. Not even the human—
especially the human. Here in the mouth
of summer, needing again, tremendously able.
*Content Warning: Suicide, sexual assault, trauma*
Done Gone and Did It / by Dan Murphy
Looking back it’s strange how few lives were lost
living at a post-war outpost old Indian burial grounds
cement sidewalks fresh pressed children like portraits
of elementary children on Picture Day it’s strange
how few killed themselves Daddy’s hand done
gone down her blouse and now sister’s stash gone
from weed to coke to heroin her scatter of albums
from Beach Boys to Bowie and Lou Reed in leather
and punk rock not born yet it’s strange how much
you can learn at a friend’s house his Mom always
gone she has bridge and tennis and book club
and prayer circle she comes back smiling and Dad
is nowhere she smells like pineapples and coconuts
cigarette smoke breath mints and leans close and held
me once in the hallway pressing her body its strange
how dead I felt but T. who had the grades a Camaro
a girlfriend Tammy they were called TNT the first
power couple though we just called them popular
until they broke up it is strange T. never told me
later the investigator asked me did I suspect anything
did I know he had a pistol in his safe did I think he was
unhappy do your parents have a gun would you kill
yourself isn’t it strange weren’t you his best friend
here take this pamphlet Talking About Suicide
you can talk to your friends your parents
here share it with your friends you can help
Not Everyone’s a Thoroughbred / by Emily Pease
At least twenty-five thousand spend more than five minutes in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa daily
so not everyone’s a swan
curling her lovely neck
over clear gray water
and not everyone’s
a thoroughbred filly
three lengths ahead
at the finish line
and not everyone’s
the life of the party
not everyone has a smile
that lights up a room
A World of Regret / by Kayla Vasilko
I miss the fireflies.
Dancing through the forests
like a synchronized laser
show of stars, or candle flames. Summer’s
I miss the frogs and toads
that lounge on the edge of the water. Stealthy
hunters, watching the dragonflies tease
the water’s surface, striking only with their elastic
tongues. Hopping lily pads like gymnasts,
croaking out their songs like a midnight choir.
I miss the birds.
The lighthearted chirp of the “hummers,” more dolphin
than bird. The robins, cardinals, and grosbeaks singing, the rain
is done, the rain is done, the rain is done! The deep
moan of the mourning dove wondering
why nature has to pay
for our mistakes.
I brought home fallen cedar
to burn later, when I miss the forest / by Nicole Winters
stand beneath the waterfall
glistened by rainbow mist
in my kitchen
wrens sing to
the sun rise
to ebb of wind, & soft hums
of bees pollinating
jasmine & blue sage
coiled in a tail of smoke
hear river rush over slate
the ocean is home
the mountains, an escape
the sun sets over
saltwater basking gold
& return to the valley
just a few
the moon takes her reign.
Poem 17 / Day 17
Hope is a Magic Thing / by Jaimee Boake
A blackout poem from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
I suppose hope returned
with a strange glittering, like pale mist,
a velvety whisper like the sky was frayed,
a mouth open to sing,
I will be.
Severing / by Aaron Bradford
We drive to San Francisco and listen
to the introduction of the Immersive Van Gogh,
whose ending contrasts the final words of the artist—
The sadness will last forever—with the claim
of the designer, “He was wrong.” The lesson
we’re primed for is “empathetic art” is hope
that exceeds transitory pain, that we “abandon
ourselves” as we view “esteemed” works,
that future success outlasts the sadness.
Three hours later, watching small rectangles
stretch on walls, I know van Gogh wasn’t wrong.
His art didn’t make him immortal. Art doesn’t
do that. He died, a severing, just as we all do.
But maybe our feelings outlive the moments
that make them, our grieving never about
the grieved. The anger I felt at my father’s
death was a return to an anger I thought dead.
I didn’t grieve the frail man eaten away
by Parkinson’s who believed his wife an imposter.
I grieved the five-year-old boy whose father
turned away when the boy wore his mother’s
jewelry. I didn’t start at shock and go to guilt.
The anger I swallowed when my children were born
erupted. The severing returned.
The sadness will last forever, and so might my
anger. The fever in van Gogh from the burning
of a bullet in his chest, the infection, did not last,
but his sadness, the cause of the fever, does. The hope
for beauty, the need for joy, what he took when he saw
sunflowers more yellow, more completely yellow
than they can ever be, may be part of what lives forever,
the yellow he called wonderful, “standing for the sun.”
The blues in the irises, so much deeper than the blue
surrounding almond blossoms, and the shock of white
may be what lives forever. But reputation
or the numbers of viewers don’t live on.
We don’t make him immortal any more than my dad’s
severing made me live. Why does the sunflowers’
beauty matter so much that it must be held
onto? Is it because the sun burns beauty
into our retinas that burns into our fingers
and when we go to touch, there’s melancholy
that nothing lasts, the flowers dead before
the painting dried? I nearly died
as a child, drowning in the Rio Grande, resuscitated
by my father, a sad child after. That moment
has lasted my life. I can swim, but if my foot slips
on sand or at the slope of a pool, flashes return
of floating face down. I panic on kayaks,
the joy of drifting past egrets’ nests disrupted,
and I try not to pass my fears to the daughter
seated in front me, a father’s severing fear.
I try not to put out the blazing courage
that radiates off her, lit by the sun off the river,
a glow on her even as we watch van Gogh’s
stars bursting on these giant walls, surrounded
again by strangers, how strange to be again
surrounded in public. The night’s stars become
animated, now falling stars, shooting stars,
meteors, or whatever name your secret language
calls them. Today, at this moment, with my wife
and children sitting with me on a floor
in a techy San Francisco gallery,
I’m mesmerized by those yellows and blues,
knowing this moment will go too soon, over
and replaced by trivia, but I will try to make it
last. I don’t want immortality. I don’t know an artist
who honestly does. I don’t want a name, severed,
living past me. I want this feeling—described inadequately—
to last longer, to put out that other anger.
⌘ Fold Me Into Paper / by Kai Coggin
the first wedding
anniversary gift is paper,
so, my love,
fold me into paper—
take everything I have and fold me
into you, my darling wife,
take this life
and crease new lines in me
with the tips of your fingers,
origami my body to yours
peace crane my hands
to the wings of your heart,
we have been forever joined,
affixed like our silent roots underground,
entwined for lifetimes in this forest of blooming,
we have loved each other since we were trees,
we have arrived here
joined in the whirling infinite,
through the gifts of each other’s longing,
the treasure of each other’s searching,
yes, fold me into paper—
take the selves of my past
made into hemp, linen, wood pulp,
ground me into bamboo juices,
and form me into blank page,
our blank page
to this love story we keep writing,
incarnation after incandescent incarnation,
remember when we were stars, darling?
here, take the papyrus of my breast bone
and inscribe your holy name there,
write it in fire, in blood,
in the inky stain
to have and to hold,
infinitely, I do,
again and again, I do
as my wife, as you
Fold me into paper
and let me keep writing poems
to the infinite grace of your heart,
to the way you sword the light in people,
to how you give and give and give,
let me give you all these poems
pages and pages of paper,
flying like birds.
Fold me into paper
press your red lips to this fresh canvas,
mark me with your everlasting kiss,
the bliss of this life infused
into every undivided cell of me.
Fold me into paper,
build us into a little dreamboat
sailing on an ocean of tenderness,
floating on gentle waves
of always making each other laugh,
of always speaking with truth and conviction,
of always searching for light and beauty
and running with that beauty
in our origami hands
to show each other
another wondrous infinite thing,
is a wondrous infinite thing,
and since we were trees,
since we were whispering roots reaching,
since we were stars spinning together,
and in whatever our love becomes, darling,
fold me into paper
and fold me, hold me, beside you.
Today when I was teaching interpersonal communication, I realized there are things that I never want to
hear again / by Sandra Faulkner
such as social distance which used to mean/the space before someone had made it/into your intimate bubble/the place you could retreat when/a spot that meant safety from/interaction spaces delineated into neat slices/where you made the strange dog sit/which reminds me of social bubbles/how they became as rigid as class lines/making the mark during lockdowns/contamination on contact/etched onto vulnerable bodies/which my middle-assed self kept hidden/tucked into an academic article/no one would read because/anti-science is a religion/a righteous freedom beyond what is real/but now we use the word hesitancy as euphemism/hesitant meaning selfish/meaning embrace the I in individualism like it is/as free as pie/free to flout and filet/to be loud like/to make selfish a political body/hesitant before social distances/to be here/don’t talk of resistance/immunity of the masses/which I hear as smoke and/see as blood raining out of the cracks
Crisis / by Erik Fredericksen
The passengers crowd
the train door like so many platelets
rushing to a wound.
There are two things:
the landscape blurring outside
and the window. Empty
soccer field, reservoir
with dirty birds in it,
fences with wire.
In front a woman
presses her forehead
to the glass. Wills a breath
through the membrane.
The cars slow, still humming.
Film-reel parade of evening
stops on the well-lit station.
Graffiti on the barrier says
fuck the crisis. Which one?
I won’t tell you
I know Love anymore
I am filled with resignation
everyday I have too much
caffeine right before
it’s not enough
so I’m running away
through a field
of dried foxtail
the dirt lot/bike track
our neighborhood churchyard
it really happened
they buried me carried me
at age 7 I sang
Pray for the Dead
until I lived and sprang up
from the dirt to catch
my sister crying
running back home
What We Slough Away / by Emily Pease
Curled within her mother’s womb, my grandmother
wore a coat of fine hair like a little baboon.
As she neared her descent, her coat
sloughed away, tiny hairs drifting
into the river she’d slept in.
The life of the neonate:
Halfway toward birth, downy coated.
At birth, slick-skinned and slippery.
I look in the mirror and see my grandmother
now, fine coat of hair on my soft wrinkled
face, and I recall that pre-birth coat
everyone wears, that older women
Mornings, quiet light of dawn, my grandmother
once stirred a pot of tar brown as tobacco:
secret she let me see. She painted tar
over cheeks and chin, then waited.
She wore a brown beard of glue.
But when she peeled her beard
away, her old face was new.
A Calm after the Storm / by Kayla Vasilko
What does it mean to heal?
Is it that you’re better off
without? Even if the wound scabs
and closes the memories
will always be there
inside. The bad ones hurt, but the good
ones are agony. There is no greater torment
than missing. I’ll always have that
scar. I have to face it every day like the knives
what you did, where you are, where
you’re not. What about what I want?
My dreams have been there
since the beginning; I’ll never get to stop living
with them. At least when you’re being broken
there is still a chance to change
direction. Everything is mishappen, soft,
weak, pliable. The molding isn’t set
in stone. Healing is too final
for me. When it pours you know it will
let up eventually, but it will also always rain again.
self portrait / by Nicole Winters
because of the clay my skin is dry,
there’s always a layer of sand that needs
to be brushed off and you can see the bones
heaped on my couch under blankets,
two cats, a dog, & coffee & wine, mesmerized
until I see sun streaming
through shutters dancing
across the dust particles
how good it feels
to lay in dew-soaked grass & bask
in gold-coated breezes off the ocean
wake in salted sheets
& that I feel prettiest when I’ve been in the wild
unbrushed hair that still smells like campfire
filled with leaves and mud,
sun-rouged skin & cheekbones bronzed with dirt
after diving under a wave and air-drying
in the dry heat beneath a sandstone bluff.
so I press my feet
into chilled concrete
& look up
at the stars shining
with the moon rising
through the marine layer
sway to coyotes’ howls
from the hillside til’ my skin tingles
with words I have to scrawl
before they disappear
like the lucid dreams
I can’t remember.
Poem 16 / Day 16
An Ode to the Paddle on the Battle, 2019 / by Jaimee Boake
We wound our way down the river, five
over-packed and precarious canoes occasionally
wobbling in our excitement as we
cut through the prairies on cool waters.
Listened to the calls of birds from high banks
and laughter bouncing off the river bed.
Made camp in a pasture,
sipped homemade wine to warm ourselves while
the fire crackled and coyotes howled the perfect soundtrack
to the ghost story we’ve heard since we were children.
I remember the sky, wide open.
How sure I was that weekend that the world could still be wonderful.
Aubade for the First Day of School / by Aaron Bradford
I know our daughter forgot her Chromebook,
but please don’t leave to take it to her.
The morning is cool, and my weather app
predicts high 90s by eleven. If you wait,
we can drink champagne in the backyard
as hummingbirds and chaffinches
fight in the peach tree. Besides, I forgot
to charge it, so her battery is dead.
⌘ Pipe Organs Inside a Wind-chime / by Kai Coggin
If I hear one more story
of climate disaster
I think the earth inside me
into a memory—
my god, it’s so hot
17 millions gallons of sewage
spilled into the oceans,
wildfires burn floor to ceiling,
and torrential flooding on burn-scarred land
sweep streets into rivers,
we are losing all the bees,
and the last white rhino became history,
don’t forget the icecaps melting
and oceans rising, all while we
pretend we are surviving
the pandemic that is
lingering and morphing
and I just want to go outside,
turn off the world breaking
as a metallic blue mud-dauber
vibrates a song no
one has ever heard but me,
I swear it, tenor of hope there,
in the large barrels of the precision-tuned
Japanese wind-chimes my mom gave us
as a wedding present last year,
and now this nesting bright blue thing,
making a tunnel of music inside a pipe,
one of the lower chimes,
if I guessed it, in the key of G,
there she is, blue blur
building infinity in mud,
creating a pipe organ inside her own church,
this gorgeous buzzing and building,
reverberating almost through the house
if you listen close enough,
powered in flight by the nectar of flowers,
and don’t you wish
you could say the same thing
And I don’t know where this poem is going,
but today the disasters both global
and deeply personal
are answered in this holy song,
this tenor of building
tuning-fork of the universe
funneled down into mud making
a tunnel to some kind of good light,
a nest for something to vibrate through,
be it prayer,
be it love,
be it hope of making it
to the other side of all this dark,
I said listen,
turn off the world breaking
nature is still
singing something holy.
Question: What do you know now about relationships that you wish you’d known when you were young?
/ by Sandra Faulkner
Joyce, 81, “I said some things when I was younger.”
I wish I hadn’t
I hadn’t, I wish.
Melinda, 66, learned that “status is unimportant.”
Nothing is unforgivable
Nothing is unforgive able
@70 Nelda learns that when a guy is in pursuit mode, he is not what you are going to see later.
You need information about
you need information about.
Elsewhere / by Erik Fredericksen
They wanted to reach out
earlier. To let
you know as if knowledge
were someplace they
had the tickets for.
Evidently, they enjoyed
the staycation. Could not
not tag the dog there.
Where is the urgency,
they ask in a headline,
and true—sometimes feeling
must be located like
in the corner of the room
or the corner of the screen.
Next to something.
Here is something,
they say. They point
where they imagined
below would be
on your screen.
They are here recording.
They just wanted to say,
they say, and then say it.
They quote from somewhere,
and they disappear again.
