The 30/30 Project: November 2021 Pt. 1

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 November 2021 are Lynn Aprill, Glory Cumbow, Joan Daidone, Gabrielle Gilliam, Jessica Heron, R. Bradley Holden, Pamela Uschuk, Moira Walsh, Caitlin Wilson, and Michellia Wilson. Read their full bios here.

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

Poem 15 / Day 15

Transformation / by Lynn Aprill

We woke to white–sun bursting
through the window, frost painting
the panes, the ground covered
in two inches of first snow, transforming
the vista into a blank canvas.
The dogs were remembering days
seven months gone, navigating
the slushy path, investigating
old haunts as if suddenly emerging
into a new world. Last night

we witnessed another transformation
as nondescript men slipped
through a nondescript back door
and emerged hours later
under the heat of the stage lights
as Amazon warriors, gigantic goddesses
in Parton-esque wigs and platform heels,
skin-tight Spandex and thigh-high boots,
bling and glitz and “screw-you” attitudes.
What an atmosphere of campy fun
was generated amidst the waving
dollar bills and exuberant cheers!
Would that all transformations be met

with such encouragement and acceptance,
for when a caterpillar takes those first steps
toward chrysalis and wings, is it courage
or just the knowledge that it can be
no other way?

WITHERING PLACES / by Glory Cumbow

The soil is barren here.
My roots are shriveled shallow.
I topple over and break.
Do not weep for me,
because this is not my first life cycle
in withering places.

Jazz Among the Lilies / by Joni Daidone

You’re welcome to visit.
But don’t pick the flowers.
This is my garden. My flowers
In full bloom, day lilies are my camouflage
I will hide here for as long as I like.
The spicy scent tingles my nose
Even on the mornings I cuddle under the sheets
At the foot of the bed, tucked between my lady’s feet.
She is sad my lady, she is oh so very sad these days.
I try to rouse her, to wake her, to tease her
To invite her into the glorious feast of fragrance
Into my secret hideaway, but she locks herself inside.

When my lady is sad, I’m frightened, confused.
I always used to cheer her up, make her giggle,
Entice her to frolic with me in the sunshine,
Running through the delicious thick grass,
Chase the chipmunks, squirrels and all those trespassers
Through the meadows and fields, across the hillside.
But she will not leave her self-imposed prison cell,
Now she will only open the door, gently push me out, a
She watches me from her perch as I run around our garden.
I see her glassy eyes, hear her voice soft and weak,
Barely a whisper, like a wounded sparrow uttering her last breath.

You’re welcome to visit my garden.
But don’t pick my flowers. Our flowers.
They are for my lady, for my lady’s pleasure someday
I’ll hide in my garden, hide until she comes down to fetch me.
Until she comes back to me, until she misses me so much
Until she looks for me, and we find each other again.

Painting by Brian Saltern

Fed Up / by Gabrielle Gilliam
for Sara

This house is a land of infinite chores 
and I’ve sadly just got the two hands. 
Is it too much to ask to clean up what’s yours? 
Dirty socks? Crumb-filled plates? Empty cans? 
The laundry won’t pick itself up off the floor. 
Believe me, when desperate, I’ve asked. 
I don’t want another trip to the grocery store 
or to take out the bacon grease trash. 
I’m tired of cleaning up the same messes. 
I’m fed up with running this show. 
Come whining, and I’ll give you three guesses 
where you and your complaints can go.

Underachiever (15.30) / by Jessica Heron

Trash all thoughts

Become molten silver

Mexico City dream catcher

Feather, net, head

Viceroy butterfly

After a king

Always a bridesmaid

Except that one time

Goodwill has it

The letting go

The practice

So much practice to return

Verifiable methods

Tiny sky fires

Hunger, bloating

All kinds of paper

To a World / by R. Bradley Holden 

Will the machines praise
in our absence? Or can the soul,
transmuted to bytes, find
beauty in the world? No,
the saviors of mankind answer.
Here there is only despair
and death. We must flee
this realm of constant change.
And so they upload their souls
or what have you
to a world where no leaves
fall or birds, taking flight,
sing the sun to rest.

ON A STUPA IN LADAHK, A PAINTING OF TWO FISH / by Pamela Uschuk

Two fish kiss or grimace, eager
to bite, their eyes fierce as lovers in Himalayan wind,
fish golden as Buddha’s face in the frigid stone temple, where
we sat out our fears.

                                   Einstein knew that his foot on a Princeton sidewalk
created waves felt on Big Sur as a surge
sea lions rode out past sea otters who
cracked abalone between their linked arms afloat.

What feeds our sorrow? The nature of a bell
is to ring. There are certain trout
who mimic blue whales when no one is looking
and Stellar Jays whose eyes
are white as death.

In the Himalayas, a snow leopard shrieks, appears
to be a bush rolling across a cliff face.

                                   Did Einstein eat fish? Certainly not
the sacred goldfish painted on the stupa
above Mangyu Village, where we learned
chang songs from Tibetan women who brewed beer
from roasted barley they sang to
as they howed plants in a meadow cradled by rock.

In college, I bought a gold fish
for company when my first marriage broke
like a rock under the sledge of my desire to flee
the pedestal I kept falling from.

        If energy is indestructible, so
is love, even though the distances may be great,
and energy often disguises itself as water
taking the shape of a container it did not make.

What current will I stir, Gemini improvising
songs on shifting paths in the Himalayas to find the sacred
wing bones of Buddhist monks guarded
by ancient land-locked twins?

MIGRAINE / by Moira Walsh Today, the waves kept me horizontal.A mint temple massagea half-hour on the sofaare also experiencesto write home about.Now I’m going back to bed.

Nothing is Beautiful / by Caitlin Wilson 

red sky with pin-
holes of light
in the stretched skin of it

we sit in a cheap diner
just 12 seats, just 2 filled
sipping chipped
eggshell white
mugs of bitter coffee
that dulls the enamel of our teeth

plastic booth,
the window seeping
in the winter night,
stove top sizzling,
the cook’s spatula scraping,
the dishes clanking,
a moment with no
particular beauty
but still rich
for more than the red
glitter of the sky

CLEARING SIGHT / by Michellia Wilson 

I’m swallowed by the bittersweet nuances
of an autumnal fog;
the sights and smells of this season
obscure my vision –
the pines remain green
even through the change in seasons,
while everything else changes
orange and red and brittle,
a change in horizon that leaves me confused.

I stand at the mouth of a pond full of fish,
slowed by cooler weather.
The grass under my feet,
flat against the dirt –
leaves and cracked whirley birds
blanket the levee in loose cover,
winter will soon replace the autumn season.

The sky slowly turns from blue to gray,
the sun hides discreetly behind
the bolsters of steel
that make up the atmosphere.

The elements change.
People change – often with the strides
of the seasons,
slowing as cool air blows in from the north,
the hay drying and turning golden
in the new day.

I relinquish the sour part of the day,
as I fall into the rhythms of the
belching frogs and jumping fish
from the bank of a pond full of life;
I wish I could understand living, loving and
changing with the seasons,
but somehow, I am deficient
in this wisdom,
the sadness of this emptiness
makes me weep.

Poem 14 / Day 14

Visiting Van Gogh / by Lynn Aprill

Brick, concrete, hand-carved 
lintels over open doors, good coffee, 
single bean pour-over topped 
with bespoke honey sauce; ancient factories 
reborn as loft apartments, cracked 
sidewalks, cracked windows, cracked-
out poet dreaming on a metal bench, 

Inside, irises spill from bowls, poppies
pour from the ceiling, sunflowers shift
into great heaps on the floor,
branches burst into blossom
before our eyes. And petals rain,
rain, rain down on us, floating
across the walls in torrents,
in rivers, in waves, the sun
like an egg resting in the frying 
sky, until all is color, all 
is stroke, all is paint cascading 
down the walls.

Then steel beam, iron rail, bronze plaque,
streets like front-of-house, back 
alleys connect wait staff, sous chef, 
housekeeper stepping out for a smoke, a text,
a break, then back into the grind, back 
to ground, back to be ground down 
day by day.

FALSE SIGNS / by Glory Cumbow 

Perhaps you are looking for a sign.
Aren’t we all?
I’m going to offer you a warning.
You don’t have to take it,
but I feel a responsibility to share
what I know.
Dreams are not always the sign you are looking for.
They are not always a prophecy
sent to you
at just the right time
to guide you on your quest.
Sometimes,
often times,
they are just dreams.
Your brain is trying to process
and file away
all of your experiences,
memories,
stresses,
hopes,
and fears.
Please keep that in mind.
Dreams aren’t always a map
to point you in the right direction.
Do your discernment
in the daytime
when you are awake with some clarity.
Make sure you’ve eaten,
maybe had some coffee.
Talk to other people.
Look for a sign or an epiphany
in the daytime,
when you are in charge of your faculties.
Dreams that seem to give you an
“answer”
can lead you straight into
the snapping jaws of a predator.
Not a dream predator,
a real-life one.
I know you need a sign,
I get it.
Really.
But dreams might confuse your logic
and intuition.
Trust yourself,
not the prophecy fabricated
by your sleeping mind.

Waves / by Joni Daidone
 
I will never forget how you ascended that hill
Every morning at 10 am, during that wizardly spring
Carrying stones up from the stream to build your wall.
You had to build a wall between you and those demons,
The merciless ones who haunted you in your sleep,
Pursued you during the daylight, into the dusk.
Every day I watched as you dug out each stone carefully
From the rushing waters, from the mud, muck, and icy rush
Rubber boots pulled high to your thighs, thick winter jacket,
Two pairs of workman’s gloves for all that heavy lifting
Hauling up and down that steep hill, a labor of love,
I had not seen you so immersed in anything for a long time
Not since the days of music clubs and dance parties
All those hipper-than-thou openings and events you promoted,
Your glory days between the up and downtown scenes
Now finally you had found your footing again,
Found your way in the flow of golden grasses, and the brambles
The waves of bristling bushes of crimson, gold, and lavender.
You found your rhythm, your purpose, your home
In the waves and the flow of stone walls you built
Built between the past and the present.
Letting go of those lost and found days of yesterday
Finally embracing today’s ease and flow
For the sake of color, of movement, of patterns.
For the sake of color, movement, patterns.
For the sake of everything and nothing.
Painting by Brian Saltern

An Excerpt from a Sommelier’s CV / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Winter Catalog N+7 Poem (14.30) / by Jessica Heron

you wouldn’t think
that an iconic winter facelift
like a flashback
could move like this
but forget
what you know-

a rain forest
a walrus
a markka
a blunder,
break the rumbling
to wear shortening
all year round-

or wait all year for this:
the twinkling light meters,
the freshly fallen
snow drop. The tablet,
perfectly set,
ready for the
frigid zone-

ADVICE FROM THE GRANDMOTHER COTTONWOOD AT GHOST RANCH
DURING THE PANDEMIC /
by Pamela Uschuk

Listen
        beyond tractors
farting fractals of diesel smoke
as they smash native grasses,
beetle nests, high desert
hare kits under neoprene tire treads, clearing
        bottomland for alfalfa and hay.

                Listen
to the story of the hundred year flood
roostertailing from lucent cliffs
red as hawk’s blood skrees
the way flood could
not drown me, my thick skin
an accordian soaking it all in
after years of drought.

        Listen
to the thrum of earth
        beating up from my roots, drum
of bear heart, of antelope
hoof, sunlit strum of raven’s wingbeat.

                                Listen,
        speak like desert wind
that moves every leaf
                to shimmy, to sing
tethered to each branch
        by the umbilical stem
of taproot and capillary tendrils
feeding what you cannot see.

        Believe in the underground tales
of roots, passed down
by ancestors, to hold you
as they held me
centuries in the eyeblink of shifting
weathers carving the heart.
                They will anchor you
against betrayals to come.

                Listen
to joy tapping each leaf, the long tuba
notes of roots, my bark
so thick it can never be pierced
by envy,
           hatred
                or disease.

