The 30/30 Project: November 2021

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 30 / Day 30

November 2021 Cento / with lines chosen and written by the November 2021 30/30 Poets: Lynn Aprill, Amanda Auchter, Glory Cumbow, Joan Daidone, Gabrielle Gilliam, Jessica Heron, R. Bradley Holden, Pamela Uschuk, Moira Walsh, Caitlin Wilson, and Michellia Wilson.

How do I occupy this place, in this time?
I’ve burned the candle at three ends.

Perhaps you are looking for a sign.
Believe me, when desperate, I’ve asked.

We stole their scriptures
That was first.

If I could grab both coasts in my hands,
All the way to calving glaciers, where belugas flow like ghosts,
I’d fold America in half like a Dalí clock,
the minute hand bridging us,
clinging to our softened edges
Like a swig of sweetbitter lemon rousing hope
–Only denuded limbs let such sweetness in.

Our domesticated heaven
not yet darkened by summer’s heat
as fire invents ash
for another kind of immortality
sizzling like a comet of promises in my ears.

When I’m Gone / by Lynn Aprill

carry me to St. Paul’s Cathedral, climb
the 550 steps to the top overlooking the Thames, 
but only if the organist is practicing
for Sunday service or a visiting choir 
is intoning a dirge in the sanctuary. Lift me
to the wind above London,
where I can drift above the Wobbly Bridge 
and worm myself into the wood of the Globe,
where I can spend eternity as a groundling 
at the altar of the thrust stage.

My fingers will file themselves
through the locks at the London Library 
and run along the shelves of poetry,
inserting themselves between the battles 
of Beowulf and Wordsworth’s daffodils.

Select pieces of me will take a turn
right over the top of the Tate
(as I was never one for modern art) 
and switch back to land 
at the British Museum, where I’ll dust 
the buried treasures of Sutton Hu 
and scour the Elgin marbles, surprised 
to learn that they are ancient friezes 
and not children’s toys.

My heart, oh my poet’s heart
will process down the aisle of the Abbey, 
veering right to that august gathering 
of wordsmiths in search of Chaucer and Browning.
Perhaps my jaw as well, so we can speak
of unfinished tales and the convenience
of carrying poison in your pocket
or your pen.

What’s left of me will glide across the platform
at Kings Cross, board the train, sift into the seats,
travel cheek by jowl from London to Leeds
and back, finding heaven in the smell
of a greased paper cone of fish and chips
and the sound of a flower girl under the eaves 
in Covent Garden, selling handfuls of herself
and searching for her place in the world.


CANDLE IN THE HALLWAY / by Glory Cumbow

As the time for sleep closes in
I lock the door,
switch off the lights,
and I am about to blow out the candle
in the hallway
when I pause.
All is quiet.
The flame does not make a sound,
but does make itself known.
The light and the dark 
dance along the walls.
Often we think to preserve the glow
and fear what comes in shadow.
But this flickering waltz
reminds me that both light and dark
are equally beautiful
and good 
in their own right.
The light reveals and guides,
like a lighthouse on a rocky cliff.
But the darkness provides rest and transformation
like a protective chrysalis.
Both are hopeful and helpful.
I huff out the flame
Without any fear of the dark surrounding me.
It will renew me for when the light comes again.

What love is / by Joan Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

Some say love is an enigma.
But there’s no mystery to love.
Love is simply the act of creation.
Of connection. Of compassion.
Some call love a trap.
But there are no prisoners of love.
Love is freedom and knowing.
Knowing when to listen, when to be silent.
Knowing when to speak up.
When to whisper gently to a stranger in the street,
or a distant lover in the night. 

Love is a heartbeat; love is a drum beat.
Beyond romance and desire.
Arms holding you before you fall asleep at night. 
Arms wrapped so tight around you that you wake up
because you can hardly take a breath. 
A child’s warm tiny voice, in your ear, on your neck,
when you float on the edge of sleep and daybreak. 

Love is more than the hard rubbing, throbbing of a man
More than a woman’s heart against heart
Love is his scent, her sizzle,
That mix of sweat, of saltiness, of spiciness,
All the silliness you carry with you, long after they’ve gone.

Love can provoke battles.
But only when it’s a collision of egos and wills. 
Love, it’s the words left unspoken,
the silences so full of emotion, the joy and the rage.
Non-believers believe that love is just a drug.
They believe it is an illusion.
But dreamers know true love is more than a dream.
Love is a future filled with hope,
Hope for a future where there are no “others”
Only gracious members of one every-expanding tribe.

Love is all the days that led up to this moment
The moments that will never come again
Love is all the disappointments,
the missed opportunities that have long passed.
Love is the memories that will never be erased,
 that will never leave you, even when memory fades.

Love is a world without cages
A world where every child’s giggle is pure ecstasy
An ecstasy, more infectious than any virus or pandemic.
Where laughter is the cure for love’s shortcomings.
But after one heartbreak after another,
One more father mourning for his son,
One more child crying for her mother,
I know I have no other choice,
no other motion or emotion but love. 

Love now as if this is our very last moment,
Our very last seconds of life.
Because love is the only action worth taking.  
The only thing still worth fighting for. 
Listen up, speak up, stand up for love. 
Because in a world ravaged by fear, by ignorance, by violence,
We have no other choice but to love.  It is why we are here.
Love is … love is change. Love is healing….Love is gratitude…
Love is generosity…Love is spirit.. Love is..  now.

Painting by Brian Saltern

The Sisters Go to the Second-Hand Store / by Gabrielle Gilliam

They descend upon the porch 
like clucking hens or curious crows 

picking through boxes and bags 
for treasures. Gossip drips from lips 

while they peruse. They skip pleasantries 
and divulge diagnoses and deaths 

indifferent to whether the acquaintance 
is shared. What matters is their own good fortune 

how Fate has overlooked them when divvying out grief 
that they are two cast offs who fail to catch her eye.

Hurt (30.30) / by Jessica Heron 

In ways that dredge up like waves
and pound my sand skin into sea glass,
no more sharp edges, a pretty little thing
to be smiled at, palmed, coveted

I want my edges back, I want my words
to cut of condescension, to burn skin
deeper than tattoos can reach, layer
vitriol over acid, open my waterlogged jaws and spit

But I breathe so deep in woods
you can’t find me in, more crimson
than maples, so light I’ve become liminal,
float and illuminate on levity and letting go

Every third bend by the pond I pray the black snake
to cross my path. It did once – stopped me
in my tracks, the texture of car tires:
slick, wet, fluid, fast

MOONSET WITH BRAHMA BULL / by Pamela Uschuk

Desert sunset is a skull on fire
dropping through clouds obscuring Sombrero Peak.
A gibbous moon trails sparks as it leads
winter by the nose ring, ice white
like Herman, the Brahma my father tamed,
so large he shook the two story barn
thrashing his huge-boned head waiting
for my father to curry
his coat spackled with tiny black stars.

Herman, whose bellow woke neighbors a mile away,
carried my brother and I like crystal glasses atop his galactic back,
Herman, wild enough to buck for no reason, found joy
in tearing roots from fields of alfalfa, asparagus, wild garlic
he breathed on us when we petted his tender pink nose.

Hazy as xrays, the dead tonight slip back to far
dreams as they fine tune the machinery
of the universe, each cog
a clicking memory interlocked
changing the molecular structure of clouds,
pushing up mountains toward a heaven that
recedes, changing us as it changes our needs.

Far north under a cedar tree, mom’s ashes
are next to Dad’s, guarded
by a stained glass wheel my sister crafted,
kaleidescope of plum light fracturing sunlight
and moonlit ghosts hunting the high Rockies.
Sometimes, I hear my father calling his cattle home,
one by one, as fondly as farm dogs he stroked, cows
raised for inevitable slaughter that nourished us.

As sun turns the East to milk light, I think of what
feeds us, how each of us is just a memory of another
so we keep the stories alive
as sky
as walnut trees
as moss roses, purple monkshood, daisies going to seed,
as birds sipping nectar surrounded by thorns,
as dragonflies
whose bulbous eyes see sixteen ways at once,
as Herman the Brahma bull,
as my father’s laughter opening a room,
as the moon shedding gold scales across Pacific waves
I can taste in this far desert but cannot see.

WISH / by Moira Walsh 

On my final day
let me carry good news
all the way to

A long way above the ordinary world / by Caitlin Wilson 

Winds bluster, stone
grinds through the soles of each shoe,
and still arrival is hardly here,
is gliding slowly away, like a moon
on water, like an unfed swan.

AS MY PEN / by Michellia Wilson 

As my pen gently weeps,
I wipe it’s tears on cotton bond.
Too many days,
heavy with thoughts,
capsize me,
and my pen shoulders my pain
as I scratch out thoughts
that rub against the white sheet.

I wrap myself tightly in this
cotton cloak, that used to be
standing in a white field
as bolls prickly on a fall day.

As my pen sweeps in awkward
patterns, pulling tiny threads
with a nib heavy with blue ink,
words in bloom as bolls in fall.

Poem 29 / Day 29

The Source of Creativity / by Lynn Aprill 
Golden Autumn, 1895 – Isaac Hyich Levitan

Do sage Old Masters forge a counterfeit
as they put brush to canvas, hoping to
approximate the artistry found writ
in winding river or autumnal hue?

For we’ve had virtuosos grace this earth–
Monet, Van Gogh, Booth, Raskaj, Levitan–
whose creativity has given birth
to masterpieces marvelous to man.

So when they reproduce that shade of gold
that mirrors flashing leaves on birches tall,
is credit solely to the artist bold
or traced to the Creator of us all?

There is a shared inspired alchemy
when one seeks to capture Earth’s majesty.

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.

Tritina for This New Normal / by Gabrielle Gilliam

The neighborhood wakes slowly 
sporadic signs of life 
collect in the gutter. 

When we clean the gutter 
we dissect them slowly 
a mask—a ball—discarded life.

A hint of post-pandemic life 
proof humanity didn’t gutter 
though we may burn more slowly. 

We wake slowly but still toss life in the gutter.

In the Wake (29.30) / by Jessica Heron

In the silence in between
waves, the flat center-
water moves there, underneath.

There are creatures deep, beneath
seawater blackness.
The most imaginative

gods responsible-
disturbing the perfect lake
and us, on the boat.

WE LEARNED, IT’S ABOUT TIME / by Pamela Uschuk

as usual, it’s the moment we release
cruelty or betrayal we’ve held like a foil-wrapped
diamond, trading shine for tarnish. The moment
of heart stop. I have corona virus. No big deal.

Or, perhaps, its the sway of the tangerine tree
under the weight of the mating Gambel’s quail
calling for love. No big deal. The Delta Variant.

I minutely discuss with my nephew options, who
to quarantine, including us, and when. I feel again
that familiar fist clench cold inside my chest

I thought seven years ago I was dead after stage 3
cancer nearly downed me. It is about time.
How long we have. Or don’t. Until we don’t.