Life is a greeting card
and the funeral ocean inside
Life is about blankness and dullness
(to speak the truth is hard)
about time about space
asked in a hush tone/fuzz tone/flesh tone
that feeds off a stage whisper
in the car the audience like an ear
plunges off the cliff of the self
into the night and we can hear
the joke hear the laughter
I’m still not used to you being here—
was he speaking to the camera
(like a killer with comedian’s voice
or housewife with a kitchen knife
a little homemade voodoo)
he can make it real
he can make it rhyme
this time with his I do
to be clear
you don’t need belief
to be free
Free Falling is the song
the grief we set our watch to
and let be
to be clear
the speaker is me/not me
the speaker’s truth is a lie
of mutual fabrication
I Lie in Bed Listening to My Gun / by Emily Pease
I lie in bed listening to my gun
The one who draws first is the one who survives
Blood on the hands of the one who survives
Though freedom rings in the sound of a gun
And freedom rings for those who love Jesus
Still I wonder what if Jesus had a gun
If Jesus had a gun would he still be alive
Having fired his weapon concealed at his hip
His God-given right to fire his gun!
Because a gun-owning man’s free to be free
Free never to be free from his excellent gun
Solid handgun locked and loaded
Gun loaded on my night stand, moonlight gleaming
I lie in bed listening
Christine / by Kayla Vasilko
For my incredible mom. Happy Birthday!!
Waterfalls. Majestic, commanding, strong.
Roaring, pouring into rivers and streams. Sustaining
the life and shape of the world. A mother’s love.
Powerful and peaceful; still and gentle. Tranquility;
rippling, moving, changing water. Unconditional.
A mother’s love. Vast,
like the world’s oceans. Connected,
no matter how distant, by streams. A beautiful
vessel propelling you.
A mother’s love. Sheltering
the lives beneath the surface. Providing
nourishment, clear and real as the harmony
in the music of water plus wind.
A mother’s love. Infinite serenity, millions of stars
in couplets. Reflecting from the sky to the water,
diamonds of joy. A mother’s love.
from clay to something you can press your lips to: pt.2 / by Nicole Winters
when all the water has evaporated, the pieces
in the kiln fit together like fingers intertwined; fire
to one thousand six hundred and sixteen
burn off what’s organic, make it
still porous, brush wax & so the glaze beads like rain where it’s not supposed to touch
three coats of each color,
slow. even. methodical.
if you’re lucky
this time the fingers can’t touch,
leave space for static between
for the heat to travel
up to two thousand one hundred
and sixty eight. slow cool
to fifteen hundred & wait
while it blows off steam.
boiling water sizzles over grounds
forget about it for the best brew
press the plunger and hold them under
for the pour;
the first cup is different than those that come after
coffee drizzles down the side when you kiss the lip.
Poem 15 / Day 15
Sweetness / by Jaimee Boake
The confectionary on the corner is owned by a cute elderly couple.
It’s colourful and crowded, chocolate bars and bubble gum, and bottles of
old-fashioned root beer reaching to the roof
and here I unravel, crying in a candy store at the sweetness,
I try to wipe my tears quickly, but can’t help
being moved by their comfortable rhythm behind that counter.
She pats his hand, spotted with age and shaky, while someone pays.
He looks at her like he’s six and she’s spun sugar.
I want to tell them the best best thing they sell is a story,
but ask for an ice cream float instead,
listen to the glass clinking, the fizz of the pop as it’s poured,
watch them move in tune to their love song,
and marvel at the dance.
On Our Crystal Anniversary / by Aaron Bradford
Crystal balls reveal the future.
Crystal obelisks pinpoint energy.
Crystal wine glasses sing.
Crystal watch faces let time drift
to the eye
of the beholder.
This year we’re crystal,
a cellular lattice
of endurance and clarity,
refracting light into fire
in the eyes
of the beholders,
us, as we hold
⌘ I Talk to Flowers / by Kai Coggin
I don’t know about you
some threshold has been crossed,
and I am answering
this call to come to buds and petals
in all their intimate tender splendor—
I talk to them, reader,
call them each by name,
gardenia, with her velvet white kisses,
knock out rose reaching with her perfect pink poses,
coneflower and chrysanthemum,
zinnia and hydrangea,
lantana and cleome,
a million bells,
I mean they are practically friends,
their beaming colors,
their opening hearts of light,
the way they call to me inside the house,
whisper in their spectrums of decadence for me to come
water them, come be their rain,
a seduction almost,
that I am afraid to put into words,
night blooming jasmine, oh lady of the night—
when the windstorm
tore off one of her tall branches about to flower wildly,
I swear I wept at the lost possibility
of all her aching fragrance,
the almost of her blooms
swirling into our bedroom window,
breaking some barrier to past lifetimes in Persia,
now broken there on the deck
limp in the lonely after-storm morning,
I mourned her for days,
I am sorry,
yes, I talk to flowers
and even though
they don’t talk back in words,
I hear them louder
than everything being destroyed
My students and I talk about intimacy and what the next chapter could be / by Sandra Faulkner
claiming the moon as our own,
love could work in private, slowly, unnoticed
something so distant that feels so personal
there are many ways a person could become lost
losing location like a worn-out GPS
too old for software updates
if music is a metaphor of notes
placed over the medium of time
then intimacy is all feeling
the logic of survival incomprehensible
in the moment of connection
within and outside of this thing called time
Summer / by Erik Fredericksen
made from Spring, by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is Spring | when weeds long,
thrush’s low heavens | through echoing rinse.
The ear like | the glassy peartree.
Blue is all | richness too fair.
Is all this | a strain of
Eden garden before | cloud, Christ, lord?
Innocent mind in | most thy choice.
Beautiful as | when lush,
little thrush. | Timber does
hear him. | Blooms brush
the descending—| lambs, too,
all this | in beginning.
Have it | sour with
girl, boy, | maid’s child.
So | lovely | look | the | lightnings.
They | rush | their | joy, | earth’s
cloy, | sinning | and | worthy.
the Tupperware container of cherries
seems like an uprising
of red ant heads
the stems like antennae the fruit
like mouthless heads
just an overgrown brain
a fat cherry-red
the ant heads bulging
and bunched up in
a flurry of bugs penned in
tiny theories of claustrophobia
one might bite but miss
that stone inside
the cold flesh pierced
like a small strange heart
tart and sweet
Too Beautiful to See / by Emily Pease
At dawn, I was visited by an owl
flying low over the road where
I walked, silent, wings outspread.
I felt its brown presence pass over
my head, then it was gone.
It might have been an angel.
Not to save but to offer a sign:
I am the wildness you get to see.
As when the woman struggling to stay
above the waves felt a stranger arrive—
sudden, swimming by her side,
urging her on. Then he disappeared.
It is helpful to believe in angels.
The dolphin nudging the exhausted swimmer.
The dog dragging the baby out of the burning house.
The mare that carries her blind rider so softly
it is as if a moth has settled upon her back.
But not the angels of war—
As in the story I heard a priest tell last Sunday,
how he, an army chaplain, saw his mission come
under attack… but then the angels came, he said
those beautiful jet fighters….
So not those angels
More like Gabriel, that famous angel
sent by God from the wild outerworld
where swimmers appear and disappear
as if from thin air, where a mare senses
fear on her back and slows to a walk.
In Titian’s painting, Gabriel seems to swim
in air, pale skinned and muscular as a stone-
mason but with a sweet soft gaze, feminine
face. He greets Mary, who nods and closes
her eyes. Because Gabriel’s too beautiful to see.
Because he’s appeared from a secret and invisible
place, wild and certain—
or perhaps she fears his wings, light shining
on the dorsal ridge, and his strong pale arms,
and his floating curls, his wildness she gets to see.
It’s a Man’s World / by Kayla Vasilko
After all that we’ve fought for
they still don’t understand. We want the opportunity
to speak, to choose, to work
for our dreams.
They think that if we do all
that then they should do nothing. They think that being independent
means we want to be alone. When they work long hours, travel, climb
the ladder, they expect our doting kisses, gentle embraces, thoughtful
birthday presents, homemade apple pie. They want happy children
in four different sports. They want a clean house
with modern curtains. They want it all and
we give it to them. It’s hard, they say. It’s hard. When it’s us
chasing careers, they think it should be harder. That we should work all
day, pick up our son from soccer, stop at the store, and cook
dinner at home. Care for our babies in the office while they hang with the guys.
They don’t bring us flowers, or open doors, hold our hands
during movies, or surprise us with valentines. She’s independent,
they say. She likes it like this.
Do we? Weren’t we fighting for equality?
I want him to think I deserve my dream
job. To surprise me with lunch when I have meetings all day. To call me
beautiful, hold my hand, care
about what makes me laugh. When we get home, I’d like to cook
together. I want his love, not his greed. His hopes, not his demands. His support, not his wallet.
His respect, above all. His respect.
from clay to something you can press your lips to: pt.1 / by Nicole Winters
center first, press
both hands to the middle
calm like the eye of a hurricane
so everything comes out even
open first with the thumb, then
index and second fingers create
a canyon for water to run into; add
pressure, compress the bottom
or it’ll rift
start at the base,
gather clay and draw into hips
& neck, smooth the rim, trim
away excess, slice
it off the bat
flip it over
re-center, press blade
to base, sculpt a foot, ocean
erodes walls smooth.
coils, three fingers thick
fissure into four inch sections
score and slip
smooth onto the wall just
below the rim, wet & pull
an indent for your thumb
don’t forget to add the makers mark
when it feels like leather
carve dreams into its skin.
& when all the water is gone
when the piece is the most fragile, droughted
scour it smooth like sea glass.
Poem 14 / Day 14
Grocery Lists in a Global Pandemic / by Jaimee Boake
Honey, pick me up a postcard from anywhere. I’ll pin it to the wall, pretend I’m there,
write a love note on the back, fold it into a paper plane, and send it halfway across our tiny world
to land on your desk while you work.
Vitamins. Orange juice.
Mushrooms and brie for the dinner I plan to cook. It’s a surprise.
Pregnancy Test. Tampons.
Treat for the world’s most loyal dog. That good girl laid with me on the bathroom tiles while I wept.
Advil. There’s a star bursting behind my left eyeball and everything is spinning.
Drank the last of the bottles so we need more red wine.
Please don’t buy a newspaper; I can’t take another sad story.
Bananas. Sugar. Eggs. For another Sunday spent trying to fill an empty house with the smell of baking.
Grandma always said that chicken soup could cure anything so I’ll also need
chicken bouillon, celery, carrots, and onion.
Will breathe in steam as soup simmers on the stove, let it clear my head,
and try to get the salt just right, so that first sip will settle in my stomach,
spread the warmth back to my heart.
Hand sanitizer. Lysol. Soap. I will scrub myself raw.
Night Walk / by Aaron Bradford
My wife has taken our daughters and the dog
for a night walk while I write. The day has been long,
a drive to San Francisco, ramen in Japantown, two
hours immersed in moving images of Van Gogh’s
oils, a slow downhill curve on Lombard Street,
the self-proclaimed “crookedest” street in the
world, and the trek back home. My brain is slow
now. I get anxious going over bridges, so I don’t
have much left. I feel I’ve let Van Gogh
down somehow. His paintings mean so much
to me, but that was three bridges and an ice cream
cone ago. So I’ll try again tomorrow, and maybe
dream my way back his yellows and blues and
the way he filled skies with hope and sadness.
⌘ Unicorn (14 of 30) / by Kai Coggin
Question: What do you know now about relationships that you wish you’d known when you were young?
/ by Sandra Faulkner
Nancy, 84 tells me “I would like to be a giver.”
There is nothing like the hug of a friend
the hug of a friend like there is nothing.
Judi, 73, reveals that “you have to work at them.”
Sometimes, you have to give up relationships
(fill in name)’s
you have to give up relationships sometimes.
Ode 2 / by Erik Fredericksen
where tonight is the squirrel you scared from the shrub, or the one who jumped from gutter
to branch, the orange cat who arose from the parking spot and walked to another,
the woman in the grocery store who dropped the apple, where is the apple, the quality of light
so fuzzy on the top of the roof, where is the japanese maple whose offshoot, or where
the offshoot, the dog off its leash, the evaporated puddle and the mosquito larva, the man
who seemed so drunk, the television actress, where is the blue jay tonight that landed
on the balcony and twitched his head, where whatever he saw, where is the shadow the
clasp of little branches made on the kitchen floor, rough tessellation from the leaves,
the music of the commuter, where is the paper product and where is its wrapper,
where is the photograph, where your glasses, where are the things that need assistance?
Dream Life / by Dan Murphy
The world began from the big bang or clumsy fuck
an undefined drunken parentage as they say when
you meet in bars the lights are dim/borders are crossed
between jukebox and dancefloor
How was your childhood
were you miserable without food or traumatized
with toys a cold mother/distant father who then learned
to drink with the help
Me I’m neither rich nor poor
we were the last class of middle class to graduate
into postmodernism we burned our own homes
second generation punks hating limits and melodic
chord progressions scorning aspiration
last night our dead dog Suzie came into my childhood home
my wife and children were there she came from a corner
from black and white into color her head was huge
she licked my guitar and outside later she climbed
a tree spotted like a hyena we have her ashes
on top the bookcase she was always up to something
her nose in her ass sleeping for all the world to see
You May Not Smoke In a Bridal Gown / by Emily Pease
she said you may not chew with your mouth open you may not
pick your teeth you may not prop your elbows on the table
go out without a bra
you may not chew on a toothpick you may not buy a snake you
may not hide your grits in a napkin you may not lie to your
teachers pour oil down the drain
go to church with wet hair set the parakeet free put your feet
on the dashboard eat off your sister’s plate use your toothbrush
as a comb join the circus run away
cut your toenails in the kitchen wear heels with shorts make fun
of your brother lick gravy off your knife dive in shallow water
skinny dip with boys hitchhike
you may not wipe the counter with a biscuit you may not talk on
the phone all night you may not use your bible as a placemat
because it happens to be nearby
and you may not smoke-smoke-smoke in front of your grandmother
smoke in the tub smoke during dinner smoke in bed and never
ever smoke those cigarettes in a bridal gown
Blossom / by Kayla Vasilko
For Kaitlyn, Always
Sisters are like daisies;
sweet like summer, like marshmallows
and campfires in the yard. An extra pair of hands looping
strands of auburn and blonde into your French braid.
Sisters are like roses;
timeless, forever friends.
Loyal, unafraid to tell you when
that top is not for you. Willing to
hold your hand no matter how long it takes to cry
yourself over him.
Sisters are like lilies;
sparkling, crystalline, pure. A steady
force, fierce and protective. An unconditional
willingness to listen about test scores
and first loves and dreams.
Sisters are like flowers;
Precious, special. Full of color
and joy; a bouquet
of all the beauty of life.
there are two speeds:
red wine & tequila / by Nicole Winters
chill nights sipping the heat of you
tracing salt trails with a finger across
raised like foam,
hard to tell whether
from ocean or sweat,
or amber haze burning
through layered stratus
blood moves faster,
a flannel hangs off one
Poem 13 / Day 13
Opening Up / by Jaimee Boake
beers on a patio, sunshine
burning our backs,
stay longer than we meant to in the searing heat
because it’s been so long since we sat at a table and talked outside
of a screen.
pretzels in melted cheese
and pretend for one day
that no time has passed.
Threading / by Aaron Bradford
Our daughter prepares for school, shining her garnet
bracelet. It’s in-person again—an anxious fire
runs through us all. Fifth grade was internet
glitches with self-paced learning. The sapphire
ring, thought to bring peace, is polished, too. By
tomorrow, we’ll be fine, we hope. She’s lined
stones she’s threading for protection. Ruby,
for health and strength, start the wire. Tourmaline,
black, purity, is threaded. Peridot,
cheer, slips. The green doesn’t show. She kneels and
sends fingers through carpet. Translucent dots
return. For courage, she’s chosen carnelian.