NOW / by Moira Walsh

My love, I’ve longed a thousand nights
and shortened many more

I’ve burned the candle at three ends
and gazed up at the floor

I’ve touched the smells
and tasted bells
and smelt the reddest green

In all the whirled
and stillness furled
the loveliest
I’ve seen

Stowaway Seeds / by Caitlin Wilson 

Looking across the fields at the fragile
swaying of the cosmos, which unfurled
after a war, their stowaway seeds spilled
from the feed of warhorses, I slake
my longing: watching their fine china petals
stick in wet clasps from the days breath.
Picking one would bring it too close, too suddenly;
but this moment of silent reaching
fills my whole body with blooming.

And, if you were here, I could let
my eyes rest softly, for a moment,
softly, on your shape or your gaze
and feel warmly colored.

THE ATTIC / by Michellia Wilson

the small white rope,
dangles above head,
a stout pull opens the stairway down,
and the journey begins into the lives of families
saved in boxes and bags, books and photos;
lives rich in love and family tradition,
all things held dearly to one’s heart…
the laced sway of family trees,
blowing gently across the dusty floor;
journeys across the seas,
their memories resting in the swell of
trophies, toys, medals, annuals, clothing and china;
all things waiting patiently for those memories to be kindled –
in a floor above the port called home,
anchored tightly to a foundation nurtured in
the depths of what makes a heartbeat,
the depths of the intricate patterns stitched in time,
a beautiful quilt –
one that never runs out of stories and warmth
no matter how cold the winds blow.

Poem 13 / Day 13

Absent / by Lynn Aprill

Within the first two weeks of school,
you were already missing,
no note, no parent call.
When I asked you for an excuse,
you explained, “It was my birthday,”
your lopsided grin easily distracting us
from the faint bruise beneath
the collar of your ringer tee.
Thereafter,
as I ran through roll call,
I acknowledged your truancy
with a shrug–”Must be his birthday,”
I’d quip as classmates snickered,
and no one wondered what kept you.

WINDOW SILL / by Glory Cumbow

The cunning spider
always finds the window sill
slightly cracked open.
She squeezes her body through
and spins her web.
I leave her be
to quietly trap pests.
I place the orchids
that I couldn’t resist when at the market
on this window sill
to bloom purple.
I wedge the feather I found in my yard
in the window sill
to remind me to stay wild.
It is the earth’s gift
to observe this ecosystem
on my window sill.

Where Do We Go from Here? / by Joni Daidone

Painting by Brian Saltern

Ahhhhhhhh.
That fragrance. Those emerald hues.
Inhale. Deep breathe. Inhale.
Inhale that fragrance, thse pink and lavender blooms.
Those hydrangeas. Let them expand inside of your head.
After years of ice and frigid cold.
Those barren stark glaciers.

I’ve only imagined what green might look like.
But never could I have conjured this up
So many shades and varieties of one color.
I want to nibble on those tender leaves,
Let me taste the bright and bitter juice of sunlight,
But do I dare?

Allow me to feel the tickle of each flower, each leaf.
But I feel frozen in place too.
Frozen in awe of such lushness.
Can this be real or is this a dream?
Have I died and moved on to the next life.
But if I am dead, why am I still in this awkward body.

Why don’t I have wings that can take me high
High above these magnificent, majestic trees.
Why am I still earthbound?
Let us dance in the shade of the hydrangea.
Squark and holler and celebrate this moment
Celebrate the glory of this splendor green oasis.
As if it is our first and our last moment
Our forever moment. This moment. Forever.

Painting by Brian Saltern

The Strongest Woman I Know / by Gabrielle Gilliam
for Jamie

Twice they have siphoned 
memory from marrow—stolen 
white blood cells’ strategies 
for assaulting viruses and bacteria 
so that those relentless warriors 
stilled—all immunities abolished 

but their thieving fingers 
and the exhaustion that pumps 
into your veins from flexible 
polyvinyl chloride never blunt your smile.

The Corrective Aesthetic (13.30) / by Jessica Heron

Orthodontics fixed everything
in 7th grade. A budding idiot,
she requested this braces thing.
All the cool kids couldn’t eat popcorn
or chew gum. She wanted in.

The dentist said her teeth were perfect.
A 13 year old girl will not hear this
if it means relegation
to the lame side of the table-
which it did.

She smiles and smiles now, glad
for the separation.

Creative Writing / by R. Bradley Holden
For Jack Gilbert

The student spreads the dead cat on the table,
and nobody moves. After a long pause 
one member of the workshop 
suggests smoothing its hair. Another 
recommends trimming its nails.
The teacher, a famous poet, nods sagely 
and says from this angle it almost looks alive.

Letter to William Stafford Who Hand Copied A Poem for Me After Reading in Port Townsend / by Pamela Uschuk

AUTOCOMPLETE / by Moira Walsh

On Nature morte à la main sculptée by Leonor Fini / by Caitlin Wilson

What mettle, this hand?
Pale as the interior
of an almond,
striking on the burgundy.
Small article: chess
piece or handle,
held tightly. Mark
like Saturn
on the wrist. Plucked
leaves and feathers.
Strewn cloth.
Hand carved still life

Still life carved out by hand
I’ve forgotten about
the rope, frayed bracelet.
Nature morte.

SUNFLOWER / by Michellia Wilson

She stands, majestic
in the summer sun,
her face proudly
looking over the land –
with one large brown eye.

Time passes, she grows old,
and she begins to lose
her color and vibrancy –
she bows her head in a final prayer,
Lord, her soul to keep.

Phases of life continue,
and the mighty sunflower
leaves her offspring to be harvested
from the lonely eye that so proudly
twinkled in her glory.

Poem 12 / Day 12

Weekend Retreat / by Lynn Aprill

A writer’s weekend,
a random rental–
how astonishing to find
Frost and Wordsworth
together in the dining room
quietly conversing;
Sharon Olds in the bathroom
expounding upon the origins 
of the tampon;
Seamus Heaney lounging
in the living room, holding safe
postcards from Beowulf, 
private Leap Day letters;
Rudolph Steiner hanging
on the refrigerator, wondering
at beauty and truth.

There’s a solitary chair
and a Billy Collins window 
where I sit and wait 
for inspiration.

WINDOW SILL / by Glory Cumbow

The cunning spider
always finds the window sill
slightly cracked open.
She squeezes her body through
and spins her web.
I leave her be
to quietly trap pests.
I place the orchids
that I couldn’t resist when at the market
on this window sill
to bloom purple.
I wedge the feather I found in my yard
in the window sill
to remind me to stay wild.
It is the earth’s gift
to observe this ecosystem
on my window sill.

Way To The Top / by Joni Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

Which way to the top?
We stepped back, rejected them, laughed at them,
And condemned them one and all.
We were activists, atheists, radicals, rebels all.
We the children of immigrants, of WWII heroes,
Of Holocaust survivors, those who dropped the atom bomb
and witnessed and lived untold atrocities.
But we did buy into the American Dream, did we?

We were the flower children and me generation,
the studio 54 revelers,  the downtown punks, and the dropouts.
We were the ones who danced until dawn and said the hell with it all.
The artists, the poets, as well as the addicts and the unconscious
Consumer and polluters. We were the dreamers, but and
The dropouts, the wall street sell-outs, and born again
And somehow some of us got caught up in the race to the top.

We ended up buying into it all in the end didn’t we
Did we really change anything? Did we make the world any kinder? 
Or did we try to make the world revolve around us?
Only to find that the world had a mind all its own.
An axis and a rotation that could spin and veer off at any second
We would never have control, we would never have a say
We could only surrender and fall from grace, gracelessly.
Or we could step back, lean in, and see that the way
To the top was in the tilt of our head, the blink of an eye
And an unconscious bow to a conscious few.

Painting by Brian Saltern

I Will Celebrate Each Revolution / by Gabrielle Gilliam

I could devour this 
morning—belly full 
of dew-kissed grass 

birdsong nesting
gently in my throat

taste of dawn brilliant 
on my tongue 

my breath fragrant 
with possibility.

You Are Here (12.30) / by Jessica Heron

whishing in the midnight phosphorescent sea
he said if you were anyone else right now…

when she met darkness she got stuck, she knew
he had to go to the club with the rest of them that night

but she didn’t know he would be there dancing forever
despite the endlessness in everything then, that time

when it was hit after hit, wide eyes, windy lifelines
everyone wet and thinned as clouds on the ground

she said she doesn’t feel the same way, truly
crushed their paradise with a dumb sentence

it was mostly colorless, like Wheatland, except gold
which made her uncomfortable

and him angry that she couldn’t see
the splitting open must have started long before

the night sea bobbed them toward separate planes
to become stories like blinking fish on New Year’s Eve

The Presence / by R. Bradley Holden 

He strove all his life,
but drew no closer to God.

In his latter years he looked
back at the vast distance covered,

then turned again towards
the infinite horizon ahead.

There can be no approach
that way, he muttered

and dropped in despair
to his knees. In his heart’s sorrow

he did not at first observe
the presence, but through

tear-dimmed eyes he looked up
and saw held out towards him

a nail-scarred hand.

WHEN I WEAR THE GIFT OF YOUR BEADED MEDICINE BAG / by Pamela Uschuk 
for Kim Galvan
 
The pattern begins before the pen
before colored pencil tips
glint over graphs, buried in the dance
of memory from cerebrum to fingers
tracing spirals in wet sand that recall the canyon
where water ran out of time
and coyotes stopped howling
in the backs of their desert throats, where
deer fell into the prints they would dig
with their dying hooves, the pattern
of light from the mesa’s red stone fingers 
howling thorugh cracks in volcanic rock, light
the color of electric sage, orange
as sandstone in rain, strung 
in separate seed beads threaded on trylene
taut between the loom’s fine combs.
What deer leap over deadfall in my dreams tonight?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

REALITY SHERPA / by Moira WalshREALITY SHERPAis the title that appearswithout anything following,so I take up my bed and walk behind.The porterhas red lights and eyeson the back of his head.He keeps going.So do I.After about 24 hours of trekkingI ask him about the eyes.Later, he says,later.We come to a church gardenand lay down our packs.We each geta drinkfrom the fountain marked drikkevand.I ask again. Now I know his name.I have two sets, he says. You see,you can only understand lifebackwards,but you’ve gotta live itforwards.I see, I say.

NOTE: The mystery man (and his original words) can be found here: https://t1p.de/soren

Honeysuckle for Gentle Doom / by Caitlin Wilson

         I’ll stand here for a while longer,
watching the wild owl in the winter arboretum,
if it makes no difference to you, or anyone
else. Don’t they see the animal, patient
in her own watching, in the bared branches?
They would miss the canceleer, pivot
in flight before or after a strike, never see
the yellow gaze, honeysuckle in the off-season.
Small joy, the singular witness. Small grief.

TIMBERLAKE / by Michellia Wilson 

 

evergreen needles threaded,warm strands stretching towardsa diminishing moon;blue herons glide againsta slight southwesterly breeze,water laps the lakeshore;at the far end of the levee,fresh embryos adhere to the underwater debris,father cat fans his unborn and protects themfrom freshwater predators;brown knobby willow fingersreach beneath a depth of siltmassaging the embankment  for nutrients;bigger willows pray over an obscure cove,the lake its altar;It is easy for most to fall victim to rhythm,dawn’s consuming ritual of awakening the world,nudging me to be here another day.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Song of Daybreak / by Lynn Aprill

This morning the electrical wires
were singing, high-pitched
like a flock of sparrows
or a bevy of larks; perhaps 
a congregation of magpies
(but not a Lutheran congregation,
which sits quietly in the back rows).
Maybe it reminded me
of a Congress of ravens,
chattering over nothing,
eventually fading into silence.
The sun slipped over the horizon,
pulling the new day with it.

STARDUST / by Glory Cumbow

Let’s nip this lie
right in the bud.
I have heard enough about trying to shoot for the moon, 
and landing in the stars!
That’s not how pursuing your dream works.
The moon is unattainable,
and the stars are laughing.
You can’t depend on them to catch you.
If you land on one of them,
they’ll toss you over their shoulder
and watch you land in the dirt.
They’ll cackle as your bones crackle
and remind you that as you lay in the dust
you are also dust.
Not just any dust,
stardust.
They’ll tell you that you are
only a pile of leftover star carcass. 
Pick yourself up,
and don’t trust the stars.