Worry’s cactus thorn worms further into each update
of confirmed cases. Fear webs even healthy lungs.
We count exponential deaths. 900,000 by year’s end.

“We learned. It’s about time,” My friend advises.
“Walk outside, carry birdsong on you sleeves.”

This morning’s sky opens blue and crisp enough to chew.

EROGENUITY / by Moira Walsh

Earthly body
celestial body
body of water

Body of work
body politic
body of argument

Receptive body
seeking body
body dweller

We meet
through bodies

Our selves
infinitely stranger and stronger
than bodies

Snakes / by Caitlin Wilson

In a past springtime, I dreamed constrictors sinking
fangs in my calves, twining tails about

my ankles, mottled and earthy, like lengthy leeches.
In The Dictionary of Dreams this could mean two things:

1. If [the snakes] bite you, you will succumb
to evil influences and enemies will injure your business.

2. To dream that a snake coils itself around you and darts
its tongue out at you, is a sign that you will be placed

in a position where you will be powerless in the hands
of enemies and be attacked with sickness.

No one removed them and I did
not know how until they chose to release me.

A MIX OF SEASONS / by Michellia Wilson
              inside a mix of heart

cold light is less,
as evening skies turn dark,
all before supper is cooked,
and ready to serve,
on chipped platters
and with tarnished utensils;

long gone is the haze of dust
from a fall harvest,
in the orange light of October,
straight from the reamer,
the corn separated from
stalk to bin;

two seasons mix inside me –
as night winds blow chaff and snow,
swirling inside a muddled mind,
I lie confused – nothing new –
in the overlapping
cool breezes and blue winds…

Poem 28 / Day 28

The Fall / by Lynn Aprill
Study of a Nude in the Undergrowth – Henri-Edmond Cross

We sit ‘neath lofty oaks and poplar stands
as Eve and Adam did in Eden fair,
and feel the weight of His supreme command:
the care of plants and beasts of earth and air.

When God established this relationship
between His people and each wild thing,
did He foresee the petty brinkmanship 
which would someday endanger everything?

It should not be a shock, for even they,
when offered fruit too tempting to ignore,
allowed the serpent to lead them astray
and jeopardized nature forevermore.

Their punishment for sin was Eden’s yield
and toil at furrows stretched across the field.

FERTILE DECAY / by Glory Cumbow

I’m ready.
It’s time for a compost pile.
First come the eggshells 
that I had to tiptoe on
so as not to offend you.
Then come the dry leaves
from the bushes I had to beat around
so that you never had to face the truth.
Next are the banana peels,
the traps of deceit 
you laid down to slip me up.
After that, I dump in the clippings
that I had to cut down 
to reveal your identity
as a snake in the grass.
Finally, I sprinkle in the ashes
from the letters and pictures
that I set aflame.
This pile is rotten, 
reeking of death.
But my, oh my,
just wait and see
the life I will be able to grow
from this fertile decay.

As Above, So Below / by Gabrielle Gilliam
after View at Mimizan by Winston Churchill

Liquid clouds drift toward 
the horizon. Drawn like Narcissus, 

trees stretch their branches 
toward their rippling reflections. 

Steadfast roots prevent them
from falling in—losing themselves 

beneath the painted surface 
of the sea. If I wet my hand 

at the water’s edge, my feet 
unsown—no groundwork to keep 

me tethered—would my body sink 
punch a hole in that perfect summer sky?

Let Me In (28.30)

he who doesn’t know the difference between a whimper and a siren
he who doesn’t hear it
he who hears it but doesn’t hear the difference, responds to it
the same

I work work work all day
I am home, hungry
I want to sleep, I need to sleep
I have to get up in the morning

in the morning it is gray, it pours and I, I
am banging on the doors to get in, a whimper
of an effort
she who doesn’t know how the difference could be so
damn different
she who screams without opening her lips, honeyed shut

She sleeps, sleeps forehead on the door frame
She wants to sleep, she needs to sleep
She has to get up in the morning

Education / by R. Bradley Holden 

My students laugh at the old stories.
Love, I say, and they smile 
from embarrassment. “We have 
already satisfied the body,” they
tell me. 
     And Truth? The word 
sounds archaic in their ears. 
“Why should anyone die 
for abstractions?” they wonder.

I stand helpless before them,
a native trying to explain my customs 
to a skeptical anthropologist.
I describe the old gods, and he writes
in his journal: “A superstition
among this tribe.” Or: “Rituals they
seem to cherish.”
                               No, but this was 
everything, I try to explain. “Look 
at his funny clothes,” they remark, 
“or his old-fashioned values.” 
I shake my book at them. “It seems,”
they say, “that those squiggles
must mean something.” 
                                   And then:
“He seems to be crying now.”

SANTA RITA CACTUS STUDY / by Pamela Uschuk 
For Val Uschuk

In my yard, the heart of the Santa Rita cactus burns
red as a sunburned coral reef. My friend
tells me that if I lean to close to Santa Ritas, I’ll inhale
millions of tiny thorns to fester in my throat and lungs.

On Face Book, my sister posts her latest cactus painting.
Sun gold and black jut from each Santa Rita thorn,
smooth skin pocked with scabrous blights, a balance
of each, her canvas bold, bioluminescent. She
is not interested in easy beauty, admired
vultures who fly at eye level tilting bituminous wings.
Her studio is an aerie atop the tallest hill in Ajo.

Here’s a photo of us, the day she flopped
her blonde hair over my bald head, saying
my head was cute, and we made crazy faces
the way we used to in the photo booths of our youth.
Before cancer, I wanted to paint the world
with me fulfilled somehow near the center.
Now, I understand Val’s longer distance view.

Last spring my nephew chopped the Santa Rita thicket
from my garden. On my kitchen wall, “Party Cactus”
blooms close focused on beauty’s fungus, spider
webs and desert light, a riot of grace.

FORM EXPERIMENT (XII): AWDL GYWYDD
Inspiration / by Moira Walsh for KMH of Chatterbox PressI love the people who don’tand simply won’t censor yeasts:Artists who welcome cartoondogs, bowler hats, moon-shaped beasts.

Nothing Less / by Caitlin Wilson 

The tenor of an empty room: I can survive on nothing less.
Where the moonlight beams, nothing less.

Cities in the night smear orange, white embers on Earth,
from space spell out their aims: Nothing Less.

I cough at the dust from your heels in the heat. Could it
be possible that one day we will be nothing, less?

Moth wings colored like poplar leaves, hidden from birds
by its own body, and it would ask for nothing less.

Your voice, pure to my heart. The tide listens only to
gravity; I will turn my ear towards nothing less.

BARRY’S SONG / by Michellia Wilson  

Just like when, at his funeral,
we sang his song,
his life like a cattail and morning
dew rising above the pond –
and evening glorious orange skies.
We walked away from the hole
made for his resting place,
gone but not forever,
a life celebrated by a small crowd,
on a very cold day.
He hated to be cold,
long underwear, two pairs of socks,
under his black suit would have been
appropriate – would have made me
rest easier as he was eased into
the late December ground.

Poem 27 / Day 27

Communion / by Lynn Aprill
Moonlight, 1874 – Winslow Homer

When seeking to capture Earth’s majesty,
and find a place to calm our troubled minds,
we find ourselves pulled once again to sea
or lake or river, water rough or kind.

Here, more than any church, we find a peace–
we taste the salt wine lifted on the air,
diffuse clouds signaling the day’s release,
the full moon, like an offered wafer, bare.

Grace cannot be confined by bricks or beams—
though there is comfort when we congregate—
for faith, cast much as Peter’s nets, redeems,
and awe at His creation consecrates.

Kneeling on the shore, we commune deeply,
while Nature holds her perfection briefly.

Bikini Beach Waves / by Joan Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

She dared me to paint her.
The slight quiver of her lips.
The hazy, lazy blink of her eyelids.
Those undulating come hither hips

I came here to try to capture the waves.
The delicate foam as it rode the crest
The crash flow of translucent greens and blues.
The infinite grains of sand
The bowing lean bodies of palm trees.
I came to capture the waves. 

But she dared me to paint her,
Her waves captured my imagination.
Her gaze stirred, and then stilled me in place
I could do nothing but stroke those undulating waves
Stroke her with my brushes and pigments,
Mixed with sand and

She had skin like the white sands of Bermuda,
Curves like a tide at summer sunset. 
One of those exotic beauties artists conjure,
She was a mermaid that seducing this sailor to follow her
Out to sea, grateful to plunge into the deepest  dark waters,
Out into the wilds of the open sea
Even if it meant never to catch my breath again.

Her eyes were emerald, green, then blue-grey, then green
Colors that undulated and flowed like the waves
I lost myself in those eyes, lost myself, and almost drowned
Into the depths of her mystery, her charm, her elusive enchantment. 
But I kept the brush moving, keep it moving and you will never lose her. 

Take another stroke and you may capture her forever.
Possibly even come up for an exquisite gasp of air.
Ah yes, the waves, seduce me for what else is there
Nothing but the salty, soft sting of your stare as we touch. 

Painting by Brian Saltern

Trimming the Tree / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Rainbow-colored lights 
wink between the evergreen 
plastic tree branches.

I’m not decking any halls this year. My Christmas spirit is off keeping your ghost company—sharing stories of festively wrapped surprises over cold beers.

A limb shakes and rings 
a bell and I wonder if 
you just earned your wings.

A Death (27.30) / by Jessica Heron

Danny asks Frank what he does for his face.
Frank says rubbing alcohol. Danny protests, we
become a chorus: it’s drying. Frank says no wait,
listen, rubbing alcohol and a high end moisturizer
here, here, and here. Frank rubs his cheeks, eyelids,
and circles his eyes. Michael says he doesn’t
know the name of his lotion. Danny says listen
to Frank, he’s sixty-seven but look at his skin.
You’re young he says to the chorus. Danny is,
for the first time, forty. He says it again, you’re young.
A minute ago he was one of us. 

R. S. Thomas / by R. Bradley Holden

In the laboratories of the spirit
he records the silences 
of God. 

Plays the tapes back over
and over 
and notes with precision 
their timbre
and intensity.

                        Sometimes
catches distant echoes— 
faint traces, vague murmurs. But 
rewound, the noise always
resolves itself into 
nothing. 

                         Hand on the dial
(the volume so loud this time
the tape crackles),
Thomas nodding his head.

LIFT FOR THE WIDER VIEW / by Pamela Uschuk

Wind seeks the wisdom of birds today, feels the way
they bank into its bluster, lift
for the wider view, carries these
beings who live equally in two elements, whose bones
are filled with air we breathe.

FORM EXPERIMENT (XI): ITALIAN SONNET

Somnifer sings to the wakeful /
by Moira Walsh

“Give over desktop worries. Under-stand
my tender net that catches like a hymn.
Day will return. Your good intentions swim.
I’ll wrap your nightmares in my contraband.
A subtle drowse-dew blesses sea and land,
sinks like a semipermeable scrim,
hides wheels from view, dulls ev’ry anxious whim
that hyperpistolates the writer’s hand.”
Thus croons old Somnifer. She has no clue
how I must toss and turn to find my rest.
I’ll not elaborate how thoughts of you
fling large containers into ancient Brest.
At last (at last!) the captain heeds the crew
and with an empty hold my ship sails west.