The clasp is tight. She plans on tiger’s eye
studs, yours, for focus, luck. “All ready?” “Yes.”
⌘ Patrocenia and Imogene (a villanelle) / by Kai Coggin
Question: What do you know now about relationships that you wish you’d known when you were young?
/ by Sandra Faulkner
“I wish I had learned to not take things personally.” Gloria @80
What I know in my head, I’m still processing in my heart.
What I know in my heart, I’m still processing in my head.
Carol, 75, says “Don’t take them for granted.”
Stand by your faith and family but
but stand by your family and faith.
“You have to work at it.” Marsha, 69 years old.
To maintain your relationships
to maintain your relationships.
Courtyard / by Erik Fredericksen
Light off the brick, off the grass-tips,
off the surface of the city pool. It praises
what it means to describe. Collects
like rain when it storms too fast
for the drain in the parking lot corner
and the grass just swims in it and it streams
down the sidewalk’s every declination,
saturating every square as if the pavement
were a bone it might suffuse back to flesh.
All of the light is stagnant. It wants to ripen
into afternoon, into another square yard
of grass that explicates itself. It holds
the car-in-idle hum of the AC units. Tired
surfeit unspooling in air, asking everything
of everything. Well-fed fervor that self-
corrects, the way wind takes what you see
and places it back.
What is it the light
wants to do that it cannot? What is it it
wants to break for, flickering unbodied,
unaltered off the apartment windows?
Ghosts of Future Past or Something Like That / by Dan Murphy
My dead mother liked secured doors and closed cabinets
we used to joke she’d haunt us by closing all the doors
like how she wished she never married my father and he
wished he never left the potato town of 700 farmers and I
wished I hadn’t been born in the 20th century how everything
is messy and needs a manual the autopsy to get the soul
its clear disc pulled from the stinking sleeping body before
the complicating press learns maybe just fling it beyond the western
Mother was tired all the time so we got her
iron pills a vacation in Hawaii with her sister and dad
he was lonely and sad we got him a name for his addiction
40 buddies to smoke and tell tales but commuters drove
faster and faster on the freeway west and south
they reached more bumpers started stealing children
they used to leave alone I believe they were essentially
In the movies going out to breakfast is a solution
for craving and prowling and solitude but in real life
a complication of endless choice I remember when we
were children most problems were solved mother proved
by cleaning like the car which needed Turtle Wax that
gave a protective shell to your valuable automobile
which lesson was hard to apply in action we didn’t
learn how to protect ourselves when we had to fall in love
and women wanted sensitivity just who was giving that
better close that door keep out the cold keep out the flies
and learn to regulate any mood that could come up the pipe
far as she could tell / by Emily Pease
the woman on the porch of the home for women
where I’d visit and read scripture to any who’d
listen but no one listened
far as I could tell
this woman on the porch had tried to kill herself
recent ten minutes impossible to retain
this woman liked to tell about a woman
she knew who fell dead in her apartment
dropped dead on her feet
traffic on the street, children on bikes
and a moan within, lone woman
upstairs in need of help but no
one offered help because
she always needed help
in the den I’d read scripture, the woman at the well
how Jesus offered water living water
as if the woman was already dead
as if he was a magician
but no one listened so I’d head to the porch
for the woman and her story
about the woman who dropped
dead on her feet
sometimes she’d change it a little, like the woman
was cutting roses and fell dead on her feet or she
was in the kitchen washing dishes
and just dropped dead
there’s a glimmer of truth in there, she’d say
but then the woman within would moan
and so she’d say does that all day
think she just needs to pee
Life and Peace / by Kayla Vasilko
with a touch of the north wind, warm
sunlight without the steady heat of July.
A farmer’s market, mid-August, crisp green
lettuce and bright red tomatoes amidst talk of barbecues
and birthdays, fleeting trips to the beach,
the dreaded return to school.
I go to the market because the sellers are kind
and honest; the produce is fresh, and it is summer,
which means strawberries and watermelon, beets and onions all grown
from local soil. Never do I stop to consider if the sellers are black or white, or red
or blue. I choose to go without really making any choice at all. I go happily,
easily. I rummage through crates of fruit with a smile –
peaches, blueberries, nectarines. I browse through ears of fat, golden
corn; I don’t see a division of sides. I don’t wonder which causes
are supported, which agendas are pushed. I don’t think about conflicts
of interest or fraud. I don’t ponder which positions
were nepotistic or amorous. I don’t think of the positive
or negative effects of my market choices on a political campaign,
or my professional aspirations of success. I see only varying forms
of fruits and vegetables, – apricots and mangos, pumpkin-orange
carrots – a squirrel attempting to walk off with a small lemon,
and people. A woman handing an apple down to a child. A man helping
a woman place several cantaloupes into her basket. People laughing
and smiling, shopping together in peace.
Uniting over the common desire
to live and flourish. Achieving what is needed to maintain the foundation
of life without hatred, distress, rancor, or war.
feral / by Nicole Winters
the ac unit blows
& headlights beam as cars
drive past on I-40
my dog can’t relax either,
ears pinrod straight,
towards every creak of
covered in low pile carpet
letting out a half-assed
bark every time a door slams
a far cry
from the forty five minute nap
she took in the hammock across
from the mountains
above twin lakes
in, despite the cold.
we sleep best curled
under cedar moonrises
lulled by windblown rainfly
in the desert
where there’s nothing but stars
next to the creek threatening
to flash flood
stirring on the
she looks like she belongs to the wild:
bushy tail & long black coat glistening
the way she folds her ears
back when she sprints
through tall grass, swims
in brackish water
sometimes she howls,
sometimes I howl with her.
tonight we sleep
in a too sterile room
on a creaking mattress
between scratchy sheets
I decide not to shower
to keep a piece of the forest with me.
we wake, not to the sun,
but to sirens wailing
down the interstate
bare in the mirror, pull
a leaf from tangled hair
body stained with dirt, mud caked
I belong in the wild, too.
Poem 12 / Day 12
The Last Will and Testament of E. S. / by Jaimee Boake
For Annie, miláčku,
Hold onto all the secrets spoken in rapid-fire Czech to make you blush.
Your laugh was the greatest music of my life, the language they could grasp.
My heart is tucked under your pillow.
There is more, but I’ve asked the others to return the pieces to you day by day.
Miluji tě k sežrání.
Debbie, here are my arms.
Hold your mother gently.
See the watch upon my wrist? You get time to help her relearn a life on her own.
Hold them all together. You’re the only one strong enough for this job.
You’ll notice the funny bone is yours then, too. Use it well.
This gift I’ve given you will feel heavy sometimes, so,
wear my mischievous grin at least once a day, and that should help.
To my grandsons, I leave my feet.
Trace my footsteps, find solid ground.
Those missing toes a reminder that sometimes being stubborn
can cost you.
Keep my laughter, too. Let Grandma listen now and then.
Bradley – you also get my tools. Build a life you are proud of.
Clayton – that damned stuffed dog is yours. You know what to do with it.
Grandma hated the way I would hide it all over the house to scare her,
but missing it will be worse.
Just don’t sneak up on her when she is stirring something hot.
I want to give my eyes to Jillian.
She knows how to look at the world and see the best of it,
how to see what the horses are saying. She knows how to love the animals well.
Sweetheart, take my paintbrushes, too.
Paint yourself the sunset and ride towards it. I promise you all the horizons are yours
if you’re stubborn enough to chase them.
Jaimee, a promise to keep in your pocket.
I’ll be with you always.
Find me in the raspberry bushes,
in coffee, and playing cards. Find me and write me down.
I love you. I’m proud of you. Take care of each other.
Now I’m ready.
Slow Growth / by Aaron Bradford
We sketch through the morning to avoid the heat.
The last three days have kept us inside:
113, 108, 110. It didn’t get below 80
until after midnight. Our younger daughter outlines
cats and dragons. Our older one creates a scene
of a dark fay’s memories. I’ve chosen an oak
tree, first failing to capture a yew whose heartwood
hollowed. It feels like sheltering in place again,
the tightening of our family. Those months the gathering,
the years prior the hunting and planting. I wanted
to make a yew to capture how even if it loses itself,
a sapling takes the center, a new tree forming inside
distorted growth. Across the day, you write, cook,
and feel out relationships, which seem rootless after COVID.
What connected everyone? Trees message each other,
pulsing electricity through fungi, even sending out their
energy before they die to keep others alive. Humans
seem to share in gaps, language hollowed out, rarely
what we mean to say. So we sketch, outlines of our needs,
and when I show you mine and you show yours,
we both say, “Yes,” a gap, but it gets us a little closer
to the center, a little closer to each other.
⌘ My Gym Selfies Taunt Me / by Kai Coggin
Interpersonal Skills / by Sandra Faulkner
go back to
GENDER AND HANDLING CONFLICT
gender socialization creates
conflict and sacrifice
handle the dilemma by
leaving the scene
gender interfere s
with men and women
p. 206 Reflect & Relate: An Introduction to Interpersonal Communication, Steve McCornack, 2013, Bedford/St.Martens
Turnpike / by Erik Fredericksen
ride home past the no-kill shelter the dehydration headache exit is it humid yet
the next commercial back sticking to the seat change to another chorus
dizziness, slight enough highway and its litter, its rolling soda can excrescence
sun off the windshields whorls of it, the concrete and signage structural support
how heat-absorbent how needy how sad and how funny the different humans
it is worth it, the heat it is a radiative prayer it wants to go elsewhere translational
devotional can move without reason can steal a minute can track and is tracking
only wanted to enter when safe look ahead where the asphalt wavers is it past
is it that which is faltering what is wanting to sleep in the meantime
Starting with a Line from Tony Hoagland / by Dan Murphy
Oneself is always the test case for the human condition
one has only one self to place delicately hands shaking
on the assembly line of souls that drop like soft-bodied
pastries *splooshed* with thick dreamy cream
a flutter of cartoon strip in vivid grey in the mind
in accumulation and satiation
an intimate whistle in your ear of ‘this is your life’
in mind and tongue in mind and tongue
and spit above the drooping lip.
One self is always the canvas
the brush hairs stiff with white greasy paint
dense and thick with color’s abandonment.
One is the floor
and stage as skies above thicken with clouds
the clouds grow rich with moisture bushy and thick
with late afternoon rain at 80% humidity 40% migraine
rising the barometer rising mid to late June
the painter dabs and dabs the brush into the smear
of paint compressed with gray and black luxuriant strokes
and starts to score out to linen edge.
Oneself is always the killing floor cure
the cause and root cause of suffering
in accumulation and satiation
in kiss and kiss and tear the petal until the smell bleeds
One is the head one is the axe and executioner’s block
the thorn and thorn removing the pain quickly please
do it quick.
female / by Emily Pease
when I consider
in my chicken
when I regard
and think she
becomes friend to me
Taken for Granted / by Kayla Vasilko
Last night, I dreamt
that I died. It was clouds full of rain,
glasses out of sand, sadness as endless
as the darkness
all around – nothing
like I thought. I had imagined
it often. Not like fantasizing
what my wedding would look like one day
when it finally came.
More like someone researching
the most economical vehicles,
the best places to move.
Less curiosity, more like exploring
your options. People don’t realize that life is only
made up of a few different categories:
work/needs, friends/family, love/dreams.
Even when one slot is shaken, a blow
to any other is baleful.
Then the questions begin, the cancerous
doubt. What is life anymore?
When you don’t know who you are
it’s impossible to see where
you belong in the world.
Without connection, you have nothing
to grasp onto, vulnerable
to the smallest windstorm. So quickly
People don’t consider
if a house is made of straw
or stone before shaking
it. They don’t think before they hit
waiting for revival / by Nicole Winters
just before the pandemic,
a hummingbird built her nest
in a nearly dead ficus on the porch,
hardly larger than a kiwi or a fig, tucked
in the wishbone of two barren branches.
we didn’t even notice the eggs, two
toothpick beaks jutting
from the edge
they fledged quickly.
one night, she beamed into the house
panicked against the ceiling.
it’s the lights I shout
pull switches down
pitch dark then, except for solared
string edison bulbs on the back patio:
she followed the warm glow,
we slid the glass door shut.
the ficus is coming back to life, now,
with the rest of the world.
leaves spring from hydrated branches;
the old nest fell out during a windstorm.
we watch to see if she will build a new one.
Poem 11 / Day 11
Sounds cuter than it is / by Jaimee Boake
-for a friend who wishes to remain anonymous but will know this one is theirs.
Otters hold hands while they sleep so they don’t drift apart,
wrap themselves in seaweed until they are securely held together.
They learn to rely on this raft for survival.
They keep each other safe.
Otters spend much of their time sliding down the river banks,
playing. Unmoored, they explore, make waves,
trust they find themselves in the arms of their family after fun.
Otters are resourceful, use rocks to crack open their food,
keep their tools tucked under their skin until they are ready to take what they need.
Otters have the thickest fur of all the mammals, and it helps them float.
People adore otters, you know.
There’s a metaphor there that they paddle towards, palms outstretched.
Cling to each other.
Spent all our time together, and I’m still not sure when your love
began to feel more like an anchor than a safety net, but your grip grew tighter,
and I realized too late that I had never learned to swim without you.
Learned instead that when the body exhales goodbye the lungs give out.
Slipping beneath the surface was much less violent than finally fighting for air,
muscles slowed by mud and memory of midnight conversations,
the corners where we kissed; thoughts of the tender way you used to trace palm lines to find
where ours intersected was almost enough to turn me back but
there was also the way you’d broken me open.
You were resourceful too. Hiding the way you could hurt,
could self-servingly split someone in two.
Turns out otters sound cuter than they really are
and holding on might have been what drowned me.
Femur / by Aaron Bradford
The guide described the lives of Chinese
immigrants mining Sutter’s Mill, setting
up shops, and buying busted claims before
Irish mobs burned them out. Kevin’s details
filled this version of history with sympathy,
a break from the stories of our childhoods
where Chinese laundries were backdrops,
and humans seemed to drop from the sky
to lay railroads. Our daughters heard how
associations set in provinces built
a system to take farmers from drought to gold
and return bones to home after they died.
They buried them, exhuming the graves after
six months. Only bones would be left. Then
they’d take boxes the length of the femur,
the longest bone, and send the men home.
The ancestral chain could stay unbroken,
prayers heard in family shrines. Guides relish details
like the box’s length, and Kevin held his hands
apart to measure for us. Then you asked
a question, hand lifted to shoulder, radius
up: Did the men’s bones get back as promised?
I didn’t tell you then, but am now, I love
the way you look past the smoke of romanticism,
where unkeepable vows spoken by businessmen
to gain workers reveal their fire. Yeah,
Kevin said, nodding, a lot of ships lost
cargo, fires broke out, and names were erased,
but some got home. We know just a little.
You get us here, a place we can build from:
we know so little, and some made it, just not
enough. You care to know that humans got
back but not as many as promised. You care
about gaps. The tour continued, the heat of the day
rising to afternoon sweat, and we saw
sawmills and Nisenan cedar tepees.