Startled Deer / by Joni Daidone

Did I startle you again my deerest?
You never sighted me this early, even the dogs still asleep.
Your delicate scent disguised by the 5am frost
An unexpected morning, just at the break of dawn
Me in my heavy green robe, under a camouflage down jacket
Nursing my coffee light, steaming creamy and light
You gaze at me, frozen in time, still in the late January snow.
Scrounging and scourging for a little green, some grass, leaves
Anything to provide a little inner heat, a little bulk
Scrounging for nutrients to feed your young fawns
Hidden high on the hillside between the maple saplings
Did I startle you, beautiful ladies?
Your eyes seduce me with your gaze.
Did I disturb you from your daily ritual?
What right do I have to intrude?
Distract you those hungry youngsters hidden
Below the fallen leaves.
If I were a buck, a real man, I’d provide your feast.
We fix each other in our blind stare, a gaze frozen by fear,
Blinded by necessity, blinded by unknowing.
Seeing everything and nothing but the mystery of this stolen moment.

Photo by Brian Saltern

What’s the Creepiest Thing About the Ocean? / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Is it the way tentacles 
palpitate—slimy tendrils 
quivering as they pulverize prey? 

Is it the blurred line 
between animal and vegetable 
algae-slick skins that creep 
through the dark? 

Or is it the way water 
caresses a body—gently 
lapping at limbs until it tears 
the flesh away—currents tumbling 
bone into fine layers of biogenic sand?

Covers (11.30) / by Jessica Heron

into the rectangle cotton pouch big as a parachute in kindergarten-
the kid climbs into it, breathes fire into the fire of claustrophobia-
she could zip it closed behind her, still inside it between airy fabric layer
and cushy comforter, could stay there forever, warming the whole thing-
but dutifully she ties the corners, worms out inch by inch, comes up for air,
hair flipped over head, diaphragm pumping full and thin, surveys the
very adult job she did in the residue of the blue morning- a very adult thing

Preacher’s Son / by R. Bradley Holden 

My father was
a preacher
and his silence
was like God’s

In the pulpit
on Sundays
he read from
a well-thumbed testament

spoke of signs
and wonders
from an unknowable
world

then retreated
after service
to his study
and his books

I intruded
at times
on his learning
and loneliness

called him
to supper perhaps
or sought to ask
a child’s question

Dad, I
would call out
over and over
without response

For he, intent on
the page, came back
to us with great
reluctance

But perhaps
he was teaching me
even then
the art of prayer

OMENS / by Pamela Uschuk
 
 
Dotted white on oil black chests with waggy 
tails the size of movie ticket stubs,
starlings sing, a burst of flutes in a fountain
sweet and clear as a tabernacle choir 
cuing the blues.  Through bathroom steam 
I watch them canvas the neighbor’s wet slate roof 
under redbud leaves and live shadowy oak
grateful for humidity that downs us.
Opportunists, starlings gorge on blue bird eggs, bully
blue bird babes, shoving them from nests, 
their corporate takeovers premeditated, 
complete.  Starling eyes shine
like swat team visors facing teens 
protesting another mass school shooting. 
Driving to my first divorce through early fog 
I saw seven starlings hanging upside down,
electrocuted, toes still latched to the fatal wire.
Hunched thugs of urban lawns, starlings vie 
for pill bugs and earthworms with native robins 
who take turns  guarding eggs the treasured color of sky. 
 
 
 
 

FORM EXPERIMENT (V): ACROSTIC

for my father / by Moira Walsh 

Master of puns,
Archaeologist of festival!
Reading remains your delight.
Teach the young to ponder,
Instigate their wonder,
Navigate the night.

New Year / by Caitlin Wilson 

There is something like reflection
where the grass no longer grows.
A wind-licked dog on the highway edge

tremors in the car-shocked air.
The April grass is sleep-slow to sprout.
The dog steps out.

What did you wish for on New Year’s Eve? What did you throw into the fire?

Venus hangs beyond the slope.
It gravitates second from the Sun;
it’s absolutely useless.

How do I solve problems that drag me in circles? Cut off their hands?

The light slides its tongue
across the poplars and pines,
furious and nothing less.

There is something like reflection there.

THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH WORDS / by Michellia Wilson 

There is a certain restlessness that comes
with the love of words –

Like an addiction,
there are never enough
to read or write,
never enough to slow the spillage
over worn journals
piled high with volumes of writings,
from many authors.

Yet,
many people consciously live in
word poverty,
books on the edge of extinction,
houses with baubles on shelves,
where books should be stacked.

There is a certain restlessness that comes
With the love of words –

And the world spins,
word poverty spreads,
and I stand aching
for leftovers.

Poem 10 / Day 10

Travel Personalities / by Lynn Aprill

HAUNTED ECHOES / by Glory Cumbow

I empty myself of all fear,
rage, guilt, stress,
grief, and anguish
as I scream into the canyon.
There is something satisfying 
about my stinging eyes,
raw throat,
and echo bouncing 
against the eroded-smooth walls.
But instead of my voice fading away,
it rushes back to me
like a boomerang.
I duck down and cover my ears
but my scream permeates my hands,
throttling my eardrums
and a burst of wind blows back my hair. 
That wasn’t as cathartic 
as I had anticipated. 
I cautiously stand surveying my surroundings,
and I decide that it is safe to walk away.
I stagger on,
with my echo haunting me
itching my ears,
tickling my brain.

The Bridge / by Joni Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

I’m going to cross that bridge
Build a treehouse in the woods
Hidden behind the maple saplings
Escape, never to return, not until
she empties the house of all those strangers
Love her but damn her 
Came up here to get away from people
Away from the socializing, the mindless chatter
Far away from the obligatory holidays
We came here for peace.  For sanity’s sake 
For her to finally slow down that urban frenzy
To walk outdoors. Breathe without human interference
Be still and write those stories that still haunt her

But now she’s filling the house with haphazard people
Running phone banks and local political nonsense
She’s attending community meetings and raising hell
Dear god will she ever stop doing, doing, doing
Why can’t she just settle down and come with me
Come across that bridge, hand me some nails and my tools
Help me finish this treehouse for my tribe of humans
Her nephew and friends are coming to visit next week 
He’s the only visitor I can tolerate. No time for empty words

I don’t want anyone here that’s over the age of 12
Unless they can sit quietly on the bridge and count the frogs,
listen to the stream. take a hike up the hillside, tease the deer
I have no time for their foolish antics, their hyper-static ways.
Why can’t they just listen to the rustling of the maple leaves
Dance among the reeds and listen silently to the songbirds.  
Why must they keep talking? Keep yakking.  Silence.  Please
A little peace.  I’ve had enough. Their noise is deafening.
Once I finish that treehouse.  I’m crossing that bridge
You won’t see me again till Spring, if ever again.  

Painting by Brian Saltern

Poems Are Like Bandaids on an Amputated Limb / by Gabrielle Gilliam

I clutch dirty paper 
to my grief like rags 
to soak up my sorrow 

ink stains spread across skin 
seep below surface, breech 
capillaries and veins until 

my body pulses with words 
I hemorrhage them from tear ducts 
and nostrils and throat, choking 
on all the things I left unsaid.

A Life on Earth (10.30) / by Jessica Heron

light 90s music softly pumping us alive
like oxygen to a casino lobby

an Apollo mission, strength training
in a locked room on CCTV

a housecat with a snake in its jaw
a snake thrashing for freedom

like upswings that gorge on gratitude
in energizing reds, soothing purples

a skull illustration in American traditional
an American troubled under the hot needle

no one is after us for anything, no one is asking
what we have to give, but we give it

Christmas / by R. Bradley Holden

She still comes to us
big with child,
but there is no room now
in our hearts. Magicians
from the east once travelled the long leagues, 
but the journey to our knees
is now too far
for our weak faith. 
Does his star still burn 
somewhere in the night?
We have forgotten where to look,
and our electric bulbs,
the gifts of this great age,
drown out that distant sun
with golden light.

PRAYER AGAINST EXTINCTION / by Pamela Uschuk


FORM EXPERIMENT (IV): RONDELET

Jam session at our house / by Moira Walsh

Slightly obsessed,
you keep making pineapple stew.
Slightly obsessed
with hot peppers and lemon zest.
A kitchen inventor—who knew?
At my desk, I’m laboring too:
slightly obsessed.

My Neighbor the Crematorium / by Caitlin Wilson

Courthouse brick, sober

Presence in the blue-hearted year

Dust settled constantly

On the kitchen counters

If I was still enough

At night I could feel

My hair, like a slow moss,

Grow from my skin

LIGHT / by Michellia Wilson

Sun rays braided with birds
that cannot be interrupted
as they are in flight.

Light travels faster than sound
and I see the goose
before I hear him honk.

There is no light
when the very early morning hours
find me stirring;
I mill around during the twilight,
stub my toe on the nightstand,
and before I hear myself
call out in pain,
I see my shadow cast upon the wall.

Bats flutter around in no order –
they fly harem scarem;
they fly at night – blind to the moon.

I realize I have an aversion to light –
I am random like the bats;
no order, rhyme, or reason.

As the morning sun begins
to emerge from the star-filled horizon –
I finally begin to slow,
and know soon that the sunshine
will follow with much needed sleep.
The blinds remain closed
and my circadian rhythm is turned
upside down.

Night, day – day, night –
it’s all messed up. I cannot discern
the difference until the white coats
threaten to lock me up.

I know I am not the goose –
I am the bat,
flying aimlessly in the dark.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Foreboding Joy / by Lynn Aprill

I’ve been known
to shake my sleeping child
just to make sure they’re still breathing,
to write out my last wishes
as part of my vacation preparation,
to sit far from the cliff edge
after traveling a lifetime to see the view,
to trust almost simultaneously
in the best and the worst of life. 

Can one be Pollyanna AND Eeyore?

Now I have a name
(thanks to Brene’ Brown)
for this Janus malady,
this schizophrenic syndrome–
so next time I get a raise
or publish another poem,
I’ll lean into the joy and not think 
about the Mack truck
crossing my path on the way home.

WISHING WELL / by Glory Cumbow

Staring deep into the well,
I lazily wonder
if the coin weighing in my hand
is worth disturbing the still water beneath.
Which part of this equation
actually grants the wish?
The coin,
the water,
the action of tossing,
the splash,
the sinking to the bottom?
I roll the coin between my fingers,
then dangle it precariously over the stone walls
of the shadowed well
where I can’t even see the bottom.
Dare I?
I pocket the coin
and drag my feet away,
yawning widely,
smiling dreamily.
I close my eyes
and make the wish anyway.

Flight / by Joni Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

In-flight, there she goes
Taking flight against the winds of stagnation
She returns year after year after year.
Where does she go, where has she been
How does she know to return here
To this stream, to this landscape. 

In-flight, here she is, our own blue feathered goddess,
Year after year gracing us with her magnificent wingspan
Every shade of blue, lavender, bold pearl white,
Shimmering pewter feathers, she swirls, and circles
She dances and glides up and down, over the stream
In a grand and regal procession
She performs just for our eyes, for our admiration,
Captures our gaze and leaves us breathless in awe.

In-flight, here she hovers above, everywhere at once,
A rainbow of fractured multi-colored light after a midday rain. 
The wind and the spirit of all those who have left us
She returns once again to visit us, comfort us, lift and delight us
Visits us for a few brief moments to reawaken us all
To remind us that that we are all in flight, in motion, in life
All flying and fighting against all those lurking in the shadows.

In-flight, she is magnificent but as fleeting as the memory of your touch,
a feather that brushes my cheek, as you leave in a whisper
On that morning, so many, many lifetimes,  long ago.
Fly on but remember to return.

Painting by Brian Saltern

I remember / by Gabrielle Gilliam

the challenge of waiting to push 
clenched jaw and taut muscles 

fluid slick thighs and stitches
that wouldn’t be felt until later 

the fresh heartbeat against my bare skin 
the fragile weight that made me whole

In A Vat (9.30) / by Jessica Heron 

Last search terms in the metaverse turn out to be free furniture.
Even more stuff to maintain or let deteriorate like your white shirt
into sweatpants. Like your thighs until you invited in Peloton
shadow trainers and moved around your schedule.

