Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.
The volunteer poets for October 2022 are Tiffiny Rose Allen, Lu Chekowsky, Ahja Fox, Sarah Haas, Moira Hegarty, Barbara Krasner, Jonie McIntire, Anna Mitchael, Shane Morin, Mary Ventura. 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!
Day 30 / Poem 30
I am a forest, thinning itself / A Cento
from the inside out, as a mother is supposed to be
No to the feeling of feeling
On the wide wet rock in the massive tank
The mine shaft is lonely,
Nonpoints of origin, a stranger
and you are much to near
No to the silence of snow
My strained eyes squinting in the sun—mesmerized.
I tell you what I swallowed
A microbe crawls the circumference of the world in twelve hours.
look for trees that resemble ancient ruins
The only house I ever loved
A small little
the mighty heads of cotton grass slump like stepping stones
In autumn, the heads of the shrubs,
as tenacious as a nest of scorpions,
burst into golden swells becoming
a forest of giant flaming brushwood
how should I spit out the Black Sun
and light myself from within
Now I could understand him
in any language he chose
Cento lines by and from Tiffiny Rose Allen, Lu Chekowsky, Ahja Fox, Sarah Haas, Moira Hegarty, Barbara Krasner, Jonie McIntire, Anna Mitchael, Shane Morin, Mary Ventura
Anxious Hope / Tiffiny Rose Allen
TIME POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
“as usual, i’m not doing so well
with the passage of time,”
i nodded, half-awake,
blurry bright blue cellphone
light at 4x zoom,
not even yet quite awake.
morning kneck crick, check.
hormone swirly sick,
just another scary, wrinkled morning;
soon, the mirror inventory.
i didn’t want to be
inside this day either.
i’d prefer the one before.
or the one before that.
but. i fell asleep
and found myself here.
no going back.
two roads diverging
and all the rest.
the passage of time
indicates movement forward,
a passage on a choppy sea –
but how can i feel movement
when the same days repeat?
coffee, kitty litter,
opening the blinds.
you mean to tell me this is how time works?
“i feel you,” i type back
with numb thumbs.
what’s so dumb
is how the first thing i hold
in my precious, finite mornings,
is glass and plastic.
the clock, not stopping.
onto my face.
Anatomize a Name and Maybe Get Closer to the Secret of Life / Ahja Fox
My name (Ahja)
was and is a premonition
Trapezoid, topsy-turvy U,
a steep water slide, and
morphed into cyclical bow
It’s a wonder my last name came
an X signifying an end,
yet the sticky click between the back
of your upper gums and tongue
screams ‘remember me’
I’m a name of trimmed truths—
inspired by the last lover’s
the shaman mystic who
stopped an unaware to-be-mother
with wheatgrass falling from her shirt
Ahja, you both beckon me and shoo me off
to the masses
When your mother dreamed the sea void
of sharks, she must’ve not thought
about you (and your strange throating)
She saw a woman sink, sink
into the dark and now I wonder
if my name was always an idiom
or is it a kingdom still lost
Goodbye / Sarah Haas
I remember when I became this
personal object moving relative to your
frame of reference. In the absence of
every external force acting upon me, I walked
out onto the ice unwitnessed,
such an odd way of not saying goodbye,
like how, in quantum physics,
the observer just closes their eyes
and everything goes back to how it actually is,
how that applies to marriage, too.
To me in my little warming hut
winding an old fashioned auger
into a floor of ice. It takes everything I’ve got
to make a hole and even then it’s a hole
too small to loose myself in so I drop an
un-baited line down instead.
I’m not even hungry.
I don’t want to eat fish.
I only want to hunch over the stupid pole.
To forget everything that isn’t me.
The ice calves. And she drifts
into unfrozen waters. There is no sure thing.
Not any more. Just a man on the shore
no longer her husband confusing
her for who she used to be, his,
the mother of his son who looks exactly like
his father offering to save her—I want
whatever you want—his final attempt,
his hot breath melts the ice even faster.
ARS POETICA / Moira Haas
I don’t know poetry,
even though I write poems,
once I memorized the mythology of the muses,
but I still don’t know poetry.
I feel the heat of the sun on my scalp
sweat dripping into my eyes,
making me squint,
but I don’t know the sun.
Should I tell poetry
face to face I know where you came from, why you exist, why we read and write you,
that I know all your secrets, even your feud with Plato?
But poetry must be the oldest word in creation
as old as Mama,
in utero and in vitro utero,
like thimbleberries melting on the tongue,
standing on a marble plinth,
a memorializing cenotaph; your burial place unknown,
and the eardrums
of an ant
If I ask poetry,
Who are you? poetry answers in a faint whisper as soft as the wind that brushes my cheeks in fall and as unintelligible.
Only when I cup my ear with a seashell does poetry answer
with the language of the ocean.
I have no beginning or end, no alpha or omega.
I am the wastewater of the star fragments
that live within us all
Color Wheel / Barbara Krasner
Sage is the color of my favorite sweater
Thyme of my favorite blouse
Central Park is the color of my walls
in the space where I create
Olive the color of my favorite sheets
I used to think blue was my favorite
My world growing up was blue
Royal blue and gold flocked walls
Cobalt and white playroom floors
But it’s the color wheel of green
and it all started with your winter jacket
and your 1971 Plymouth Sherwood Green
Duster, or was it April Green?
Yet when I walked into your office
it looked exactly like my living room
was then, sans the Broadway play posters.
But maybe when I was blue, you were green,
and when you were green, I was blue.
We were never meant to mix.
How November Is Like Climbing Denali / Jonie McIntire
“Denali, Alaska, USA … The altitude, awful weather, relative isolation and punishing temperatures all pose a serious threat to those who attempt” – Rough Guides, The Hardest Mountains to climb
Oh the hopefulness on day one…
such excitement! Maybe you wrote
a whole extra page or finished
shockingly early in the morning.
In the first week, you are rationing,
tidying your supplies excitedly,
checking everything twice or more,
waking early to hit the trail.
By week three, you’ve most likely veered
you are perhaps questioning your prior
assumptions. The characters you’ve built
are off on their own, the storyline broadened.
In the fourth week, you’ve got the bends,
though you aren’t sure how that’s possible.
You fingers are a permanent chill.
You are becoming haphazard and ravenous
for light things… cheese puffs and 90 minute
Christmas movies. But then, there you are
typing out your last few words after a month
you never thought possible. And you catch
yourself not wheezing through the thin air.
And you have so much to edit but you are
whole at this moment, this shining frigid
night, looking out and seeing every possibility.
Con Sambras / Shane Morin
part four of four parts after Red’s Intro (Canto III)
The world tires, tucks herself in blankets
Laden with innocence, serenity
Surrounds her in silence…mankind slumbers at last,
she has peace
We dream, we sleep, we lie, outside natural selection awaits transcendence
Will mutated nucleotides lead to our own suicide?
Will theorized strings play for us at the turning tide?
See, we feed, we live, we have no less
We fall deaf
We are hybridized humans, cybernetic sloths, zombified
Screen time digitizes our fragile minds, cobwebbed chemistry
Our strained neurons falter
We plead to the Heavens, “Save us all!”
Too busy to listen for the Cosmos whisper, “Save yourself…”
Nine-to-fives devour our lives, the future left to lie untilled, until
Decay invades our yesterdays and tomorrows
Mental health enters atrophy, we simply
breathe, we burn we die
We cry into the shadows
“Save our selfish world.”
Day 29 / Poem 29
Feel-Through / Tiffiny Rose Allen
THANKSGIVING LOVE POEM #2 / Lu Chekowsky
little sweet potato
butternut baby corn,
my sweet summer squash.
my mashed potato love,
kiss me on a gravy boat,
in a sea of stuffing –
sausage and souffle,
asleep in a coma of carbohydrates
your cranberry red sticky kisses
are what i want,
please whip us up
a love restaurant.
In Looking at the Tired, but Rare Picture of Myself (Glowing) in The New Apartment / Ahja Fox
I’m happy, but I’m lost
in the burgundy sweater
of always being needed
I find the lint of it
in the shower and budding
against my towel even after
I do my sordid dance to dry off
jangling at the dining room table
is my voice, birdcage snot
against the “peace” that is
my mommy-girlfriend ditty
I expect my fresh chocolate
moles to sprout suzi-q stems
like wonka cherries
(like little girl marmalade
the shea butter lathers me
into being honest, abrupt)
I hold my eyelids up
by prayer’s scotch tape
and the smile, chinks
against the wine tumbler
of future destinies
knows how to corset an angry body, tight
I’m happy, but I’m lost—
somehow suffocated by the sleeve
sof my favorite burgundy sweater
Unbecoming / Sarah Haas
Winter is the most
barren and reduced
to shape and silhouette—
The afterbirth :: The Crone.
Or: a body returned
to itself, by which I mean
no desire, but for more
snow. More and more
and more and more
dying, which is distinct from
death. Don’t bury me
in dirt. Bury me in layers
of ice. Freeze me in silence,
the sound of me being
Me. Proof I am
alone :: no footprints,
just impressions of
night, from the wings of
mysterious and flightless nights
spooked by shadows,
even the Moon an impossibility,
a casting dark, a shadow of
Winter when even sun is shadow,
the day but one big dim
light bouncing off of ice bouncing
off of snow bouncing off of
everything :: a reflection
of some body else’s body
refracting something else’s
Bundled, in layers of
fleece and down, of fat and flesh.
A soft pastness :: self-possessed.
Java / Moira Hegarty
Java in my morning chalice,
jambosa, plums and apple roses
bathe me in crystal diamond rivers
thread my feet with ankle bracelets;
eyelashes drenched in birdsong soup,
earlobes whipped by flightless bees,
into the tropical rain jungles next to
old Thujsrenmikhi’s house.
