The 30/30 Project: May 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 May 2022 are Grant Chemidlin, Emily Corwin, Mary Crocket Hill, Vivian DiGennaro, Casie Dodd, Sarah Florence, Bill Luker, Navila Nahid, Emily Pister, and Christine Aikins Wolfe.

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

Day 31 / Poem 31

Creating the human blueprint / Cento

Lines by and from Christine Aikins Wolfe, Sarah Florence, Emily Corwin, Casie Dodd, May Crocket Hill, Grant Chemidlin, Vivian DiGennaro, Emily Corwin, Navila Nahid

Liquid greed makes the skin shiny,

madness strikes even in the most remote places:

the severe edges of rubble;

its clearing of air
                the sad door grows
if I ask it to

Small storms of pink against the wet

animals of white light

something in the air

that hinted at a mercy better heard

than seen on earth

the brain’s buds won’t open      hollow hole in the tree trunk. 

a space stenciled in salt

                        within forfeit

of roots

                 and settle

Sometimes a woman holds before her face the head of a bobcat, 

crowned 


with coral roses               for reasons of her own

I lay peacefully beneath 

the chaos of the world 

Know that desire and desire to remain are not the same. 

unmarry expectation, welcome in hunger   Let it devour you   Offer it your neck, mouth, a hand, two fingers   You are not a good woman  Don’t pretend to be   Don’t pretend  

All I know is that I have tasted loss and each time I gave it a new name

Day 30 / Poem 30

The Tree of Life / Grant Chemidlin

Every day I stand beneath the ancient
tree at the edge of the street & just

look up. My own serene galaxy of leaves.
There I go, saying own again as if the tree

is mine, as if the leaves are green money
I could pluck off its arms & spend.

What the tree doesn’t feel the need
to tell me: that my own small head,

before this, was a walnut, dropped
from these very branches. The tree

doesn’t own its leaves, it simply
holds them. We are all here

to hold, to hold, to be held, then
let go when we’re ready.

Black Tupelo / Emily Corwin

All about the table: apple-cake and clotted bells,
capes and belt-buckles, epaulettes, bolts of tulle,
and a locket blotted blue and toppled cups, opals
and blocks of cobbler. I clack beside the oak and lake,
bleak as a bullet, a tablet cut from the pulp.

Etymology / Vivian DiGennaro

How is it we name things
so easily, always assume
our words taste the same
in someone else’s mouth,
all I know is that I have tasted
loss and each time I gave it
a new name.

Baptism on the Rocks / Casie Dodd

I went to where they baptized Berryman
in infancy before his life dried up.
I tried to picture him cradled in cotton,
scrubbed clean in Mother’s tender-taken arms.

Not far from St. Joseph’s, there lies a lake
that’s small enough for fishing after church.
I wonder if they took John there some days
to show him how the water gives and takes

away our need for hunger. If he felt
out by Eufala, something in the air
that hinted at a mercy better heard
than seen on earth, I wonder if John thought

he found a sign that salvation was meant
for those who never quench their thirst. He managed
on so little all those years between a home
he’d lost and one he tried so hard to find.

Perhaps his final, swell-hearted mistake
was looking for Christ’s foster father there
out on the water, river frozen shut.
There was no room for one more wandering soul.

What You Taught Me / Sarah Florence

You taught me that the small details of life matter.
Often, they matter more than the major events.
You challenged me, many times to the point of frustration,
but I never once doubted you had my best interests in mind.
You saw potential in me and my poetry
when I didn’t yet see it for myself.

You taught me to write the right way,
to never take shortcuts or shy away from tough subjects.
You taught me writing is much like gardening,
and for my writing to flourish, it must be tended to daily.
I’m still working on that one because, as we both know,
discipline has never been my strength.

You taught me to love language and all its intricacies,
the way it moves and how it can be manipulated.
You taught me how the perfect combination of words
can make people feel feelings they never knew existed.
You taught me words have immense power,
power to heal and destroy, the power to change the world.

You taught me, most importantly,
to never stop writing, to pursue writing
until it shifted from a hobby to a passion,
a passion that grew into a dream.
Because of what you taught me,
I’m turning that dream into a reality.

Linger / Navila Nahid

I see Queen Mab
hath been with you

          whispers
          in my ear

          Yes, Mercutio
          yes.

my toes
curl
as lust
before oblivion

hounding
loss
like
your Romeo

a reap
of heart
          break

as vintage
reels
of sepia
love

plucks
and plucks

at the edges
of close

          I sip
          slow

          and linger

ascend / Emily Pister

Let’s ascend together.
Let’s always be better.
Powerful vibrations
you cannot measure,
creating the ripple effect.
Feel it in your chest,
heart and mind
are aligned.
Looking through
the lens
of love,
where it is all Divine.
Realize
that it is all
going to be
okay,
we are here
to play
and not waste
this day
on worries.
Of course
there will be
pain,
heavy, dark
moments of rain,
cleansing us
with inspiring change.
Change is the only constant.
Renew, refresh
and move on from it.
It’s not about
the profit,
it’s about the process.
The journey.
Don’t hurry,
you’ll get there
when you’re meant to.
Open to receive
and speaking truth.
You’re a magical healer,
trippy dreamer.
It is our job
to take the lead
and create
the world
we want to see.

My Little Golden Cradle / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I saw one time, or dreamed it in a dream1
that my infant self lay
          bathed in golden light in her crib
          her orange peach-fuzz hair a-glow.

I weep sometimes, and long to save a grain
          of sand, that quickly washes through my hand
how can my golden light reflect
          to fellow souls     and they select
more fellow souls?
                    We take rake and hoe and spade
dig the earth (not for a grave) but for vegetables and plants
and bring your infants, they can dig for worms, for ants…

Some of us are farriers and can forge us tools,
          some build the barn to hold our grain for sevenfold years
some grill or bake or broil; those with olives
          can make us oil.          There is so much work
ahead
          If each of us could lie down in her golden cradle
          that one we treasure, measure inside our heads
not criticizing self          nor looking at the blood spilt
                    on the streets, though always conscious of it –

Our burden          to bear the hearts that melt          that falter
what we don is not a halter, nor a choke-chain but a connection
to other workers in song and labor.
          Your life is more than your work
          and your work is more than your job.
2
Come, my fellow poets, can we not dance and weave a spell
to help Earth maintain herself?
          Shall we not lay us down to sleep each night
          in our golden cradles?
  1. If any of you can find the source, I would be grateful… Google didn’t help.
  2. from the folk album Bright Morning Star, lead singer Charlie King.

Day 29/ Poem 29

A Part of It / Grant Chemidlin

There is nothing a piece of carrot cake
          can’t fix, except
          climate change, except species dying.

Last night, I took out a big bag of waste
          & a squirrel with half an apple hanging
          from its mouth crawled atop the fence.

I tried to tell him it was probably
          poisoned, not like a fairytale,
          darker, human.

Liquid greed makes the skin shiny,
          but the squirrel couldn’t listen,
          couldn’t understand

how something a part of nature
          could harm him.

To walk out in the cool evening
          & feel alive.
To walk out in the cool evening
          & watch the green world moving.

To apologize.

To really mean it, but still Postmate
          the piece of carrot cake, then
          throw away its plastic.

Spectrometer / Emily Corwin

A comet crosses me
in the remotest sector–
moss and roses spotted with
soot. I pop like a tempest, smote
                                        and unprotected.

Of their own conjuring / Mary Crockett Hill

In Alberene, the grass could grow so high—to our calves,
then knees, thighs, hips, ribs, armpits, shoulders,
but no higher.
                                             We were not
the ones who let the grass grow, but the ones
who walked beside it, atop it, in it, who would crush
a circle of it so we could sit in a little roofless room,
sun overhead, dog at feet, peeling off our shirts and
spreading them out to lie back on. It was another age,
                                                                                     I had another body—
each of my cells replaced four times over between then and now. And since
we’re all new every seven years, why don’t we live forever, you and I?
How can we, after so much practice, not get better
                                                                                at making cells?
My cells are sad today because there is another room where a child
died and a child died and a child died and a child smeared her face with bloodv
and played dead and a child died and another child died and another child died and
I should have reached the point where “another child died” stands for
multiple children, a handful maybe, but there were nineteen of them
                                                                                                              and I only listed six.
Six plus six is twelve. Six plus twelve is not yet nineteen. I was maybe twenty-two
when we first met—twice the age of any child in that room.
And since you asked, yes, I remember
                                                  when you came back from a walk through the grass to find
a tick latched onto your breast, a new dark nipple where no nipple
should be—and from that moment onward, ticks made the welcoming fields
a threat, a glade of risk and mystery. I loved you then, as I do now—those cells,
whatever made those cells, has stayed, is you, is still. And since you asked, yes,
when I was ten, I talked to fairies—
                                        sprites in the grass, in the trees, lithe, willful,
invisible because they flew too fast to be seen, but lighting a path.
I wanted fiercely to believe, and so I held the thought of them
close, like a warm stone in the small, tie-string sack
                                                            an enchantress in a book gives the bright voyager.
When I was ten, there was a frozen universe I did not know. I walked alone through snow
to buy candy at the corner store, cloaked but somehow also barefoot,
which seemed normal to me at the time, though I saw it was not
by the look one clerk gave the other clerk, gesturing at my bald, wet feet
which poked out from the cone of dark wool enveloping me.
                                        Are you shocked to learn no one shot me that day?
I am not. When I was fifty, I took my past for granted. Last Tuesday,
I went home, hugged my beautiful, ten-year-old boy like it was normal.
There was no clerk to side-eye me. I took his hand
                                                                           in mine and said, let’s walk.
I took his hand in mine and said, your nails need clipping.
The field beside our house is small, no woods, really, but a modest clump of trees.
We trod circles in the grass, talking, not talking, playing twenty questions.
Is it animal? Vegetable? Mineral? Was it ever alive? Is it still?
I guess a spoon; he says no, but close. A dragon? No again.
                                                                      I tell him my friend from the Netherlands
was a boy during a time of great deprivation. He was no older than you, I say,
and they were so hungry, when they heard through the door of his great aunt’s room
what sounded like a spoon scraping the side of a bowl,
                                        the father burst in, demanding she share her food—
but they found the old woman on her bed with an empty jam jar,
raising the spoon to her lips, pretending to taste and swallow.
Isn’t that sad? I say. Is that one of your questions? he asks.
No, I say. Is it something you can fit in a shoebox? Yes.
I should have talked to witches instead.
                                             We should have been a coven in Alberene,
the four of us in that old house; you, me, Laurie, Yolanda—we could have held hands,
stewed frog toes in our limestone sink, cast a spell on any boy to ever hold a gun.
I would have, like some 1960s gag, turned bullets into roses.
                              And the children in that room
would rise from the floor, fall backwards
to their desks where they sat, adding 10 + 10 + 10,
one girl doodling a unicorn on the margin of the worksheet,
another imagining the 10 pads on her cat’s front feet—rise up
and into a future of their own conjuring.

A Promise / Vivian DiGennaro

I’d carry you
like rivers 
carry life
 & let you wade
in my waters.

Angel Death (2) / Casie Dodd

Content Warning: suicide

I’ve known the pull of bridges, how they make
it seem so easy just to tip and dive

straight off into an arc before the slap
into a frozen block prepared to crack.

Perhaps that’s why he chose a winter day,
to feel the earth’s cold split reflect his soul:

he needed to be seen from inside out
in hope that God might spare others his fate.

He liked his glasses chilled in warmer times
to keep what’s shaken spinning toward the top—

to feel the force of something drifting up
as ice dissolves into a liquid sleep.

Perhaps that could explain how he was found:
a flicker in his eyes, reflecting off

the Mississippi River leaking through—
the cracks inside his blood-stained glasses clean.

Unwritten Language / Sarah Florence

Sometimes all it takes is a glance,
a look,
a sound,
or a word
like kiwi,
and laughter erupts.

No one else in the room understands,
the loud burst,
followed by several more,
a snort,
tears,
leading to more laughter.

Well, actually,
no one else needs to get it,
just the three of us,
giggling at Troy.
It’s not really an inside joke,
but the unwritten language of sisters.

Band-Aid / Navila Nahid

reckoning
for tame

my moon
seeks nettle

recoil
in reflected
light

unfolding

invisible
blood
blooms

in breach
of marrow

as factory
within me

overdrives

I perfect
the bow

over gush

Begin where you are / Emily Pister

Proceed at your speed.
Bleed and breathe.
Don’t grieve the greed
of the world
that you see.
Just be the breath
of fresh air,
alleviating despair.

What is Lavender? / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Lavender’s blue
     a bit of red washed with milk
Empress gown in lavender
a waterfall of silk.
Lavender grows
on a slim green stalk
inhale the sweetness
when you go for a walk.
Lavender sky
lavender air
sky sends you pale purple
as its morning prayer.
Lavender tea
now all the rage
mixed with bergamot + black tea
refreshing beverage.
A kiss is lavender
lavender a soft touch
promises are lavender
valued so much.
Lavender’s artistic
          a creative shout
paint an infant’s room lavender
he’ll be Picasso. No doubt.
Lavender’s neighborly
shy, straight and true
you can always trust lavender
when she visits you.
Lavender below perfume ankle-high
lavender above               a twilight sky.

Day 28 / Poem 28

The Mysterious Missing Story / Grant Chemidlin

I’m an open book, he says.

I think more bookshelf, she says,

grabbing hold of a thin section of his abdomen

& pulling out a leather-bound book.

She leafs through it, then slides it back, laughs,

I’ve read that one.

He laughs too & turns to pour the coffee.

Her worried eye catches the empty slice

in his right shoulder.

Febricula / Emily Corwin

My fibula afire like a rifle.
Flu cruel as a bailiff—I baffle
you in circles, careful in my
furs and ruffled bric-a-brac.

Untitled / Mary Crockett Hill

at the museum
which artist says, “look at this…”
and which, “look at me”

All The Things I’m Not, A List / Vivian DiGennaro

faithful housewife,
faithless house,
woman who stays
quiet as a mouse
a door, a window,
a place to hang
your keys,
a place where fuck you
means more than please,
a tree, a kite,
the darkest night,
a run through town,
a thunderous sound
a kiss that lingers too long–
always a right way,
sometimes a wrong.

Everyone needs an Aubade / Casie Dodd

but John could never write one.
He missed too many mornings
when he spent them under sheets,
pillow wedged between his teeth
to keep from screaming.

He lived on chocolate bars some
days—those times that typing kept
his shaking fingers occupied.
He had no patience for a meal
that meant he’d have to hold a fork

or use both hands to eat. John needed
them to color what he saw behind his eyes
into a sunrise scene—imagining
the earth into a dream where mornings
wait for those who need them most.

Named / Navila Nahid

I want to be named.
At long last.
          a finality
          of anchor,
I will collect
within forfeit
of roots
and settle.
          as curls
          of untame
          breaking
          upon shore,
I will be held.
Finally held.
kept by my marrow
kept by the breath of my breath
kept blatant
for the stars

and you.

Blueprint / Emily Pister

This kind of beauty
cannot be bought.
There is no price tag,
no measurement
of this brilliance,
resilience.
All of these millions
of cells,
creating the human blueprint
designed to excel.
Remember this body
is only our shell

A Poem’s Work / Christine Aikens Wolfe

“Should you like to learn to make such baskets as these?”
—from the tale “The Basket Woman” in A Staircase of Stories
Should a poem grow in challenging conditions
where true grit and determination yield spectacular results?

Tenacious struggling on steep slopes
                    rocky slopes     inspiring deep roots in the poem?

Or does gratitude          sunlight          lying on the couch
give rise to a word          that touches you     silkily

does a poem          recall self     or
          is ox forgotten                         self alone     with no issues…

May the poem reach you          as last vermillion twilight reaches
                                                                           the absorbing hill

day is done          gone the sun
          all manner of things shall be well

the muse is nigh.

Day 27 / Poem 27

As We Drive Down the PCH, / Grant Chemidlin

heading home from a bright, tipsy dinner
at the busy Greek place, I stare out
at the vast, churning darkness.

The ocean at night is the scariest thing
in the world
, I say.

Place where all light leaves, where soft blue hues
turn to shadow, turn
to slip & slither.

There are living things still swimming
in all that black
, I say.

Maybe the fish find it peaceful, you say.
& I squint my eyes,

unable to see the sleepless sea lion,
her glossy crown rising to the surface, where
for a brief moment, she is alone,

floating like a soft note
in night’s song.

Defenestrate / Emily Corwin

A feast of adder’s tongue
and red fats–and I feed.
Fast and faster, I fester with
a sadness: the dearest defeat.

You Can’t Spell Art Without Breaking the Heart / Vivian DiGennaro

To build a frame you need accurate, perfect angles,
bring together the edges, connect every part.

Frames hold canvases, hold creation: brushstrokes
& penstrokes & strokes of love & madness.

Madness strikes even in the most remote places:
a jungle, a river, a lover, a paper, a heart.

[If my skin were pulled across your frame,
would my devastation be your art?]

My offering: hands & a heart to tear apart, some bone,
a jaw, a bit of blood, one tear, two tears, then a flood.

John Tried to Take up Walking / Casie Dodd

The walk around the lake was three miles long.
It took him long enough to make a lap
that he could almost, but not quite, forget
what waited for him when he got back home.

Sometimes, I try to picture him out there
in Minneapolis, the town he loved:
almost, but still not quite, the same town where
his father’s family settled long ago.

I find it easy to imagine him
drifting away from sidewalks, gliding out
onto the skim on days when ice seemed solid
enough that he could float and never fall.

Reflections on Change / Sarah Florence

Can I mourn the loss of who I was
while still loving who I’ve become?

Life was once so clear
black and white
and now, it’s so gray,
foggy,
murky,
but I like it this way.
It’s not easy.
I struggle daily,
but I’ve grown in difficulty.
I’ve become more compassionate,
understanding,
empathetic.
In the gray,
I’ve developed callouses,
built walls
and cynicism.
I mourn the loss of trust,
the belief in love,
hope,
innocence.
But, I embrace the
strength,
dignity,
resilience
coming from that loss

Tower / Navila Nahid

at quatervois—I
am meridian
within mark
of X


supine

insubordinate against
grey wrath
of god

braced against roar
wired for the drop

because I want the fall
I want to feel


the severe edges
of rubble;
its clearing
of air

disintegrated

as soft
raw

alive

within
spent
earth

Closing ceremony / Emily Pister

I lay peacefully
beneath the chaos of the world.
Animals of white light
visit me day and night,
cherishing the garden I grew
straight from the remains
of my once beating heart.
Starting fresh
as the final breath leaves my chest.

Words of Elis Lane, featuring Emily Pister

Wolf-walker / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I am a wolf walker
by day woman with burning bush of orange hair
          now grizzled with grey
by night a dancing wolf
did anyone ever imagine that wolves

          have the slightest interest in humans –
they do not.          Unless the human interlopes
by night a dancing loping wolf
a shaman to my friends and followers

I read tarot for me and for dear friends
          I only tell you what your chakras indicate today
                    I am no fortune teller

empathetic? Absolutely, I feel the pain of others
          or their joy as they show me their MFA thesis poetry doc
my heart hurts if they tell me about their mistreatment
                    by whatever family member, friend or spouse

the wolf tribe of humans are teachers
          so I claim wolf clan          but I also know about bear clan
besides, these are my inner spirits
                    fiction writers realize that I can be a Kachina in a cloud
without violating my admiration for Hopi peoples

Wolf-walkers walk in Ireland as well as in Alaska or western US
          likewise crows are shaman in Irish history
the more I study     the more I embrace what I intuit

Do you need a friend?          Do I approach you as well?
my friends are few and completely cherished          I’m a loner
in many senses          and sensibilities
by night     sister moon above me
I’m a dancing          loping          howling wolf.

Day 26 / Poem 26

Still, Days / Grant Chemidlin

While I ate my oatmeal, I saw Hope on the milk carton.
What’s missing: hope, the milk carton.

I tried to write hope into a poem, but couldn’t.

The words scattered like iron filings anytime my hands
came near them. Everything has its own magnetic field
of sadness.

A friend told me there are mountains in Upstate New York
with no fossils, formed before life.

What feels impossible: time, to be stone-clean, to be
unmovable.

Today’s losses were the heaviest they’ve ever been.

I tried to punch pain’s ticket, let it leave through
clear trains down my cheeks, but it wouldn’t.

Still, days. Still days. I am full of pain & fossils.

I think I gave up a few lines ago, the poem on grief,
or was it hope?

I turn off the lights. The poem glows.

Crematorium / Emily Corwin

My crime: as rotten as tar on
tomatoes. I was committed,
my items crammed into a room,
remote and muted. And so, I met
myself: a rumor occurring, reoccurring, true.

On Heartbreak / Vivian DiGennaro

I fell through words
like falling through air
weightless & harmless
till the earth rose
quickly, and caught me
with a stiffness
like lying on cement
after knowing only a bed
of flowers.