You don’t need it but it’s there anyway and why not
go back to the cookie tray more than a few times?
Why not the cookie crumb blankets on your CB2 couch?
Guests appear to stand straight up saying “I guess it’s time…”

There are no sesame passwords into immortality.
To give it fully until cadaverdom is the new thing. Or be
milk and honey, literally be milk and honey in Oculus.
Slippery sweet skin representations. All we really want is to touch.

All in photo avatars that decorate phone innards and not much else.
Threads of text glow stacked on each other, fingerplay mingles
images together, videos of you and your grandma dancing
get 1.2k likes. No one is satisfied.

Pull on your sweatpants, get in, we’re going shopping
because the liquor stores have got to be open.

Stars and Stripes / by R. Bradley Holden 

What nation was not born 
in blood? What people 
did not steal their land? 
Yet the Angles and the Saxons 
lived long ago, you reply 
wisely. And the Trojans in Rome? 
But a myth. Perhaps. 
We have done our deeds 
in history and must look, even now, 
upon the faces of our accusers.
The flag tells our story: red 
like the stripes from a master’s 
whip. Blue: the indifference 
of an uncomprehending sky, 
and the innocence of white—
as distant from us 
as the spangled stars.

ARGUMENT FOR THE REINTRODUCTION OF PREDATORS IN THE WILD / by Pamela Uschuk

ONCE AGAIN, I DREAM OF LINE 18 / by Moira Walsh

Golden November, your elbow
somewhere near mine, dog
amanuensis so well-behaved
we relax into
red plastic seats
the rubber subway smell

going to the city
for a real good time

We will do everyday things
nobody’s ever heard about
(anti-scandalous escapades)
you’re the greatest
at everything except
large pupils

going to the city
for a real good time

Maintenance / by Caitlin Wilson

2 A.M. Someone will soon arrive
to stop the leak
from somewhere above, in the dark
spaces behind the paint
that didn’t exist to me before there was a leak.

It’s cold. The mail delivery flowers are dying
in their vase, petals brown and curled
like pencil shavings on the table.

Someone arrives, wonders
at the source, if it involves other people,
neighbors who sing while cooking,
yell at their dogs, avoid
answering a phone that rings and rings.

METRONOME / by Michellia Wilson
                 
time,
a heart beats…
and as Seth clicks another minute,
we are reminded that each
kinetic and potential movement
is not in vain,
that indeed the kinetic efforts
pull the potential energy
across another second
in a life that someone might rather escape;
it will not do –
kinetic bears the load
and potential tags along for another day –
into a day of unknown,
but entered into by faith
because kinetic aptly demonstrates
faith at its peak,
and potential knows that
time,
a heart beats…
another day.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Reunion / by Lynn Aprill

Cleaning, I find us fresh-faced
in Polaroids, posing tough
with cigarettes and cups of PBR,
arms looped casually over necks,
middle fingers aloft. All the things
we didn’t know–who would face
the first loss of parent, spouse,
child, sibling, who would go to war,
who would dance on the brink
and then pull back, who would stay
together, who would drift apart–
are now writ large in laugh lines
and silver streaks and knees
that protest when we try to stand
and empty chairs. I thank God
for that ignorance, that time
of blissful bewilderment
when all seemed possible and true,
when we dared the lens
to capture us any other way.

No One but Myself for Company / by Gabrielle Gilliam
for Kim

Twilight deepens into something darker. 
Testimony from indifferent stars begins. 

The moon, a pensive witness, grows sharper 
as the line between night and morning thins. 

Nature’s court defers—passes no judgement.

Sorrow deepens into something darker. 
Testimony of past offense begins. 

Glacial tendrils snake beneath my armor 
unforgiving as the frigid autumn wind. 

Twilight deepens into something darker. 
The vigil of indifferent stars begins. 

Regret’s court prefers to cast its judgement.

I Have Never Been So Touched In All My Supermarket Days (8.30) / by Jessica Heron

he asked if he could cut the greens off
I pushed the carrots toward his stomach

it wasn’t a clean cut
it was primitive, ripped
with a tool from his apron pocket

I have never been so embarrassed
or so transfixed

Married / by R. Bradley Holden

They came together as two 
streams in a green wood. The morning 
sun reflecting on the undersides
of leaves in an echo of sound. 
And now in the river of time
they have flown together 
longer than their separate courses
ran, a journey in which they 
have grown only deeper beneath
heavy, winter rains. What was
the source from which one river 
came? And where amid those 
laughing, shallow waters did 
that current begin? The sea now
awaits them both, though 
they make but a single journey.

GREAT BARRIER REEF DREAM / by Pamela Uschuk

Far from any sea, I long to feel the suck and release
of tide dragging me across acres of brain coral,
each bigger than my human mind, where fish flash
like streaks of arterial blood, exploding sunflowers,
blueberries, mango flesh smashed on a lover’s lips, fish
the color of asparagus greened by monsoon.

I yearn for salt, rusty as a slit tongue, to brine
my desert callouses, to gather in the corners
of my mouth, crotch, hinge of thigh
into hip, surf slathering cracked skin.

Imagine buttoning up a blouse of warm sea water,
filmy as a ghost fingering your breasts, rib
cage, the stomach’s global curve, or
pelvis spread by incoming waves.

To small the acrid reek of turtles
flung like mattresses one on top of the other,
mating. Leatherbacks, green sea, Ridley’s,
how fully you ignore me as you paddle past,
your bodies canoes navigating roughest surge
that breaks on the volcanic rock
securing your home lagoon.

On a day like today sun blown in
the bowl of this ancient ocean, I ache to glide
with sea snails, giant anemones
opening neon as lime snowcones, to listen
to the thick beaks of parrot fish nibbling coral
beneath schools of tiger-striped Sargent Majors,
choirs of angel fish trailing fins like prayer flags.
Octopus is my desire, shape-shifting sky in her sea glass eye
as she jets out of reach from moray eels, wrapping
tentacles around dinner that will last her for a week.

I want the Great Barrier Reef before she dies
one sea mile at a time. Before we melt with glaciers,
a jet stream reversed, I pine for
the embrace of the vast cold liquid divine.

FORM EXPERIMENT (III): RONDEAU / by Moira Walsh

Note to self, after Leigh Hunt’s “Jenny Kiss’d Me”

Why pretend that you are glad
when the heartsink fog has drifted?
Loss of steering makes you mad.
Home tectonic dishes shifted.
Sing the boredom, sigh the panic!
(I don’t mean to condescend)
Weather can be epiphanic—
why pretend?

Listening to the Story of a Missing Girl / by Caitlin Wilson 

After dawn,
between bare fields,
the grasping hoarfrost
prickles the grass, fallen
leaves, everywhere laced
effervescent.

By the road,
frost-light limns antler, hooves,
a buck flinches back
as I pass. This land,
peeling clapboard
America.

Who else has passed
by? Frightened
the doe, woke
to a bleached morning.
Everywhere, a crystalline
echo sounding, resounding.

RIVERS / by Michellia Wilson 

It seems every state I’ve been through
has a river –
a large bowl of water suitable
for boating and fishing.

From the Kentucky Lake to the
Wabash and Lake Michigan North,
the Mississippi River South,
and water from Nashville East.

My residence,
closest to the Land Between the Lakes –
The Kentucky Lake –
tempts me with it’s cold steel bridge,
and a desire to lean,
lean – into the brisk wind-
and a deep breath,
falling quickly towards
the placid glass – like watery sanctuary,
swimming where the catfish mingle and
bream jump on a warm day.

A free fall and a watery kiss,
It’s all about freedom and nurturing
an aching spirit.

I can dream and imagine the cold water
dousing my skin –
in a river large and inviting.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Family Tree / by Lynn April

In the blue room, a tree
blooms on the opposite wall,
colored leaves gathered on brown branches
and my very white family–fathers, mothers,
in-laws, outlaws, veterans, peace seekers,
immigrants all–
all blossoming on their appropriate branches
representing our complex DNA
sprung from common African ancestors–
from Adam and Eve on the banks of the Euphrates–
now gathered in the central trunk
of you and me, of us.

A PLANET ALL MY OWN / by Glory Cumbow

Don’t worry about me.
I’m going to float off to find
a planet all my own.
It can truly be disorienting
to travel untethered and adrift.
Sometimes I turn my longing eyes
back to the poisoned planet
where I at least could rely on the gravitational pull
to remind me where I belonged.
But having a place,
and being wanted
is not enough
to drag me back down
into an atmosphere determined to flood my lungs
with toxic, gaseous fumes.
I’ll take my chances
with the cosmos to a destination unknown.
There is no map or compass or coordinates
to direct my floating body 
to the planet that I should claim
for my new home. 
So I will latch onto the closest asteroid,
riding the streak of uncertainty.

I Am Tiger / by Joni Daidone

I may look threatening. I am Tiger. That’s my intention.
Every brown spot, every black spot in my coat, another stone, 
another boulder in the wall between you and me. Us and them.
I am ferocious. That’s who I am. To live in the jungles of the Amazon,
embracing ferocity is not a game or sport, it’s survival. 
It feeds my appetite so I can eat enough to maintain 650 pounds of protective muscle. My armor against them. All of you. 
The only way I can protect my cubs. More vulnerable than ever before.
Prey for the white demons of the encroaching urban jungle.  
More deadly than the deepest, darkest jungle night.
Humans have gone mad. They have always been barbarians.
Killing for sport, not just for food or survival.
Now they feel weak. Fearful of everything, especially one another.
They are running away from their cities, their concrete prisons. 
They are running away and invading my home.
Running away for refuge from some invisible beast.
They fear unknown demons that are pervading their streets, 
their dwellings, their markets.
They are escaping into the wild, into my wilderness, into my terrain.
I see them setting up camps. Trying to get away from each other.
But they are not welcome here. They bring their dis-ease.
They bring their wastefulness. They bring their crazy, destructive ways.
They know nothing of living. They bring nothing but dying with them.
They are not welcome here.

Dinner on a Teenager’s Budget / by Gabrielle Gilliam

We went to the Taco Bell 
on Route one so often 
the employees knew our orders 

a Mexican pizza with no tomato 
and extra sour cream 
tortilla chips and nacho cheese sauce
or a Nacho Bell Grande if I had the extra cash 

we sat in the booth 
near the soda fountain 
for the window and proximity 
to our free refills 

we smiled around the crunch 
of chips and tacos then left 
to drive through town 

windows down, something grungy 
blasting on grainy radio waves 
our laughter trailing us through the night.

Winter Sonnet (7.30) / by Jessica Heron

Good luck charms are hocus pocus
Crystals at best are pocket rocks
If you would like a guide for focus
Approach your doors, destroy the locks
Put a coat over your playfullest frock
Stretch out your feet, take a peek outside
Take a few steps, breathe in deep
Breadcrumb a trail toward a corner to hide
Within yourself, in plain sight
In that place inside deep as the lake
Of cool warm winter sunshine
Where you are as free as a duck to take
A deep and hearty plunge
To fill up with beauty your airy lungs


Tree of Life / by R. Bradley Holden

A cruel tree
blossoming into a man
who shows 
by his slow dying
the fruits of love.

THE QUEEN (Vespula germanica) / by Moira Walsh
for M.

A low sun — warning in the west. My people gone. Unease.

Seek winter residence inside a hanging softness here. The folds for shelter until sap
returns. Next spring: a nest build, under eaves.

I settle in. For days. Blood slows.

But yesterday — a noise. Shake, shake. A pressure. Human hand? I sting. And fall to
ground. A shadow. Sharpest pain. A grinding. Dark. Then light.

A THEOLOGY OF DOVES AND ROSEMARY / by Pamela Uschuk
for Fenton

On her fragile raft of twigs, white-winged dove settles,
the same currant-eyed mother who watched
last year’s bullsnake seize the upright beam, clench
seismic muscles as he slid up to her perch, unhinged
jaws to swallow her single chick, one
slow gulp at a time, digesting her paralyzed hope
Too late to help, we witnessed this furious tattoo,
the helpless dance of dove’s red feet.

Now she eyes me as I write in my morning journal,
registering each pen scratch with a head jerk.
In my hand, the pen opens its jaws to eat the known world
with metaphors blinking from light to dark, noting smell,
tasting shape, sculpting life, bending death’s rules.

We need a new theology, my friend posits, that refuses
to believe in death.