My Yiddish Lexicon / Barbara Krasner
Mamashaynele: what Holocaust survivor Hebrew School teachers say as they pinch your cheeks
Mishigas: fighting with siblings over the meaning of Mama’s will
Narrishkeyt: knowing the man you’re about to marry is the wrong man and you go through with it anyway*
Nokhas: when your son and his wife have children of their own and you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night; also when your child gets into the college of choice; also what your divorce brings to your parents
Punim: a face only Mama could love
Shlemiel/Shlemazel/Zhlub/Vantz**: what your mother calls the man you married
Shlep: taking out the garbage twice a week and the recycling once every two weeks
Tsoris: when your child doesn’t get into the college of choice
*Your father also told you not to marry him right before going down the aisle to the chuppah, but you don’t remember it
**Vantz means bedbug
American Logic Problem / Jonie McIntire
Good LIfe 29: Nineteen/ Anna Mitchael
They will tell you this love is misguided, untested, dissuadable, destructible, and destined for flames. Remind them, love is patient. Because you know the years have been hard, take their hands. Put your mind on the cushiony quadrant of faith that makes it possible to believe in what doesn’t make sense. Feel your chest chittering under your favorite striped tunic, because even though calluses in the corner of the soul are often classified as symptoms of aging, you’re believing somehow you can avoid it. Whisper to them—softly, ever so softly—that they were the ones who taught you love is kind.
Con Sambras / Shane Morin
from Red’s Intro (Canto III)
third of four parts
There’s a majestic crash
Steel fuses to asphalt
Pedestrian natures evaporate
Flakes of winter, Engine 5 blares down Central
Ethanol and adrenaline pour out
The triple-paned glass stays the chaos
Alabaster falls upon innocence, shadows sing cantos
Errant memories invade streamed consciousness
Two fucked up marriages, job to job, daughter displaced by fate, Bullit burns my veins
It’s simply everything
I’ve become collateral damage, steel and flesh
Amalgamate and fade
I will survive in negative space
She asks, “What does depression feel like?”
I say, “It feels like this.”
by choice / Mary Ventura
Day 28 / Poem 28
Cento / Tiffinay Rose Allen
lines from Barbara Krasner, Jonie McIntire, Anna Mitchael, Shane Morin, Mary Ventura, Ahja Fox, & Sarah Haas
perfect wave in city after city of disillusion
LOVE POEM #5 / Lu Chekowsky
the three of us scattered:
a pound coin from england.
a few gold yen i’d carried back from japan in a wool coat pocket.
about fifteen rocks Anya gathered for you from the Hudson on Father’s Day;
all black, grey, marbled.
two shiny stones from sue’s memorial;
one with the word LOVE engraved in cursive.
an oscar meyer memento hot dog penny,
spread wide in a press.
a plastic bracelet from the CSA
we live too far from now to belong to –
and a penny from 1975.
we tossed them into our leafless bushes,
placed them carefully at the foot of the zen frog,
made wishes with each release;
as if our backyard were a wishing well,
endless and giving, our history and promise.
A Cento of Funeral Flower Messages / Ahja Fox
With deepest sympathy.
May God be with you in this time of sorrow.
May you find comfort and healing in the love of those who remember with you.
May my condolences bring you comfort and may our prayers ease the pain of this loss.
Our deepest sympathies go out to you and your family.
Please know that we are thinking of you and your family during this time of sorrow.
Our hearts are filled with sadness and tears, but our memories are filled with smiles
of the good times we shared over the years.
Many friends come into our lives, but only a few leave with their footprints on our hearts.
Loss leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.
Always the most beautiful flower in the garden.
[name of deceased] was so special.
[name of deceased] brought joy, happiness and laughter to all they met.
You will be deeply missed by everyone, my friend.
Time may pass and fade away but memories of you will always stay.
When a person becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.
Hugs and prayers for all at this difficult time.
Wishing some small comfort.
I’ll be thinking of you always.
Mine is just a simple prayer, God bless and keep you in His care.
Self-absorption / Sarah Haas
about a woman lost
inside her own mind.
Her eyes downcast,
talking to no one
Eye contact, with
a man in particular,
would ruin it, her:
Swords / Moira Hegarty
Santa Fe, Sunday afternoon, late fall,
through my window miles of empty blue meadow sky
a gaseous curtain, hemmed with clouds
that line up in horizontal rows of baguettes,
unfallen manna I can’t devour,
pool together and pause. I measure the progress of their pilgrimage
against the verticals of glass door framing
where they and the earth come to rest.
Along the top of the orangeade stucco wall
a ray of sunlight, a wide dagger crescendo to the north,
decrescendo to the south, guards
where a bleak coldblooded metal table and four chairs
wait like buried artifacts to be unearthed from a hidden vault,
collect what they can of raking sunlight.
I know I should be doing something
but I’m not sure what it is.
I look for the baguettes
To watch them graze the lowest portion of the sky
clear the tops of trees,
but they shape change, melt away, and forget how hungry I am.
You Say You Want a Revolution / Barbara Krasner
Songs about changing the world
blasted through our bunks and
upheaval outside our world
infiltrated. Nah-Jee-Wah camp directors
insisted on a new solution
for the camp’s evolution: Going co-ed.
Nah-Jee-Wah was no longer the female
institution I knew and loved. No more
pajamas to the mess hall, no more
skinny-dipping in the lake. Would
we have to worry about infiltration
of pubescent boys in the mikvah too?
Count me out!
I don’t want to make any contribution
to any destruction. This camp
decision ruined my memories,
broke tradition the way I understood it.
Nobody asked me to see the plan. No one
bothered to invite campers into the conversation.
In 1969, man walked on the moon,
no longer a figment of imagination.
Thunderstorms caused destruction: a tree
fell on our bunk. Another
tree split in half horizontally.
Count me out!
It’s not going to be all right, here
How Two Minutes Sounds / Jonie McIntire
“The body is only totally still — totally silent — in death.”
– from “The Silent Treatment”, by Caity Weaver,
New York Times Magazine, November 27, 2022
Of course, the tv, volume 40, almost the end of the last episode of Andor,
but also the clock… clock… clock… in the living room, echoing up the stairs.
The gurgle moan of the fridge and plastic wrap slowly unraveling its fist
in the trash. On the couch, the allergy-driven sniffle snort of a college student,
equipped with laptop click… click… click… and the low whisper of Youtube or
TikTok or whatever the latest thing is where people play video games and chatter
endlessly. The curls in his hair fall just a bit as his head turns slight, a soft sound
like a touch glancing. Across from the tv, a can of beer with its hollow bubbles.
Breath and the wet pop of a knee bent just to relieve a building tightness.
A dog, nails clicking across the dining room, tail a whoosh of quiet joy,
tongue a waiting drip of hunger. Cars on a wetness of street, slick… slick…
slick… two from opposite directions meeting doppler-loud just in front of the house,
one a tick… tick… tick of brakes or belt and the other a failing muffler rumble.
The fwush-lighting of the furnace in the basement, jeans thumping
from the dryer, and the washer jetting a rinse cycle. My pen sounds like
nails on canvas, the page with its own woody hush, my breath, my blood
like a drum, the stomach a chemistry set bubbling. The light above, an electric
hum. The sound of air like static, a white wall of noise. My teeth touch
their dull enamel, their tinny sound a little like the pop of bullets
exploding like silver balloons all over the city.
Good Life 28: What’s chosen / Anna Mitchael
Where could I get an alarm
that goes off for blue skies
A sunshine-monitoring device primed for:
The child who reads his book like a prize
Walking circles on sidewalks meant for straight lines
Naps, chosen not stolen
Whipped cream from the can for breakfast
Your face at the angle that takes me back to when we met.
I imagine the siren on this alarm
—for maximum efficacy—
would sound like the high C of a sparrow.
Con Sombras / Shane Morin
from Red’s Intro (Canto III)
second of four parts
The yellow walls decay before me
Sulfur suffocates the spider plants
My child-like height overshadowed by long halls caked with asphalt
If only the walls were white like baker’s icing
I’d relish my childhood spiral- the ghetto gingerbread homes, my friends confectionary-
Mom’s alcoholic breath cornellis
Snowflakes fall lazy upon the Atlantic, I spot myself
Treading along, I toss a life jacket
I fight to grab it…
the boiled past / Mary Ventura
i crawled my way out of that boiled water
leaving a trail of venom
some are still oozing from me
LOOK what’s in front of you!
the once chased pursued grabbed drooling-all-over future
why am i still looking back
why can’t i get the kumkum sound out of the wicked mind
let the venom dry
what’s so inevitable about the past
i want to crawl into my planned future
without looking back
Day 27 / Poem 27
Night In / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM POEM # 16 / Lu Chekowsky
boy band beatles
girls giddy giggles
teen twitchy tickles
one of each
choose all five
pick me pick me
wink in camera
lipgloss lip smack pheromone
making a scene
suits and ties
you can have them all
we want you
you can buy them all
we want you
you can put them in your tight pocket
The Millionth “I Love You’ in the New Apartment / Ahja Fox
(in considering the tadpole’s transformation)
we mold our bodies. into horny lip. and muscular tail. toe to head. and toe to head. in the middle of our bed. our daughter creeps. the yolky eye. of our love. swelling. we hook our fingers. and then our spines. gesturing. to split the fin. where water always meets us. us. a transmuted verbiage of one’s. self. we dream a night rivered. in rippling. wanting. to gasp. at the redawning of our bedroom. but. our skulls spread broader. and our tails shrink. shorter. and our mouths are fitted. just right. to plug the flood of our words. with a spoon
The Founding of Rome / Sarah Haas
Romulus watched the god of the sea
Erupt through the goddess of the earth.
Hooves on the land, a Roman heartbeat.
Romulus threw a party, and the party was good:
the men got drunk, the women danced, the calvary leisured like gods.
Romulus commanded his Roman men withdraw their swords,
The ensuing battle was ruthless. Bloody. Lasted for days.
The men turned warriors dancing on the earth.
The women and children watched.
Until eventually they could watch no more.
Until they rose up. Until they walked to the center
Until they stood with the horses.
Until they extended their arms the distance between sword and sword.
Until they submitted, agreed to become Roman wives, a submission it was named:
The Abduction of the Sabine Women.
The Founding of Rome.
Distance / Moira Hegarty
The day murmurs, I’m moving to Nashville, Tennessee.
Hands go up to cheeks. Lips turn into Os. Didn’t I know that more than miles separate here from there?