Dreaming in Ink / Casie Dodd

“Poets don’t get very much fan mail.”
—John Berryman, 1967 interview in a Dublin pub

Can you imagine all the envelopes?
He wrote on every surface he could find.
His arms could fit more songs than he could cram
into a suitcase, keep inside his pockets.

When he was most inspired, the ink could bruise
and leave a mark long after he woke up.
His readers hated Henry in the end
once they could see themselves too much in him.

Beautifully Terrifying / Sarah Florence

Storms, simultaneously beautiful and frightening.
There’s no better rest than sleeping through a storm,
but there’s a fine line
between calming and terrifying,
between being beckoned to the front porch
to watch the lightening slice through the midnight sky
and running to the basement to hide in panic.

I often have a storm brewing deep inside,
one that is both awe inspiring and awful.
While I appear calm and collected on the outside,
thunder, lightening, wind and rain rage internally,
growing in intensity, fighting to escape,
to tear through my world like a tornado,
destroying everything in its path.

But that’s too destructive,
too frightening,
too out of control.
So, I close my eyes,
focus on the beauty of the lightening,
even though it so often strikes through my soul,
and I calmly smile.

Frame / Navila Nahid

trusting,
i breathe wrong

pawn
in pattern,
i am corrected

          a frame
          adjusted
          for another’s
          eye


          but I am
          not wrong

Trusting,
I rift
as wild

wicked
breaths
to arise

Spirit molecule / Emily Pister

Ever flowing light
into the night,
can’t help but be wild.
As sparkles leave my lips,
exhaling my DMT trip.
Laying down on green,
my hands
melt from beneath me,
being pulled
into the core of the earth.
Exploding
into sunshine.
Exploding
in the dark.
Seeping from my heart
into clay masked walls.
Walking amongst
colourful streams of passion.
Blasted with compassion
for every soul
who has not
had the chance
to experience
such utter happiness.

Words of Elis Lane, featuring Emily Pister

May 26, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Dear Suki,
I’m mailing this so that it should reach you
on May 26th, my sweet Howard’s birthday.
You and I share the previous Monday
                              as ours
                              how dear to have an alter ega in the world
and yes, I spelled it that way on purpose!

We are Women, hear us roar!
When we are not crying….
          lately, my dear cousin, there is just too much killing
politicians rant about saving lives
but they are strangely quiet on gun control,
          (with the exception of an exceptional few… bless them).

Suki, Suki, today is a joyful day
and yet – as on our birthday – birth reminds us of death
and death reminds us that there are organic expirations
          my mother and yours, both passed away peacefully
with a daughter at her side, ready to give her water

          as they say in Jesus’ name if she asked for water –
Elementary students bring such joy into life,
          my grandsons          your granddaughter and son
how we love them! No one, no one should own an automatic weapon
to be used at their own misguided anytimes….

As on nine-one-one
          I stare at the blue blue sky, feel the warmth of the sun
hope in fragile flight in the air          the dove is never free1
but bells ring out in our hearts, Suki.          We hold the children
up to the light. Reach out to me with your light
          this is a time when we must connect by our roots
as the birch, cedar, maple and fir trees do.
Faith, Hope and Love, Suki
          but the greatest of these (hidden in some cloud for me today)
               is Love.

Peace and Love,
Christine
  1. Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Day 25 / Poem 25

What I Look For in a Man / Grant Chemidlin

I keep dreaming of a man whose face is made
of coins, cool, silver nickels, smooth & ridged
at the same time. I keep dreaming of his lucky
lips, rusty copper kisses. Man-made, man who
crawled his way out of the Trevi Fountain, now
standing in the cobblestone square like a two-legged
fish. The coins are worthless. What is worth it:
to stand & watch the man who catches light, then
gives it back.

Megalodon / Emily Corwin

I was goaded onward by demons—
mangled in a golden moon and I
gleamed like a medal. My eggs were
ladled out in gallons, into the magma
—a dangle of gems, gleaned.

5 Starts, No Footing / Mary Crockett Hill

  1. Who was the problem solver who decided to put a huge chainsaw on a rope and tie it to a helicopter?
  2. I will forget I existed before others forget I existed.
  3. The bear drinks from the same pool as the vulture, as the deer and skunk and mountain cat, as the fox and the baby bear who lies down afterwards in the water to cool her fur.
  4. What is it in the woods, at the edges, making noise in response to the noise you are making?
  5. These things—are they twigs or wings?

Tonight/Tomorrow / Vivian DiGennaro

for my students
Tonight my feed is heavy with tragedy.
Every news channel is crying carnage.
I’ve wondered for hours how to approach
the morning
     (the mourning),
          how to approach all of you.

Tomorrow I will welcome you
back to class. I will call on those
of you who raise your hands, who know
it’s easier to try to fill the silence
than to be silent. I will grieve with you
whose hearts are broken (again),
and we will work our way around
our sadness (again)

     –is it too true to call it fear?–

and behind a locked door
(though I would never ask),
I will wonder if we can still
hear the click of the lock reverberated
across the line we can no longer see?

Berryman in Sackcloth / Casie Dodd

He never stopped shouting.
One man could turn a calm into a storm.

He never stopped wailing
for all the men he’d hoped to be.

He never stopped hurting
the ones he tried to love.

He burned their ashes into holes along his sleeves
and watched their lights go out.

Writer’s Block / Sarah Florence

Endless words
swimming in my head,
countless ideas
and lists of prompts,
but no inspiration
to put pen to paper,
to think deeply
or write substance.

Secrets / Navila Nahid

a turn into corner
and I miss
it

the shade blends
into your face

and you look like
you again

your shifted space
a heat haze
between us

but I still see you

heavy

like stone
in the pit
of me

mortality / Emily Pister

Impermanence
is encapsulated in mortality.
Forever wrapped in the now.
Ceasing to resist,
allowing the ground
and sky
to intertwine
while I am the vine
from Earth to ether.
Receiver,
giver,
student,
teacher,
all featuring in eachothers
interactions
when understanding is present,
of what is the purpose.
A life of service
in vast varieties.
Much kindness
is done in silence.
Reminded by the webs
that bind us,
it is how we perceive.

Go raibh maith agat. / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Miss Dunagan, Librarian, Tells her Tale (circa 1889)
There she is, that same little girl from yesterday, hunkered down
in a corner, by the bookshelves, leafing through
The Red Fairy Tales by Andrew Lang.
          I approach her, saying, “Hello shy little one.
Do you want to borrow a book to read?”

She looks up at me with big eyes. Green eyes.
Dark curls tumble around her little white face
          smudged with grime. She holds the book up
to me, points to an illustration of a fairy.

When I speak again, she quickly puts the book back
exactly          where it should be on the shelf
          runs to the library door, and I follow her.
A larger girl – clearly from the same family – stands outside
and my little urchin begins to shout something to her
                         in a language I don’t know.
          “Scéalta áille! Sióga álainn!”

I call out to the big sister, and she rushes at me,
“She ain’t doin’ nothing! She’s good!”
Same dirty hands. I think of the shantytown on the Northside
new influx of Irish: maids and mill workers, jobs no one else wants…
I say calmly, “She likes our books and          wants a library card.
     We can lend her a book. Do you speak English?”

The girl glares at me. “I speak your Pennsylvania-British.”
She doesn’t know how much that amuses me, a woman
named Dunagan.               I gesture her and her sister in,
explain we’ll visit the women’s room, wash our hands
then I’ll sign them both up for library cards.

The sisters exchange comments     follow my example
and     as they leave, Eileen with a copy of The Black Arrow
Maureen with The Red Fairy Tales   they stop at the door
          turn, bow.     Maureen pipes up
“Go raibh maith agat.”
          And I don’t even have to run to a translating dictionary
to know that I’ve been thanked as insider friend.

Day 24 / Poem 24

The Room We Built Our Life In / Grant Chemidlin

When I wasn’t looking, you
snuck out,

took the side door,

so I took
the sad door—

small & mice-sized,
I could only fit my

arm through.

I am still lying
on the floor,

hand through hole.

My fingers have built a small
city

on the other side,

will live a whole, bloody
history

before I realize

the sad door grows
if I ask it to.

Tourmaline / Emily Corwin

I entered my millennium, trimmed in tulle and ermine,
ill with omens, alarm–a mortal oiled in mirrors, my neurons
roiling melatonin. It was a matter of melting: my armor returned
to element, as natural as metal.

The Prospect of Suffering / Mary Corwin Hill

just suffering / the absence of / the presence of / incorrect / the suffering
right in front of you / the science of / how to ignore / Florida suffering / two goats 
suffering /// donkey suffering / wrist burns = intrinsic goals / farmhouse suffering
Illinois suffering garden suffering ten acres of suffering / the ponderous / the urge toward /
grass stain / aspect / what is funny about / what’s just beginning / the throat of the throat of/ wandering // into the lip / bread knife > what passes for / suffering fools // which piece / mine / mine / mine

When to Find  / Vivian DiGennaro

When Frieda Plath turned 40
she decided to write a poem
for each year of her life.
Not an autobiography, per say,
but a challenge to face the most
challenging moments in life,
she wanted to find a resolution,
in order to evolve.

When I was 45 I decided to write
a poem a day for 30 days, a life
in a month: not an autobiography,
but a challenge to face my face
and to try to find the woman there,
and what she owes, or is worth.
Find a resolution that resolves
                                                  (evolves).

John Berryman, a Man of Many Colors / Casie Dodd

The man loved water. He could never
escape it. It was the only place he could be still.

The man loved love. He claimed infinity
when asked how many women he’d seduced.

The man loved tennis. He liked to swing
the racket as it hummed a hymn into his heart.

The man loved music. He tracked down
records when he had no cash to spare.

The man loved me—or would have if
he’d known me. I’ll have to wait and see on some far shore.

Humble Conundrum / Sarah Florence

The idea of humility is complex.
It’s great in theory,
but our world operates on pride.
To get ahead,
we must announce our successes,
display our accolades,
play the game,
be put on display,
all to inflate the right egos
so they can claim a piece of the pie
they didn’t bake.
When you’d rather be quiet,
let your work speak for itself,
those in charge still find a way
to exploit you for their own benefit.

I try to teach my kids the
virtue in being humble
but am sending them out
into a world where the opposite true.
Pride is rewarded
even though it leads to destruction.
We wonder why there’s a lack of empathy,
no concern for others,
generations defined by selfishness.
Society killed those ideals when we
placed more value on recognition
than humility.

Ode to Bathroom Tiles / Navila Nahid

a soft slip

of skin
upon rough
grout

a manifest
of two
dimensions

cold
to touch

trace
of vertical
vicinities

closes
onto corner

lifting
in air
for 90 degree
vicissitude

passing go

into quadrangle
repeat

fully loaded / Emily Pister

All of the toppings
decorating my dish.
Rich in flavor.
Sauces soaking through
every layer.
I sink my teeth
into the succulent substance,
eyes bigger than my stomach,
gluttonous.
Typical problems
with portion control.
Filled up
to the brim,
stuffed beyond comprehension.
I question my intentions
after each indulgence,
in all aspects,
animalistic.

Science not Satan / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack jump over
the Covid schtick.

Like Miss Muffet
stay home on your tuffet
but don’t be afraid
of a small needle stick!

Day 23 / Poem 23

What is it like to die? / Grant Chemidlin

You spend your whole life
thinking you’re the curtain, then
the great hand pulls back
your skin & you let
all the light in,
become
what those left behind
can view their lives
through, see
the jade green,
the yolky yellow,
the marvelous, yet unnoticed,
blue.

Plasticine / Emily Corwin

Spliced together with staples–my pelt of satin.
I called it a séance: a space stenciled in salt, my plate
stippled in aspic. I un-snapped my pleated skirt–
panels slit with saline drip. In panic, in plastic,
I leap my spine to pieces: a last spilling.

Sunday Night Autobiography / Vivian DiGennaro

I am an empty well,
     all crumbling bricks
          & brackish moss,

          hollow

where the plink- plink
     of every coin
          rattles my stone-faced
          heart.

John Got Drunk for Interviews (Or, DTs & Vitamins) / Casie Dodd

How else to stop the trembling?
Those pills the doctors pushed
could only help so much.

Who tied his ties?
He couldn’t read for weeping.
His eyes performed a dance all of their own.

His best times
were in the bars—in Dublin,
Cincinnati. They had him figured out.

It takes two kinds of people
to understand that voice:
an Okie or a drunk.

In either case, the words
slide down smooth
until they catch him in the gut.

The Most Nourishing Garden / Sarah Florence

Vibrant, green grass, perfectly trimmed.
Multicolored flower beds lining the fence and house.
blues, purples, reds,
oranges, pinks, yellows.
Butterfly bushes with tiny white flowers,
fiery, red poppies.
A haven, summoning creatures of all types –
hummingbirds, butterflies,
a bounty for the bees and wasps,
a cardinal who visited daily for a special treat.
That’s why they all came,
to fill up on all she had to offer.
The cardinal, the hummingbirds
the butterflies, bees and wasps –
even the squirrels and blue jays couldn’t resist,
much to her chagrin.
I was also one of those creatures seeking nourishment
each time I visited,
sometimes nourishment in the form of a meal
but more often in the form of
Her time,
Love,
Wisdom,
Laughter.

missing from me / Emily Pister

I miss you
when I am with you.

I miss you
long before we’ve said
our last goodbye.

I miss you
before I’ve had time
to cry.

I miss you
as I look at the little hairs
on the back of your neck.

I miss you
as I wonder
about your worries.

I miss you
when I see
how hard you work.

I miss you
with an underlying uncertainty
of what this life will bring.

I miss you
with the sudden wake-up call,
every epiphany
and reality check
that this is all there is.

There is nothing
more comforting
than the promise of impermanence,
yet that double-edged sword
is more than I can handle.

I miss you
before we’ve blown out
the candle.

Poetry is / Navila Nahid

a picture
frame
          fractured

instinct
baited
          by fly
          on wall

a radiator
hiss-thunking
          at witching
          hour

a waterfall
as oasis
          and
          mirage

bottled
time
          weaponized

hunger
endless
          full
          stop

Dear Suki,

Are birds in the Southwestern desert acting strange?
Here, the robins come pecking at the windowpane
they see a reflection and think it’s a nemesis
after all – their mate is building a nest.

Here, a robin comes pecking at the windows
just about 7:00, just about sunrise
I rise, and flap my arms          off he flies…
Even nature seems subject to our chaotic lies

Just about 7:00, I’m up to shower and dress
if we have guests, Howard’s up first, preparing their feast
it’s in his nature to flap his arms fly into chef mode:
toast or pancakes, eggs, veggie sausage, fruit as their treat.

Then we face our own day, for him it’s a feast
of flowers and herbs, planting, watering. He loves doing that
for me: dishes and laundry, poems, walks, lunch with chocolate bar treats
unless each is interrupted     friends find us          just to chat

flowers show up here, as I pen notes to you, sweet,
and he does all cleaning chores when guests leave
we listen to music: Nora Jones, Mozart or Billie Holliday, singing scat
there’s rhythm          there’s reason          then cozy evening meal

H. does the cleaning; I claim computer schedules and ratings.
Guests say they see us as a reflection of themselves?
We two, like the robins, have a reason/rhythm for being
but that pecking? Are your birds acting a bit strange?

Peace and Love,
Christine

Day 22 / Poem 22

In the Age of DMs and Double-Taps / Grant Chemidlin

My grandfather pulled from his pocket
an old gray handkerchief.
Wrapped up inside—the bolt of lightning
he caught for my grandmother.

Small, thread-thin, like a strand of blue hair
that still glowed, though dim.

Love was so much bigger back then, I said.

Not necessarily, he said. We just didn’t have
the distractions. When we wanted to say something,
we stood side by side, reached up into the sky
& grabbed it.

Hornswoggle / Emily Corwin

A woolen gown I swoon inside, my horses gone
with thorns, holes, now–a whorl of green.
Swollen where he swore to me slow and whole,
his low hello, oh gosh, oh wow, when I was new,
loose, sewn with gloss, not to be losed.

The inevitability of rot / Mary Crockett Hill

You old people know what I’m talking about. How are we to tell the young… etc. how are we to assure them… or maybe we should let them, as my mama encouraged, figure it out. And when their own sweet time comes, they can find their version of what passes for an upside to the dependable decline—the certainty, for example, their next step will be surer, stronger, more exact than any single step to come. We all know there are a limited number of breaths, but also a limited number of stink bugs dive bombing our heads in our sleep, a limited number of water rings to wipe from the counter, a limited number of cats who will make us unwillingly adore them and then eat our left ventricles. The box is sometimes the best part of the candy; the certainty, sometimes the least certain reward.

Saturday / Vivian DiGennaro

Summer fell hard
upon us today.
It staked its claim
through open windows
and doors, made itself
known upon our skin,
left us breathless by noon.
Impossible days that burn
possibility with each gust,
warm and lucid,
like a dream
you can’t control,
even if you had
all the right tools.

The First to see Him Dead / Casie Dodd

“My friends have wiped themselves out in large numbers.”
—John Berryman, 1970 interview for Brockport Writers Forum

They just kept dying.
The poets John could love all seemed to disappear.
In prime of something, trying
to write a verse that washed down well with beer.
When Dylan Thomas roared his way to town, lying
about his state of health, eyes veering
off the page onto another plane—he went flying
across the bar and into John’s bruised arms. John’s fear
turned fate the next day with the horrifying
discovery that his Welsh poet friend had left him here.

Trapped in Dementia / Sarah Florence

Are you pretty ladies here to see me?
Let’s sit at my table.
Do you know my wife?
She’s a good lady.
She takes good care of me,
much better than these crazy people.
My wife is supposed to come see me today.

Do you know my wife?
I tried to call her,
but that fat woman said the phone is broken.
She’s lying, you know.
I saw her talking on it behind the counter.
I need to call my wife because
she’s coming to see me today.

Do you know my wife?
She puts the good lotion on my hands.
See that man? Don’t let him fool you.
He’s bad, always going in and out.
I can’t go through that door,
but he always goes in and out, in and out.
Oh, my wife is coming to see me today.

Do you know my wife?
Strange ladies keep getting in my bed.
They try to take my pants off,
and make me drink all the water.
They’re all crazy in here.
There’s lots of rules to follow.
I’m trying to figure them out.
Hey, my wife’s coming to see me today.

Do you know my wife?
She came to the base when I was in the Army,
told the sergeant I had to go get married.
She knows how to get things done.
When she gets here, I’ll sic her on that fat woman;
then they’ll let me use the phone.
She’s coming to see me today.

Break / Navila Nahid

Look at me.

LOOK. AT. ME.

I realized you—I
believe
we are the stars before dust that
danced before purpose. I
see your reflection when I say, I was
living on borrowed time, always
living to die, never honest
with myself about
where
I’m
at.

But you see
                         now
the deconstruct
has begun

a dwindle
down
to the bare
of my bones

a leap
off
          ledge

to breathe

Consoled by the reminder / Emily Pister

That this is my journey.
Acceptance
of the greatness
that is bestowed upon you
is a true triumph in itself.
There is guilt
for all that I’ve been granted,
yet I may always ask for more.
I revel in it,
each unparalleled pleasure
that presented itself
on my path.
Why do I deserve it,
what are the forces
and factors
that provided these privileges?

Why? / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Today is my birthday – 75 years young
and though I’m grateful to have been born
          grateful for so much love in my life

still – birth brings death to mind these days
I’m thinking about 11 Black people killed in Buffalo
          by a shooter motivated by race hatred (and possibly self-hatred)

Why? What is the nature of love
or of a fortress built by Nature for herself
against infection and the hand of war…1

Who believes that ‘Satanic’ Catholics, Jews, Black people
will take over this earthly bit of majesty, this seat of Mars,
this other Eden, demi-paradise?2

A shadow passes over my shoulder
I’m thinking of the 10 Jewish people
                    killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue
A precious stone set in the silver sea3, any temple of God…

Why? It seems our USA, so often wont to conquer others
hath made a shameful conquest of itself.4
Are we truly a land embracing all people, all races
          all religions in its heart as the Statue of Liberty believes?

Why? This land of such dear souls5, of such abundance
this land of trees, trees, flowers and fields, this dear, dear land.6
Begun in genocide (at least for founding fathers) has begun
          to reap what its founders have sown.

If I could have a large wish: Ah! Would the scandal
          vanish with my life7 (when that time comes)
how happy were my ensuing death.8
All italicized lines are from Shakespeare’s Richard II, Act II, Scene I, the third speech by John of Gaunt.

Day 21 / Poem 21

The Mirror / Grant Chemidlin

I jumped in front of the mirror
          & saw nothing.

I jumped in front of the mirror,
          saw a pink dress floating.

I jumped in front of the mirror
          & a boy punched me.

I jumped in front of the mirror
          & a boy loved me.

I jumped & the mirror
          disappeared.

I screamed & the mirror
          jumped out of me.

I saw my family.

I jumped in front of a family
          of mirrors.

I jumped. The mirror
          was a front.

I jumped in front of the mirror
          & there I was.

Tatterdemalion / Emily Corwin

My emotion demanded a mallet– demented and tender mania.
An alderman’s needle, alert and rattled in the mind. I tried to be
done; done with doom, done with lament. I married a dream,
melded myself an idol, made him of tatters, mottled tinder.

