The 30/30 Project: June 2022

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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.

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The volunteer poets for June 2022 are Shawna Ervin, Meg Freer, Zachary Kluckman, Lea Marshall, Diane McManus, Jeff Newberry, Miguel Andres Rodriguez, Bree Smith, Shannon St. Armand, Eniko Deptuch Vaghy, and Michael VanCalbergh.

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

Day 25 / Poem 25

Beginning again / Shawna Ervin

Viola under my chin, I look. One soft finger
          on wire. I pull the bow, cringe,
                    slide my finger back and forth, try
                              to remember where I want to be.

I can’t. I add a finger, another, fit two fingers close
          together, admire my knuckles lined up like soldiers,
                    nails trimmed short. I may
                              not know right, but I know wrong. I wail. Shake.

Tuck the viola under my chin, close my eyes. Pull
          the bow; open strings vibrate against my chin,
                    my shoulder. I inhale deep, rosin tickles
                              my nose. One finger, a note,

second finger, third finger, flat but fixed. Three two one, one two three,
          again. Notes bruise my fingers, scamper up my arm
                    to my chest, throat, forehead, settle in my elbows,
                              a long exhale over my top lip. This is how I remember.

Urban Nocturne / Meg Freer

They sit on the grass like tiny statues,
one or two per front lawn, pretend
not to notice us as we walk by,
but surely they know we are there.
The dog can sense or see them
in the dark, stops on full alert, stares,
dares these irresistible teasers to move,
but they figure their chances are better
if they stay stock-still. They only move
if the dog decides to charge them,
and then they sprint, leaving her
chuffing and straining at the leash.
The late-night rabbits who eat
grass and weeds after 10:00 p.m.
frustrate her night after night,
and the game never gets old.

On Changing Jobs / Zachary Kluckman

Strange to imagine a day where I am not
sitting with a man experiencing schizophrenia,
detailing the portal in the wall where demons
crawl out to taunt him, telling me about
the neighbor who believes him dangerous.
To imagine not listening as he cries
because the police who respond to him
never believe him.

I have brought this man blankets for his
bare mattress, boxes of food, cigarettes
once. Placed a hand on his shoulder
as he shows me where the men in the park
attacked him; out of fear maybe. Or
the strange pride of the normal, whatever
that word means to you. Fear, we both
know is not sole property of the healthy.

These human beings, whom I know as well
as the soft curve of semicolon tattooed
on my shoulder, remind me
how the frozen moments can stack
like cans of spoiled fruit in a pantry.
How the animus of trauma wraps a thick
hide of shed skin around you
until you are no longer sure if this
body is yours.

Tomorrow, I will be unable
to offer him this hand. To sit by
candlelight when the power’s off
and offer him the protection of
silence. Of another human being
surviving beside him. Tomorrow I begin
a new role, move on to support
another person, another manner
of bringing hope to the hopeless.

I wonder which of us fears the change more.

Tonight I light the wick on an oil
lamp, sit on the front porch to debate
light with distant stars. Proof
I know nothing. Tomorrow,
I will sit and learn more.

June 24, 2022 / Lea Marshall

We shouted ourselves
hoarse. We walked.
Our signs were brave
angry, hilarious. One:
                              Public cervix announcement:
                              Fuck You.
People cheered us;
we cheered ourselves.
Trees still scattered
sunlight everywhere.
Young people protected us
from cars with bicycles,
with their own bodies.
Headlights shone
through the spokes.
Young people chose
to protect us
with their own bodies.

Said the poem to the poet / DP McManus

It’s warm under the covers
of pop-ups and magazines.
So look, your coffee doesn’t bring me out.
I don’t answer to beer either, not even Guinness.

You might lure me with chocolate. Maybe
I’ll answer you
in my own way by hanging
on the corner with the trick-or-treat crowd. Good
luck getting me back. I’ll be
in electronics, Best Buy.

You drink
forgetfulness with every sip.
Just because I came out for Williams
composing for Clinton
over bourbon (he and I fishing
buddies) means nothing. I can’t tell
you what I want. Just get out
of my way. I’ll answer you maybe.

Boketto / Jeff Newberry

From the Japanese ( ボケット), a word meaning to stare into the middle distance and think nothing. Akin to “zoning out.”

In my mother’s senior portrait, she looks
left out of the frame, west, toward expansion,
the future like a flourish at the end
of a signature on a blank check.
She keeps it closed in a box packed away.
Now, she gazes far too long out of windows
at midday, eyes fixed between the panes
of double glass and the swampy mess
just beyond her parking lot. She says nothing
is wrong when I ask and sit two mugs
of steaming coffee before us. She says nothing
is on her mind, that she’s happy I’m here,
just to visit for a day or two. I can’t know
how her memory sharpens sixty decades:
a dead husband, a dead child, dead parents,
a father who took his own life, a tale
like some game of telephone whispered
child to mad child until one remains,
muttering to himself alone about loss.
The place between us elongates like time.
My eyes rest there, an easy place to float.
How to explain myself? How to explain
my need to explain? She raises a cup
to her lips, her mouth open in the shape
of words I selfishly hope will come.
Instead, we say nothing, alone, together.

bronzo / Bree Smith

i fiori ai suoi piedi,
inverdita dal tempo,
dal tocco, inverdita dalla
speranza degli altri; uno storno
sulla sua spalla,
in bilico con il suo ultimo respiro
non respirato,
bronzo come gli ornamenti
nel sepolcro di colei che conoscemmo,
colei che ha scelto 
la Morte invece de
la morte
della separazione


flowers at her feet,
greened by time,
by touch, greened by
the hope of others; starling
on her shoulder,
poised with her final
breath unbreathed,
bronze as the ornaments
in the sepulcher of the
one we knew,
the one who chose
Death over the
of separation

Decisions / Shannon St. Armand

Neither black nor white sometimes,
sometimes both, but always driver
of my days. You run the world,
and I must succumb or be
rolled over, decide or not
decide and so decide anyway.

I can’t escape you, as ubiquitous
as nightstands, as urgent as
“What the hell am I making
for dinner?” Important and
constant, like a train running
straight through town. To stop
deciding is to stop living, so
I keep choosing, “Yes. Yes. Yes.

Aria for Insomnia / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

Something about the day tells me
to wait for it. 3 a.m., I am still on

the couch. The TV screen pulsing
in the corner, playing a show

I am too exhausted to watch.
The night demands of me the same

things I demanded of my mother.
A child scared of dying, I wouldn’t

close my eyes unless she was there.
I believed death a kind of heavy

blanket she could pull from me.
The night lies wide and staring

as if it is sure tomorrow will not
happen. Don’t ask me if I blame it,

so much has already been stolen.

Every Time I Read the News My Selves Start To Argue / Michael VanCalbergh

Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Stop. Please.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Stop it all.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
There is no point. No reason.
I am empty. I need filling.
Poetry means nothing.
I need filling. I seek it.
Fill me with something.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
I fill it, again.
Poetry means nothing.
It empties again.
Poetry is everything
I need filling.
It is hopeless.
If you do not hope what are you?
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
There’s so much
noise. The noise the
Poetry is everything.
Poetry is nothing.
Poetry is everything.
I fill it with anything.
The noise fills it.
Poetry means nothing.
It still feels empty.
The words fill it.
Poetry is everything.
Is this enough?
Am I?
          Stop centering yourself.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
I’ll center poems.
Only they make sense.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
Poetry means nothing.
Poetry is everything.
I fill myself with poetry.
          I always ask why.

Day 24 / Poem 24

Sword Drill / Shawna Ervin

Two girls stare at scuffed shoes,
clasp their hands behind their backs.
This is submissive, this is good.

Pastor shouts verse
into foam-covered microphone,
hands each girl a Bible, the church’s name

embossed in gold on the cover, pages red
at the edges, red for blood, for sin,
for crucified. Girls flutter through white

pages, books, chapters, verses.
This is how to be right, pure. One girl thrusts
her arm in the air. She points

to the verse. Pastor nods
approval, reaches for one girl’s open
Bible, the other. Pastor slams

books closed. Both girls offer silence,
resume humility. Another verse,
hand, finger, obedience. More.

There is no need
for a woman to speak, pastor says,
for her to serve.

Lost in Prairie Time / Meg Freer

Soccer games next to the rows of corn stalks,
where time—reference point only and not the goal—
is a playing field of possibilities, gateway
to a future not yet caved-in, where spectators
note the prolonged sunset, listen
to the thin-line echo of summer
lightning beyond shelf clouds.

Conversations with the Extra / Zachary Kluckman

Terrestrial. Covered in such mud that we could be twins.
Army crawling through shallow waters where the Bosque bends
its neck as if seeking an escape route from near atomic heat. Thin
water sluicing over sand banks. Red clay sucking at our toes
with every motion, you have already lost
one of your favorite shoes to its appetite this afternoon,
but gladly. Gladly I sigh. Anything to find succor from the sun,
the boss, the timecards that punch down on our lives. The water here
is not deep enough to swim this time of year, so we invent
a new game – surfishing. A simple game of imagine
the very first fish that crawled from primordial mud, without
legs still. Dorsal fins strong enough to slide across the wet earth
as if surfing. That’s us, I exclaim. Striving to reach a distant shore we know
nothing about. Only that we are driven
by an unknown scent in the air, a promise of some sweet
summer nectar untasted. A glimpse of the new world from its
canopy of trees. Desperate to rise above what we have known
our whole lives, even for one moment. Even if we trade
air for audacity. Even if the blue lungs you dreamt of
one night after dinner fail like kites in the heavy sky.
Wouldn’t it be worth it, just once,
to watch the places we have known wash away
the memory of our feet.

Amazing, you say. The things you take
for granted just because you have evolved
a little.

Future Folk Tales: Windshield Phenomenon / Lea Marshall

The windshield phenomenon is the observation that fewer dead insects accumulate on the windshields of people’s cars since the early 2000s. It has been attributed to a global decline in insect populations caused by human activity.

Not all our wingspans,
not our furred antennae
not our speed not our hunger
not the delicacy of all our legs
not the tracery of our wings
like cathedral windows like velvet
like fine carpets but impossibly refined
not the splendor of our metamorphoses
not our brutality not our luminous
passion for flowers for each other
for you not our terrible confusion
at glass, at light, at the shapes you made
not our voices our jeweled eyes
not our immeasurable service
not the vastness of our offerings
but the absence of our corpses
was the measure of your loss.

Dear Employer / DP McManus

I am not
fast-paced, deadline-
driven. I am
slow-paced because
that’s where flowers reside.
I am not
hard-working. I work
softly among the willows.

In ten years, I might be
Still alive.
You can find me
If you look.

Driving Home / Jeff Newberry

The city is repaving a well-worn road.
Traffic funnels down little-seen side streets
where eyes study unfamiliar cars, faces

unseen in these parts. That rusted stop
sign. A bullet-pocked back of a bill
board. Grass-whiskered pavement near

a boarded-up school skirting a trailer
park of tea-stained, vinyl-sided single-
wides. Empty propane tanks in over-

grown yards. I’ve never seen this side
of the VFW. Back here, the bricks
loosen and fall, picked scabs from old

wounds that bleed so slowly, no one
notices to stanch the flow. Old homes
break down. Homes no one inhabits

decay. We keep them up, somehow,
our bodies, our energy, the breath
we exhale into the air, the dying cells

we shed that make dust we sweep
away, out a front door used to welcome
and used to keep the outside at bay.

cerise / Bree Smith

scrawled over the sink  
the last graffiti
the last arrow pulled out
cerise —
rose-thorns in the sheets
a ribbon unfurling from the wrists
a drop of blood pooling at the quick —
the last proof
a smash of lipstick against

Everywhere Love / Shannon St. Armand

Everywhere, love.
Dripping down gutters,
Pouring through
We are always
Underwater. How
Do we not see?
God crying out
In the smallest of
Places. Not angrily,
But like this: Come here
Beloved. Get your
Trunks on. Come
With Me. You
Are finished.


Another Aria for a Dress / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

after the photograph “The Blue Chair” by Darla Teagarden

At first I think it’s dancing.
Then the chair beneath it: kicked,

set to topple. The dress gasps,
extinguishing the body that wore it.

This is what I want: smother
without any soot. Nothing

you can pick up, rub
between your fingers.

Separate me like a person
in a crowd pulled silent

into a dark room. My hat
tipped off, proof

of my existence, offering
no sign of where I’ve gone.

A Very Short Memoir of an Ant / Michael VanCalbergh

I have dug through the silicone
between the tub and the wall.

The pheromones scream Yes.
This is for us. For you. Further. Faster.

Go. Yes. I am happy
when I feel their voices

across my back. Yet, I wonder,
as I slip into the water swirling

swirling if anything
I’d done was for me.

Day 23 / Poem 23

When My Hands Looked Like Yours / Shawna Ervin

The last time I saw you, you held
my hands in yours, squeezed
your thumb, thin and more frail
than either of us could admit,
into the back of my hand.

Your thumb pushed waves
from my knuckles to my wrist. You watched
my skin slide back, pushed again.
You remembered when your hands looked like mine,
you said, remembered before
you joined the convent that I asked
if I’d see you again. I let go, you said.

That was your sister, I said, not me, your sister,
a long time ago. It was time to go now,
I said, I had to get to the airport,
had to leave, did you know it was 2019,
did you know it was September,
would you be okay?

I reached for you, smiled, leaned forward.
You backed away, held one finger
up to stop me. You studied my jaw,
nose, chin, shook your head.
I only hug family.

Monastery Stones / Meg Freer

Invaded, raided and ransacked by Vikings,
Normans and native Irish, the buildings
demolished and rebuilt until English soldiers
took all they could move, even a large bell,
destroyed what remained, left only roomfuls of sky,
where ancient believers sat in stone chairs to relieve
sore backs, drank water pooled in cow tracks to cure
tooth pain, leaned into a chapel alcove to ease headache.
They bestowed their ailments there in circles of pennies,
buttons, pebbles. Modern visitors still do the same,
weaving a spell of gratitude into the worn stones.

The Best Part of Waking Up / Zachary Kluckman

The slogan on the coffee cup reads stay
. A pun, no doubt, the marketing team
exchanged a high five over. Strangely,
the words feel appropriate in the roar
of morning traffic. A motorcycle growls
at other engines to idle quietly. Pretentious
but confident, like all of these other small
humans sharing small human moments
on this patio. Who’s to say
why water’s favorite shape is round.
Why the twenty-something college girl
In the corner laughs so loudly
I wonder if she has only just discovered the
Ability. Perhaps she is surprised by her own
Joy in this not-yet-post-pandemic world.
Funny how the sunlight seems to control
the volume of our conversations. Words
warming in our throats like fetuses
awaiting their birth, their turn at the world.
As if people were not still dying by
the thousands, but maybe this is cause
for celebration. Not the death, but the
one-more-chance to try living on for size.
A man walks by in pink and purple shoes.
There is a humor to his step, but
a sadness to his eyes. I cannot help
but wonder what he would do if I were
to rise, hug his shoulders and whisper, please
stay grounded. Meaning please.
Meaning stay.

Future Folk Tales: Fireflies / Lea Marshall

Somehow the fireflies still
emerged that summer, still
hovered and would alight,
gently curious, on his outstretched
hands – they felt soft as a tiny purr,
listening antennae and blurred wings,
though not as many as before.
Don’t mistake us for innocence,
they said, constellating on a thundery
evening. We know the dark and we string
it through the trees you left behind.

Descent into fire and ice. Witnesses
tell of threats. Praised for courage.
Can they live?

She fears being seen
In the produce aisle. Strawberries once
a comfort.

There was a time.
Summers, sprinklers, splash
pools. Mobs press in. Pools of blood.

A catbird sings. No news
of interest, seeking
worms, berries, nesting twigs,

The babies await hatching.
Summers, soft rain.
We watch from the sunroom.

Doom, for now, irrelevant.

Lebensmüde / Jeff Newberry

From the German, a word meaning “world weariness.” It translates literally to “life tired.”

The news each day never seems to change.
Wars, rumors of war. Disease and plague.
This apparatchik slipped that loose-tongue
a drug. Newsprint is always black and gray.

Wars in room. Wars of unease. A play
never shows the writers. Just the shadows
dragged out across the stage, black and gray.
No one thinks of the sleepers in the crowd.

Writers never think of shadows, anyway.
Why should they? The thing is the thing,
not the dreaming sleepers in the crowd.
The stage transforms between scenes.

Who are they? The ones moving things?
The word apparently has slipped my tongue
or gone backstage to avoid being seen.
The news each day never seems to change.

indaco / Bree Smith

gli occhi chiusi
i cuori asincroni fino a che
il tempo si ferma, fino a che
lo sfondo si dissolve, finché
come una sospensione —
l’istinto del tocco, la
amnesia del rimpianto,
una ciocca di capelli fuori posto —
l’appropriarsi del respiro di un altro
mentre il collo si offre
aggraziato in un primo contatto,
troppo vicino per essere visto
solo sentito


eyes closed
hearts asynchronous until  
time stalls, until
the backdrop dissolves, until
like a suspension —
the instinct of touch, the
amnesia of regret,
a lock of hair out of place —
inhaling another’s breath
while the neck offers itself 
graceful in first contact,
too close to be seen
only felt

Haiku / Shannon St. Armand

Five years of living
Since we lost you, sweet pea of
my womb. Bloom, now. Bloom.

Aria for What’s in Front of Me / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

I am not talking about the future. I live
in a world where there is always something

to hold. This morning’s coffee cup, heat
slowly muting in my hands. I am growing

toward and away from acceptance, the fact
that the more time I spend with anything

the colder it will get. Warmth is another
way of describing effort. I place my palms

on your cheeks, hoping you will respond
to them. I watch you smile, fall asleep deeper.

My darling, mistaking whatever I do
for comfort, today I need an answer from you.

or gone backstage to avoid being seen.
The news each day never seems to change.

To the Dental Hygienist Who Cleaned My Teeth After 16 Years of not Having Dental Insurance / Michael VanCalbergh

When I say, I eat a lot of popcorn
I mean it’s the reason I see movies
in the theater. It’s the bag I reach for
after mixing beer and gin. Any kind
will do. I mean the type of dedication
most reserve for their second child; kernelled,
salty, stuck-in-your-gums admiration.
Less a choice, more a call deep in my gut.

You push away from my forced open mouth
then stretch your back. Forty-five minutes and still
on the third quadrant. Sweat drips down your cheeks.
You breathe unamused. My confession rolled
down your shoulders and through the chair towards me.
You lean back down and whisper, I could tell.

Day 22 / Poem 22

Morning Glories / Shawna Ervin

I grow morning glories in the brick window box
          under the front window because
          they intend their space more than I do.

When I plant pink and white petunias each May
          I make room for what I know
          will be there, watch for the tiny pairs
          of leaves to pop up. I can’t help
          but pull one to imagine myself in charge.

I want beauty to be something I can determine
          even if it means destroying it. I hold
          the fragile plant with its thin, white root
          and wait for guilt that doesn’t come.

Each morning I try to see the flowers at first sight,
          find them already well into knowing. Later, I notice
          what I missed, puckered petals dull
          next to the brown brick. I vow, again,
          to look better next time.<

Cleaning Blues / Meg Freer

If you are outnumbered by boys in the house,
you could experiment with how long
they will let bathroom grime build up—
two weeks, three, four? Will they ever
notice that no one has cleaned?

In the end, you will probably clean it yourself.
One can put up with one’s own mess
for a surprisingly long time—have you seen
my desk? But how quickly we recognize
and criticize someone else’s grubbiness.

I once attended a party given by a family
who took time off every four months
to thoroughly clean their house top to bottom—
and never cleaned in the intervening months.
They only invited people over three times a year.

This could become a poll about how often
you all clean your bathrooms—
or the end result after I misread
the description of a writing workshop that will
help with the “cremation of new poems.”

The Ones You Choose / Zachary Kluckman

The thing about blood is; it’s not all it seems. 

Ask anyone who has been counted as family.
The wet want of oxygen turns its blue to blush.
The reddening occurs when it has breathed outside
of the body, like us, with our eager lungs running
alongside mother’s car. Aren’t we just a little
afraid she is not returning? Don’t our faces paint
themselves all of the hues of rose as quickly with fear
as they do for any ordinary excitement? This is
I’m afraid, all there is to the idea of blood
as proof of belonging. How it rises in our faces
when the heart skips its tiny rope. Molecular
similarity is only that, a double helix of genetic
coincidence. The thing about DNA is; your reflection
in a mirror has the same number of things in common
with you as your brother. We do not count
our shadows among our lineage, yet they walk
beside us every day. Tell me, friend, who will run
with you through fallow fields of shadows.
Who will rise when you arrive and rush to hold
the weight you cannot carry when you part
with your brother one night in some poorly lit
park, when streetlights remind you how pale
we become when blood is the only shared experience
                              you have to speak of?