But I’m a songwriter
You can’t get the New York Times in Nashville. Yale graduate. All he needs is a wing chair and a pipe.
Nashville doesn’t have an airport!
Where will Louisa go to school?
They have them!
I teethe on their words and sculpt a living room lamp with newspaper and frame it in a corrugated box, a ration pack,
absent without leave.
Missing furniture leaves carpet imprints and ugly tongues. The piano’s chords diminish in a sirocco misty blue aura and ask why? Have you lost my mind?
We crumple into the swollen Corolla in the driveway, an overstuffed olive, an aneurysm ready to burst
Boxes that once held spirits, tip, clothes drape and fight with wire hangers, sauce pots, frying pans, picture frames clink, jab. Clay flower containers, minus the geraniums, nest, enough books to open a used book store. A guitar’s neck cranes. The tang of beach sand comes off a teenager’s bare feet that press into the glove compartment. Gray tabby howls and rings my neck, claws dig into my red, white, and blue tee.
Steering wheel blazes, tires inch backwards, angle, straighten, and roll down the street
we used to live on.
Azaleas, rhododendrons that brand the front yards of story book houses, salute as we parade past where god plants sod lawns; sprinklers spit, choke, gasp. Bertie and Carlos unload toy red trucks, bandanas drink sweat. Gas motors rev on lawn mowers. Cut grass moans, bleeds, flies.
Turn left at the corner then turn right
Disable the rear-view mirror. Roll down the windows. Hit the gas pedal
and don’t look back.
894.3 miles ahead,
At noon, on a day in the middle of July, a cool wind adorns my hair with clusters of rosettes.
Betwixt and Between / Barbara Krasner
Between the gap in his front teeth
he whistles a mournful tune
of abandonment by his father,
marked by the breach in his own front teeth
through which obligation has escaped.
Between the bones of his shoulder blades,
dashed hopes settle in like bedbugs,
needing a professional to clean them out.
Beneath his ribs his aorta races
as he throws back a dozen or so
Coricidin pills, wanting to numb his pain.
In the back of the police car,
he curses himself as he
sways in and out of consciousness.
Toward him comes the nurse
with an IV and non-skid socks
plus a bottle of charcoal to neutralize.
Down the hall he hears a voice.
It’s her, she’s come. My mother
will save me.
On Buying a Raffle Ticket for a Pet You Don’t Have and Drinking the CBD Tea / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 27: The one that got away / Anna Mitchael
The only house
I ever loved
had tiny bedrooms
not enough bathrooms
drafts in the winter
spotty ac in summer
the kitchen window
faced the alley
with a sill
just the right width
for resting a pie.
Con Sombras / Shane Morin
from Red’s Intro (Canto III)
In four parts
In my periphery
Spectral faces sizzle
Daylight infiltrates shadowed factories, atonal hammers strike untuned heart strings, sustenudo
pedals press the ribcage, con sombras the ghastly staff cuts the dust
It’s nothing…I feel temporary
Faces pass, erode as wax statues
Glossed eyes melt, jaded smiles blur to
A numbed sneer, arms deteriorate
They’re all temporary (we’re all so obsolete)
Chords slice the silence, a mad symphony echoes
Across the vacant halls
I stand impermanent, wavering
I swear it’s nothing, a twilight trick of the seasons…isn’t it?
Purple Sun / Mary Ventura
the capitalized i was holding the megaphone
being out there i wasn’t afraid
wasn’t aware either
i believe this giant ship won’t sink
at least not on my watch
little did i know
how much power plays in the show
i was holding the
in the hope of soothing
the sprouted sparks before
it was too late
never was it a dialogue
both sides need to embed me in the shrine of curse
who accepts that owns real
Day 26 / Poem 26
Wandering / Tiffiny Rose Allen
FRIENDSHIP POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
the way your hip popped out of the socket. the way it had to be popped back in by a team of five people. the way the nurse popped the walker into place in front of the hospital. the way the word trauma was used while the trauma was happening. the way the pharmacy shut the gate on me at 1:30 because it was time for their lunch and we waited in the car for them to reopen eating good n’ plenty and red hots like pills. the way i had your driver’s license in my pocket so i could buy your controlled substances. the way i had to look down to tell them your birthday. the way you assumed i’d pay for it and then i did.
the chemistry of our laughter; your adrenaline, our history. the chaos of back then.
the way — how once we got you home. — you pulled yourself up and out of the car, superhuman, and called for pepper, who i am afraid of. the way we discovered the water had run out for her three days ago because you were supposed to be home by then. the way the cat who has a cyst on her side ate tuna on the counter. the way a friend left mushroom stroganoff on the stairs, next to a creek, bubbling. the way the pink sunset lowered over the farms of the taconic. the way we talked about how no one but us was good enough. the way twenty five years passed. the way we spoke with the glass front door between us because pepper was growling at me, protecting you; salty. the way i left you alone after metal was placed in your body. the way it was my job and not at all my job today to save you. the way in which i wonder if this is the theme of my life.
then, after: the way jazz was playing on vinyl when i walked in the front door. the way Neko’s water was filled, the way food smells of chicken and stuffing and gravy floated in the air, the way i knew the bills would get paid, the way i knew my heart would be tended. the way i cannot control anything. the way the past is the past and sometimes the present. the way i made my way from there to here. the way the window was between us. the way it is no longer this way for one of us.
Modern Mystic / Ahja Fox
Musician is woken up midway through brain surgery to play the violin to ensure parts of the parts of her brain responsible for intricate hand movements were not affected during the procedure.” —from a ‘MedicalTalks’ post
A remarkable sensation—
to feel nothing in the brain
while playing the violin.
To feel nothing in the brain.
Only left hand, right hand
strumming to produce pitches.
Violin literature never mentioned
the tantric puppetry or possession of idle
It didn’t note how the melody notes
every fissure pulled over knuckles,
The brows still flex their focus…
though the eyelids are flitted over
Air is cut by el + bow.
Nevermind the prescription bracelet
and grey-diamonded dignity gown.
A spotlight bears down into the brain
(the blame for incitation)
but the real show, the marvelous mystery
tucks itself below the chin, calling
for a way to string out.
The Good Wife / Sarah Haas
I wake up first, already in a mood, the kind that ruins
the day as soon as it’s begun. My husband gets up, but
just to pee. I yell to him anyway: Don’t ruin the brisket
by smoking it on the grill! Because: I’m a good Jewish woman,
I say, or at least I’m supposed to be. My husband should be
able to cook a good brisket, too, the kind that falls apart
in your mouth, meat dissolving into fat until you can’t tell
the difference. When he says nothing. I wonder if I should
apologize. A good wife, I think, should be like the brisket:
Easier than you’d expect; A pleasant surprise.
Dear Ms Hegarty / Moira Hegarty
First, I do not hold your gender against you. My close friend and someone I greatly admired was the accomplished and intellectual woman, Lou Andreas-Salome, a psychoanalyst and author. I also admired the poetry of Erika Mitterer, a woman who knew how to write from her heart. Further, gender and age mean nothing when communicating by mail! If you’ve read my letters to Kappus, you already know some of my most inner feelings about life and writing poetry that also apply to your poems. In brief, let me quote myself: “I know of no other advice than this: Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth.” I’d like to suggest reading one of my poems, originally written in French, Chemins qui ne menent nulle part (Paths that go nowhere)
Paths that lead nowhere
between two meadows,
diverted from their goal
with art, one might say,
paths which often have
nothing before them
but pure space
and the season.
My advice to ask yourself, ‘must I write,’ is still at the heart of everything. You might also read Philip Sidney’s A Defense of Poesy and Astrophil and Stella (1) that admonishes the poet to “Look in thy heart and write.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Max Krasner Finds a Match / Barbara Krasner
Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match
I hire a photographer to capture
My likeness outside my store
on Newark’s Market Street.
Crisp white apron, sales book
in hand, surrounded by neighborhood
children, and signs of affordable
prices and S&H green stamps.
Find me a find, catch me a catch
The matchmaker Mama hired
makes a postcard of my photo
and hands it out to prospects
like she’s playing gin rummy.
Mama says, “You’re in your
forties already, it’s time,
past time, to settle down.”
Matchmaker, matchmaker, look through your book
The matchmaker comes up
with Chava Zuckerkandel from Galicia.
Her photo shows a noble nose,
ample bosom, a bit zaftig.
“She’ll know how to cook,”
Mama says. We agree to meet.
Make me the perfect match
I take the tubes to New York
and we meet with the matchmaker.
Chava goes by Eva now. And what
do we talk about? Hoo-hah, not
marriage and babies, but business
and real estate. She’s a butcher’s
daughter and she knows how
to calculate, she’s gone to school.
Not many Jewish girls do.
Mama would rather Eva cook.
Mama would rather Eva be a Litvak
But I like a girl who’s shorter than
my 5’6” with a head
We’ll be great partners in business and life.
We sign the ketubah. Her uncle pays for the wedding.
We pledge to each other under the chuppah.
She puts her hand on my shoulder for the photographer.
We’ll set foot into the America we’ll claim together.
In Twenty-Five Days, Not One Lemon / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 26: Putting on a Show / Anna Mitchael
I went from stage to stage
Watching people put on a show
When I could study the audience no more
Too much of myself in every face
Every place and posture
I finally turned to the ones being paid to play
Lucky bastards who get to tell the truth
Admit how hard they have worked
Toiled and sweated and not slept
for this performance of their lives.
5 Club Q / Shane Morin
There was a dance once
Sacred and primal
Steam lifting from lovers
Like fresh mist, the sun
Gleaming off diamond skin
And the drinks flowed
As rivers, sweet
And our hands touched
And sensuality soaked
Us with liberation
Our flag sheltered us
If this is our last dance, then
Let us sweat
Embedded in our love
lost of narrative / Mary Ventura
Day 25 / Poem 25
Moments / Tiffiny Rose Allen
THANKSGIVING LOVE POEM / Lu Chekowsky
The way the trail winds up even though it says it’s closed.
We trust our eyes more than signs, I guess?
For me, it’s always harder to go down than climb up.
I lose myself.
Something about the knees.
The sheets, falling around you in the morning light.