Let Us / Vivian DiGennaro

Let’s get drunk
and tell each other
everything we never
have, allow ourselves
to come clean, dirty
the truth with truth–
it could be fun,
don’t you think?

Let’s get drunk,
and catch up,
spend time looking
at the stars,
at each other,
name the places
on our bodies
like constellations.

Let’s get drunk,
drink down each
sip, savor each
moment, watch
the way night
gently gives way
to day, let’s close
our eyes to the sun
rise, and dream
our way into dreams.

Dead Poets’ Cigarettes / Casie Dodd

Before John found a voice that he could claim,
he loved those older poets who had shaped
a different age, their decades lost to mist.

Yeats, Eliot, and Frost: he had no models
for how to blend in better with the crowd.
At dinners with these men, he held a light

for leaves rolled up preparing to transform
into a heap of ash. He breathed their smoke
in hope he might absorb a taste of them.

But then, one day, he found they all were dead.
Their words could no more speak what he could read.
A different speech must now drift through the air.

Sandbox Bonds / Sarah Florence

“Hey, I heard you have a boy here!”
Simple, excited words that were the catalyst
to a special bond between two
rambunctious, four year old boys.

As they forged a friendship,
playing in the sand, hours on end,
their young moms connected with each other
under the hot, afternoon sun.

As those two, sweet boys caught bugs
and built imaginary worlds,
their moms cooked and shared dreams,
regrets, struggles, and triumphs.

As they grew older, climbed trees
and ruled playgrounds,
their moms shared tears,
tears of exhaustion, fear, joy.

Now, as those two little boys are men,
forging paths unimaginable in the sandbox,
their much older moms are still
cooking, sharing, crying and dreaming.

Lilac / Navila Nahid

the last
pure
thought
is play
under lilac
sky

when twilight
pulls sun
to devour

an unveil
of pinpricks
upon
Nyx

and I,
frisson
witness

follow
arced
bolides

slip past
as miracles,
unnamed

Unconsciousness / Emily Pister

Some people chase me
to their wits’ end.
Some people can’t escape me,
the cousin of death.
They either dread the moment
in which we must come face
to face,
or they wish the days away,
eager for our embrace.
Peaceful paralysis.
Practices can be put in place
to facilitate the friendship,
for those who fear
my provocative presence
in their lives.
The worst nightmare
of an insomniac
is the lack of tactics
that work in their favour.
They savour every second
of my undivided attention.
A true blessing,
to be held by me.
Gentle rise and fall
of the chest,
with steady breath
and involuntary twitches.
I am an essential component
in healing and regeneration,
yet it is not always honoured.
Overworked,
overstimulated,
overwhelmed.
The worries
of your waking hours
may be regurgitated and replayed
throughout the altered states.
A land of lucidity,
layers of lessons,
gaining insightful leverage
on the wonders of this journey.
With fluttering eyelids,
they hurry away
from horrific hell.
I am a shell,
shield of protection.
I sever the ties
from conscious thought
and invite you to get lost
in my cascading comfort.

May 21, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

My dear Suki,
I know you’ve had a day like I had today
          we all have these days…
          and I’m finally finishing the struggle part.

First, the Honda off to the dealership at 9:00
          an oil change          said I’d wait
          took ’til 11:30, then it felt so late –

Second, to Target for fruit and yogurt
          BnB guest tonight – need to stock up
          looked for net bags to wash clothes
                    mine are “hole-y”     but no luck.

Home – lunch went without a hitch
          but then we set off for the Co-op
          H. needs veggies for my birthday dinner
on Sunday. And here’s a treat — your birthday too!
          Wish you could come to dinner!

We got second booster shots yesterday
          did I mention how exhausted I felt
          all day          as if I’d climbed Mt. Rainier

And then – had to iron the last 2 top sheets for the BnB beds
          dragged myself through it, made queen bed
          and then – discovered LIPSTICK on the sheet
          of double bed. Back to (exhausted) drawing board
ha ha, I mean ironing board.

          H. and I take turns making dinner.
Thank all the stars in heaven that this is his night;
Sending love, about to go lie down until he calls me to eat.

Peace and Love,
Christine

Day 20 / Poem 20

A Typical Conversation / Grant Chemidlin

Hey.

Oh, sorry, I thought you were talking to me.

Horse with two heads passing me.

You must have been talking to your other head, the right head.

Hey!

Oh, so you were talking to me.

No. Hay. Do you have any?

Oh. Let me check. No, sorry. My pockets are empty.

Both horse heads bite me.

Hey! Stop that!

Pull the yellow straw from my scarecrow body.

They gallop away.

My feet pegged to the ground won’t let me.

Discombobulate / Emily Corwin

Ballet costume, doll bodice, comb and blouse,
motel soda, blooming disco, atomic sitcom,
cobalt blue, belated scab, boiled mud, blessed
coma, stale bed, bullet deleted: a salted blade.

Dear Today, / Mary Crockett Hill

I should say something about your light or maybe air, but I was mostly today at the pinball museum, where the clang and chime and grind of it all, the thunk-pop, the gaudy flash and flare, made its own space inside, peeled away from the outer rim of whatever planet I’d invaded. Flippers clacked, bulbs fritzed, metal rolled—and Gilligan did not after all escape his island, the aliens never once left your chicken alone, and the melodies of Metallica were cranked out like tincan tunes from an ice cream truck.

They say each day’s question should be one of reckoning.

Was I there? you might ask. But I don’t know how to answer that.

On Falling in Love / Vivian DiGennaro

tremble.
tremble and let
all the world shake. tremble
like river currents. crumbling mountains.
faults. tremble like teeth and fingers.
like a beating heart.
tremble & beat
& tremble
& beat.

“He just stuck around” (Dream Song fragments) / Casie Dodd

There ought to be a law against Henry.
He tried to get one past the feds but failed.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.

He hurt beyond belief.
However things hurt, men hurt worse.
Most days, he just wanted to read.

Henry sats in de bar & was odd.
He muttered as he stumbled over stools
& staggered on.

But what, finally, made him so damned mad?
while the clouds growled, heh-heh, & snapped, & crashed,
he asked for just a moment’s peace.

Horrible Henry, foaming.
Those days, he couldn’t see but for the suds, crying,
Come & diminish me, & map my way.

Every odd line comes from a Dream Song. The even lines are the poet’s own.

I Almost Died on Monday / Sarah Florence

I almost died on Monday.
Well, not really,
but I fell really hard,
and after forty,
that’s basically the same thing
as almost dying!

My hip is a rainbow,
black, blues, purples, reds,
highlighted by a little green and yellow.
Swollen, tender, achy
from neck to heel,
even sitting is painful.

If I had hit my head instead of
my shoulder, elbow, knee,
if my scalp was as colorful as my hip,
my fall would have been a tragedy.
So it’s not really a lie to say
I almost died on Monday.

Beat / Navila Nahid

this beating heart
                    I want to taste
                    it—draw
                    breath
                    against
                    its dying

savor
the lack
of it
                    the subtract
                    of stillness
                    from its
                    place
                    of vibe

bear
tremble
                    for
                    longer
                    still

Envision / Emily Pister

I perceived the progression of time
differently.
My vision moved as though
it was on a timer.
With each second that passed,
a whole inner universe
was revealing itself.
Shapeshifting faces,
entirely lost their structure
and morphed into a blend
of genders and ages.
The totality of existence,
expanded and contracted.

Is gravity optional?

I was humbled
by the intricacies around me.
Observing organized chaos
and learning to remain equanimous
through the ebb and flow.
Vulnerability and Divinity
collaborating as one.
Where nothing and everything
come together.
Raw human potential
is achieved
when you can leave behind
these pre-conceived ideas.
Stomach aches
from incessant laughter.
You see all the new relationships
blossoming
thanks to previous ones
ending.
The air is filled with ecstatic excitement
from the sharing of ideas on how to create
the new world.

Happy Birthday, Gail!          (May 20th) / Christine Aikens Wolfe

So many memories – met at our impassioned YWCA
work with the Teen Dept. (me 1980 – 1986),
you began a bit after me, lasted longer.
I had to get my babies out of daycare and into school….

You, me and Evette –     Each of us
with our cadre of teens
from the Hill (me), Homewood (you)
and Wilkinsburg (Evette).
I remember you and I and our teens
at Spinning Wheels Skating Rink. You noticed
that they called me Miss Chris.
I love your sense of humor (me with my Irish seriousness)!
You started chanting, “Missy Chrissy,
Missy Chrissy…” We were laughing,
while I held baby Marion
who was pretending to ‘skate’ on
her knitted baby-booties shaped like ice skates.

How we rescued each other at times,
flat tires or whatever.
          Who were the Hillblazers playing softball
against when one of my players swallowed gravel
when leaping for the ball?
Her mother (we had to use a PAY phone!)
came rode the ambulance to the hospital.
You held my hand while I cried… thank goodness she recovered.

How I met your ex and he had the nerve to flirt with me
and boast about his photographic skills! Hmph.
Right away, on the other hand, I was impressed with your son
helping you with the other kids.                    So many good times.
Your move to AZ was emotionally difficult,
but I know about roots and Pittsburgh.
You’d be back on the regular basis…          You are!
Reunions with the three of us are good times to catch up, laugh, eat tasty food.

I’ll skip the fires you leaped over and the hurtles you jumped.
You’re always on fire!
Happy Birthday to a friend of the heart and soul!

Christine

Day 19/ Poem 19

For Them / Grant Chemidlin

The boy thought it best to think ahead.
Kept every unused birthday wish stuffed
in an old sock beneath his bed.

The genie, his college roommate, gave him
three, so he set up an IRA account
at the bank.

The town’s magic fountain dried
in one summer’s heat, so he scooped up
the forlorn wishes left to bake.

He kept & he saved.

Didn’t use a wish to fix the A/C in his first
apartment.

Didn’t use one to buy that fancy car
he always wanted.

Didn’t need one to convince the man he loved
to marry him.

Didn’t use one when the doctor called
him in again.

Christmas morning. He watches his six-year-old son
open his present. Big box. Inside,
an old sock waiting for him.

Shagbark Hickory / Emily Corwin

Kicking into the briar, into the grass and chicory– my sack of hair so
brassy. I am sorry; I was sick, gash hissing from my hock. Your hooks
carried me, scabs in a rosary, ichor bragging out my ribs.

Big Foot Tries Harder / Mary Crockett Hill

I had two thumbs until you came and took one thumb away.
You say math, yes, but it’s just mean.
I, alone in this world already and—o—furred beyond reason,
am dealing already with enough ponderous shit.
Big Mama Foot gone seasons and seasons ago, so many pink trees,
foot caught in a bear snare, and though she wore it clog-like for one moon,
it became fish and she went to be the grass.
Let me have my thumb, friend.
Let me have it back.

Another Way of Seeing / Vivian DiGennaro

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.
—Jack Gilbert, “Failing and Flying”

In one of my favorite poems,
Icarus is given a different end–
instead of mourning his death,
his impulsiveness, we are meant
to see his flight as victorious:
a mortal boy flies!
                    A mortal boy flies!
But, we’d rather focus on the tragedy,
the melted wax, the floating feathers,
the plummet into the sea. A boy
drowned as life continues. It’s easier
this way: failure as failure,
                    flight as fancy.

But, let us, (from now on),
imagine that all our falls
are merely beginnings
if only we shift perspective:
and when (from now on)
we look up and see the boy
falling from the sky, let’s
jump into the sea after him,
carry him to the shore,
and say, thank you.
               Say, thank you.

John B. Loved the Blues / Casie Dodd

Even those years he lived outside the Church,
he planned for funerals as though they meant
that something actually happened there beyond
the grave. Sometimes, when he prepared to travel,

John sent off parting letters rapid-fire:
enclosing his instructions for the rites
that might lead him into another world.
One trip, John asked a friend if, should he die,

to make sure that the band would play a song:
“St. James Infirmary.” It was no joke,
no sacrilege, but only hope that God
might overlook his bloodshot eyes and see

his sweet John B in strait-laced shoes,
with parted lips, prepared at last to sing.

I Can Breathe / Sarah Florence

Today, I woke up and I can breathe.
For the first time in a long time,
air filled my lungs,
fully expanding.
breaking the chains
that have so long suffocated me.

End / Navila Nahid

Death began adagio
a slow mesmerize
into vertigo
heaped upon
banks of Styx

tendering Charon
obolos,
an allowance
for transverse
beyond
his liminal
space

I cross waters
unfamiliar
into realize
of no second
chances

with fear
rippling
through spent
body,
a path
appears

my path

built
upon choice
and Moirai’s pull

a path
to walk
through horizon

a bow
onto end

Motto / Emily Pister

Happy,
Healthy,
Healed.

Recite this
Until it becomes
Believable.

Maybe sometimes,
I feel so far from it.

Maybe I feel nothing,
At all.

We can be convinced.
A switch,
So easily flipped.

Commit to a celebration,
For every small success.

Happy,
Healthy,
Healed.

Rocky – a Modern Retelling / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I’m not the one who betrayed the boss
I love the man – all our gang does.
But when we hit the big city and had a dinner in his honor,
he warned us, “One of you isn’t loyal
isn’t as loving as the rest.”
          Of course, I took offense.

Started yelling,
“Who would double-cross you?”
We’re all staring at each other… he takes me out privately
“Rocky, watch yourself.     You’re loyal, but you lose your head.
          Bad weekend coming up.
If they ask you a question, just say nothing.”

He takes us to the public garden after dinner,
all except Nate          city-air-headache,
          and J.I. who ran out. Jack and Andy tell me
he was about some money-making scheme.
We’re strolling and the boss is talking about loving
          one another, telling us to stay strong –

when J.I. slides up, hugs him and gestures
          to someone over his shoulder.          Soldiers!
They grab our leader          I reach into a pocket for my stiletto
stab at a soldier          and – as easy as de-scaling a fish –
off comes his ear          it flops onto the ground
I cover my eyes, and when I look, the boss is patting his head

and the soldier runs off. Seems to have two ears
he’s a kid, young as our Jack, who’s sweet-faced at fifteen. But ardent!
Jack follows us around with a pad & ink; writing down everything we do.
Probably gonna draft a book about the boss and our gang someday.
          Right now, soldiers walk away with our leader
          he’s going quietly. Jack right behind them. Andy motions to me.

We follow          to the barracks.     Tom comes too.
The outer gate is easy; the inner one a barricade. But Jack knows a female
or two here, no one can resist him.          Me, Andy and Jack get through,
leave Tom behind.          We hunker down by the firepit
and some female beside me says, “Ugh. You stink of fish. Bet you’re
          with that criminal.”     Criminal, indeed! I mumble, “I don’t know the man.”

The guy beside her guffaws. “With that yokel accent, I bet you do;
bet you’re a rabble-rouser too.”          Rabble-rouser indeed!
          I say, “I don’t know the man.”          Then we all kind of doze
around the firepit until first pink dawn awakens me.
A guy with a pole up his ass approaches, a scribe from the capital.
“I recognize you,” he tells me. “You’re part of that rebel’s crowd.
          My masters are inside, condemning him to death. You’ll be next.”

Next indeed. I stand up and roar, “I don’t know the man!
“I don’t…”     but a bright ray of sun surges across the horizon
          hits my eyes, and I’m momentarily blinded.
A rooster cries three times, “You fool! You fool! You fool!”
My face crumbles and I shamble away from the odious scribe.
Flee the barracks          under a tree          I cry my eyes out. I’m a betrayer.

Clouds cover the sky. Jack appears by my side, Andy and Tom too.
Jack takes my hand, “A stressful night, you’ll be all right.”
          “No, no,” I stammer, “he called me his lieutenant, loyal          steady as a rock;
someone else ought to take over. I’m washed up. A betrayer.”          “Not at all,” Jack states.
Andy grabs my shoulder. “Pete, J.I. was the betrayer;
          he went and hanged himself this morning. We’re here to support you.”

Clouds part, golden rays pour down
          as if our master stood among us, saying, “Carry on; love one another.
A rough weekend. Stay loyal.          Support each other. Believe in love.”
I look at Jack, so forgiving. Andy is smiling at me, his big brother.
“Right,” I say, trying to look confident, “from the barracks to the capitol
          we’ll follow. He’s our man.     We’re his.”     We bow our heads and pray.

I rise and they follow.
We’ll weather the storm.

Day 18 / Poem 18

Maybe Tomorrow / Grant Chemidlin

The brain’s buds won’t open.
Hollow hole

in the tree trunk. Twig-nest
empty, empty.

Letters on the page mean
nothing. I peel them one by one,

strange jet-black insects, cup
their squirming bodies in my palms,

then take them with me outside
to the lawn.

I watch them sink into the warm
dirt, build small homes

without me.

I listen to the blue heron flap its wings
somewhere in the distance. It sings

a sunset song I do not understand, but might
tomorrow.

Juggernaut / Emily Corwin

Upon the gurney, urgently turning, I am injured–
my garnet silicate gutted, guttered. A green June,
a gun that argues or agrees. I rant like a teenager,
like a tanager bird arranging, rearranging its anger.

Translations / Mary Crockett Hill

I am drunk as a skunk                    which means the skunk was also drinking
I’m going bananas                    which means I recognize potential chaos in tropical fruit
I’ve gone to the dogs                    which means wet noses may blossom on my palm
We’re eager beavers                    which means you really shouldn’t trust us with your cat
We went whole hog                    which means partial hog was always an option
It’s an eloquent silence                    which means the river between us is full of swans
You’re ugly as sin                    which means I’d kiss the lips of liars and thieves
We aren’t dead yet                    which means our ancestors will just have to wait

If Falling Was a Talent / Vivian DiGennaro

Choose, you said, truth
or dare
? And dare I did.
Meaning I jumped
without looking,
meaning I looked
but still jumped,
meaning you make me
do things I never thought
I could, like love
or love you, make
like I don’t care
when I do. You see
my thoughts don’t
quiet, don’t purse
their lips to keep me sane,
they sing your name
like a performance,
like an encore. (Encore).
Choose, you said,
as if it were as easy
as catching a tiger
by its tail and surviving.

John Couldn’t Quit Martinis / Casie Dodd

His shins turned blue and purple from the gin,
colors of swizzle sticks in stale martinis
that kept him spinning circles ‘round Eileen

the nights he tripped and turned his legs to poems.
Those glasses shaped like funnels sometimes served
as ashtrays when he lost the taste for booze.

The gray chunks swam in figure eights before
mixing with nectar cool as liquid glass
as they descended to a murky sleep.

5023633••• / Sarah Florence

I wanted to call you today,
to dial your number
and hear your voice.
It’s been almost a year,
and I still pick up the phone
to call you almost daily,
even multiple times in the same day.
There is so much I need to tell you:
accomplishments, hurts, surprises,
beauty, heartache, and the mundane.
In each of those moments,
I need to call you
because you would want to hear it all,
then I remember I can’t.
Those numbers I’ve dialed my whole life
no longer connect me to you,
and my heart sinks,
throat tightens,
and I fight back the tears,
usually unsuccessfully.
The wound is ripped open,
and I, again, mourn your loss
every, single time
I can’t dial your number.

Body / Navila Nahid

my body
is sixty percent
water
and forty percent,
consent
          feather-light
          wings
          allowing winds
          to pull

it’s Jill
after Jack
accepting
plunge
          twoscore
          shatter

it’s the bitter
swig
of shame
after limelight
          and pooled
          whiskey,
          neat

it’s repetition of
mercy
mercy
mercy

after spiral
          counterpoint to
          empty

it’s hand
to lines
of ribcage
touching
heart

hundred percent
pulse

Desire / Emily Pister

You really want it
I can see it
In your eyes.

No disguise
Will hide
The way our minds fantasize.

May 18, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Dear Suki,
          So glad you called!
Your feeling stronger
          strengthens my heart

We compared Spring times
          in our climes
          you in high desert
me, here          enjoying Howard’s garden:

now in its Purple and Orange costumes:
          spiky plum-colored balls on long stalks – alum
          poppies popping
a Cinco de Mayo rose at one corner
          in that center oval     – a tree rose called
Pope John Paul II     immaculate white perfumed roses

the names remind me of our glorious days
          in Catholic elementary
          together
how far we’ve come, but how full circle!
                    we love and respect Nature
                    and the mother goddess, Mary
          and how love conquers almost all     strongest magic
Dumbledore always said that, didn’t he?

I saw a man pursuing the horizon…
          ‘It is futile,” I said,
          You can never –’
‘You lie,’ he cried                    and ran on.
1
We optimists are rare                    but prescient

Not this year, my dear.
Next.
You and Charles must fly to Pittsburgh,
“…come sit and share my throne with me
and let us bark and revel.”
2
I love you, cousin mine.

Peace and Love,
Christine
  1. Stephen Crane, “I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon”
  2. Vachel Lindsay, “Simon Legree”

Day 17 / Poem 17

Original Pain / Grant Chemidlin

The bee, broken-winged, I saw writhing on its back
on the sidewalk. Bee I left to suffer, alone,
because I couldn’t get myself
to crush it.