You guided our daughters to shade from ancient
oaks. We have built our small family despite
the broken ones that built us. We gave vows
tied to eternity, and I told you then,
and am renewing now—in whatever form,
perhaps next as trees, I’ll come back to you,
a romanticism, yes, but one we can build with.
⌘ Ode to the Hornworm / by Kai Coggin
oh vibrant sticky-footed goblin,
alien lord of some deeper knowing,
great green decimator of tomatoes—
I come to the garden
with a plan this morning
steely-eyed and ready
to follow the skeletal remains
of once-blooming foliage and ripening red planets,
ready to come and pick you off with
the gloved grabber fingers of this gardener I’ve become,
determined to put an end to your destructive hunger,
only to find you there,
in all of your bright emerald wonder,
your glowing body there on the vine, divine,
invisibly perfect in your chlorophyll camouflage,
bulbous and plump from engorging green,
you fattened gorgeous thing.
oh glorious hornworm,
I cannot pluck you
from this desperate plant
without first acknowledging
the glory of your stiff red horn tail,
backwards facing predator trickster unicorn,
your white stripes that parallel the lines of leaves,
the shape of your green curvature and swell,
you will devour and deflower an entire
canopy of tomato leaves overnight,
you will scar fruiting dreams,
break their tender skins,
shit tiny green grenades with tenacity,
grow and grow and grow,
I pluck you as the tomatoes weep
and lay you in my glove,
here— let me carry you,
just let me look at you
and your insatiable brothers
squirming here in my palm,
squishy bodies plump with the pulsing green of life,
you latch your little succulent feet to the vines of my fingers,
and turn yourself sphinx, posture yourself ancient mystery,
lift your torso and head to see with all your eyes
this human disturbance to your photosynthetic meal,
to you becoming sunlight itself.
suctioned feet gripping me like velcro,
as though mother nature is hugging me,
oh (not so) little hornworm of ample proportions,
you dance wild and sectional toward sky
inching toward the unknown,
dear bright one,
how do you get away with such unabashed otherworldliness,
how do you actually become a whole other being,
how do you molt away instars, in stars,
how do you teach your bodies
to fall away
when they no longer fit your growth,
teach me this language of transformation,
teach me I can burrow into darkness
and still come out as
moth flower-drinker winged-egyptian almost-bird,
you here, your verdant brothers,
all brilliant and brimming with the juice of earth
in my hand—
I bow all my fingers toward you,
you-sized human reflections of thanks,
sphinx my knuckles in gratitude
and move you
from my tomatoes.
Interpersonal Skills: Verbal Aggression / by Sandra Faulkner
Zoo Poem / by Erik Fredericksen
I wanted to
touch it, briefly,
typologize the objects
of my vision, hold
out my hand
in patience, which
means suffering, in
I hoped to be returned,
wanted what I wanted
to stay, desire back
with its own intentions,
to leave as found the
variability of survival,
mutability of what-
hungers-what, what I
voluntarily owe to each
organism, organon, in order
to mend something like
affection, confect a
response to the injury
I keep inheriting.
Artisanry / by Dan Murphy
The milk in the coffee flowers
it braids white into brown
little shafts and rivulets
rivering into gravity’s mesh
I push the cube down
and watch the upsurge
of cream into its adopted family
its brown ocean
In the coffee house
patrons lean into books
into lovers and friends
we are all of us living
in a Joni Mitchell song
hoping someone hear
our silent crying as
we lean into the hazy
borders of new continents
making them in our image
struck from native bush
Wasn’t Cut Out for This / by Emily Pease
for Spencer Reese
Companion / by Kayla Vasilko
“For Honey, who taught me how to write.”
Those that say all animals are the same have never stopped for more than a few moments and truly. looked. Have never sat beside a dog and stroked its fur by the fireplace. Have never read a book with a cat curled up in their lap. Have never been really taken, to the point where their attention is not divided into ten places, and instead is fixed only on the beauty of another creature, a creature with soft cotton-like fur, mischievous eyes, and thoughts, quests, and plots all its own.
Munchie, with his charcoal stripes woven between his leopard spots hates the thunder that accompanies the rain, but can outsmart any door between him and his desires.
Ollie’s fur was sculpted from a cloud somewhere, the joyful kind, not the stormy. The kind that is bright white and fluffy and visits the sky on the sunny, beach kind of days. He looks at water bottles with the fascination and happiness that overtakes me when I see a room full of books.
Slinky is an ebony princess; sleek and stunning, she will wedge herself in a space of any size just to curl up against you. She is mothering and astute with a heart bigger than the moon.
Blossom, with her apricot cheeks and lime green feathers, is an angel of dance and song. She’s energetic and eclectic, forever and always an artist at heart.
Beastie is a daredevil with loveably crazy quirks. There is no better conversationalist or more loyal friend.
Gabby is the beauty queen, the Miss America worthy type. Not just because of her pretty glamor, but because of her smarts and determination, the fact that she is truly kind.
Tiger is an old soul. He’s stayed wise and strong through the hard times. He’s shown selflessness to others, and has finally seen that love and care come back to him, so very much deserved.
And Honey, Honey is the revolution, the reason, the inspiration. She marked the beginning and has been there for every sore throat, Christmas morning, prom, breakup, SAT and college graduation. With her golden, amber coat and seashell pink nose she is like a scarlet sunset in summer and hot chocolate in the fall. She is peace and comfort. She is a friend. Loving an animal so purely does not mean a person doesn’t have other people to love. It only means they take the time to notice beauty outside of themselves. To look in unexpected places. To know that some of the greatest milestones of life could be shared with an untraditional companion, the kind with four legs or fins, or a tail.
reminiscence / by Nicole Winters
Poem 10 / Day 10
Death by a thousand tiny cuts / by Jaimee Boake
Six days after the province is declared
open for summer
it’s suggested the solution to all fiscal problems is to
pay nurses less.
Forget the way they faced fear,
ignore incalculable courage and compassion,
pretend the pandemic is over.
And I’m pissed off and want to write a poem
but I get stuck trying to find the best synonym for cut.
Slice doesn’t have enough sting.
Slash sounds too rash, chop not quite cunning.
So, for a lack of words, I want to ask the finance minister
why it’s possible for leaders in New Zealand to scale back their wages but not here,
whose hands he held while they struggled to breathe, wanting to look away but determined to give the dying dignity,
how he determines a life’s value in dollars.
I’d like to say to him, sir,
do you know how stop the bleeding?
(This is a cut up of the poems of the Volunteer Poets for July 2021—Jaimee Boake, Erik Fredericksen, Dan Murphy, Emily Pease, Kayla Vasilko, and Nicole Winters—using their Day 9 poems.) / by Aaron Bradford
I search, I mean, remember the picture of music.
You never learned magic, the carve of how tired bones breathe
voices. I melted, no patience to ask you how to find insomnia.
You’re the person who clipped feces and slobber, who mixed ribbons
into rainbows, some metamorphosis, a removal of night’s alters,
the changeable flash of light. I know removal slept, a game of hide
from work, whistling like a summer hubcap, crying mother.
The astrologers, crossing their knees, punctured light with sour breath,
their odor prophesized, their bald, glass feathers my new obsession.
They modeled terrible dreams from earrings, scarlet and green,
newly dead. My question of fear, controlling me, masking the trunk
of our family tree, collecting gold, sinking ginger. I’ll match
fallen pine needles. Their crowns disappear.
With Love, Aaron.
⌘ Memory / by Kai Coggin
Do you remember
the moment that memory left you?
Do you remember the land you were on
vacant and emptying
into a field of anonymous poppies?
Do you remember the smell of traffic,
of rusted monkey bars,
of vodka and orange juice,
of abandonment rising from your chest?
What about father.
What about father is
a tangible thing,
something your can hold
in your teeth
Do you remember what it feels like
to not have to reach for a moment in the dark,
like something bound to escape,
not having to try to trap it into time
with a photograph,
with a note,
it will disappear
into crumbling rice paper,
or dust itself into permanent oblivion,
Where is the waking up from all this losing?
Do you remember
when home meant more
than everything you could lose?
I am unbuckling from the weight of it,
standing straight on the pivotal vertebra of my spine,
knowing that if memory does not serve me
again and again,
at least I can find
for the world
Elaine, 73, says “I am still learning.” / by Sandra Faulkner
Things you know on some days:
2. Do not
Some days you know things.
Archival / by Erik Fredericksen
The rain left a relic. You sweat through your clothes.
Spider’s web the proof of some persistence. Yesterday
you put your finger on the pain in your side. The
garbage collection delayed, the traffic prolonged,
the honeycomb served at the restaurant. Residue of grass
on the khakis. The days deform in a new week. Is it
sad, is it funny, is it different than before—is there
hiding from the heatwave, is there shelter,
is there dwindling information. You hum a bit
of song that lingered. You pick something
from your teeth. You are unsatisfied, you are capable
of washing away with the water collecting
on the sidewalk’s lip. The asphalt crackles
accidentally. Has only ever remained.
Third Manifesto / by Dan Murphy
On Earth we are consumed,
we are eating machines
bulldozing, razing, making
down livable housing.
On Earth parasites affix
to skin, and bite.
Earth consumes itself
inhabitant by inhabitant
inhabitable for some
and then some.
Velvet / by Emily Pease
Every day we live with the dead: green velvet
sack gathered at the neck like a gift we should open.
Understandable, this disdain you feel, friend,
appalled by our neglect. But they are gone
now, just dust and grit within a velvet sack
tucked beneath our computer. Outside
the window, they hear the speer! speer!
of cardinals in the bush, the raw cackle
of crows, while in the kitchen the TV’s tuned
to news—news meaning life, how it keeps
going on. A toilet flushes. A phone rings.
The big dog pushes his nose against the door,
followed by the small dog. Every day. They
eat, lap water from their bowls, scratch,
nap, wake and hump like the living do. Afternoon:
sizzling onions and the crack of an egg.
Such sounds the dead could love, but they are
gone and it’s been a long time. Still, when
we argue, they cannot be disappointed. They
ignore the vacuum forever, ignore
the lone shoe thumping in the dryer. Ignore
leaf blowers, lawn mowers, the neighbor’s
angry guns. Because they are gone and life
moves on. See, each year that passes
there’s a computer upgrade, a better camera
embedded in the phone. And our children,
they are grown. What, our dead dad and mom,
surprises you here, what horrifies? Mornings,
when we enter your room and see your velvet
sack, we think: there you are, under our feet,
with cardinals and crows outside. It’s better you
remain in a velvet sack than scattered over a sea.
Sleepless Nights / by Kayla Vasilko
I want to call out with joy every time I surface from the water, artificially thunderstorm-choppy
from my sudden jump in; it’s so blissfully cold. I love diving deep and feeling the ice ignite
every one of my senses.
I guess I dove too deep with you. When I close my eyes, sometimes I still feel you all around me.
Enveloping me like the caress of water. So much a part of me that you color my thoughts and I
think of you at every crossroad. I see you in my choices and the star-filled nights that are a bit
cloudy. I feel you in my desires and the blankets I crave when it’s coldest. I hear you in my
thoughts and the wind when it’s most forceful—so loud you are, laughing, chiding, teasing,
calling, talking. Talking with glorious words, same as always.
Do you hear me too, in your heart sometimes? At moments I think you have to, you must. That I
too, must be as treacherously loud as I feared my heart was at the beginning, when I couldn’t
keep it from screaming: I love you. I love you like I’ve never loved anyone before – when we
played cards, stayed up late working side by side, spent many days walking long walks in the sun
and the wind.
How could you not hear me now, after all that we’ve shared since? How could you not hear my
mind, my eyes, my face screaming all at once: I am sad. I am broken. I am alone.
How could you not care to know the rest of my story? After spending so much time all but
guiding my hand as I penned it? You probably thought you knew how it would end, but you
missed beauty greater than either of us could have imagined. Wonder that pierced me so deeply I
swore you must have been able to feel it, somewhere, somehow. After all, you still have my
Sometimes I want to shout what has happened next, the unexpected twist in the story. How I’m
fighting, how I’m strong. You’ll never guess, I long to say to you; even though I know you don’t
care, and you never knew I had this much in me.
Because you know everything about me, right? You told me once that I’d live when you cut us
apart because I had endured worse losses, as if holding my heart entitled you to decide what it
felt or in what order it loved. What you didn’t consider was that though I lost those who loved
me and loved those I lost, I had never had my heart stolen before. I had never had to survive in a
world where the thief went off to live with two hearts and might grace me with a thought when
the wind blows too loudly.
I would never write that fate for the greatest villain in the universe. Survival is sentence of
I still love. You still have the best, and the most broken, part of me, so you must know this. I
love this cause and this fight. I am determined, and I refuse to lose it. There are many I want to
win this for and many who are proud. You would be proud if you knew, I think. Even if you had
just known me in passing, or loved me only an ounce, once upon a time.
spark / by Nicole Winters
inches away still warm
like the sun burning,
the non-touch feels stronger, electric
static in the air raises
the hair on my skin
lightning between clouds
that never strikes the ground feels
like a strobe light
my eyes can’t adjust to
the silent rhythm
tender in hair, pirouette
the missing song
of whitewater swirling
smoke tendrils &
rain against the window.
Poem 9 / Day 9
For Mom / by Jaimee Boake
Sometimes I search Kijiji for used pianos for sale.
I can’t remember how to play
but I can picture you sitting on a creaky bench before ours, old and out of tune,
sheets of music set out that you never learned to read.
It was magic the way your fingers would still find the right
keys to carve melody out of quiet,
the way your hands graced it’s tired bones,
breathed it back to life.
I would stand in the doorway, watch, and listen,
soothed by the soft way your voice melted into the music.
When you gave it away I was sad, but didn’t have the words to say why,
years since I’d practiced myself –
never enough patience to play like you, never quite the right ear,
pretending to be too cool to ask you to keep it –
Now I long to slow my heartbeat to the sound of you singing,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
and if I ever purchase a piano I’ll play it till it’s strings stretch
then offer you the seat to set it right.
Calling the Search / by Aaron Bradford
Bodies may be found, but no one expects any more
living. I can hold on my phone blueprints of the condos.
I can swipe and see names—Andres Galfrascoli,
Fabian Nunez, Sofia, six-year-old daughter (all missing),
Marcus Guara (dead), wife and two daughters (missing),
Manuel LaFont, father (dead), Graciela Cattatossi, daughter
of Graciela and Gino, sister of Andrea, mother of Stella
(all missing). I fear for my daughters, knowing
what we forced on them, their deaths born with them.
The building was expected to fall. The needed repair
work focused on issues related to “life/health/safety.”
Someone knew, but no one cared. Deteriorated
concrete “penetrated deep into corbel construction.”
Someone knew, but no one cared. Repairs were “needed
to ensure the safety of residents and the public.”
But residents were angered by the $15 million assessment
of repair costs. And don’t forget the volunteer board
was split by disagreements and feuds.
When I lived City Terrace, an earthquake sprang a crack
in the house we rented. It ran across the ceiling
and down the walls, marking the hill the house was built
on. We were renters, poor, in a Latinx neighborhood
in East LA. The white landlady brought a popcorn tin
for Christmas but never fixed anything. Every time we moved
from living room to bedrooms, we’d cross the crack and listen
for creaks. We left after the mudslide took most the hill’s
support, but that is nothing, nothing, nothing like this.