Minutiae / by Caitlin Wilson

My boat is the size of a blade of grass,
the sail is a tissue, oars made of Q-tips.
Landfall is an exposed river stone.
I use cherries as stools. Curtains
of dry leaves rustle in the wind.
Conversation is quiet to keep
the furniture in place.
Everything is as it should be.
I glue the roof back on when anyone
sneezes. A comical little room
made for all my living.

SLIGHTLY NORTH OF WABASH / by Michellia Wilson

It is possible to pull the palettes of yesterday,
and stroke into existence memories that come today.
It is not so hard to walk the tributaries,
the creek beds that lead to this Eden.
I know this – I am sitting on a mossy log – breathing it in,
and it is amazing!

Sometime in 1973,
and in the years before and five behind,
I existed in a place earth’s side of heaven…

The fresh smell of manicured grass
was only a teaser to the prolific yard that was rooted
in beauty from flowers to trees to vegetables,
planting season was year ‘round and had my soul.

I flourished as did the plants,
fostered by grandparents with faces
as beautiful to me as any of the burgeoning
and abundant vegetation.

I favor this birthplace,
and though I later found myself transplanted South…
I am still engulfed in the waters of River Wabash,
and the rich smells of espresso colored dirt that
nurtured the roots of my childhood.

Poem 26 / Day 26

A Winter Welcome / by Lynn Aprill

We started watching the pond
because of the fish head–
fresh, frayed–which walked
through our front door
in the middle of winter, clenched
between the teeth of our puppy.
We soon discovered grisly discarded heads
ringing an open hole in the frozen pond.
Fascinated, we started a vigil,
hoping to discover the culprit.
A meandering track through recent snow 
our next clue. Then, one morning,
bold as sunrise, an otter sat upright 
on the dock, full fish clasped 
in his furry front paws, munching 
happily on the catch of the day.

Thus began the morning ritual
of watching “our otter” slide
from his den beside the creek,
cross our five acre field, 
slip into the open water,
and emerge with breakfast.
Fat and sleek, he was emptying
our pond of stocked fish.
When our neighbor called
for permission to trap him,
I said no. Unexpected visitors
who provide entertainment
are welcome to stay.


VORACIOUS / by Glory Cumbow

I tried to skip a rock across the lake
but I didn’t throw it quite right
so it didn’t skim,
but got swallowed.
The lake swallowed the little rock right up.
Well, what else has this gluttonous beast
gulped down its gullet?
Branches? Entire trees?
Muddy banks?
Ducks, geese, swans?
Deer, raccoons, otters?
Boats? Swimmers?
Well, you won’t be gorging on me!
Not today.
Besides, you would choke anyway.
The lake looks so deceptively placid,
but don’t turn your back, 
or the lapping shallows
will lap you up.

Now is the Time / by Joan Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

I want to say that this is the perfect time.
The time when the hands of all the clocks have stopped.
There has never been a time like this before.
And this time will never come again.
At this moment my heart, my eyes, my arms are open
More open to you than ever before.

I can see the sun in your eyes,
The light burst through the clouds.
I can feel your fear and trepidation slowly disappear.
Replaced by your courage and compassion rising.
Now is the time, in this moment, I see through you,
I see your hopes, your dreams, your longings, and desires.

Now there is no excuse to hide away
The young boy and girl in you are out to play,
The innocent ones you have hidden for so long,
The ones you have tried to deny or silence.
That child is quiet no more. That child is fearful no more
Now is the time for being you again.

Now is the time, amid the chaos, the untruths,
Among all those crazy adults sputtering nonsense,
Now is the time to open your mouth wide,
to raise your voice high, to shout, laugh, sing and simply be.
Now is the time for being that child again.
Now is the time for being human again.
Thank you, my Prophets, thank you
Thank you, Buddha, thank you, Mohammed, thank you, Jesus
and Holy Madonna.
Thank you whoever the hell you are,
all you Sinners and Saints, whoever you are. thank you.
Now is the perfect time for giving and receiving thanks.

Painting by Brian Saltern

Thanksgiving Sonnet / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Another gathering has come and gone 
the painted smiles removed and packed away. 
My pillow sings a tranquil siren song 
convincing me to set aside the day 
to strip the conversations from my skin 
to pile them in the closet with my clothes 
expel the breath that I’ve been holding in 
relax the lips that I’ve been pressing closed 
unclench the jaw that I’ve been clutching tight 
and slide between my blanket and my sheets 
surrender to the silence of the night 
and close my eyes while I start counting sheep 
be grateful I survived the whole affair 
give thanks that this comes only once a year.

Ifer Rope (26.30) / by Jessica Heron

three block solid circles put the fear of God in me
no swimming He said on the first day
I came upon the red metal square, on a post

on the last day I came upon a sticker
it covered the terrifying circles
in the humanoid head on the caution sign

maybe it scared you too, Ifer Rope sticker,
enough to reclaim that space – but I and my Faith
pulled that vinyl square clean off

when we look into the abyss of those circles
mouth, eyes, blank black spaces
we see ourselves in strange faces

ECONOMICS LESSON / by Pamela Uschuk

On the shuttle, the tall economist seated
between me and a Lebanese immigrant from Quebec
says he’s going to Sweden for five weeks, where
he’ll argue with relatives against group think.
He teaches seniors money is fantasy,

“There is no real cash, except this,” he pulls
a silver dollar from his leather wallet, solid silver,
“As the Founding Fathers meant us to have.”
An individualist, he says he comes before any group.
“I would do away with all social programs, breakfasts for poor kids,
Social security, Medicaid, all of them, “ his arm
razors the space between us, slicing thin air.

“Would you let a child starve while you eat?” asks wind
whipping past the van through the ghosts of mesquite trees.

“Rules repress the individual, group think,” he smirks
predicting the a return of a rogue president.

“What about crimes? Murder,
for instance? Or not feeding hungry children?”
On the freeway, anxious tires hum.

“Just educate everyone to be an individual and there will be no crime.”

I feel the ice slide under my feet, even here in the summer desert
shifting with heat. “What about sociopaths,
The criminally insane?”

This is a semantic bridge he skids across, “Educate
them to be the true individual each is meant to be.”

I drink more water, my head
heavier than when I sat down, but I laugh.

And, he laughs. “Seriously.”

The silver dollar, shiny as an albino peacock eye
winks in his palm, a magician’s palm.

Now you see it,
now you don’t. Now,
you don’t.

PRIORITIES / by Moira Walsh

Fat cat fatigue
sits on my chest.

I have a few
hours of daylight.

Poetry wins
every time.

The Bus / by Caitlin Wilson

In the dream you had to say goodbye,

and I was waiting for you to do so, and the bus

was waiting to take you away afterwards.

The set was a cavernous room, made

for coming and going, like a Greyhound

station, maybe the gas-spattered one

I used all those months ago, when the bus

ride stopped partway at the lit island of a rest stop.

Where the driver abandoned a passenger

who was late to return and shook his head

at those who yelled at him to wait.

Maybe it is the same bus arriving to take you

away. Maybe you will be misplaced along

the way, wavering alone in fluorescents.

INDELIBLE / by Michellia Wilson

I write it out in cursive,
long hand –
a method heading toward extinction.
I elaborate on my notepad
filled with a myriad of things 
that make sense only to me.
Three blind mice I caught
in a coffee cup,
the farmer in the dell rolling in the hay
with the milk maid –
and four little girls,
hand in hand hold tightly
until ashes, ashes they all fall down.

These things have permanence over time.
Stories sang in youth,
played out in the yard – not making sense,
but permanent in our memories.
We line up in red light, green light –
and Mother may I?
Statue to round out the evening,
halted by the coming on of the street light –
time to go inside.
These memories are permanent
in energy and recall.

I delve into my repertoire –
recall other childhood games,
but think what purpose does this hold now?
My friends have long ago disbursed,
running towards their own version
of red rover, red rover.

I’m saddened that the time come and passed
so quickly – childhood is a vapor  –
the memories, indelible, etched inside my heart.

Poem 25 / Day 25

How Thankful for these Gifts We Gather / by Lynn Aprill

The peapods are husks, desiccated 
on the vine, while the beets which remain 
are fit only for fodder, red softballs,
all sweetness spent. The blue steel plow
bites into cool earth (and the occasional potato)
as we put the garden to bed for another year.
The harvest past, jars line our autumn shelves: 
green beans, carrots, blueberries, tomatoes
dipped in hot water, the skins slipped
from their ripe bodies, ready for our winter table.

CREAKING TREES / by Glory Cumbow

When the wind winds through
the naked branches of the trees
and the boughs stiffly sway,
creak, and groan
I do not think the forest is protesting
a disturbance. 
The gust is a massage therapist
discovering the sore spots,
gently, carefully working them out
with nimble fingers.
For the trees
it hurts so good,
the needed touch
bringing both pain and relief.

The Dancer Redux / by Joan Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

I danced because that’s all I knew how to do.
Shoot hoops and dance.
I ran, jumped, swirled, twisted.
Spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning
was better than any other high.

I’d escape for a few hours at a stretch.
Nothing else mattered for those brief moments.
I’d break away from riots in the streets.
Break away from the murder and mayhem in my head.

Break free of the assignation of my heroes,
my JFK, my Malcolm X, my Dr. King
I took flight. Nothing touched me.
Not the OD’s of my saints,
Hendrix and Joplin and all the rest. I

I danced with Joplin in Golden Gate Park.
We danced and tripped and even kissed a little,
but then that goon of a lover showed up.
I got that last kiss.
Hell yeah what a dance that was.

Was it real or was it a dream?
Damn I know it was real. It all happened
in those times of waking dreams,
those days that blurred into night into day into night
where you never fell asleep and never truly woke up.

Those were the days of dancing and hoops, dancing and hoops.
Oh, where did that time go?
Where do I go from here now when my elastic legs can barely
hold me erect?
Where the only escape is into the stroke of my brush.

Painting by Brian Saltern

Acute Myeloid Leukemia / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Hair sprouts from your scalp 
like downy feathers on a gosling 

fragile and soft 

like the borrowed marrow 
forming new blood cells 
to reboot your immune system 

or the smile hidden beneath 
your leopard-print mask 
that still manages to reach your eyes.