Negotiations / Lea Marshall

Paper wasps built their nest inside
my bedroom. Just a few cells strung
from the window frame. We had
an arrangement, I thought. I left
the window cracked so they could
come and go. On slim black wings,
they did. Filaments on the glass.
Hoverers. Parents. One morning,
a single wasp perched on my shirt
draped over a chair. What are you
doing there? No reply. I didn’t move
them. Later, I changed clothes, flung
on the shirt, started down the stairs—
oh, that sting. The sharpest reprimand.
Imagine how enormous I was, how wildly
the world rocked and heaved. We had
an arrangement, they thought. We did,
I just forgot to ask their wasp terms.
Thank you for keeping the window cracked.
Please check your clothes. Don’t panic.

Torschlusspanik / Jeff Newberry

From the German, “Gate close panic,” the fear that at the end of your life, you actually haven’t done much with it.

Assign every deed a number, one to ten.
Then, rank every deed as a value—
good, bad, some vague between that you
feel your way to. Did you perhaps begin

too early? Or are you now a has-been?
In the middle of your life, begin anew.
Did you remember all you had to do?
Cross the T? Dot the I? Curve the U?

In the doctor’s office, I panic at a form
that asks about medical history. My hand
shakes, a palsy born of uncertainty, fear
that if I write the wrong answers there,
they’ll prescribe the wrong dose. I’ll wind
up dead, the butterfly who stayed a worm.

obsidian / Bree Smith

waves, a nocturne
pulling in long
no planks silhouetted
no whip of canvas —
a black tide
carrying what is hidden
from depths uncertain —
sucking in through
foam-capped teeth and
exhaling only
what can be felt in
grains of sand

Bedtime / Shannon St. Armand

Art can’t
love you back.
This is what
Christopher De Vinck writes
in one of his essays, and I feel
it tonight. This poem should’ve been written
hours ago, but here I am, near midnight,
the air cool now, the sky a bowl of blackberries.

I couldn’t calm my middle child earlier. Four years old,
he wanted a toy truck he could not have. And so I lay
with him as he wept, as we all have done in longing, longer
than I’d anticipated, his compact body
quivering next to me, while I serenade him
with Frozen 2 songs, until his eyelids begin
to lose their resolve. He rolls to his side,
as I pull the comforter over his shoulders.
“Mama, you can stay with me,” he sniffles
sleepily. There was no other place
I’d rather be.

Aria for Photographs / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

What else but killings
I can return to? Each a bloodied

smile, my tongue gone frantic
checking every tooth. I offer laughter,

and still there is something
to console. I took them all for proof

and only got a past.

A Spell for Budgeting / Michael VanCalbergh

Like my father, I leave unopened envelopes covered in numbers and misspelled words, like elektrik, all over my home. I’m remembering the places he’d left them before it would come together. The math is different in different places. The kitchen table is always too practical, the bathroom full of imaginary numbers, the bedroom for dreams. I planted a final notice with the lemon grass. Yet, nothings changed. I called him, asking for the right configuration, the placement that makes the magic sing. He didn’t answer. I feel I’m almost there though. I’ve run out of envelopes now. Maybe the mailman came earlier today. I should check. Let me find somewhere to write this down.

Day 21 / Poem 21

Early morning planting / Shawna Ervin

For Joannie

In a narrow vestibule between
alley and home, I kneel
to a soil vacancy, tap seeds
into the cold. Brittle lattice grows
against the back of garage bricks, glows
in leftover moonlight. Remnants of white paint
and last summer’s sweet-pea tendrils falter
toward dust; I wonder
if it can withstand the weight
of another year’s growth. A bee hurries pollen
from purple lily’s stamen to orange culottes,
while over the pink horizon, blue insists on day.
Although reticent, wind admits
the creak of the gate’s locked latch,
rests its longing in empty bed.

Ghosts in the Bushes / Meg Freer

She doesn’t understand shadows
that move in the wind, or those that walk,
jumps backwards suddenly out of a bush
or clump of grass she’s been sniffing,
all four feet off the ground, spooked
as if some ghost or pixie has nipped her nose.

A dog’s intelligence—comparable
to that of a two-year old, and who knows
what goes on in the mind of a toddler,
broken thoughts floating close together
like lolly ice on the lake.

I still don’t always make the connections,
still see ghosts in the bushes, force myself
to breathe in deeply, squeeze breath out
from the bottom like toothpaste out of the tube.

Why I Keep Coming Back to It / Zachary Kluckman

When Yusef speaks about the letters
he received from his father’s hands, blood
orange with the memory of violence, my own
childhood spills like a drum of crude oil,
staining the sand below the playground swings
with memories I dare not speak. Although
the act of violence committed is not the same,
there are spiders in my veins that recoil
from touch. Even the soft hand of love
sometimes too much, a fork discovering
the transformer in the radio I took apart
trying to understand why things work.
Not how. Only why. Physics tells me the sky
one day will shiver into nothingness.
An envelope of gases we have never laid
eyes upon suddenly letting go. A breath held
as long as possible before surrendering
to ghosts. It will not matter in that moment
how the mechanism moves towards unlock,
only that the final draught leaves the lips
blue with its absence. A poem, sometimes
has a kinder hand than love.

Future Folk Tales: Saharan Dust / Lea Marshall

In a copper sunset she shook dust motes from her clothes,
pinging hard ground with tiny diamonds, blinding scintillations
bouncing then pouring themselves into the shape of a gazelle.
News, said the gazelle, news! The firefinch is thriving. Nothing
is separate from anything else. The desert flings itself across the ocean
and lands at your feet, scrubs at your hair, and I have come to tell you
only this. I live with scorpions and drink no water. He spun apart.
Still spinning now sparkling in the dying light, News, cried the dust,
all around her, news! We travel in plumes, we span. Dunes, our sculpture.
Our music stings your ears. We trap the sun, shade oceans. You shook us
and we danced the shape of our most graceful. Gazelle treads lightly,
he knows how much we carry, how old we are. Believe us when we
cover you. We have traveled every mile there is to rest here on your
shoulders, to fill your lungs with our cunning lightness. We know
your thirst: we made it. But the journey of your slaking has no end.

Hero, continued / DP McManus

Woman Swims from Bangladesh to India to Marry Facebook Boyfriend (YouTube TV)

She awakened, her lover lost at sea, lighthouses
Not being a thing that time in history.
Life impossible, she would find
him elsewhere, flung herself through centuries.

They corresponded online. No longer confined
To forced virginity. Venus long since moved on, now,
she heard, a tennis pro, avoiding love whenever possible.

Still, water separated them.
It’s my turn now. He’s no Olympian.
Men have no courage these days, friends said,
over coffee. How bad do you want it? Early
the next day, she stuffed clothes into a dry bag
tied to her waist, swam through the night.

What kind of man needs a lighthouse with the full moon?

She shivered with the first touch
of water on her skin.
Turned to goddess, she drew upon the fountain
of knowledge. Stroke strong and steady, she found
where they kept him. Sang to him.

Dépaysement / Jeff Newberry

From the French: the feeling of being disoriented or being lost in a place you don’t understand. Literally, the word translates to “de-countried” or “un-countried.”

In those years, we woke to the dead
piled as numbers in our morning news.
Stalin is said to have said a single
death is tragic—a million, a statistic.

We all live now in the falling red.
Once in Ireland, I sat by the quay,
drank tea, and tried to write of home,
or what I thought “home” meant.

So far away, it shrank to nothing
more than a smell of pine and pollen,
the certainty of sunlight. My brother
nearly died in the hospital, a lung

collapsed, a foreign body settled
in his chest. It erected beautiful walls.
Passed laws. Established rules. Elected
its own representatives. When he called,

he spoke from an overcrowded ward.
Too many dying. He lay in a hallway
for days. Doctors floated by, necklaced
tags the passports marking them at home

that new place, where a blood shortage
made people stand in long lines to give
the red liquid we categorize as phenotypes—
the kind that saves, the kind that kills.

mandarino / Bree Smith

i muri soffici
come sabbia, effervescenza citrina
chiara nella gola,
la passeggiata, un bagno di sole
fossette nate da un sussurro,
risuona attraverso
i passaggi stretti — uno strillo
per comprarli, sprazzi di
mandarino —
caldi al tatto, accecanti
per gli occhi, dolci
sulle labbra


walls soft
as sand, citrine fizz
bright in the throat,
the walk, a sunbath
dimpling at a whisper,
echoes through the
narrow passages — a shout 
to buy them, flashes of
tangerine —
warm to the touch, blinding
to the eyes, sweet
on the lips

Cento / Shannon St. ARmand

In the fleckless light
I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies.
The clear vowels rise like balloons,
and the wind,
behind which it shimmied and stomped something from the south.
After dark, stars glisten like ice, and the distance they span
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
among the market vegetables,
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Com’mere, boy!

  1. William Carlos Williams
  2. Sylvia Plath
  3. Sylvia Plath
  4. Kevin Young
  5. Ross Gay
  6. Tracy K. Smith
  7. Julia Spicher Kasdorf
  8. Pablo Neruda
  9. Maya Angelou
  10. Langston Hughes

Aria for Feed / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

This morning, a tomato
possessing itself. Green

sprouts through its flesh
like fists remind me

of those movies where spirits
push into the walls of an old manor,

consume the living who own it.
In the online gardening group I follow,

someone says the tomato has entered
its vivipanic phase. The seeds of the fruit

germinated, mistaking their home
for earth. I laugh at the word’s

innate anxiety, how it swerves
from vivid to panic, a car switching

lanes without giving a signal.
I cannot recall a day I have not

felt it, suffered the “live birth”
this kind of crowding is named for.

Think of it in these terms and it almost
becomes a normalcy, your replacement

threading its way inside you, reaching
up your throat as if to say This place is mine.

My 8-year Old Looks for Me at the Public Pool / Michael VanCalbergh

Find me here
in the water
watching you
look for me.

Hands over
your eyes, not
yet concerned. It
will be another

few seconds
until you find me
and run over
to splash

next to me. I
like to remember
the search. The
moment where

your world, for
this fraction
of your life,
was me. I know

the focus
it takes
to live
on that island.

Day 20 / Poem 20

Heaven / Shawna Ervin

Can you help me recognize
          my name, let it move
                                        from my teeth through my nose
                                                  to the shoes stacked
                              by the front door?

Can you remember
          when my need arrived
                                        before me, how a butterfly
                                                  reminded me of the color
                              of my irises?

Can you leave
          the set of keys
                                        near my place at the table,
                                                  pack a slice of cake
                              for the return trip?

After you locate coordinates
          where two birds rest,
                                        take care
                                                  that the mirror’s image
                              is both life and proof.

This is the way to heaven.

St. Ciarán’s Clonmacnoise / Meg Freer

Miracles attributed to St. Ciarán abound,
how he saved a small bird snatched
by a hawk, restored life to the dead,
cast a spell to silence a king’s voice.

He prayed during famine that the oats he took
to the mill would become fine wheat.
One sack of oats became four, and the bread
he baked for the monks healed the sick.

Before he died young of plague, Ciarán built
monastery buildings at Clonmacnoise
and a wooden chapel shaped like a beehive,
only big enough for him to sleep in.

Pilgrims rested at a hostelry across the river,
monks crafted illustrated manuscripts,
students arrived from Europe—a place
of learning, a small town by the year 1200.

The skill of its metal workers unsurpassed—
a bronze crozier with silver inlay, gilt, gemstones,
dog-like creatures, figure-eight snake-like patterns
on the sides, influences from marauding Vikings.

The skill of stone carvers—three high crosses
carved from giant blocks of sandstone.
Intricate Celtic knotwork and ornaments,
human and animal figures.

Celtic Cross, symbol of life and death,
a circle to represent the sun,
a halo of empathy and strength
to navigate a world of storms and strife.

Of Course You Have Wondered / Zachary Kluckman

If the caterpillar dreams while becoming something new. If its tiny mind can achieve the dream. If the pain of
change is familiar to all who live. If the ocean is in his ears. If caterpillars have ears. How one navigates without
sound. If the feel of wind is enough to compensate for lacking the ability to produce a sound of his own. If your
own voice is evolving and this is why you remain silent. Even when you should not. Even when your voice is
an ocean and your throat is filled with debris. The shipwrecked words clinging to whatever drifts near enough.
If this is how you are meant to save yourself. Clinging to whatever drifts near enough. Isn’t this how you were
torn from your safe window to begin with? Isn’t this cicada urgency to cling how the storm finds you? How it
outlines the shape of someone you know. How the rain makes the familiar seem threatening. How waiting
for life to lend you its wings is the most basic form of survival. If you can do more. If there is more than mere
survival inside of you. If this is why butterflies fascinate the already beautiful. If they are born to be beautiful,
then aren’t they already? Aren’t you already? Of course you are.

Future Folk Tales: Doves / Lea Marshall

Sometimes she saw the doves peering
into her window, nesting on the fire escape.
On her walks they bobbed down alleys,
soft brown and slow, meeting her eye
before lifting to power lines, wings whistling.
A low, round song like the pulse of lungs
or gills. They fed milk to their babies, carried
gentleness with them everywhere. Toward the end
she heard them in a dream: we’re mourning doves.
We came to the city for a reason.

Escape by river / DP McManus


I swam until my heart stopped breaking,
water softening the jagged lines of longing until I become
beach glass washed up on Fire Island.


By the the thousands, we waded, trading
secrets, border patrol sightings. Children clutch stuffed animals.
Still, some vanish. Statistics reveal nothing.


We traveled in the dark, bloodhounds losing us
to water, we who lost home and ocean, shackled
in the hold to die.


Born in water, we live
on land, forgetting which way
to run, and we run like the river.

Erklärungsnot / Jeff Newberry

From the German, a word that means being put on the spot without an explanation for one’s actions. The literal translation is “explanation emergency” or “explanation poverty.”

In life’s grand cookie jar, we’ve all been caught,
our hands half-in, dough-stained arms naked
in the kitchen’s bright light, as we look out at fate
and like a bad movie villain say, “Well, well, well,

if it isn’t the consequences of my actions.” Tell
me the worst thing that’s ever happened to you—
the ultimate conversation starter. Then, obliged
to listen, you hear a tale not so different from

your own. The actors change. Scenery, setting,
all rearranged. Still, here is X in the middle of Y
doing Z, which X knows damn well leads nowhere
good—excess, maybe. A bad bet. A last-minute

promise to get gas in the morning. The certainty
you turned the burner off before you left for work.
It all goes south, doesn’t it? Always. Then—
what’s the word? Peripeteia. Oedipus slept

with his mother despite Laius’s thwarted infanticide.
“Bullshit’s relative,” a friend told me once,
while we compared shitty lives over cold beer.
Son of a suicide and cancer victim, he leaned near

and whispered, “We’re all just waiting our turn.”

menta-bianca / Bree Smith

l’equinozio —
primo sospiro del mattino
come rugiada raccolta sulla
vernice crepata di un
il sagrato redolente di sale
alla deriva sui trifogli selvatici
la sposa a piedi nudi
incoronata di mirto,
i suoi capelli il
crepuscolo lilla,
i suoi passi come
ciglia posate 
su una guancia


equinox —
first sigh of morning
as dew gathered on the
split paint of a
the salt-scented churchyard
adrift in wild clover,
the bride barefoot in
crowns of myrtle,
her hair the
lilac gloaming,
her steps like  
eyelashes resting
on a cheek

Love Notes / Shannon St. Armand

Wind swishing
through my hair,
head tilted back
in howling laughter,
we’re on a ride
home from your
Father’s Day
celebration, and
I love you
next to me, the kids
in the back seat.

A year ago,
you drove
this same mountain
almost nightly
to sit with me
in the hospital’s
psych ward. I
was out of
my mind. You,
and dismayed,
but we would play
chess or war
until the nurses
kicked you out.

I couldn’t love you
more. Healthy now,
I dream of you
in my sleep, and wake
to your steady
breathing, warm skin.

That we get to have this life
again, after we had slipped and
watched it falling from our hands
like a glass about to shatter? —
Nearly impossible. Beyond what
we could have asked or imagined.

I’d like to keep laughing
with you.

Aria for Relief / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

The plastic bag I took
for a dead animal, mourned

as I watered the garden, imagining
it beneath the sun, its jaw locked

in a gasp. The wind rose, and I watched
the bag bloat, cartwheel to the sidewalk

an artless child. My love, I am ashamed
to say I believed life would be like this.

The endings interrupted. A miracle
parting the lips of a moment with its breath

before being drawn into a kiss.
I wouldn’t have minded the trick,

not having to bring anything back
because it had never been lost.

The Exception / Michael VanCalbergh

In the winter,
the only plant
I recognize
outside your home
is the hawthorn.
Its red berries feed
the birds too stubborn
to leave. In the summer
I cannot tell
what is a bush
or small tree,
I wasn’t taught
these things. Which
is the one that will stay
through the cold
months? That is the one
I want to tell you
I love. The hawthorn
is what I want you
to think about
when you think
about me.

Day 19 / Poem 19

Inflatable Tube of God / Shawna Ervin

I stood before the inflatable
tube of God. He grew taller, flopped
a bit to one side, then the other.
My wants were the fan
that made him tower over me.
Chocolate mousse, white sand
and gentle waves, pretending
not to hear the baby at night
whirred from my mouth
to fill God’s arms. When I had nothing
left to confess, God collapsed
to the ground, flat.

See-Through Chemistry / Meg Freer

He says that every two days he will consume,
on average, a large tub of Greek yogurt
or two smaller ones of Skyr, two to four servings
of lean meat, a can of fish, six eggs,
five to ten servings of complex carbs
like whole grains, sweet potatoes or beans,
two protein shakes and lots of veggies and fruit.
So many burnt calories—for bone, marrow,
muscle and nerves—but the MRI’s magnetic field
only cares about our mostly watery tissues,
the nuclei of their hydrogen atoms easily aligned
like tiny compass needles that vibrate and send out
signals that tell us some of our future.

Future Folk Tales: Forest / Lea Marshall

If you visit the forest,
they said, listen
for their breath,
for the long breath
they drew when quiet
finally came, inhale
of a depth passing
still unfolding
because forests
breathe millennia
and we will not live
to see the exhale
but in the quiet
at long last you will
hear the susurration
of birches, water
droplets held
in lichen’s cups
sipped by birds,
the diligence of ants
and the love
between them.
Moss tells green
stories and you will
hear them and be
joyful and weep
for a long time
at the horror
and the beauty
of decay
as the trees’
great roots surge
beneath you,
fungi electrify
the rich and bleeding
soil that is never
still never quiet
but whose voice
is only heard by the weeping and
the dead.

Ophelia’s diary / DP McManus

Underwater was safe
I stopped swimming wanting only
to see thousands of colors
merge into greens, browns, struck
by light, sunlit
monochrome, a liquid
ceiling. Maybe
the water
would take me home.

Meanwhile, I studied the fish I couldn’t see,
the untold stories. Untethered, I followed
widening circles, bathed in solitude so deep
I disappeared.

Three Ways to Say I’m Sorry / Jeff Newberry

Lo Siento

In Spanish, the first syllable lowers
you down to earth, a beggar

with cupped hands reaching
up to a passer-by, who looks

down and must decide if you
are worth this trouble, to stoop

low, to drop a single coin
into your needy palm, to balm

your day, go away, and alone,
you’re left with this single

reminder that one who walked
on slowed for a moment,

considered you—as you.


The Arabic “asif” joins two
words in the conditional—

as if you were worthy of forgiveness.
The beauty of the divine

encompasses all human folly,
even the jolly fool, drunk of wine,

who staggers down the dusty street,
knocking others off their feet,

sloshing a half-filled glass
that he drops. It shatters, the shards

scattering like the words
we all want to say when we look

away from this spectacle,
as I look away, too ashamed,

too afraid, as if I might have
to approach, help him to his feet,

and say, “Sir, sir, are you okay?”

Mi dispiace

On first glance, the Italian dispiace
says “displace,” and I think of wide

open spaces and downtrodden faces,
the myth of the American west.

How fearful we are of apologies here
in this giant country. As though

“apology” means “admit fault,”
as though one cannot meet another

midway through this life, share
a story over a common open bottle,

hear of a woe not so different
from our own, wipe our eyes,

and say, with heart, “I’m sorry.”

sable / Bree Smith

soles flickering 
in the
violet, berry-
timeless as though
leaves damp against
the spine
a burrow, fur curled
head-to-tail —
without a blanket 

Farmers Market Shannon St. Armand

One on his bike, two
in the wagon, a travel
mug of coffee
on a blustery day.
Our first market
of the season, we
journey through town
to be welcomed
by beets, cheeses,
turnips, every shade
of green leaf,
people blooming
in a parking lot
that sits desolate
the rest of the week.

If you were there,
I hope you spoke
to someone who
knew you before
two years of
a pandemic. I hope
you laughed with
a farmer, bought cherries
for the walk home.
I hope you felt
you could be
your whole, beautiful
self—sky above blue
as an iris, the love
of many hands
in your hands.

Aria for a Vow / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

Something beyond the body
brided. I ask for a promise,

get a warning. Years after
losing you, I agree there is no

difference. My gaze reaches
past the length of love. I promise

to keep adoring you in a world
where you never appear.

Summer / Michael VanCalbergh

for Emae

Season of drinking from the hose,
using the bits that miss our
mouth to cool our feet where our toes
move in and out of the puddle
ever growing around the exposed
roots of the tree we couldn’t save last spring.