The condo’s swimming pool “was to remain in service
for the duration of the work.” Someone knew, but
no one cared. The swimming pool couldn’t close.
The official line now: “I look forward to learning
the truth.” Events become lessons in civic duty.
The future more important than the loss, the ceaseless
present erasing the past, even if the past is last week.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this, what could have been
prevented and how to make sure it never happens again.”
Again. But it happens again. And again. But for now, no one
expects any more living, but bodies may be found.
* The italicized portions of this poem come from NPR’s reporting, most from a report by Brian Mann from All Things Considered, July 8, 2021.
Ode to my old mutt / by Sandra Faulkner
You always find me wherever-
in insomnia or work’s blasted grip-
and sleep by my feet ready
while the rest of the house
is suspended in their own drama.
I am the person you are happiest to see
even though I clip your toenails
weakening your lion strength like Samson
and make you bathe away the good smells
of rot and feces and slobber.
You are a mix of this and that
too little of anything to win a ribbon
but so much of what we need:
purer than a newborn baby
better than the end of the rainbow.
Metamorphoses Book 4 / by Erik Fredericksen
Reply & replication & removal. Refusal. They didn’t know what they were doing.
Or did & didn’t care. None of night’s anomalous colors went unnoticed. They trusted
the channel, but air that carries is air that alters. That’s not what the movie was about.
The screen went white then red. Every god as changeable as a name in the credits. What
isn’t capable of burning? What’s burnt out. Spent match like a story ended, storied ending,
sunflower after sunset.
But you came for the flash of light & the brand-new theme—who knew
that causeway of breezes was so solvable? He did, the one with the new design, looking like
Exchequer of Morning, like he was born for the task. For the virtuous purchase
of what needed selling. He forgot how to be unloyal. Was what the story wanted.
Reply & replication & refusal. Removal. He didn’t know how he had gotten there.
Sequence of Events / by Dan Murphy
Once I slept in a hamper of my parents’ clothes
it’s true it started as a game of hide and seek
I was six I think and chose mom and dad’s hamper
it smelled like yard work and cigarettes and PE
clothes I found a half-eaten roll of Tums in
my Dad’s front pocket the silver foil like a ring
and ate them I couldn’t whistle and fell asleep
my brother watched Speed Racer quietly for an hour
he gave up like he did after his divorce or when
he walked outside where he was forbidden
he was 7 and he learned to smoke after giving
away Dad’s Playboys the teenagers opinion
of my father improved and they made brother
a lieutenant in their gang of thieves for a summer
I’d say he stole a car but he only got a hubcap
I’d say he was arrested but he really got shot
lying face down in that street by the high school
some angry citizen with a right they said
to my father who came crying where is his mother
Gifts of the Astrologers / by Emily Pease
(Jan van Biljert, 1597-167)1
After crossing the desert for weeks, after tending
their camels, feeding and watering, salving
sores on their knees, after sleeping beneath stars,
sky punctured by light, light of the heavens,
dazzling, terrifying, streaking west to east,
after watching a single blazing star,
after rocking in wooden saddles on the backs
of beasts, after breathing sour breath, smelling
oily stench, odor so close it became their very
skin, after long travel to see the prophesized
baby king, they appeared at his holy tent.
Balthasar, Melchior, Caspar
So the Dutch painter envisioned them, the three
astrologers who came to him
In Amsterdam, he looked for men, took two
to his room, proceeded to paint: Balthasar, with
gray goatee, bald pate, ring of hair curled
at the neck, plus a damask vest, glass charm
at the throat, gold goblet clutched in hand,
adorned with feathers: Balthasar’s offering
for the boy king, Herod’s obsession.
Next Melchior, modeled after a seaman he knew,
draping beard, thick mustache, imagined brass
cup firm in his grasp, conveying his conviction:
after heat-mad weeks on the desert, wavering
sun afflicting terrible dreams, hallucinations,
he’d found the baby and offered frankincense.
Still the Dutch master had to paint Caspar, Indian
traveling king reading prophets and maps,
exotic, dark-skinned—not Dutch—out of time,
like no carpenter he’d known, no ruddy
plasterer; instead he made Caspar a woman:
foreign, unimaginable, high turban
hiding her hair, pearl earrings dripping
below her ears, black frock trimmed in scarlet
and green, suggesting a certain majesty—
woman posing as man, a star-watching Indian
traveling king with bright wondering eyes, delicate
hands nestling myrrh, her precious offering of oil
to preserve the newly dead.
The dead! Herod’s curse, death hovering over
the doorway, so he pictured a woman cradling myrrh,
still, serene, a question on her face.
Temer / by Kayla Vasilko
Note: As an ode to when I first started writing poetry at fifteen, and in an attempt to keep seeking inspiration for this month of writing, I went through my work from eight years ago and wanted to include this.
There is a world of fear surrounding us all.
The relationship is taut and sealed, like a string to a ball.
The fear is the string, controlling and fierce.
It jerks us, and yanks us.
Our hearts, does it pierce.
And we, the beautiful world of life all,
mirror and reflect the characteristics of the ball.
We are pushed, shoved, and trampled into wall after wall,
and pensive and scared, upon bravery we call.
But the string, will twist, and the string will shove,
masking our fears like a hand in a glove.
The fear then, will grow, just wait and see.
It will change from a string to the trunk of a tree.
Rooting us all so that we may never be free.
collecting sunrises / by Nicole Winters
beams diffuse honeyed
clouds hang strategic,
to catch penultimate
streak of gold.
the sun on your face feels
into fervent saline
flush rose and ginger,
fade to morning glory.
at high tide waist deep
I’ll be the match
the sulfur sting
the ground beneath us tempers
the sand, the dirt, the mud,
the sharp fallen pine needles,
behind bluffs the sun dyes
the ocean from horizon,
but in the valley paints
dawn wall from the top down
tree crowns curl
breath disappears in warmer air.
Poem 8 / Day 8
Itinerary for the day with a dear friend / by Jaimee Boake
Let’s walk in the woods and dream the names of all the flowers we don’t know, lose ourselves in the darkening heart, the forested magic misting around us, the ancient mystery of old growth.
Show me the city’s secrets, buried in the sand at the ocean’s edge. Let the salt coat our tongues like the sky kisses shore.
Please take me to the place called poets’ corner. We can sip coffee and pretend we have answers for all the world’s problems, pretend we don’t need to miss the way things used to be without a province of space between us.
We’ll end our evening with takeout, tell stories, and sit barefoot in all the blues of sinking-sun. Redden lips with wine, and listen to ruby-throated laughter echoing off the docks.
The Final Fourth / by Aaron Bradford
Our civilization didn’t collapse. The energy
for our body electric just wasn’t renewable.
So we whimpered, lethargic, into REM-less sleep.
Mother’s Day, Flag Day, Father’s Day, Easter,
each wound down to the 5th: The Evacuation.
We had voted. Division subsided. Our absence won.
Some spoke of the Shutdowns from their childhood,
coming together—for a moment—for the greater good.
We’d give it all up. But as the date approached some
mood set in. What’s the word for regretting
what we’ve chosen to let go? Is it an old word?
Lugubriousness? Maybe a new one? Pre-mourning?
Still, as the sun set on the 4th, each of us went
outside. We wrote our names on the street
with sparklers one last time—and left at first light.
⌘ Thirst / by Kai Coggin
this morning’s wonder
is brought to you by the way
an elephant ear can hold a drop of water,
as if in a cup
held in its own sentience,
how it sits on the leaf in a perfect globe,
unflinching in its wholeness,
a sphere of light catching an early slant of sun rising,
the drop does not roll away,
does not disappear into the chlorophyll of it all,
just holds steady in the elephant’s impermeable insistence—
who notices these moments but the poets?
who takes the time to write lines of the way light shines
through a single drop of water poised there on the morning leaf?
who sings the song of these unheralded miracles but us minstrels,
scribbling away in our quiet rooms,
mumbling in our lonely corners,
where we pray
that these miracles never cease
to find us
with our eyes
and hearts open
for just a single drop?
/ by Sandra Faulkner
Lois, 78, tells me “I still don’t know anything.”
The one you love the most can cause the most pain:
The one most pain can cause you the most love.
Carolyn @67 admits that everyone gets hurt.
Relationships are important things.
are important relationship things.
“You can’t be right all of the time.” Paula, 66 years old
When you are young, seeing in black and white is
is seeing when you are young in black and white.
Hiatus / by Erik Fredericksen
it is not far to night and I cannot think my way there
late firework or early thunder empty room
outside the recycle overflows outside the motion-
sensor light goes off moths still clinging satellite
from behind the cloud something off with the forecast
but I could be anywhere looking out any window
in a year of my life it is not far to memory the smell of her car
what difference does nearness make that cannot be unmade
what room is this what year dirt becoming mud tonight
wind swinging the hummingbird feeder it is a fox that wakes
and makes this cry the bed rustles like leaves it is hardly a real time
Hey Hey / by Dan Murphy
Who wants to be smart not me
those degrees are like lawn signs
for last season’s mayoral campaign
I don’t vote I want money that’s justice
in this country the sweetener and equalizer
get the ants to come you know it’s a picnic
otherwise it’s sad eating food in the park
on cement tables it’s not smart and flies come
from the paint-green barrels and a woman
drops a baby diaper near your Tucky Fried
chicken lunch with Dad’s new friend
from AA he’s anonymous so he’s named
Dusty who because Dad chooses him
is a creep and molests my sister she breaks
up with my parents over this my brother
and I don’t get to choose we don’t find out
until after years pass the shag is pulled the kitchen remodeled
and my brother believes Dad his porn-watching partner
and I believe finally my sister hooray for justice
but I want family unity and am quiet for once
I can’t be smart and right at the same time
I know that much.
Even Songbirds Fly in Pairs / by Emily Pease
sorrow the yolk
I feed from
longing so thick
I can hardly swallow
curl and vanish
in the distance
And those quick
how they dip
On A Rainy Day / by Kayla Vasilko
People can be good.
People can show kindness.
People can act with their hearts.
That sounds like a fairy tale, most days –
it feels like we’re living in a world where
you tap and they punch,
you call and they scream.
you step and they crush,
you run and they trample,
It’s about power; they force you to feel weak,
yet they’re not stronger. They shatter your foundation until you’re left
with stone atop stilts. But then sometimes,
there’s a clearing, right in the middle of the storm.
Just a small patch, near the end of the road, yet, still large enough for the sun to power
through the clouds and glint off the soaked pavement. Sometimes, someone comes along
and says hello. I’m here for you. I will help you carry this, and I expect nothing in return.
And they help you.
They help you because there is right and there is wrong. They help you even though
you hadn’t asked, because you worried they’d cut you deeper yet. They make you sad
that you’ve come to count on the bad, come to believe that it is normal. They leave
you awed that sometimes the most wonderful joy
is to stand by someone when they’re standing all alone.
origins / by Nicole Winters
it’s important to return
clay to the wild
landscapes carved in skin.
take a sip, get a bit of earth
stones from moonlight
or half dome granite
gravel, hold it
against the panorama
fresh air filled
press your lips to rim
the colorado river cuts south.
Poem 7 / Day 7
The end of the heatwave / by Jaimee Boake
We open the windows and wait for rain,
beg the clouds to bloom, to burst,
will the wind to rise, the thunder to rattle
us back to life.
And when the first streak of lightning flashes
you lace your fingers with mine,
settle into the static, where we will stay awhile
until the scent of the soil is sharpened by storm,
until our skin seeks each other,
until we sleep, soundly,
sky breaking around us.
Drought Walk / by Aaron Bradford
The drain-off pond is dry. Stones and soot
from a controlled burn cover the hill beside
the pond. A drawer from a plastic organizer
juts from the mucked bed, and an egret lilts
from a treetop as red-winged blackbirds skim
food. A secondary reservoir, dry too, sits behind
a scrawl of a copse. I track a kaleidoscope
of butterflies as I walk. They shift from brambles
to ride currents to a backyard oak. Ahead,
a woman begins to step faster. I stop at the corner
to show I’m not following. I watch the flight
and see the butterflies are truly sparrows, newly
fledged, narrow-winged and barrel-chested, a simple
flock, a host flying shifts between spurts of cars.
The woman is far enough away for me not to seem
creeping. I start back home, heat softening my steps.
⌘ I Sit with a Master (for Jane Hirshfield) / by Kai Coggin
I sit with a Master
of poetic craft, her essays,
the nine gates of her soul-piercing words,
under the blazing sun overhead.
I lie down on the deck,
it warms my back with ambient fire, I radiate
and my ribcage
opens like a cracked hymnal
as I read, the book is surrounded
in blue sky above and moving
billowing white clouds that
swirl in a dance around this learning,
this prayer of attentiveness,
this call to concentration
that the language of her words suggests.
I live this way already,
tuned to a higher frequency,
a foot in both worlds, I tread
the trails of stars while dipped
in this humanness.
All of my eyes are open,
my cells divide into infinities,
I taste this moment with my whole body,
the book’s slick cover and grainy pages,
the summer morning’s soft breeze,
the billowing nimbus,
her voice coming through ink,
in the ability to stop time
and become a part of every moving cell around me,
the abundance of thanks
that wells inside my body knowing I can speak
a language that pulses in all things,
knowing silence is its own music,
knowing I have been trained to talk unashamed to flowers,
to hear the woodpecker hollow out a song into pine,
to move with the dragonfly alight on the page right now,
landing divine on the dog-eared pyramid
as if dipped in gold, the sun
kaleidoscoping his wings
with another planet’s iridescence.
All of my eyes are open,
I try to catch all the images moving
like salmon in a stream before me,
try to hold them slippery and fleeting
in an act of poetic preservation,
but there is no stopping
the passing of everything as it dances
Suddenly a hummingbird
whirrs over me
and pees on my forehead.
Dare I call it nectar of the gods?
Dare I call myself anointed?
/ by Sandra Faulkner
Judy @73 years old, confesses, “I wish I had been nicer to my sisters.”
Listen to what is not being said-
To listen. Not being. What is said.
Pam, 76, wishes that “I had felt my self-worth.”
I would have been a happier person.
happier, I would have been a person.
“It is not my job,” said Penny, 78 years old.
Be honest about what you feel.
be honest about what you feel.
Clearance / by Erik Fredericksen
Spilled some what-must-
have-been-light on the berries.
Then crushed them. Couldn’t tell
them apart. Couldn’t tell you
what it profits to win. To want
the right thing at the right time.
Sometimes life is episodic.
Loaf of bread with a bible verse
on the label. The trunk of the oak
no longer has their bodies, the cicadas,
but today and tomorrow the lawn
is wracked with their exits.