I cannot figure out where to put it—image
that will not leave, invading every poem.
Little ghost. Pinhole that draws the eyes.
Dead star whose light still shines, pulling shadow
from everything.

Clandestine / Emily Corwin

Clean as a seed, as a candle saint, I stand
inside a scandal of disease, sedated–a slice of linen.
Listen: I slide over the land and calendars–a sentinel dancing, iced in tinsel.

Working Lunch / Mary Crockett Hill

a good day
for a poet
(the poet said)
is striking out
the two lines
they wrote
the day before

but i couldn’t
tell you if
an apple’s good day
means remaining
in the blue bowl
atop four other apples
or being plucked out,
bathed, and bitten into

Spring Storm / Vivian DiGennaro

Monday brought
storms all through
the afternoon,
but still we sat
and drank,
watched while
the kids did
what kids do.
The serious
gave way
to the easy,
as the heavens
gave way to rain,
and running in,
to escape
the drops
that fell
as if the day
itself was
sending
a message–
the night is
coming, go
on home–
I felt alive,
and claimed
my place
among
the lightening
And for this
one moment
I shone for all
the world
to see.

If John Could Speak to Me / Casie Dodd

I’d ask him how it felt to wave goodbye
before the lurch that turned into a leap.

I’d let him make a pass at me
so I could punch him in the mouth.

I’d listen to him weep,
allow him that much grace.

I’d let him go
where he can sleep.

I’d pray:
Kyrie.

Truth? / Sarah Florence

Truth, does it exist?
Not honesty
which is a different concept,
and not individual truth,
but Truth, theoretical, moral truth.

In my youth, I believed in Truth:
absolute truth
moral black and white.
Thinking this way makes life easier.
Everything is either right or wrong,
good or bad.
But the older I get,
I see so much more gray
than black or white.
For every wrong, there’s an exception.

If there’s always an exception,
there’s no absolute.
Without an absolute,
How can there be Truth?
And if there’s no Truth,
how do we define anything:
ourselves,
society,
the world?

Light / Navila Nahid

I fail
to remember
the good things

I only
remember
our bad

your dutiful
air of silence
my dark aura
around you

but I believe in you

your alchemy
your light
that needs
none
to come
alive

You
who rises

I’ll let you go

I’ve let you go.

run
light years
away

shine your bright
to the easy ones
the ones
who forgive
the ones
who’ve never
met me

and I’ll see you
when I look up

at the star
you were
meant to be

because the darkness
I gave you

is the light
that shattered me

Luminosity / Emily Pister

Lunar eclipse
emits energetic elegance,
gifting us a glimpse of heaven on earth.

It held me in its harmonious hue.
Although everything around me
was completely still, the moon danced
in my vision.

It reminded me
that what we are able to see,
is only a smidgen
of the activity.

The moon and I
were side by side.
One and the same.
Not divided,
just diverse.

Eclipse of the Moon – Conversation on our Roof-Deck / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Overnight guests (6), how lucky!     Two sets of parents
          + a ten-year-old boy, his 19-year-old girl cousin
quick – up the steps to our third floor deck
          clear night
                              there’s the moon
what time     the eclipse?
          Google says 10:30
I see dark clouds sneaking over the face of
          oh no!          Moonie, sail out     sail out
that cloud looks like a dragon
          the moon’s got a moustache now
                    and a soul patch
She’s sailing free          Come on Luna!
we know Luna can dance
          it’s past 10:40, when does she shrink?
oh               oh          look               her sphere is flat-edged
                    on the left     a D-shaped moon          it’s starting
          what color will she… ?               Red
(fast forward)
     now     midnight!     Only a sliver,
                    cut from a hazy halo
(we leave the window               younger ones
          shepherded downstairs)
                    Look out your windows!
H. and I return to our view
          Behold               where there was nearly nothing of her
a dull red orb
          she’s pulsing               black patches glide
                    in and out of her being
          as if Mars descended               a lifeless tiny planet
                    oh          oh
(later) I must see my moon     back to the window
no orb          a sliver again               a non-shiny bit-o-penny
next trip     ten minutes later               same dead moon
(3:00 am)
trip to our bathroom with skylight
          there sails our placid moon, the mysterious
the majestic                    above my head, far up

          silver, serene
Did you imagine I would not return?

Day 16 / Poem 16

In Lieu of the Great Flash / Grant Chemidlin

Woke up three times last night
so now the little wiggle lines
keep skirting about my vision
on a slip ‘n slide.
I think when we die
the scribbles crystallize,
end credits roll, a list
of all the people from our lives
who helped make it all
happen, some who stole the show.
God’s last cruel joke.
Names mean nothing.
I want faces.
I want to see their eyes, looking,
one final time.

Raconteur / Emily Corwin

The coroner returns, enters my cotter-house
beside the ocean where I rented, was tenant,
my crate of torn coats–accounted for. He
recreates the contours, a reenactment, curating
the area with care– that center, where my neurons
ran and cut out, unannounced–a torn corona.

How Life Works / Mary Crockett Hill

First you must know the palm of your hand is in actuality someone else’s mouth. Your elbow, the fiber that absorbs the pulse of a dwarf star. The horizon, likewise, is 9:39 PM, September 14, 1927, along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, the moment before the world-renowned dancer Isadora Duncan’s long scarf became entangled with the wheel of the car she was in, jerking her out into the roadway and snapping her neck. You must know the head of an orchard served on a plate with roasted lamb and mint is edible, if you feel inclined, as is the plate. Night wavers between Isadora’s two children, Beatrice, 5, and Patrick, 3, who both drowned in the Seine several years before their mother’s death. The blue buttons of Patrick’s little pants. Night wavers between Isadora’s two black eyes. Life is not too ordinary, anyone will tell you, but anyone can so easily scorn their life.

You Can Call A Poem / Vivian DiGennaro

You can call a poem truth,
but it will call itself a liar.

You can call it substance
but it is ethereal. Delicate (even).

Watch the way it gently twists
the truth, unfolds its story

like a letter never sent.
(If no one is there to read

it, was it ever even written?)
You can call a poem life,

measure it in syllables,
in feet, in rhymes, in lines

(slant), call it me, but know:
there is a liar in us all.

Fainting Spells / Casie Dodd

Some people said that John was too dramatic.
They thought his frailties were all an act.
I wonder if it seemed more commonplace
for fathers just to kill themselves back then.

There were the days trapped in his mother’s house,
when nothing could convince her just to pause
and take a breath. She pummeled him with rants
until he knew no other course than fainting
to make her stop. For someone who could taste

the texture of a word, could feel the teeth
of language gnawing at his ears, John as
a son was often broken up into
more pieces than he ever learned to count.

Heavy / Sarah Florence

Sometimes, this world feels so heavy,
          suffocating,
                    like being wrapped in a wool blanket
                    on a humid, July afternoon.
There’s so much pain, illness, hurt,
          dying, death
                    loss.
Sometimes this world feels so heavy,
          crushing,
                    like an anvil sitting on my chest,
                    it’s almost impossible to breathe.

Sky’s Alchemy / Navila Nahid

i am
center of universe
to circadian performance
of sky

as yellow disrobes
into auburn
while lavender
deepens
its royalty
and indigo
recedes
into obsidian
peripheral

i keep
steady—
witness
to circle’s turn
as fusion
pushes
to the upside
down

and i need
not stir
when gravity
and its pull
holds me
where
i am

Do I though? / Emily Pister

I love myself.
Do I though?
I think I know what it takes
but I tend to make the decisions
that limits my potential.

Detrimental.

Sweeping the dirt under the rug
with a simple shrug.

I love myself,
or so I say.

So easily swayed to engage
with the poisonous parade.

I love myself,
but I’m not always convinced.

I rinse my regret,
setting my sights on the light
that shines through the cracks.

Let’s get back on track,
so, I can have confidence
in the words “I love myself”.

Renga for the Moon / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Moon sails majestic.
Obsidian sky at last
a break from rain, rain

folks greet you at night, laughing
greet sun – next day – gaily dressed

graduations now
can proceed. No umbrella
to balance their joy

Sunshine in the school garden
tended with style by my spouse

will be visited
often with glittering smiles
by ses gen qui passe

they’ll greet afternoon
then sunset. Jasmine breathes out

and you, liquid moon
rise again in cloudless skies.

Dear Suki,
          So glad you called!
Your feeling stronger
          strengthens my heart

We compared Spring times
          in our climes
          you in high desert
me, here          enjoying Howard’s garden:

now in its Purple and Orange costumes:
          spiky plum-colored balls on long stalks – alum
          poppies popping
a Cinco de Mayo rose at one corner
          in that center oval     – a tree rose called
Pope John Paul II     immaculate white perfumed roses

the names remind me of our glorious days
          in Catholic elementary
          together
how far we’ve come, but how full circle!
                    we love and respect Nature
                    and the mother goddess, Mary
          and how love conquers almost all     strongest magic
Dumbledore always said that, didn’t he?

I saw a man pursuing the horizon…
          ‘It is futile,” I said,
          You can never –’
‘You lie,’ he cried               and ran on.
1
We optimists are rare                              but prescient

Not this year, my dear.
Next.
You and Charles must fly to Pittsburgh,
“…come sit and share my throne with me
and let us bark and revel.”
2

I love you, cousin mine.

Peace and Love,
Christine
  1. Stephen Crane, “I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon”
  2. Vachel Lindsay, “Simon Legree”

Day 15 / Poem 15

Black Hole / Grant Chemidlin

On May 12, 2022, scientists released the first captured image
of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

At the center of our galaxy
is a man’s mouth, opened wide,
a black cave in which sits
a man crying, the first man
to cry & show it. The man
was banished, sent there
by all the others to hide
in the dark endless.
The dark is not a prison.
The mouth is open.
He only has to walk
across the tongue
to free himself.

Skullduggery / Emily Corwin

The drug that rules me: sleek and gray and dry as glue.
The glue of surgery: my skull red and sulking: an egg reeked
in slurry. At the edge of sky, dusk and sludge– I sulk as if towards
a duel: seeking an urge, greed slaying me there, at the ledge.

Going to the Basement / Vivian DiGennaro

after Megan Falley

Before I gave up on love altogether,
and after you and I would fight, I would
go into the basement—the lowest place
I could go when there was nowhere left
to fall. This place underground was unfinished
like every sentence I tried to string together:
I don’t know how to…(exposed concrete floor)
What if we could try…(cement walls)
Couldn’t we possibly…(flickering lights).
While you worked tirelessly putting up walls,
I perfected the art of building stone fences,
and like Daedalus I crafted a labyrinth within
my chest, placed my heart at its center.
The body of a woman as inescapable
maze, the body of a wife in the semi darkness
of the basement furiously searching for a way
out. Find a bucket of tar, split the cushions
for feathers, fashion a set of wings,
practice flying. I want to be the woman
who rose from the lowest depths,
unfinished, and rivaled the noon day sun.

John Berryman Shouting in Mass / Casie Dodd

No priest was good enough. The man loved words.
He couldn’t tolerate a flippant speech.

John had no patience for the modern priests
trying to make their message something new.

For John knew all about what words can do—
the way they stretch across the centuries.

From Shakespeare’s stage to Keats’s rhyming verse,
John loved the most those men who shaped their words

into a substance more than man. So when
a priest at Sunday Mass seemed less devout

than someone laying claim to higher calls
by making light of Christ’s Good Shepherd sermon,

John stood and stomped between the creaking pews
and screamed, “Only the words of Jesus—Christ!”

Good Enough? / Sarah Florence

I don’t know how you do it all.
You must be Superwoman.


I hear this all the time and
can’t help but laugh to myself
because the truth is I don’t do it all.
I drop the ball all the time.

Though it may look like I have
it all together from the outside,
the reality is most of the time
my head is barely above water.

The laundry is never finished,
but at least we have clean underwear.
There are always dishes in the sink,
and the floors need to be swept more often.

The grass needs cut, toilets cleaned.
Practices, games, concerts,
I can’t make them all,
meaning someone is always disappointed.

Then, there’s my career:
courses to develop, content to teach,
reports to write and students to counsel,
and so many things I tend to forget.

You may see me and think I’m rocking life,
but I can assure you I’m not.
Instead, I feel like I’m holding it all together
by the thinnest thread possible
and hoping against all hope
the thread doesn’t snap
and send everything crashing
in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.

So, I am certainly not Superwoman,
and I definitely don’t do it all,
but I always do the best I can
and pray that my best is good enough.

Right now / Mary Crockett Hill

Right now, 100 grasshoppers.
1000?     2?
          Leaves flickering
because I shift my body ever so slightly
in relation to the canopy of green
                    beneath the canopy of blue.
In this field, we’re haunted
by the ghosts of voles the cat ate
and by the living voles she did not.
     By the beasts I call cicadas, the cicadas I call locusts,
          the locusts I call crickets.
               The grasshoppers already mentioned.

A neighbor’s dog must have shit under the tree where we lie
and a fly circles and weaves, asking if we too are dogshit.
It asks and asks. Beside my head, a bird
so young it doesn’t know to fly away
finds some orange softness for its belly.
Because it swallows, it will grow large
and rightfully suspicious of human heads like mine.
For now, the toddler two yards over listens to a song
that asks it to hear the forest trees. The music stops
and the child begins to cry. The fly again.
Words in a language I don’t know.
Our sun, three times removed, is still
the biggest part of my life. Something crunching
keeps me from falling asleep. And underneath,
more crickets.

Miss (as action) / Navila Nahid

miss

innocuous word
burdened
by connotation

to
the verb
of it

the miserable list
of synonyms
it summons—
yearn
want
ignore
lack
forget
escape
neglect
avoid
lose
grieve


yet they
still do not
capture
the crux
of its ruin

the intimate
devastation
tenderly kept
as pillar
of heart

the
I miss you
I miss you
I miss you


slowing
killing
from within

This is it / Emily Pister

We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
The plot thickens and pivots.
1,000,000-piece puzzle and paint by number.
Pretending it will always be summer.
Swaddled in the silk of ignorance.

Home          Part 2 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I moved away from hometown Johnstown
          New York!                    Pittsburgh next
(the Texas sojourn for a summer)

Catholic          to Quaker
(later back again, but while there…)
a man in the Quaker commune –
          dancing, symphonies
waterbed to water
          canoeing and camping
once again my heart whispered          Home.

We both love children
          a Quaker ceremony planned
          years later, a sonnet of mine
described my emotions, a stanza quote:
          I often said I’d like a cottage home
          where babies grow on trees, their buds still curled
          and someone else and I would take them home
          and raise them preciously     like pearls…


The challenge          packing
          my Selkie skin of independence
          trading that for joint decision-making, compromise
I’m a resister so               I sat and meditated
          advantages raced far ahead of trials.

Pittsburgh roots wrapped around us
and our daughter / son
our daughter married a high school sweetheart of a man
like us, a soul with a love for our town
          of hills, football, world class symphony
glass skyscrapers
ballet          green spaces galore.

Of course the ocean sirens my psyche
          at times,          but
          even with children grown / independent
2 grandsons     ahh!
                    there are times
my redhead’s temper flares
                    but now          I’m wolf walker more than selkie.

Contentment
          worth more
than adventuring, unless adventuring with family
                                        then Home.

Day 14 / Poem 14

When I Time-Traveled Back to My Youth / Grant Chemidlin

things looked different.

I was a series of
statues.

Pink flesh, blue slacks,
painted.

Eyes, a bright brown but
hard as marble.

I was unmoving, wordless:
back of the classroom, eyes

unblinking,
standing at the bottom of the pool

looking up at the surface,
by the cake, family laughing, mother & siblings

flitting around the kitchen.
My stone lips, trapped breath,

the candles kept their orange heads.

How did no one notice?

Tiny cracks
if you looked closely.

Arboretum / Emily Corwin

Once, I was a brute:
a terror that tremored
in the tomb. My mortem
aorta, muted, in error–
a robot robed in amber.
I am better now, rebooted
— an ember of aurora borealis,
unremembered as rumor.

This is What Happens When You Drop Out of Medical School / Vivian DiGennaro

an ode to Gertrude Stein

You move to Paris, collect art, inspire art.
You open a salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, exchange ideas
on Saturdays. Define a movement. Make us understand
words are signs and we create meaning if only we could
be conscious enough to ask and answer what is it?

or

If happening happens by failure, you fail to fail down
and drop into twenty seven with men with women.
If rue is a flower and street is a rose the rose will bloom
and define the night not as morning but dusk or day
or just light obscured and clean. Move and be moved.

John Berryman was Buried in Resurrection Cemetery / Casie Dodd

for Martha (Jill) Berryman

His mother left her ashes in his grave.
Even in death, he never could escape
her dusty grip. She had less faith than John,
though who could say it helped him in the end?

He wore a rosary underneath his shirt,
hoping it might protect his sunken heart.
He’d long lost hope for Jill, whose ashen face
dissolved into the earth beside his lungs.

Sometimes…But / Sarah Florence

I don’t know what I want.
I mean, sometimes I just want someone to snuggle,
to binge watch Netflix with
until I fall asleep on his chest.

But, he might get comfortable,,
a little too cozy.
Then, he might want to come back,
and what if I don’t want him to?

Sometimes I don’t want a man at all,
just community with my girls,
lots of music, cheesecake and bonfires
with plenty of bourbon to go around.

But I’m too young to be a Golden Girl,
and I might get lonely
too old to start over, or ever trust again.
Then, I might die alone.

Sometimes I want someone who makes me
miss him when he’s not around.
Where we’re so connected
I can feel him even when he’s gone

But then I might catch feelings,
a little too complicated for me,
and I might get too comfortable and want him to stay.
What if he doesn’t want to?

And sometimes, I want someone to come along,
blow up all my sometimes,
turn them into always,
and make me believe in forever.

But, that’s the scariest want of them all.

Wild God / Navila Nahid

You,
wild god
          eclipse me

          your whispering
          ruptures

          drown
          my chosen path

now I
slow carve
your rune

in the taut
of my heart

as magic dawns
in seam
of gut

I surrender
          to your
          fatal

          flowering
          within
          pulse
          of life

sink / Emily Pister

I’m swallowed whole
by this push and pull
paradox.
Skipping rocks.
Bounce, bounce, bounce,
drop.
Sink to the bottom.
It’s dark down here.
All I can hear is the muffled movement
of the surface.
I can see the suns rays
grazing on top of the waters ripples,
but I cannot feel the warmth.

Home               Part 1 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I’m from 141     four sisters play jacks
          jump rope, climb trees
     ride bikes, build fortresses in the living room
                    shelter there and read.

I’m from walks in the woods
          summer

wading          icy streams
          careful balancing on huge log
across a gulley Made it!

from the Vietnam War
          they lied to us          again
          watching (on TV) caskets landing on our shores instead of fishing nets and fish.

I’m from cats & kittens          kitchens, college
and crashing when I get home     until I crash at college too.

Home.          Lares and Penates     I carry my treasures
seen and unseen:     a stuffed rabbit or bear     10 purple glass bracelets from India
perhaps symbols of a satisfied wife
          me without experience in satisfaction of that sort
          or wifedom, but the bracelets jingle-jangle and I come following.

College roommates befriend listen          laugh with           go to operas with
or Shakespeare               life on a plate.

I’m from green & blue or     I’m blue unless I’m green
          green turquoise     aqua     I play and swim in blue-green
with my sisters.
          I’m at home in field, fen or sanctuary. Mass a joy.
I love New York     plays, musicals, the Big Green Lady.

I discover boys     stumble wrong
          as often as right          want to please
          but be respected               a walk on the tightrope.

Finally visit a sister in Texas
          as short as me, brainy but more important
          appreciative of me from my carrot-head to my toes
lovemaking a balloon of joy: no rules, no restrictions
meet you again on another side.
I embrace my inner woman
          transfer to a woman’s college
          discover new writers: de Beauvoir
later Kingsolver, M. Frazer.

An apartment of my own     two cats
women friends
          Home becomes where my books
and treasures and I land:     a Quaker commune.

I put down roots in Pittsburgh          free to travel and return
home.          A sweet-faced man across the street, another Quaker house
picks up all babies at our weekly potlucks
          and we lean together,
play, go canoeing, see plays,
          submit to the rigors to have a Quaker wedding

and begin another journey
to Home.
Quaker worship     instant karma
          Two babies grown on our tree
I’ve straddled Mass and Meeting but return
          to roots with my budded lovely babes.

Yes, I have a Selkie skin (or that little hat)
          in an invisible box
and some visible wooden boxes for rings
                    necklaces when I attend conferences
set up my Home wherever I am.

I wake to joy
          swim through the channel of my days
Home is loyalty, friendship, companionship of my spouse
Writing, reading fantasy, poetry and women’s literature

          Surrounded by the airy shield of soul
in water or on land
I can breathe
          My way through fire and flood.

Day 13 / Poem 13

Before I Leave for Work / Grant Chemidlin

I steal your shadow, pull it from your feet,
roll it up like a treasure map, then
take it with me.

I hold its hand in the pale sun
of my lunch break.