I imagine a theology of spring-fed lakes
that turn over their bottoms each spring
spitting out pipelines and mercury, a theology of doves
who reweave nests breeding season after season,
lopsided and fragile securing eggs above jaws
hidden by bougainveilla, blue flowering rosemary,
periwinkle’s lurid tangled lives.

I wait for an ecstatic shift. On her nest,
this year’s dove is mute, doesn’t coo
or rustle one feather to give away her sanctuary.
She’s constructed this nest thick, guano and twig
walls twice as high to avoid another homicide.

We lock the deadbolt, head out to eat, hungry
converts of staunch mother dove defiance, her persistent Zen.

Hot Ticket / by Caitlin Wilson

In a small crowded beige room with a photo
of the sun on a screen, I learned they had just
launched a satellite into the sun. Or not the sun,
per se, but closer than any man-made thing
has ever been, less than 4 million miles from
the surface once it completes a seven-year drift,
of which it has, at this moment, completed three.
Still, they call it the “Mission to Touch the Sun.”
A shield remains at all times between sun
and satellite, rotating during each revolution.
In a PR stunt called Hot Ticket, NASA offered
to include submitted names in a microchip
aboard the satellite, so one could send one’s name
“into the sun.” I found it macabre and enticing.
I was too late to submit my own. At some point,
because of the helpful gravity that allows study
proximity, the satellite will melt with the hea
of the encroaching corona, and still I’m
not certain that indicates touching, more so that
the creators of the undertaking were well
aware that every name on board would be
destroyed, short of the true destination.

I WISH FOREVER THIS SEASON / by Michellia Wilson

Winds blowing in the hollow
of a line of trees,
smoke from a distant chimney dissipating,
unnoticed in the cool, still night.

On this obscure autumn evening,
a full, well-lit moon,
in a disc above the clouds,
shines down on the living things
singing in the night.

The apple trees,
only days from being picked clean,
for apple butter and warm fresh pies –
rustle in a rhythm familiar in the orchard.

Memories of evening pit fires
and scorched marshmallows
dance in the bushes by the back door,
and just for a moment, the cool air
swallows me into the welcoming
ambience of a season I wish
would never end.

Poem 6 / Day 6

The Plight of the Farmer / by Lynn Aprill

In answer to his time and toil and sweat,
he spends spring praying that no seed is lost,
the summer fighting drought or insect threat,
the fall in stress, watching for early frost.

The land is fair embedded in his flesh,
the soil of fertile fields his very bones,
the summer shower does his soul refresh,
the wind and cloud his trustworthy touchstones.

But what will happen as our climate warms,
as temperatures keep climbing, rains refuse 
to fall or stop, the violence of our storms
intensifies? He’ll meet his Waterloos,

as each acre becomes a battlefield,
anticipating fall’s uncertain yield.

Monarch / by Amanda Auchter

The cashier at the garden center
places the dead monarch on my palm,
says I can have it, to take it
home, that maybe I can do something
with it. At first, I think resurrection,
think the wings—firelight against night—
will alight with touch, a finger
stroke against the black thorax
will become breath, will become
wingbeat. She says, you can pin it,
describes shadows boxes and cotton
batting and how can I injure
injure the beautiful forewing that once
grazed the beauty of a world gone so dark
I can barely leave my house. Most days
I watch life from my closed window, but

                                      today, I say yes,
create a place to grieve. I cup
my hands, a funeral, a pale
crown around orange velvet,
the filament antennae, then slip
the monarch into a plastic bag,
tie the flaps closed.

NEIGHBORHOODS / by Glory Cumbow

Solitude can be healing,
but I cannot deny the comfort 
that neighborhood sounds and smells bring me.
Neighbors chatting on their front porches
laughing at jokes that I can’t quite make out.
Simply being humor adjacent
still makes me smile.
The musk of a bonfire
sifting through my backyard
gives me warmth,
even if I can only see and smell the smoke.
The sound of dogs barking 
and children playing
remind me of the innocence still left
in a ravaged world.
The fragrant rose bush from a nearby yard
proves that there are still people
who turn the soil
and patiently care for the earth. 
The squeal of the brakes
from the school bus,
from the garbage collectors,
and from the mail carrier
shows me that we all have a role 
in the community,
and we depend upon one another. 
We are living our individual lives
but we are connected.

Dancing Spirits / by Joan Daidone

You were the dancer.
Always light on your feet. Always.
Light. Bright. Ephemeral.
Barely there. Living here and there.
Reciting Huxley and Ginsberg. Hughes and Rumi. 
Off in your own galaxy. Chasing your own stars.
Hoping to become one.
Never realizing you were born one. 

You were the dancer.  
Between the light and the dark, you took me.
From a smooth gliding motion to a rough brutal tango.
Disorienting. Reorienting me to a new flow.
Sometimes jarring. But never boring.
Borderline tragic when you tried to escape.
First into addictions, then into the next plane, the next ever after.
But in between, the color, the movements, the shapes
Transfixed and transformed me.

You were the dancer. 
Lead me into the wilds of this, your urban, urbane forest.
Over the hills. Up into the mountainside.
At dusk, you held my hand and pulled me. Gently at first
Then not so gently over rocks. Through rushing waters.
Over the high grasses, and thick thorny bramble.
You took me where others never dared go.
To hell with the ticks and bugs and all those silly, earthly things. 
We are not of this earth, you’d laugh. 

You were the dancer.
You laughed. Be my muse and I’ll be your music.
Lead me when I falter. I’ll lead you when you lose sight
Dance. Just dance. Don’t stop. Keep dancing.
No matter how weak your legs. No matter how frail your heart.
The only escape was into the stroke of your brush. The whip of my pen.
When you finally let go of my hand.  I tripped but regained my footing.
Because you already taught me the steps. Dance on. I’ll follow your lead
And add a few steps of my own.

We’re All Too Busy to See the World Burning / by Gabrielle Gilliam

I’ll just put the pot on 
to boil while I wash 
the dishes, precariously stacked 
porcelain and glass caked 
with crumbs and dry ketchup 
dinner detritus circling the drain 
the grating of the garbage disposal 
as I erase the evidence of past hunger. 

Before the water boils 
I will toss the lettuce 
slick with brown slime 
and the carrots coated 
in thin hairlike roots 
gone gray and wrinkled 
in their old age and the week old 
ground turkey which plops 
into the garbage and sinks out of sight. 

The pot begins to bubble 
but I run to grab a load of laundry 
corralling socks with the basket 
balanced on my hip. Clothes move 
from washer to dryer back to basket 
before I head upstairs. The boy 
in the living room needs help 
with long division—dividends 
and divisors and remainders 
of decades old math lessons dredged 
up while we solve the first problem. 

The smoke detector screeches 
but I don’t have time to wave 
a towel beneath it as I run 
the clean clothes to my room. 

When the fire trucks arrive 
I’m surprised to find the boy 
has fled to the parking lot 
with his math problems, smoke 
wandering through the open door 
the kitchen already burning.

Nanjikana off the Solomon Islands (6.30) / by Jessica Heron

If I could be so fair to the tide that grips my ankles,
pours me out, pools me to the agitator,
spins and gets wrung out-

I don’t want to be the sock that escapes
crumpled damp on the cement, wondered about, pitied at,
a failed escape that leaves my match behind

turning a pair to trash-
but I would make a pretty good wearable dust rag,
and dust the whole place fresh

Modern Worship / by R. Bradley Holden
For R. S. Thomas

When, in the midst 
of our great fear and 
the growing panic,
churches gathered 
in impulses of internet,
what revelation 
was that? 
                True 
image of our age—
millions of souls
praying, 
prostrate 
before the Machine.

SEARCH AND RESCUE / by Pamela Uschuk
 for Bill

Yesterday, I saved a house finch who flew into our house. She was the color of eucalyptus bark.  Fanning air to panic, she flew, flutterbangsmash into every window until she fell to the sill. Behind a retablo leaning against the pane overlooking the patio, she hunkered down for invisibility.  Slow, I lowered my hand over her, my left fingers a cage gentling around her fright.  When I transferred her to my writing hand, she rode the open palm calm as a daughter on a litter, to the other side of the glass. Have you ever held a finch in the palm of your hand?  She weighed a little more than a dime. Her heartbeat slowed.  Her small wings remained closed. Lingering in my palm a few seconds, she and I relaxed into each other’s skins. My heart nearly stopped. I was no longer pissed my beloved forgot to shut the back door. The finch flew into the leaf-swayedlight, no borders separating her from sky.

On the death of C. L., remembering C. Q. / by Moira Walsh

Pale gray / dense fog / rolls back over me
Sudden / death pulls / necklace of farewells
And all / charm wise / bounding you appear
Still here / still gone / mixed tick signals
As we / were wont / soaking in the springs

Pale gray / death pulls / bounding you appear
Sudden / charm wise / mixed tick signals
And all / still gone / soaking in the springs
Still here / were wont / rolls back over me
As we / dense fog / necklace of farewells

Pale gray / charm wise / soaking in the springs
Sudden / still gone / rolls back over me
And all / were wont / necklace of farewells
Still here / dense fog / bounding you appear
As we / death pulls / mixed tick signals

Pale gray / still gone / necklace of farewells
Sudden / were wont / bounding you appear
And all / dense fog / mixed tick signals
Still here / death pulls / soaking in the springs
As we / charm wise / rolls back over me

Pale gray / were wont / mixed tick signals
Sudden / dense fog / soaking in the springs
And all / death pulls / rolls back over me
Still here / charm wise / necklace of farewells
As we / still gone / bounding you appear

fireworks / by Caitlin Wilson

the wings rip the clouds. wisps
around the tips and panels.
independence day. far silent firework
ignition. white gunpowder smoke.
lights. near-words spelled out. porch and street.
the black flat of the earth. hands
upon the glass. grease refraction
orange smear. the color the moon
makes on your face (pastel
blue a smeared cuticle lilac).
independence day: goodbye.
separate. celebration. landing.
landfall. settle.

ROUSING / by Michellia Wilson

I live in a small town I call home
on a crisp November morning –
stoke the fire,
push back the curtains in time to see
the sky split between night and morning,
a sleepy moon, single star and purple haze,
mingle in the fresh day.
I exhale the previous night –
in its dreams and tossing about –
I think too much, sleep too little,
the dozen colorful,
crazy shaped pills providing proportionally,
with exactly one day’s sanity.
I push myself into this new day,
always with a little trepidation,
with the uncertainties of what the day holds.
Will my mind wreak havoc on me,
make me feel as if I’m holding on to a ledge?
I scratch for survival,
dirt under my fingernails,
I have made it another day,
I feel sadly accomplished.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Another Space Heater / by Lynn Aprill
(After Sharon Olds)

Hot water fills the Saturday tub,
the single bathroom strewn
with wet towels. The water cools,
greys with each successive child.
When Wisconsin winter 
frosts the window, my mother 
plugs in the space heater, 
black metal on four feet, 
the interior coils like hairs in Hell,
red and pulsing. She threatens us
with grievous injury should we touch
this miniature Bael, radiating
heat and malevolence in the corner,
conjuring images of baking skin
and pink ropey scars. 

Year follows year.
As I bathe, the heater ticks, like a clock,
or the second hand of a clock, or the passing of a second,
the gap in the pass, the thighs longing for a gap,
the length of my thighs, as I rise, 
newly baptised.

Still Life Reviving / by Amanda Auchter 

after the last painting by Remedios Varo before her death, 1963

The seeds have fallen, as too my fruit
                            and dragonflies. My body,
            a table dancing to its own music,

                         folds in and out, an accordion, a flower
                                     remembering its last bloom.

            How I once threw plates into the air,
                         watched each spin, then crash
with a satisfying break. Each shard

                                      a piece of me I wanted to forget —
lovers and lost children, a letter
               drowned at sea. And now I’ve become

another woman — burst pomegranate,
                            arils filling the air like stars. A woman
             refusing her place at the rocking chair,

             click of knitting. Instead, I cross
                            the floor toward my last candle —
my body, this fat apple, out of orbit

                                         but still alive. I write
             my name in smoke, in the weeds of seed
and fruit skin. I was here, I begin.

              No.
Here I am.