Then, a frittata with leftover grilled vegetables, sausage.
Neko squeaking in the rainbows in the living room.
We feed her turkey because of today and also, because she, herself is a turkey –
but only when her feet are folded under belly.
Get closer. I’m being sweet to you.
Oh yes, what I’m thankful for.
Health. Arguable at times, but present.
A father who loves me imperfectly.
You, and how you care for me by letting me be free.
Poems in our entryway.
A puzzle basement.
Gobble gobble texts.
Friends who need and who don’t need.
Today, we fill our bellies with breads and meats and fish and gravy.
I am filled.
I remember nothing before today.
I am thankful for all there is that is mine today.
Find Me Devoid, My Darling / Ahja Fox
Even God found himself in need of rest
after oragaming flaws into ferocious
Succumbing to the deep congested
snot; the swollen, inflamed nodes
(of my body) makes me even more
seraphic after any feast
Living, is a melee
a system, written to grip
with sad song, with riveting story
No bubble bath will heal
the risen scars of my clipped wings
it will shampoo my joints into seeing
that another day may be ahead
long-born into artifact
What is a brother or sister if not
a labret composed of bone and shell?
If not a wedding attire ribbed into
warrior, what is the physical form?
I wear the universe’s poetries down
into a grave
(never acknowledging sleep
is a careless thing)
though there is always pulse and ache
to be had, guiltily, in the end
Demigod this beauty’s rot so you can
find me, a crowned constellation of blood’s
in the barrel of the earth
I’m coming tomorrow, fresh fire, fresh fire
to the coldest battle we’ve ever fought
*Note: The last stanza is inspired by lyrics and clipped phrasing found in Lacey Sturm’s song “Rot”
In Gratitude / Sarah Haas
The other day, at Ross, I almost bought a gratitude board, a fake chalk board that
might really work, I thought, through aisles of plastic clothes
looking for something that didn’t, in the end, exist,
something cotton or wool, my versions of superiority,
this would be itching skin guarded by discount pima.
It’s not that I needed more clothes but a new outfit,
something a little less me, a little more manipulative, because
yesterday I was born again because yesterday someone, finally,
told me who I am, thank God!, everyone else too afraid to tell me
and God, well he just sits there and lets me figure it out myself.
A part of me always knew I would have a spiritual experience
at Ross Dress for Less, ever since I was a girl hiding in its
then circular racks looking at the slim sides of blouses, the lint
that, night after night, got pushed further into center,
the feet of unsuspecting shoppersby, and above,
Oh!, the light in which nothing could hide but me.
So, of course I went to Ross to see me for who I really was because
what I knew then and suddenly was that it had never been up to me—
A person reduced to what they are regarded to be—
not this dirty coat tied around my hips but
this petroleum sourced polyester sh-acket two shades north of neon
green. I put it on and looked at myself transformed in the endcap mirror,
watched vermillion me spin and spin around into some other version of real,
reflective like a sequin shining so much exterior light. Aisle after aisle
I thought I loved the thing, the thing and me, what we had become.
But then I found the gratitude board and it was totally the new me, too,
turning problems into a lifetime of thankful for’s—
how could I not fill in the rest with live and laugh and love
as good as all the other words there on the shelf. And so it was that
the me I was supposed to be becoming died thirty minutes after being reborn,
the real me doing that shitty thing that people do who need to
get the fuck out of a store that sells words and and plastic coats—
I left everything I ever wanted to buy draping over the word dream,
just left it there for somebody else to put away where it belonged.
My Dear Monsieur Rilke / Moira Hegarty
I suppose it’s audacious of me writing to someone of your literary stature as if an acquaintance. I got the idea from one of your best-known books, the collection of ten letters published in Letters to a Young Poet, which you wrote to beginner poet Franz Xaver Kappus in response to his request for guidance. It is one of the most cherished in my own library. Like Kappus, I am asking you for direction with my poetry, and have included several poems with this letter. Unlike Kappus, I am a woman and not young. I hope you don’t hold that against me! Besides our shared love of writing poetry, we also share a love of the French language. You acquired that love when, as a young man, you stayed with Rodin in Paris, and many of your poems were originally written in French.
Mottel Krasner and Family Are Detained, 1901 / Barbara Krasner
The SS Statendam from Rotterdam
docks at Ellis Island. We finally made it.
I didn’t want to come. But what was I
to do when Bryna said, “Mottel, grab
the candlesticks and the featherbeds,
We’ve got to go to America!” That meant
leaving our daughters Doba and Malka behind
with their families, but we have
four children in America already.
Our family is split like the Red Sea.
Which side to stay on?
At sixty-three I’m too old for such
a journey. Still, I’ve learned over
the years to just say yes to my wife.
We go through all the inspections.
But officials grab me by the arm,
Bryna and our youngest, Hesia, too.
They say we have no documents.
We clutch our bundles like beggars
and are led to a caged area.
We are told we need to wait
for our son, Meyer.
We are in a detention center. Maybe
we should have stayed in Russia
where we knew the language
and knew who to trust and not trust.
We find places on a hard wooden bench.
We are called in for an interview. The
officials ask lots of questions. It sounds
like babble to me. But then a Yiddish
translator enters the room, and all becomes
Finally, Meyer shows up, a real American now,
with his vested suit he made himself,
a mustache and no beard, no yarmulke.
He straightens everything out with
his accented English and some money.
He holds his mother’s and sister’s hands
and leads us out of Ellis darkness into city light.
He takes all of us with him to this place,
Noo-ark. We are so far from home.
Will my bones always ache for it?
The Landscape of Our Thanks/ Jonie McIntire
The Good Life 25: Afternoon lessons / Anna Mitchael
The ball of yarn is nowhere
to be found
Even though the clicking
of our needles is bouncing against
the walls of the room and flooding
down the halls
Even as the back and forth
between us constructs a blanket
I will curl under for comfort
all winter long
Every confession, a row
Every understanding, a pearl.
Imaginary Mountain / Mary Ventura
Day 24 / Poem 24
Mornings / Tiffiny Rose Allen
ANXIETY POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
It’s the mold on the ceiling that will get you. It’s the carbohydrates that will get you. It’s poverty that will get you. It’s the interest rates that will get you. It’s the undiagnosed heart murmur that will get you. It’s the side effects that will get you. It’s the unresolved grief that will get you. It’s the man with a gun in a gay club that will get you. It’s the anger mismanagement that will get you. It’s the holes in the ozone layer that will get you. It’s the radon bubbling up from the basement that will get you. It’s the algorithm watching you that will get you. It’s the doom scrolling that will get you. It’s the virus that will get you. It’s the other virus that will get you. It’s the other virus that will get you. It’s the side effects that will get you. It’s all that exercising you’re not doing that will get you. It’s all the exercise you’re doing that will get you. It’s the second hand smoke that will get you. It’s the worrying that will get you. It’s the hormonal imbalance that will get you. It’s the ticks in the woods that will get you. It’s the screen time that will get you. It’s the lucid nightmares that will get you. It’s the recycled air that will get you. It’s the algorithms that will get you. It’s that fear of dying that will get you. It’s that passive aggressive tone that will get you. It’s the man with a gun in a WalMart that will get you. It’s the FOMO that will get you. It’s the regret that will get you. It’s the lack of planning that will get you. It’s the things you imagine everyone is saying about you that you fall asleep thinking about that will get you. It’s the thing of how no one in the whole world is even thinking about you that will get you. It’s being in the wrong place at the wrong time that will get you. It’s being in the right place at the right time that will get you. It’s war that will get you. It’s the wrong side of history that will get you. It’s the gum on the bottom of your shoe that you touch and then forget to wash your hands before you rub your eye that will get you. It’s rarely peace that will get you. It’s rarely gratitude that will get you. It’s rarely safety that will get you. Usually it’s the worst thing in the world that will get you. It’s how five minutes from now will get you. It’s how five years ago will get you too. It’s always about how your fat thighs will get you. It’s about how your sunken eyes will get you. It’s how your breath will get you. It’s usually about how you have no say, no say at all, with how death will show up or how it will get you. It’s about how it boils down to control; how not having control will get you. It’s about how you can do whatever you do and still, no matter what, you will be gotten.
O! Envy, envy / Sarah Haas
Envy is an illusion,
an auditory barber’s pole
continually ascending in tones
of super-positional sine waves.
If the sound of the divine
is a thousand of these, but
twenty-four is a decent replication,
then it would seem that reaching
to the pinnacle isn’t all that
important, after all, the consequence
contains its own perpetual
relief, a worm deep in the ear.
If a woman claims she is
a better weaver than the gods
she will be turned into a spider.
And if a man challenges God
to a duel, he will be flayed alive
and nailed to a pine tree.
But if a god is envious then they craft
a crooked plan animated by Envy’s own fury,
her moldy teeth, her plates of rotten snakes wrapping
her in a black fog so easy to mistake for
the world’s first sunless day in which all flowers wither.
But isn’t it nice to become the crone,
hunchbacked but still constantly ascending,
a little harder to hear the tone.
The noise of unanswered questions
no longer an illusion but the promise of the
perfect wave in city after city of disillusion.
In my garden sanctuary / Moira Hegarty
In my autumn sanctuary
I can see my autumn sanctuary from the corner of the living room couch,
a small patio through sliding glass doors;
coyote fencing, in need of repair, embraces it on three sides,
a locust tree, with a proud demeanor, a bouffant of golden leaves, shades it.
One by one its foliage, tiny carved canoes, drops into the birdbath,
red geraniums, dead headed and robust, spill woody stems over the rims of clay pots,
An abandoned finch nest, tucked into the eaves, goes silent, its sticks and twigs transformed into an angled neomodern chandelier,
the olive jar amphora lords over the space
with another rounded vase and garden globe, a congregation of pleasing spheres of various heights;
the birdbath will freeze, the locust and geraniums will lose their color, a tarp will cover the vases,
but the trio of tiny concrete birds will not fly south for the winter.
America / Barbara Krasner
My grandmother’s cousin, Evelyn, remembered
the day my grandmother Eva arrived in America.