Cold, so I drape it across my shoulders
like an old, wool sweater.

It even brings me shadow cookies
from the shadow vending machine
& I pretend to eat them because it’s sweet.

I strap your shadow into the front seat
when it’s time to go, to ride home,
where you’re laughing on the porch
with my shadow, I didn’t even notice
was gone.

Doppelganger / Emily Corwin

Galloping along with my dagger and rope,
my drooling glands, dollops of lard. I am
dappled with gold droplets, adorned with
dread and deep pools of opals. Deranged,
endangered, I plead to you, dear goodness adored:
drag me to that gladdened opera, pre-arranged with apples.

11:49 / Mary Crockett Hill

If my tooth were a tomb, if my thumbprint
were an archeological site, if the exhumation
of my inhalation could consecrate the sand
I swallowed for the past thousand years,
if my lungs sprouted flowers, if my lungs
swallowed lies—

As a girl, I could offer a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving most anyone.
“There’s no limit to your imagination, dear.”
I ran toward a horizon that was only sky.

Yet here, at last, I’ve reached it, my limit: a Tik Tok celebrity
sells her jarred farts as NFTs, and I cannot for the life of me
imagine what it is the buyer buys.
Is there an actual jar to be opened and sniffed?
The idea of a jar? A .jpg of the emperor’s invisible jar?
A link that never arrives?

I can’t guess what happens next.

The worm’s job is to open the soil. The worm’s job is to open the tomb.
The worm’s job is to open the eyes.

You will hear thunder and remember me / Vivian DiGennaro

After Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
not because I love storms (though you know I do)
but because I want to be electric, expansive, able
to light up the sky, and keep your heart on fire.

That day last summer when the sky promised
storms (liar), I left for the last time.
And like the threatening sky, I hastened
to open, and left you darkly filled with doubt.

Berryman’s Refrigerator / Casie Dodd

He hated writing letters, but
he could really fire them off:
huffing and heaving all over the keys.

The typewriter clanged loud
as lightning, weathered the storms
his new wife couldn’t take.

And so, in 1942, four weeks a husband,
he grabbed recycled paper and laid
into the landlord:

No heat in the house. Someone
stole all his books. No one
would answer his calls.

Meanwhile, the fridge turned
whatever it touched to ice.
At least with all those meals

out, it was easier to get hooch.
But that was beside the point.
The cold spread out across the rooms

so much it made John sick.
Lost work meant lost pay
meant he couldn’t feed Eileen.

Whoever tried to fix it
sent the fridge into fits, a high-pitched
wail releasing all its gripes

and sending John’s bills
up to the sky. They turned
to origami kites, his own

dreams growing more elegant
the farther away they flew.
And there the icebox sat—milk

shattered into crystals, meat
turned into glacial blocks,
the crisper frozen shut.

How could he chisel out a word?
When John was at a loss,
he took to quoting Shakespeare

all over the house
before grabbing an icepick
to take the damned

thing down, leaving Elaine with little
more than doors
that wouldn’t close.

Water Therapy / Sarah Florence

Two kayaks floating side by side.
Their passengers soaking up the sun,
pondering life’s deepest questions
and solving the world’s problems.
Okay, maybe that last part’s an exaggeration,
but at least we ask each other tough questions
and laugh at ourselves and our flaws!

Tiny frogs jumping from the bank,
red eared turtle perching on a log.
Lavender flowers polka dotting the tree line,
gentle breeze creating ripples on the surface,
and giant crawdaddies jutting under rocks.
Friendship, sunshine, water, and kayaks –
the best therapy the world has to offer.

Flinch / Navila Nahid

I startle
at mirror

two sinking ships
stare back

and I can’t
look away

hostage

to their breach
into darkness

a flinch

until freedom
seizes

and bloodied
shards of
galaxy

lie
at feet

Pile / Emily Pister

The piles stack up.
Upwards,
outwards,
onwards.
Piles from yesterday,
become the ones of today,
and tomorrow.
Teeming
with an odour
of procrastination,
permeating
the projects. Daunting
duties, haunted
horizons, blinded
by banter, and
belligerent chatter.
Polluted peripherals push
me towards
a polished approach,
narrowed focus.

Cento — for Bobby / Christine Aikens Wolfe

You said, Hello my darlin’ and you took my hand
young interracial love – so daring and so sweet.
Houston in the 70’s and we a pair so grand
you named me lioness                    you – panther to me.

And I’m expecting you, Bobby, to see about me
          I don’t know to see about you
and I’m expecting you, Bobby, to come after me
          I don’t know how to come after you.

You were talkin’ so brave and so sweet
from Hippie Hill to waterbed, see our hearts beat!
There Bobby shared the secrets of my soul
          through all kinds of weather, in everything we done
Yeah, Bobby babe, you kept me from the cold.

You said, Please trust me darlin, that’s what love’s all about
          was that only for the time we were alone?
You took my golden lovin’ and you left me in doubt –
          Alone here, I’ll cry for me and moan.

We had our reasons, and that was the 70’s
we were running for the glow of the flesh
and that was called love for the workers in peace
probably still is for those of them left.

I’m Foxy for my mane; you’re Bear (honey sweet).
But oh!                    you’re out looking good in the street
and baby, deep down in your heart, I guess you know that ain’t right
never, never, never, never hear me when I cry at night.

And I’m expecting you, Bobby, to come after me
          I don’t know how to come after you
and I’m expecting you, sweet boy, to care about me
          I don’t know how to care about you
                                                            (any better than I do).

We parted and you called my name
I never came…

                              Ring the bells that still can ring
                              forget your perfect offering
                                        there is a crack          a crack
                                        in everything
that’s how the light gets in.                    That’s how the light gets in.

Lines by Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson; lines by C. Wolfe (with few changes, penned in 2016 for a real Bobby) are: 1 – 8, 10, 14 – 17, 22, 26 – 32. You’ll figure out the others. {Kris Kristofferson wrote the lyrics Joplin made famous in the song “Me & Bobby McGee.”

Apologies to the songwriter of stanza #5, I substituted for New York, the money and… and workers in song.

Day 12 / Poem 12

Dark Sunday / Grant Chemidlin

We stay in bed all day.

The pen stands up & writes the poem
without me.

Your fingers graze my back.

I pull your body over me
like a roof, mistake

your drumming heart
for rain.

Witch-Hazel / Emily Corwin

Calling from the hills:     caw     caw     claw.
I hem-and-haw, all the way to the chalet
where awaits a hatchet, white tallow twitching,
a whet-stone chiseled with welts. My alleles ache
and heat catches me, wilts me awhile like thaw.

When I Dream of Hoboken it’s Easier to Dream of This / Vivian DiGennaro

Barely waking after barely having slept,
I turned to you and told you how I heard
a man being attacked in the middle
of the night. You watched me as I recalled
the sound of voices arguing, of a physical scuffle
followed by a muffled and strained scream
and then footsteps, scattering. I explained
how afraid I was to look out the window,
so I closed my eyes instead. Leaned into you
(careful so as not to wake you) until you felt
me enough to close your arm over me. Under
the weight of you I played (replayed)
the moment. It was real, I uttered.
I know it.

It must have been a dream, you said, trying
to ease the worry ever-present in my voice.
Your eyes never left mine (you were always so good
at seeing), they remained as reassuring as ever.
We stayed in bed most of the morning
—as we were apt to do—and talked of the day
ahead, of next weekend, of next month.

On our way to brunch, just steps away
from your front door, we saw the pavement
stained red, a splattering of blood,
and like breadcrumbs in a forest,
we followed them to the scene
we believed to have been a dream.

Years later I find myself thinking
of this moment often, wondering
what became of the man who was hurt,
wondering if the knife went through
his arm or leg, his back or chest.
His heart. It’s easier this way, I think
to think of his hurt—outside of us
—than to think of the hurt I caused,
than to know the breadcrumbs
were all laid out in front of me
and still I turned my back and walked
blindly into the forest of my undoing.

Self-Imposed Vacations / Casie Dodd

Sometimes, John Berryman went mental,
checked himself into the hospital.
He’d hail a cab to go and teach a class,

then ride on back to bed.
The ward was locked, but John
could always find a way to wander out.

Eventually, he lost track of the times
he’d been under surveillance, taking
Thorazine and other substances with names

he never learned. They placed the pills
beside his juice, a hint that all it took to see
the light was something small enough to swallow.

Graduation Week / Sarah Florence

The end of one journey is the beginning of another.
In just a few short days,
you will close the door to childhood
and open the door to the rest of your life.
That may feel like a lot of pressure,
but the best advice I can give you
is to not make it more than it is.
Too much pressure will only hold you back,
so take chances; chase your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to fail because
that type of fear is debilitating.
Embrace your failures;
always move forward, but don’t be afraid to look back.
Looking back keeps you grounded,
reminds you of all you’ve overcome.

As you count down these last few days,
savor every, single moment.
Hug all of your friends; shed a few tears,
and throw your cap as high as you can.
Take tons of pictures to document it all.
When you close this door,
close it with pride,
and walk through the next one with confidence,
knowing you can achieve anything you choose.

Poem For Absence / Navila Nahid

gratitude
for sheer abundance
of no(n)things

for veiled chaos
con-nect-ing
us

for loss—
its deluge
of missing

and gratitude

in longing
for perpetual
discovery

an expectation
to be found

lusting / Emily Pister

Feasting on eachother
The tent is our palace,
Tucked away in mossy expanses.
Underneath
A canopy of green,
Made up of leaves and dreams.
Sunbeams glistening through,
Providing a fresh outlook on a new day.

“You’re mine” is what we’d say.
Possessive, aggressive,
Is what we became.

It’s hard to trust you,
Because it’s hard to trust myself.

So we went a bit insane.

May 12, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Dear Suki,
          So glad that Charles called me.
You rest.

I’m musing
          when not stewing
Spring is finally here
          incurably pink
purple, clad in white gown
dogwood and spiraea

the creator of trees and flowers
          loves color
          loves complexity
are not humans touched by the same? (musing)

Tolerance, welcoming of diversity
          I told Charles that I
                                   spin in my own mandela
Today, a rainbow on the washing machine
          in the basement                    light refracted

I must keep rising, Suki:
          blue → green → blue
          golden → red → orange
I’m a soap bubble, Suki

you are another.

Love and Peace,
Christine

Day 11 / Poem 11

This is a genuine smile. / GrantChemidlin

Not the one I paint.
Not the one plastered,
nor the one I flash to strangers.
This isn’t the one stretched too thin,
too tight,
rickety bridge that buckles
under day’s weight.
Not the one that flickers
like an old light.
Not the thin ocean trench that hides
something deeper, silent
creature.
This is soft.
This is effortless.
Two red eels—alive,
electric.
I know it’s real—
I can’t control it.

Contrapuntal / Emily Corwin

I was clapped by a platoon– troops, in plural, patrolling Pluto
looped into a portal to a court-room, unnatural–
my account totalled to: a root-canal, tattoo parlor,
acorn squash, a torn cupola—I untrapped myself,
turned into a tool curled up like a talon

Words that Somewhat Rhyme with World: A Bestiary / Mary Crockett Hill

Unfurled: changeable and furred; with fast, countless fingers, no nose, no thought of tomorrow; a jetsetter

Furled: before the aspiration for something other than the apartment where it lives, the same dusty hallway and cranky toilet, the same view overlooking someone else’s above-ground pool, settles like fine mist on its brain, elsewhere elsewhere, a chant in its spleen; also furred and overly-fingered; small; even it doesn’t suspect what it might do

Turd: how bad does a stink need to be to want to cover it with different stink? how does the most perfect of God’s creation, the blueberry, come to this?

Murder: looks like a jar but believes it is a world-class violinist; do not trust; gravitates toward sharp objects

Gargle: a creature of unimaginable righteousness; crisp; wet; irrepressible; three legs

Curled: do not approach; keeps company with snakes and sheets of paper; usually brown, but could be blue or purple

Girl: she will tell you not to tell her sister-in-law about the memorial gathering in the All Sports Bar and Grill for her newly dead brother; she is sure her brother drank himself to death and that her sister-in-law is unhinged; she remembers playing with a handkerchief doll with orange yarn hair at the foot of her brother’s bed; two legs usually; usually two arms;

Squirrel: see “unfurled” above

Rural: a bend in the railroad; expresses the desire to cook and eat what most humans consider weeds; often needs glasses; hides under tablecloths

Swirled: not either nor both; all legs, none of them operational

Splurge: sometimes after a child paints, the brush jar, with its smudges and colorful lip, is as beautiful as anything on the paper; do not trust; unhappy under happy, and furred

Hurled: 1000 scuffed dress shoes in the back bedroom of a small yellow house

History Lesson / Vivian DiGennaro

If I were to let myself think
of someone other than you, I would
find continents in my mind, lands
that teem with civilization,
masses coming together,
chanting:
          let it go!
          let it go!
     let it go!

The Early Days of McAlester, Oklahoma / Casie Dodd

McAlester, the town where John was born,
was built by miners lurking underground.
They roamed the streets all streaked with soot and soap,
too little time to rinse or wipe it off.

At some point, as the Great Depression loomed,
the boll weevils destroyed their cotton crops.
McAlester was left without a hint
of white-bright fields across the puckered plains.

The railroads brought all kinds of people through.
Perhaps John saw some inmates, riding in
to find a safer place than Kansas jails,
one less prepared for keeping folks at home.

The year that John was born, the first escape
in McAlester’s prison happened when
three inmates stole a gun and killed a warden
before meeting their fate out on the rocks.

When It Is Not Well / Sarah Florence

It is well,
it is well with my soul,
So the old song goes.
But what if it’s not?
What if when the sorrows
roll in like sea billows,
my whole being,
everything inside my heart,
and the entirety of my soul
is screaming that it is,
in fact, not well?
What then?

Walked Away / Navila Nahid

I turned
away
          black upturns
          on white
          shore

tactile sunder
of self

          a liminal space
divided
as forbidden
and acceptance


I’ll continue
          toes sipped
          by warm
          waters

taking space
to root

but hands

          my hands
          fly free
empty

for you

Grounding / Emily Pister

Soothing symphony,
sounds of the stream.
It cleanses the earth and my mind
at the same time,
quieting the turbulent thoughts.

Take off shoes
and socks.

Give thanks for this process of detoxifying.
Revitalized with the remembrance
that we are extensions of Source energy.
Without this remedy of grounding,
illness is invited into the vessel.

Engaging with the elements
is essential medicine
in this modern metropolis mayhem.

What a mesmerizing melody,
wind in the trees.
Bare feet.
With a comfortable seat
in the palms of Pachamama.

What Does a Poet / Christine Aikens Wolfe

do? Emotions spill:
admiration
          speculation
     infatuation     elation –

Stories bubble:
          defending my honor
                         my mother in the hospital
          my child from the adamant teacher

Prophecies
          and scoffing
          hearts like iron
                    softening
Poetry a river
     flowing over rock & stone…

but we are not alone.
Poets swim
          in turbulence
          with resistance
some days – in a lazy river –
with a tube around our middles.

These last few years:
          isolation
               desolation
          where’s my nation?
Alone in solitude or nightmare
          lots to fear

but so far
poets take to the page
and bring us comfort
          after rage.

Day 10 / Poem 10

More Closely / Grant Chemidlin

The cat & I switched eyes
for the day.

I could suddenly see the robin’s hidden wings
beneath its real ones. Golden, somehow softer.

The scrambling ants carried little satchels
filled with ink, wrote their stories

all over the pavers with hands & feet.
The taunting squirrel wore silver chain mail,

a blood-stained sword hung from its belt.
I wanted to hold each

in my mouth.
I wanted to hold the whole fluttering yard

on the tip of my tongue, curled in the sun.
I saw a green world, peeled back.

The cat, with my human eyes, only
cried, begged me

to take them back.

Ventriloquist / Emily Corwin

On the TV, the virus loosens: illness runs through a river.
An interior of velvet, my neurons lit silver like an oiled revolver.
Entirely riven, in slivers of quilted velour, we sit, rest, listen, invest
in liters of sterile liquor, never revel after seven: no events.
Inside this quiet oven: we squint into ruin, stunned and stolen
vision, now revision, now the sequel unresolved.

I say, turtles / Mary Crockett Hill

are dying in record numbers, mostly from getting tangled up in fishing wires.

You say, when you eat beans, you eat bacteria, too—and that’s what causes the problem.

I don’t really know that about the turtles, I say, but it seems likely, don’t you think.

You say your organs hate you.

I say I saw a video where a bunch of turtles rescued a turtle who had somehow turned itself upside down; they all swam together and made a little shell island where the floundering turtle could flop over and rejoin the rest of turtlekind.

I guess they wear out, you say.

It was like they really cared, I say.

A long time ago, you say, you could eat anything. Peaches, coffee, deli cheese, raw onion, fruit you didn’t even know the name of.

I’m dying, I say — you know, the same way everyone is dying, and I remember that time when we were kids and you stopped to help a snap turtle cross I-81 on our way to Washington, D.C.

Bloom / Vivian DiGennaro

If one summer you were to find yourself back
in the garden of your youth, you would know
what to do, wouldn’t you? Raise your small
fist against the earth and strike it down,
let it pummel the ground, let the dirt
cover the fine lines of your hand, muddy
your life line (was it ever really yours
to begin with?), bury your fingertips
until the beds of your nails teem
with wondrous hidden life, memorize this
moment (recall it now and then),
remember how easy it was to bury
what was yours and emerge something wild.

Ezra wrote letters to John / Casie Dodd

At some point, Pound appeared upon
the scene, but past his prime,
abandoned to the loonies on the lawn.
Some couldn’t call it “crime”
for shouting on the radio, declaring truth forgone
in this dark time
of war. Some mornings, Pound could see the dawn
and try to share it with a generation losing rhyme,
like our friend John.

Shattered Illusions / Sarah Florence

I always thought you were that one person,
the one I could count on when life got rough.

I guess I put you on a pedestal
and though that wasn’t fair,
I was young, impressionable
and everything you taught seemed right.

You were always so full of joy,
true joy that spilled over
and filled everyone else in the room.
I wanted to be just like you.

I always thought you were that one person,
the one I could count on no matter what.

Even after you moved away,
you always picked up when I called
and for more than two decades,
through marriage, kids, life…

We always stayed connected,
had a bond that couldn’t be broken.
No matter what mistakes I made,
I could always be real with you.

I always thought you were that one person,
the one who would always be there,
the one who would always care,
the one person who would never judge me,
who would gently nudge me
back to where I needed to be,
who would open my eyes and help me see.

I always thought you were that one person,
but when I reached out in my darkest hour,
the one time when I needed you most,
you were nowhere to be found.

But it’s okay because I’m sure you still care
and are keeping me in your prayers.

Fallen / Navila Nahid

The hollow of the oldest valley
cradles the oldest tree,
felled;

its above and below
flush,
negative space of limbs
cut onto earth,
vulnerable
to the open blue;

I imagine
its fate
as collapse

an eagerness
to die

a sigh
for the gods

a close
to premise

a tree has fallen
with(out)
resound

alone

Broken compass / Emily Pister

Hand over the keys,
to the locked nooks and crannies.
Even I,
have trouble understanding,
the valleys and peaks, crooked streets of character.
Broken compass, requires repair.
Please do share, the secrets to success.
I did not request unsolicited advice,
but I confess that tonight, I am curious.
Craving a calm bond; companionship,
with this creature that I see in the mirror.
On many occasions, there is no one looking back at me.
Empty gaze, glazed over, gasping for breath.
Close my eyes, rewind and reset.
Guilt-ridden gambling for gold coins
of superficial satisfaction.
Pupils blackened.
Reality collapses.

For Rachel / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Born in New York City,
Rachel reveled in running streets, riding subways.
her family’s move to Hawaii
meant new joys: ocean plunges, jogging on the sand          sunsets.

With poetry & teaching certificates under her belt
she applied to universities. An appointment in Indiana –
she met and married a science professor, Jake Wolfstein.

How did I end up so far from an ocean?
          she laments, while talking to me
          at a mutual friend’s funeral. The friend another poet.
If they build a position with you in mind,
          you will come          I say to her.
She smiles. Then tears appear.

Who knew Jake would die, massive heart attack, at 45?
My son Sam and I decided on a Jewish funeral
          though Jake was a dedicated atheist.
We wanted family to come.


I nod. The rabbi who appeared, friend of a friend
didn’t know Jake               didn’t matter…
He spoke of his own life, holocaust survivor
Rachel and Jake in tears together.

Jake buried in a designated Jewish spot
tombstone lettering in Hebrew required.
          Again, like gentle rain that falls to refresh the day
a stonecutter appeared          glad to help.
The headstone
          and Jake          were laid to rest.

Then, another university, Pittsburgh,
          whispered to Rachel. Teaching across the Curriculum
partnerships with a marine biologist, a musicologist, artists
          and a bridge engineer. She and Sam moved to a bit closer to an ocean.
Some of her/the shared classes became museum shows
          at the Carnegie: Whales     Caring for Mother Earth          Fire!