Secondary / by Dan Murphy
There was a place we called the Dairy Drive Thru
where if you slipped an extra $2 in your payment
you could get a sixer at 16 or 18 if Joey or Marty
was working J and I were steady and steady drinkers
of Old Milwaukee she drove her tiny stick shift
Honda over the hill when sex wasn’t enough she didn’t
have a TV just albums and we’d drink and get buzzed
and talk she smoked sometimes Virginia Slims and
she’d light one and give me an extra to light the first
with on the long walk home between the hills
I was afraid sometimes but followed the orange light
a flaming caterpillar head and kicked at broken bottles
soda cans sang Rolling Stones Dire Straits At the Movies
XTC Drums and Wires Get Happy by Elvis so now
you know how old I am and my perspective and prejudice
probably I’m White and just vibing now at night
remembering lying in the dusty shag of her room
the red green and orange lights on Technics receiver
like tiny magic fingers tightened to my nerve endings
and that part in Secondary Modern the bass thumping
guitar’s slight snap Farfisa humming and Elvis’ voice
that offhand brilliance we both saw clearly in each other
for a long time it seemed with the lights off and all
my world goes from blue to blue
Longing for What Has Not Yet Been Lost / by Emily Pease
such longing that rests beneath the surface of my mind, born at your birth,
that first glimpse of you, your vital life, tiny human, mine—
curled toes, bright eyes, knees drawn to the chest as if still folded
in the womb, dark mysterious cave I kept you in, your first dwelling, me—
such longing that begins at the beginning, that fragile hour when love
arrives deeper than any love your heart has ever contained, my love—
gasping, breathless, already seeing all un-seeable days crystal dark
as outer space, God space, Creator space, space from which you came—
timeless newborn, everything future, future, future, and so begins such
longing beyond what I cannot see, yet see and dread, still—
heart’s knowledge that each day must always be its own and its last,
each next day a risk, and each year, year to year, life being crystal dark—
this sea in which we struggle as if thrown from a dock, following the sound
of the waves, knees to chest, head just above the surface, swimming on.
Brenda / by Kayla Vasilko
a bright comfort amidst darkness. Dependable, unquestionably, guiding the stars’ return each
night so the sky may be blanketed with a patchwork quilt of celestial fireflies.
with amber wings, glimmering in the sun with iridescent lace. Strong enough to withstand any
journey. Soaring like a feather of hope, migrating home every spring without fail.
with sunset petals; red, pink, yellow, like afternoon sherbet, classy and sweet. Void of thorns
with gentle leaves; better refuge than a roof of stone.
with a beautiful heart. Sincere, with a willingness to listen at any time. Fun and peaceful like an
autumn walk when the sun glints through scarlet and canary-leafed oaks.
you would choose if you could decide who to call family. Someone you want to be like one day.
Someone you look up to, always.
“north” / by Nicole Winters
after the song by phoenix,
which I like to imagine stories for
my dream is a volkswagen bus,
ruby red, or sunshine yellow
so it stands out
against the forest & the ocean,
the mountains behind the alpine lake.
a camper top & a platform cot,
vintage curtains hang above windows;
the door sticks half open,
but the engine always runs.
the bass shakes & the clutch catches
shift to fourth. sticker
one from each place we sleep
a working collage,
memories pasted together in vinyl –
cruise in concert for miles
in this dream, lucid.
Poem 6 / Day 6
Phobophobia / by Jaimee Boake
she asks what seems to trigger my panic attacks
and despite the pressure building inside me
as I think about paying her by the hour,
I begin to list
dark streets and walking by strange men.
sleeping alone in a creaking house.
having others see this broken part of me.
trying to explain that my anxiety is like an overgrown garden.
it brings me to my knees, back aching, fingers bleeding, as I try to get to the roots.
relaxing. most people laugh when I say that, though it’s true.
if I avoid work on the weekend by Sunday night I feel paralyzed
by all the things I should have done and on Monday morning
my coworkers joke I am like a tornado blowing in
driving: mostly going somewhere new and the possibility of getting lost, but
it’s not just the wrong turns that turn my knuckles white, it’s the
“make a u-turn” where you can’t, and the honking horns,
and the driving too fast to still make it on time,
hurtling over the earth way faster than humans were meant to go
and knowing just one error could mean death
and have you ever really thought about dying?
sometimes I imagine the darkness of being buried and feel like that dirt is already on my chest,
a thousand pounds and I suffocate slowly,
wondering will I have really lived before that happens?
which I guess means what I am most afraid of is time.
of empty photo albums,
of missed opportunities,
of forgetting my grandpa’s laugh,
of dad’s greying hair,
of losing the ones I love.
A Collective / by Aaron Bradford
Swans bank. Crows,
of course, murder.
Even when it kills us,
A blister of fire ants.
A welt of mosquitos.
A shading of pines.
A shelter of places.
A shoot of humans.
A mock of humans.
A virus of humans.
Even when it kills us,
A collapse of humans.
A suffocation of humans,
a holding, a warming,
a moment of humans
where we gather
even if it kills us.
⌘ Making Something That Lasts / by Kai Coggin
Today we pickled
the cucumbers that have been
growing wild and sprawling all through our
stone garden, climbing the other fruiting, flowering things
with their unruly tendrils,
swirls of persistent vibrance
spiraling up the giant zinnias,
marrying the yellow squash with its reaching
just as this poem has s p r a w l e d
into wild unruly description of the cucumber
patch when I mean to be pickling
in the kitchen with my wife
in her matching overalls
and a song playing
literally called the pickle song
and you do silly things when
you’re married like wear matching overalls
and dance around the kitchen island
between shoving spears of cucumber
into mason jars,
you kiss— both holding knives
and have never felt safer,
she puts a yellow dill flower behind your ear
and you see fireworks
in her eyes
you do silly things when you’re married—
there is a level of corniness
that sort of laps around on itself,
making it all of a sudden cool,
making it all of a sudden perfect.
making this moment
everything you’ve actually
What we forgive our old dog that we can’t forgive people / by Sandra Faulkner
Barfing up the pizza you stole
on the top step of the spiral staircase
in those hours when the darkened house
is suspended in the time between.
When you leapt like an excited puppy
for the ham steak and snatched it off the fork
trying to gulp it down midair as you ran
moving so fast you earned best in show.
Vomiting beside the kid’s backpack
the week of solo parenting so in the rush
the squish between my toes became unimportant
when I smelled the urine inside the bag.
Eating the leftovers heated just through
as they sat on the table for dinner,
your speed belying your arthritic hip
as I turned to find the saltshaker.
Peeing on Uncle’s ashes at the memorial service
before we can place them in the ground,
our collective grief eased with disbelief
at the way you chose to say goodbye.
Alarm Sonnet / by Erik Fredericksen
seven twenty-five / you weren’t supposed to leave yet /
simulated bird crescendos its chirp / a piece of mind
that is yours, seven thirty-two / You were on a boat
or rickety train / you were trying to tell someone
but they thought you were using a metaphor / seven
thirty-nine, have you forgotten the day’s password? /
there was something crying nearby or no, bells
in a loop / there was almost an intelligence / your foot
uncovered then covered / seven forty-six / insisting
has made you warm / has made you as forgetful
as the surface of the pond your foot slipped into / seven
fifty-three and you can leave again, can will yourself in
to an otherwise / the birds are outside now / eight
o’clock / something is sweating / are you inside?
We went to church when I was 12 or 13
not for God my mother took a class on
Women in the Bible I was too old for
Sunday school too young and dull
for regular church we were Methodists
our liberal minister quoted Carlos
Castañeda and Dr. King we weren’t looking
for salvation we had a house and one church
member wrote for TV my mother loved this
but we never met him we met the second
minister a loud woman who had another woman
for roommate the minister played tennis and swore
when she faulted she drank Scotch listened
to Hot August Night she and the roommate
had a pool the children swam in being restless
the grown ups drank and talked and fed us
burgers and chips and soda pop and asked how
we felt looking at other spouses deciding
how late this would go
Baby Dreams / by Emily Pease
smoke and milk
and smoke sparking
thrum // thrum
sway nestling bud
shiver // tongue
Unthinkable Nostalgia / by Kayla Vasilko
The sparks race up side by side, connecting the dots
to what looks like the tail of a kite. The kite tail in the middle reaches
what looks to be the top of the sky (the point where you are looking up the highest
without having to crane your neck backwards.) first, and explodes into a red flower
of sparks that ripple into gold, the end of a deep blue wave
turning into a white fold of mist—summer’s nostalgia, fizzing and popping
like a living, shimmering mobile. And talking, laughing, chanting people!
People, wearing sandals, picnicking with strawberries and lemon ice,
hugging, tossing footballs, swinging on seesaws, watching beetles wind
their way through thick blades of grass. People all around, wonderfully
not alone, at last. A breathtaking sea of smiling people, together again.
It shouldn’t be nostalgic, but it’s been too long.
early mornings on 15th street / by Nicole Winters
I send you a picture of the sunrise
since you aren’t here to see it swallow
white water & rouge cumulus,
patina the pier –
will you wish you were here?
a wave curls
perfect in its own way;
a crack at the crest rushes messy to sand
reaching to pull a piece of the beach
Poem 5 / Day 5
It was July / by Jaimee Boake
It was July and we were teeter-tottering on the edge of womanhood,
spitting out cherry pits, trying to tie the stems into knots with our tongues.
It was the beach where we learned to betray ourselves.
Self-conscious in bathing suits and sure the heat on our skin
was from staring and shame, we buried our bodies in sand,
sculpted mermaid tails and the breasts we were waiting to have,
till being someone else was too heavy on our chests and we
cracked through the surface, all skinny
limbs and awkward once again.
Stretched out on scratchy shore, sweat beading between shoulder blades
we were unsure if wading in to play was still cool,
watered down our enthusiasm instead.
We watched the waves sweep away the sandcastles,
forced laughter between our teeth.
It was July and we didn’t notice we were slipping away, too.
Following Pages / by Aaron Bradford
My daughter has given me another book to read. Cats fight
to keep a forest secure, led by a hero born outside the clan,
a cat with a thousand faces. As I read, I notice the dog-eared
pages she uses as bookmarks and try to pace to her reading,
wondering with each stop what action or idea caused her
to turn a corner down. Nothing I can decipher. When,
though, did I begin to follow her, to guess at her?
Even with nearly every day spent together, she’s truthfully
a stranger. Just as I’m a stranger to her. So much is always
hidden. The book she gave might compare this to tracking
a vole. After a while, the story starts to stick and I keep
turning pages, no longer hunting, caught up in what
we can share, even if we can’t grasp every detail.
⌘ Under the Table / by Kai Coggin
My first boyfriend was in 5th grade, I guess,
Rene Luna, luna like moon,
like a dead planet, cold and empty,
but at eleven, I thought I would try boys
before totally committing my life
to the love of women, their softness,
and he was left handed, and we held hands
in social studies under the table,
I never even kissed him once,
and my best friend Carmen
and his best friend Mark
were a couple, too, so it was a thing,
this puppy love, more puppy lost,
and did I mention I never kissed him,
and Carmen and Mark were surely
running all the bases by that time,
and I wouldn’t say my first
and only boyfriend
was anything close to love,
but more like a test drive
to a car you know you don’t want,
this old clunker of a thing,
and you take it for a spin just to see
that the steering is all wrong
and there is a weird smell,
but he was a nice kid,
and we held hands in social studies,
under the table, his right hand in my left, both of us
diligently keeping our pencils moving
so Mr. Saenz wouldn’t see,
under the table, so no one else would see,
whose blonde hair was so pretty.
On my mom’s 82nd birthday she goes to the DMV to renew her license / by Sandra Faulkner
though she hasn’t driven in years
and her hair is COVID lockdown length.
This is the last time, she tells me
like she is telling me what she ate for lunch.
My dad waited in the truck
his wheelchair tucked in the back
while she sat with her arthritis
and a mask on her face-
two hours with the paperwork in a Ziploc bag
too stiff to complain, her bones cracked
when she tried to stand up
and make it to the counter.
Then the paperwork was lost,
though just for a bit.
She tells me that the workers
were stupid or something
because they couldn’t understand
she just needed a license for a few years.
No, she didn’t want a 10-year renewal-
8 years would be fine-
she most likely would not be alive
when it would be time to renew.
Self Portrait / by Erik Fredericksen
Countable plant life
in the present tense.
Twinge of memory the phone
suggested. The drink
he had had.
many times I
asked how many times.
The paper lanterns one
after the other. The
uptake. Satellite we
the sunset glitched
across the sky so favorably.
Was that what then it
was like. Was like
it was missing
of shadows, the short-
There is something
in the background.
off his glasses
for the picture.
He counted to three. What
direction was it that once
felt natural. Was
it forwards. It
had kept happening
the way rain
doesn’t stop. And then
the rain stopped.
Recollection / by Dan Murphy
My earliest memory is nursery school
at a converted bowling alley
they served Wheat Thins and tomato juice
in that Torrance neighborhood where
urban planning decreed apartment apartment
vacant lot apartment where folks walked
indoors and talked in black and white
or off-green check shirts my father
thin smoking a pipe posing with my brother
and me a head lock before my sister was born
and my sense of injustice came alive I was a terror
and held her over the rails she threw a knife
once I stayed 45 minutes in the bathroom
the door locked until our parents came home
and we said All’s cool like we did in the 70’s
we were child detectives solving our own
Aphelion / by Emily Pease
“Don’t be uneasy. Your mother very slightly hurt by her fall.”
telegraph from Abraham Lincoln to son Robert, July 3, 1863
Earth at its midpoint
farthest from the sun
third of July
at midnight Lincoln
walks to the telegraph office
don’t let Tad use that gun of his
he’d written Mary days before
because he’d learned not to trust
because he’d watched his mother die
because the wilderness
because his father
black night skies
on her way to Washington
her carriage breaks away
deep head injury
renders her never the same
while earth rolls again
toward the sun
A Comprehensive Guide to the World’s Most Deadly Weapons / by Kayla Vasilko
traveler: an ode to my french press / by Nicole Winters
stainless steel and indestructible, polished
by sands of afghanistan,
& now, salt spray of the gulf,
sedona red rock & ponderosa mulch.
in new mexico, steam rose like smoke;
pour a cup of hot spring heat,
the roaming brews better
over pine needles
beneath idyllwild boulders,
sip el cap espresso beside merced rapids
death valley, listen to burros
shout & caravan down dirt roads
fresh with mud from last night’s rain
moab stains sienna.
the river cuts
through black canyon
the same mirrored reflection
presses grounds to the bottom
the way my father taught me
to the middle east and home
in his seabag, & now mine
back to sandstone bluffs
dry salted pacific air
blowing into the sage spotted hillside
a carafe seasoned
by all the places it’s been.
Poem 4 / Day 4
of Tomorrow / by Jaimee Boake
Conservative party members vote down resolution to officially recognize climate change
-Stephanie Levits, Global News, March 20, 2021
They sit on the sidewalk with sunburned shoulders and sing sweetly through
lemonade lips, Cool down for a dollar.
They have pigtails and a neon pink sign with spelling mistakes boldly made in sharpie
that screams they are trying to fight climate change.
I guess they are about 8 years old.
There is sweat on the back of my neck as I search my pockets for change.
They smile, faces as fresh as the way a flower opens.
Pour their hearts into that cup.
Sour sears my tongue, gathers at the back of my throat like tears.
What a world they are expected to grow in.
One where the oceans are rising as sure as the heat lifts from the pavement in waves,
where western Canada is covered in what they’re calling a heat dome,
dangerous temperatures spiking higher and higher, sun scorching the land and the people, like nothing we’ve ever
and earlier this year powerful people made it clear they do not care to combat this crisis.
It must have been money that made them forget how to love the world.
They will one day consume it.
And here, these kids could buy toys or candy or clothes or try to convince their parents to let them buy a puppy, and they just want to save us.