Evelyn’s father brought her to their
Brooklyn home. Eva, an older cousin
from across the Atlantic, an older
cousin with a Galitzian Yiddish accent
and a satchel bursting with American dreams.
My grandmother was not used to inside plumbing,
a bathtub she didn’t have to share
with eight others for pre-Shabbos
washing in the middle of the kitchen
where the water would be heated.
Evelyn remembered, too, how two
of her sisters died while on the toilet.
The Passive-Aggressiveness of Distance / Jonie McIntire
The Good Life 24: Eternal being / Anna Mitchael
Legs like spandex pixie sticks
Facing forward, facing forward
Slowing down, slowing down
A car horn in the far distance
Closer, a child plays
The lobby door jingles
Are there package deals, are there refunds
Toward the front a water bottle falls
pricy metal on hard wood
So sorry, so sorry
Here’s a towel, here’s a towel
The heater struggles to remember its work
Water runs in the pipes
The teacher laughs more amusement than hysterics
Can you hear the angels singing, she asks
Me, who never speaks in class, finally whispers: I can
skin, a dress just chosen for a short time
How long, how long
Hold on, hold on.
Cento / Mary Ventura
you’ve been trained
you let the wind shred
it’s getting colder
bone on bone
no to the silence of snow
dance in the sunrise
where they know me now and say there’s no change
Now I could understand him
in any language he chose
I’m ready to be judged
to be seen tragically wonderful
A cento with lines from Anna Mitchael, Jonie Mcintire, Tiffany Rose Allen, Lu Chekowsky, Sarah Haas, Shane Morin, Moira Hegarty, Barbara Krasner, and Ahja Fox
Day 23 / Poem 23
Another Moment of Your Time / Tiffany Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #15 POEM / Lu Chekowsky
Let’s get ready for blood/entertainment.
Money’s on you in that penguin suit; suited up in suites.
Tickets to the battle of the century/decade/year.Tuxedo on a Tuesday. Lone silver fox purrs silk into eardrums.
Hype man forever our man type. Violet lights; highlight violence.
Golden chords; angels in cheap seats. Bodies bounce on ropes.
Let’s get ready for sweat and circumstance; for one thing only on this one night only. Forever in your corner. Rolls off the tongue. Lightning spark ignites the room.
Rumbling, wilding, fighting; no man is more known for one thing only.
Prayer Upon Plead (after “Today, God” by Starr Davis) / Ahja Fox
In bed, God
I will be grateful
for the coming snow
the thaw that is summer
for the trickles of heat
that come from me in spurts
and in spirit
through the night
I will kiss the sheets
in their worness
but, I won’t kiss the ghost
of the man who once laid there
I will ache
for moo-llenium ice cream
devil’s cake and beauty creams
until the sun, until some-
one texts my phone saying,
“This is the time you breathe,
deeply.” Ooo Whoa, God, why
is the creaking so loud when I’m awake?
I won’t ask you
in bed, God, I won’t beg for better sleep
I won’t dismantle the headboard
calling it ‘grave’
though, I will do it in my poetry
God, and I’ll write the natural disaster
the silly tragedy
the epic journey
of a hurt woman
in hot pink or zealous blue
in bed, I will be like the widow
out of bed, I’ll weave new stars
because, God, I need this miracle
a script and erasure of sound
In bed, God
I’ll find a way to be grateful
No, Not At All / Sarah Haas
Say no to the flock of nuthatches.
No to the silence of snow.
No to the feeling of feeling:
But, yes to the infill of explanation.
Yes to agree to disagree.
Yes to dismissal’s dismissal, yes.
Yes to the no to dissent,
and to the no of no,
no to this incessant noncompliance,
no this word of denial: No,
we are trying to be free.
But, no to freedom, not really,
not if it must accomodate so many no’s:
No, just say yes: yes to the chatter,
yes to abnegation,
yes to the open door.
Because yes, there is always more room at the table,
but: no, not for you.
Sisyphus / Moira Hegarty
every pattern on the sheet vinyl floor’s embedded in my brain
every square, every rectangle made by the intersections of lines
of dull green, duller orange
and dullest gray, a flat surface more like a steep mountain,
with a metal bar for each shin and hip
as I walk to room 3201 ICU.
I follow its path today like yesterday and the day before
the ping of the elevator, doors fly open,
passengers, steely, insular, go their separate ways;
off on the third floor,
make a right with the green line on the left.
follow the arrow straight ahead to ICU;
phone in to let them know I’m here to see you;
nothing has changed with you; but they say that’s a good thing,
ten minutes later I leave,
.turn and follow the hospital hallway
under the sign that says ICU
towards the one that says elevator
follow the orange stripe on the left
make a left, wait for the ping,
toward the red exit sign
out into the sunshine
when I return and
follow the squares and rectangles on the sheet vinyl floor
in the south wing of the hospital
the dull green on the left, the duller orange, and dullest gray surface,
although if you look close there are tiny sparkly specks of a myriad of colors,
my feet flat, my shin bones ache, all the way to room 3201 ICU
where they know me now and say there’s no change.
Not a Family of Drinkers / Barbara Krasner
Krasner’s Gin once graced the shelves
of my father’s Shop-Rite, but we never
drank it. We did not drink whisky
or Passover wine. We did not cheat
at cards, and although
my grandfather boasted about
being a ladies’ man, he wasn’t.
I come from a family of do-gooders.
My grandfather was the first store owner
to launch a milk drive for the poor
in Newark in 1915. My grandmother
led drives for milk funds for
Displaced Persons in Europe
who wanted to settle in Palestine.
My father and uncle donated goods
to campaigns for American
soldiers in Vietnam.
My grandfather belonged to the
Workman’s Circle, my uncle
the local Lion’s Club, my father
to the Jewish War Vets,
Sanford L. Kahn Post 538
his brother helped to establish.
I never heard my grandfather sing.
I barely remember him talking.
I just recall a graveled voice,
raked over the hardships of
and acculturation. I never heard
him speak Yiddish. I do remember
the desk he gave me as a birthday
present. I kept it for many years
because he gave it to me. I learned
Russian, because he came from Minsk.
I wish I could sit in his living room
now, me on the couch and he
in his easy chair caddy-corner
to the Amana, and have a conversation.
Now I could understand him
in any language he chose.
Tuesday Night Lights / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 23: Where rubber meets road / Anna Mitchael
Please no more strangers
discovering each other in the rain.
Rosy altars where people
with wrinkle-free suits and faces
clap and cheer.
Passion pushing bodies against
walls and parked cars—
objects right where you expect
them to appear.
Show me a bone-tired man
kitchen lights who can’t find
a thing to eat for dinner.
Embraced from behind
by a woman who has fought
every desire to be
anywhere but there,
now offering to make chicken.
Scars / Shane Morin
This scar? Age 4: try wrapping a black cat around your arm as a scarf. That one
I palmed a knife blade, saving it from tipping in the sink. This one from shaving fennel,
The licorice blending with blood, a bad day to be a hangnail. These three my students
Say make me look like a failed cutter, the raised layers linger from years
Of seared flesh.
That one’s a reaction to rejections, her words honed to sever tendrils. This one
Triggers panic attacks, Circuit Court chambers smack of bureaucracy, the gavel thunders, ribs crack.
The poetics fail to save from alienation.
Some days I fade into the cityscape
Among the other scarred hearts, streetlights ablaze,
Hundreds of suns along the asphalt. On these days,
I try to meet another’s gaze, to see
The sad smiles afloat in an ocean.
Maybe then these scares aren’t so countless,
Maybe then moving from bed to living room to door doesn’t feel futile,
Maybe then the rain won’t remind me of the winter chill.
owning / Mary Ventura
held within by miles of my skin
but such a boundary couldn’t contain my memories
they extend their touch
asking for a refund from the future
Day 22 / Poem 22
To be / Tiffiny Rose Allen
CENTO #1 / Lu Chekowsky
I used to look good in shorts, even hot pants.
(When is it too much blood?)
My little thoughts getting lazy. Be my own darling.
Any dream ongoing becomes a nightmare.
Here is even more sweetness where they touch.
Somewhere between the condemned 7/11. A low-slung sun nudges to equinox.
I would be happy if I could have a forklift for the feeling that even with all I’ve gotten, I’ve missed something.
(Lines from poem drafts this month by Barbara Krasner, Shane Morin, Tiffiny Rose Allen, Anna Mitchael, Sarah Haas, Ahja Fox, Jonie McIntire, Mary Ventura and Moira Hegarty)
At The Writer’s Conference I’ll Never Name / Ahja Fox
heat reaches for my throat,
speaking a future I never see
and if you ask me why
I couldn’t even purr,
couldn’t even bite
into the fruit
and chocolate left
on my dorm room pillow
I’ll begin the whisper
of nothing sweet
I’ll begin the thankless
task of stacking
my poetries into
small binds, saying
no matter their potential
expiry, are just that,
a keep for sake
of moment, hopefully
a happy one.
I gloss then regloss my lips
in different mirrors for this open-mic,
hook then unhook
my hoops, dreaming it was this,
effortless with my bra
I could do with a little
in my double-tenant, single occupied space;
so I shave
eyeliner into sink one
while spitting skittle drizzle into sink two…
I’m ready to be judged
to be seen tragically wonderful
How to find the tallest tree in a forest / Sarah Haas
Do not stand on the top of a peak
To look for tall trees. The tallest tree is
found from the ground. No need to search
every unsquare inch, but strategically,
walking along the edges where water is
when there is water which there is not.
Do not be seduced by the thickest trunks,
usually already stumps. Instead, look up,
the canopy too high to judge, a perspective
you are ill-prepared to take. Remember:
the math you forgot how to do.
Pace out pythagorean theorems.
Or, just look for trees that resemble ancient ruins:
too thick bark and trampled roots,
rusted signs subsumed by thickening years,
someone else’s already indiscernible initials.
How quickly your immortal feats are lost to time.
Apologize, and know that this is all there is,
this living and saying sorry all the while.
Do not get lost in your sorrow, do not become
like this tree, the standing dead. Leave, lest
you become useful, too, useful and all used up.