Day 18 / Poem 18

Squirrel / Shawna Ervin

Sparrow flits beneath tree,
nibbles seeds. Robin sits politely
on green bar, obeys the feeder’s design.

Squirrel leaps from tree trunk
to top of bird feeder, swings wildly.
Birds scatter to tree nearby.

In the shade, I write this line,
one more. I wonder how far
this poem wants to leap.

Willow in June at Millhaven Creek / Meg Freer

Smashed on the rocks near the old mill
and basket factory, a white ceramic plate
with black script that would have spiraled
to the center from the outer edge.
It seemed poetic somehow, the general sense
of the words I saw while walking past,
trying to resist the urge to gather the fragments
and make sense of them, as well as the fact
of the plate having been thrown with force
onto the ground and someone’s dignity
stolen by anger or despair.

But my destination was the willow tree
beside the creek with the wide cascade
of rapids no more than half a meter high.
Always a willow near an old mill.
And I think of how Rachmaninoff took care
to plant willows at his secluded summer estate
but only enjoyed them for seven years
until 1917, when the place burned
during the revolution and he fled by sleigh
over the border into Finland, his dignity—
and that of the willows—stolen by war.

Ellis Island / Zachary Kluckman

The light dances on the water beneath the boat. And it is so cliched. At least
to hear it out loud. How else to describe the brilliance of a million diamonds
laughing as the bow churns through them, steady. Unlike our hands on the
railing. Unlike our steps. Us, from the desert, impetuous enough to believe
sea legs are inherited from our ancestors. As if their impossible journeys on
boats filled with the dying somehow prepared us for this. A ten-minute trip
to visit the island where they landed. Where they were herded into rooms,
inspected. Injected with vaccines. Branded with a new stamp of approval or
shoveled into rooms to wait the next boat back. Sepia toned photos now
lining the walls. Dank images of humanity carrying starvation in their eyes.
It is not joy you see in their faces. In these photos. It is survival, pure, primal.
Something eager and exhausting. Crowds of them, our fathers’ fathers and
mother’s mothers standing in queues, emaciated cheeks straining against
flesh. The papers mistook them for smiles also. The video clips on loop in the
halls today, tell of narrow escapes from violence. Genocide. Testimonials from
a dozen nations reminding us the world is filed with impossible situations.
That pulling life from the soil, while tending the sick, is not our history but our
present. That carrying your son’s lifeless body to the well, praying there is water
to wet his lips when you refuse to acknowledge his death is not our history but
our present. Human dignity is a phrase we wear in disguise, to make ourselves
feel better. A brightly colored flag we fly as if celebrating survival is not simply
another way to avoid answering the impossible question. Humanity so consumed
with the question of extending our lives, but how. A scientist somewhere in a lab
even now is wrestling with the question. Meanwhile, a child somewhere else is
given a gun and a promise to see his mother again if he uses it well. In his chest,
the water rises. Perhaps he dreams of a voyage across the water. Some promised
land. And here we stand on the edge of a pier. Tourists in our own homes. Watching
the hot dog vendors slather mustard while the gulls swoop in to steal what crumbs
we let fall. But look, how bright the light is dancing across the water. How the cities
rise in the horizon.

Future Folk Tales IV / Lea Marshall

Only stone knows the secret of waves’ first breaking

By evening on a day so far past the ending
she could no longer count how long it had been
she came to a valley where nothing grew
on the banks of a vanished river. Slash of sky
silvering to grey between the cliff edges
and far off a secret gold knifed beneath clouds,
the last moments of sunset. She lay down
among the stones and the wind wondered
about her but she was too tired to speak again.
Darkness stroked her hair, the valley’s edges
blurred, faded. Her cheek against granite
her limbs slackening, and then stone finally
told her the truth, not a voice but a sounding
through the bones of her skull – on the day
the waves first broke they breathed a sound
so new and fine all the rocks shuddered
and knew the song as their own ending.
But as water stroked stone, they learned
to keep each other’s secrets in the world
they made together, to break each other
and re-form, break and re-form, laughing,
roaring, singing, crumbling inside time,
revealing it as elastic as themselves.

Becoming someone / DP McManus

Personne as the subject: Personne ne me connaît ici. (“No one knows me here.”)
ThoughtCo. “How to Say ‘None,’ ‘No One,’ ‘Nothing” in French.”

Around me, a city. I wandered
unrecognized. I belonged
as a stranger.

I caught myself in a mirror, didn’t see myself.
The instruction kit arrived.
I tore it open. The rules unclear.
I studied them closely. Learned
invisibility. I became
no one, lived in choices, mine
and those around me, swelled
into hooded, silent personhood.

Bilita Mpash / Jeff Newberry

From the Bantu: a pleasant, beautiful dream, the opposite of a nightmare.

How often they awaken in peculiar beds,
sweat streaming from their shut eyes,
their skin raw and sticky and wet
in this strange new place where stars

rearrange themselves above. Home,
the flowers and trees smelled sweet
and bitter—cow peas and amaranth,
foods gifted from the rich dark earth.

The dreams remain only in flashes
like bolts of ripped cloth. A warm
hand on a shoulder. The call of a bird
hidden in a baobab tree, the voice

familiar, like a name you can’t place.
Like the voyage here, dreams are one-
way. They can never return to what
is lost. Some sleepers must have given

up and risen, flipped the straw mat
that served as a sheet, inverted their eyes
out and prepared for another day away.
When the children cry from nightmares,

they shush them and ache for sleep.

For B.A / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

A spectrum full of doubt. I do not call myself an artist or an author, because I feel that other people might examine me to be pretentious or lacking the actual skill and authority to do so. But, I do create. I create and love all that it is. I create and hate it to a point where it becomes imperceptible to me how anyone could be this trite or create something this hideous. I maneuver in a way as to elude every type of possible criticism or hatred. I do not even show my work
Why do I think I am so smart? Maybe I am not. Maybe, I live in a mediocre plateau with other people who think they are smarter than they are and achieve nothing and then have to psychologically suffer when coming to the realization of having a normal life. This, causing the extreme shift right back to my morose, but familiar home.

A spectrum of duties. The duty to be a good father, or the duty to be a good husband, or the duty to be a good person, or the duty to follow my dreams, or the duty to be true to myself. Then I become a college graduate, and become a father, and become a husband, and, even with the pressures that accompany all, these are wonderful glimpses of perseverance. And, I am excited for the journeys that await and the love that usher them

rhinestone / Bree Smith

iridescent as the
original never was
the color of rhinestone
a tingle against a
waiting throat
the cool of pearls
falling like
the box, the lock, the key
the eyes that still see
what was before —
the grey of rain
falling like
a crust of paste
in a clenched
palm, translucent

Sister, Sister / Shannon St. Armand

I heard somewhere
that without tension
there’d be no music.
Right now, I know,
it’s all catastrophic
cacophony and
misplaced beats.
But I believe
we can turn even
this piece
into a symphony,
harmonies and melodies
you can’t imagine
on your best day.
We’ve made it
here with a violin
string popped, a bass
with loose pegs,
and a misplayed tuba
sounding like a fart.
It takes work to build
a decent band. I want
you in mine.
One smooth bow,
one clean blow
at a time.

Aria for Hands / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

The impossible task of my childhood: carrying
water from one end of a room to another without

losing a drop. I want to believe in a body born free
of escape routes, that some part of me isn’t always

willing to accept abandonment. The only way I can see
the future is through my fingers. It’s not that it’s brilliant,

it’s that staring at anything directly means damage.
I think of the first time I made myself look at you.

Radiance, like sticking my head in a lamp, a honeybee
plunging its senses into the bright pollen of a flower.

Then tears. I accused the sunset, on a different day,
allergies. I recognized in me proof of a larger storm,

knew that after years of trying I wouldn’t be able to hold it.

Haibun for Bedtime / Michael VanCalbergh

It’s time to brush your teeth Yes I know That’s very funny but it’s time to brush your teeth Yes Please Sweetie Sweetie Sweetie Sweetie It’s time to brush your teeth I know I’m sorry I repeated it but but but sweetie let me let me speak I know I repeated it and It’s okay Please don’t Yes I know No No Yes Okay Please brush your teeth No don’t start doing that Thank you Yes thank you Yes okay okay okay Okay sweetie please just go Okay I won’t say it again but Okay Yes Come on Please It’s time Your toothbrush is not in your bedroom Thank you Where is your toothbrush Go get the toothbrush too Okay Yes Thank you Sweetie please start brushing That’s great Thank you Okay Thank you Good job sweetie Yes Good

I say goodnight like
my father did; soft, late when
you are fast asleep.

Day 17 / Poem 17

Story of a Husband / Shawna Ervin

For Renee

In the faded photo a pirate perched
atop your birthday cake, a pirate
with his black vest and red belt,
oversized gray plastic sword brandished
despite there being exactly zero enemies
on a tan, frosted island. Behind the pirate, a flag
with white skull tipped and sank in the July heat.

In the photo you held a card, a rainbow card,
the number 6 embossed in red and blue glitter,
your smile revealing two missing front teeth.
I gave you that card, signed my name,
signed it with love. You laughed that day,
laugh still in the photo, laughed so hard
that day you snorted. “I love you too,”
you said after the camera clicked,
wrinkled your nose. I was a girl,
two years older, your neighbor.

That summer we climbed trees
and fences, rode bikes, splashed
in the irrigation ditch, mimicked peacocks
at the farm nearby. All I knew then
of love was Band-aids on scraped knees, the security
of stomping off when you ate the last red popsicle,
the juice bleeding down your chin, your eyes
blinking fast when you claimed you had orange, then
pedaling back the next morning. “Sorry,”
I muttered. “Yeah, sorry too,” you said.
“Race you to the ditch!”

The photo curls in my palm, the memory
melting with the colors and paper. I tell myself
that I will not forget even as I know
I am-your voice, face, smile, the feel
of your hand in mine. I drop
the photo, my hand empty.

A Dog’s Luck / Meg Freer

The saying goes, “You have a dog’s luck,”
and that’s a good thing,
even for the stray dogs of Tbilisi
born of abandoned crossbreeds,
50,000 of them who run the streets

in territorial packs of six or more,
proudly sporting ear tags to show
proof of their rabies shots,
who sleep much of the day in the hot sun
on patches of grass or cement,

then cruise their favorite neighborhoods
for the human friends who say “live and let live,”
build them little houses, offer dog versions
of fruit, wine, salt and bread,
the traditional Georgian welcome.

The really lucky ones grow old and chubby
near outdoor markets or restaurants,
unaware—as are many of us—of the “others”
who roam remote streets late at night,
lonely even in their packs.

Birthright / Zachary Kluckman

A flight of fancy, I am given to understand
Involves no wings, only the gravity to fall
Continuously, like stars, headlong into orbit
Around some familiar dream. As a child,
I remember every adult telling me to pull
My head from the clouds, to face the world
With the gravity required for adult thought.
Maturity they call this. A tragedy, I thought,
And often still do, to lose the wonder of light
That nightfall reminds us to consider. Stare
Endlessness directly in the face and tell me
Again, how an adult conceit pretends to know
Anything at all. I do not tell my children
To forsake their dreams. Foolish pursuits
Give us poetry, hopeless romantic tendencies,
The willingness to bet it all on our own
Best lives. Dream louder, I shout at them,
Laughing as they run downhill chasing
Shopping carts they have tied their kites to,
the wish to fly is the same as the wish to know
love in its unfettered nakedness. To plant
a bean that breaches the sky. Dream,
dandelions. Pull your roots up close
under your chin and leap into the sky.
Who needed gravity in the first place?
We have all been falling from the moment
Of birth. The earth itself cannot stop us.

Future Folk Tales III / Lea Marshall

One night he camped on dark sand beneath a whale’s ribcage.
Listening to the waves repeat themselves
he remembered how people cried and fled as the waves
brought their story closer and closer, not trying to be understood,
just speaking as they always had.
Sadness carved his throat. All around him the whale’s ribs a tender memory
of enclosure, the safety of a massive heart. The waves
telling of the whale’s first thrashing in infancy and how they washed
her body at the end. He cried until one of the ribs woke
and sang to him an echoing song, a keening lament that billowed
into an exultation of wind and the tracery of starlight which bones wait a lifetime to know

flower of the mountain (honoring Bloomsday) / DP McManus

so we are flowers all (James Joyce, Ulysses)
waking up as thunder crashed into my brain
remember, I thought, the butterflies,
the young mallards watching
the lone male, mid-lake, colors
flashing in the sun. In their earth
tones the hint in one of adult
colors. The mother, head cocked, studies
me, her colors woven subtly into being.
Colors all, she whispers.

Selah / Jeff Newberry

Some things require pause. The collect
before the bad news you knew would
arrive, the pre-sigh prefacing the exhale
that signifies the world-weary, the weak.

In church, I find myself seeking divine
feelings during prayer, holding my voice
close, as though God were the tiny bead
of spit that drips down my tightened

throat. To ache for some certainty,
I concentrate on my knee pain, bent
double there at the altar before the priest
blesses the wafer we believe is God’s

flesh, before I drink the wine we say
is God’s blood, the swallow that washes
down and clears my voice, that loosens
(somehow) the breath I didn’t know

I was holding. Selah, the Psalmist
writes, a musical interlude? A pause?
This translated, transliterated two-syllable
word we debate as though this quiet

quest for meaning, at meaning, can mean.

zafferano / Bree Smith

il sole della sera
inonda tutto, raggi
che scivolano
attraverso le dita
sulle pagine, crescendo 
prima di fuggire  
particella per
grani d’oro
che svolazzano
sopra le ombre nuove
come braci


evening sun
floods everything, rays 
through fingers
onto pages, waxing  
then escaping  
particle by
grains of gold
that drift over  
the new shadows
like embers

Singing / Shannon St. Armand

Good singing does not run
in my family. But I love
to belt any good song
and when I was young,
wished I had the guts
to sing up front
at church
with all the other girls.

Now, I blast Lady Gaga,
Coldplay and The Killers
in my minivan, and my three
mini-mes know
how to show up
for such concerts.

Even my one-year-old
will wail with Adele,
Rolling in the Deep,
like she’s got all
the good genes she needs
in her pipes, like all her life
she’s thought of nothing
but singing.

Aria for Anger, an Importance / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

Every morning, a new cut.
Every morning, the taste

of blood in my mouth. The thought
that something inside me has split.

I could blame you, you who pushed
like a finger promising sweetness

then scratched its way out.
You’re responsible for the red

sounds I carry. I’ve listened so long,
by now I must be a red sound, too,

a body pitched beyond the range
of common hurt, I rise to the lip of it,

pour myself before you.

Aubade / Michael VanCalbergh

Will you search for me
in the early afternoon
when you wake? Will
you think me cautious
for locking your door
before I left? Will you see
that I wrote the groceries
you mumbled in your sleep
on the list you keep
next to the fridge? Will you
forgive me for forgetting
the name of the chips
you put on your fingers?
Will you find the sunscreen
I left in hopes you would ask
me to return so that I can try
again to stay? So that I
can try again to wait?

Day 16 / Poem 16

Want / Shawna Ervin

After Cesar Vallejo

Want is a collectible dish, hand painted,
a gift, broken. Want is roses bouquet,
leaves ripped from stems, petals
swept into pile, dropped into bin
with last week’s eggs.

Want sits through long prayer, dizzy
with hunger. Dad screams,
last slice of meatloaf splatters
on the wall. Ketchup drips
down white paint to sunny yellow tile.

Want is a drop of grape juice
left in communion cup. You dip
your finger inside, lift it, slowly,
carefully, watch the juice
dry on your fingerprint.

Taste Buddies / Meg Freer

sweet at the tip of the tongue
sour at the back on the sides
bitter in the middle at the back
salty at the front on the sides

distill the cool elegance
of apricot and almond
embrace the panache
of ginger and fig


In the space where tree lines end in sky
with a nakedness that bewilders the wandering eye.
Between the last stubborn stump of pine – a slip
of sap still trying to reach the ground from where
it was cut – and the first slide of rock tumbled
from a top we cannot see. Where spirit succumbs
to the body’s pressure, and I climb without
rope or piton, trusting only muscle and Irish
spirit to carry me upward. Where my ridiculous
mind conjures Edward Munch and MC Escher
to tea along my spine, debating perspectives of a sky
where stars spill like droplets down a rain
hung window.

Crouched behind the altar of an eighteenth
century capilla, ancient catholic church buried
in the bosom of a valley known for its duendes,
former Spanish land granted to a man for killing
the natives in a fit of nationalism. Where they built
a four-room home, watched it burn to the ground,
built this church, another home. Where families came
to wed and lay to rest beneath its stones.
Anywhere history burns
in a book they fear to read to children, the truth
a fear as old as blood. In the space between wooden
pews where the spirits still tilt the legs from the floor,
awaiting judgement. Where I sit on dessicated wood
asking the generations of names carved in stone
for their stories.

In the back of any room poets gather.
Between the djimbe drums and rows of trochaic feet,
sandaled toes and apostrophe’s exploding
with working class passions. Where the brown man
sings of his little girl and a white woman weeps,
because in his clothes she sees a human being
for the first time and she was unprepared
for revelation this late in the evening. Where a poet
shows his appreciation for another poet whose parallel
conjunctions give heart to things in such a way
I reimagine creation. Here, where I write of
wondering if God ever second guesses perfection,
by which I mean, of course, the exact number of bones
required for your hand to hold mine.

Future Folk Tales II / Lea Marshall

Egret wades a mirror of herself.
She is concerned with fish.
When the messenger finds her,
she listens carefully and says nothing
for a while. The messenger waits.
Slowly egret unfolds her leg
from the white curl of her belly.
Her foot meets itself on the still
surface, passes through, vanishes
below. Messenger yawns but
does not press. No fish
have been seen for hundreds
of years of egret’s wading.
She is not troubled. She has passed
through many shorelines, newer
and newer, and never stumbled
though sometimes she has died.
The messenger knows this, has
brought her small treasures
which she eats thoughtfully.
Low sunlight casts jagged
shadows in the grasses, gleams
along her bill formed for fish.
She lifts the coil of her neck
and slowly draws her foot back
through the surface, dripping,
into the white curl of her belly.
The messenger thanks her,
turns to go, looks back once
to hold the shape of her certainty
and carry it back like a torch.

River haiku / DP McManus

Underwater there
I forget to be human
Pain left on surface.

American Sonnet in Fourteen Bullets / Jeff Newberry

  • This is the gun that you have to take to work.
  • This is the gun that you have to take to town.
  • This is the gun that you have to show you own.
  • This is the gun that you have to take to church. 
  • This is the gun oil you use to wash your hair. 
  • This is the gun you use to mow your lawn. 
  • This good guy with a gun sings a nice song
  • While the bad guy with a gun says a nice prayer.
  • This is the gun that you must take to school.
  • These are the bullets packed for your lunch. 
  • A pop in the hall, loud. Something’s wrong. 
  • Huddle in the closet. Squeeze tight. Scrunch.  
  • Don’t fear. Those shots ringing out are the true
  • Sounds of freedom. Enjoy the patriot song.

Mis colores / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

¿Cómo puedo dedicarme a un propósito que oprime?
Las visiones me superan
Los sueños siempre están un paso más adelante
Incluso cuando el tiempo ha pasado
El amor en los jóvenes me asusta
Todo en nombre de la ganancia personal
Pero cuando se convierte en pérdida personal
Los pensamientos conservados se incrustan en otros
La tinta en mis mangas
Muestra mis colores verdaderos
Necesito que mi mente divague
Las olas son frecuentes
Y entonces me pregunto si es demasiado
Antes de acostarme a reflejar de los fantasmas de hoy
Vivo por los días
Y muero por las noches

My Colors

How can I be dedicated to a purpose that oppresses?
Visions past me
Dreams are always one step further
Even when time has passed
The love in the young frightens me
All in the name of self-gain
But when does it become self-loss
Preserved thoughts are embedded in others
The ink onmy sleeves
Show my true colors
I lucubrate
I need my mind to wander
Waves are frequent then
And then I wonder if its too much
Before I lay to reflect on the ghosts of today
I live for the days
And die for the nights

lavanda-grigia / Bree Smith

queste carezze
sembrano d’argento al
chiaro di luna
come erba alta
che sussurra la mattina —
sofficissima —
gli occhi attenti
soffusi di sonno,
quattro piedini
infilati sotto


these caresses
seem silver in the
like long grass
whispering in the morning —
soft-beyond-softness —
keen eyes
suffused with sleep,
four little feet
tucked under

Kindred Spirit / Shannon St. Armand

Driving through Philadelphia,
I see a man on the sidewalk spasming,
raising his arms to heaven
in shocks of momentum, looking up,
muttering, over and over again.

My heart is a glass of cheap wine.
I want to jump out of my white car
and save him. I don’t
know how, but I know from what:
bare insanity. I was there
last year. A diagnosis that included
psychosis, a stay in the psych ward,
ECT1. I thought I was going
to hell. Thought God had beef
with me. I could feel nothing,
imagined every way of dying.

I love that man. Have thought of him
every day since. The only difference
between us?