Tabs / by Aaron Bradford
A found poem based on the tabs I had open across devices on April 5, 2020
What Is the Ionosphere?
The What-o-sphere? An Explainer with Illustrations
Expressive Language, and Related Content
“The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2020
Yellowstone National Park Is Closed
“200 Years of Afro-American Poetry”
The Coronavirus is Transforming Politics and Economics
Voyager Golden Record
Audible—You have 3 Credits!
Facebook—What’s on Your Mind?
Make Your Own Sourdough, Tiny Starter
Search Results “Symbolism”
50 Books Your Kids Should Read Before They’re 12
At Home Enrichment and Virtual Field Trips
Wrong Ways to Meditate
How to Turn a Batch of Lima Beans into 9 Dinners
How to Make a Face Mask with Fabric
Quarantine Tips from My Cat
Tap to Play, Swipe to Move
Guidance on wearing a mask has been evolving
Facebook—What’s on Your Mind?
Tracking the Spread: Coronavirus World Map
Desert Island Discs, Patrick Stewart
How to Make Bao Buns
Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Blood Pressure
Toxic Masculinity and the Brokenness of Boyhood
The Coronavirus Is the World’s Only Superpower
Facebook—What’s On Your Mind?
The Japanese Fried Rice that Rewired My Brain
The Yew: Tree of Life, Death, and Rebirth
Is Social Anxiety Keeping You From Parties?
The Past and Future of the Earth’s Oldest Trees
The Deap-Sea Ecosystems of Whale Fails
The Big Picture, 2019
The Julian Calendar
What Is Big History?
Facebook—What’s On Your Mind?
⌘ Bird Man Releases 115th Eagle (for Tommy Young) / by Kai Coggin
There’s 10,000 pounds per square inch
in that six inch foot that you don’t want to get into—
no man in the world can even get one toe
of that open if it gets hold of you
Tommy Young shouts to the crowd
from the bed of a pickup truck
backed up to a mountain vista’s blue expanse.
The sun setting is a halo behind his head,
he’s been rehabilitating eagles
and other wildlife since he was a little boy,
knew no other way because his parents did the same,
bolts and screws in his vertebrae
after a 30-foot fall from a tree
trying to help a parliament of owls,
and here he is now— another mountaintop of hope realized
and the 115th injured eagle will once again fly
with wings open wide against the great open sky.
Eagle was found months ago
wing dragging on the ground and injured,
talon marks of another eagle shredded through his flesh
from mid-flight battle or dangerous courtship dance.
Today he flies again.
I’ll hold him for as long as I can
so that y’all can see his eyes,
but I’ve also had my lip nearly torn off
so I’ve got to lean waaay back.
Hooded, Eagle is clutched close to Tommy’s chest,
I wonder how Tommy’s heartbeat pounds calm to him.
Eagle is tense but docile as he is unshackled
from leather jesses by another master falconer—
a deep trust between the two men,
Tommy’s hands hold firm around Eagle’s legs
protecting falconer from certain bloodletting if talons take hold,
and how is it that there can be so much courage—
to hold such an unfathomable vice-grip predator
in human hands and not think there is some grace,
some shared understanding between the kingdoms,
at least in this moment?
As soon as the jesses are undone and hood swiftly removed
Eagle sees the sky,
Eagle feels the pull of clouds,
Eagle’s golden talons unfurl like gaping mouths,
and Tommy’s heart pounds almost almost almost into Eagle’s feathers,
his eyes dart around taking in the human awe.
He’s so beautiful a little girl’s voice
raises above the crowd,
Tommy turns to face the open sky over the lake
alright Dad, this one’s for you!
and in one breath’s exhalation
as if wind,
as if updraft,
as if crosscurrent to the supernatural,
Eagle’s wings span their fullest potential and he is weightless,
he is sky blue wind air flight antigravity and soaring
onlookers ooh and ah
as Eagle shifts right and follows the tree-line
in a trajectory of gratitude across Tommy’s sightline.
Come back, Brother!
the crowd chuckles,
I know he means it. Brother.
It’s the 4th of July and I could metaphor this moment to death,
with America this and bald eagle that,
but better this be just about a man,
a man who rehabs bobcats, bears, foxes, pumas, panthers,
a man who released the 115th eagle from his healing hands,
a man who gathers people on mountaintops
so for just
a split second
they can truly experience
/ by Sandra Faulkner
Marilyn, 81, said “I did my best.”
Why am I here?
here I am, why?
Mary Anne @64: I didn’t think about friendships when I was young.
A rose is a rose, but a friend is not a friend is a friend:
A friend is a rose, but a friend is not a friend is a rose.
I wish I had listened to my mom -Virginia, 70 years old
Look at how he treats his mother,
mother, how he treats his look.
Ode 1 / by Erik Fredericksen
If in the illiquid afternoon the variance of pine, not-pine
traces a hunger sated—if
in the middle-distant water a bird is diving—
if the plane trailing an insurance advertisement or
if not—if the bird resurfaces and if you look away—if the
sunlight aches your eyes
and if it coats unevenly—if the bird is surrounded by other birds—if the water
suffers every question asked of it—
if the tidal pool—if the air is also a solvent,
in which your longing comes apart—if tenderly,
slowly, the heat rises—if you want
to see one more thing, and then sleep—if feeling very free—if the wind
picks up a bit of seafoam—if elsewhere your message
is unread but the driftwood dried a considerable time ago—
if you are granted an imperfect vessel that falters, inheres, has a mind of its own, extemporizes, and tells you when it’s failing—if you must love your vessel—
if the bird has a fish between its talons and is muscling through the air un-
gracefully, over the rocks and over you and over the pines
At the Beach / by Dan Murphy
Three hawks above the cove catch a small bird
my daughter on the sand points Look
one hawks hops on the rock for better perch
for better grip
Each animal is eaten alive
Think of it
and stop complaining
you have this dress rehearsal
strung with aggravations
some watch some make a show
of complaint and scorn
The hawk digs his beak into the sparrow’s breast
something alive gives life
to something greater something stronger
he moves aside
he shares his small prize
think of split feathers
think of it
think of him bowing
Save the Earth, It’s the Only Planet with Chocolate / by Emily Pease
says the sign at the mini-mart, one in a trillion
our planet contains, blazing bright lights
night & day, one-stop food shop food & fuel
ice beer rolaids antifreeze
shaped like trees
+ six flavors of gatorade coke pepsi
cigarettes red man black & milds
+ m&m’s advil plastic combs
(praise this planet earth!)
diapers coffee motor oil
chips & beer & H20
our signature drink
+ nutty buddies & motor oil
football’s us, baseball’s us + almond joys
planet of golf & tennis basketball
teachers coaches + cafeteria food
leading me to praise
roma rocket thunderbird boone’s farm wine
we drank at 17
every time it snowed
sliding in ditches
spinning on ice
all praise gravity!
all praise earth!
all praise hard iron magnetizing core!
Remember, Wish, Believe / by Kayla Vasilko
When I look at the flag, I see red, white, and blue.
I see the present, perpetually. I see life in the making, never fully made.
I see hope.
“Everything that is done in the world is done in hope.”
When I look at the flag, I don’t see hatred.
I see the strength it took to build a land that could be free.
Not perfection, but a start. I see a foundation.
I see love.
“Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
When I look at the flag, I see devotion more powerful than doubt and persecution.
I see the beauty that comes with honor and peace.
“Everyone may not be good, but there is always something good in everyone.”
I believe that of our country. In it, some corrupt people enacted greats wrongs, but we cannot
blame the place that marks where. We cannot blame the time that marks when.
When I look at the flag, I see endless possibility.
I see a chance to persist. To grow.
To search for leaders of sound integrity. To hold on to faith. To remember, wish, and believe.
a night in moab / by Nicole Winters
the sky blackens
& stars wake, nestled
amongst red rock canyon walls,
an arch springs from the side of one
portal to crescent sliver
of silver dangling
over the river;
lethargic current spools
& quiet rapid cuts
a black shadow –
above it, ursa major
strolls the ridge
red dust flakes,
wind whips the rainfly.
Poem 3 / Day 3
A Sestina of Lungs and Legs / by Jaimee Boake
A guy at the gym asks me why I like to run
and the real answer is I don’t but men have teeth
and girls go missing and his breath
uninvited on my neck is heavy
as the way the asphalt holds the heat.
I say it’s an escape.
Or, need to know exactly how fast I can escape
when a stranger’s smile signals its time I should run
not slowed by muscles burning, heat
fueling fire in my belly, teeth
gritted. Need legs ready when fear is heavy.
Have to control my breath.
I run because this morning I read the news, breath-
less and aching. A life trapped in print. No escape.
One less soul leaves the world heavy.
A reality too fast to outrun.
A violent chattering of teeth.
His cheeks redden in heat.
Not all men he sputters, swelters, in sweat-soaked heat
but all women know that acid-fear on their breath
when it’s not enough to bare teeth
or when soft pleading can’t buy an escape
So ask me again why it is I run,
chin lifted, though heavy.
When I march away I feel his eyes still, heavy,
but I’m trained for this, exit into July heat,
mid-day, the hardest time to run.
Deep inhale. Exhale. Get lungs full of breath
and move and move and move and escape
until I too, am teeth
I will not be found, or identified by teeth.
Will become the hammer of heart. A heavy
hope will grow light. I will escape.
So you’ll keep finding me here in this heat.
I will not be scared when I take my last breath,
I am ready to run.
At home in this heat
you won’t catch me out of breath.
I can run.
Pre-Independence Day / by Aaron Bradford
No fireworks spray and push animals
to cover, flags stay furled, unworshipped,
and sprinklers shower grass and the feet
of a girl mouthing a new anthem,
one about the dragonfly she’s chalked
on a fence as birds dip beaks into peaches,
freedom unfought for otherwise unnoticed.
⌘ Clarion / by Kai Coggin
the veil between worlds is thin
the cusp of daybreak
this morning early
a repeated melody
clarion and clear
ethereal song breaking through the fog
lifting after last night’s rains
bright summer tanager on a branch
out our morning window
head turning and beak skyward
in his red announcement
the only entirely red winged thing here
elusive by day far away from sight
up in the high trees
but this morning the little bugle
of his heart wakes me from dreams
and I scurry softly to the window
to see him
tread tip toe soft
so my vibration doesn’t scare him away
shining like a ruby in the sunrising
he reminds me of the synchronous
reminds of me the gifts that are given
when I lean into the mysteries
when I bask in this shared aria
when I become part of everything
when I fill my heart with his red red song
a friend with covid is between worlds
leaving this human plane and
merging with the infinite
on the cusp of a cosmic quantic jump
and I think of her this morning
sing her name like a wild songbird high in the trees
clarion call to the ethers
with the little bugle of my heart
to her heart
to the heart of all things
te amo, corazón
te amo, sol
te amo, luz
the veil between worlds is thin
I know she can hear me singing
What We Remember / by Sandra Faulkner
for Cliff, COVID took you too soon
the way your smile began in your belly
rose up to your eyes
crinkling a path of joy
like how summer rain
amplifies the humidity
so jump in with your clothes on
committing to the moment
you greeted whomever
like they were exactly
the person you had been waiting for
delighted to hear whatever response
you rewrote the meaning of sincerity
being your focus of interest
was like being the first flower in bloom
how you rooted for the Chiefs
and the Cardinals, too
with a patient ferocity
as steadfast as a dog’s devotion
waiting your whole life for them to win
because believing is better than luck
and you believe in what you love
your unapologetic love for hamburgers
and the verve with which you ate them
diabetes be damned
you asked us all
please bring me two burgers when you visit
because isn’t health about pleasure
or maybe pleasure is really the root of health
how you hated the regulations
and their stifling annoyances
the chafe of what you were supposed to do
when you knew the way to be
was more honest than some old rule
we will remember your lessons
and try to live like good students.
Surveillance / by Erik Fredericksen
Do you know how much I love you? I
at the traces, the sheer
stuff of it, so
much for comparison. Like
a linden entangled, like the offshoots
of a branch, many fingers. They
burst then retract their blossom.
Like the carpenter bee
that lowers, like the smudge
in the scan of the Principia. Each furnishes
a relation to you and is
this good? I do not think to ask.
Another blip in the deciduous refrain yet
now is it dear to me. Precious, as in
I would pay a price
for your information.
I would watch what you watch.
Would love you sequentially, and do.
I am imprecise but inclusive—your haircut,
your memory, the story you have told before.
You know what I am like.
I was more angry the Saint died
I believed he could hold off the end
until understanding hit the audience/
family of 5 becoming 4 becoming 3
like a country boy hurler with thick glasses
a phenom a phantasm who stuck
with a *thwomp* the last pitch
the last rows fainting into their programs
I’m more alive our Father died
though sciroccos swarm the suburb
now in search of new seas and
tornados rise over Riverside
a whole hullabaloo
Say it plain bub say it over
and over you become a man through
repetition through repentance
Count the years you’re still young
exhale through the mouth of hell
laying a breath mint on that blistering tongue
Everlast / by Emily Pease
My daughter’s learning to box—see
how she bobs, see
how she weaves, see how
she lifts her fists
to protect her face, the way
she turns on her back
foot, squints. On our porch
in Puerto Rico, mangos dropping
from trees, she throws
a mean uppercut, ducks
and protects, bobs and weaves,
then lands a hard punch
to the gut. Fierce, this thirty-eight-
year-old Muhammed Ali,
ponytailed, tattooed trash-
talking firstborn, born stubborn,
born tough (fights like a butterfly/
stings like a bee), born
asking why-who cares-what?
Around her slender waist,
an imaginary boxer’s leather
belt, cinched, black letters
announcing Everlast. A fighter’s
claim, meaning never give
in, as when my grandmother—
her great—the one who lost
a front tooth and did not
replace, the one who ate eels
for breakfast, this ancestor,
this DNA—reached into her oven
on Thanksgiving Day, wrangled
out the turkey by a half-roasted
leg, and flung it out the door.
Window to The World / by Kayla Vasilko
She watches from the window
Three children are riding up the road on their bikes. Two girls, 7 and 9. One boy, 14. She brings
out fresh popsicles shaped like stars, as they ride by. Even the boy stops and smiles.
She watches from the window
The man across the street is out to retrieve his packages. Though he’s only a few years older than
she, he stumbles down the driveway. She meets him there, and together, they get the box to the
door. He doesn’t say a word, but he smiles.
She watches from the window
The birds sing and settle on various feeders. Their wings deflect the sun in red, brown, blue,
black,and yellow. She mixes up their lunch and fills the feeders with new seed. They eat better
than she, but they make the whole block smile.
She watches from the window
Silent, trying to place the sound. The baby next door cries with piercing wails, so very new to the
world, with parents quite new to the world themselves. She brings them fresh cookies with the
reminder to take care of themselves too; they both smile.
She watches from the window
The lab from down the road limps into her yard. His owner always sends him outside to escape
after her husband beats them both. She catches him on the sidewalk and treats the wounds,
grateful that she had a terrier once. Grateful that her husband never beat her. Grateful for a life
that taught her how to care for such things.
She watches from the window
She sees the children jumping rope now, hears the baby’s wails have settled, watches the lady
who delivers her mail about to put her letters in the box with scars and sad eyes, not even a
glimmer of a smile.