Uncle Abner / Moira Hegarty
her thumbnail scratches the frosted window pane,
a starry night sky opens in front of her
a genie rises from her breath;
together they search the heavens for Santa Claus;
his sled leaps over the mountains, but it’s only the shadow of the snow,
the outline of reindeer, the branches of trees.
Santa Claus never visits her on Christmas eve anyway,
until someone knocks on the front door.
Grandfather lets Uncle Abner in, Odinic, an upside-down tree, hair as wiry as a scouring pad, trousers draped over his oxfords,
he’s no longer a Christian Brother.
he brings with him the frigid air of the unheated porch,
moves past the unlit Christmas tree in the corner, a year’s supply
of cold cuts and apple cider, and expels his breath in frosty dumplings through smiling lips;
he ducks under the door frame, and digs in his pocket like a brown pelican.
for a small, worn book, her eyes open wide;
they bunch up on the couch like a baked pie crust
“The owl and the pussy cat went to sea . . . “
Uncle Abner reads slow as honey.
He closes the book with a slap and puts it in her hands,
a string comes undone from the binding.
She bounces on the floor like a high bounce ball, twirls her skirt, spins like a merry-go-round.
Was It You? / Barbara Krasner
Was it you who killed my family?
I scour the faces of elderly gentlemen
with brocaded coat collars and walking sticks
on the streets of Konstanz.
Was it you who killed my family?
Were you a member of a killing squad?
Were you a guard at Treblinka or Belzec?
Do you remember my cousin, Rina,
the partisan, in her khaki clothes?
Or were you used to seeing us naked
with only the tattooed number as
identifier? Did you pull out gold teeth?
Or did you betray the family in the flat
next to you? Did you steal their linen
tablecloths and lie about the monogram?
Was it you who killed my family? Did you
gouge the mezuzah from the doorpost
and claim the house or flat as your own?
Did you tell yourself we weren’t human?
That we were unworthy of life?
Was it you who killed my family? Your
gaze meets mine and you tip your
cap. You mutter, “Guten Morgen,”
and I reply in kind. Maybe it wasn’t
you who killed my family. But I bet
you knew about it just the same.
let myVariable = “Love is Complexity” true; / Jonie McIntire
Surrender / Anna Mitchael
There you go,
take me with you.
The Fuckery of Sisyphus1 / Shane Morin
Is the forgetting
The boulder smoldering
Under the burden
Up that hill with the unseen
Horizon, barely within reach
You and me ˂ the idea
Of “we” slip
Treads threading silt,
The lifeline severed
As we serrate
The thumb dangles
The rock rests upon
The base only
To be rolled up again
- Kate Bush. “Running up That Hill.” 1985
over / Mary Ventura
Day 21 / Poem 21
A Dreaming / Tiffiny Rose Allen
NATURE POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
The sign on the trail reads: Introduction to Oriental Bittersweet. I always read the signs. I want to know the warnings, the history; I want the education. Nothing is as simple as a sign on a preserve. To me, they always read like someone who loves me – like the two grandmothers I never knew or Mr. Rogers – wrote it. Dear child, let me explain to you, in simple terms, where you are. It makes me want to sit, cross-legged in a circle and quietly listen while a little girl slowly brushes my hair.
In junior high, the teacher that touched my breasts without asking taught us to do cemetery rubbings; how to take the lead of a pencil and press the mark of a tombstone. He explained to us how you can do this on highway memorial signs and coins too. He had a story about searching for treasure on the beach with a metal detector. He could always find his way, follow the signals, he said. There is always someone who will be lucky. There is always some way you can take the markings in your pocket. You just have to read the signs.
My screen name on the site where I met my husband was Bittersweetiepie. I wanted to warn him that I was more than just one thing and it wasn’t always nice. I wanted him to know I was sour and sugar. Push and pull. Dark and light. (Though, let’s be honest, I’m more bitter than pie these days.) Pure rhubarb in his side, I fear.
Back to the Bittersweet sign on the trail this freezing, bright morning. Two enormous crows circling above me, screaming. It felt like a warning? All the leaves were off the trees. Another sign? I am pulled to the wooden spike in the ground. I see it can gently teach me something simple; something I can understand. It does. Here, there is the idea of invasive, the idea of the vines; the idea of the bright red fruit berries that birds devour.
Let’s address the elephant in the nature preserve. Oriental. Is this a word we want to still be using? When I see the sign about this bittersweet vine, I know I want to write about it on sight. but I’m already worried about if I can use that word in my writing; as if by using it I will seem as though I were somehow endorsing it. I do not endorse it. In the warmth of home, my skin still cold from the walk, I look up oriental bittersweet. I learn it is native to China. To Japan. To Korea. I want to be clear, I am not defending the sign, but it was dated from ten years ago.
I learned from the sign this morning that in this case, controlling the bittersweet means cutting down the mature vines; it means minimizing seed. What you don’t want is for the bittersweet to monopolize the light; to smother the forest. There will be no trees then. Only vines and too much sky. No matter how succulent the berries, there is still such a thing as too many berries.
That’s the thing about these bittersweet vines, I learned today from a sign (and now I’m an expert) – the vines, they wait patiently for the trees to die, and then they grow fast over the death to form new pathways. After death, they take over. Death clears the way for the bittersweet.
The Mermaid vs. The World / Ahja Fox
Green skirt and belly
bead, her ancient blood
carries a distinct smell
Her fox mind
is slithering, divine and yet,
we pray she endures
cutting and skinning
of a fish’s scales
can never just look
They clamor, admire,
stipulate to touch
the saxe blue
of an unending blue
(so there is no proper table
for their gluttonous buffet).
Void of color and stars,
she is sacrificed to the sea
of myth now.
Donning serrated teeth now,
the people net ropes against
their life’s rocky boat
of meeting her and her medusa
There isn’t a revenge plot
the mermaid is right
to paunch you of spine.
Spinning at Roughly 1,000 Mile per Hour / Sarah Haas
Straight exes spinning into queer years spinning into
straight marriages opening into opening land spinning
land that was spun out of promises spinning broken
spinning breathless spinning for the kind of apology
that actually spins sorry into those promised pastures all spun out of grass
twenty-three starving turkeys spinning into identities like
vegetarian or married because I’m the only one who goes down
on my husband spinning fibers out of the only child
spinning into the only person I can actually hold because
I don’t know how to spin myself into useful yarn
spinning always clockwise, always clockwise, spinning
clockwise again so that I can finally ply these parts of me against
time spinning backwards into mysterious tastes
coming undone like I like you spinning into I don’t like you
spinning into a bleak and unfounded want only for heavy cream
whipped into everything I hate about spinning all there is
into just a few discernable certainties spinning mysterious
past days spinning into these days spinning into future days
in which I don’t exist but spinning into just one good thing done
but every made thing spun out of spinning pain is
coming undone hundreds of un-spun fibers lining these
impecable wool floors where I’m not trying to sleep but not
sleeping because how is it possible that I’m still but still spinning.
SUMMER / Moira Hegarty
I want more of your green wood
In morning sunlight a half smile aprons your lips
renewed in a macro lens of dew
Heat steaming the grass in a straw basket lifting from the sidewalk,
drain my strength, renew your fairy wand
you promised to sustain my escape
before the autumnal house tilt descends
dismissing the summer wind,
tipping the green grasses gold ,
abandoning us for harvest festivals;
I hear your faint cry coming from the pond
in a corner of the forest at midnight
in foliage as green as absinthe pining like a crybaby;
sung outside my window – from a dog star morning
sung outside my window – from a field of groveling wheat
wide eyed summer your name, even in daylight
will always be unspoken.
Sixties Somersaults / Barbra Krasner
You purse your lips as I tumble
across your bed to show how nimble
I can be. We do somersault rolls
in Miss Honey’s class and I love to jump
on your king bed for practice. I fly
across the mattress, giggling with glee.
But you stand there, tight-fisted
and tight-mouthed, afraid I’ll fracture
some part of my body or your furniture.
I hop off your bed and give you a kiss,
try to make you giggle. You squeeze
my hand and your eyes squint as you smile.
Three Sheets to the Wind / Jonie McIntire
The Good Life 20: There’s no going back / Anna Mitchael
You’ve been trained
so well to doubt and deny
But your heart
won’t let you turn and go
Like attracts like
But no one wears your straitjacket
Your mind inquires after
logic pride shame
And what people are gong think
(in that order)
If only you can keep
your cheeks from flushing red
If only you can keep
your tongue from wagging
If only you can keep
your heart in the lead
You will find yourself among them
lost in song
When you emerge you
will be new.
The very stranger / Mary Ventura
Day 20 / Poem 20
Kind of hoping / Tiffiny Rose Allen
LOVE POEM #4 / Lu Chekowsky
Chipmunks under the deck.
What did we say that night to each other in Japan?
How time works.
Neko sweet toe beans.
How sure I was no one would love me.
Literally nothing but warmth coming up from my toes.
The concept of love.
The inside of your mouth.
The knock on the door.
Can I hide from the party?
How having a body means I get to be close to you.
Bath Time in The New Apartment After an End of Summer Miscarriage / Ahja Fox
You admire your belly button as I drain franken-duck of water.
I want to ask about mummy-duck’s whereabouts, but know
you will just smile in response. Only seeing one in the pair
of twin turtles; their rubber-red backs open-palm splaying
in the small nodule of last week’s mind, I puzzle.
I puzzle, never exactly knowing when things go missing, just that
they’re gone. Hoping I’m as watchful as the thing that eats
the hawk, I often hate how the world will continue on without me.
Daughter, you’re glowing more comfortable and confident
in your room, alone (in your shower cap, yellow-dinosaured
and non adjustable).
You want a million kisses after I wash your hair, stare me
down when I jump across the rug’s inkiness to the toilet.
I’m thinking back on these twin turtles, on my last deja-vued thought:
that you lugging them around, one turtle body to each breast, mirrored
the mourning of any mother.
Still…I know better than to entertain ghosts seemingly born of premonition.
Returning to you, and your 11 bathtub friends, with a fine-tooth comb
in my mouth, once again, sends you into a splashing fury.
Only one twin turtle bobs up and down—barely surviving
the wake of you
and your sudden awareness of everything that is lost.