Tonight (25.20) / by Jessica Heron

I confess my craft / I burn holes in /
the hearts of men / it is something I can /
control / I am told / it is my / decision / fall
in love with me / fall in love with me / fall
with me / let me hurt you / let me burn
you / let me burn / burn with me

DESERT DISPATCH / by Pamela Uschuk

Shaded by stalks of Peruvian butterfly bush,
a late collared lizard walks
pauses
on the cool bricks of autumn.
He’s crossed into the green unfurled arms
of what sprawls wild—rosemary,
fragrant diva who overspills any border,
bottle brush, bougainveillia, lantana,
the crown of thorn’s lewd coral blooms
gaping like the mouths of baby humming birds.
Plumeria reaches past sunrise, dense
and sheltered by the carresses of star jasmine, the binding
love of vinca vines. And, on the porch, gardenia
Venus of flowers disguised as a nun holds out a few
immaculate white petals, hot with sexual perfume.

From the garden’s commingled heart, I write
in deepening solitude, masked-up, sequestered
again like a monk from friends as Covid
resurges across our nation. Nearly 800,000 deaths,
today’s awful count, each a heart that yearned
for love or was loved by mother, father, brother,
sister, daughter, son, lover, treasured friend,
each with eyes of a specific hue—brown amber pooled
or blue lagoons, spring leaves of willows—
fingerprints gone, body-bagged, stacked in morgues.

Cosetted by green vines from news,
I consider
this lizard who cocks his head, does
pushups, inflates his blue throat pouch, waits for morsels
of poems, something muscular, to fall
at his feet, into the crazed welter of leaves.

LINE / by Moira Walsh

If there are twenty people ahead of you,
it will take about twenty-five minutes.

If there are a hundred,
you can expect to wait two hours.

In the cold, two hours is a very long time.

If you get there early, a half-hour before sunrise,
before the nosediggers put on their blue gowns,

you might be the very first.

Doves / by Caitlin Wilson

One summer a pair
of mourning doves lived
in my yard.
When I watered the strawberries,
budding eggplants,
it startled them to flight.
They’d sit in the sun together
and never learned
that I would always arrive,
the same time,
waking them into the air.

THE MUSIC TOLD ME SO / by Michellia Wilson

The knurled brown knob proved to be easier to turn than I imagined.
The tuning dial with a red pointer oscillating left, then right –
and then it happened…
The sadness I had bottled up for weeks ignited,
when the drum riffs began.

Over old scratchy speakers,
old music player,
old music,
old person listening.

music that tampers with my own way of check and balances;

the outcome is always –
I am less than equal,
in an equally insane society,
the weak falling away.

Photos of painfully thin humans,
issued blue striped pajamas,
were deemed less than –
   anguish and sadness wailing.

I know all this to be true,
because the music told me so.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Solace / by Lynn Aprill
Field of Lupins, 1891 – Władysław Podkowiński

We watch as furrows stretch across the fields
reflected in the surface of the stream
and soon, the fertile soil faithfully yields 
a mass of golden lupin, while downstream

the pterodactyl call of sandhill crane,
now mingled with the chit of sparrow, trill
of warbler, caw of crow stalking the plain
beside the creek, compels my thoughts to still.

To be a bird in flight without a care
(who neither sows nor reaps nor gathers seeds)
is to inhale pure joy from perfumed air
and put my faith in Him for all my needs.

Yes, I can find some solace here, beset
as we all are with ceaseless toil and sweat.

DRAGON IN THE SKY / by Glory Cumbow

It’s bittersweet to look up above
and see a cloud so obviously
shaped like a dragon
leaping across the sky.
The sweetness of childhood returns
when I could believe 
that the cloud was a hint 
that dragons were real
and if I just kept my eyes open
and wished hard enough
I would be worthy enough,
special enough
to glimpse one.
I would have knowledge
that no one else had.
I would be the chosen one.
The bitterness comes now that I have grown
knowing that I am in a world without 
this fantasy magic.
I didn’t find the dragon cave,
Fairies never came to take me 
on a midnight adventure,
I never saw a unicorn under the moonlight,
and mermaids didn’t come swimming by.
I was never deemed chosen or special
by otherworldly creatures
who wanted me to be among them.
But I have come to love 
the power of my imagination,
and my strength that has come
from surviving the unsurvivable.
I have become my own magic.

The Statistics of Thanksgiving Dinner / by Gabrielle Gilliam

What is the probability that I will eat 
my weight in words as I swallow 

my true feelings with mouthfuls 
of lumpy mashed potatoes 

and lukewarm mac and cheese? 
If I divide my bitten tongue 

by Uncle John’s politics 
or multiply my held breath 

by the half moons dug 
into my throbbing palms? 

No matter the method 
of calculation, the result

is a distended stomach 
bloated with repressed 

bitterness and indigestion 
that lingers for days.

Soaked (24.30) / by Jessica Heron

in that stone place, dark and quiet, there
is agony wet with rapacious hunger
and the craven hunger of forfeit- self
swallows self, uses up the blank black cover
taking the world to bed, taking itself up
in its epicentral excavation-
there is tentative finality here,
with the cave carvings- her skin an afterthought,
not a shield- a flood, finally filling up
the breezeway openings and the
most minuscule of etchings-
a great and painful sigh heaves
the wreckage into the riptide

Life / by R. Bradley Holden

Seven decades, eight—
a stone dropped in water.
Time flows undisturbed.

WAITING FOR THE GEMINIDS / by Pamela Uschuk

All through desert day invisible meteors burn out their lives
in air that keeps us alive. Winter
and the mountains nestle under starched blue
the color of a glacier’s heart. I think of aunts
and uncles stirring from low log houses at 50 below
to break ice from horse noses, prepare to ride
out through Kamchatka snow deep as the memory of wolves
lifting songs to stars falling across scent trails
left by ermine and voles. Night by arctic night
that is arctic day tilts its shadowy face
from the vanished sun while shooting stars sear
across our retinas and our planet hums
through a meteor’s disintegrating tail. Below calving
glaciers, belugas flow like ghosts, their smiles
unmistakably kind as they sing old ice songs,
open their mouths to a host of krill while
on the beach golden eagles fight with harpies
over a fat walrus carcass. Beluga, you resemble
my greatgrandmother, white kerchief knotted
over her summer head. I don’t know
my Ukutsk cousins, only the name
we share that means a whale or shark who spirals
down down down to the bottom of the sea
to evade her enemies, then rises unscathed to
placid tides. Across our nation, pestilence
walks, swinging a smoky censor of disease
ossifying lungs to concrete, killing
kidneys, clotting livers, brains and hearts. 750,000
dead and counting. Why not look to stars
so distant their ice poultices to comfort our wounds?
Meteors sizzle against loss across midnight
through Orion’s diamond belt. What did my relatives
call this constellation they drew on rock outcrops
during the long days of a Siberian June so long ago?
Brown bear standing on his hind legs reaching
for dark wild honey hived in the crown of night?
Do those families bearing my name, feel
in their deepest dreams a lost cousin in a desert
looking for sturdy horses to carry her
home, calling across shimmering ice fields?

FORM EXPERIMENT (X): ENGLISH SONNET

unpunctuated at the edge of sleep / by Moira Walsh

this loving look repay o friend o frond
a favor grant unanswerable gift
our stratospheric sapphire ribbon bond
faded far mountain wayside blossom rift
scent of falafel garlic lakeside spree
swig of sweetbitter lemon rousing hope
peace in the evening dreampuff à minuit
dawn chorus exultation periscope
you know it’s true! we have all this and more
rogue language of the stars santana tears
fine rattus donkey stationery store
we whittle courage to poke holes in fears
time genes and disappointment cannot measure
the depth of chosen kindness or its pleasure

Edges / by Caitlin Wilson 

The blinds are so romantic,
ivory like dominoes
or piano keys or pleats
arrayed upon the wall,
shadows cast by the lamp’s light.

The digital clock face
blinks forward in time, red cutouts,
numerical slices
in the corner of my eye,
but I’m lying six months in the past.

Hadn’t the heat cooled
on the anvil, the blade metal
quenched? Diminished
too slowly, weakened
with the bends or crystalline brittle.

FORGETFUL POET / by Michellia Wilson 
 
Poet’s face thinkstoo much.  Memory dustblows away like debris.In the swathe of night,words take refuge likebats in the light…(this is all too much)Here comes the boogey manwith his haunts andscaresthat steal my mind and the only two good memories I have…My paper, drenchedin word sweat –will the perspirationever stop?Poor. Swap books for loose leafduring a windstorm –pages drift away beyond catching,refugees of mental war. Fallout.    brain collecting Scrabble    pieces in a velvet pull string bag –    a mix of unformed letters;    they make me cry.My mind, a mess –warzoneseeking truce,trying to crawl away from insanity.I cannot proceed –the paper store closed  anddarkness spews from nightto roosters’ annoying calling of dawn.The pencil hungers,chewed and abused –a nub with finite potential,nothing left for mistakes.I go through the brainmaze – the gray matter riddledwith fragments of unsolvable thoughts –strong black coffee thoughts…the point to all this? – already forgotten.

Poem 23 / Day 23

United We Stand / by Lynn Aprill
(part of a crown of ekphrastic sonnets on nature and climate change)
Allies Day, May 1917 – Childe Hassam

She overtops our poor attempts wholly,
does Nature, but now that we know our place
in the course of season and gravity,
our reclamation must proceed apace–
restoring what we’ve ripped from Nature’s womb
and remedying wrongs that we inflict, 
controlling economic bust and boom,
prioritizing peace over conflict.
We must learn from each generation, from
Wall Kimmerer’s sustainability
to Thunberg, Attenborough and Rockstrom.
At last, standing shoulder to shoulder, we
can proudly claim, our standard now unfurled:
“How blessed are we to occupy this world!”

Occupy Amerika / by Joan Daidone
Painting by Brian Saltern

Occupy, Occupy. Occupy Amerika.
How do I occupy this place, in this time?
Now when it is unrecognizable to me.
Is this the place I was born?
Is it the place that my parents, my grandparents
risked their lives to migrate to in search for a new life?

Occupy, Occupy.
Where do we go from here?
How could have I been so blind not to see?
The fear permeates the sidewalks and streets,
the concrete slabs and glass of the skyscrapers tall
and menacing, reflect the fractured lives down below.

Occupy, Occupy.
Do I know you? Do I even know me anymore?
Nothing looks familiar, No one looks the same.
Have I been blind since birth chasing the false dreams?
Or have I been averting my eyes because I could not bear the guilt
Is there any excuse or a life unobserved, for a society in denial?
For a constitution built on falsehoods and fallacies.

Occupy, Occupy.
How do we stand for allegiance to a country build on broken bones?
After witnessing the silenced cries of all those unwanted others.
Where do we go to escape the madness?
Is there a place free of their greed, a place where
their toxic fear of the otherness no longer exists?

Occupy, Occupy, Occupy Amerika
Forgive me but I pledge allegiance to no flag.
I stand and place my hand to my heart and pray for forgiveness
I open my eyes wide. I breathe deep. I cry out to you,
Hear my voice. Divine spirit, my god of peace, Hear my voice
Be our goddess of unity, of sanity, for serenity, for you to
occupy our hearts.

Painting by Brian Saltern

I’ll Never Be Your Darling / by Gabrielle Gilliam

They call me pumpkin and pudding 
when they’ve fallen deep into their cups 
sprinkle me with sugar and dumpling 
as if their endearment’s enough 

to fill my pockets or bank account.