The woman in the mail truck sees a bundle in the place of outgoing mail; cookies, a bottle of
water, a note that reads thank you. I appreciate you. She sees three kids jumping rope, a rainbow
of birds coexisting on a tube, a dog resting under the shade of a tree that somehow seems to
To her right, behind a window, she sees two elderly men sitting down for dinner. To her left, a
couple rocking a baby, and in front of her on the other side of the large, square window, an old
woman, completely alone.
Still, they lock eyes and smile.
bliss / by Nicole Winters
lulls on the precipice
the way it does underwater
look into my eyes
a smile touches the corners
the space between us smaller
can you feel it
the roll of a wave crests
before the break
the first sip of foam
brush away a strand of hair
tides tempo the bridge
of your favorite song
sink into it
when the sandbar collapses
follow the rip.
Poem 2 / Day 2
The word accident does not allow enough accountability
An Abecedarian / by Jaimee Boake
called it. A strip of sand near
Edmonton, on the bank of the North Saskatchewan.
Formed during the construction of a bridge, it was a
heralded as the best part of our city’s summer.
I guess people did have fun,
judging by the smashed beer bottles glinting in the sun,
kids’ shovels strewn about, discarded by crumbling castles, the wrappers
littering the scene, caught in the trees, casting ghostly shadows on the shore.
Must have been having so much fun, in fact, they didn’t
notice the growing
oily shimmer on the water’s surface, a
poisonous rainbow rippling down the river. Or how a once
refuge became a place of roaring;
too loud to listen to the land.
Uninterested in the
verity of environmental impact, people
wasted the space, a
xanthic sludge spreading across the sand. Never
yielding, the “city of champions” waged a war with the earth,
zealous in their destruction.
Ripening / by Aaron Bradford
Plexiglass separates my daughter from a teenager
weighing persimmons. It’s October, and winter
COVID deaths are still warnings not yet ignored.
She’s used to distance in a purple-level California.
The persimmon shines, Fuyu orange. I remember
my first bulletproof glass, Mr. Moon’s in Boyle Heights,
money slid under for Now and Laters. The boy at the farm
mumbles the price, his mask catching most his words
and aerosols. I tap my phone to pay. Newly moved
from Albuquerque to East LA, I wanted to touch the glass,
feel its density between my fingers. I’d wait by chips—
Takis, Cool Ranch—to pay, watching no one else
mind the glass, the gap that separated the old Korean
man from possible shooters. My daughter prefers plexiglass
to open air, the division, the perception of safety, anything
to minimize a stray molecule. I moved from Boyle Heights
before other white people moved in, so I missed inevitable
gentrification. Bulletproof glass at corner markets
must be gone now, gloved hands pulling down protection.
How long will our new barriers last? If I’m honest, I hope
they stay a generation, or more, not just to keep plastic
from the ocean. Separation soothes me. But still.
My daughter steps closer as we leave, and we find the rest
of our small family, our pod in new language guides:
my wife—her mother—, my younger daughter—her sister—,
our roles dependent, names shifting with storyteller, bulletproof
or plexiglass, versions of the same desire to make ourselves
safe, versions of myself seeking to connect, persimmons
ripening and Now and Laters’ eternal shelf life. My wife
adds pistachios and cashews to our bag. We’ll leave everything,
once at home, in the sun for an hour, change our clothes,
and check transmission rates, hoping for a shift in color.
⌘ Bombs Bursting in Air / by Kai Coggin
everything is louder in a valley
and in our peaceful valley
it’s days til the 4th
but the neighbors
have called in the artillery
have shot their rocket’s red glare
to scare the shit out of my little dog
they shoot freedom into quiet forest air
at all hours of the day and night and day again
because this is the country
this is America damnit
and we celebrate freedom
with gunpowder and explosives
my dog is curled up in my arms shaking
and all of the birds have been singing different songs
on our evening walk
the bottle rocket and black cats
attack us from all fronts
the pyrotechnics permeates the silence
with the lingering chaos of liberty
the ring of colonization
I imagine my Vietnam vet father
and the wars he brought home inside him
I imagine the children of Gaza
with bombs as their lullabies
their torn up skies their teared-up eyes
these booms cacophony around our valley
as my little dog shakes in my arms
bombs bursting in air
Mother’s Surprise / by Sandra Faulkner
a deep forest
my dreams crept
writhed in my bone marrow
weak with nightmares I’d
sit and watch
we are going to escape
to our bedroom door
Text: Flowers in the Attic pp. 310-311
Algorithm / by Erik Fredericksen
It wasn’t like clouds at all
to stay there like they did. Inside,
a search produced a taxonomy of grasses:
each a fuel, a hunger, a passage for
some other infraction. The sparrow
flew into the coffee shop and couldn’t find a way out.
The vinegar-mopped floor smelled like fish and chips.
The woman had already had enough coffee,
but ordered a tea. The money
was growing elsewhere.
Last glamour of daylight before the storm.
brought out the cashier’s tenderness. Thunder, first.
The woman repeated into her phone that she would like
to speak to an agent. Air
conditioning faltered then reasserted. An ad
was selected. Flash-flood warning. Everything
There was also, outside, a cherry tree.
Riffing / by Dan Murphy
I call her all kinds of things
like Sweety and Darling and Love
the comedian said if she calls you
Honey you know she’s pissed
maybe like cops are peace officers
and how we put gardens on top
of the crimes we commit
mowing and edging over gravestones
I have been sad all my life
and named it anger and been angry
when I was in love. I never
knew my parents’ affection
when I was a child only knew
they needed me to stay in place
and crack a joke and smile
if necessary and I called them
all kinds of ungrateful things.
paterson / by Emily Pease
someone named you
brooklyn stray color
at the shelter
giving you away
only to see you
too needy said one
too friendly said another
not enough time for that kind
one’s soft comfort is another’s irritation
the loving cat finds its lap / claws on
years on losing your fur coat a cover
for bones knife-hard shoulders shelf
skull knobbed spine brittle
body so gone even your toes
across the floor
prowling no longer
slinking no more
this is not a metaphor for the real
the blind governor
of New York
beloved then rejected
in the lap of manhattan
but now nearly
i am talking
about my actual cat
my old paterson
nearing the ninth hour
of his nine lives
soft no longer
huggable no more
weaving restless affectionate
what we all become
skin just a cover
hair so thin
even a governor
G.O.A.T / by Kayla Vasilko
To know someone else, truly,
you must know what
drives their heart, what fuels their desire,
force is stronger.
they are one in the same.
They admire you like stained glass windows
that catch the light, briefly,
in a cathedral, but they will never allow their heart
to do more than love you on the surface
if the fuel to their desire is wealth in the currency
of quantity. They will trade the gift of you alone in exchange
for many others faster than the shattering of glass.
The best partner, the greatest love of all time, will not make humor
the gift to mark the beginning. They will not rank passion
or even love as the number one priority. They will first and forever care.
They will look at you, regard you, consider you, see
you, before they caress your skin. In the tender moments, when
they care too much for lips to convey, they will graze their hands across
your face and pull your forehead to theirs, a sacred
kiss, softer than two goats colliding
in jest, yet so much stronger. Present and earnest.
Grounded. Open. Available. Trustworthy.
Positioned in a stance where your hearts are in line
and your minds can fully connect.
memories in clay / by Nicole Winters
I took myself on a date
to the thrift store
& the coffee shop downtown –
the one with the exposed brick
framing an old furnace fireplace.
I bought two oversized flannels
to remind me of nights
under ponderosa pines
an almond milk mocha
like what I used to get
watching the sun
wake behind the pier;
I carved that pier into the flesh
of so many mugs
if a hurricane washes
it away, the memory breathes.
I carved the pines too,
& the ridgeline & the slot canyon
the valley & monoliths
the red rock
& the beach with the sandstone bluffs –
in a different kind of earth.
run your fingers across the clay,
palm it, coffee warms from the inside out
can you hear the wind blowing through the trees?
like pressing a conch to your ear:
the whitewater crashes,
the river lacerates the canyon.
Poem 1 / Day 1
Canada Day of Mourning / by Jaimee Boake
Today I think about smoothed stones, sea glass, and shells,
pieces of pebbled shores placed in my pocket, the privilege
inherent in no second thoughts about taking.
I think about the way I tossed the ones I didn’t want into the water, didn’t wait around
to watch the ripples, satisfied enough with the splash.
How casually careless we can be.
Today I think about the bodies of babies buried with the truth,
those held too soon in the arms of mother earth, the privilege
inherent in the way a country tried to deny its violence.
I think about the pain I can never fully know and the shame I can carry;
it is gravel lodged in the back of my throat.
How casually cruel we can be.
Today I think about tiny shoes left on the stone steps of a church,
the colour orange spreading across Facebook, the privilege
inherent in learning to stand in solidarity.
I think I will sit at the rocky edge of this rising tide. I will listen to the voices
my people tried to drown out, and this time I won’t look away from the ripples.
Totems / by Aaron Bradford
As she gets her mask on, I look through my daughter’s purse.
We’re going to a store for the first time since people can choose
not to wear face masks. She’s nervous. A vaccine isn’t ready
for her age group yet. I’m nervous, too. She’s prepared, though:
extra mask, a watch, hand sanitizer, a mythic bird made in wax,
a wallet. I ask about the watch. To check when 15 minutes pass.
Why not wear it? Alcohol stains the band. The Thunderbird?
Protection. Like, real protection? No—but you never know.
She’s been reading myths while waiting in breakout rooms,
pulled from the banal and personal, from dumb days,
to a world ordered and explained, where formless destruction
is shaped into narrative, where sickness can be held at bay
with a way to tell time, a way to kill the unseen, a way to breathe
unforgiving air, and a way home, a totem to summon
spirits that appear absent. I check my own wallet for my vaccination
card, my own totem, some comfort, some form, to keep me safe.
We go into the world, protected, together, for the moment.
⌘ Coming to a Poem / by Kai Coggin
there are many ways to come to a poem—
I hear there are nine gates
a winding road through a one horse town
a night perhaps and all her stars
the movement up and out a ventricle
into something whole
but in these middle times
between the before and perceived after times of this pandemic
I come to my poems in the morning
I wake up early
before the two-legged and four-legged family I call mine
I wander quiet through the sleeping house
and go outside where the wild and hungry things wait for me
the cardinal and wren
grosbeak and titmouse
perched on yawning branches
sing an ethereal alarm rise
and I pour little mounds
of black sunflower seeds nyjer thistle
the koi fish swirl in their golden-streaked pond
wait for their handfuls of food
dance infinites before me
in a whirl of colors
I greet them each by name
my children of another kingdom
the bumblebees and dragonflies
so many creatures with wings
trajectory in the path of my grounded body
and I fly inside myself
as the sun moves above horizon
the garden beds wait their turn
I am coming soon
the light shines through certain leaves
creating fires that don’t burn
just warm me with their graceful reaching
I become a moving rain toward them
shower the hibiscus gardenia
coneflower salvia marigold roses
a whole catalog of blooming
for the early risers like me
the vegetable garden is last to be soaked
climbing cucumber and yellow crook neck squash
the tomatoes glowing like red planets
the eggplant lettuce basil dill
I make rainbows in certain slants of light
and smile like I am a god
or some weather pattern all my own
these moment of silence
at the start of the day
this quiet wildness
this reciprocal nourishing
before the news of some new tragedy rocks me to the core
I walk through this open door
outside the sleeping house
where the wild and hungry things wait for me
there are many ways to come to a poem
I start here
White Male with Gun / by Sandra Faulkner
White male with gun
on my college campus
White male with American Flag
flying on the back of his black hoodie
Firearm, jeans, and a black hat
White male between the cafeteria and a dorm
Shelter in Place Do not Approach
an American Flag on a black hoodie
White male with a firearm
strutting near the library
Black hoodie on campus
shelter in place with a firearm
A White male on campus
exorcising the 2nd Amendment
Dressed in an American Flag
White face, black hat, gun inside his jeans
Firearm with a White male
between shelter and a place
First / by Erik Fredericksen
Where had that side of you been wintering all night? Coming to in summer’s
epistle-to-whom, morning’s commerce in light & agitation, bit of pre-choral
deprivation surviving your entrance. Okay—sign’s first disobedience into shape;
prevented fruit of your wanting; Thursday’s new nonfungible transfer.
As if detachable, the sky is how you remember. July is how you remember.
To have to water the saplings, for example. To reason through it. Yes, yet
this flood of heat denoted on your screen, fluorescing around the mountains. New
record. Some other beginning was wrong, some misfire early in the almanac.
Year in which the pipeline halted. Year you got to leave & come back. Year
in which the dog. No, you do not owe yourself promise. You began again,
& kept beginning. You resent the order, recaptured the data, opened & closed
the window on which, tonight, humidity will gather, will leave itself again.
Quoting Someone Beside Myself / by Dan Murphy
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
Everybody like me is drunk and walking
home alone Why don’t we form in groups
and wander to bright houses waiting
or wax poetic about brotherhoods
and sisterhoods we left in the sixties
seventies and eighties
Why do we insist
on this loneliness this grieving
sensation that grips the heart like age
like a penultimate stress gathering
for a final push
Why don’t we open
our arms and make a cross make
a leap a dramatic swoop
don’t we leave leave leave it alone
Shoot, Eat / by Emily Pease
Shoot an animal, eat an animal he told his daughter, this girl I once knew out in the country in
Virginia where families hunt, everyone outfitted in camo, boots and blaze, guns. You respect life,
he said. Don’t shoot what you won’t eat. You shoot a crow, you eat a crow. Shoot a bat, eat a bat.
So: robin season.
Also hunting season: fire beneath the fingers, gunstock at the shoulder, pink paper casings, sweet
smoke odor of shot.
Dozens of robins flocking, landing, easy prey in the grass. White-rimmed eyes, long legs, gray.
Russet at the breast.
Shoot it, eat it/ shoot it, eat it/shoot.
A gun has a way of talking to you. How it rests in the gun case, a pretty, pretty weapon. How
strong it feels to pull it out.
She shot three.
Easy, how they fluttered with a little scream, then lay.
He had her set them down on the counter, then gave her the terrible instructions. Dig fingers in,
scrape down, pull feathers. First wings, then tail, then soft russet breast. Like the feathers of a
Some parts of animals and people stay sweet, he said. It breaks your heart.
Next the legs and feet, cut clean at the thigh level, that tiny thigh. Then the head, cut clean at the
neck, that limp neck.
Plucked naked bird, yellowish, dead: he bade her roast.
In the fall, on TV, the somber voice of the science show, no one watching but her. We now know,
said the voice, that our chickens and turkeys, our hawks and ducks, every single bird…are
descendants of the dinosaurs. Note the scaled legs, the clawed feet, the beaks. The T Rex! Once a
bird, flocking like a bird!
What she’d tasted.
The Tree / by Kayla Vasilko
the world in green / by Nicole Winters
the kelp forest dances
viridescent with half moon’s tide,
under swollen marine layer
holding the sun at arms length
the favorite flannel frays
at the hem, washed & worn thin
the mint I didn’t plant
grows wild through the herb garden
ponderosas stack precarious
across the ridgeline
the healing bruise
jades at the edges
pocket the sage rock
beneath canyon juniper
brush by leaves bright & hanging
heavy with fresh rain
all like the tint of clouds tumescent;
I follow you through cedar.