  1. Electroconvulsive therapy is a psychiatric treatment where a generalized seizure is electrically induced to manage refractory mental disorders

Aria for Red / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

My first pelt. Uncovered
the same day as threat.

Sliding over me, a new instinct
born, my hands left to flutter

in an odd ritual beckoning
danger back.

July 3rd / Michael VanCalbergh

I ask Peter what he will do
when there are no wars,
no dead and dying to set off
fireworks for. What would he do
to mark the living? He tells me

when he was little he took his first
bottle rocket in both hands; nearly took
off two fingers as it built pressure,
burned through the fuse, and dragged
his eyes to the sky. The whistle then
the whir then the pop. He existed in full.

He didn’t even know the 3rd
wasn’t the celebration.

Day 15 / Poem 15

Request / Shawna Ervin

Before you enter
          this space, before you
tell me to breathe redemption
between pause and abandonment,

wait. Do not reach
          for my hand, do not
hope to weave your elbow
into mine, do not offer

your shoulder in place
          of forever.
Leave me with
dried tortillas, cheese dotted with mold.

Tell me to have a Merry Christmas,
          Blessed Easter, alone
in a home you never
meant for me to keep.

And don’t forget
          to wash the dishes,
check the voicemail, and turn out the lights
before I go to bed.

Morse Code Thoughts / Meg Freer

Tell me what you really think.
Write a note, scratch it
onto my back, dermatographia.
I’ll read the red lines in the mirror.

Steady the bag … punch it out.
Ready … Go! one-two, one-two,
right hook, uppercut, jab, jab.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Wield that sonority,
tap those morse code thoughts
onto my head, so that I feel
them beating in my mind.

Liminal / Zachary Kluckman

The wind has called you outside and now
You are here, untethered, a scrap of paper torn
From a forgotten notebook, a passing thought
Making itself heard, flapping against the
Doorsill as if trapped between two destinations

The moon they have said calls
To the weary heart, the wanderlust within
A broken heart, but love has yet to touch
The darkness, you wonder if the eyes in the bush
Glow because of the heat within

whatever body possesses them, a strange
calling to say I love you to the unseen beast
Lurking there, the one that called you from
The comfort of your bed, that turned your
Melons to mulch with its passing,

You imagine you can hear its breath leave
Its chest but this is yours, this warmth
This escape of air, this urge to run recklessly
Into the night, towards whatever waits
Beyond the fence, beyond the landscaped lawns

Beyond the ornamental windows, barefoot
As youth, naked as rain

Future Folk Tales I / Lea Marshall

They walked all day with a thin fox
as their companion. He carried his tail
easily over the stones and they admired
his face like a delicate chisel.

Toward evening he turned to them
and said, I cannot stay with you but
since you are the last one on earth
I will tell you my secrets. And so

for one hundred evenings he spoke
and his secrets wove slow vines
among their ribs, around their lungs
and by the end they understood

willow branches and leaf rot, rabbits’
terror, the slow hammer of roots
through concrete, their own heart –
the deathly intertwining of desire

and waste. Wind rattled past
the fox was gone, they thought,
until they heard the lost violin
of his voice threading the hills

with them as they walked gently
on new grass and with relief
left hope behind.

Three Translations of Antonio Machado / Jeff Newberry

xciii. (from Proverbios y cantares a José Ortega y Gasset)

What is truth? The river
flowing by and passing
where the boat and boatman
are also the waves in the water?
Or this sailor’s constant
dreams of rivers and anchors?

¿Cual es la verdad? ¿El rio
que fluye y pasa
donde el barco y el barquero
son tambien ondas del agua?
¿O este soñar del marino
siempre con ribera y ancla?

v. (from Proverbios y cantares)

Every man has two
battles he must fight:
in dreams, he wrestles with God;
and awake, with the sea.

Toda hombre tiene dos
batallas que pelear;
en sueños lucha con Dios;
y despierto, con el mar.

vi. (from Parábolas)

The God we all carry,
the God we all make,
the God we all seek
and that we never find.
Three Gods or three persons
of the one true God.

El dios que todos llevamos,
el Dios qu todos hacemos,
el Dios que todos buscamos
y que nunca encontraremos.
Tres dioses o tres personas
del solo Dios verdadero.

J . M . Z / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

We ask selfishly to entrust us
With the best of wishes
With the highest of hopes
We love you
We embrace your light
While your essence carries our souls
It brings looks never seen
The depth of our emotions become known
Smiles, laughter, life is what you gift us
So, indebted to you we apply ourselves
To wrap this new world in all in which you deserve
Mountains of requited love
In the same
To reach you

J . M . Z

Le pedimos egoístamente que nos confíe
Con el mejor de los deseos
Con la mayor de las esperanzas
Te amamos
Abrazamos tu luz
Mientras tu esencia lleva nuestras almas
Trae miradas nunca vistas
La profundidad de nuestras emociones se da a conocer
Sonrisas, risas, vida es lo que nos regalas
Así que, en deuda contigo nos aplicamos
A envolver este nuevo mundo en todo lo que mereces
Montañas de amor merecido
En el mismo
Para llegar a ti

silver / Bree Smith

like the tilt of a pitcher
milk of moonlight
poured over eyes
turned inward,
a wilderness blossoming
silver-gilded —
while in stillness beyond 
the clock, a sluice,
the only light seems
the ghost-glint of objects
quotidian —
and against the windows
the plash of

Mathematics / Shannon St. Armand

Addition, you are the golden retriever
Of math, always wagging your tail
And coming back for more. Subtraction,
Sly dog, decreaser of dopamine rushes
And fun, ruler of decluttering and
Relationship endings. Algebra, always
Keeping me guessing, you wear a veil
Over your face, you make me work
For what’s just out of reach. Geometry,
You’re an open-faced sandwich, everything
Right in front of me, I just have to
Take a bite. Calculus, who do you think
You are? No, really. Because I
Have no idea. Physics, science
With a mathematics dress on,
And my dear, you look fantastic.
When no one is looking, I see you jump
Off the merry-go-round, skirts flowing,
Before you calculate
How fast you were going
Based on
Where we both landed.

Aria for a Secret / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

After the article “Universe’s ‘missing matter’ finally found in the space between galaxies” by Kirsten Gottschalk and Tim Stephens

A run in a pair of tights. The brief snag
growing wider, stretching up the leg
until it threatens to deliver the whole thigh.

Or, like me, gazing vacant on a loud night,
answering yes without making eye contact.
We refuse to see the human in the universe, but now

even it is capable of shame. I can no longer lie
beneath the night and not ask questions, cannot
accept how it stretches above me, honest, seemingly

To the Woman Sitting Outside Coffeehound in the 98º Heat / Michael VanCalbergh

The sky’s so clear it’s yellow. The streets weep
upwards. The whole week will weather like this.
People dart in and out of shops, trying
to stay cool. Sidewalk plants wilt then reach
for the sun, unsure whether this is a type
of drowning. A car drove away carrying
a family made of the deepest clay. It
moved like a flipbook only louder. Sweat
hisses in the shade as it falls from my
nose. Everything tastes of salt and gasoline.
I’m trying to get somewhere cool then see
          You sit outside with a hot coffee,
          sip it slow. You blow across the top
          and the street moves with the air from your lips.

Day 14 / Poem 14

In Honor of Abstractions / Shawna Ervin

For Laura

Once anchored to what was lost, we search
for details of loves we did not learn to trace. Instead,
we cut and paste the unknown until
the sky turns red, then black, twists
around itself. Lost among
hosts we feared, guests who filled
notebooks with unsolicited advice, the parts
of ourselves forgotten
in someone else’s memories, we wish
we had paid closer attention when
someone—who was that again—offered
to teach us mapping. Before we give up
hope, look once more for truth
in your shadow or mine,
look close for even a sliver of truth.

Chemistry Blues / Meg Freer

Alpine bluebells increase their pH
pink buds become blue flowers

one element away from carbon
boron is not boring

a dead-end scent
if you bruise your whiskey

the chemical connection
between explosives and silk


Listen, Mae. When the world kicks your ass
Because it will, mean-spirited Capricorn that it is,
Go to the top of the mountain where we walked
When you were just a child, and scream at every bird
Until they stop to ask what’s up.

You have been waiting your whole life to be heard.
Even though your father, in all his infinite wisdom
If you believe in such myths as wisdom, which really
Means knowing enough to grow old with a ponytail
And most of your teeth intact – even though he once
Painted his ears so you could see them in the dark,
You have felt your voice disappearing.

I know. I have watched your eyes chase it
Into places most of us can never reach. Sometimes
I am jealous of your secrets because distance has been
So unkind to people that I love. Do you know what
You call the ghost of a reflection?

Me either, but I need for you to know the wisdom
Of invisibility is not in remaining unseen. Discovery,
The chance to be revealed as if stepping from the ocean
Into a window display with all your tangled hair, all
Of your bright teeth singing out, to fall in complicated love,
Polyamorous with life and fantasy because

Who’s to say you are wrong for needing both?
Whatever world you inhabit next, wherever your toes
Wiggle in the water, remember this. A hollow tree
Can carry your voice deep into the earth, but
Even a bee in the thunderstorm knows shelter

Is a place with many names. When you return,
You will be safe here.

Strawberry Moon / Lea Marshall

I run past a man singing to himself
          marsh grass spearing the sky
          biting flies spearing me
my body all sweat and motion, my feet
push the road away and I breathe
a bubble of sound past silent houses
          dipping gulls over sky-colored
          water and the geese glancing up
and here are six or seven gravestones
under three live oak trees, spun, measured,
cut. The fates in a front yard, old as lichen.
          Houses crowd sunset. I turn back
          and get lost in the marsh
running backward towards the man’s song
the rising moon, the settling gulls, until
the flies find their secret beds and sleep.

How to make breakfast / DP McManus


I’m usually walking straight toward the sunrise.
Bay full of sun, about to break
into colors. We travel immersed,
knowing through smoke-
colored goggles muted
green and brown suffused with light,
soft prisms.
We swim partly blind, prone, alone
in space-time-water.


Awaken at six, unsound
sleep. Coffee. Still cold.
Staff meeting. Commute
to chair by window. Light is close to real.
Screen shows us one another
and ourselves. We talk of pets, movies.
Outside, there is sky. Birds
perched on railing. I go to the door when I can.
The work is quiet, adequate.
Neighbors’ voices rise. Fight. Disappear.
Every day is the happiest day of my life.

Italicized sections: quoting 82-year-old Canadian man who swims daily even through winter

What Words Do / Jeff Newberry

Set the word into ordered rows.
Carve away the soft edges

of vision and sharpen each
boxed corner into named things:

pocket knife, beer can, fist,
bruise. Name the pains we feel—

the bladed edge of glass
flaying the flesh of your foot

the summer your father
took you to the beach.

Green, polished by the waves,
a shard of some forgotten bottle.

He used pliers to pluck it free.
Told you men do not cry.

Shape the stories of the dead:
“Old man.” “Father.” “Daddy.”

Every sobriquet another way
to name the shape or shadow

you carry inside, amorphous,
wide, a thing you can pour

onto a page like ink and push
into rows with a pen. Perhaps

they’ll feed some hidden seeds.
Perhaps they’ll dry up in the sun.

Nueva Yol / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Estoy esperando que esta isla no se sienta como el fin del mundo
Deseo el resto del mundo
La necesidad de realizar la vida
Pero si este es el final
Y me voy para siempre
Entonces dejaré mi oro en un lugar donde estarás tú
Y lo encontrarás con tus poderes
Ahora puedes ser rico
y a mí me sobrevivirá del amor

The City

I’m waiting for this island not to feel like the edge of the world
I long for the rest of it
The need to fulfill life
But if this is the end
And I’m forever gone
Then I’ll leave my gold in a place where you’ll be
And you’ll find it with your powers
Now you can be rich
and I’ll be survived by love

cremisi-giallo / Bree Smith

il primo tocco
sopra i tetti
un segno del mondo che gira,
giallo —
come lo immaginiamo da bambini
sulla curva dell’orizzonte —
l’eterna caduta
e la lunga,
dell’eterna ascesa


first touch
over the rooftops
a sign of the turning world,
yellow —
like we imagine it as children
on the curve of the horizon —
the eternal fall
and the long,
of the eternal rise

Seed Catalogue / Shannon St. Armand

Let me feast
My eyes all day
On black buds,
Bejeweled husks,
Celery blue.

You’d barely
Believe it.
Eden, almost.

Let me leaf
The evening
Through, imagine
What my hands
Would do.

Meanwhile, starvation
And war, gas lines
Making cracks through the world.

But the catalogue
Tells me, if we felt
Like it, we could make
The whole earth
Again. Under every
Dirt pile—

Aria for a Throat / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

My last realm of faith
betrayed. The worst sin: denying

myself the chance to sing
because someone else could not.

How often I have sat, legs crossed,
as if there was nothing within me

humming. The ancient Greeks
believed the throat a window

into virginity, that for a woman
to open her mouth was to risk

being found out. No longer pure
silence, but a growl, the chest

revving, unable to hold anything
else but her wants. I am becoming

this same kind of selfish. Once I looked
inside and saw a face, someone I was

answerable to. Now, there is only the pour
of a pianist’s hands hitting all the notes.

Depressive Episode 102 / Michael VanCalbergh

Deep in the darkness, microwaving
left over pizza in my underwear,
I put my hand on the light
and start to feel better. It’s like this.

It’s never poignant. It’s always 1:30 am
watching pizza bubble and swivel, alarm
going off in four hours, alone, almost naked,
checking to see if the glass gets hot too.

Day 13 / Poem 13

To Tumbleweed / Shawma Ervin

For Emily

There once was a tumbleweed on Main Street
It tumbled and blew right up to Emily Dooley’s feet
It cackled and said, “Even if you wish me obsolete,
I cannot be discreet in this heat.”

She ran and she ran as fast as she could go,
her pantyhose igniting. What an ordeal to undergo.
Just when you might think fate might bestow
some luck, wet cement brought more woes.

“Freaking awesome,” she screamed to the sky.
“Can someone tell me why
I thought it was a good idea to apply
to work at the paper rather than be a spy?”

June Blues / Meg Freer

June erupts, too much, too soon,
shoves Spring off the train
ike the conductor evicting the passenger
who didn’t listen when he yelled,
“If you are caught smoking on this train,
the next stop will be your last stop!”

Overgrown bushes and weeds appear
out of nowhere, an over-eager horn section
busting out all over before anyone
has time to make a plan for the show,
but Spring had dawdled along for the ride
and June just wants to get going
with all summer’s colors and lush harmonies.

Give me less drama—just a slow accelerando
through several shades of cool green,
pink and mauve, a bit of eye-popping white,
to the deep sunset tones of marigolds and nasturtiums.

MORE THAN ONE / Zachary Kluckman

In the effort to find your own
happiness, you sift through hours
seeking that one moment of joy
that flits like a swift through the eaves
and overhangs, batting its soft head
against impossible sky, sky so
impenetrable, the loss of it
swallows all other sensation. Simple
movement of the muscle no
longer enough to satisfy. Currents
attempting to lift your body
while your head repeats a chorus of no’s.

          No, not this way, there’s no way out
          from here.


The sun sends tender
fingers along the horizon inviting
new directions. The other birds
sing check your compass, move
a little further south.
The sky
whistles to prove there is still space
left to cross. Your body feels
so heavy under your head
you invent your own gravity,
like math; a calculus of grief.


Not one
          suggests a landing but sometimes
          you must connect the earth
                    to your body in order to remember
                    what it is you leave behind and
                              what it is that calls you


Witness the roadrunner
outside, who cocks his head towards
the sky, lifts his wings briefly, a passenger
adjusting his luggage. How he runs straight
at the sunset. How the sky, on fire,
follows him.

My orchids whisper to me and I do not understand them very well / Lea Marshall

We insist on grace, even clambering.
Crowding the window, we love sun
we hate it. Our strange tongues
pant for weeks. Our bodies songs
you can’t hear. We weep for dappled
light, wet bark, draped across your
kitchen like alien visitors, magnificent
gifts. What moves us, we will not tell.

A human of New York / DP McManus

He gave you everything you have. Wait.
Are we talking about the husband
or about God? We see them
with the same eyes.

They glare at mistakes.
The unmade bed. The dirty glass.

She leaves him (you moved
my things!
) She learns
to box, cuss, and sing from inside.

Duende / Jeff Newberry

“I have heard an old guitar master say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende
climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet.’” –Garcia Lorca

The record store clerk who sells me
a cassette of Robert Johnson’s recordings
sneers and says he finds them “overrated”

and “underproduced” and when I listen
later, my mind unlatches and some
spirit shifts inside me and I hear

the long, lonesome wail rise like a tide
and the world narrows around me
and something pricks me like a record

needle and I feel this life, this prepackaged
life, this record-store cassette life, too,
is “overrated” and “underproduced.”

It Was Written / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Even with so-called blessings at hand, we deserve more. Every steadiness is overshadowed by harsh doubt before it has the chance to set in. Accompanied by darkness, fear sets in laying on the thin line between certainty and uncertainty. The certainty that things are changing. Regardless of all the efforts, everything is changing. It’s counterpart always hanging around, not allowing me the peace to breath. The obligations which we took on, altered everything about ourselves and our perception. Now every time we are around people, we feel segregated, I’ll even go as far as to say, disinterested in their world. We gained a cosmic view of things we used to be a part of and at times we wish we were still a part of a world that has left us behind without regard. That change is minute compared to the presence of knowledge. Knowledge that what we have isn’t enough. It is not enough for the present or the future.

Estaba escrito

Incluso con las llamadas bendiciones a mano, merecemos más. Toda firmeza se ve ensombrecida por la dura duda antes de que tenga la oportunidad de instalarse. Acompañado por la oscuridad, el miedo se instala en la delgada línea entre la certeza y la incertidumbre. La certeza de que las cosas están cambiando. A pesar de todos los esfuerzos, todo está cambiando. Su contraparte siempre rondando, sin dejarme respirar. Las obligaciones que asumimos, alteraron todo sobre nosotros mismos y nuestra percepción. Ahora cada vez que estamos cerca de la gente, nos sentimos segregados, incluso me atrevería a decir que desinteresados de su mundo. Hemos adquirido una visión cósmica de las cosas de las que solíamos formar parte y, a veces, deseamos seguir formando parte de un mundo que nos ha dejado atrás sin miramientos. Ese cambio es ínfimo comparado con la presencia del conocimiento. El conocimiento de que lo que tenemos no es suficiente. No es suficiente para el presente ni para el futuro.

ambra / Bree Smith

uno sguardo
mezzo scuro, luminoso solo in una
pupilla che si ritrae da
la luminosità, iride calda
come l’ambra —
ambra oscura —
un occhio
come un sasso lanciato nel mare
cadendo senza fine,
il suono leggero come
la penombra, scuro solo in
una scheggia


a glance
half dark, bright only in a
pupil shrinking from the
brightness, iris warm
as amber —
ambra oscura —
one eye
like a stone tossed into the sea
falling never ending,
the sound soft as
the half light, dark only in a

Gun Control / Shannon St. Armand

I can only do small things
for those who grieve,
with a government
who can’t imagine
guns to their hearts, only guns
in their hands. I can write
and march, mourn
and mourn I will for the children,
just like mine, murdered
in their elementary school
on a spring morning.
The remedy can’t be found
in fortified walls and armed guards
and drills for six-year-olds
who only this year learned
how to pitch a baseball.

Times before, I walked around
in a daze, stunned to my bones.
This time, rage. Devastation,
but no surprise. In America,
rifles are more beloved
than children’s lives.

Aria for Tongue / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

You unfurl into me. Your voice
a deeper touch, pulling words

through your lips like scarves.
There isn’t one part of me

watching. I am all closed,
even my eyes and their red

screens. They catch the sunlight,
for the first time I believe

that something inside me glows.

Dear Belly, / Michael VanCalbergh

I can hear you
and I’m here. Now.

Pen on paper,
knuckles smearing the edges,
here. I fear

my silence has caused the pain
that led to the meds. I hope,
against the wishes of our doctor,
that this letter will be that first step

towards relief. Hope.
A funny thing between

us, no? Long gone are the days
I hoped you were gone. The days
I wished you were hard like

I thought a belly should be. You’re still
here. Soft, what I need. I hope,
now, that you will forgive me.
To hope. To us. To hearing you again.

Day 12 / Poem 12

Question and Advice / Shawna Ervin

For Amy
My foot is in my shoe,
and also, beside it.
This is untrue and fact.
To whom did you fall?

Don’t trip over nonsense,
this line, a book you mean to write.
Remember to flip today
and a dream inside out.

Was Helen
your wife, your friend,
your guinea pig, or just
someone who died?

If you drink a milkshake
during laughter, when you stop
to breathe, the sky will turn
from black to blue.

Hitchhiker / Meg Freer

Winter, bitterly cold, somewhere in northern Scandinavia,
we hoped our old VW bus wouldn’t break down yet again,
and who knows why our parents took pity
on a hitchhiker, when they had never done so before.

Even decades later I can still feel the tense silence
as we drove the frozen roads, remember his face
as he noticed us scared little girls in the back seat,
and I know somehow we saved us all from harm.