They plant dirty coins on the table 
while calling me honey and peach 
and I navigate best as I’m able 
while skirting the edge of their reach. 

Feigning patience becomes paramount. 

I stretch my smile until my clenched jaw hurts. 
I hope that they choke on their words.

Sometimes (23.20)

One argument for apartment living
                        (versus the house of your dreams)
is the community.
                        (What community? As if my neighbors
                                    will turn to look at me.)

            -Jenna texts me up from a slippery nap:

            >Hey girl!!! Your car door is open and
            >its starting to come down a lil

            …

            >I can run out and close it for you!

Untitled / by R. Bradley Holden 

Paul said the Spirit cries for us,
but here, in their faithless churches,
even the pews groan in the hushed silence.
The drowsiness of a Sunday morning
and the sinners, minds on their lunches,
shift uncomfortably in their seats,
the wood whining in that moment
for mercy.

OBEYING GRAVITY / by Pamela Uschuk

In the greening pasture, bawls
a hereford, alone, struggling 
as she drags a huge jellyfish lucent
as blue moonstone behind her.
 
Two small hooves poke through, and I 
make out a calf face cauled as a death mask
inside the birth sac. Lowing, the cow
tugs away from the herd that ignores her anguish,
circling like Io tricked, then exiled 
in her skin stretched to constellations, her breath
stressed as an arrythmic heart.
 
Look at the fetal blue lids glued to the other 
world, wet hair whorled over the nascent brow 
dreaming its future. See the pale nostrils 
slammed against the cold earthly wind
with its legacy of perfume and stink?
 
Venus cuts twilight deep above peaks
that recede as if infinity was possible.
 
I think of my mother’s hands, gone decades
now from this world, their delicate 
tremor striking Rachmaninov’s sorrow 
from dark piano keys against her frayed nerves.  What 
did her natal eyelids dream?
 
Tightening the noose of her patient arc,
the cow bellows her urgency like a scalpel
that slits dusk’s womb. Without friends
or mate, she plods
past sunset, into the final thrust.
Like a drowned parachute, the calf 
plops to ground that will feed her.
 
From the pained grace of our mothers, we fall
tattooed by gore, umbilicals
torn, screaming into gravity we learn to obey.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
IRRITATION / by Moira Walsh 

       for Paul Celan, born 11/23/1920, who said, “…the language of the poem…will by necessity be gray.” (“Microliths”)

A metallic smell haunts
the back of my throat.
It’s not sadness.

The poems don’t mind.
They’re gray matter.
They weigh true.

They’re plumb. They burst.
Like you, egg.
Like you, water.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Away From Home, We Stop in the Park / by Caitlin Wilson  
            For Rachel

The Doberman barks
behind its invisible fence

We steer our bikes to the other side
soldiering on

At the dock we alight
English ivy, wild grape and honeysuckle twine

We see shaded rooms, a kitchen and bed
Waiting for us

Mulberries and chipped green glass
Dropped helmets, silver minnows

in a plastic bottle, we caught, freed
Summer cut through

the culdesac
Wild mulberries, amethyst juice

under our nails like dirt
Fruited smell of sassafras leaves

In winter, blanketed slopes
of snow. All the textures

of childhood friendship, the root
of wonder 

TO DREAM IS A DREAM / by Michellia Wilson 

Sometimes time runs rampant,
my eyes do not close for days,
and my dreams rest in an incubator
that struggles to keep it’s warmth.
Fragile eggs yearning
to be nurtured into fruition.
A late-night movie
with a meager audience
keeps me company.
To dream means to sleep,
and my eyes hardly close,
and I feel the grit of time
scratching, irritating my blinking.
To dream, to dream is a dream.

Poem 22 / Day 22

Rosemary for Remembrance/ by Lynn Aprill

Weightless; that’s how I felt
when I first entered the water,

tumbled from the tree,
the pretty petals scattered

on the surface. Finally, 
to be free of the weight 

of Hamlet’s secrets, 
of mine, of ours,

the furtive assignations
(for a castle has many rooms

and my father had only
two eyes), the pledges

and caresses. How prolific
were his promises, how bold 

his lips, his hands–
now free. Free, too,

from my father, from his petty 
meddling, his inflated self-importance,

and what did he find
in the end? A bitter blade

intended for someone else.
The river fills my ears,

drowning all sound 
but the pulsing of my heart;

my hands cup tears,
no longer mine to shed.

CAN’T RETURN / by Glory Cumbow

I’m finding it difficult to admit
that there are pieces of me
that are gone
forever.
Certain parts
simply aren’t coming back.
the same fire,
passion,
hopes,
and dreams
have disappeared for good. 
I can’t return to who I was.
But I can learn to love
who I am now.
Many of my old fears are gone
and this is liberating,
because I have conquered innumerable perils.
I have power and confidence
that most won’t acquire in their lifetimes.
And then there are certain pieces
of who I have been
that has laid dormant,
slumbering deep inside,
waiting for the sunrise.
That dawn has come,
and those bits of my soul
are awakening, rubbing their eyes,
stretching long, and standing tall.
I cannot return,
but I can become
over and over again.

A Girl’s Gotta Eat / by Gabrielle Gilliam
after Wilfred Owen

Painted lips drip lies sweet as saccharin 
whip the winds of temptation into a squall 
practiced tongue strips away autonomy 
until he is lulled. Until he dreams 
of the exhilaration—divine tension before 
blissful release. The languid calm after a stormy 
sea. As he sleeps, his body remains helpless; 
the hungry predator relishes the sight. 
Stillness eases the collection of her tithe. 
A hungry tongue probes and plunges 
practiced at bypassing muscle and fat 
she siphons his energy the epitome 
of darkness as it consumes a guttering 
candle; she devours without choking
leaves him steeped in desire—drowning.

Further reading
About this form
About Terrance Hayes (inventor of the form)
Wilfred Owen’s original poem

Wings (20.30) / by Jessica Heron

I bit off the wings so it became a crawling thing
Close to the earth, gravity moved for it.
For me it tilted its head back, opened its mandibles, and laughed
I swallowed it whole
It became a stinging thing, all the way down its heat
in my throat
my esophagus
my stomach acid burned off its legs.
It snaked through me
massaging the raw spots, on its way back up tickling.
I unhinge my jaw and cough up a laugh – it gets to go through me
until it is finished
and I listen to it with my body until it finishes with me.

 

Another Kind of Immortality / by R. Bradley Holden

Thetis showed him in a vision.
He watched it all unfold:
his sullen return to fertile Phythia
and the Greeks’ deserved defeat.
His marriage in aftertimes
to woman whose bright eyes
and gentle smile made him,
even in that dream, forget
the stolen prize. He saw the years
pass by, their children grow,
and the silver in his hair. Bright
sunlight on the Aegean, music,
dancing and dark wine. Achilles saw
the quiet happiness in his aged face
as, an old man, he dandled
his young grandson on his knee.
The boy showed in his lineaments
his paternity. He had, like his father
before him, his grandfather’s eyes—
gray and far-seeing. Yes, those eyes
beheld even this, then turned away
for another kind of immortality.

OWL WINDS / by Pamela Uschuk

Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all charges in the August 2020 shootings of three unarmed men, including two who were killed. The teen’s attorneys argued that Rittenhouse opened fire in self-defense.

Wind owls through eucalyptus, a hollow song at dusk. I prune
back invasive species, pink lantana choking our porch.

The torch of time dims. I sweep cement that cracks quick
in desert sun. Twilight reaches for cups of sunset to slake

its fears while we head inside to eat dinner in front of PBS news.
My black beans and rice resent the latest verdict freeing

the teen who crossed state lines to blast unarmed protesters
with his AR 15, his tears smearing our screens with disbelief .

Last week how my barefeet recoiled at the late scorpion
whose stinger lit up our bathroom tile. Pouring olive oil

over bowls of popcorn, we ditch the news, flip to a special on owls
while great horneds moan in real cypresses outside.

We learn silence from their scalloped wings, learn to listen
to snow breathe. In desert, we have no snow.

Moonlit, silent wings flex beyond our nation cracking
like mouse bones expelled from the gut of a predator,

hate-stoked and dangerous, protected by law.

FORM EXPERIMENT (IX): GOLDEN SHOVEL

No substitute / by Moira Walsh
      after Ken Mikolowski

Try to regret nothing.
Despite desire and logic, you can
never replace
circuitous choices, poetry
gutters, or shoo-in
disasters to reduce my
or your or anyone’s life-
experience and
do-overs to one
easy summary day.
In afterdeath surely
you’ll discern the point of it,
just as I will.

Further reading
About this form
About Terrance Hayes (inventor of the form)
Ken Mikolowski’s original poem

Monostichs / by Caitlin Wilson

What a blessing to walk with somebody

Foxes screaming into the night

Whole day of empty sun I failed to rise for

Crickets in the pine fall

Hands smelling of thyme and garlic

Bass in a car goes on and thumps

Self-sufficiency above all else

A voice calls to say talk later, a door slams

The leek regenerates in a glass of water

BEHIND THE CURTAIN / by Michellia Wilson

In the depths of darkness.
my mind draws a curtain on the show
that will haunt my night…
as the shadows rehearse,
I lie in bed terrified because yet again
 I have been ushered to the front row
to watch images morph into hellish creatures
that swirl around me and taunt me to
join them on their side.
                the breaths of air I take
                are thick and fill me with congestion,
                suffocating me   –
                make me want to take control of my own destiny,
                                because my mind is only slowly getting the job done –
                                the torture is brutal
                                                and I am tired.

Poem 21 / Day 21


Sijo for Sorrow / by Lynn Aprill

I’d like to write of autumn, of falling leaves and brittle grass,
of hunters that stalk their prey through dry corn fields, searching for blood,
but there is a verdict; my state has changed irreparably.

AUDIENCE / by Glory Cumbow

Do you ever feel like
there is an audience watching your demise
from afar,
rooting for your failure,
hoping you burn out bright
and then fade into obscurity,
so much so that no one remembers 
that you even exist?
Or even worse,
that there is an audience 
who has been cheering you on
and invested so much in your potential,
but they get weary from watching you continually
stumble, 
fall,
flop,
flounder, 
and let them down,
proving them wrong for ever believing in you
in the first place?
Yeah, me neither.

Wandering the National Gallery / by Gabrielle Gilliam
after The Voyage of Life: Childhood, 1842

The painting calls to the pads 
of my fingers—stiff peaks 
of burnt umber form a rocky crag 
which looms over a river of glass. 
Carved cherubim ferry a fresh soul 
from the depths of a cave into the lush 
plain beyond the cliffs. A pale sky 
promises the warm caress of sunlight 
on the baby’s pristine skin. And if I ran 
my hand over those uneven layers 
of paint, would it be the rocky terrain 
that would crumble beneath my fingers 
or the fragile purity of youth?