We know not what we are / Sarah Haas
The original swindle was
selling, fake diamond rings
painted to look real.
The jig required only a fool
to answer the swindler’s cry for help,
to enter their dark and dirty stall,
Designed to isolate a person
from their own good sense.
The swindle was presented as a gift
Take my word for it,
And with an outstretched hand
the swindler complained
About the momentous weight
of so many precious gems,
The truth that all the other fools
were afraid to tell this specific fool.
In recognition, the fool knelt
in sorrow, would give anything
To relive the swindler from the burden
of guarding so many real things.
Before the fool bought the ring,
the fool asked for forgiveness.
The fool renters the street proud
to have been been shown
Their ignorance. In their
The fool wants only for proof of the
value of the diamond they deserve.
The fool hurries to procure an
appraisal: a worthless
fake. Foolish innocence pits against
foolish phoniness, the fool babbles false
claims of the real. Back on the street,
even the sun is a conspiracy
hiding behind the facade of weather,
the lifting fog, the fool’s burning skin.
In his real pain, the fool returns
to the swindler to confesses
his confusion. Enraged, the swindler accuses
the fool of betrayal, says:
I am such a fool to believe that
a fool like you could be saved.
Frog / Moira Hegarty
leopard frog hides his secrets from the cowslips,
marsh rose wheezes to kingcup, hissing on the breath of
marigold, sea lavender cooing and chirring
Watch the old tadpole’s breaststroke!
Slicing the swampy pool, the mighty heads of cotton grass slump like stepping stones, to the tune of bog warblers and fen sparrows.
But frog sings the bass anyway,
ribbit, ribbit-ribbit, ribbit-ribbit-ribbit,
old as the hills mossbacked amphibian.
If Only / Barbara Krasner
If I were to take my cue
from ancestors before me,
I’d hang onto secrets
like skeletal bones
If everyone in my generation
were all queued up like
matryoshka dolls from eldest
to youngest, we might get
to the bottom of whispered
patrimony in Yiddish dipthong.
An ancestry line is a curious
thing. DNA can tell you
the person you thought
was your father isn’t.
That instead of being
100 percent European Jewish
you’re 50 percent Irish.
These cues only serve
to confuse. If only our
ancestors would speak to us
and divulge their truths.
Two Quick Poems About Love / Jonie McIntire
Untitled / Shane Morin
The lines, lines, lines
A rote memorization like 2 and 3 is 5.
Lies my teacher, mother, pastor embedded
An epidermal chip just beneath the skin.
It’s nothing; I’m fine; doin’ great, and you?
Scripted, B-list actors
Staging fake melodramas for
An oblivious audience.
can I / Mary Ventura
Day 19 / Poem 19
Colder / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #15 / Lu Chekowsky
princess of golden trash,
poodle pouf pop star,
blonde bird, bragging ‘
dollar sign gone.
mouth sewn shut.
simple sex smirk.
we miss you.
For the Distant Lover Who’s Heart I Carry: A Pregnancy Poem / Ahja Fox
sun, moon, sun
you eclipse me
suddenly, your hands
around me, but I
turn my face
think planet of
what brews inside
my own belly, you’re a
my bones and I’m
shaking like a racked
bottle of coke
in your gifting
so relieving, yet
trilling, the name
dormant in the folds
of my tongue
amber upon your
the stars in hopes
you may one day
One-handed sonnet / Sarah Haas
My horse is a tall ground dwelling horse, a
happy fool wasting time. Her name is Lark.
I don’t think Lark is happy, because Lark
isn’t a bird but a horse without a
frontal cortex. Usually, Lark is
a steady horse with a long neck, easy.
Earlier, Lark was afraid of: the dog,
the arena door, its edges of light.
In the dim of her unadjusting eyes,
She bolted three times before I tried to
stop her nine-hundred pounds with softening
hips, one tightening one losening rein,
us, turning in circles turning until
Lark and I turned into an afterthought.
QUARRY / Moira Hegarty
My father’s words, exhaled from his open mouth.
high cheekbones slashed like quarry rock
he liked confirming the openwork of his beliefs
the ones I too am supposed to hold dear.
From the pit of his throat his abracadabra
Of jam jars and ginger beer, of yellow houses and hollyhocks
of a quarry we once owned,
wandered like an explorer in search of the northwest passage
while mourning doves and I return to the romance
of torn paper hearts and a lonely bedroom’s torpor,
on the dresser a sepia photo of a seventeen-year-old boy/man
watches me, one eye cast
opposite the convex plane of his scope from the tear duct
one eye as cock-eyed as a porcelain doll’s,
and as gray as a piece of granite in a sidewalk
in a library lion, in a tombstone, from our family’s quarry
Infiltration / Barbara Krasner
The tea ball steeps in my teapot
as homesickness seeps into
my bone’s marrow. I am
thousands of miles away
in a land where my kind
was destined for ashes
that would dribble into
the seams of the sky.
Deep in my bone’s marrow
are the DNA strands that make
me, me. Half from father, half
from mother. Now their bones
rest underground and my place
next to my mother is assured.
Without thinking, I wear the
same style nightgowns and the same
style moccasins she once wore.
It’s in my bones.
Through the glass of the wall-to-wall
window of my dorm, the Swiss alps
rise through sky’s pillows, an escape
route once for my Viennese cousin,
while his brother peered through
train glass windows to capture
the faces of his parents and sister
he’d never see again.
The Alps stretch out their arms
to bring us in close, to protect
us against unnatural forces.
But the mountains are also
harsh and unforgiving. We have
to earn their trust and learn
our way among them. My
knees lock backward as I
climb down to flat land,
my arms flapping.
The stones are like razors, ready to cut
limbs when humans get in the way.
But stones are preferable to bullets
and bayonets. They are natural
and don’t select. Razors cut deep
and make us weak, but we can
withstand the cut veins, patch them up
with bandages. We can regain
our strength among mountain
flowers and stretch blooming
confidence from week to week.
We regain weight as we wait
for aid and rescue. No chocolate
for us, it’s too rich. We wait
for American cousins to vouch
for us and bring us, not home,
but to somewhere safe,
where our Star of David
names won’t weigh us down.
In my dorm, even eating
Toblerone and Lindt, I lose weight.
I have to put the brakes on
eating. I want to spend my
spring break in New York
working to earn money I can spend
back here in the spring.
I spend my money on German-Russian
dictionaries in Berlin,
Not thinking about the history
of the city and the decisions
made here to break my people.
It’s a mystery why I chose
to study German and spend
a year in Germany. I wanted
to solve the mystery of my
Name, but this is not the right place
for that. I need to go to Minsk.
I am homesick for the alte heym,
for where I come from. Yiddish
is sweet on my tongue, a compote
of DNA, bone marrow, and shmaltz,
sweeter and richer than chocolate.
Cento / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 19: Animal Instincts / Anna Mitchael
Red says he would prefer to live
across the street and past the creek
the landscaping’s better and as
the Chinese proverb says where there
Is more square footage there are more bugs
I want to squawk like crazy, doesn’t he see
How much time I spent with him today
That love is easier to feel in small places
Our angle on the moon is so good here
Instead I tighten my beak and show him my tail feathers
Not all of us have to act like animals.
returning / Mary Ventura
Day 18 / Poem 18
I’d like to be how the flowers are
BLIND ITEM #14 / Lu Chekowsky
lil’ model fiancé.
lil’ miami protogé.
lil’ neon kicks.
lil’ young. lil’ song.
lil’ big time.
Not Your Ordinary Art Class (Perseverance. Responsibility. Integrity. Dedication. Empathy) / Ahja Fox
(for Ponderosa Elementary School)
We strive, take PRIDE
in our voices, roots deep
like the outside trees.
Each scholar is a tall skinny
pine extending their bark-limbs
across the room.
find us, linked in sound
as we, each, should link in stark color.
Stark in color, green and blue produce:
The PERSEVERANCE to
withstand the unevenness
of a broken pencil.
The paint brush,
a wielded tool,
grants RESPONSIBILITY, with hopes
you make an image to
INTEGRITY strongs itself against
the blank background, begs the question
everyone already knows the answer to.
What is more beautiful than a backyard
forest of dancing trees?
It takes DEDICATION to finish, to sign
the small corner of the canvas, painted
yet still, unspoken.
There is EMPATHY in listening, in
putting your ear to a heartbeat
not contained within the chest.
Respect nature—an individual’s art.
No one tree is painted with the same color nor technique.
Scrubbed / Sarah Haas
On the day I forgave
my mother, she regained
her sight, she saw
the dirty house
she’d spent her whole life
cleaning away the sins
of raising a daughter
in the house she taught me
to clean, always
asking why I hadn’t
mentioned the filth,
bleached our last visit,
if I was capable of doing
what it would take
to catch her in her descent
into her mother’s dementia,
but the only mess I’ve ever
cared about is mine.
Anyway, she said, enough
about me, so I told her
all about how hard it is
to be a mother.
OCTOPUS ART / Moira Hegarty
octopus painted on a ceramic pot
imprisoned in a sea of clay
in a museum of archaeology off the coast of Crete;
for over three thousand years
you survived among the same coral, triton shells,
and sea urchins urging you to set them free,
violent, twisted, buttoned tentacles
extend to the edges of rounded rims but cannot rupture
the stomach wall of the ware.
your eyes bulge wide open and gawk
at visitors gaping back,
nearby, the gentle swish of the cold blue Aegean Sea.
What Remains / Barbara Krasner
All that’s left of the front yard trees
are pine needles and a few scattered
pinecones. The red maple’s leaves
now blanket the lawn like military tarp.
The pine needles are plentiful
but not enough to cover the trenches
left behind by Soviet troops.
I brought a pinecone home
from the Leshner Forest,
an emigrant piece of my grandfather’s
Poland now in my foyer.
All that’s left of the front yard trees
now in mid-November are the memories
of their greenery that used to fill
my bay window. All that’s left
are bare limbs, desolate with despair
until they bloom again with hope.
All that’s left are the specters
of lives that could have been—
had the Soviet troops stayed
and the Nazi killing squads
How We Are Conduits / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 18: Sisterhood / Anna Mitchael
Somewhere not far away
two women are eating lunch
They order salads
And speak of private schools
The trouble with finding good
help these days, shaking their heads,
wondering why it’s always this way.