UNAGING / by Glory Cumbow 

Ageless. 
Isn’t that what we all want to be?
Forever young?
But take a look at the hollowed-out log.
There it lies
with the inner wood carved away
without any rings left inside
to reveal how many years 
that the tree might have lived.
Now it will never grow old;
but it will not grow anything at all,
no leaves, fruit, or buds.
It cannot stand 
as the roots have withered and crumbled.
It is empty, lifeless,
and ageless.

The Red Couch / by Joan Daidone 


You stare. Your steady, penetrating, unflinching stare.
Stay still. Stop moving. Stop fidgeting.  Your eyes shout.
Just sit there for me. Just be there for me.
Stay still. Still. Still. Restless Gemini girl.
You knew how hard that was for me.
That’s why you brought Miles home.
A mixed-breed furry buddha to ground me.
You told me to look at you. But I looked past you.
I was tired of looking at myself through your eyes.
Exhausted by the reflection in that mirror
Trying to be the woman you expected me to be.
You told me not to smile but not to pout either.
You wanted that expressionless gaze, so I took off traveling.
I took my boy for a walk, on the back roads of Millerton.
On the trails that no one, not even the locals ever hiked.
It was rocky and hilly. Sometimes frequented by a black bear
Occasionally even a family of skunk. An ornery raccoon or two.
But I had my boy Miles taking the lead, so I never worried.
You told me to stay still. Still as the Holy Ghost. To quiet down.
Read a book. Get back to my writing. Settle down.
You wanted me to be that 28-year-old quiet bookworm
The wayward but studious child you met so many years before.
But I chose to travel. You shouted and cajoled.
You ordered me to come home. But I ran off.
To that far away little village in the north of Spain
The place where I ran from you, escaped from you so many years ago,
But of course, It boomeranged back again, back again. Back to you, to us.
And finally found my place. My quiet place deep inside.
Where no one could stir or trigger me.
Not even my lost love for you.

You Were Always Better at Saving Things Than I Am / by Gabrielle Gilliam 

A year ago we stayed home
kept theoretical germs contained
so you would be safe, distanced
to ensure the chance to celebrate
together in the future. I promised to bring
you cranberry jelly for your turkey next year.

We kept pixelated company. I held
my laptop aloft so you could see
our modest spread—not quite
a feast with only three plates to fill.

In February, I found envelopes
in your pajama drawer marked
with my own childish handwriting.
When I upended one, a baby tooth
dropped into my palm—your dresser
a graveyard for my discarded bone.

This year your seat will be empty
my can of jellied cranberry sauce useless
since you were the only one who ever ate it.

Mondays (5.30) / by Jessica Heron 

Why are you telling me Happy Friday
I don’t use labels, you know that

The stretch between morning and evening is insurmountable
I thought I was bipedal but I’m a Saint Bernard

Braving the length of ladder but bemoaning the length of ladder

Spiders from the ceiling tell another story
I ask myself what is my narrative and get swaddled in poetry

In sticky silks my arms and legs won’t move
It’s a comfort, like cups of tea

The fattest cave cricket I’ve ever seen has been reluctant to jump
Until he can see me for who I am

Conjurer of words and men, not mythic enough
To be myth, but mythic enough to be somebody’s weekend

Strange New Stars / by R. Bradley Holden 

Should we wish upon a satellite?
See it twinkle overhead. Astrologers,
Take note. The new wanderers 
That decide our fate. We have 
Domesticated heaven. Dwarfed
Nimrod’s tower for television shows
Sent from the stars that shine overhead.
They ensure we never look up.

PRESCRIPTION FOR GRIEF WITHOUT OPIOIDS AT HIGH ALTITUDE / by Pamela Uschuk 

For persistent grief, walk the autumn river, this might
take years, to hear the way water circles boulders, smooths
the roughest granite to slick.

Listen to the blue song of cornflowers bellowing
after last night’s hard freeze.
They will tell you about the months they watched
wildflowers die, all those they thought
were sisters or friends or mothers gone to seed
dusty wrens and song sparrows eat
reincarnated on the wing.

Sweet peas are the exact hue of the heart’s bloody valves.
Remember to bend and breathe their edible perfume.
Note tracks in wet gravel left by bear, by puma
hunting heart-shaped rumps of elk they pursue.

One by one, cut out from your gut
each accusation a beloved tossed you, each
a greasy scrap of anger you swallowed whole.
After so many years, the ulcerated stomach lining is tough to heal.

Wrap your favorite Alpaca blanket around the beautiful
years of cold shoulders turned on you.
Carve a boat from heartache and set it lose
in whitewater so fierce it drowns day and night.

To staunch tears, weigh three tablespoons of sun
through aspen leaves, stir in ice rain
and drink at the height of the harvest moon.

You’ll need a blowtorch of joy to crack the iron
vest constricting your breathing.

Learn the way ravens laugh
lined up on cottonwood branches you walk beneath.

Carry a handfull of thistle seed
to feed lonely gold finches along the way.

Toss out sorrow’s ashes thrown in your face
by the temper of the microburst
you didn’t see slashing down from high peaks.

Toss out all painkillers, in orange plastic bottles
or tinctured in alcohol. A good French
champagne on occasion is the exception.

Rearrange your hair, eat raspberries
and chokecherries from bushes tangling the shore.
Remember your lost name can also be love.
Remember to lift your head in the strongest wind.
Remember lightning tongues flash and are quick to die.
Remember to love all who betray you.
Remember betrayal can be buried
like compost in your own back yard.

THEN / by Moira Walsh for Susie

If each dayis a beadon the eyeof a deeron a tapestryhung out to airand forgotten overnighta bead of dewfreeto evaporate& see the worldwhat are you?

Time-telling / by Caitlin Wilson 

Used to be, I was never so pangful
over anything as I was over sweet silk-
tasseled corn fields, ever since
my grandmother told me their height meant

season’s end. I had been a child convinced
summer was a year-long event, steadfast
days unspooling in tidy lines equal
to my days spent at a desk. I wondered—
with the passion of the uninformed—
How could she tell me this?

Since then, the summer has been over and over,
the corn unremarked upon since the old house sold.
Instead, I watch the poison ivy go scarlet in strangle-
hold around a pale oak, both appearing unbothered.

A HUNGRY LIFE / by Michellia Wilson 

I.
My heart beats
in a rhythm of an intense hunger,
on the banks –
hovering over a moving lake.

II.
Only for admirers does the
glistening pond lap against
a grassy edge on a cold noon.
I know this place well –
the aquatic life milling
around the murky water
and an occasional heron gliding easily
over the platter of fish
below the glassy cloche.

III.
Never, in my heart, is life just enough –
breaths of air I take above the water
fall full circle with the trees,
and the life stirring in the pond.

IV.
Life is hungry.

Poem 4 / Day 4

Arachnophobia / by Lynn Aprill

It was one of those days
where everything clicks,
where shit gets done,
where the late afternoon
meeting
goes better than expected
and everyone leaves
with more than they intended.

And I wonder if the spider
is having the same thought
tonight.
You know, the Cross Orb Weaver
who was hijacked from her
home
in the midst of the dried
astilbe,
the gigantic arachnid who
bestirred herself
after being unceremoniously
dumped
in the middle of the kitchen
table
with the wheat sheaves
and pheasant feathers, the
brown
behemoth who raised her eight
eyes
as if to ask, “Are you certain
it’s me
you want at your table?”

Was she in the midst
of getting shit done today,
and did she leave, having
spent
some time preserved
in a Ball jar with a pierced
lid,
with more than she had intended
when she woke this frosty
morning,
fearing a new season?

Moonflower / by Amanda Auchter

Hard to see in darkness, now —
so little light in the world, so little

kindness in the pines and sycamores.
Even the stone pavers are breaking

apart, crumbled beneath my feet. In 
the garden, the moonflower is an eternal

optimist among weeds and beetles —
her white blossoms bloom

in strips of moonlight, perfume
the yard. She dreams of love,

a floral language I press to my ear. Her
body, trumpet-shaped, opens

and opens despite ruin, my fingers
at her throat. How much I want

to keep this one bright thing, twine it 
through my hair, fill 

an entire vase with this blanched, 
delicate beauty. Come here

I say to the heart-leaves. The moon
sinks its teeth behind the houses

and tomatoes. The moonflower
quiets. We drink the dark.

MOLTED / by Glory Cumbow 

There was a beetle husk
left molted on top of the gravestone.
It was hearty and in perfect shape.
It was certainly from a leaf beetle.
A cottonwood beetle?
Dogbane?
Or maybe a swamp milkweed?
It had died a kind of death
in solidarity with whoever lies beneath.
And then it walked out of its tomb,
shiny, fresh, and softened.
It crawled off to live another day,
leaving the skin
an offering to the deceased.

Wild Night Out, EV / by Joan Daidone 

What will you tell those innocent ones blinded by youthI will tell them to live for today, this hour, this very moment.
But not give up their dreams of tomorrow
A tomorrow that may or may not ever come to pass.
I will tell them to savor that peanut butter sandwich
that sticks to the roof of their mouth 
Not to complain about the last spoonful of jam
The sweet apricot someone else took first,
Leaving the sticky empty jar behind.
I will tell them to play the music loud, sing even louder
Dance and jump as high as they can
Never stop until their legs give out.
Then still, get up again, and jump even higher.
I will tell them, I will show them,
That now, this very moment is as vast, as magical,
As sparkling and fresh and delicious as they can ever imagine
I will tell them that inside their imagination,
inside the palm of their hand, inside their mind’s eye,
Inside of their heart, is everything they could ever dream  
I would tell them to tell me how much more they can love
and I would repeat those words of love and adoration
along with them as in prayer, in song, in a sacred chant.

An Aubade Was Never Part of the Plan / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Desire bleeds through every lie 
dripping from tongue like praise. 

She devours the syllables 
so thick and metallic 

that they stick in her throat 
and she chokes on empty 

compliments that will fade like cheap perfume 
when she wakes to find only the morning sun

trailing kisses across her skin.

Street Parade (4.30) / by Jessica Heron

Each car connected tail to tip, lights above yours and above theirs and so far above
until they’re stacked high to heaven in a long tow carrying them, the parade of fools,
parade of danger, lane changers without ever leaving the lanes. Line cutters dart ahead
to slam down on the reds or blast their red eye-glow from brake lights as they swerve
to make that urgent turn. Parade of inches, right up in their rear view halos, parade of
high heavy seats – they say heavy is the head and they are all. so. heavy. – chicken nugget ash
tray butts, floor-mat displays of fast food wrappers under the heaviest of feet protected by
infomercials for compression socks that are oh. so. snug. Each jowl scowling as they make
the left, cutting past as fast as fast can go, and one wonders if the tow wonders hey
what’s the rush though?

Translation / by R. Bradley Holden

Metempsychosis 
of meaning,
the spirit of 
dead languages
in living words.

GRIZZLY BEAR INVOCATION / by Pamela Uschuk

Paws as big as catcher’s mitts, grizzly holds
her skull, rocking in a field of sunrise the color of her eyes,
ignoring digital camera and Iphone clicks
from asphalt below her meadow perch.

She might be the last grizzly mother
or the Yellowstone River’s memory of wilderness traded
for oil bursting a pipe under contaminated ice.
Does she know congress plans her demise?

In spring snow blowing ravens from firs, grizzly rocks
to thunder tight as skin rounding her starving belly,
rocks to underwater tides of the largest fresh water aquifer
stretching from Canada to Mexico.

Through winter sleep, she heard rumors of riot-geared thugs
hired to murder water protectors who share her history.
She heard the scratch of Mont Blanc pens setting
loose trophy hunters to shoot cubs in dens.

She rocks. She rocks. She rocks while her twins sniff
the mud-gloried world they were born to while she slept.
On two legs like ours, she surveys rotting river ice, the stripped rib cage
of an elk ghosting the shore, just what she needs.

In penthouses slathered by gold paint, slick corporate suits
line up to mock the elegance of white-coned pines,
shoot down the justice of crows, executing mafia-style
clean air and water laws, her rare solitary kind.

Over the far slope, grizzly vanishes with her cubs, three
shadows caught on video clips swaying past slag piles
smoking with greed, seeking the path of medicine plants and trees.
Beyond rifle scopes, Grizzly sniffs river

curve, learns the conjuring power of birds,

FORM EXPERIMENT (II): PANTOUM / by Moira Walsh 

Heirloom beefsteak depression –
meaty, cracked, and big as a sandwich.
You don’t need a buzz, milady.
Take a rest already.