HINGE OF SUNRISE / by Pamela Uschuk

Speaks before light, cactus wren buzz and horned owl
asking the only question we can’t forget, mourning
doves balanced on saguaro arms surrendering to sky, sweet
wheeze of goldfinches shattering finger bones,
vermillion flycatchers grasping chain link fence rails,
wings tucked for sun’s ceremonial spread,
the daily fontanel of flame incinerating teddy bear cholla, ocotillo
opening arterial blossoms at the end of each thorned spine,
through palo verde’s arthritic leafless reach,
prickly pear paddles pinched from thirst, rabbit bush
hugging close earth’s belly, creosote and its perfumed memory
of monsoon healing every disease. Penstemon’s fuschia tongues
lick stars that fade across the dissembling universe, across
brittle bush scraping rattler dreams, over coyote
who pauses to consider last night’s kill, squats
beneath lush desert broom while javelinas snuggle in the wash
under the dried seed pods of mesquite, past hummingbird
who rests at the hooked tip of a barrel cactus spear,
all quiet now,
all songs halted
as fire invents ash, shade
the temperature of night’s satin lake.
At the hinge of desert sunrise sonic booms, the onmiscient
screech of bombers blistering low over the city on practice runs
slitting sky’s throat.

HEAT REVEALS PROPERTIES OF MATTER / by Moira Walsh

absorbent: a stone
conductive: me
already hot: you
a heat sink: water

oh, the weight
of those extra waves

Of Miss / by Caitlin Wilson
                        after Nicole Cooley

Lack of understanding;      a chance gone by,

flights ascending from mirage along

the black tarmac,       you amongst. A feeling of absence.    

If I could grab both coasts in my hands, I’d fold

America in half like a Dalí clock,

the minute hand bridging us.

Suspension. Wrong,

awry. Absolute silence from the lot

outside; breath, pre-dusk, mist.

An evasion.       I’ll be staying

in tonight. I’ll be thinking          of how a heart

skips in a failure of continuance.    

PURPLES / by Michellia Wilson

              “To know that one has a secret
                is to know half the secret itself.”
                                           Henry Ward Beecher

Purple
and all the colors near it’s hue
play Red Rover ‘round the color wheel;
primary blue calls red right over.

Blues and Reds
swim in a plethora of tints,
lavender, heliotrope, cobalt, vermillion –
many strokes – many moods – many shades – many renderings.

Plums
in vertiginous swirls openly blend,
introducing intense images upon an untouched canvas –
nipping lobes of innocence.

Black Burgundy
rain pours as wine against stained glass goblets,
a liaison and a twinkle of inebriation,
prints that reveal too much too soon.

Poem 20 / Day 20

Repurposed / by Lynn Aprill

Honeysuckle vines climb the steel sides,  
wrapping tiny tendrils around upright bars, 
grasping for purchase on the old grain bin. 
Once filled with stored corn, it now shelters 
a solitary bench, a shower of blooms.

Inchworms slide along the seat, measuring
the distance from one heartbeat to the next.
A small black spider jumps across the breach.
He bravely closes on her, but one gust
sends him aloft and safely out of reach.

In her fist, a clutch of letters; she reads, 
wondering how to turn his blossoming love
back into the friendship she hoped to preserve.

FUNERAL / by Glory Cumbow

How many times have I died now?
I’ve lost count.
And who are these people who line up
out the door
to lay flowers on me?
Did they come out of the woodwork
just for this?
Where were they before?
I don’t even recognize
a good number of these faces.
Now they are saying nice words.
Where were these words
when I was breathing?
It is easier for people to visit my grave
than to visit my home.

Miles on Tibetan Rug / by Joan Daidone

Painting by Brian Saltern

When those around me chase their tails, running and spinning,
running and spinning, running and spinning, I will rest, watch and be.

When their voices pierce my ears, breathing quickens, arms flail, and wave,
Hands chopping through the air. I will simply lie down, observe and be.

When fumes from the fireplace fill the room and sting my nose,
I will slow my panting, focus on the odors of pungent trash wafting
from the kitchen floor. I will simply roll over, hope for a belly rub, and be.

Tonight, when they all go to sleep, and my home is quiet again, I will get up
and feed on those moist and succulent bones. But not now.
Now I will retreat from the chaos, watch without judgement and simply be.

Painting by Brian Saltern

Wednesdays at The Opp Shop / by Gabrielle Gilliam
for Mom

They busy themselves in retirement 
by doling out donations of their time. 
This simple service for them time well-spent; 
a small step closer to the Great Divine.

They sort discarded clothing into piles. 
They declutter the cramped and narrow aisles. 
They organize the toys and random parts; 
define selfless—such philanthropic hearts.

MAMMOGRAM / by Pamela Uschuk

Liberty is always a woman, that’s what
my grandmothers believed. Like
polar ice caps, my grandmothers had only this faith
in common. Devout Catholic, Grandma Anna
immigrated and was sold into slavery, ran away
to sing in the circus after a priest tried to rape her
while Grandma Clarissa simply bucked
her husband who refused to go to church
by reining the rearing horses by herself to whip
their shining buggy to LeValley’s Jesus glory.
Neither ancestor got cancer.

Although my husband volunteered, I drove
my Prius that almost drives itself
over a hundred miles to a 3D mammogram
where kind women hurt me regretfully,
saying 3D is more painful than the regular kind.
The sterile machine whirs, pulls flesh as
it clamps down again and again to crush
my breasts. Is it any wonder
I want to run? “DON’T MOVE DON’T
MOVE DON’T MOVE. HOLD!” the tech
orders. I bite into my lower lip bloody moons
feeling anything but free.

FORM EXPERIMENT (VIII): MINIMALIST TRIOLET

A misunderstanding between zookeepers / by Moira Walsh

“You’ll collect
and tranquilize,
correct?”

     “YOU’LL collect!
      I’LL direct
      and analyze.
      YOU’LL collect
      and tranquilize!”

Found Poem: Library Titles / by Caitlin Wilson 

A History of Heaven; Seeds of Destruction; Students
Against Tyranny; The White Rose; Destined
to Witness; Gaslight and Shadow; Letters from Buried Towns;
Finding a Role?; Seeking a Role; Bang!; The End
of a Chapter; As We Were; The Quick
and the Dead; But This is Our War; Testament
of Youth; Tenderness and Turmoil; Most Dangerous
Women; From the Land of Silent People; Against
the Specter of a Dragon; Human Smoke; The Dark
Summer; A Low Dishonest Decade; Hinge of Fate; Taste Of;
The First Men In; The Devil’s Garden; Soft Underbelly;
The Body Broken; Dark Ages; Easy to Please; Poor
Boys Who Became Famous; Power Couples; Love Conquers Nothing;
Witnesses of the Light; Tracing Ancestors; The Meaning of (History).

RAIN BOOTS / by Michellia Wilson

next to the back door,
on a porch with a bench
and pillows
and all the touches of home,
sits two pairs of boots –
mamma boots and
toddler boots…

two pairs not so different,
polka dots and fun as each pair waits for the rain…
little toddler boots with little toddler feet
splash playfully in each puddle along the day’s journey –
big mamma boots dance around the same puddles,
trying to step past the droplets of water
that little toddler boots find so much fun –

what a fabulous day!
and as the evening emerges into night
next to the back door,
on a porch with a bench
and all the touches of home,
one will find
the boots waiting for the same playful feet
and the next rainy day to come out and play.

Poem 19 / Day 19

The Story I’ve Never Shared / by Lynn Aprill
For Sara

Once upon a time, there was a happy hour. 
An early Christmas gift exchange,
fried appetizers, more drinks, and suddenly 
it seemed like a grand idea to pack some clothes
and pile into the car with my roommate,
spend the weekend with people I’d never met 
in a town I’d never visited (and actually, 
not a town, but farm country, and to this day 
I couldn’t even tell you where).

I do know there was a tavern,
for that is the only term worthy 
of pine paneling and chrome barstools, 
neon beer signs and homemade Tom and Jerry mix, 
plush green pool table, Randy Travis on the jukebox, 
cute farm boys in jeans and shit kickers. I felt 
like an exotic, an anomaly–an educated country girl 
who could hold her own talking of Hamlet or haying, 
Ibsen’s Doll House or ivermectin. 
I was ablaze.

As the night waned, we paired off–and here’s the thing 
that still astounds me all these years later–I left 
in a pickup with a guy I’d just met in a place 
that could have been Hudson or Helsinki–who knew? 
And I never once worried. 
Innocence, thy name is a completely trusting 19-year-old. 
Anything could have happened. 
Nothing did.

In fact, so much of nothing happened 
that Saturday night was a repeat, right down
to the same tavern and the same guy. 
Then we packed up Sunday morning 
and headed our “sophisticated” selves back
to our college town, unaware of the miraculous
soap bubble of safety surrounding us.

But the fact that we were insanely lucky to return
with only memories means that our opposite exists–
there are other innocent girls who learn,
instead, that here there be monsters.

There are Brock Turners, there are Christopher Belters,
and really, who am I kidding, because there were Kevin Coes
and Richard Gillmores even then, but now 
there are Matthew Murphys and Aaron Perskys behind oak benches
who stand ready to dismiss them back into the world
because it would be a shame to ruin their futures,
a tragedy, to think that one day, 

I’ll share this story with my granddaughter, 
and it will be a fairytale, an adventure 
that blessed me once upon a safer place
which she may never find.

THE WORLD’S A FEAST / by Glory Cumbow

My hungry eyes gaze at tempting Tuscany.
My stomach growls at the thought of appetizing Aukland.
So I begin simmering the stew of Katmandu,
basting a baking Bangalore,
and jovially munching on Munich.
I lose control and swallow Seoul whole,
I’m taking my time and sucking the marrow out of Moscow,
I notice Nice stuck in my teeth.
For dessert, I spy the stiff meringue peaks of Everest and Kilimanjaro.
I’ve got an insatiable hunger for a kingdom,
I’m feasting piece by piece.
Please, come to the table 
and share this meal with me.

Wedding Night: Homage to Frida / by Joni Daidone 
Painting by Brian Saltern 

She waited for him all night, all night with patience. And hesitancy.
Ger Wedding night. He disappeared shortly after the toast,
Disappeared with his pals, drinking celebrating carrying on as boys do.
She went to her room and waited. And waited. As she was told.

What was she waiting for? She hardly knew him. Do she even like him?
He had convinced her that they were in love. Love or lust. What did she know?
Or was that her mother’s voice. Time for her to have a family of her own.

Time for her to find a husband. What would the rest of the family think.
What would the neighbors and townspeople think?
Such a beautiful girl without a husband. That would never do.
But she had no need for a man. At least not for a man like him. Or her father.
Or the ones in her small village. Provincial and predictable. Profoundly absent.