Sunset in the Garden of Eager Delights / Zachary Kluckman

We gather under moongaze to play guitar
Splash in fountains as cool as we think we are

Crystal water sparkles in our hair as we laugh
Uncontrollably, wild in the light of courtyards

Neon smiles convince our friends of sincerity
Of timelessness and the improbable endings

We allow ourselves to consider in poetry,
The wisdom we yearn for buried in the hearts

Of trees, the yarn-like song of evening birds
Spun endless from throats and red breasts

Jesus tries to play the hopeful chorus, Katrina
Laughs because time is a useless tool too often

Referenced when speaking of lovers, Yvette’s
Brunette curls lock tight when she sneezes, all

Of this play, this theater of life we improvise
For the sake of standing in the lights long enough

To catch someone’s eyes, for the sweet hope
Of convincing another heart we are fools

Foolish enough to rush into encounters with
Spanish classical guitar and lipstick on glassware

And maybe, if the kiss lasts long enough, with
Bed, and after, with breakfast. From there,

Who knows?

There is also a cool breeze / Lea Marshall

to the waves
under the moon
the shining moon
ruffled by clouds
isn’t like

To Leo / Diane McManus

Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses.
—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Lightly, you leapt, dancer body
entering water,
opening, ballerina presence.

The wedding, blending in with bridesmaids,
with them, bouquet-like, wind-ruffled calm

except bristling with universe, embracing
lives, arms outstretched, filled with heaven.

verve in motion, cartwheels sparkling,
expressing unshakeable power.

Hiraeth / Jeff Newberry

From the Welsh: grief or sadness over the departed,
a kind of nostalgia, homesickness.

There’s a stretch of land where the mill
used the stand, strange, empty, and bare,

across the road from the now shut-down
chemical factory. The fishery’s gone,

too. No longer the town you once knew.
It’s good, in a way. No more poison

in the bay. No more stink of pulpwood
on the breeze, no more clouds of clotted

smoke graying the sky. So easy to forget
the way the city limits tightened around

you like a devilish knot when you’d kick
and scream and tell the world your dreams

of escape. Nostalgia is the most precious
lie. We forget our first love’s foul breath

kiss. Bruises fade over time and fathers
become easier to miss. Perhaps it’s better

that nothing remains of the old town now.
Nothing ruins memory like old skeletons

that refuse to keep their truths to themselves.

Una vasta irracionalidad / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Rendirse a los sentidos de cada día /
Nadie debe decir, con extrema distinción, que
“Esto está claro”. /
Puede darse el caso de que esté claro para él o ella
en el momento en que se ha presentado como tal /
Sin embargo, su claridad se desvanece con el tiempo del mañana /
Por lo tanto, ¿quiénes somos nosotros para decir
“Están equivocados”. /
Si su exactitud y acción depende de sus propias experiencias /
Entonces, si sacamos la rectitud y la incorrección del juicio /
Nos quedamos con la incapacidad de perseguir la vida de cualquier otro /
Entendemos, o tenemos la inclinación de que tenemos la capacidad de entender
nuestras propias experiencias y sentimientos /
Sigamos caminando por nuestras propias vidas /
Con el amor en el punto de mira y la vivacidad en nuestras articulaciones

A Vast Irrational

Surrender to the senses of every day /
No one is to say, with extreme distinction, that
“This is clear.” /
It may be the case that it is clear to him or her,
in the moment it has presented itself as so /
However, its clarity fades with the time of tomorrow /
Therefore, who are we to say
“They are wrong.” /
If their exactitude and action is dependent on their own experiences /
So, if we take rightness and wrongness out of judgment /
We are left with the inaptitude to pursue anyone else’s life /
We understand, or have the inclination that we hold the capacity to understand,
our own experiences and feelings /
Let us journey on through our own lives /
With love in our crosshairs and liveliness in our joints

plum-green / Bree Smith

overfilled cups 
stained Cupid’s bows
green sunlight filtering
through leaves
swaying and
knees bare,
the whizz of the wings
of a ladybird on
the back of one hand
while drops of plum
soak into white
linen —
red, pink, as they dry

Open / Shannon St. Armand

In a kingdom full of storms, we
do what we can to make it through.
The forests know the secret
to living, each tree warning another
of the weather, sharing water
with the weakest, staying strong
but never putting on armor.

I hope my children will inherit the earth
and stars in their fullness, that greed
and guns will not destroy us all
by then. I hope they see the good
in goodness, that I can show them.

I will start with the forests, the delight
of a clear stream. I will start with a garden,
small as it may be. If my children can love
this world, maybe they can love well
the people in it, hold nothing back,
with bare and beautiful hands
make shelters.

Aria for Always / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

The soft mimic of an echo,
a promise, our heartbeats

pressed against each other,
the longest argument we will ever have.

Someone could call this commitment,
but this is what it means to have

no choice. You used to hold me
with all the relief of finding

the right word, like the name
of something not yet born

or guaranteed. You know me now.
I have given you eternity.

You show there is no need
to rush, to love it.

Depressive Episode 101

For Erin
I am a magnet. Everything sticks and weighs me down. I am nothing. I am everything that attaches to me. I am not. I am the thing; nails and staples and travel coffee mugs and a flower pot and the little flakes of iron blossoming into flowers. It’s so heavy. I am heavy with things and I’m everything at once. I’m crying but no one can see because the fridge is too loud and the house has fallen in around me and I still haven’t called the psychiatrist to make a new appointment and there’s so much everything. And I can see it all and I know I must name it but I don’t know all the names. What do you call that large metal sheet that pushes against your chest until you can feel your lungs take in a little less air with each breath?

Day 11 / Poem 11

Lost Faith / Shawna Ervin

I do not know
how to speak
to you, how to phrase
terror or betrayal.

There is no home for grief
between country lost
and language borrowed.

I stomp my heel
on faith’s chipped
kitchen tile, slip
on yesterday’s guilt.

Cradle grief like a wounded child,
kiss her Band-aid, her cheek,
read her the story
she wishes she could believe.

Place Setting: Missoula Madness / Meg Freer


I rounded a corner and there she was, sleeping
under what had been a tree full of ripe plums—
a black bear who literally ‘went over the mountain’
and into the city, as harmless in her stupor
as the tranquilized grizzly we kids gawked at
in the bear-expert’s truck before he relocated her.


We watched Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper
while our parents partied with friends upstairs.
Not interested in rebels vs. an oppressive regime,
I only remembered the futuristic helicopter chair,
the giant fruits and vegetables, Woody’s character
slipping on the peel of a banana the size of a kayak.


A fascination with the little ventilation tubes
in walls—so strong that we examined each one
on our way to the university bookstore after school
to ogle the fancy art supplies and notebooks
we coveted—the same way we checked
all the coin returns on vending machines.


She was the kind of girl who ate a small lightbulb
on a dare, right in the school gym. She also went
to see Star Wars once every week during its 28-week run
in the theater, or at least she said she did.
The most we could claim was watching all four hours
of Gone with the Wind once a year on TV.

Just One of Those Days / Zachary Kluckman

When I burnt the skin off
the back of my hand making coffee
I chalked it up to sacrifice. Early
morning rituals sometimes demand a little
more, a small offering of blood, perhaps
to go with your morning biscuit.
I mean, who hasn’t wondered
while watching the bacon fry, how
their best friend’s skin would taste.
Not in that way of course, but
in a sense almost as intimate as
cannibalism. How it might linger
on the lips, the sweat salt of them,
lifted to the lips in a moment of
offering. Again that word, but what
else to call it when someone you love
shares their one and only body,
with its secret scars and untold stories.
Proffers it without hesitance, smooth
belly curves carrying light among
the tiny hairs. A sheen of sweet
wet reflection, as if offering the sun
itself on a plate of feasting; here
taste what little life has to offer

in the moments between sleep and
waking, life and its predecessor.
The sun through the windows touches
the back of my hand, and I forget
for a moment, the source of my burning.

A Year Ago Today / Lea Marshall

Aortic valve repair is usually done with open-heart surgery and by opening the chest bone (sternotomy). Surgeons wire the bone back together after the procedure to prevent movement and aid in healing.

The surgery went well.
You can come see him
now. He will be fine.
                              He did not look fine. He looked
drained of life. Impossible
that he could see us,
speak to us. He did.
Tubes and wires dangling
(surgeons wire the bone
back together
). His voice,
his warm hand. His slight
confusion. For two hours,
a machine had pumped
his blood for him while
his heart was stopped.
His heart was stopped.
he described seeing family
gathered and a kind of whirling
pulling him back. I spoke
cheerfully. They wouldn’t let
me stay with him. I had to leave
him alone until morning.
In the parking garage I cried
as if he had died. He hadn’t
he didn’t, but I hurt myself
with tears anyway, a dress
rehearsal, the night gaping.
They forgot to close
my chest and I didn’t have
any wire or a surgeon. Was it
because my body needed
to walk the rim of darkness
he had walked? In the morning
he was still there. We both
carry a scar.

Chronicles of loneliness / Diane McManus

They say she moves too slowly.
Just wait here. Someone will come for you.
They don’t.

Surrounded by cement and brick. Cup empty.
Commuters unseeing.

Words unheard. Unspoken?
Written, unread, recycled.

Cluttered apartment. Blue sky. Someone dies.
Found three days later.
Dog is hungry, confused. Adopted
by strangers next door.

Saudade / Jeff Newberry

From the Portuguese: a deep desire or longing for something far removed from you.
If loss is an art, recovery deconstructs.
          The memories I excavate of my father
peel like tapestries off long-hidden

temple walls. They come in long strips,
          each one more abstracted than the last,
until all that remains is the age-shaded

shape of where he used to be. I could
          repair it now—try to recover, re-member,
reconstruct what I’ve defaced. The pieces

turn to paper mâché, my sweat makes
          a slurry of what I’d once called “father.”
I remember the memory—the only

option now, like the farmer who told
          me once he’d planted so many crops
in field he never knew what might grow

there. “It’s a crap shoot,” he said,
          wiping his brow. “Whatever comes
up, I’ll make use of it, somehow.”

Lo que vi en la oscuridad / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Con el mínimo gesto de tu cabeza
Tu sonrisa se convierte en luna creciente
Dejando grandes gestos que iluminan esta habitación
Pero, todavía no hemos llegado allí
Nuestro diálogo superficial nos mantiene anclados
Enclavados detrás de las barreras de la seguridad
De la inocencia
Del egoísmo
Quiero estar en peligro
Seamos peligrosos
Porque entonces no tiene razón
Pero cada noche con la presencia de tu sonrisa
Las sombras de tu pasado iluminan
Y me lleva a través de un nublado a tu verdad
Permanece hermosa y permanece verdadera
Cuando me pierdo
Tú vuelves a sonreír

What I saw in the Dark

With the slightest turn of your head
Your smile turns into the crescent moon
Leaving grand gestures that light up this room
But, we have not gotten there yet
Our superficial dialogue keeps us grounded
Grounded behind the barriers of safety
Of naivety
Of selfishness
I want to be in peril
Let us be dangerous
Because then there is no point
But every night with the presence of your smile
The shadows of your past illuminate
And leads me through an overcast to your truth
Stay Beautiful & Stay True
Once I lose myself
You smile again

jade / Bree Smith

below the shimmering
foot slides against
fingers outstretched
the depths covering-
the sounds above and below
then silent as 
the inside of a temple,
green as our first blink,
the lap of water
against skin,

Blooming / Shannon St. Armand

All spring the flowers have been
popping up. All kinds
and everywhere. The woman
who lived and died in this house
before us planted them without
precision or order, but not without
care: irises of mustard yellow, cotton
candy peonies, petunias, lilies
and the like. New neighbors stop by
with raised eyebrows to warn us,
“You just wait ‘til summer.”

I laugh, but I like their extravagance.
I am favored to witness
this yearly unfurling, flowers
in the name of beauty
like flags planted on the moon

Aria for an Omen / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

Crows picking at a mound
of snow make a corpse

of the season. In my dreams,
children are born with all

their teeth, and when they smile
I realize they have stolen mine.

I wake, believe you are with me,
now there is always the feeling

of being held. Ghosts are the mind
creating a companion of itself.

A thud on the window, a branch
or broken bird. A demand to leave

the haunting of my bed, to stare
outside. Look.

On Trying to Do Too Much / Michael VanCalbergh

Tonight, I looked
                         behind me.
                         for the voice
that’s been telling me
                         what to write.
I found
                         a pile of salt
and two earrings;
                         half-moons, silver.
I mixed salt
                         with my coffee,
sprinkled it
                         in my beer,
dipped a cheeseburger in it,
                         licked it
until I couldn’t feel
                         my tongue.
I threw the earrings
                         in the junk drawer.
They rang out
                         as they hit the spare
lock, rested on
                         expired coupons.
I wrote
                         nothing down.

Day 10 / Poem 10

P / Shawna Ervin

P is for plastic chair in police station interview room, for the pen I rolled back and forth across photocopied image of teenage girl, arms by her sides, eyes vacant, hair limp, naked. P is for pinching my thighs under the table, biting the inside of my cheek, for phone call weeks before, for please believe me, please leave me alone, please help me. P is for pastor on Sunday, his eyes closed eyes and mine open, his palms rising to the fluorescent lights and heaven, the shape of his palms on my back, legs, arms, shoulders in purple and green, his fingerprints around my biceps, wrist, neck. P is for the congregation that shivers with amens and “Praise Jesus,” for old ladies who leave lipstick on my forehead and cheeks, whisper, “You obey your dad now, you hear? He loves you.” P is for wriggling my toes in pinched shoes, for the poverty that made us pure, for anger slipping across my smile. P is for prayers to a God who punished faithfully but ignored pleas to be safe, held, rescued. P is for one quick circle on the police drawing, another, another, for covering the girl with the legal pad, for rocking in the plastic chair, angry, scared, ashamed, for pushing the pen off the table, for truth that could no longer be pretended away.   

Piano Dreams / Meg Freer

Steinway’s manufacturing director had a dream
in which his wife turned into a piano. No wonder,
after hours and days with curves and dips and bends,
purple felt in the center of the hammers.
Large, gold-leaf letters on the case of a concert grand,
meant to be readable from the back balcony.

Eye-catching, labeled like sportswear,
their rich signature wielded with flair
the way William Steinway walked across
the Brooklyn Bridge the day it opened.
His father didn’t survive the Napoleonic Wars
and being struck by lightning for nothing.

The Body in Chaos / Zachary Kluckman

You dissect your pain like a moth body.
          Pulling wings from the flightless dead.

Open the abdomen with the nail from
          Your pinky finger, a clinical curiosity.

Stare at the emptiness where bones
          Might have been for another animal.

Dig into the thorax with a dandelion stem.
          Question the silence of nerve endings.

Your body is not like this, you remind me.
          Chronic pain ignites the muscle like brush,

A constant fire beneath the skin, more
          Like waxwing butterflies dissolving

Their own bodies in the name of transformation,
          Minus the beauty afterwards, you sob.

As your hands tremble with the effort to hold
          Your body still in this fire a moment

Longer, every moment of flare up burns
          Into your eyes like a ghost, the wooden

Head of a dying tree, remembers feeling
          Its glorious coat of leaves leaving.

You are trying so hard not to leave.
          Tell me again of the dream where

A moth robs a butterfly of his wings
          Just to feel the sky differently.

Note to Self / Lea Marshall

Each day brings new teachers. The poetry teachers
who show you the gift of the world: the stillness
of a robin in the grass, or the sensation of salt
between your fingertips. Running water, an embrace
when you’re crying.
                              Then the tough professors:
traffic (the man who cuts you off, the person who
tailgates when you’re not sure where you’re going).
Or childrearing (it’s hard to choose just one example here).
The lessons keep coming: attention, patience, forgiveness.
But there are no tests, just the moments that knit together
your days, so you never actually earn a degree. The teachers
keep showing up to class (your toddler, the tailgating
asshole) and you just keep finding yourself there.
                              So you may as well get comfortable.
It’s ok to sit in the back and sleep sometimes. It’s ok
to pass notes. What you do when called on, though,
matters – you’ll remember it when the bell finally rings.

Once / DP McManus

An embroidered, floral zippered pouch could pass for evening
purse. Inside, nail scissors, file.
A descendant looks in wonder.
This relic of another time, perfect grooming an art.

I look at my tattered nails, wavy, incorrigible, river
mud barely scraped away. Gingerly
we step down to the river, slide like seals
off a found dock. Somewhere we forget delicate,
our nails tools for the journey.

Lagom / Jeff Newberry

For Thomas Sunday (1967-2020)

“You can stir a whiskey highball with a coffee spoon,”
my friend once said as we sat on the back stoop
one hot July night. We sweated in heat and rage,
our minds aflame with literary theory and rock music,

our words sharpened weapons we used to carve
the world into the story we learned to deconstruct.
Twenty year later, I hear he is dead from his sister,
his liver finally failing after years of filtering the waste

of his life, the spirits he poured into himself to fill
a soul hole no person or book ever could. I’d kill
to go back to that night, take the cigarettes from him
and me, toss them over the rail, and say a thing

useful, a quote they could bandy back and forth,
like a line from Eliot or a Jim Morrison riddle.
He took just enough, my friend, of this life to know
how much there is to take, and how little.

From the Swedish: not too much, not too little, a life of careful moderation

Pensamiento Honesto #2 / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

La respuesta es siempre “porque”.
Es el abrazo de nuestras dificultades y nuestra perseverancia, lo que nos permite trascender más del sentido…
no de los medios.

Honest Self-thought #2

The answer is always “because”.
It is the embrace of our hardships and our perseverance, which allows us to transcend beyond meaning…
not means.

nebbia-bianca / Bree Smith

lo specchio non vede nulla, né
l’occhio interiore,
come attraverso una nebbia
che si avvolge
le balaustre, i ritratti di famiglia,
il giardino mezzo fiorito —
più verde nel grigio mutevole —
una nebbia come un brivido,
cancellando delicatamente
il proprio riflesso


the mirror sees nothing, nor
does the inner eye,
as through a mist
which wraps itself around
the bannisters, the family portraits,
the garden half-bloomed —
greener in the shifting gray —
a mist like a shiver,
delicately erasing
its own reflection

Aria for Want / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

My mother spoke of it
like a country or a prison,

Are you in want? A new shade
on the color scale of pain.

There isn’t a moment I am not
traveling to it, not a moment

I am outside its institution.
I have always known it cut.

Your teeth on my shoulder,
and me smiling complete

in the burn, amazed to survive
my desires.

Preface to the Letters I’ve Written to My Belly / Michael VanCalbergh

Arms raised high,
          stretching my shoulders
and back was the first
          time my belly spoke
to me. It told me to look
          in the mirror, see how
beautiful we look. I did. We do.
          I wanted to thank it, but
it wasn’t until many weeks later
          that I learned it only reads what
I can digest. The breaking down
          is how it understands. What follows
are my letters written, then ingested,
          to my belly. These are not the originals.
I ate them. I do not include the translations of the rumble,
          churn, turn, spin, burp, and low constant pain
that my belly communicates through my stomach
          and intestines. This is partially due to the impossibility
of direct understanding, though mostly recognition
          that its responses to me are mine and you cannot
have them. Most letters were written on stolen printer paper
          in black ink. One was written on the back of a receipt
for a car wash, one on a used napkin, two were typed out pages,
          and one was written in sauce with a fry then licked up.
None of these letters are about you.

Day 9 / Poem 9

Summer picnic / Shawna Ervin

For Karen

In meadow brimming
with wildflowers,
family sits
on worn blue blanket,
sets out buns, hot dogs,
chips, apples.

A boy’s hair,
nearly white, shimmers
in evening sun. Boy traces
edge of ketchup bottle, lifts
stained fingers to his lips, licks
them bare. Sun drops
and turns orange
behind tall grass.

Love One Another / Meg Freer

The morning sun casts a shadow
of the life-sized Christ’s legs onto the wall
behind the altar, and He appears to jump
off the cross, ready to run out of the church
in despair at the state of humankind,
who can’t or won’t take seriously
His simple command to love one another.
His work is never finished. He longs to get
dirty again in the real world of suffering
and depravity, where His healing hands
bring peace of mind, the greatest gift of all.

A Dare Before Dawn / Zachary Kluckman

At 3 am we climb, hands full of stone and wet
up through the spray of water, up
the face of a cliff we cannot see in the bare light
of a makeshift torch. One volunteered bra
wrapped around a branch, lit with
a stubborn lighter and spare fuel.
An attempt to reach the basin where water
falling from the top of the mountain stops
to bathe in its own reflection before plunging
once more down the stones below. Life often
requires improvisation. What we can build
in the moment and what we can climb
in the dark. Tonight we accept
the tenuous grasp we have on this earth.
Revel in the movement of muscle, the brevity
of breath. Tomorrow is a conceit better left
in the camp below us. Our own wet footprints
will lead us there, as they have since birth,
when the sun climbs over the crest, sends its light
rippling like tiny fish through the water to the delight
of birds. First, now, this moment
the voice of love unseen beside me whispers,
keep going.