Today, at our poet-friend’s funeral
          I ask her if she goes back to lay stones
          on Jake’s stone. Not often.
So far. But I am honored and think of him on our holiest day
the Day of Atonement. He died on Yom Kippur.

Day 9 / Poem 9

In the City of Angels / Grant Chemidlin

Lucky rock on the sidewalk I pick up
          & put in my pocket.
Dog. A dog. Then another,     another
          dog. Dog after dog follows me.
The street is a panting
sea, me,     a human island, smiling.
          So much wagging. So many cold, wet
noses. One noses my pocket,
takes the rock, swallows it.
          Not a rock, but a stale piece of beef
               jerky.
All the tall ears go floppy.
Each dog, one by one,
                         leaves me.

Rabbitbrush / Emily Corwin

Abracadabra: a rabbit out the briar and into a hat,
un-hurt and trusting. From the suburbs, I started:
a starlet, his trusty assistant. I was stashed in a tub,
bathless, brushing out my hairshirt. My magician
sitting on hiatus, a sabbatical–my status bitten shut.

What She Could Have Said (if Only She Had the Words) / Vivian DiGennaro

“When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.”
—Jeffrey McDaniel “The Quiet World”

This morning I looked no one in the eye,
not even the barista when I used my first
five: soy chai latte, thank you—shook
my head when he asked anything else?
(saved three), lost one to the stranger
who held the door: thanks….dammit!
(lost one more).

At lunch, I held my tongue. Starved
for conversation, I called you. No
answer. Called my mom, she cried
when she heard my voice, cried more
in my silence. I broke, used 67. One
more to say good-bye (or was it two?)

The rest of the day was quiet,
the open windows may as well be closed,
the radio played songs without words,
even the birds—those relentless speakers
—silenced their secrets and went unheard.

Walking home, I counted the distance
between us in seconds and minutes
and miles, realized too late how quietly
the numbers tumbled through my lips,
Lost ninety, then three. Lost you, lost me.

Later that night, you called.
I couldn’t tell you how careless
I was, but you knew. You used
only 59 today (you “proudly say”),
the rest you offer in I love yous
in “32 and one third” ways.

The rest is silence. And breath.

John Dreamed in Iambic Pentameter / Casie Dodd

How couldn’t he? At least one thing must make
some kind of sense. Awake, he ate it, walked
it, smoked the lines into a shape that he
could taste.

                                   You’d understand if you could see
the books he bought: their dust dissolved between
edges of gold. A modern-day Erasmus,
his money spent on words before he ate.

Ode to Hazelwood / Sarah Florence

Visiting you has become surreal.
You were once the foundation of my youth,
yet each time I return,
there’s another crack in your cornerstone.
The pillars who once held me up,
provided me strength,
have slowly fallen one by one.
An entire generation of saints nearly gone,
and like a mirror to your empty pews,
my foundation has equally begun to vanish.

Marked / Navila Nahid

bare
                    I will not live
                    I will not die
          for you

moon
          I bend
          for light

                    but you only see
          sickle

submerged
in shadow
          curves
          to consume

          marked

through
and through

                    but I am
                    complete
unbruised
for the wolves

my portal / Emily Pister

For my mama, her mama, and all the mamas.
For the ones who are here, and the ones who have moved on.
My mama and I have realized that this is not the first time we’ve been united.
We know that in another life, we were friends, and decided to come back again as mother and baby.
Just maybe, it would be fun, we said.
Extend this journey beyond space and time,
and see what treasures we can find.
What a ride it has been, with no end or beginning in sight.
Days blend into nights, holding hands, running through the rainbow lights.
Despite any minor differences, we have encountered limitless love.
To say you are my mom is such a minuscule fraction of what this is.
It is a grand gift.
You’ve done much more than give me life.
You ignite all the intricacies of my imagination.
We are entwined in existential elation.
Although we are aware that this manifestation of our relationship is immortal,
it is incomprehensible to grasp the idea,
that we are here only for a short time.
Simply means that this living, breathing portion of ourselves
is merely a small chapter within the books on the shelves.
Scribbled with lines of laughter
and chasing after moments of awe.
I reached out to you and you answered the call.
We love so much, that it makes us sick.
This existence we share is a turbulent trip.
Beautiful bumps, we bounce through together,
bouncing with you is a million times better.
On the African plains, the Shambhala maze, Balinese beaches,
soaking up rays.
I melt at the thought of your sweet smiling face.
All that you are, brings bliss to my days.
I am amazed at your ability to rise through the pain,
progress on this path,
playing the games.
I would go on forever about all that we’ve done,
the travels, the frolics, the frivolous fun.
I know that we’ve won,
and we’ll just keep on winning,
tuning in to abundance with love that keeps giving.

My perfect portal, a partner in creation.
Our playground world is a permanent vacation.

May 9, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Sometimes, I’m unbearably sad
          simply the times
                    or the weather
                              rain, rain and rain…

You can’t visit yet                    I understand
          glad we share a soul, Suki
          I love to pour out my heart to you.

What’s the use? Some days
of a few shy buds on the maple tree outside our window
          golden lilies in a vase     kitchen table –

Life is full of errands: groceries
          exhausted moments     weekend guests
what’s the use of crying Excelsior?

My body shakes, asks me what I’ve accomplished
          not my teaching days, those I’m secure about
my poet days          my retired-self at meals
do I jabber too much to a long-suffering husband?

          What brings joy in my open-flung window?
May’s perfume of lilac          pepper of poppy          lush honeysuckle ?
Oh, my cousin-like-a-sister my sibs only boys –

A poet named Shirley in the Pittsburgh group I head
          just died at 82          often wrote of your O’Keeffe, Georgia
my poet-friend a traveler          single          talented          giving…

That’s one source – and (credit Leonard Cohen for the next phrase) when
“wars will be fought again the holy dove, she will be caught again…”
Suki, Suki, Suki                    pull out your meditation mat

          and put the kettle on. We’ll have some Facetime Tea
about 3:00.
          My lovely lover nurtures me

but still I have my teary days –
          We’ll talk as well as write, Suki.
          Glad I have you.

Love and Peace,
Christine

Day 8 / Poem 8

The Beginning of Love / Grant Chemidlin

As we walked down the dirt path,

he reached up & plucked a small fluff

of cloud from the sky, then popped it

in his mouth like cotton candy.

Want some? he said, pulling another.

How did you do that? I said.

I don’t know, he said. I was just hungry.

I knew right then the power he would have
over me.

His hands. His hands.

I couldn’t stop staring.

Pumpernickel / Emily Corwin

Mink lips, pink neck, a crinkle of curled ink.
At the picnic, I lurked along with my milk-cup,
licking at pumpkins, plump as circles. I like to keep:
a clump of nice purple, cruel plums, nickels picked
off kelp, culled from the runnel that kicks towards
Pickerel Lake. Mine: this rumpled pile, this icicle,
and pencil, a kernel of pure luck, unkillable.

Magnet Poetry Cleave / Mary Crockett Hill

always ask to be                                                  the blue thing
a dark cloud                                                        is not the precise color
of vast and porcelain breath or                        of lingering / sky
a sister who                                                       smokes the morning / the ocean that
slows like caramel in a fist and                     needs a drink before noon
was wanting wrong                                          listen, woman
listen, marble                                                  listen, fly, listen
who is my baby                                        yet would never remember it

My heart made your heart— / Vivian DiGennaro

at least that’s what I tell my son
when the idea of loneliness settles
upon him like a heavy blanket
of uncertainty. There is nothing
to lessen the weight, but still
I offer my hands, ask him
for his, cradle them
the way my mother cradled
mine years and years ago—
(or was that only yesterday?)
—and assure him
that a mother’s love
can reside in a touch,
a glance. I offer him
the simple reminder
that no matter
how much the cover
of loneliness folds over
him, he is never alone,
I am forever present
within him, quiet
but certain, like every
beat of his heart.

The Women Then / Casie Dodd

He couldn’t leave women alone.
You can’t tell his story without it.
Too often, it wasn’t romantic:
a sick need for flesh, yet fleeting.
No woman was safe.

He cornered them in bedrooms,
usually when they were just
trying to be polite—a friend of the husband’s
who needed a light to get him home.
No woman was safe.

It makes you wonder about
the wives—all three of them.
Did they know? How much?
What made them stay until they couldn’t?
No woman was safe.

Kate, then, at the end, who gave
him two girls. She saw him
publish sonnets to another
Other Woman from another life before.
No woman was safe.

Perhaps she read too much, got
tired of reading all the bills,
the letters from broke relatives.
She couldn’t listen anymore until it was too late.
No woman was safe.

Teenage Rite of Passage / Sarah Florence

Excited, young women adorning
reds, pinks, yellows, greens,
and every possible hue of blue.
Blue is definitely this year’s color:
baby, navy, royal, metallic,
blue and black, blue and silver.
Perfectly coiffed hair,
high heels, secretly forming blisters,
long lashes and thigh high slits.

The boys aren’t quite as colorful,
mostly black and white
with the occasional gray or navy,
each with a pop of color to match his date.
Fresh haircuts, lapels pinned with roses,
their personalities expressed through
choice in shoes and sunglasses.
Bow ties and vests, uncomfortably tight,
a little extra Old Spice to hide the sweat.

So many subtle complexities involved
in this teenage rite of passage:
hormones, nervous excitement,
celebrations of friendships and young love.
The first sip of independence for some,
and the last dance with youth for others,
all on the verge of adulthood
but none quite ready.

Raw / Navila Nahid

you were
cataclysmic

hint of soul
diffusing through me
and I disintegrated

as tempest

Aeolus upon rocks
coarsening
the pillar of me, brined
in your absence

and I slough
the residual crescents
in palm’s underside

a new raw

ready
for your callouses

around the clock  / Emily Pister

Quick fix.
Get on with it.
Admit that these addictions
Play me with their trickery,

Puppetry at its prime.
I intended to write more
But this man-made time
Has me in its vice grip.
I’ll slip out soon
And make room
For every message
I must express
As best as I am able to.

Didn’t I End that One-Sided Affair of the Mind? / Christine Aikens Wolfe

I walk east on Forbes,
          toward Pitt’s campus.
For no other reason than that it’s warm
I think of you
          my darling work-a-holic.

I don’t imagine you at your desk.
I see you beside the University panther,
Cathedral of Learning an aura behind your grey head,
          your arms flung to the sky
          talking to friends of biking Pittsburgh’s trails.

I remember our conversations, back then,
          when the pair of us (now in our 60’s)
          were in the prime of our 40’s…
how they seemed to create balloons
          just beyond my vision
ideas cast colored shadow shapes
transparent     jewel-like –

This is not a love poem
nor am I stuffing it
          into your mailbox, that’s over.

I blink in the sun, turn south
          onto Schenley Green
I stroll by the merry-go-round.
In my peripheral vision
          the ruby umbra of a balloon
          it could be your reflection –

I slip into red joy     bask in sunlight
listen to a throaty greeting
          spilling from a cardinal’s beak.
          Somehow it echoes your voice

Everywhere, sweet crimson of heart-song.

Day 7 / Poem 7

The Edge of Answers / Grant Chemidlin

Silence the phone.
Try not to wake you.
Shower. Dress in lucky
shirt. Feed the cat.
Draw the curtain. Worry.
Worry. Bowl of oatmeal.
Bury the frozen berries
to help them thaw. Your eye,
your eye, your eye.
Read a poem. Then
read it again. Then
read it again & this time
pay attention. Worry.
Diabetes runs in your
family. Brush the cat stretched in sun.
Brush teeth again
so coffee doesn’t stain them.
Your right eye’s still
blurry. Doctor’s appointment
at some point this morning.
Tie shoes. Look down
at shoes & wonder
how they’ve stayed so pearly.
Kiss you, cocooned in blue.
Love me no matter?
No matter, no matter.
Grab keys. Time for work.
Leave, but never really.

Mitochondria / Emily Corwin

On the third moon, I rode in a coach north,
in motion across romantic roads, torches,
my triad of ladies maids–timid in their raincoats.
A month marching through dominions, over
tomato rinds, arachnids, drams of hot radon,
toads and comas, doom chanting in every door.
The tarot cards in hand: the arcana radiant,
dotted hard with dirt.

Sad Hat / Mary Crockett Hill

Oh Sadness, where did you leave your hat?
Creepy dolls keep washing up on the shores of Texas;
broken, begrimed, coated in sand, hair snarled or bald,
barnacles jutting from eye holes, a baby’s plastic leg
among the shells and sand dollars—among
the washed-up alligator skull, sea coconut seeds,
milk jug, wad of rope knotted in a monkey’s fist.
One message in a bottle, one bottle full of dirt and leaves
to make a cheap buoy. Sooner or later, it all stops here.
And when the life-sized, open-mouthed head of a sex doll
arrived like a dramaturg late to the opera,
the beachcombers sold it and put the funds
toward sea turtle relief. So your hat; I might as well
wait for it here, the ocean before me, the grit of this living world
beneath my feet.

Amanda Montell, You’ve Made Me Fall in Love with Language Again / Vivian DiGennaro

A found poem using Amanda Montell’s Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism

                                             Language
makes people
understood.
                              Just by existing,
language
          will have
          the sense
                                                  to happen at all
once, it’s what
                                                  gets people to
          feel possible
It’s what makes people stick
                                                  And last, language
                                        is embedded
in
creating
                                                            hope
          without          language
the world is foolish, inferior
reserved isolating

John Berryman had Friends / Casie Dodd

I can’t remember when John met Robert Lowell.
Was it before or after Cal started dangling people
from upstairs windows? Caliban turned
clown with face besmeared with rage.

They had that in common: an obsession with windows.
John’s father died outside his on one clear Florida morning.
He squeezed into another in Princeton to get inside his basement office.
Easier to do when he forgot to eat for days.

Later, Saul Bellow cracked another open in John’s apartment
when he quit answering the phone. Saul feared
the worst too soon. John always had the best friends
until he stopped drinking. Then they didn’t know him anymore.

Lost Friendship / Sarah Florence

Over the course of my life,
many people have come and gone.
I cut loose many one sided relationships along the way,
but you’re the only person I cared about
who cut me loose.

It wasn’t because of anything I did or didn’t do
but because seeing me caused you too much pain,
and in many ways,
knowing that, made it harder.

We were both babies
unsure of how to navigate the ugly complexities
that life threw our way.

I respected your wishes
because, at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do.
But I’ll forever wish that I fought harder for our friendship.

Of all the people,
the friendships that are ghosts of my past,
you’re the only one I truly regret losing.

Sitting here, twenty years later,
I still miss you.
I can’t talk about my teenage years
without talking about you.
And, it’s so ironic how all my kids know who you are
without actually knowing you.

Though we can’t go back and do things differently,
I would in a heartbeat.
I wonder how long I will mourn your loss
while you’re still living your life?

Your phone is reading your subconscious mind / Bill Luker

When you’re typing a message, and you want to write the word shut, but it comes out as shit. That’s the only time that word will be produced in text communication, when you’re typing “shut.” Try typing shit and see what happens. It will be everything but that.

When you want to type the word future and it comes out as “futility,” you think, bemused, something’s going on here. You don’t really believe it.

When you type bit or but and autocorrect immediately substitutes btc for “bitcoin,” and then when you type bitcoin again it comes out as “botcoin.”

I see. This is when you really think something is going on.

When you write the word insanity it comes out as inzanity. That’s a marvelous coincidence, if you believe in coincidences.

Or when compatible becomes combustible. When storm becomes sturm, and sturm becomes strum, and then Stuenkel. In basketball, you’re one of four from the field on that possession. Pathetic, not epic. And further away from “storm” than when you began. A Stuenkel is like a German pastry, right?

And when bitcoin becomes bitfool. Yes oh yes right hand to God, I have seen it.

Daily needs comes out as daily bleeds. Just about covers that topic.

When password becomes perhaps, says becomes smears, [it] lives comes out as moves (and that’s about all it does)

Well-educated goes out to the world as desiccated. I am on to something. Channeling the inner monkey at the keyboard.

Sleep / Navila Nahid

pausing to circle
and land on
          nest
a sort of nap
babies envy

when sense deprivation
becomes portal
to paradise
the one
          inside
the one
of clear renaissance

when
the wheel
stops its spin
          a grind to halt
that pounds
in ear

and I never sleep
          not really
just shift
from one reality
to another
          enough times
          to doubt
          the mercy
          of dawn

I’m never where
I belong

sleepless / Emily Pister

Blending of nights and mornings.
Sun and Moon
Exchanging places
To set a basis for the interpretation of time.

Wide-eyed
Unwinding my mind.
Sacrifice tomorrow
For a wild ride tonight.

Set flight,
Wheels leave the runway.
Leave behind routine and obligation,
We are here to indulge in human sensation.

May Song / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Brave May, from April you dance away
your dogwood skirts glitter with dew
you glorify Earth with color each day:
lilac, violet, rose – named for their hue.
May fragrance     deft and immediate
tang of tulip, pepper that poppies exude
wisteria perfumes the air.     Smell a gate
back to Paradise. All that senses include
on display. Oh May! From shy lily of the valley
to rhododendron in clear cerise
your lushness     music to bird and bee
and to weary humans, aching for peace.
For the tearful – transfiguration
for the fearful – regeneration.

Day 6 / Poem 6

Pump Dispenser Bottles / Grant Chemidlin

I pull back the shower curtain
& the shampoo & conditioner are

kissing. Beak to beak.
Bizarre lovebirds. They don’t even notice I’m

watching. If I,
like some meddling god, told them

they were, in fact,
made for each other, would they

be grateful? Would their doubt that
steams the mirror dissipate? Or,

would this knowledge, this death
of possibility fold up around them

like the dark, cardboard coffin
they came in?

Semiprecious / Emily Corwin

He promised irises,
a cup of ice and opium.
My primer-book used up:
pieces seeped in copper,
puce, spiced rose, and ecru.
I suppose it was a crisis–
I simpered like a species,
moped and coped and cussed
impressively. But my supper
went sour, was cursed– I was
pierced: a schism in the cosmos.

Squirrel Ghazal / Mary Crockett Hill

There are only so many headless squirrels you can find on your doormat
before, carrying the rug like a bier, you vow to buy a new doormat.

There were never squirrels in the attic when the dog was still alive.
Instead, rawhide in the hallway, soft ears, fur on the doormat.

My daughter calls, frantic, from downstairs: a squirrel’s trapped in the woodstove;
in the background, a loud thunk as it rams against the glass door.

It’s not a squirrel, but a squirrel suit; Mr. Paws won’t look up;
we try to ignore the crunching from the general area of the doormat.

Our porch has seen possum, voles, assorted birds, a neighbor’s stray rooster—
sometimes whole, sometimes tender parts arranged in tribute on the doormat.

A Confession in Ten Lines / Vivian DiGennaro

I tried to cut down two trees. Once
the heart of each trunk was breached,

I quit: this is a metaphor.
Foolishly, I thought that clearing
a path would make finding home
easier than losing the way.

I’ve already lost
so much: two trees, a home,
          a heart sliced
                    clean in half.

Typewriter Dreams / Casie Dodd

Poems could always curse
as much as they could cure
whatever ailed him:

a sense that he would never measure up,
afraid to disappear. But more than that,
he worried that he couldn’t stop.

If words kept turning paper into dreams,
what might he bring back from beyond?

Motherhood’s Rabbit Hole / Sarah Florence

11:30
My eyes are heavy,
about to fall asleep on the couch.
He’s fine. His phone’s just dead.
He’ll be home by midnight like he said.

11:35
He always calls on his way home,
but he can’t call because his phone is dead.
Stop worrying. He’s not even late.
Maybe he has some charge now.
I call, but it goes straight to voicemail.

11:40
My eyes are no longer heavy,
but my chest is getting tight.
What if something happened?
I wonder if the weather is bad.
Checking my weather app,
everything is okay.

11:45
So much for falling asleep on the couch.
Why am I like this?
He’ll be home on time.
But what if he had an accident?
How long do I wait before I go looking for him?
I text just in case he has a little charge,
but it doesn’t go through because his phone is dead.

11:50
He should be home now.
He probably had a wreck.
My heart starts racing.

11:51
Calm down. Why are you like this?
He’s fine. His phone is just dead.

11:52
But what if he’s hurt?
Anything could have happened.
Slow down.
Breathe.

11:53
Something is definitely wrong.
I just know it.
He should have a charge by now.

11:54
I call one more time.
Nope. Still dead.

11:55
What if he’s in a ditch?
He probably dozed off
and swerved off the road.
No one would even know.

11:56
And calling the hospital won’t help
because no one has found him yet.
I can’t breathe.

11:57
He’s definitely in a ditch.
What if he’s dead?
He can’t be dead.
Oh God, he’s dead!

11:58
The front door opens,
“Hey, Mom. Sorry, I didn’t call.
My phone died.”
Air finally fills my lungs.
My heart begins to slow.
If he knew how worried I was,
he’d think I’m crazy.
“I figured that’s what happened.
Did you have fun?”
“Yeah.”
“Good, I’m going to bed.
Night. Love you.”
“Love you too, Mom.”
Sigh.