Meaty, cracked, and big as a sandwich,
in the weedy fields.
Take a rest already.
Tuneless gravity hums

in the weedy tomato fields.
Fatigue spreads like oil on paper,
human gravity hums.
It’s a sweaty September.

Fatigue spreads like oil. On paper:
“family history of depression”.
It’s a sweaty, sweet September.
You don’t need a buzz, milady.

Collateral Cherry / by Caitlin Wilson 

The oak of terror is gone, along with the collateral cherry

that trembled nearby. All that one did was flower. Watching TV,

I wonder why Bob Ross adds a dead tree to the forefront

of his landscapes. Why ruin the ambiance with a dead thing

right in front, across grassland and glade? Why am I

telling you about this tree? Summer storms, when the oak

bark blackened with rain, leaves belly-up in wind surge,

driftwood limbs creaked like a boat at dock, restlessly

pulling it’s ropes tight around the pilings with each swell.

I thought the oak would slip through the attic, specter-like,

and lie down in my bed. Can you understand now? Painting,

Ross murmurs, Don’t kill all of your dark—I know it’s tempting.

HUNGRY, UNBORN POEM / by Michellia Wilson 

The words that like to ride high,
wonder if they, in their relative obscurity,
will ever be revealed;
if the poems will ever get to experiment,
with an assonance of sound and fun and new syllables.

These words rumble,
like Mexican jumping beans,
on a warm day,
ready to emerge in some coherent order,
on a piece of paper – pristine – of quality,
ready for the comforting massage of someone’s eyes,
to caress the promise of alliteration possible in each line –
              a line etched out, cut, inhaled in its beauty.

Poem 3 / Day 3

A Question of Silence / by Lynn Aprill 

Is the silence of a chair
in the middle of an empty room
the same silence found
under the surface of a pond
on a windless day?
Does a chair yearn
for the susurration of cloth on wood,
just as Arthur’s watery Lady
lay entombed in the lake,
straining to hear her call to arms?
Where can an absence of sound
be found when life surrounds us?
Must we take ourselves to the grave
to find peace, or will we find
even that place filled
with the scritching of tiny claws
and rumble of digesting worms?
Who will sit the graveyard shift
above our tombs? Who will court
that quietude, sever the stillness
with their cries when they call out
and our only answer will be earth
and earth and earth?

Imaginary Son: Creation / by Amanda Auchter

You didn’t own anything, yet —
not name, a breath, a spoon

to lift to your mouth. I drew your stars
into the garden dirt, drew your moon,

each of your sunsets. What did I know
of obsession, of a body within a body?

My bones ached. You were without iris,
spine, teeth. Not yet my robin

in the nest, my cedar box of ash. Divine
Master, I said. What did I know

of how much water I would bring forth,
how many ways to drown. I tell you

I opened my apron to release
the deadheaded blooms. I tell you this

as though you could hear me. Once,
you were prayer. What I did for love:

                                 I loved.

RIPPLES / by Glory Cumbow 

You never know what gifts the ripples
will carry to shore.
A golden leaf could float by,
a floating insect might come skimming,
dancing across the surface,
or a bottle could bob along the ripples
with a message inside.
This would be a rare opportunity.
I suggest you pop the cork
and unfurl the parchment
earnestly, tenderly.
The writer of this letter probably passed into eternity
a little while ago,
but for just a moment two timelines converged
and they are alive
and you are alive.
Don’t share these words with anyone
or you will break the spell of time travel.
Instead, pen your own words,
roll them up tight,
and cork them away.
Trust the waters to hold your time capsule
and deliver it through the ripples
so that you may defy the spinning of the world again.

Here. Here. Here. / by Joan Daidone 

It is here in my chest
that fluttering of bird wings untamed.

It is here in my throat that thick sticky regret
blocking words left unsaid.

It is here in my heart
where I search for a sign, for a connection to love lost,
love neglected but not forgotten.

It is here in my eyes
where my lashes twitch and flash like lightning bugs
insects flickering a morse code for help me, save me, love me

It is here in my ears where I long for the sound
of your voice, of your sensuous song but hear nothing
but the empty clanking of atoms colliding.

It is here, here here, in the quiet still moment
where I ask for a prayer, where I say a prayer,
where I beg for forgiveness.

It is here, here now where I finally exhale,
where I let go and share your breath
where I relax and receive your blessing.

Why the Pekapeka-tou-roa is Bird of the Year / by Gabrielle Gilliam
for Kelly

The pekapeka will steal your heart 
before retreating to rest in snags and beeches 
most cuddly predator in the dark. 
The pekapeka will steal your heart.
Watch as while hawking they dart
tracking prey with tuneless screeches.
The pekapeka will steal your heart 
before retreating to rest in snags and beeches.

Social Distance (3.30) / by Jessica Heron 

The gatekeepers of the colonies band together
Laugh and revel, the rest of us barred from center
Old sentries dance and waggle their message
                                                                                                        Don’t come any closer!

In the center they open up beauty salons
Groom each other for nightly parties
Buy out all the feathers they can find
                                                                                                        Don’t come any closer!

They kept together, dancing, covered in mites
At a ball in Miami, 1970
The mites swept through, things collapsed-
                                                                                                        Don’t come any closer!

The few young ones were killed
And all that dancing did was protect hope
That grifter jumping from soul to soul
                                                                                                        Don’t come any closer!

Multiple Choice / R. Bradley Holden 

At the faculty meeting
a retired police officer
tells us our options.
The shooter will know,
he reminds us, where we have hid.
He—it is always a he—
will have done the same drills.
So in the last resort,
you must fight, the ex-cop tells us
and proceeds to explain,
in graphic detail, how
to pop a student’s eyes
out of his skull.
The woman next to me squirms
at his description, and I can’t decide
what’s worse: the knowledge
that she could never do that
or the certainty that I could.

WALKING CHILDREN’S MEMORIAL PARK IN APRIL,
WE HEAR THAT ANOTHER YOUNG BLACK MAN HAS BEEN KILLED BY POLICE / by Pamela Uschuk 

Walking the dogs in the memorial park, Peruvian mesquites
drape generous lacey shade. We stroll the crisp carpet
of dead leaves. At the base of an elder, a pool of sap
thick as copal and wide as my torso, bark
stained black along the trail of tears
from the wound where an arborist has cut
off a large limb. Who knows how long
this tree has cried her timeless grief?
I spread my hand where the emptiness starts
across my chest for the 20-year-old son
shot and killed “by mistake” while talking
on the phone to his mom.

For beauty and comfort, these magnificent trees
are trimmed, losing limb after limb
to carve our thoughtless path. On the way
back to the parking lot, we pass
the children’s memorial wall
written with thousands of lost daughters and sons,
some taken by disease, others drowned, killed
in car accidents, or at home, by guns or fists, all
dead too soon, names etched into granite
polished deaf as burnished steel.

Dear poet, / by Moira Walsh 

Drop into the well,
describe the walls.
We are here with you.

Peel back
that plastic shell,
speak true.

Grow ripe,
attract flies,
gape.

Be silly, sad, spectacle,
sage, sawmill, sesame.

Take a shape, then trade it.

Cough, stutter, or hum.

We’re here for the long haul,
right beside you,
singing.

On James Turrell’s Meeting / by Caitlin Wilson 

“I would not think to touch the sky with two arms” – Anne Carson, If Not, Winter

So what if I went there alone
just to prove that I knew how?

I walked past the art
and my thoughts were just thoughts;

so what that I kept each one to myself
in my little dark vessel?

There is a loop that completes itself
when you speak aloud

and something listens, a yoke
that cannot be shown but I am telling you, I am telling

you. Up the staircase, on the top floor
was a square room with a dark teak pew

on each wall. A square skylight
pressed directly on the cyan sky, glass invisible

as if the ceiling were miraculously open.
Warmth, the stuffily quiet air of an old library

or church. A few strangers sat within,
facing one another under the sky

with the universal patience
of waiting for someone to speak.

So what if no one ever did?
We saved ourselves.

THE BITTER BEAUTY OF WINTER / by Michellia Wilson

The pond – frozen over,
snow covering the surface.

The beauty of winter comes with a price,
the fish slow beneath the ice,
squirrels, hiding someplace –
feeding on their stash – 
and then there are the birds,
hungry – trying to find something to eat,
they peck through cold crystals.

The pristine blanket –
shrinking pupils in the brightness;
this, the epitome of winter,
in all her glory.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Sestina for Doolough / by Lynn Aprill 

“How can men feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings?”
Mahatma Gandhi

It was the fourth year of the Great Hunger–
four years of failed crops, nothing in fall
to put away against winter’s bitter passage,
silent door frames filled with emaciated children.
Instead, Irish grain filled the bellies of English ships, crossed
the rolling Irish Sea, crammed English landlord mouths.

As Irish grain filled English landlord mouths,
the living skeletons of Louisburgh, the hungry
and destitute souls numbering six hundred, shuffled across
the frozen March ground, praying for relief to fall
from the coffers of union officials, leading their children
to be counted. Instead, they found an impasse-

no solace would be spared unless they passed
the night walking ten, fourteen, twenty miles to Delphi. Their mouths
agape at the injustice, they had no choice but to shepherd their children
through mountain passes and rubbled roads, their hunger
finding little comfort in grass and water mint. They fell
to their task, a frigid midnight journey, a bitter bridge to cross.

Through the night, the company stumbled across
the final miles, arriving at Delphi Lodge just past
daybreak. Their cries for relief and respite fell
on deaf ears, for the union men were filling their mouths
and would not be disturbed. The corpsed mothers, hungry
and weeping, gathered their wasted children.

The famished fathers cradled their dying children
and turned, intending to retrace bitter steps across
the valley, back to abandoned homes. But Hunger
had other plans, as one by one they passed
beyond the shores of the black lake, their mouths,
bellies, souls empty and, one by one, they fell.

Across the Great Water, the cries of Doolough fell
on the ears of the Choctaw children
who knew only too well the pain of empty mouths
and empty homes. As the help they had to offer crossed
the ocean, they prayed for the Irish Famine to pass,
for they, too, knew this shared hunger:

“Emptiness filling their mouths, they died where they fell,
their faces etched with hunger, clasping their silent children–
only a stone cross to mark their passing.”

Moth in the Manger / by Amanda Auchter 

                 What witness you are little wing-
beat again my son’s throat. Your eyelash
                               flutter, how his breath

                 fills your heatless flit
from earlobes, wood beams, coarse fur
                               (the donkey, slight bray

                 in the hay of the stall’s deep shadows). I’d like
to think of you as his first visitor,
                               counting fingers, toes,

                 each wisp on his dark head. The night
sets itself between us and you, you filigree
                               through cobwebs,

                 braids of onions, straw — ghost,
night angel, figment of my maternal
                               exhaustion, here

                 to light, to whisper. You,
drift of hay, dust mote,
                               trick of light, then gone.

SKINNED ALIVE / by Glory Cumbow 

Step lightly.
Mind your toes.
Yes, that’s me,
the pile on the floor.
I’m a bundle of
exposed nerves
raw and volatile.
Be sure to skirt around me
with care
because any nudge,
jostle, or brush,
no matter how
unintentional
will result in
excruciation.
Just be patient,
and watch out for me
while my skin grows back.

The Other World. This World. / by Joan Daidone

To see the other world in this world was never a struggle for you.
You easily skipped in and out of both worlds.
Speaking with the angels, debating with the prophets.
Laughing, and joking with the guides.

To see the other world in this world was never a question for you.
But as years passed, your star flickered and waned.
Your stride slowed. This world haunted you. 
The darkness, the foolishness, the callousness.
There was no relief in sight. No more music. 
No more dancing. No romancing.

To see the world in this world was always a necessity for you.
Stuck only in one world, this world, I saw the weight.
How heavy your feet fell. How heavy each step.
Some days you would try to move. But you could not lift your head.
Could not escape those voices. Could not escape that bed.

To see the world in this world became a mission for you.
You shut the windows tight. But could not hide from the noise inside your head. Nowhere to hide, from the clamor.
Nowhere to run from the clanging of steely hearts, iron hands.