Atalanta / Lea Marshall

When I was a kid I loved to run
so much my ankles would shiver
at the sight of an open field.
Maybe due to an unrequited love
of horses so deep I wanted to be one.
I didn’t think about bit and bridle
just strength and speed and beauty
incontrovertible, beauty inherent
and unconscious and thus without
effort or guile. Riding in the car
to a friend’s farm I begged to jump
out by the fence so I could run
at velocity, all 80 pounds of me
quicksilver, nothing like a horse
but for docility and hunger
and a hope of wildness
flashing along my bones.

Nothing, maybe / DP McManus

Graffiti on railroad bridge:
Gift of emptiness, open canvas, space
to begin. Why explain?
Footsteps somewhere.
The notes lost, one piece past the impossible
start, you wonder (it doesn’t hurt yet) where
you are. The hurt
speaks softly from a different country,
one you plan to visit.

Fernweh / Jeff Newberry

For Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

There are places I’ll never get to go,
cities and lands that exist nowhere.
Some I know better than places I know.

In some books, words seem to glow
like streetlights that draw me near
to the places I’ll never get to go.

In my mind: a block, a city, a borough,
a lit-up lodge, a secret county fair,
all I know better than the places I know.

I lose myself in daydreams I can’t outgrow
of fields, veldts, and summer-scented air,
the terra firma of a place I’ll never go.

What’s a tale but a door to a shadow
cast by the mind? A welcome? A dare
to a place I should know better than know?

The voice I hear is my own echo
when I shout into the dragon’s lair.
There are places I’ll never get to go.
Some I know better than to want to know.

From the German, a longing for unseen or unreal places.

luna-rossa / Bree Smith

attraverso le nuvole
appare la luna
da sola, i suoi laghi come
ciotole, vuote
a parte i riflessi
delle stelle —
una spiaggia senza mare,
una cittadella, abbandonata,
una scultura consumata dal tempo —
una luce pallida che svanisce
oltre l’orizzonte
a strisce
di rosso


through the clouds
the moon appears
alone, its lakes like
bowls, empty
but for the reflections
of stars —
a beach without a sea,
a citadel, abandoned,
a sculpture consumed by time —
a pale light fading
beyond the horizon
in streaks  
of red

Ella / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Ella conoce mi pasado
Por eso conoce la lujuria
Ella respeta mis pensamientos
Por eso conoce el arte
Ella lleva mis emociones
Por eso conoce la inocencia
Ella sana mis heridas
Por eso conoce la voluntad
Ella cree mi cielo
Por eso conoce la serenidad
Ella es paralela a mi intelecto
Por eso conoce la elocuencia
Ella llama mi atención
Por eso sabe de profundidad
Ella revive mi lucha
Por eso conoce la fuerza
Ella desea mi ambición
Por eso conoce la razón
Ella siente mi presencia
Por eso conoce el amor


She knows my past
Therefore knows lust
She respects my thoughts
Therefore knows art
She wears my emotions
Therefor knows innocence
She heals my wounds
Therefore knows will
She creates my heaven
Therefore knows serenity
She parallels my intellect
Therefore knows eloquence
She draws my attention
Therefore knows depth
She revives my fight
Therefore knows strength
She craves my ambition
Therefore know reason
She feel my presence
Therefore knows love

Aria for a Common Desire / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

with lines from a Co-Star horoscope

I soothe my own fevers,
one hand on either cheek,

sink into my cool palms, thinking
this is what it must be like to melt.

Whenever a lover holds my face,
I remember that cartoon image, a child

sticking his head into the open
mouth of a lion. My horoscope says

you want to belong to someone,
everybody does
which is another way

of saying I want to be captured.
I lower myself, tap the spring,

make myself both bait
and hunted animal.

Dear Belly, / Michael VanCalbergh

Sing to me.

Your song pulls me
toward the appetizing,

the thrilling. Your last letter was filled
with the saddest music. I hear it

in each verse. Through it all
I could feel your meaning.

This is why we sing to each other.
It’s something we feel deep in the pit

of self. It grows as large
as we give it space to grow

like water. The deeper the well,
a deeper song. You’ll never run dry.

Day 8 / Poem 8

Post adoption email / Shawna Ervin

Dear adoptive parent. Congratulations
on the adoption of your child.
We encourage you
to apply for a certificate of citizenship
as soon as possible. Don’t neglect
this final step to complete your child’s citizenship
in the United States. She will need this
to work and attend college in the U.S. Please see
the attached 15-page form. You will need
your child’s social security number, immigration
account number, hair and eye color, current
height and weight, race, ethnicity,
date she left Korea, date she arrived in the U.S.,
and date she was adopted. Please also include
copies of your birth certificate, your spouse’s,
your marriage certificate. Don’t forget translations
of your child’s Korean birth certificate, visa,
legal custody forms, and immigration paperwork.
Please include your child’s green card, two color photos,
her Colorado birth certificate, adoption decree,
and proof you and your child live in the United States.
For proof of residency, consider a mortgage statement
or utility bill, and for your child a notarized letter
from a school or daycare center. Please sign the form
and send a check stapled to the front
page of the form. Please double check
the mailing address. Citizenship packages received
at any other USCIS location will be destroyed.
Have a wonderful day. Congratulations again.

Landscapes of Time / Meg Freer

Rivers and ravines ravage
our dreams, geological time
ticks on, readers and writers
try to keep pace.

Liminal / Zachary Kluckman

The wind has called you outside and now you
are here, untethered, a scrap of paper torn
from a forgotten notebook. A passing thought
making itself heard, flapping against the
doorsill as if trapped between two destinations.

The moon, they have said, calls
to the weary heart, the wanderlust within
a broken promise, but love has yet to touch
the darkness. You wonder if the eyes in the bush
glow because of the heat within

whatever body possesses them. A strange
calling to say I love you to the unseen beast
lurking there. The one that called you from
the comfort of your bed, that turned your
melons to mulch with its passing.

You imagine you hear its breath leave
its chest, but this is yours. This warmth.
This escape of air. This urge to run recklessly
into the night, towards whatever waits
beyond the fence. Beyond the landscaped

lawns, beyond the ornamental windows,
barefoot as youth, naked as rain.

Take Action / Lea Marshall

One thing I thought of to do is to send a handwritten card
Dear Senator,
I am feeling heartbroken and angry at the news
from Buffalo and Uvalde, and I’m sure you are too.
to every member of Congress and not yell at them but just
reach out. No expectations but writing to people with a pen
Each shooting is a bullet to all our hearts,
and we are now so full of pain
it’s hard for us to feel each other.
and paper, writing their names with my own hand, feels
calming, changes them from abstractions into people
So, I wanted to write and send you
some love and courage, and a poem I wrote
when my child was small.
who might hold the same card in their hands and read my note
and maybe sigh or maybe an aide will put it in the ‘to read’ pile
I thank you for your work,
and for your time in reading.
and maybe they don’t want love or care about courage
but none of that matters because the writing is helping me
to keep going and it will take a long time to write 535 letters.

Becoming water / Diane McManus

I carry the river on the train
Undetected, wet
hair all you need to see.
It is alive in my skin, floating
me through a day of sleep.
Stray fish jump off at Canal Street
I do not notice.
Seaweed lingers in odd corners.
I toss it into my salad.
I am river.

Shemomedjamo / Jeff Newberry

From the Georgian: someone who continues to eat even though they’re already full.

My mother leans over the kitchen sink
and downs a morning glass of cold water,
a trick (she’s told) to kickstart the metabolism,
as though the body were an old motor,

oily and gummed with use. She knows
how to measure calories in coffee spoons.
She understands the balance of carbs
and sugars, how a Sweet and Low here

can counteract a piece of bread there.
Still, now, in her age, she thinks of food
the way I’ve come to—not as sustenance
but as experience. I imagine her as a girl,

a croker sack of picked cotton clutched
in her left hand, the tiny balls of white stained
with blood, her thumbs bloody and sore.
at the end the day, to eat was to be indoors

for once, away from the punishing sun,
each mouthful a stay from another night
in bed that led to another morning in the field.
“Obese,” the doctors say. “Morbidly obese,”

they’ve told me about my own corpulent
form, though I’ve no excuse to make.
Like my mother, I love bread, love cake,
love the feeling of being filled up inside

by something other the world, a place
that expects me to hate my body and hide
the sack I carry, the one I stuff with words
I pluck from each day’s unforgiving rows.

Pecho / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Debilitado por tu toque
Fortalecido por tu Mirada
Asegurado por tu Mente
Iluminado por tu Alma
Bendecido por tu Amor


Weakened by your Touch
Strengthened by your Look
Assured by your Mind
Brightened by your Soul
Blessed by your Love

ozone-blue / Bree Smith

sky veiled in  
winter mist,
drifting blue — soft 
stinging inhale,
pine needles, trembling with
the premonition of snow —
the first deep breath of

Aria for a Scalding / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

She has stopped me from freezing
in the pain. My usual reaction: to stand

barely breathing as if the thing hurting
me were an animal that only kills

what moves. I’ve heard this story
before: my grandmother sitting on the edge

of the tub, hands caked in white cream.
She glides them over the swollen palms

of a girlchild until they are mittened
with the stuff. That child, my mother,

waiting with her hands outstretched
just minutes ago beneath a faucet.

The shared water pipe of the apartment building,
a gateway to an offering of knives. These women

remind me of the care I won’t be given.
I imagine waiting in line for my grandmother’s cool

caress, her eyelashes fluttering over me
like a blessing. The tap in my bathroom gushes,

and somewhere deep in the throat of the pipe:
screaming. My fingertips tingle with the sound,

a lover’s thoughtlessness. The water shut off, but left on
the hottest setting, I have been made to reach out

past my own memory, a burning devotee
to an inattentive god.

Visiting with Judy / Michael VanCalbergh

She bends down to grab
an escaped napkin
from our lunch. This must
be the same motion
she makes to weed
her garden, the same
to care for the bird bath.

I have never offered to help
her, never moved to spend
a morning splitting soil
between my hands
and pulling. I don’t think

I will. Though I cannot
imagine another way
to get to know her,
I cannot imagine knowing anyone
like this garden knows her.

Day 7 / Poem 7

V / Shawna Ervin

Professor stands at front of class,
pink polo shirt tight, sticks out a hip.
He says, his baritone vibrant,
“Never use very. Never.
If you do, you must
read your paper, replace
each and every very
with fucking, yes fucking.
Don’t you laugh at me,
Violet. I am very, very serious.
You may not whisper. Shout.
As loud as you can. I want
everyone to hear you.
Is that clear now,
very clear?”

Brilliant Flashes / Meg Freer

‘I sat right in front of her at the Shakespeare play in Central Park.’
‘I saw him sitting on his motorcycle downtown at the blues festival.’
‘I also read a poem the night she was the featured reader.’
‘I took his class and walked in the park where he walked his dog.’
‘I saw her riding her bike and running in her neighborhood.’

When the famous die, we all want to pick up
a flash of their reflected light as it gets broken up,
claim a small piece of them, if only for a moment.

The First Day of Spring / Zachary Kluckman

There is only your response. Only your milk empty voice
in a barren room. Only the flicker of flames long dead where
no one has tended the fire, nor remembered the stones.
The grey fade of ash under rain. How long it has been since
you understood your own body, the absence
of callous from your hands. The full light
in your eyes, un-betrayed by weakening edges.
Even in plain sight of your past. Remember the holes you dug
with your best friend, a name half forgotten. But thunder
as dull as morning ritual, how it felt under your hands, pressed
to the walls of those holes. What it taught you of hearts,
those engines of spring. How your breath held
a secret you are still trying to learn. Tunnels
carrying precious cargo, these veins in your
hands. A map coming clearer with each year.
Not the journey you planned, but a matchstick, one
unplanned blaze from the glory of light. Sitting in your
kitchen, speaking with the ghosts in the photos.
With your mother, who tells you life is
not a pile of leaves gathered in your yard, but the bronze
sail of autumn. Life is the falling and everything
that happens on the way. Your body is not the temple
but the door that welcomes the faithful with their
gifts of acceptance. How like prayer
to be received as you come, urgent or tired,
when the fire needs tending. When your eye
rises from the trees, and you rise with them
to fill in all of those old holes. As your mother
reminds you, digging your own grave does not
make you a better gardener. You have better
use for these hands, and your voice
is only tired with the absence of singing.

I answer people’s questions about it by letting go of my own / Lea Marshall

Is your child a boy or a girl? My child was born
in a girl’s body. Wore a pink dress, wore flowered
shirts, wore pants. Loved Dinosaur Train. Both men
and women bear my child’s name. My child
marched with me after our country elected a rapist
instead of a woman. She cried when I told her this,
the morning after election day. She was only seven.
I didn’t say “rapist” but it didn’t matter. Would we all
have to go back to wearing dresses? she asked, serious.
No, I said. We will not. And we will fight. Her sign
for the march read, Treat People the Way You Want
To Be Treated in flowery script. It worked for every
subsequent march. Then, puberty – a crushing
understanding of what a girl’s body means to the world.
                                                                      Now, my child
declines the feminine pronoun, wields the masculine
like a sword. His hair is cut short and this makes him
happy. His sign, ready for the next march, reads
Keep Abortion Legal. This age we are living, terrible
splendid, barbed and blossoming, these children
tearing at it, laughing at it, striking fire from the splinters
of their fear, and lighting our way.

This is not a poem / Diane McManus

Poems are supposed to live
inside us, spread to others, be viral.
Now only covid does that.
This one will not.

It will talk about dirty dishes.
It will ask if I won the lottery so I can
buy food for the kids, keep us together
One more day.

This is not a poem. It doesn’t flash
from earth like a geyser, awing onlookers. It’s the vacant
lot behind the supermarket
where no one goes after dark.

This is not a poem.
No beatitudes. No surprise revelations, no
twist in language revealing
cracks in the cosmos.

It tells of the kid smoking crack
in the el station late one night
remembering the light.

Mi tiempo aquí / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Meciéndo en este suelo moteado, que me mantiene en sintonía
Sobre-contemplar por qué mis rodillas tiemblan, por qué pierdo el aliento, por qué siempre estoy inseguro
Me quedo Concentrado
No desviarme en las cosas que me permiten olvidar…
Olvidar mi propósito
La importancia del lugar donde me encuentro
El recuerdo de su(s) muerte(s),
Las palabras nunca hablado,
~ El lazo nunca ha sido más apretado ~
La ambigüedad de mis pérdidas
Se evaporan en su sonrisa
Con su amor,
Es difícil alcanzar el progreso, que ella predica
Necesito permanecer en la lucha constante
Necesito vivir en el reino y el espacio de la minucia
Mortal, pero necesario para sentir

My Time Here

Swaying on this speckled floor, which keeps me in tune
Over-contemplate why my knees tremble, why I lose my breath, why I am always unsure
Focused I must stay
Do not get sidetracked on the thins that allow me to forget…
Forget my purpose here
The importance of where I stand,
The remembrance of his death(s),
The words never spoken,
~ The noose has never been tighter ~
The ambiguity of my losses
Tend to evaporate in her smile
With her love,
It is difficult to attain the progress, which she preaches
I need to remain in the constant struggle of things
I need to live in the realm and space of the minutia
Deadly, but necessary to feel

Komorebi / Jeff Newberry

From the Japanese, meaning the way shadows and light
interweave when sunlight shines through trees.


When his mother drives, the boy
imagines the long stretches

of sunlight between pine-tree cast
shadows are vast pits into fire

and pictures a man who runs,
leaping between shadowed ledges,

where he rests for just a moment
before sprinting again, flying

over portals to hell below


When his father drives, the boy
reverses the poles and imagines

darkness opens beneath the man.
Each shadow leads to nothingness,

a place where he will be not dead
but forgotten. While his father tunes

the radio and asks if he’s ever heard
this song, the air conditioner

swirls the stale air, a mix of beer
and cigarette smoke. The boy

chokes and wants to rise above
it all, but he’s trapped in the car,

breathing the air his father exhales.


Years later, walking on a long
stretch of beach, he watches

sea oat shadows dance and thinks
of guitar chords, how vibration

makes music, how each wound
string speaks in its own voice

and joins in others in harmony.
As the sun sets, the darkness

lengthens, defined by the light—
or the loss of it, an absence made

more keen by the coming night.

ruby / Bree Smith

underfoot a slash
of white in the
spill of
dark seeds, cloudless
stripe above;
the ruby stain,
the unwound peel,
a flash of sky
and the cloudless call of
birdsong —
a quickening,
a sudden throb
of the heart

Prayer / Shannon St. Armand

Creator God,
Take my piddly puddle
Of a heart.
Let it reflect
the whole sky.

Aria for a Séance / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

The dead become a mask,
something to step behind,

peer through, a keyhole’s
glimpse into others’ suffering.

A woman’s body, moving
behind a scrim, proof of the undying

need to know that the ones we’ve lost
still want to talk to us.

Future Reader, I Think of Your Hands / Michael VanCalbergh

What curves do they make dragging ink
          across the page? They’re soft, I’m sure,

even if they’re calloused. One of them
          clicked or flipped or turned or snatched

and then held this poem. What gentle care
          that is. What grave, gorgeous love.

I think of your hands. I imagine them
          again. It’s all I’ve wanted to catch

me as I fall again. I want, badly, to trust them.
          I trust them. Let me trust them.

Day 6 / Poem 6

U / Shawna Ervin

Uncle’s eyes unseeing like his brother’s, my father’s. Uncle’s thick, black, ugly hair bunched under his thinning Western shirt, the top button unbuttoned, more hair rising past the button, the collar, up to meet his neck. I stare at the U-shaped bit of neck skin that wobbles when he laughs, when he throws his head back like his brother, his lips pulled back from his yellowed teeth. U is my hand around uncle’s arm, the link from my unease to his guilt, his need to my shame. I want to know” he wrote in his letter, “why I can’t see, why you can.” U could be for unemployment or uneducated, for eyes unable to discern son from daughter, counter from couch, moon from small star. There are memories of father, his hands, lips, his underwear slipping off. U might be for making a girl unholy, for night after night after night, please no, for urge and unravel, for numb. U is for uncle reaching for my hand now. He wants to know why I was quiet, why I let go, why I pulled away. 

Bog Scenes / Meg Freer

Seasonal flooding of the callows creates a haven
in the wetlands for plants—reindeer moss,
bog moss, long-leaved sundew, sweet vernal-grass,
star sedge, marsh horsetail, ribwort plantain.

Yellow, white, purple and pink flowers flourish—
meadow buttercup, lady’s bedstraw, hare’s tail,
marsh pea, ragged-robin, quaking-grass.
Heather to feed animals, roof houses, insulate walls.

Knee deep in black mud and bog cotton,
turf cutters find fossilized tree stumps
below the surface, remains of pine trees
from when the land was dry.

Sphagnum peat, fen peat, bog iron deposits,
marl for fertilizer—trembling peat bog,
cool, wet and dangerous,
destroyer and provider

Bullsnake / Zachary Kluckman

tree feet long, he is more muscle than
brain (aren’t we all), but his hunger is known.
I sit on this aged porch watching him crawl into
the shade of a tree, at peace with himself.
his place in the world, as often as it changes,
wherever he finds himself. My own hunger
crawls like this, slithers through my chest
restless, I imagine all of the great distances,
all of the places I have yet to visit, the towers,
the red clay tiles, the mosaic patterns extending
from floor to ceiling, all of the banyan trees,
the thick veils of vine covering forested paths,
Swiss waterfalls and bamboo forests, how often
have I watched someone else’s life move through
me with their fragrances. The winds I imagine atop
Machu Picchu, the scent of green swelling
these places, ghosts on social media, haunting
the lungs afire with dizzying pollens, the roar
of water falling in a mountain yet to be explored,

my own life has not been without adventure
I tell him from our sperate shades. Once, my own
hunger led to me consume a snake, not unlike you
to pull his bones through my teeth. If such a thing
is possible, he relaxes further, as if confession
makes him weary. As if answering, of course
look around. What in all of nature would make you
think to starve yourself when hungry?

City Hall Park, New York / Lea Marshall

Benches round a fountain
under trees. A little girl plays
by herself, swinging her arms
her mouth moving silently
with a story or a song. Two
squirrels make their way
beneath a bench and under,
walking carefully to miss
no crumbs, and one almost
appears to place a tiny paw
on the other’s shoulder
when they pause. A little boy
sees them and exclaims. They
keep moving. The fountain
plays itself. Soft air electric
with the skim of pigeons.
No one meets here. No one
walks away. Always sitting
always drinking the wisdom
of children and animals
and a light wind moving
through green branches
water droplets landing
gleaming, gone.

Dancer with banners / Diane McManus

Movement, the spirit’s home, whirling
banners wrap her full of music,
wordless God
medicine. When you forget presence, live
in its center.

The priest said he had many things
to say. But her dance
had come before,
said more.