RANTING ABOUT TEXTING / Bill Luker

Texting for three years, searching for commo in vivo. No joy. I’m in a high castle, oraculating (my neologism, combining bloviating and oracular prose-poem-ing; it’s pretentious as hell); the man in the iron mask, ten years before the mast, in an infernal dialectical trance, a gambler’s resignation to the statistically predictable, sliding coin after coin into the internet love slots so I could be one with all the other naughty talkers.

It cannot be. It doesn’t work. We’re texting like the dickens like no tomorrow like it’s 2099, going for the third decade of the XXIst, not knowing that texting has not changed anything but merely accelerates it all, spinning it down into that great violent maw of the future with an inexhaustible surfeit of commotion that promulgates combinations of intersecting planes and spaces for and of wordage. But the places are shorn of context. Just hurled epithets and cheap power games.

So it must be shouted and howled that texting is a rotting banshee demon set upon us by the northern clans of Autocorrect. It deforms degrades and denatures the essence of the human relation, of talking with each other, an interplay that intimates telepathic contact, a psychic learning, an organic hope arising from the thrill of connection.
So us texters, us chatterers, have as a task to restore into our commos a play of prosaic and poetic intuition that elevates expression to a level somewhere north of a default outgoing voicemail message.

But Autocorrect hammers on the shit-word, the only irreplaceable word in modern talk, and it goes to shot, useless—impossible to verbally commo in twenty-first century Post-American world without the shit-word and its many readily and frequently used pals. Autocorrect continues with its sledgehammer and makes it into shun or shut, of no help at all.

Then it weasels into the foreground of in-being, to in-becoming, simultaneously, of and for-itself; where you are and where you’re headed every consecutive synchronous moment.
Author comes out zero, poet becomes alibi, love becomes lust; on third try, lice.

The Sun / Navila Nahid

rays
          weep
as drops
          of golden

kindle
          pearl
          on flesh

                    and I
count
down
          turn
          of moments
in yearn

wrinkling space
to gather
          rifts
          of realities
as fathom
of horizon

Greatest weapon and shield / Emily Pister

Sickening sensation of love,
served up with an abundance of agony
and a side dish of bliss.

Sprinkled with a seasoning blend, of sweet and savoury.

No sense in reasoning with the rational mind
as it becomes increasingly intertwined with the heart,
it is the most abstract form of art.

Admired from different perspectives, each beholder ponders their own specific questions, often leading to a lack of answers.

The chapters of this collective compilation are filled with pages from every author, attempting to articulate the very essence of connection.

The catalyst for the creation of life.

Salmon / Christine AIkens Wolfe

I am Salmon
swimming stubbornly
          upstream
water my second skin
          above me     a watery blue bowl
below, the skirling river
          I fight my way, never discouraged
my mate tells me I am going there
          to spawn.

I’m not the Salmon of Knowledge
he can have that title if he wishes
          I’m the Mother of all Salmon
I feel my eggs shining in my belly
he too, can feel – or see – their luminous presence
          he pushes up against me at night
          when we find a calm resting pool
touch means belonging, tenderness, warmth.
          My eggs are future salmon
I will know when –

Leaping, bouncing, exhaling
     up a waterfall          up, up
bowl above and churning below
          blue on blue
I’m a red heart inside
          and then     …     we arrive, my mate and I.

I’ve been an egg, then a one inch alevin
feeding on river bottom, a gravelly nest
          then a fry when a yolk sac hangs below my belly
and I consume its nutrition as I swim.
As I reach the ocean     I’m a 6 inch parr
          I turn silver as I become a smolt
Finally – as an adult I swim in salt ocean, gorge on smaller life
          until my heart prompts me back to fresh water
           eggs illuminate me from within.

Now, at the end of my journey.
          my energy melts out of me
the eggs emerge. They are sun
and I am mother.

A new generation of salmon
          from a cluster of golden eggs.

Day 5 / Poem 5

To Grow Up in the Closet / Grant Chemidlin

Every morning a small ship sinks
in the stomach.

Rose-Gentian / Emily Corwin

At the gas station, I tossed back sangria; again,
I tasted star-anise, snagged my train of satin
and the street sang like a sergeant. A giant trigger
and I was greased in asters, rosier than negroni,
gin tangy and iron ore– an ignored sign, a tangent
I started, a stone raging in the grass.

Dear Tree, / Mary Crockett Hill

What kind are you? I didn’t notice in the 30 seconds, 20 more likely, I hugged you on the campus quad at dusk. I did notice your bark, creviced and grey, and thought of my own bark, my own grey crevices, as I breathed on you—and my breath felt heavy, but loved, like a large, flat river rock a child might hold out to her mother in a gesture meaning look at this and look at me for finding this and aren’t we both marvelous, this rock and me, and my prying it from the crusty dirt at the water’s edge, also lovely, and mightn’t Pooh think this a perfect jar for his honey but it’s not I know it’s not, silly bear, it is a rock. Was my breathing in those seconds different because of you? Did you fill my exhalation with that moment, the mother and the rock, the binding contract of it, torn bandaid of it, yellow pulse of it, or was it (soap bubble, eyedropper, shoe) dormant in me until you called it forth into the air? Inhale, exhale, I am here tree. Good to meet you. I can listen.  

Becoming / Vivian DiGennaro

Summer brings us to the bay, on the shore
rocks and shells litter the sand like a warning:

there is pain in the expanse; walk with caution.
My sons do not feel the crush of shell,

the pinprick of stone against bare feet—
instead they revel in the rush of getting to the place

where water meets land. There they search
for the perfect shells, dig for hermit crabs, scour

the water for small fish that ride the tide.
And I watch them, these beautiful boys lost

in the wonder of their seasonal world and I want
to offer them the whole world, every bit of it.

Or none of it. Perhaps what I truly want is to freeze
them in this moment, to let them revel in the beauty

of summer and forget anything outside of it exists
because the world and its expanse, with all

of its pain and all of its caution is too much
for a mother’s love to bear, but never enough

to keep summer from becoming fall,
to keep the boy from becoming a man.

John Berryman the Father / Casie Dodd

I wonder how he felt: John’s only son.
Paul Berryman, half-orphaned, left behind.
Imagine how it must have seemed when Dad
decided, twice over, to try again.

By then, John had two daughters, more or less.
At times, he tried to play the father role:
a family man who paid the bills and fixed
the busted knobs, the lawn, the pesky leaks.

What did it take for John, the ever-son,
to tell his firstborn fathers were not all
they seemed to be? Could play a role less central
than one that makes or breaks a blasted life?

Your Tears Will Run Dry / Sarah Florence

I know you feel alone right now,
but I promise it won’t be like this forever.
Those tears running down your cheeks,
forming a river between your breasts
as you feed your baby
while your two year old is running
through the house,
destroying any semblance of order
you created before they woke up,
I promise you those tears will run dry;
the river won’t always flow.

That wide-eyed little boy
will grow into a dynamic, young man,
one who will always be a thrill seeker,
stubborn and full of fight,
but he will turn it all into a skill
that will carry him through life.
And that little mohawked baby,
he won’t stay little for long;
his brilliance and insight will blow you away
more times than you can count.
If he decides he wants to,
he will change the world.

I wish I could wipe away your tears,
whisper in your ear that it will all be alright.
Life isn’t going to end up looking
anything like you planned;
even through the darkest times.
it’s going to end up better than you can imagine.
You’re so much stronger than you realize,
And one day, you’re going to look back
on this very moment, knowing
all you and those two babies have accomplished,
and you’ll smile
because that river that felt so overwhelming
has become a calming stream,
the very lifeblood of your existence.

Cento / Bill Luker

Lines taken from Grant Chemidlin, Emily Corwin, Mary Crockett Hill, Vivian DiGennaro, Casie Dodd, Emily Pister, Sarah Florence, Navila Nahid, Christine Aikens Wolfe

…All that’s left—my

                         love,

                                                  darting

          on & on,

                         a glinting fish.

I rode in a horde of dolls,
my epinephrine looping– a hole
ripened and we eloped on a dolphin,
drilled deep with needles. 

[now,]

slide your eyes toward the far window where light alights
and draw, like salt draws out moisture,
the quiet inside
the starlight
that once
formed
you

all at once, I want to cry
and laugh, and walk
on trails heavily forested,
that occasionally give way
to life beyond: all lit windows
and fireplaces and Sundays
gathered ‘round a table, alive.

He sold encyclopedias door to door
for little more than hours, maybe days.

I don’t remember the sound of your voice anymore,
but I think it was a little raspy…

Many of those images stand in stark contrast,
          fiery, red lipstick
                    sterile, white hospital bed.

My heart beats so ferociously. I meet with the monsters and they coax me into another dose. The most potent lessons I have learned are from what I do not want. Lost in limbo, sitting on the fence. The next step requires a clean slate, refraining from the rush of stimulants and sedation. 

The need
to be alive

with scars
upon scars
telling
stories

and favorite
folds

not solely
mine

My body shakes, asks me what I’ve accomplished
          not my teaching days, those I’m secure about
my poet days          my retired-self at meals
do I jabber too much to a long-suffering husband?

          What brings joy in my open-flung window?
May’s perfume of lilac          pepper of poppy          lush honeysuckle?
Oh, my cousin-like-a-sister          my sibs only boys –

Instinct / Navild Nahid

dense sludge of void
sticks heavy
rooted
as sacrum

dread decrees sanctuary

rollicky
mess
compounding
like tar
over
fault line

repetition permitting chaos

perennial breakage
above ditch
each new crack
          dawn
and its drown
          scar

destruction becomes instinct

REM world / Emily Pister

Early rising,
the sun hasn’t yet shown its face to brighten the day that awaits us.

Raw emotions,
our dreams uncover feelings that our waking self may not be dealing with.

                                                                                              Deciphering the life we live behind closed eyelids.

May 5, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Suki my dear,

          A dark cloud is looming, a battle against women
all women this time, to have a legal mind of their own.
And if it lands on Cinco de Mayo – that’s a day for celebration –
               how unfortunate! That’s why
I’m glad I call you once in a while, Suki
                    you with your endless optimism…
us reminiscing about singing in the choir
          at least I had you until we were both ten…

          Remember how all the kids wrote those acrostic poem?
Spelling out the person’s name as the first letter of each line?
I wrote one for the adult you          even heading and salutation
                    fit in That gives you the MS.
in MS. SUKI ! And the complimentary close is all about your joy. Enjoy!

May 5… Suki …

Sometimes we hear a far off murmur
Uttering a drumbeat          co-operation
Kings seldom gift us, as saints and poets do:
Incense of song, hymns of elation
Each sings – bass, tenor & soprano – for a one-world nation.
Joy + Optimism = You,

Christine

Day 4 / Poem 4

Lying on the Lawn, Staring Up at the Sky, I Imagine Death / Grant Chemidlin

          The world flips:

                         clear blue sky high
          above me

               now a glassy sea
                         far below.

I’m upside down,
                         dangling,
          hanging from a single blade of grass
                                                                 until—

it snaps,          then

                                        I’m falling,

                         nose-diving, quick

as a bullet,
          harsh licks of wind cleansing
                         my body.
                                        I slip into the water—soft
                         as blue feathers, cool as

                                        summer shade.

No splash.

                                My body
  leaves me, becomes

bubbles.

                         Fear     leaves me.     Pain
                                                            dissolves.

                         Even
                         language. Even my consciousness

                                                                                drifts.

All that’s left—my

                         love,

                                                  darting

          on & on,

                         a glinting fish.

Philodendron / Emily Corwin

I was ill, dripped with pollen–
a ripple of hidden pills. My lord
pried open my doors and like an idol,
I was held. I rode in a horde of dolls,
my epinephrine looping– a hole
ripened and we eloped on a dolphin,
drilled deep with needles.

A Fibonaccia Sequence for Despair / Mary Crockett Hill

If
dark
nothings
come pecking
(a wren after grubs)
hold your breath under your breathing
slide your eyes toward the far window where light alights
and draw, like salt draws out moisture,
the quiet inside
the starlight
that once
formed
you

My Heart / Vivian DiGennaro

after Frank O’Hara

I will not nod all the time
nor will I quiet my voice,
I cannot meet either half way,
or all the way, I’d rather sit
in the darkness of living
rooms and small closets—
I want to be alive, a mess,
a putting together of moments
that scream and silence
all at once, I want to cry
and laugh, and walk
on trails heavily forested,
that occasionally give way
to life beyond: all lit windows
and fireplaces and Sundays
gathered ‘round a table, alive.

John Tried to Pay the Bills / Casie Dodd

He sold encyclopedias door to door
for little more than hours, maybe days.
John Berryman knew, more than most, the value
of words can never be contained within
sewn spines or printed endpapers, much less
a set of gilded volumes bound in green.

Patchwork Quilt / Sarah Florence

I don’t remember the sound of your voice anymore,
but I think it was a little raspy.
I have memories of you,
but I often wonder if they’re real
or just images stitched together from old photos.

Many of those images stand in stark contrast,
          fiery, red lipstick
                    sterile, white hospital bed.
          warm, blue swimming pool
                    cold, green oxygen tank
          long, tan, wool coat
                    clear tubes overflowing
          curly, auburn hair
                    wrinkled eyelids, twitching.

I know you are so much more than
a patchwork quilt of random memories,
but after all these years,
this quilt is all I have left of you.

And the saddest part of it all is
most often when I think of you,
I remember watching you die
rather than watching you live.

Apartment 233, Tableau 3: Baja Oklahoma Zeitgeist / Bill Luker

This town has become strange to me. Certainly as strange
as I am to it, we could suppose, if it could recognize any-
thing for just exactly what it is. Urban fringe-country blight
with new blacktop overlaid, old stone gas stations with huge
carports now pizza joints beer stores insurance sales por-
tals. One hundred thousand new denizens in 15 years is
ever-lengthening rosters of those you do not know. Will
not know.

But they are not of me nor I of them. I sabotage my good
intentions toward semi-literate peasant ways and means,
beliefs and attitudes; with the American innocents at home,
with the vast middle managerial classes. They degrade my
attention span, and my bonhomie is in feign; in the presence
of these nice people it wanes like a handshake and a smile.

So anglo hordes from jobs-bereft Arkansas and Oklahoma
have descended into our region and neighborhoods, a place
which we can now fully embrace as Baja Oklahoma, a new
state of 12 or 13 million, and we sit right in its centroid. All
of this is altering a place that got used to being a town by
becoming a college town, with 35 thousand souls and two
teacher’s colleges, actually, one a state-supported all-
women’s university, and the other with the first African-
American-Anglo-Hispanic integrated student body in Texas.

This place thus had a consequential town-gown split in ideo-
logy and attitude for fifty years or more. Forever, it seemed.
Other new migrants are from Dallas and Austin, fleeing con-
gestion, pollution, high prices. They know nothing of this
place, and town-gown splits in Baja Oklahoma college towns
are not even captured in their vocabularies, because town
and gown are one in the Post-American national unity of the
early twenty-twenties. Congestion, pollution, high prices and
the homeless now follow in train. The things you wanted to
change, didn’t; the things you wanted to stay the same, also
did not. The complete catastrophe.

Torn / Emily Pister

I spoke too soon…Acting on intoxicated immediacy. 

There are these ideas of what it’s supposed to feel like. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever tasted it. The flavours of forever. For better or for worse, they say. Give and take.

I was once told, “It’s not always 50/50, sometimes it’s 25/75, 0/100”. You may not always meet in the middle. I was also told that “you won’t always like them, but you’ll always love them”. 

So here I am, painting a picture of possibilities. Practicing patience and persistence as I listen to my inner voice, intuition. 

One of the issues with this mission is that the inner voice transforms into noise; a reverberation of mental chatter. Dancing with the snakes and ladders. 

Relapse, Recovery, Repeat. 

My heart beats so ferociously. I meet with the monsters and they coax me into another dose. The most potent lessons I have learned are from what I do not want. Lost in limbo, sitting on the fence. The next step requires a clean slate, refraining from the rush of stimulants and sedation. 

Could solitude help save me from this cycle? 

Perhaps I’d spiral and skyrocket into my best self. 

Although losing you will be the greatest pain. I am attached to the comfort and hooked on familiarity. You are an exquisite rarity, but I’m not sure you are mine to keep. Maybe I’ll sleep on it for a couple hundred more nights until the rights and wrongs are too strong, too apparent to deny any longer. Until I am no longer scared of myself. 

I no longer know the parts of myself that existed before I was put under this spell. 

I am aware. I will get there, once again. 

Clock / Navila Nahid

I am Poe
watching
pendulum

tick tock
as clock

          alive
a vibrant
shine
killing

a fleeting
swing
unmaking

between spaces
cleared
to breathe
again

          and a need

The need
to be alive

withered
in sun

with scars
upon scars
telling
stories

and favorite
folds

not solely
mine

May 4, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Dear Suki,

Sometimes, I’m unbearably sad
          simply the times
                    or the weather
                         rain, rain and rain…

You can’t visit yet                    I understand
          glad we share a soul, Suki
          I love to pour out my heart to you.

What’s the use? Some days
of a few shy buds on the maple tree outside our window
          golden lilies in a vase     kitchen table –

Life is full of errands: groceries
          exhausted moments     weekend guests
what’s the use of crying Excelsior?

My body shakes, asks me what I’ve accomplished
          not my teaching days, those I’m secure about
my poet days          my retired-self at meals
do I jabber too much to a long-suffering husband?

          What brings joy in my open-flung window?
May’s perfume of lilac          pepper of poppy          lush honeysuckle?
Oh, my cousin-like-a-sister          my sibs only boys –

A poet named Shirley in the Pittsburgh group I head
          just died at 82          often wrote of your O’Keeffe, Georgia
my poet-friend a traveler single talented giving…

That’s one source – and (credit Leonard Cohen for the next phrase) when
“wars will be fought again     the holy dove, she will be caught again…”
Suki, Suki, Suki          pull out your meditation mat

          and put the kettle on. We’ll have some Facetime Tea
about 3:00.
          My lovely lover nurtures me

but still I have my teary days –
          We’ll talk as well as write, Suki.
          Glad I have you.

Love and Peace, Christine

Day 3 / Poem 3

Because I Moved Away / Grant Chemidlin

Every night,
my little niece & nephew fly
to California on
couch cushions.
& every night,
a grown man & grown woman
dismount the plush cushions
& walk past me.

Thunderstorm / Emily Corwin

A hundred times, I doused my tender dress—
the hem tossed, torn, undone, a red and sudden
shudder under the shut room and its doors.
I remember horses, murder rushing by the houses.
The hunters in their hoods, dour as mourning.
My mood-ring: a rosette, trusting of no one.

The Way / Mary Crockett Hill

Sometimes a woman holds before her face
the head of a bobcat, crowned with coral roses,
for reasons of her own.

Sometimes she tucks a cerulean lizard to her chest

or settles a seven-armed starfish on her thigh

or arranges her own pink uterus and fallopian tubes
outside her body
in the precise location they had existed
previously inside;

sometimes the seedpods of her ovaries hold cups of curdled forgiveness
where no one, not even she, may drink.

I know the woman is patient

                              (a hummingbird would not approach
                         without the promise of stillness)

                                        and quiet

                                                  (she hears beneath her own breathing
                                                                      the emerald whirr
                                                            and hinge-squeak of the bird)

                         but does she ever question
                    the bird’s intentions—

whether it’s offering wonder
                 or drinking from her temple?

Tuesday Morning (in Bed with You) / Vivian DiGennaro

This moment hasn’t happened (yet), it is still
full of anticipation, alive like a restless Sunday
night. I went to text you twice today,
each text would have been witty,
full of euphemism, but instead I sat
in the library, listened to music,
wrote. Outside the window I watched
the Peach Blossom unload its petals,
small storms of pink against the wet
sidewalk, I marvelled at how
easily the flowers let go when pushed
or pulled, how careless they seemed
strewn about the wet pavement.
Let’s be as careless as the blossoms
are, let’s let go when pushed or pulled,
let’s be as reckless as a spring storm
is, on this Monday in May.

Sabbath Belling / Casie Dodd

In youth, John was an altar boy.
He watched the iron censer swing.
Those Oklahoma Sundays kept him clean.
Some weeks, he almost felt a certain joy
as voices knelt to sing
beneath the stained-glass green
that lit the body Death could not destroy.

Fear Personified / Sarah Florence

The very thought of having a daughter
scared me to death.
This world isn’t the kindest place,
especially not for little girls,
and I felt the need to protect your heart
before it had even formed in your tiny body.

Boys are so much easier than girls,
everything designed for their success,
no drama, just dirt, sweat and a little blood,
a bit messy but all easy to wash away.

But girls, they’re another story,
tears, dreams and heartache,
soft, impressionable yet stubborn, hard headed.
Being a girl mom takes more than soap and water.

I already knew how to raise strong boys,
but raising a daughter seemed overwhelming.
For months, I worried,
waiting with anticipation and fear.
How could I prepare you to overcome the obstacles
placed in your path before you breathed one breath?

I wish I could say those fears subsided
the moment I first held you,
but quite the opposite was true.
My fears became personified in your big, blue, eyes.