Content on her own. She could escape into her own world. Perfectly content.
Her world was vibrant, alive in color, alive with exotic birds that spoke her language.
Sang about majestic mountain ranges and rain forests full of wild monkeys
In the afternoon stopping by for guava punch and entertaining chatter.
While serpents slithered their way around her shoulders and whispered silly stories
They tickled her ears and she giggled until all the men faded from sight.

In one of her past lives, she was as mystical, glorious, an Aztec princess.
Fragile, delicate yet powerful like the flora and fauna of the tropics she mirrord.
Her skin smooth, shimmering, but slightly jagged as a mother of pearl seashell
Cracked open on the beaches of Playa del Carmen.

He first took me as a girl, 21, a woman in age only. A heart by heart. Certainly not in herself. In a past life, she was a Mexican girl bride getting readied for the altar, ready for a life with her chosen amor, her chosen lover.

Chose for her, not by her. But a bird of paradise, a bird of magnificent countenance sits on her shoulder and shouts, “no, no, no, don’t go, don’t do it, stay here with me. Don’t listen to them.

You are my bride. Be my bride. Stay here with me. With yourself. Become the woman you were meant to be. A woman of your own world. Not his.”

Painting by Brian Saltern

Poet |\’pō-ǝt |
noun
an artisan of alphabetical arrangements /
by Gabrielle Gilliam

For a poet 
language is a gift. 
Poets do not waste 
words but cultivate 
carefully, craft with care 
until the air rings 
with the syllabic release.

If befriended, they will 
laud their loves 
with personalized poems 
for birthdays and holidays 
every special occasion 
celebrated in verse 
each line calculated 
to maximize relevance 
to the recipient.

When a poet’s father dies 
and she is forced to sort 
through his secret spaces 
she will find those poems 
those Father’s Day odes 
tucked in his nightstand drawer. 

She will carry the words 
back home with her 
worn and wet and idle
without their intended audience.

Wanderthoughts (19.20) / by Jessica Heron

dark purple thoughts, the warm temperature of bodies, they possess me, on repeat I should shower I should shower I should shower I should shower shut up // what’s beyond me is how they never fail to come back like ghosts who grow bored and quiet until one of them says c’mon let’s do something and they are suddenly all in agreement // I want to pierce my love through the heart, clean through until I rip out the arrow to make him a fucking mess and a mess of the whole relationship, we are tethered by a scar I want to scratch open, make blood // how has HVAC become my friend again, broken thermostat clicks, knocking, clinking baseboard like sharp glass pelted into my skin, not like velvet prickling gloves of fiberglass when sliding down an unfinished roof // the time? 0:00, I will never use this microwave, it will stay this clean forever, know no detritus, no Clorox, no nothing, no bits of chronological meal-making, no AM no PM //

The Transgression / by R. Bradley Holden

We stole their scriptures. 
That was first. Taking 
the things that weren’t ours. 
To cover the crime, 
you know the story, 
we had to kill. Shut up 
those accusing eyes. So 
Europe became Christian, 
and, the pattern learned, 
took land. Condemned 
to repeat our thefts—
of books, of bodies—
till we could face, 
after two thousand years, 
what we have done.

SPIT OUT THOSE APPLES / by Pamela Uschuk

Moon, take your curses and spit them
out like apples. I am tired
of the interrogation lamp of your one eye
lasering my window. I am trying to write.

I don’t want the distraction of your tongue
sizzling like a comet of promises in my ears.
Quit grieving, it hisses, come out and splash
through my long cold milk.

Across the neighborhood, screens seethe, deliver
emails from friends whose voices have disappeared
along with their faces into the grand canyon
of endless pandemic and cyber space.
The new diplodenia blooms pink on our porch,
despite the cold shoulder you turn.

On River Road, police cuff a homeless man
waiting for a bus to take him downtown
on an endless round, from the foothills
to the barrios south while he sleeps in a clean seat.
The man’s girlfriend cocks her hoodie to earth,
her chapped mouth pouting the O of deceit, too late
to lie she’s never seen him before. In one hand,
an officer dangles the baggie half-filled
with meth or heroin or baby powder depending
on whose version you believe.

While I dream which end I’ll write, half-eaten by
by shadow, the full moon believes in them all.

DREAM / by Moira Walsh

Wondering why my feet hurt
especially between the toes
with that double-over pain
too sharp to cause syllables
I look down and see
I’m not wearing shoes
and the gates are locked
and I’m kicking at vines
and bars, mostly bars

A Bath of Salt and Light / by Caitlin Wilson

A Bath of Light and Salt
a mangrove is singular 	  in it’s survival            I say God
made that plant              in our image              with roots from mangle	
a grove	which is the body	        and remind me 	     again 		
which bones             you replaced        after the crash            an ulna, radius? 			
metal as a spoon	              bloodwarm 	I’m telling you
this will come to an end	        though the mangrove          may persevere                   
in a salted bath        pocked with lenticels 	     for oxygen and salt	  
ingredients 	   of sadness and leavened bread		I’ve cracked 
open both          but in 600 million years 	       who will care             
what replaces          our limbs           when I say nothing           is incorruptible—
the sun          swollen as arthritic knuckles            crushed by gravity’s 
contusions—         light galvanizing	              an atmosphere snipped in half
a house turned inside out                  encompasses all 		but itself

Poem 18 / Day 18

Stone walls are built / by Lynn Aprill

with intentional gaps
so when the winds blow,
the wall will stand.
Just so, I keep pieces of me 
from touching pieces of you;
when the gales come, we’ll stand, 
the wind whistling through 
our cracks and gaps to push against
someone else’s wall, 
the rain pooling beneath 
the heather and gorse 
clinging to our softened edges, 
seeking purchase in their climb
toward the sun.

WARMTH / by Glory Cumbow

The heart-shaped ornament
stuffed with dried lavender
never loses its scent,
year after year.
I remember France,
my first time overseas,
an adventure of youth
and the fragrance makes me feel 
warm. 
I sprinkle a little extra cinnamon
into the recipe
to add a punch of flavor.
I remember baking 
for each holiday season,
stirring sweets together,
and licking the bowl.
The aroma is
warm.
The steaming mug of coffee
fogs up my glasses.
I remember long library evenings
studying,
writing,
and being anything but quiet.
The smell of the brew is
warm.
I burn some incense
to perfume my home,
the smoke rising and tickling my nose.
I remember being home-bound by snow
newly-wed and giddy,
pleased to be stuck inside
with the one I love most.
The spicy redolence burning
warm.

Brumation / by Gabrielle Gilliam

As daylight ebbs 
temperatures fall. 

My thoughts thicken 
and slow like a bear 

preparing to burrow 
through Winter. Darkness 

stretches until it eclipses 
my waking hours. It requires 

too much energy to mourn 
the sun’s loss so I sip my tea 

and settle in for an endless night.

Secret Summer (18.30) / by Jessica Heron

Is anyone here? No- no one is behind me
despite a rush of whispers, a woodwind cascade
of enveloping ambience-

denuded limbs let such sweetness in.
There is nothing here but silken needles,
the sound of cashmere;

dried, dead pieces of foliage flutter in insistent sunshine,
a sun that lights eye-level fires all around, warms
the mold to its earth-true scent;

the oranges glow like layered sunsets,
the greens hang on, the yellows bridge the gap, and reds
deepen in reverence of the past-

 Enlightenment / by R. Bradley Holden

We left behind, 
said Kant,
our self-imposed 
minority.

Then built bombs, 
adults at last. 

We designed rockets 
to reach the distant moon 
and level one another’s cities.
Our results the same: 
dust and ash.

Temples we forsook
and all myths 
but one.

Prometheus 
taught us 
to take power
from gods 
who no longer exist.

A shame, 
I think. 
For who 
can save us now?

IS IT A POEM? DOES IT MATTER? / by Pamela Uschuk

Ask a cardinal if he can fly upside down
or whistle backward that one sharp note
splitting dawn’s eardrum? What
do you fear? Sweet earth opens to light,
demands our return to her musky belly.
Not even cardinal’s brash red crest is immortal.

What matters? The kiss, the hug,
laughter’s thrust through membranes of light.
The first bitter surge of coffee at sunrise.
Leaf green eyes of mountain lions,
jaguar’s black rose coast. A sow grizzly’s
pendulum rock with her four healthy cubs
in a sunset meadow of hyssop and sneezeweed.

The sheer multiplicity of wings—
mountain bluebird, abalone feathered magpie,
ravens raucous as teen drunks, song sparrows,
red-tail hawk, golden eagle’s buffed face
between wings wide as sunrise, the unbearable
sweet wheeze of goldfinches. Love
that writes its name in a meteor shower of sweat, of
need with no expectation or desire.
Words as simple as aloe on a bullet wound.

What is a poem but a heart stripped of lacquer, raw
tongue ululating to its lost twin in a starless sky
or ravens hunkered and laughing at incessant ice rain?
What’s a song but a prayer creeping
toward its own shape on a mindless page?
What is a prayer but a warbler blown off course
finding her way past night frost, cat claws
and microburst wind, mapping the way home?

What matters? Hear the quick
morning cherk cherk cherk of the cardinal
break down heartache’s gate,
flying upside down, past your speeding life.

FORM EXPERIMENT (VII): FOUR ABECEDARIANS / by Moira Walsh 

Listen
Aren't bodings caught daily?
Every failure gets held in juxtaposition.

Knotted lanyards? Make nets.
Overlooked pearls? Quell regret.

Sing to us, violet.
Wail, xanthic (yellowish) zander.
*
Brutal business
And because cringing didn't earn fame, glitches hummed in jargon. Knowledge lured minds. New operations produced quick revenue streams. Two undercut vendors wrecked xeroxes, yelled "zero!".
*
Domestic bliss – for HWS of Poetry Forge
Apple, blue cup. Dried egg fleck graces her iridescent jar. Kitchen light: medium-new, opal/pearl quality ribbed shade. Table under vase waits xenially: your zone.
*
Fashion sense  –  for KMH of Chatterbox Press
A bold collection. Deftly embroidered freeform garments. High inseam jeans, killer looks. Merino, nylon, or polyester quilting. Recycled silk taffeta under velvet. Weird xenon-yellow zippers.







Sky Sonnet / by Caitlin Wilson

Red atmosphere, skin burnt and pink. Late
afternoon shower summons the clouds down
upon the train tracks. It eats into the trees. I can’t see
as far as I could. A particular gray, periwinkle blue
of the clouds holding the colors at bay. Muted.
Dove-soft. Heat lightning staccato. River flashing,
reflective pathway, shoaled, greenery sprouting
from the stone in its heart. Clouds’ colorless edges,
blindingly pure angel slides, then deep blue
where the sun forgoes bestowing translucence.
Thunderheads. Vaulted mountains. Billows.
Piles of vapor. Clonal landscape, consolatory patterns.
If anything is hallowed it is the sky, it is this
warmth, upon my sloped shoulders and bare back.

THE CONCERT IN MY HEAD / by Michellia Wilson

The music never stops,
I hear it when things are dark and empty,
yet somehow, I am supposed to sleep
with this band playing songs that take
session in the curtains blowing in rhythms,
kept by the instruments playing all day –
all night.