From the Czech
“Litost is a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.” –Milan Kundera

It’s easy to hate the boy you were back then,
angry and dead set against every one of them,
the tormentors, who you swore chased you

even at night, when you closed your eyes
to shut out the world. Forgive him.
Forgive them. Forgive the stumbled path

of years that brought you here now,
to this moment when you look back.
How often did you hand over the shovel

that dug the grave you sought?
How often you found yourself along
lonely stretches of road, walking

because what else could you do
in a town like that, where no one
spoke your language and everyone

knew your name? Grief is the smell
of dirt, the taste of blood after a fight,
the sting of antiseptic you painted

on you knee after you tried to jump
a bike over the ditch to impress friends
who didn’t care. No one’s home

when you return They’re all gone.
No one turned back the covers,
so do it yourself. Settle in. It’ll be

a long night. Open a book. Find
a random page and read. It’s fine
as long as you don’t think about it.

Pensamiento Honesto #1
Miguel Andres Rodriguez

No le hagas justicia a mis gritos de desatención.  
No son signos de afecto fugaz

Honest Self-thought #1

Do not give my spouts of inattentiveness justice.  
They are not signs of fleeting affection

verde-mandorla / Bree Smith

prime foglie
ginocchia piegate
nell’erba con
gusci di mandorle
e steli di
fiori di campo,
mille messaggeri
i rami degli alberi 
che sussurrano,
che proiettano
ombre, e sotto tutta 
una manciata
di petali


first leaves
knees bent
in the grass amidst
almond shells
and the stems of
a thousand messengers
tree branches
projecting shadows,
and below it all
a handful of

Wanderlust / Shannon St. Armand

After a day
in NYC, all I want
is to be unseen
again. This is nearly
impossible, seeing
as how I still live
in my home town.
Not to be pompous,
but I seem to know
everyone here.
My neighbors: old
classmates. My exercise
instructor: a high school friend’s
mom. I want to move on.
I think. Let my whereabouts
catch up with my heart.
But I’m kidding
myself if I think I can
just chop off my roots
and let go of this land,
these people that have held
me for so long.
Just the other week,
after reading a classmate’s
obituary in the Times,
I wept for three days straight,
like no time had gone by.
I see photos of friends
who’ve moved to Florida,
Colorado, Ohio, and I wish
they’d come home.

But if I can’t have that,
let me have the masses.
Let me disappear into
the river of weirdness
that flows through city
streets. Maybe then I’ll be

Aria for Voiceless Soprano / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

after the opera Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák

I did not call you to me,
instead stepped upon your life,
became its empty counterpart.

My arms around your legs, you stood
thigh deep in my fathoms, lifted a drink
to your lips in an almost kiss,

then cast your hand aside, shaking
your fingers free from the rest of my flood.
I want to say, I am not only water,

that late at night I cry, for I am just magic.
Invisible, protected. I believe that once
I have you, you will become something more

than human and cruel, but things meant
for each other shouldn’t need to transform.
I’d like to tell you this, but my voice

abandons me, like hope, a spark in the rain.
Your eyes falling on me, the moon on my surface.

To the Barista Who Also Likes Soy Milk / Michael VanCalbergh

I come back two days later, hoped you worked
Thursday afternoon too. You don’t; didn’t.
It was still so hot in the shop that all
the baristas wore tank tops. Even George.
I caught his name, not yours. What does that mean?
I was going to ask George about when
you worked or who you were. Maybe a peak
behind the counter, some deeper insight.

Instead, George saw me, made his way across
the espresso machines, took my order.
He knew. He smiled. He didn’t say too much.
I ordered. I paid. I noticed his eyes,
unkind enough to tell me what his mouth
would not. You must melt underneath that gaze.

Day 5 / Poem 5

Haiku for Ruth / Shawna Ervin

In moonlight silence,
summer rain falls like whispers,
pools on mountain moss.

Damage by Disassembly / Meg Freer

I fought all night with words
in my head—ice cream, fish,
milk, baby—when I recited them,
their meanings came out all wrong.

Picture the block, the axe,
untidy scumbling,
isostatic rebound of features,
dignity stolen
by time’s abusive craters.

Battleship Rock / Zachary Kluckman

Through the trees, we carry an impossible question.
Ahead, the communion of time and bodies in motion,
a rock face spent with exhaustion, and the rain.
A great battleship of stone rising from the once waters.
Our feet circle the mountainous bow, eyes strained across
the trees, searching for entrance, for access to
the secrets of stonecraft and history held before us, this flight
of clay, crossing the road in silence, the rain
churning small pebbles into sand, slow motion carousels
between our feet, we move, if only to watch them seek
the unseen seas, the natural urge to return to a place of birth,
perhaps they dream of greatness, these tiny, patient things
waiting for the earth to move just for them, cast them hurtling
From the safety of the ground to the black heights of stars
return them to the movement of meteors, to know flight once
more, to look down upon this titan of sandstone and shale
once made silent by the weight of water, now bugling
now bulging with life, and the ghosts of men
called to make the attempt, to scale the vertical
face of nature’s great carving, to stand upon God’s shoulders
like ship’s rigging, listen for trumpets, a chorus
of geese or sirens, or the lamentation of widows
wailing grief like a great cloth in the weaving
flung across the shoulders of the woods below, night
And its darkness steal into sight, purple the trees, light
enough left for leaving, we gather the branches to sweep our
tracks from the ground, this holy place deserve better than
Our tread, perhaps a prayer, perhaps the wisdom of silence

Return / Lea Marshall

After Underland, by Robert MacFarlane

We pursue our way across the surface as if,
living, we are separate from the dead. But

we connect underground. Turning slowly
among the corners of soil particles, mycelial

strands whisper under the rush of plumbing,
among fiber optic whines and roots. The earth

pulls at us. Our stride shaped by gravity: release
and succumb. We celebrate babies’ first steps

as freedom but when we watch their stamping
feet, we realize baby knows the earth intimately

from crawling, from tasting, from falling,
from having so recently landed – much better

than we do, we whose every step takes us
closer to return. The subway rattles. A bucket

lowered down the well. The dropped coin
dug up from the garden. Every flight implies
a landing, release and succumb.

River Dream / Diane McManus


A river shimmered.
Its colors brush
drawing depths.
I inhabit yellow-green
shafts of sunlight.


They await baptism.
A bearded man holds forth.
We tell stories, live on odd food
extracted from flowers.


He passes by ready
to save the drowning.
I am swimming through time.
So is he, for that matter.
He strolls on his wet footprints
erased. All of us.
Creatures of the sea.

Uitwaaien / Jeff Newberry

From the Dutch: walking into the wind to feel invigorated or to relieve stress

Some moments, you head down into, like the bad news
you knew would come, the turnaround in the blues,
the final act that leaves you alone in a dark theater,
wondering what just happened. “Where are they?”

you might wonder aloud, meaning the shadows
who were just on stage, the people you’ve grown
to love these past two hours. Walk into it. Feel the loss.
The old mill shut down last week. My friend tells me

he heard the final whistle for the final shift change.
The gray-faced men and women drove home one
more time, their windows down, the faces aged
and lined. My mother had a plaque on her wall

that read, “May the wind always be at your back.”
I like the feel of a breeze on my face in hot weather.
It cools the sweat, dries my eyes, reminds me
that even in the burning, you can find relief.

You have to turn toward the wind and accept it.

Vértigo / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

La vida es vertiginosa. Es un torbellino. Todo intenta conducir a la estabilidad. Todos los esfuerzos, los pensamientos, los deseos y las ganas ponen la energía para salir. Las sinapsis se disparan, simultáneamente, recibiendo conexiones, con el propósito de crear. Esta creación que conduce a los sentimientos, emociones, pensamientos y acciones, están vinculados a la conciencia de uno mismo. Así, se permite vivir en experiencias, que luego construyen la quintaesencia de la percepción, que luego da a luz a la vida.  

La vida es sufrimiento. La vida es lo inestable – que tratamos de abatir. La vida es la acumulación de luz breve. Sin embargo, la luz constante es la muerte concluyente a la iluminación. Si uno está siempre, y siempre ha estado, en una alta entropía, entonces no hay viaje – no hay vida. Por lo tanto, ¿estoy diciendo que la vida es lo que proviene de la superación, la derrota, la victoria, la conquista, el obstáculo, el predominio? Sí. La vida es la acumulación de experiencias. Por lo tanto, las experiencias traen luz. Además, cuantas más experiencias, más luz, más vida.


Life is vertiginous. It is a whirlwind. It is all attempting to lead to stability. All efforts, thoughts, wants, and desires put forth the energy to extricate oneself. Synapses firing off, simultaneously, receiving connections, for the purpose of creating. This creation leading to feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions, are bound to the consciousness of one’s self. Thus, allow one to live in experiences, which then constructs the quintessence of perception, which then births life.  

Life is suffering. Life is the unstable – which we try to abate. Life is the accumulation of brief light. However, constant light is the conclusive demise to enlightenment. If one is always, and has always been, in high entropy then there is no journey – there is no life. Therefore, am I saying that life is that which comes from the overcoming, the defeat, the winning, the conquering, the hurdle, the prevailing? Yes. Life is the accumulation of experiences. Hence, experiences bring light. Furthermore, the more experiences, the more light, the more life.

pine-green / Bree Smith

white exhale
smoke-eyed from
the ache,
the raw
starlight obscured
by arms raised
still and green,
snowflakes on upturned
palms, melting in
the lifelines;
deep footprints trailing

A Question for My Husband / Shannon St. Armand

How many Cheerios would it take, stacked, to get from our house to the moon? Our house with the blue roof, to the moon with its blue hues. Of course you’d have to account for the fact that Cheerios vary in size (some are uneven like Saturn’s rings) and the fact that our son happily throws thousands onto the floor, where our feet turn them to stardust. How many Cheerios would it take to cross the sea into Italy? Where I studied in college and learned about wine and time’s wideness. Where, via internet, I saw an image of you and your girlfriend and thought, ah, well, what’s done is done, as my guts levitated then floated to the basement of the convent where I lived, where I might’ve stayed forever. Of course you’d have to account for the choppiness of the ocean waves, the cobblestones, the motorists who’d crush our thread of O’s causing us to start over. How many Cheerios would it take to get from my heart to yours? Where you keep certain sorrows and dreams hushed and hidden, tucked in like a bed of sleeping children. Of course you’d have to account for the fact that this is impossible to calculate, unless we go with the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I’d rather not. We’d need to add up every Cheerio that has ever been through this house, passed through these open hands, under each set of toddler toes… but then the calculation would be constantly expanding, like the universe, like the ocean, like my heart for yours.

Aria for Cicatrices / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

Swollen from the abdomens
of trees like eyes, each wound

makes a new sight. Sleepless.
Futile lullaby. I want to learn

how to live without keeping watch
over my losses. Yesterday you kissed

my hand like you were really trying
to make something better. Your mouth

landing upon me like a bird
that takes anything that stands for shelter.

Box / Michael VanCalbergh

I put my pain, brand new, in this box. It isn’t time to open it. I have so much to do. The dishes need washing, essays need grading, my kid hasn’t taken a bath in a week. So, into the box, which I always place on my nightstand on top of the books I’ll find the time to read. I have to go to the bank, though, and see if they can refinance my finances. I’ll bring the box, if I can find it. Where did I leave it last, again? I can smell it. So it must not be closed tight enough. Maybe I’ve stuffed in too much. I found the morning glance in the mirror, blood test strips, the gout in my left foot. I swore I shoved them in the box. Where is the box? I don’t have time for the rec letter, housing application, electric, loan, parking, rent, loan bill. Where is the box? I don’t have time. I will shove the loose change into this drawer. Where am I now? Why is it so dark? Can you help find the box? I have so much to do.

Day 4 / Poem 4

For M / Shawna Ervin

Sunrise after rain.
Water drops on red
tulips like glitter.
This is love.

Yellow butterfly fans
its wings, sips raindrop.
Windchimes spread music.
This is happiness.

All / Meg Freer

The encampment of homeless people
like a lost village on the old plank road
under shaggy-bark hickory trees—
I catch the dead-end scent
of a discarded magic wand,
black with silver tip, failed attempt
to conjure away homelessness,
food insecurity, addiction, all society’s ills.

I won’t take the well-trodden path
into the woods and risk startling
or waking the camper in crypsis mode
who avoids confrontational scavenging,
doesn’t want to take a chance at the shelter.
Part of me wants to get it all out of my head,
kiss the meek dreamer there goodbye, but I can’t
forget that “all” represents an awful lot.

The Moon, In It’s Brilliance, Always Hungry  / Zachary Kluckman

The moon is full again they say, but who’s to know
Her appetite? Who’s to say enough? To her, to
Anyone? What is this fullness they speak of?
Do the poor know? Have their bellies burst
With the richness spread before them, and if they
Have, enough, is it the same as the rich or does it
Require more to satisfy the stomach that has eaten
Its fill over and over? Is the fealty of flesh to the appetite
Or satisfying need, that hungry worm in the belly?

But again, the moon, with its own appetites, who
Can say what it hungers for. A rain not felt on its face
In the millenia since it’s envelope of air opened
To the empty cold surrounding it. A feast of ghosts
Remembering the lives once spent on its summered
Lands. Fantasy perhaps, the moon imagined with life
In its grasp. With its pearled teeth seeking meat.
Not the moon we know, certainly, not this
Hungry thing lurching in the cabinet, straining against
All of space to reach the life beneath, to feel warmth
Pressed against its cheek, a heart beating shamelessly

In its cold, alone. When you are full, pity or piety
In your own mirrored presence, do you seek more
Of either? If you would not offer the moon at least
A measure of one, will you consider the man
Sleeping on the corner, hoping this one, this
One sleep will be his last. Consider
the moon in his chest, how long since it has risen
full, since your own street has witnessed
the light shuffling the leaves, a woman
on her porch, smiling as they skitter past,
the memory of a child filling her plate.

In Summer We Want Cold In Our Mouths / Lea Marshall

Bare trees make black lace of a winter sunset
filigree with rose gold, indigo, and swift night.

Down, sun. Leave us with the cold, with river
birds in darkness more velvet than the real hour.

We slide below the freezing surface, tapping walls,
a slow, thick sounding, knocks in the dark along
this stony bed, silt whispering trails behind us.

Glacial bubbles rise, felt behind the eardrum
or in the mouth. Fish dream us until we beach,
gasping under branches.
                              I found some sumac back there. Taste it.

According to Eve / Diane McManus

I was invisible, my bones
His rib. I was present
To him. He wanted to touch

The Almighty sulked
A day or two, then knocked him out,
pulled a rib, first transplant
surgery. A success, they agreed.
Woke us.

Bon Appetit! All yours, except
for that one.

Looked me square in the eye. Why?
I ignored the look.

We dug in, ate our fill,
Slept. Same again day after day.
They got bored, the two of them.

They ignored me.
I was just a spare part.
Then someone listened. Showed me
the rabbits and frogs, taught me
to climb.
We watched the two of them
whooping it up. Invisible
to them I was.

He pointed to a tree. I’d forgotten.
Ever wonder what it tastes like?
Did it even matter. Nothing
Special about it.
No harm in touching it.
You don’t have to take a bite.

We climbed down, found the tree, undistinguished really.
It’s a trap, you know. He was jealous. Hoped you’d fail.
Want to break the chain?

It was too easy. The fruit was fresh and sweet.

He laughed.

Toska / Jeff Newberry

From the Russian: “A sensation of great spiritual anguish without a specific cause, a desire with nothing to yearn for.”
In meditating on the nightingale,
          Keats wanted death, or something
                    like it, a flight from this weary world
of sense, where things mean only you
          can touch or see them, a measure
                    of their place in time and space.
Perhaps all art is that longing
          for something that stretches past
                    the bottom margins of our piteous
lives. Often, I think of salt water
          and pine for a childhood I hated—
                    the smell of bracken on the morning
air, the sight of shrimp trawlers
          cutting wakes across the glassy water.
                    Fool, I used to think, look at what you
had and what you let go. The air
          no longer tastes like an oyster’s brine.
                    From time to time, I make a long
coastal drive and park on a limestone
          path down to a forgotten pier.
                    The sunlight glints on the water,
tiny blades folded into the seafoam.
          A gull circles above. The greedy waves
                    keep eating sand, keep taking it back
out and bringing it back in again.
          I’m happy to drive away. I have to move,
                    To remember what I hate and love.
In the end, the tide keeps taking back the land,
          keeps churning it back again and again,
                    a shattered symphony of earth and bone.

El insomnio empezó contigo / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Sólo pude concentrarme en el gruñido de las tuberías. No había nada más que pudieras decir. Ahora vi la sombra de una figura, y no pude distinguir. Aquí es cuando supe que se había ido. Ahora es cuando tuve la certeza de que te habías ido. Hacía tiempo que no ponía mi brazo sobre tu hombro. Al principio, había días en los que hablábamos, pero nunca h-a-b-l-á-b-a-m-o-s. Por supuesto, había una parte de mí que sabía que esto estaba mal. Sin embargo, cavilar no hace ningún bien. Por lo tanto, la noción de cualquier maldad se vio rápidamente disminuida por la necesidad de seguir siendo humano. Aquellos días pasaron, y otros nuevos florecieron.  

¿Podemos sobrevivir? La respuesta se reveló con la constante autoproclamación de un realista. La recuperación está obsoleta; la salvación es nuestra única opción. Nunca hubo espacio para respirar. Esconder la verdad y ocultar las mentiras para salvar una parte de lo que aún puede quedar de mi yo original. Los contactos son escasos. La ausencia de otro sentido nos ha entorpecido. Al no poder rescatar mi último sentido, he sido incapaz de ver nuestro amor. Una densa niebla de autoengaño me cegó. Fue entonces cuando dijiste tu última palabra. Este fue tu último esfuerzo por permanecer fiel a nosotros. Sorda, estaba a todo, menos al gruñido de las tuberías. Cuando mi amor se desvió, me perdí. 

The Insomnia Started With You

I could only focus on the pipes growling. There was nothing else you could have said. I now see the shadow of a figure, and could not make you out. This is when I knew it was gone. This is when I was certain you were gone. It has been a while since I’ve put my arm over your shoulder. At first, there were days where we spoke, but never talked. Of course, there was a part of me that knew this was wrong. However, brooding does no good. Therefore, the notion of any wrongdoing was quickly diminished by the necessity to stay human. Those days passed, and new days blossomed.  

Can we survive? The answer was revealed by the constant self-proclamation of a realist. Recovery is obsolete; salvation is our only option. There was never any room to breathe. Hiding truth and hiding lies to salvage a portion of what may still remain of my original self. Contact is few and far between. The absence of another sense has hindered us. Since I could not rescue my last sense, I was unable to see our love. A dense fog of self-deception blinded me. This is when you said your final word. This was your last effort to remain true to us. Deaf, I was to all, but the growling of the pipes. Once my love strayed, I lost myself. 

azzurro-pesca / Bree Smith

l’aria fresca
lentiggini di sole
che luccicano nelle 
curve e nelle
campane della domenica
che suonano sopra
la pelle che sfiora 
la pelle
come le piume —
come le ombre —
blu, sotto ali di cigni.


fresh air
pale blue
glimmering in
curves and sheets;
Sunday bells
ringing over
skin that grazes
like the feathers —
like the shadows —
blue, under the wings of swans

Mason Dixon / Shannon St. Armand

Diastasis recti
of the North & South, I drive across
often, like it’s no big deal. I pick up
Rt. 15 (“Catoctin Mountain Highway”
as they say in the South), then glide
20 minutes further to meet my sister.

We are taking our gaggle
of kids strawberry picking
this early June, low rows
of bright red beneath all that
green. My kids don’t know yet
how their ancestors grieved,
were forced to pick like this
for days on end, under
the same sun we now call
lovely. My heart
sinks a little, knowing we will
speak of this more as they grow,
and when my littlest bestows
on me a dark berry off the stem,
it bruises open. It stains
my hands red.

Aria for Absence / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

I wanted eternity, the kind
I could recognize, call out to

in the morning and hear softly
answer from the living room.

My love, you only gave
the something-wrong-with-me.

Long before we met, I carried
the sweetness of your name

between my teeth, a stalk
of weed grass handed to me

by a boy as we sat in a field
just by his house. I bit the green

stem, closed my lips. When you
and I met, I thought of this

while lifting your coffee cup, trying
to find the place your mouth

had been. Fourth date and still no kiss.
I learned to love the remnants,

the ghosts of you, you who in your own
way warned me of what would be left in the end.

Five Cinquains / Michael VanCalbergh

The thumb
is first. I run
the brush, gently, up then
pull away, their nail blue sparkles.
They smile.

I dip the brush
and say, just wait. They move
their finished hand in circles, hope
it dries

in time.
I blow softly.
They copy me. I brush
the third nail while they’re distracted,

to being
finished. They sit
still for the next finger
and watch me. I like this quiet.
These small

my child sees me
there’s only the quick smell
of blue sparkle nail polish and
the wait.

Day 3 / Poem 3

For Frances / Shawna Ervin

“Close your eyes, children. Listen.
Imagine colors, shapes, textures.”
Eyes blink closed, a record hisses.
In the back row, a subtle glimmer
of a child’s mischievous smile,
eyes narrowed, not closed.

Girl’s small hand betrays
the edges of a note, drops
it into a boy’s upturned palm.
The note is both feather and iron
in his hand. He sways to the cello sonata,
his fingers like worms after the rain. Girl taps
his fingers, his back, blows on drops of sweat
at the nape of his neck, stretches
photo-day heels into his back.