To see the other world in this world, you kept your sight fixed
upon the north star. But even that light deceived you.
You knew where you were going even during those times.
You railed against those who were hopelessly earthbound.
You saw. You took a step forward. You took flight.  
No one could hold you back.

Take me with you. Take us with you. It’s that time.
The time to see the other world in this world.

You Are Still Everywhere I Look / by Gabrielle Gilliam 

I do my grief work
at the kitchen sink
scrub by and from memory
scour burnt eggs from stainless steel.

I do my grief work
with bony knees pressed
to hardwood floors

chapped fingers clutch
the damp rag. I wash
your memory from the board by hand.

I do my grief work
atop faded area rugs
attack the lingering
stale cigarillo smoke

with the acrid scent of bleach
drown the echoes
of your gravelly voice
with the whir of the Dyson

suck up what I’ve shed
what I’m too weak to gather.

Sunsets (2.30) / by Jessica Heron 

While it is easier to rise with you at my back
the way the sun massages us to movement
I can still stand up in darkness
I can still feel satisfied ambivalence to the
accomplishments of the day, behind me
making room for the next, moving over

While it is easier to sit listening to the kitchen
where you prepare diner food just the way we like it
I can still make my own breakfast lunch and dinner
I can still nourish the body, each interval, making
lighter the hunger, the need, one spoonful
by one small spoonful, until day is done

While it is easier to be wrapped up in your heavy
sleepy scent, canvas work jacket, muscled embrace
to start the morning, to start each day wrapped
in love’s ritual, I can still fall in love
at any moment, and feel it, warming through
my body, entering myself into life

While sunset comes earlier each passing year, sun
replaced by moon, inch by inch it becomes more
pressing to stand in that slim light, knowing you
can see me there, can map your way to me there,
if you want, if I don’t move

Riddles / by R. Bradley Holden 


Oedipus and Samson
had quite a laugh.
Their paths crossed
where three roads met
at an evening hour.
The blind men toppled
in a confusion of limbs,
laughing as they picked
themselves up from the dirt.
Scrambling back to his feet,
Samson wondered,
“What are the chances?”
But Oedipus just sighed
and sipped from his skin of wine.
The Nazarite politely declined a drink,
and the two men sat down
to compare their stories.
Big and brawny, Samson
slapped the Greek on his back.
“Women,” he muttered knowingly,
but Oedipus said nothing.
“Yes, women. My dear Oedipus,
I could tell you about a lover,”
Samson started. “Please don’t,”
the Greek replied, and for a long time
the two men sat lost in their thoughts.
“Do you like riddles?” one finally asked
into the fading gloom. “Do I?”
said the other with a grin.

OWL FEATHERS, A MEMORY / by Pamela Uschuk 

I
Two weeks running, owl feathers score my path, the scalloped
curves of the first near my husband’s writing table
overlooking sunset and coyote yips in the arroyo,
then a Great Horned’s flight primary in the park
as I walked past the names on the wall of lost children,
near the bronze boy forever riding wild
a flying carpet under lacy mesquite—that
very day in the mail, a watercolor of owl feet
walking, talons onyx in moonlight,
scimitars of black light to stab prey.
My friend painted no head, no wings, just white
belly feathers flecked gold reminding me
of the barn owl who fed on mice and rats
raiding the granary on the farm when I was a girl.

II
Funny that owl did not scare me murmuring from its roof beam
in the shed’s semi-dark. It was almost
as big as me. It’s thick snowy down
comforted my tragedies, wings spread
like thick quilts stretched above my head, wings
I wanted to hop on for a sky ride
away from Mom’s tears, her memory
of her fiance killed on Bataan, she said,
before she met my dad. With little clean air to breathe,
Dad sweated in the factory while she dug out
the photo secreted in a box in her underwear drawer.
I didn’t want to see his handsome cocky face
or her tears, the love she didn’t shower on my dad.

III
My dad said Leave the owl be. He’s
doing us a favor. I thanked owl
for gleaning pests from my dad’s hard-earned grain.
Mom said the owl was bad luck,
might carry disease.
I was confused but trusted the owl
with his gold coin eyes, his neat black beak and
his heart-shaped face, silent predator
who without intrigue or desire
killed only what he could eat.

DO NOT DISTURB / by Moira Walsh 

7 a.m. on Hallowmas.
Alone in the hotel restaurant
I feel like a winner.

That’s one life skill I’ve learned:
eating alone, slowly,
without a phone, enjoying it.

I converse with the flowering vine
in her language, which is
silence, nearly.

My thoughts approaching the single decibel
of rain against petal,
leaf against wind.

Chewing weird bread contentedly
I gasp when another human
leans in close to me,

asking something.

NOTE: Hallowmas is an old name for All Saints’ Day (November 1).

Lemon / by Caitlin Wilson 

How terrible, my fear, that I was a lemon
like the ones she told me of, sour and fresh

but surplus, like a torn-out wisdom tooth.
See, everyone on the California street

owned a lemon tree so no one needed
to share a yield or to buy a neighbor’s

lemonade, no matter how sweet it was,
no matter how carefully strained for pulp

and seeds: abundant to the point of redundancy.
I gargle salt water and I spit into porcelain.

I swish and swish as I’ve been told.
I inundate the socket, the site of my old useless tooth.

BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS / by Michellia Wilson 

They told me that there is no way to dance
because there is no space to move
between the raindrops.

I waited for a clear day to begin the dance –
but soon rumbles of thunder rolled in,
and the rain began…

I looked into the sky and let the rain
dowse my skin, my dance slowed,
and I enjoyed the cool droplets over my face.

I began to dance any way,
not a worry about the droplets
on which I stepped.

There is not space between the drops,
but the soaking is quite refreshing
and the dance goes on and on –

I’m loving the bath –
looking into the sky,
I stand with my arms outstretched.

I am relishing in the beauty of it all.
It matters little that I cannot dance
between the raindrops –

The droplets of rain,
beautifully and strangely eloquent,
my graceful partner.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Crossing to Inis Mór / by Lynn Aprill

As we leave the shelter of the bay,
the rough swells build;
we ride the chop like a lover,
the rise and plunge repeating steadily,
methodically, the sun shining
on the shoulders of the waves.
On open water, the whitecaps hit
like birth pains, stomach-dropping,
rail-clutching. At the crest,
we wait for the drop
to the bottom of the trough,
take a breath, anticipate
the next wave.
Mothers know.
I marvel at the mothers
who loaded coffin ships,
how they braved this motion
for months, unsure
if the end held delivery
or death and past caring.
When your child’s belly swells
from starvation and they cry
for bread, you’re already at sea,
fighting the swells, searching
for a peace that never comes.

We keep our eyes on the horizon.

We hope.

SECRET SELF / by Glory Cumbow 

Oh my,
you are a slippery serpent, aren’t you?
I can’t quite get a grip on you.
It shouldn’t be this way.
It should have been easy for us,
obvious,
clear as day,
natural, and pure.
I should have awakened to you
with celebration and freedom,
like dawn breaking.
but you were stifled,
sanitized, forbidden, and buried.
I only know the half of you,
the half that didn’t make those around me
queasy.
But you are there,
more than what the eye can see.
I’ve always known,
but the permitted half
that saw the light of day
made it easy to conform
and lock you away.
I’m sorry.
It’s not fair to you.
You are not the filthy creature
that the screamed lies
damned you to be.
You are beautiful and right.
But now,
I don’t know how to hold you,
so you keep slipping away from me.
I hope there will come a day
in the glorious dawn
we were both denied,
when you and I can breathe in
the dewy fog of sunrise
in the light,
in full view,
together and whole.

All Hallow’s Eve / by Gabrielle Gilliam 

It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus
tradition diluted to commercial masquerade.
Beneath our masks, we haven’t lost our focus.

We fill the streets, descend like hungry locusts
and night falls on our colorful parade.
It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus.

The ring of doorbells becomes our magnum opus
and though it’s dark we travel unafraid.
Beneath the masks, we haven’t lost our focus.

It grows colder but we take no notice
warmed by the thoughts of candy we will trade.
It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus.

Determined, we don’t let fatigue provoke us.
We walk until our hems are torn and frayed.
Beneath our masks, we haven’t lost our focus.

We wander back toward our initial locus
bask in the success of our crusade.
It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus.
Beneath our masks, we never lost our focus.

Practical Things (1.30) / by Jessica Heron 

Got to get to bed clear-headed
but I sleep with dollar signs-
What is it worth, quietly worthy,
surely worthy, in black or red
How is my body going to respond
To my credit card statement-
I will sweep up at Dollar Zone
the Dollar Zone where I spend
my time budgeting for bags of dirt-
identity is under the fingernails
a brush could take care of that-
What’s left after a good scrub
the dirt ring around the tub, the
mildewed organic cotton towel, the
things we can’t ignore if we want
a clean house, a warm seat looking out
at fenced-in trees, an Epsom salt wind rustling
a bug that squeaks like a wheel he rides
but never reaches a destination-
Turn the heat off, shut the door and lock it
enter new purchases into the spreadsheet
calculate the weight of a blanket,
its portability, keep moving through rooms
assessing this or that thing
can it still be returned? check the FAQ section
pack a bag and go back to bed

Modern Life / by R. Bradley Holden

I asked my muse about modern life.
Should a poet ride in a car?
She said it was fine, 
no worries, but yes: such speeds 
were indeed too fast 
for inspiration to strike.

PRAYER IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC / by Pamela Uschuk
for Naomi Shihab Nye

Worry sifts through Eucalyptus limbs
Audubon warblers cling to on their way north.
Immigrant warblers flash no passports, lift slight wings
over any grounded fence. Eucalyptus doesn’t argue
about wearing a mask, protects itself by shedding bark,
self-trims branches in storms. I envy the generosity of trees,
the way they shade us asking nothing in return, no tit
for tat, no cost or tax. Relaxed, their leaves
perfume air we breathe away from crowds.
They have no use for TV or doomsday reports
of osified lungs, for congressional lies
or bodies ferried on the sweating backs of American dreams.
No tree nor warbler, politician nor refugee family caged
along our border is immune. Afternoons
I choose to lie beneath this live canopy
catching fractals of light, branches hoisted
skyward with their thousand green and open palms.

FORM EXPERIMENT (I): VILLANELLE / by Moira Walsh 

Deserting from the XX wars,
you cross a new town, late at night.
Peripheral: a fearful horse.

A hidden compass guides your course
down unmarked roads. You have the right
mind to admit the XX wars.

Two late-shift nurses sign, endorse
your background check, as well they might.
They’ve never seen the fearful horse.

All you expect from these bright floors:
a single bed, kind food, respite –
exhausted from the XX wars.

Avoid the heaviest remorse.
Sit down beneath the wounded light.
Draw meadows for the fearful horse.

Your small survival kit of chores:
rise with the sun, run, eat well, write.
It’s true – without those XX wars
you never would have found your horse.

Stoic / by Caitlin Wilson 

Rain for days now. Autumn floods along the bay coast,
             the hours fuzzy with indefinable light
and boundaries begin to slip. One could wonder.
             Trees front as telephone poles down the block,
denuded figures, not living, now, as we knew them.
             My horoscope mentions the curiosity of the Stoics,
how inquisition is a connecting thread, not
             delineation between the asker and the answers
that may wound the self into something new.
             Sunlight slow dissolves the clouds, shocks the cold
mirror of each puddle. Would that I could
             speak through the water to some other self, one
who knows the answer. Would that I could.

THE DREAM / by Michellia Wilson 

A distance from the road,
in a setting just beyond sight –
a green trailer sits mostly unnoticed,
this was not the dream –
a small shuttered cabin in a secluded woods
built to harbor a single soul who sits on the porch
and enjoys lemonade on a hot summer day –
watching and listening to God;
The same porch where a friend might visit
and voices braided in harmony of kindred spirits,
conversation that comes easy and wafts
in the beautiful breeze of a warm day –
the glasses of lemonade beaded with sweat,
and cookies on a plate with a chip and sentimental value,
everything with some kind of meaning,
sitting quietly and unassuming,
the little porch attached to a shuttered cabin,
untouched by the past, living in the moment –
a place that can actually be called home.