I tap out the beats on the arm of my chair –
the leather worn where the music
never stops;
It’s not entirely unpleasant, but rather,
incessant –
I get little relief from the continual beats.

I think there have been others
who tap brain music in a cerebral
night club that is always open –
beat so real that I often step outside
in the night,
to see from where it is coming –
only to be greeted by twilight and crickets,
and an occasional moon beam.

Poem 17 / Day 17


My next-door neighbor grandfather
/ by Lynn Aprill

had a wicked streak, volunteered 
for piano lesson chauffeur service 
so he could puff a Swisher Sweet 
and tip a glass at the corner bar 
once he’d dropped us off.
He never met a firecracker he didn’t care
to light and set under a can
outside our kitchen window
just to hear my mother scream.

He was a man who loved
to grab the nearest grandchild
and rasp his stubbled chin along
a smooth cheek, eliciting
screams of delight and whisker burn.

He always left the cookies 
Grandma packed in his lunch
so he could watch us race 
across the yard when he got home 
and dig through the plastic wrap 
and orange peels to find the angel crisps.

His eighth grade vocabulary
could wipe the Scrabble board.
He held his cards close
to his chest. His laughter
always ended in a cough.

NESTS / by Glory Cumbow

Have you ever wondered
how many strands of your hair
that have fallen to the earth,
have been plucked up by a songbird,
and woven into twigs
to make a nest?
Do you consider
how many homes
you are a part of 
that keep little eggs warm,
and hug tight
cheeping babes?

Winter Buries Another Year / by Gabrielle Gilliam

Winter whispers past window 
lazy snow drifts—white blanket 
shrouding earth in resolved cold 
impossible and quiet.

I let candles burn low 
contained glow provides little 
warmth but ample atmosphere
this dying year so brittle.

Winding River (17.30) / by Jessica Heron

The county park is almost a secret, a sharp
right off the highway at the silver and
yellow hydrant- certainly the drainage pipes
round as tubas indicate that it might not be
wholly natural, but to us who don’t waste it,
who take the bridge and breathe deep the
sawdust-scented ledges, who put painted
oranges in hidden places, who hang silver
ornaments off the ribbon trees- the pines by
the prickly pear garden- whose surprise
first-timers with tiny offerings to the fairy forest
at the first curve, as we all once were,
it’s us who love it for what it is: drainage
from the river, spilling over into fresh joy.

FINDING A WAY THROUGH / by Pamela Uschuk

Across the arroyo, the donkey brays way
before dawn opens its bloody fist
as the list of aligned stars
fades to car exhaust, the charred
dreams of the workforce underpaid,
a living wage another false sound byte.
Night’s indigo orchids close
one by one, their velvet mouths, offer
no advice but beauty.

My dog freezes in her grave
I dug far north while our ancient cat
stares at me through inscrutable eyes
the color of the Caribbean sea.

Once again I wonder where my ancestors
pull me, covering my broken arm
with wolf skins, the diamond
light of Arctic snow in the long dark
of ice moan and pressure cracks, land
of white owls and reindeer tracks.

Last night, celebrating the end of radiation
treatments, my friend and I counted
stars, outlined Orion fallen
on his sword under the seven sisters
dancing, Pleides we seldom get to see
through smog weighing down the city.
We made out Pegasus, winged
horse big enough to carry both of us.

Before I fell to dream, I heard
Zazu breathe, her fox-colored ghost curl
a hollow in the goose down
quilt warming my feet.

Now early desert sways
to medicine leaves, to the canny feet
of zebra-tailed lizards and the first whistles
of a towhee eager to eat. I sip
coffee strong enough to kill
the Ghenghis Khan in me
while my love sleeps, shaping
his day gliding across memories.
Our black wolf dog howls
through the chain link fence
to coyote screams, to police sirens
the donkey astutely ignores.

FORM EXPERIMENT (VI): INTERWEAVING / by Moira Walsh

FORM EXPERIMENT (VI): INTERWEAVING
because of the fine ash
bright shadows
holy the furry lonely bliss of the windpipe
the sky is a bit of a drag and I
open the chest
holy the quilted layers of the servant aorta
have some questions about it
we never would
holy the hidden cathedral arches, reforming as you read this!

Ghrelin / by Caitlin Wilson

I do not want to take—
I will not eat
from the muse’s body, I refuse;
she is whittled enough already

& tomorrow I may expire
from repetition;
tomorrow she may wither
& where will that leave us?

What will we eat? After
she is gone, what will feed us?

MOTHER HERON / by Michellia Wilson

Everyday a Blue Heron flies over the pond,
searching for meals,
she seems envisioning a bass –
cool and not yet of strong flesh –
a fish perfect for her young,
she sees them swimming below the glassy surface,
swimming in patterns,
it is early spring, the hue of the bass
not yet darkened by summer’s heat.

She swoops,
her span large and wonderful,
circling the aquatic garden,
she ponders a moment longer,
she circles again,
her shadow quickly eclipses the surface,
she plucks her choice from the bowl
of soaking largemouth,
rewards – sweet, are hers to share with her babies.

Mother Heron preens at the bank,
the sun rests
and she rests,
her babies content and sleeping,
her life fulfilled every evening at this moment.

Poem 16 / Day 16

“Why can’t healing happen as quickly as wounding?” / by Lynn Aprill
(from Cloud Cuckoo Land)

Injuries have no timeline, happen
faster than a heartbeat, slower
than ice thickening on the winter lake.
Some wounds are painless, undetected
but for the slow drip of blood
on the clean counter. Others
announce themselves in a cacophony
of trauma–muscle, bone,
tendon, skin–gaping
like red mouths waiting to swallow
the world, stop time, narrow existence
to the very center of damage.

Healing always progresses
at its own plodding pace,
a child dragging his bedtime feet,
the cancer retreating cell by agonizing cell,
so slowly that we seldom can recall
the day we realized the wound was healed,
the bruise a bygone reminder
of the dark encounter with the bedpost–
the act of healing a parable 
of the consequence of leaping, 
ever leaping, before looking.

CAN YOU HEAR IT? / by Glory Cumbow

The hymns we sang on Sunday morning,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.
My husband composing a new piece,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.
The songs I cried to in my teen years,
that is the tune 
that will lead me home.
The tracks I played while I studied and dreamed,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.
The music my sister and I listened to in secret,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.
The songs I fell asleep to when I fought insomnia,
that is the tune 
that will lead me home.
The musical numbers I learned for performance,
That is the tune 
that will lead me home.
The lyrics I sing to soothe myself when I am afraid,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.
The song of this life that has yet to be completed,
that is the tune
that will lead me home.

In the Silence that Follows / by Joan Daidone
Mixed Media by Brian Saltern

In the silence that follows,
I may never again hear your voice or touch your hand.
But some days I still catch a sliver of light breaking through stratus clouds
And I see that spark, that fire in those wicked eyes of yours.

In the silence that follows
I may never again laugh at your boyish antics
Or scold you for drinking milk straight from the carton
Or dropping cookie crumbs on the kitchen floor.
But I hear your voice calling me with that bad boy charm
of yours and look the other way smiling.

In the silence that follows,
I will never hear those footsteps across those creaky pine planks,
But some days I feel your confident stride up Second Avenue on the way
to the Tompkins Park dog run.
I see you stop every few feet to make small talk with an old East Village pal.
Or reach in your pocket for some coin for a street nomad you know by name.

In the silence that follows, I may never again sit across from you on the couch Sunday mornings, you deeply engrossed in your crossword puzzle.
But I can re-read all those words and stories you left behind just for me.
I sit in our bed, speak to your paintings, remembering when you first picked up a brush again. How you came alive again, after sleepwalking through life for so long.

In the silence that follows,
I will never again feel your warm and comforting embrace
But I will feel the pride of how far you rose after so many falls along the way.
Today I pray to all the prophets you followed all those years, and I pray that you are sitting with them all now, laughing, debating, cussing, and holding a place for peace.

Mixed-media by Brian Saltern

Late Bloomer / by Gabrielle Gilliam

How can you not marvel at the flexibility 
of a creature that emerges from egg 

glistening alabaster—plump larva 
that gorges itself on petal and leaf 

before entombing itself—liquifying 
within chrysalis a full gestation 
of less than two weeks as it transforms. 

The struggle of its emersion 
only strengthens its new wings. 

My own metamorphosis 
forty years in the making 
and I have yet to take flight.

Blue (16.30) / by Jessica Heron

the troubled one stays alive
stomach full of questions like butterflies
migrating to the route of a Christmas parade
no one steps out to wave at the performance

the sea is tossed and churned by forces
that pull us to the hill to stand and squint at the horizon line
where blue turns blue turns blue
and wind washes everything
and sand rubs it clean
and the sun makes it disappear

Waiting / by R. Bradley Holden

Does the muse appear 
on schedule? At the agreed-upon 
rendezvous? No, but I go and wait
at the corner each morning,
scanning the passing crowd, 
hoping for a glimpse 
of her face.

GOLDEN EAGLE SIGHTING / by Pamela Uschuk

What were we looking for before the pandemic
as we flew home pitching through thunder
heads above the high Rockies, grazing
range after razor-ridged range of granite
that could slit the belly of our small turbo jet?
Tossed by lightning’s unforgiving hands,
we thought nothing could save our future
dropped with our stomachs diving for the mesa.

Too fast, we wobbled like a broken kite,
banked and nearly flipped. Even the steward
gasped last rites when the golden
eagle appeared with its miracle wings
to cruise alongside us at window level.

Despite gusts blustering our demise, our nose
dive leveled out long enough for us to breathe
balancing on those enormous dark wings, that
predator angel bringing
us safe to the runway, back to the surety
of earth we didn’t need to explain.

LIMITATION BLUES / by Moira Walsh

sweet friend of the middle distance
—far enough to be rare—
near enough to—cross my mind
whenever I pass—platform nine
and see that name in lights

I buy—overpriced coffee
I add—sugar and cream
I have paperback books but I
get a window and dream

on the train to Chicago
on the plane to L.A.
on the bus to Ann Arbor Michigan
nothing gold can stay1

1https://t1p.de/rofro

Folding / by Caitlin Wilson

I fold laundry Easter night,
the window open, cool air on my feet,
all light inside, “To Be Alone With You”
playing on repeat. A siren hounds
on the highway nearby,
water spins down the storm drain
beneath the tower of a streetlamp.
Someone nameless is missing.
I want to stay here, forever
folding, humming, cloistered
with my self. A plane soars by,
from dark spilling tarmac
having risen.

HOLLYHOCKS / by Michellia Wilson 

The prettiest flowers in our yard,
grew in a row against the first shed;
light purples ad long green stalks –
we would pick them and make
flower dolls with the Hollyhock skirts
adorning the delicate knobby head.

I have not been blessed to see a Hollyhock
since childhood, but remember well
their uniqueness and tender flowering pods,
and light smell.