Boy’s arms fly, note too.
Arms, squeals, legs, laughter. Teacher catches
note, opens it. “Dear Jose,
you are cute and nice
and thank you
for the Pringles at lunch.”

Boy folds
into his lap, moans.
There is no irony here.

Lilacs / Meg Freer

First branches, then flowers and sky.
Their shadows sway like strings of fairy lights.
The mother and her grown child visit the casino
Friday nights, hope their farm won’t fold.
Their tears arrive iced when the east wind
blows in, finely-tuned and strident
as two open strings bowed together.
Rain augments the scent of lilacs.

Divers Find an Ancient Road at the Bottom of the Sea / Zachary Kluckman

Great hulking bodies gather in salt water near the ancient road
A path laid on land a millenia ago, parchment brown hands
Practicing a craft predating the histories we have written, how carefully
Laid those ancestral markers, how lost in time the home becomes
sunken beneath the colossal waves, the worn work
of a society, a people, gone. Their bones perhaps telling
the sunken ships amongst them how the weathered gods rode
the wild grass, the honeyed pollen of irises, how their names
forged the long dead language that would have given name
to the forgotten, I wonder at the marvel of a history so like
a poem, written only to be thrown into the sea, swallowed
While learning the act of creation, imagine the fires that burned
where now the coral swells the wood of a galleon’s bow, the
Meat searing and spitting, the children playing at gathering stones,
the wisest in the village nodding when the first tremor spoke,
They say a road cannot become a ghost, no matter where it leads
But here it lies, at the bottom of the ocean, alive with memory

2 June 2022, New York / Lea Marshall

Superior semicircular canal dehiscence (SSCD) has been defined as the absence of bone overlying the superior semicircular canal facing toward the dura of the middle cranial fossa. The most common symptoms are vertigo/dizziness elicited by pressure altering activity, Tullio’s phenomenon (sound-induced vertigo), fullness/pressure in the ear and autophony. Autophony is hearing internal noises louder than would be expected, such as hearing your eyes move/blink, heart beat or joint movements.

I am less fit for the city than I was before. Cast loose
from a meeting, I drift through walls of sound and light
in search of lunch. I feel tender. Two pigeons roost on asphalt
in an open space formed by construction barriers. They speak
only to each other. I pass two men bent over jackhammers.
I want briefly to place my hand on one of their shoulders.
I grow hungrier. Food seems everywhere and nowhere.
I pass the same pizza places more than once. I am startled
by what I think is the 9/11 memorial which I have never seen
and the last time I walked here the towers stood and it was night
and there was a breeze. Now the sun shines and the air sticks
a little and people crowd by. I sway the slightest bit at a car horn
or tailgate crash. A dark church gleams in its beauty behind
scraped fences. It does not crowd the sidewalk and rush
into the air like the skyscrapers do. It was covered in ash, my friend
said. The bright grass of the churchyard delicate among the graves.
I emerge into a maze of street vendors where people are smiling
and their voices carry everywhere and I find the falafel man
with a gentle face. Tables fill the plaza. I press away,
back to the churchyard and the stones more than 200 years old
and I do not know if it’s appropriate to eat here but no signs are posted
and benches cool along the church’s flanks are empty and I sit.
The grass is off limits behind a little fence. The church bell sounds
once among trees improbably tall, leafed against the looming
buildings. I open the falafel. Eat, whisper the dead. We don’t mind

Marathon swimmer / Diane McManus

Sometimes it must be
timeless. I swim daily
waiting for expanses, the endless
lakes, rivers trying to hold me
back. I can’t count
the miles forward to the next
bend in the river. Nothing but river. I count
houses, trees, herons, sky after sky.

Hygge / Jeff Newberry

From the Danish: Relaxing with loved ones and good friends, usually
while eating or drinking.

When we go inside, my daughter asks
“Is this a fast food or slow food place?”
and I say “slow food” and remember
my friend Dan’s “slow food potluck,”

when he invited a bunch of us to sit
around on his porch, where we ate
dishes made from food that came from
no farther than twenty miles away.

A voice inside me says it’s easier
to drive to the local Publix or Walmart,
fill the buggy with shrink-wrapped
meat, and feast alone. As we sit now,

we take up menus, my family and me,
and order food prepared in microwaves
and plated to look fresh from a grill,
the meat scored with a soldering iron,

the vegetable still crisp despite
their plastic bag steam. This place
invites scorn, the too-perfect wall
dressings of local high school jerseys

and Ma and Pa old-timey washboards
alongside farm implements most diners
couldn’t name. Don’t waste money
on places like that, I’ve thought time

and again. Still, when the waitress comes,
smiles, and takes our order, the voices
rise around us in a sizzling chorus,
and my son, my daughter, my wife,

and I fall into an easy gumbo of talk:
our days, the long summer we spent
in New Orleans, the promise of my kids’
future–definitely a slow food place.

pistachio / Bree Smith

floating phrases
emerald stain 
notes in the ether;
shavings of gold
like dust on fingertips
pink through the
like the hollow between

Battleground / Shannon St. Armand

Sometimes, naked
after a shower, I have to crouch down
by my bed and stealthily
close the curtain
so neighbors don’t see. I pretend
I am a soldier at war, avoiding bullets
from the window, winning for
home. Always, I have wanted
to be great and known, yet my God
offers me only
what I can bring to my lips: drink cups
to clean for these plump mouths I kiss,
winter carrots to cut
in kitchen sunlight, a wailing toddler
who clasps my neck.
I want to be great. I must begin
here. Go deeper,
not further. Go to war
with myself. Make peace with these
small loves.

Aria for Fate / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

My mother disallows me
my birthright: sunburnt women
in cotton aprons, the endless fields
around them echoing with loss.

She wants me to be small again,
able to chart the length of my world
in a few paces, consider it enough.

Her wish will not save me. My eyes
are already straying. She knows
that to gaze is not just another kind of look,
it is closer to calling. My life a bare room
furnished in waiting, the future ungraspable,
the horizon of a prairie.

Searching for Ars Poetica / Michael VanCalbergh

The forest does not let me enter
because I refuse to whisper a secret
to the grass. I know the weeds can pull
the lies from the truth, but I lie
anyway. I only want to listen
to the birds again, they know
the best metaphors. My notebook is missing

their screams for I have taken the last one
and boiled it down in four quarts of water,
one beef bullion cube, and a generous pinch
of salt. It was an ode to the width of the sky
told in heroic tercets but it did not tell me why

I am sick of the milk of memory. The forest will still
not let me in. I sing the story of the family of bricks
that found me crying on the corner of Long
and Cumberland. Will this be enough
to make me write again

Day 2 / Poem 2

T / Shawna Ervin

T is for temptation, for wanting, for desire and burning in your gut, in your throat, in your thoughts. T is for seeing the new notebook on the coffee table, the notebook’s cover purple and glistening, a matching pen with a dolphin charm leaping toward you. T is for hands clasped tight behind your back, your fingernails sharp, diligent in discipline. T is for tiptoeing closer, careful not to step on a creaky spot under the carpet, for leaning forward, for watching for a shadow, for one more step. T is for the moment when your hands release, when your right hand pauses, then thrusts forward, when your fingers wrap around the notebook, feel its smooth cover curl into your grasp, when you trust the notebook could be yours, could truly be yours. T is for the mother lying in wait behind the couch, for the ruler on your knuckles, hard, twice, for the thud of the notebook on the table, the cackle bubbling in your mom’s throat, for the truth you tuck into your fist. 

From the Center / Meg Freer

I ask if they would like to take the empty aisle seats
next to me in the balcony, rather than shuffle to the middle
past those already seated, but the first well-dressed gentleman
says firmly, “No, we are ‘center’ people.” The second assures me
he waited in the aisle for his fellow musician friend to return
from intermission rather than inconvenience me twice.

Such a nice duo, used to being seen and heard, wanting to
observe and listen from the hub. We choose different seats
everywhere we go depending on what is on our minds.

We learn to say “spoon” before “sky,” establish concrete
and mundane before abstract, but the eight muscles
in our tongues allow some of us to sing before we speak,
reach beyond our ground-dwelling species toward the sky
like birds—who don’t sing from the ground—and center
ourselves in a worldview seat with an eye to beauty.

Not Death. Not Yet.  / Zachary Kluckman

You stood there, hand out towards he sea, reaching for fire
the smoke alive in the gathering dark, a swarming of bees behind the
veil of dusk, parting in anticipation of your touch, your longing fingers pulled
through the thorns, where you retrieve the small body, where you ran
headlong from the cliffs, towards the waiting house, the small fires of home,
in search of witch hazel and oil for the anointing, a small box of matches
to light the way back into the space between stars, the origin place, that
burning place where the stars ignite, where the first light sends
an ember spinning towards the first flower, where creation begs
sand to stretch its legs, where myth is born for the first time, and you,
the cathedral of doors opening to receive, you the first woman to see
how the light reacts to the echo of dust, to the soft rain, to the hearts’ mischief,
in the ocean beyond your second sight, life stirs amidst the waves below
the waves beneath, and that small body stirs in your hands, not yet dead
as you feared, the trees seem to gather closer together in witness, this miracle
wrapped in a flutter of wings, in a push meant for gravity, the warmth
of your breath frozen in a moment of witness. That unbearable knowledge
that life returns to life whether we part ways or not. Whether we stand
on the doorstep of heaven or the eternal shore of something so vast
the lighthouse beam, when it reaches us through the gloom, tenderly
touches our bodies and waits to see if we are still or still living.

Five days ago there was still time to turn back / Lea Marshall

After showing me an animated short film
in which two parents mourn their child lost
to a school shooting, my child tells me that life
is a thin membrane between the time before
and the time after – the water’s surface,
between depth and air – but that when we’ve gone
below we can still see the living, still be with them
though they may not know it. The air,
he says, is full of energy not yet become people.
He remembers flying over as a kind of bird
before he came to me. It is late and he works
hard to share this theory with a river of words,
an anxious eagerness and the space around us
feels blue and dense and the night yawns.
He gives my belly a glancing touch as he says
he was always with me, and will always be
with me, and as you can see his theory jumps
around a little bit but he is building language,
as much language as he can, around the durability
of connection, giving the lie to death as a flat end.
This is the first time we’ve spoken in any depth
since 19 elementary school children were gunned
down four days before, and my child is so tired
he tries to send me away twice so he can sleep
but he keeps talking he can’t stop talking and
I am nodding and desperate to hold him
but he is twelve and loves me so terribly that
he pushes hard against me to grow and then
he rubs his red eyes again and says I need to sleep
and I say I love you and good night and I go
to bed crying racking sobs and in the morning
I am still crying so I thank my child for helping
me to go ahead and be sad and because the night
is over he rolls his eyes a little and says You’re welcome
and goes back to watching Stranger Things.

The poem speaks / Diane McManus

Bird sounds fill the background—none yet stand out,
dandelion puffballs, creek barely
visible, a flowing brown strip, bounded
by cement. On the other side, trash
cans overflow in an empty lot.

Green everywhere,
except the skeletal birch, nothing
but branches, outlined in white.
On the bank, a beech, juvenile, already
spreading its purple self, an evergreen,
needles missing, deciduous cover offered,
tree appears clothed.

A starling startles.
The squirrel a wave of movement.
Wet feet dipped briefly, mud clinging, sky
opening and closing, picnic table dry
despite rain, carved
with initials and hearts.
What will they remember?

Waldeinsamkeit / Jeff Newberry

From the German: “The feeling of solitude and connectedness to nature when being alone in the woods.”

Once, among the slash pines and sweet gum
trees near my grandfather’s house, I wandered
deep into the crowded forest, tripped over
roots, and found a brown pond, a large oval

like an open eye, green and luminous.
Bream dimpled the surface as flies lit,
pine straw like the floaters in my own eyes.
I edged down to the shore to skip a smooth

stone but lost my footing in the slick mud
and slid into the water, then beneath it.
My feet found purchase and pushed me
up. I gasped and coughed the suddenly sick

water, my boy’s mind awash with parasites
and diseases I’d surely ingested down.
Crawling like the penitent, I lay in the dirt
and stared up at the open sky, a silent,

reverent thing far above. In the trees,
squirrels jumped branch to branch. None
fell. Too young to know the peace
I now know I was supposed to feel,

I laughed as a squirrel fell and other kept on,
ignoring his fallen friend as he hurried
on with his life, which didn’t include me.
In silence, ignored, I became a wild thing.

What do you mean? / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

Our search for meaning is the answer…
not the question
Giving all…
Without the slightest assurance of reciprocation is the answer…
not the question
The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel
only comes to fruition when the tunnel, itself, is explored
Giving into the experience is the answer…
not the question
Find the inspiration
Let open to the connection
What are we made of?
You are the collection of past selves
What are we doing here?
What you are doing right now
What is my purpose?
The purpose,
which lies between the art of the knowing
the essence of being,
is the answer…
not the question
The search is the answer…
not the question

arancio-rosa / Bree Smith

un sole assonnato
guance arrossate durante
un sonnellino, un sogno, dolce
con il profumo del nettare di albicocca
il profumo di miele,
bougainvillea selvaggia
attraverso le mani
lungo i cancelli
foglie ardenti di fuoco arancione
a mezzogiorno.


a drowsy sun
 cheeks flushed in
 a siesta, a dream sweet
 with the scent of nectar of apricot
 the scent of honey,
 wild bougainvillea
 through the hands
 along the gates
 leaves burning orange fire
 at noon.

Lately It’s Been Blue / Shannon St. Armand

I. Not just the stream we found
rolling through the woods,
but the pebbles in it: gems
in blues I’d never seen before,
strewn like cyan stars

II. These first summer swims,
I am awed again at the
pool’s hue, it’s unrealness,
like a giant treasure chest, open,
glittering, a blue-tongued mouth
I am swimming in.

III. Heat beating down, first thing
I do is turn the car’s dial
the whole way to blue. It means
cold and chill and everything
I want in my habanero car.

IV. Blue raz taffy, saltwater,
straight from the beach. Sweet,
tangy, tongue-tying, teeth dyeing
cobalt confection. I’ve had one
too many but never enough.

Aria for a Wedding Dress, a Lover’s Possession / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

inspired S. Ansky’s The Dybbuk and Sigalit Landau’s photo series “Salt Bride”

At first, not wanting to belong
to anything, not even myself,
I have finally taken you over me,
arms raised in surrender, knowing forever
you will cover me like this. Your will
fastened onto mine, buttoned up to the neck
where the fabric sinks like teeth
or a kiss. I lick my lips, taste the salt
of you dotted there, your ghostly ellipses
the new guardian of my mouth.
Cleave me from the world
and its understandings. Any thing of love
is first a thing of madness
, you’ve said.
My mind debrided of right and custom
in the dark, flayed of an old spirit, dressed in you.

24. Central Incisor / Michael VanCalbergh

part of series that focuses on a different tooth in my father’s mouth

I eat the ribs the way my father taught me: long
pulls of flesh falling off the bone with little fight.

When the first bone hits the plate, it’s the story he
tells of the night my brother and I put away

four racks each. The bones retell it rib by rib. Once,
it’s a story of shame. Once, of pride. The length that

parents sometimes go. A funny picture of kids
covered in BBQ. The last bone I throw tells

a version I’ve never heard. It’s the tragedy
of a man who can tear the meat straight from the bone

with his remaining front teeth but can’t chew even
the softest parts. So, he retells a story where

he keeps watching his kids lick the bones wholly clean.
The closest he gets to touching a rib is when

he wipes the small bits left over on my hands and mouth.

Day 1 / Poem 1

S / Shawna Ervin

S is for sin that sticks to the roof of your mouth like stale communion crackers, that clings to your back like August sweat. S is for childhood stiff tights and lace and long skirts on Sunday morning, for a subtle scratch. S is for mother’s first glare, then the second. S is for mom’s shiny red fingernails dug into little girl’s forearm, a twist, a raspberry shoved under girl’s sleeve, for the soft golden bruise left from last Sunday. S is for sermon, for pastor’s shaking fist, to his bright pink neck shaking, to the congregation shuddering with “Praise Jesus.” S is for solemn prayers, for begging for forgiveness, for search your heart, ask to be shown the sins you can’t see yet. S is for suffering that will refine you, bring you closer to heaven, suffering you know you need, that has been set aside especially for you, for the salvation we trust you seek. 

the world returns with a shudder / Meg Freer

as if it were an ordinary afternoon
without dark purples and reds
straining to burst from the music
and tattoo our skin

to set truth free
is to let bees out of the hive
it stings and shakes things up
as if all the poppies were to pop at once

truth wrapped in darkness
like a one-fang snakebite
is no gift
we give what we like to receive

Not yet in proportion / Lea Marshall

I chased a frog this morning. He gleamed and lept wrongly in the road
fetched up against the curb and got stuck. He needed fear to motivate him
and that was me. I felt better when he got to the grass, but I don’t know if he did.
He wanted to get somewhere. Cars were coming. What is to be done?

Our brains weigh three pounds. It’s a lot to carry, and still to be confounded
by the calculus of which “life is precious.” Fuck that phrase anyway, which can only
be lived, not spoken.

I pulled over to rescue an ant from the hood of my car. I ate chicken for dinner.
This is ridiculous. Three pounds. You can see the burden in a toddler’s drunken
walk, heavy head not yet in proportion. In the shape of every woman’s pelvis.

I gave birth. I ran over a squirrel. I speak to a millepied that runs across the kitchen
floor. I slap a mosquito. I keep on rescuing and killing. I don’t know what else to do.

Lisa remembered / Diane McManus

I learned only later
she was gone.
I swam tired
the occasional fish
pressing me. Unbidden
(I thought) I remembered
thanks to the fish, to the sky.

I remembered her
that day. Said to a friend how she swam
Beside me showing me how to breathe.

We swam together, that February afternoon.
We laughed, made up rhymes
The selfie shows us smiling.

San Francisco—the flowers in her voice, in her presence.
She made me a swim dress.

She spoke of daily
delights, water. always
water, now lost
in water. We know nothing
definite. We know she is not
with us. We know she is.

Yūgen / Jeff Newberry

The word “yūgen” (幽玄) has its origins on the traditional Japanese aesthetics and it is strictly speaking “an untranslatable word” has been most commonly carried out simply as “elegance”,”grace”, “understatement”, “intimation”, “composure”, “equilibrium”, “serenity”, and “quietism”.

Suppose, for instance, a bird spoke
my name in the gloaming.
On the porch, watching the sun set,

I turn toward a previously unremarkable
copse of trees and tilt my head
like a dog. My name emanated

from those branches. I heard it—
I heard something. Walking across
the grass, the earth’s hot surface cooling

like baked stone beneath my feet,
I come to a sweetgum and look up.
Silence now. No wind. No hush

in the susurration of the brush.
Just the memory of my name,
a single clipped syllable,

which brought me here, now,
as the sun sets behind me and night
rises like a spirit from the dust.

But look only to her for the answer you’ve always wanted / Miguel Andres Rodriguez

The color of your skin…
The length of finances…
Do not mean a thing to floral patterns
Beauty is her skin
She lets herself be admired by you
But, these days, believers are rare
But, you…
You see through
She sees through
The music that leaks from your heart
The reason she lays on your chest
The blank stares say the most
Two stars, two beliefs on shining
And poisonous gas that rot the seeds
But, you
But, she
Take it and starve it
Your love, is the reason she loves you back

rose-pink / Bree Smith

first bite
wrists opiate in
crushed blood of petals;
rosy tangle of
half-moon fingers
curves of soles
rose hips,

A Day in the Life / Shannon St. Armand

Second unofficial day
of summer, or something
like that, and already my son
suggests, “Mama, let’s
go home,” after three minutes
of biking in the sun.
Just as well, we turned the hose on
and played in the shaded yard
all morning. Almost a year ago,
I tried to kill myself. This dawns
on me a little each day. It floats
inside my chest like a ray,
and I don’t know
if it will sting. But today
I am squeezing each of my boys
tight, butterfly kisses, silly rituals,
the whole shebang. I am rocking
my daughter in the quiet dusk,
content. Now, my husband
has, for the first time this year,
taken the A/C unit out of our garage,
placed it in our bedroom like
a tabernacle. I flop on the bed
next to him, still breathing—a queen.

Aria for an Open Mouth / Eniko Deptuch Vaghy

inspired by Battleship Potempkin (1926)

You leave the air folded, a threat
for song or terror. You are not a cipher

for pleasure, instead a handkerchief
of thunder tucked in a breast pocket.

The music over you like a hand, choking
your bright theatre back into summary.

You are composed, another instrument
in a symphony made of massacre.

Your look of fear returned
to the final silence of the still.

April 8th / Michael VanCalbergh

The snow falls, fights against
          the oncoming spring. I admire
the push to stay, to stick
     to the blades of grass that’ll have it.

I’m less lonely knowing
          nature, too, resists change. It won’t
bow to the brand new, all
          that is useful. It isn’t cruel.

Still and quiet are life
          too. It says this with cold wind on
my face. It says, plainly,
          one more day of play in the snow.