My need to protect you grew each time
your tiny hand wrapped around my finger.
It didn’t wane when you grew into an appendage
I didn’t know I needed,
and it hasn’t diminished
as you’ve grown to forge your own path.

Though that same fear is with me today,
I find strength knowing you will overcome each obstacle.
Boys may be easier and less scary to raise,
but we need more baby girls who grow up
into confident, compassionate, young women,
who are ready to challenge the systems created to hold them back.

As scary as it was bringing a little girl
into this often ugly world,
I became a better woman because of you,
and the world became a little less unkind.

MODERN LOVE / Bill Luker

B I’m trying another password it con to me in my sleep password is Nep68usage@#$50 came to me hate those typos drblukerjr@gmail.com is username

A Not correct honey

B yeah so then i did a new password got it reset and it was good, now they are saying account is blocked. did you do anything to it? not accusing just excusing i will call in meantime back out. B hi I’m still on the phone yelling at these people but i have not uttered a curse word they hate it that we tried a similar password 4 or 5 times but then it let me in and then blocked me. Fuckheads.

A Okay what about your bank account B what about it? A Can you deposit a check

B Okay yeah i think but it must be like gold plated, delivered in a van by four brown shoed squares in the dead of night.

A Okay hun can you get me the gift card

B i will try the cap one Yes what do you think? has it cleared boa? which bank did you use? Tell me anyway, i’ll see it

A Hold honey I will show you everything

B i swear if i try to buy more than a hundred in gift cards. then go to another store and try to use it or get it declined card will be blocked and we are back to square one. “they” —the FinCEN people at US treasury. i swear i should just send you bitcoin because they are on all that petty fraud stuff like stinkin.

A Yes send me bitcoin instead honey How much? Can you send?

B I’m gonna try to send $200, and you’re going to want to think that’s not much and i should have more. yes probably. but ask me no questions and i’ll tell you no lies right now. because that’s what you don’t want to hear about. i am trying to recover.

A I understand the situation on ground honey and I will appreciate any penny that you give to me because I know it’s coming from your heart and if you have more you would give me I know you for that. You are very caring to me and you always spoil me that’s why I really love you B how do i spoil you? A Hmmm B lc A Words can’t explain. Lc B oh bother now I’m getting a big thing for you A Really! B not a bother lc A Lc So when will you go get me the Btc ?

B i have to figure the cash first. Arithmetic. sums and remainders.

Untitled / Emily Pister

Attitude of appreciation
allows us to ascend
into the abyss.

Bountiful bliss,
butterfly boulevard by the bay.
Beautiful blossoms
babies breath,
benevolence,
basking Bodhisattva.

Capturing the cosmic creation,
no chains or cage can contain
constant change.
Coming into contact with conceptual complexities,
a concoction of curiosities.

Dawn to dusk duality
dominates dormant dwellers.
Deviation from Divine devotion,
dilutes the delicacies.

The Same / Navila Nahid

I am you.
          in defeat
          against whirlpool
          monster
          heaving up
          divorced socks
          in oblivious
          humor

You
          in parlay
          when anger
          consumes
          but sleep’s
          beckon
          wins

I am you.
          in loss
          of taste
          of sleep
          of grief
          of wonder
          of faith

You
          as losses
          trickle down
          into overwhelm
          and blue light
          of screens
          becomes
          lauded
          numb

I am you.
          in retreat
          when safe
          means
          plucked eyes
          and voided
          heart

You again
          in the way
          the body
          leans in
          to finally say
          i miss you

May 3, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

Dear Suki,

Thanks for your note
          telling me that Teenie Harris photos
          will be exhibited in Santa Fe.
You’ll love them!

My favorites include women of the 1930’s
looking so natural
          in exotic hats, lovely dresses     warm smiles
every one looking like a movie star.

One shot on a small camera
by this Hill District photographer (1908 – 1998)
                              a consummate artist.
He photographed the famous and the unknown
          every photo a stunner.          Enjoy!

          Suki,
Look for one of three women eating ice cream
on a lawn
a high school building in the background.

Definitely the high school my children,
also your cousins, attended.
See the rounded edges? Unique to Schenley.
A school where Black and White students
          were polished     educated     prepared for
whatever future          when they graduated.
Near me, the Frick Museum offers a Romare Bearden exhibit:
Bearden: Artist / Activist / Visionary
          another talented Pittsburgh African American artist.

Bearden (1911- 1988) painted a work called The Piano Lesson
               alternately “Homage to Mary Lou,” (Williams, Jazz Great).
          Suki, I’m proud of our Pittsburgh artist community

If you lose your fear of flying (Covid-inspired can’t fault you)
come to see meet, and we’ll go to see Romare Bearden.
          AND a fabulous contemporary woman artist
displayed at the Frick, Vanessa German.          I call her works blue goddesses.

Love and Peace,
Christine

Day 2 / Poem 2

This Whole Time / Grant Chemidlin

All the poets sit cross-legged
around the tree—its white, paper leaves,
each, with a different letter.

When the leaves fall, we rush
to gather them, rearrange them
into language, into answers
of our own.

You could ask her, says the squirrel.

Who? I say.

The tree, he says. No one thinks
to ask her.


But I am too late.
The last leaf falls.
The tree grows legs,
a woman’s face, walks away
forever.

Chrysanthemum / Emily Corwin

On my haunches, on cement: a crashed anthem.
I came haunted, stayed haunted. A hunt for catching
meat– I am mummified, a scratched sheet, my seams
ashen, smashed cream. A mess to carry, cherry stem
in teeth, a hush as the camera shuttered–
my scared arms rusted shut.

My Dead Mother Says Hello / Mary Crockett Hill

to the woman who worked down the hall from me before she also died
of cancer or covid or both, it wasn’t clear, though she knew
it was coming, and spent the last month of her life off-line, nestling
kittens in her lap and talking with her sister. My mother, who has
been dead longer, knows the ropes.

Now, you’ve got to be thinking what in the world, but you’ll be just fine. It’s something here. If you think it’s a forest, it’s a forest; if you think clouds and harp music, then it’s harps and clouds for miles. I see you’re partial to the seaside; now, I only got to the ocean two times in my life—once before I had children, and once with all my children around me. It was marvelous, wasn’t it, the ocean, such a to-do—and those birds! Would you like a cup of tea? I’ll put on a pot. I’ve been working on some rye-cakes, just little pitty-pats, but these have rosemary and a pinch of ginger. Now, you knew my girl, my youngest Mary, didn’t you. They say you lose the ones you love bit by bit when you’re ready, and I’m sure they know what they mean, but it hasn’t been like that for me.

At what point do I stop, do I
say the truth—that you are flesh and
flesh molders, and your flesh
moldered, and your eyes,
which were so bright,
such child eyes, even when you were old,
even when you feared there was a man outside
smoking cigarettes as he leaned against
the telephone pole, watching
the closed curtains of your house—
the eyes in your old-lady face,
as glossy as a hopeful boy’s—
they jellied and they seeped
and they are nothing like eyes anymore
and they do not feed the flowers or the grass—
but perhaps have not made it
so far as the bottom of your coffin
but are nevertheless no longer eyes, but were—
“were” being key to this word problem,
“were” being the operative word.

Organic Chemistry / Vivian DiGennaro

Typically, organic compounds melt and boil,
the nature of all relationships, she said–
I knew then we would never work.

Outside the clouds melted & the music stopped,
the silence made us aware of the rain,
we held hands and pulled each other close,

afraid to let go. The drops pock-marked
your leather coat, (the one I never bought),
and ruined the surface of everything,

as love is always in the habit of doing.

Angel Death (1) / Casie Dodd

His father shot himself, though later on,
John wondered if his mother’d intervened.
Impossible to know and so became
impossible to live. John knew his end

was coming for him—only time could tell
how many smaller deaths would in-between
his years on earth. Imagine how he felt
those mornings when he woke afraid to look

outside the window—would he find his father,
head bent with bloodied halo once again?

Emptiness / Sarah Florence

Grief, the most complex of emotions.
My heart ripped from my chest,
          but it doesn’t hurt.
I don’t think I can feel pain anymore.
Without hurt, what is left of grief?
          a void,
                    a hole
Even without pain, there’s a gaping
          emptiness where my heart once beat,
                    blood once pumped.
If a heartbeat defines life,
how am I still living without mine?

Apartment 233: Tableau 2 / Bill Luker

I know the temperatures have been ungodly there.
I’m thinking about the larger evaporative cooler for
you and maybe you can take my credit card and do a
phone order, tell them you’re me but give a different
shipping address. By phone with a live person. Or is
your sis on it?

                                   (There’s a tv in the other room, not loudly enough
                                   to make out the talkers on the screen but enough to
                                   hear the accented syllable of each word. The muh- in
                                   mother, the long vowels, a taint of sibilance, the tee-
                                   aitch in though, all the syllabic mud, chatter, a clipped
                                   chirping patois, noise on silence and noise of sound in
                                   tableau. Everyday life in the modern living room.)

                         Annie’s sending something. Then I started thinking
                         about the portable. AC. Thanks for caring. Twins
                         playing good baseball. Helps me forget my troubles.
                         Did you ever see the mini-series about Billy Martin
                         and the ’78 Yankees? The Bronx Zoo? John Turturro
                         as Billy. I can’t remember who played Yogi Berra.

Of course. I loved the ’78 Yankees. The city was always in crisis but
I can’t remember anything too dreadful going on that August and
September so I guess people were enjoying themselves some.
Maybe we just didn’t give a rat’s ass about the trial of Son of Sam.
The year before, he had murdered a pair of lovebirds parked right
down the street one block over from our apartment in Forest Hills.
One death is always a tragedy. A death in the city is a statistic. You
know who said that?

                        I know I didn’t care. We used to say that we knew, with
                        the rigor of mathematics and determinacy of arithmetic,
                        who was going to win the Revolution. It was the American
                        League Pennant we were worried about. All of us were
                        of the City’s beating heart, an irrationale. We were to grips
                        with our historic enemies, the hated Boston Red Sox, upon
                        whom we had indeed cast a damnation curse and sworn a
                        blood oath, our curse of the Bambino, back in 1918, when
                        they traded Babe Ruth to us for a couple of sodden pitching
                        prospects. We had taunted them mercilessly about it for 60
                        years, and had won 27 world series in the interim.

But somehow that summer they had usurped our place
at the top of the AL East standings. One day, in the last
week of August, one of the most febrile gagging days of that
non-serious month. It was almost 5 o’clock, and I was on
the subway down near Wall St returning from some errand.
The Stanks as a friend mine refers to them had climbed to
within four or five games back of the Sox in first place. We
were hot but with a lot of work still to do, big games and
home-and-home series all through September’s looming
fall. There was a night game in the Bronx, and people
started getting on the train for the long grind up to 161st St.,
with their tee-shirts and helmets, flags and garb, pinstripe
blue on white. Someone started humming that dumbass
Yankee TV song and we all started singing it, giddy at the
marvel of the connection, the whole delirious subway car
full of solid Yankee-ism. Not to be confused with solidarity.

                        It was like Heaven was supposed to be…only other time I
                        felt it was on the Tenth Anniversary, on the steps of the
                        New York Public Library. The bodies of the fascists were
                        still heaped in the streets. But we stacked our weapons
                        and sang La Marseillaise and Guthrie’s answer to that
                        horrible Irving Berlin-Kate Smith-thing, the name of which
                        I have annihilated from memory of this and any future
                        moments when called upon to remember. Pete Seeger
                        led us in singing L’Internationale, and we wept for our dead.

                                   (Someone turns up the tv and you hear the words more
                                   distinctly now, resolving to an exigence, a reason to send
                                   a message. Direct and intense, neither subtle nor complex,
                                   a part of a situation, the critical fit that makes people ask
                                   hard questions: What is it? What caused it? What good is it?
                                   What are we going to do? What happened? What is going to
                                   happen? It’s a political rant on a sports show, a college foot-
                                   ball game. Everyday life in the modern world. Who would
                                   watch such a thing? A sports event meant for escape from
                                   daily doom, and bam! You’re right back to figuring out which
                                   side you’re supposed to be.)

Alchemy / Navila Nahid

I am
the break
of bow
into past

a gardener
pursuing
extinction

as change
begetting
change
creates
permanence

I sit
on haunches
sifting
gravities

a dragon
breathing
light
into ruin
          marked

or am I

opaline
desire
pressed
into hunger

bleeding
mirror
as alchemy

renaissance
of self

Untitled / Emily Pister

We are here now
Now here
All of a sudden,
it appears out of nowhere;
This “I” that we identify with.

Whispering in our ears,
words of sweet nothing.

Yet no singular thing
can bring about this sense of self that is felt
when we surrender to the subtleties.
Slipping into the simplicity beyond thought,
beyond the things we are taught.

Teased by tangible treasures,
tethered to worldly pleasures and man-made measurements.

This “I” that we identify with
slips through the grip of our fingers,
fight or flight lingers for a moment
showing us the inconsistencies in the illusion,
misconstruing the meaning of being human.

May 2, 2022 / Christine Aikens Wolfe

My dear Suki,          (my latest adventure)

Just finished a wonderful weekend here
          My 50-years-out class sharing a dinner
at the Pittsburgh Golf Club. A women’s college
Carlow University – check it out –
          woman centered.     Hooray!

The dinner included 17 of my classmates
          and several of their spouses.
At the last moment, I mentioned to my husband Howard
                              (it’s not his kind of thing, but…

he had fed this same crowd at our house in 2005
                              and 2010 for reunion dinners.
He said he wanted to join us for dinner
          and I was so glad.

I called the Carlow Office.
The bureaucrat at the college assured me
          no room at the table
          numbers were submitted over a week ago…
so sorry.

                              I thought of a film we saw earlier
at Carlow          Mercy nuns talking about finding
                              the open window.
Our houseguest (former roommate) Sue     and I
          and my sweet Howard
piled into the car     drove our donkey to the Golf Club.
Talked to the Alumni Director’s assistant

                              No problem! Here’s a ticket.
There was          after all          a seat in the inn.


Write to me about your latest adventure,
Love and Peace,
Christine

Day 1 / Poem 1

Passion / Grant Chemidlin

When we met
you were handless, or
your hands lived
inside my stomach.
Now, you have
your hands back.
I see them,
but I cannot feel
their movement.

Blasphemous / Emily Corwin

It is a heap of blush: my house of balsam.
Poplar, aspen, maple pulp, supple moss:
an ample blooming. Inside a jeweler’s loupe,
a hoop I sleep in, blessed with holes, sable
as pus under plums. Please: pass back my
bushel of apples, plashing like bells,
sap loose as soap and plasma.

Father / Mary Crockett Hill

I poured you over the ledge in palmfuls—ash on stone.
What was cloud became sky became fog.

Chestnut oaks down the side of Sharp Top
wore you, grey dust, there and there.

Another handful, and a gust blew some back
into my hair. My son, coughing, swallowed.

There’s time for a song, my sister insisted so
we sung Amazing Grace, butchering the words.

I knew that wretched speck of you,
feeding weed and blossom,

on everything and everywhere.

To Take Back a Life / Vivian DiGennaro

after Kate Baer

First, know that desire and desire to remain are not the same.
That holding your life in your hands leaves room for the possibility
of life being dropped. Unamarry expectation, welcome in hunger.
Let it devour you. Offer it your neck, mouth, a hand, two fingers.
You are not a good woman. Don’t pretend to be. Don’t pretend.
Be the lost dog, collide with your neighbors car. Crash. Cause
damage. Take it all back. Give more away, nothing belongs to you.
Not even you. Don’t you see?

It’s hard to walk in darkness, harder still to see. Open your eyes,
look: I’ve kept the lights on for you all this time.

John Berryman Came from Oklahoma / Casie Dodd

Before he took to tripping down the stairs,
before the meds and booze could do their worst,
he roamed the Oklahoma sunset hours
to try and quench a different kind of thirst.

John walked the lakes on Minnesota soil.
He read for days with little more than bread
to soak up coffee on the tabletop,
a liquid island daring him to tread

those darker depths. He asked for something stronger
on black-blue days, the ones when getting out
of bed was more than he could stand. John knew
enough of dust to fear the nagging drought

that never leaves the land of open plains.
When John Smith turned to Berryman, he knew
the way that names can come and names can go:
how words can wind like rivers, dyed in blue.

Love Yourself / Sarah Florence

Love yourself first
because you can’t truly love anyone else
if you don’t love yourself.

Always ask questions.
Never stop challenging the status quo.
Don’t just accept what you’re told.

It’s okay to make mistakes.
It’s actually okay to make lots of them
because you will learn so much from those mistakes.

You are not fat.
Period.
There’s nothing else to say on that topic.

Trust your gut.
When you feel uncomfortable,
never make yourself stay.

Friends are amazing,
but true friendship is reciprocal.
Cut loose those one way relationships.

Don’t compromise your beliefs for anyone
no matter who they are
or how right it may feel.

Never change who you are for another person,
especially not a boy.
No one is that worthy.

Your mom isn’t crazy.
She just loves you like crazy
and wants you to be safe.

She also wants you to be happy,
and though it may not seem like it now,
one day very soon you’ll realize how much you need her.

Live life to the fullest.
Do all the things while you’re young.
Take risks; be bold, and travel the world.

Believe in yourself.
Chase your dreams
because you are fully capable of achieving them.

And that brings us back to the beginning,
Love yourself first
because you are so worth it.

Apartment 233: Tableau 1 / Bill Luker

To move to this place is to walk a path
that follows a fault line of contemptuous
indolence. From there a studied derogation
of all that smacks of the routinely regular,
the sincerity of task, the ritual of the habit.
Which is to say the great dripping smelly
mass of all that’s dredged up in the
quotidian’s thick black shiny netting, for
our own, very own special use, our making
of the very personal, minute-by-minute
calculations of our chances on this corn-
grinding heap. Chances for what.

The fault divides at millimeter width
and kilometer depth, revealed only to
those who also claim to cultivate stasis,
nullifying inertia with rods, reels, lures,
the bug always snapped at by a fish,
always a speckled trout or bass or yellow
perch, lunging always from a sheen of
always still water.

It will be home now, an existence
meticulously planned but haphazard in
execution to depths of disorganized
indecision, in which one thing gets done
every day: taking a shit, cleaning the
teeth, scraping the face with razor,
bathing only on Wednesday nights.
As if a normal day’s line up is completed
item by item over a week or a month,
by a parasitic slowed-down thing not
in a line, or a spoke in a wheel, nor at
any occurrence of production. Sucking
wind, carrying boxes up the single flight
of stairs.

Ode to May / Navila Nahid

the page
turns
with knotted
auspice

as I linger
bound
to your golden
history
your reverberate
into future

I walk
the silvern line
of your terrain

a follow
into pulse
of rebirth

beyond
promise
when life’s
effervescence
rises
as prayer

as I feel
each blossom
pricking
soul

Untitled / Emily Pister

This feeling of everything
coming to now.

Nostalgic flashes
of moments you’ve had,
childhood laughter;
that essence is captured.

Vaults of your memory
hold it, like reveries,
reflecting on everything
in a split second.

Unfathomable paths ahead
will attract the happening
already flashing before your eyes,
without yet being actualized.

Hard to describe
this collision of time;
Things that have happened
and things that haven’t
are smashing together,
creating this magic.

You can’t understand it;
This power, this pleasure
of feeling connected
to past, future, present.
As vast as the ocean,

open and flowing,
there’s no way of knowing
where we are going.

Trust in the process,
the knowledge, infinity,
welcoming wisdom,
exploring the mysteries.

Glistening raindrops of history,
listening to our ancestors in the trees,
in the rocks, mountain tops;
They were here way before we could talk,
they’ve seen it all.

Becoming aligned from the inside out
time and space lie down to rest,
and this quest of finding out what’s next
is irrelevant when you receive messages
from every direction;
solidifying this feeling
of everything coming to now.

May 1, 2022 / Christine Aikins Wolfe

My dear Suki,
Here we are cousin!
Not separated by an ocean as were our ancestors
when the potato famine drove some of us out of Kerry,
Roscommon, Cork          others stayed behind
to battle the land and fight off the dreaded Brits – at least psychologically…

And now, we can’t visit
separated by a pandemic –
you in Albuquerque – a desert wonderland place
me in Pittsburgh
          so much green park-land for a city…
I ‘m determined to write you my thoughts
Suki                         we lived down the block
from each other in our youth:          jacks, hopscotch
jump rope, double dutch.          Monopoly
and trees to climb:          our apple, cherry and pear.

Oh Suki!                    The world has gone crazy
You there     me here
          and in Ukraine, people fighting off the invader
          we Irish remember how the invaders poured in
Cromwell with soldiers               cannons
                                     bridges blown up
families turned out of their houses
          to walk “to the Burren {all stones}
                    or to hell.”
Cromwell and his thugs didn’t care.

Suki,
We’ll pray for the brave Ukrainians
          join our fund-raising friends
sing of our obligation to freedom of thought
                                            freedom of space
to plow and plant.

I’ll write every day, Suki. Many thoughts to share.

Love and Peace,
Christine