Somewhere not far away
two women are eating lunch
Forking leftovers from red lid plastic
while other people’s children
speak of video games and who
likes who today, taunting, “Not you.”
Why is it always this way.
Somewhere not far away
two women are eating lunch
Air is on the menu, grief has
taken the space of food
The only word they can say is “why”
can’t there be another way.
Somewhere not far away
two women are eating lunch.
Tacos unrolled from safekeeping foil
In the cool of the rich woman’s kitchen
Prayers for their school children
to the God who gives and takes away.
¿Qué vas a hacer para cenar esta noche?
One meal at a time, we will make our way.
St. Charles’ Field / Shane Morin
the other side / Mary Ventura
Day 17 / Poem 17
Morning Dove / Tiffiny Rose Allen
My little morning dove
BLIND ITEM #13 / Lu Chekowsky
sweet on screen.
pop star dream.
can’t be tamed.
can’t be stopped.
Bell Schedule ‘22-’23 / Ahja Fox
If it’s gone, you’ll miss it / Sarah Haas
I held him inches away
from one candle’s light
in the almost dark I could see
the porosity of every wrinkle.
From behind him, I looked
toward our shadow to discover
I was perfectly hidden, behind
his perfect map of one to one.
So I took his shadow as proof.
Because the day after tomorrow
he’ll book a one-way for the only
sexuality that’s left, the past,
what horrified Persephone when
she first saw Hades, the eternality
of spring green. It was shadows that
saved her, brought her back to
today is the day before yesterday and
I’m tracing his shape on to the wall
so that later I can look at him
from across this same but empty room,
knowing all the while that it’s only the devil
who can snatch the shadow from your feet.
After Jean-Pierre Norblin de la Gourdaine’s “The Invention of Drawing,” an etching from 1773.
Cento / Moira Hegarty
The afterthought of afterglows,
Just faceless people abstracted from real people;
And while I don’t remember it much,
Laid against haphazard asphalt.
From my soul, you travel all the way to the river of life
To a lush green place where dogs play frisbee;
Your quiet cries,
And a shying away of darkness, comes with the blaring of white light,
Lives like whispered songs.
Lines from poem drafts this month by Tiffiny Rose Allen, Sarah Haas, Barbara Krasner, Shane Morin, May Ventura, Lu Chekowsk, Anna Mitchael, Ahja Fox, and Jonie McIntire
Tenement Blues / Barbara Krasner
Peeling paint like ocean white caps,
a pleated sleeveless dress hanging from a pipe,
natural light from shadeless window bruises
the faded carpet, the first treasure
bought in America. Heaps of dresses cover
an ironing board: blue and white gingham,
navy polka dot, turquoise swirls. These
are the tenement blues, the reminders
of squalor and hunger and need to eke
out a wage to pay the landlord. Exposure
lurks everywhere: onto the street,
into the next flat, into the seams
of neat shirtwaists worn by immigrants
trying to dress American. They
go in groups to the photographer’s studio
to take a picture to send back home. The studio
is filled with tables, chairs, plants, and wallcoverings
that have never seen a tenement. The immigrants
know they can fool their cousins. They know
they can say, “I’m here and I’ve made it!”
Then the cousins come and gasp in horror
at the tenement’s soot and narrow spaces.
They lived in a shack back home but at least
it was theirs and they could keep chickens
out back to get their eggs and a good
Shabbos meal. They didn’t know from
carpets or paint. They barely knew blue,
because the shtetl only comes in shades
of grey. Together now they all cry
the tenement blues over a game
of cards on the rickety table
found on the street after an eviction.
They cover it with oilcloth and
congratulate themselves on their
thrift and ingenuity. Someday
they’ll move to a suburb
and look back on the tenement
blues as the good old days.
How Building a Community Is Like Watching Holiday Movies While Baking / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 17: SOS From the Shallows / Anna Mitchael
If it’s true that when I look at the ocean
I can find your touch in the turn
of the wave then a spray of that
same truth must be in this moment at hand.
In bottle number one:
a gloomy taupey tort,
You Don’t Know Jacques.
Oh, but I did, for an east coast winter
Snow falling for days
Retreating to stem after stem
Until the trickling realizations froze
into a pile sturdy enough to stand on:
Not every Jack knows his trade.
Drops of Midnight Mantra dried
down the side of bottle two.
Didn’t I once drag a rocker to the yard
to study the underside of Ulysses?
Or was that a pregnant woman off
her rocker? Stop, drop and roll
is what the general said to me.
Stop, drop and call me
by my proper name: Ursa Major.
Never really in the running, the bottle
Brown to Earth still made it in hand.
The color of coffee beans
that coax me from my bed, teasing
The face of a boy I might have loved
if I had another mother.
Desperately seeking—is how the request
begins—an escape from suspicion
that the best has gone and
the rest must just be endured.
The trapped stories rattle while
water sloshes atop my feet.
Little soapy bubbles acting as though
They can make things new.
Don’t let me be the woman
who falls on these color swords,
stuck in the shallows forever.
And so I wait for a call from the deep.
For the spray to reach my face.
If you live there, you must also be here.
You must be everywhere.
You must be in reach of all ten
fingers and toes.
You must be able to hear me
desperately seeking a general
sturdy enough to stand on.
See, my wife lies in bed / Shane Morin
Waiting for an answer to a question
Posed with one solution, and I say
“I wish you were with me
At the circus.” Instead of
It’s the carrying
Of the collapsed and collapsar,
The fourth step in AA, seeking
The source of darkness and love,
The red maple planted
Over the corpse of my former
It’s the surrendering of a lover
Upon the last exhale, the silence
Between gasp and speech. This love
Looks like fault-lined stars, etched
On parchment to chart a path home,
If home were the four chambers and aorta.
It’s the second date making out,
Not watching Interstellar ‘cause she too
Is a celestial body by which I exist. It’s
Submitting rejected letters of trauma
And the tracing of scars across cartography,
The tension between A minor and F major,
Only resolved at the Cadd9, the YouTube playlist
With only her name, on it lost songs and Iris.
It’s simply the truth impossible, yet
Within easy reach, the proton and neutron infused.
postmemory / Mary Ventura
Day 16 / Poem 16
An Inkling / Tiffiny Rose Allen
CHRONIC PAIN POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
from the regularly scheduled program.
jolt of lightning
lights on and off,
stiletto to the neck.
ice, heat, packs, pillows, curves, breath
an eleven out of ten.
caffeine. naproxen. ativan. weed.
exposed nerve root canal but in face.
teeth ground down.
bone on bone.
what it takes to hold my head up.
Echo, Echo / Ahja Fox
I return to the siren-screech
you call regurgitation,
twist bulbous skin into a new fit
of belly for you to kiss on.
The lake never sang so deep, but I worship
its small graces in space, red-lit
with eyes never devoid
Inspired, I consume
the triple-pronged leaves
from my pillowcase (bathe
my body in the plush body
of an infant’s grey toy star).
because the war has been a couple decades
long where my waters
I’m a mermaid. I’m a mom.
Hovering over dusky 7am
light, I forget
which being I need to be first.
Pythias & Damon / Sarah Haas
My friend and I are great friends.
We live in a city where all these mean and selfish
chemicals infiltrate our skin. One day, my friend
speaks out about his pain, but only soldiers hear him.
My friend is taken into custody and
sentenced to an even slower form of tortured
time; he wants only for another lucid hour
to wish his mother goodbye. A friend
should offer to take his place, but I do not.
Instead, I watch the soldiers tie my friend down.
I watch the soldiers inject my friend with the poison
that convinces my friend he’s lost his mind.
His mother comes, sits down beside me. Together
we watch his now irregularly beating chest, the hole
where his voice used to be. We watch my friend
mouthing the words How lonely does it get?
My friend reaches into his empty pocket. We watch
as he withdraws a clump of ordinary lint.
We watch my friend twist it into a line of
yarn that he knits into a sheep that he shears to the
skin, exposed to the toxic air. And when the soliders start
to laugh, we watch lanolin pour from their open mouths.
Measles / Moira Hegarty
Mary Louise’s pet turtle died suddenly;
We buried him in her mother’s rock garden.
folded him tenderly with layers of perforated toilet paper
and dug him a shallow grave among the candytuft.
The day after, we dug him up.
His golden belly still intact, no insects, no worms
we continued to dig the critter up with no results
then we noticed a small piece had melted away like an eclipse of the moon
we discussed life and death, after life and graveyards
until our mothers enrolled us
in the summer playground program
and Mary Louise’s turtle completed the process of decay without us.
Insistence / Barbara Krasner
You wave your hand in front of me
and say, “I insist.” But it’s just
your insistent, persistent way
of getting your own way. This
insistence and I have known
each other a long time. It insists
on being listened to, respected,
even at times coddled. Your insistence
knows when to insist and when
to persist and understands
the difference between the two
even if I don’t. It demands, commands,
and reprimands at will. Your
constant insistence wears me down,
so I acquiesce and insist you have your own way.
I wave my hand in front of your face
and say, “I insist,” hand you the TV
remote and go to bed.
Honoring Our Dead / Jonie McIntire
The Good Life 16: For Those Who Want to Rise Above / Anna Mitchael
Didn’t you see what they did
five minutes ago
I was crying in the stall
and now you want me smiling
with my other cheek ready
for the next blow
I feel myself holding on for dear life,
or at least, the only life I know
You keep whispering:
This is how you let go.
Skin / Shane Morin
Verb: stripping away of flesh,
(IE, to flay, to immolate)
I am the dearth of negative space
The abyss where lack echoes
Scars trail along
the epidermal underbelly
Like the lacerated grey matter
Each trauma a step towards the precipice
Leadened eyes lead to sleep lead to
2:18am lead to restlessness lead to
Facebook browsing lead to more sleep,
Only convulsed, lead to
Skin lined with muscle memory and illogic
The why a chorus of obliteration
go tell the mountains / Mary Ventura
Day 15 / Poem 15
Pockets of Summer / Tiffiny Rose Allen
My pockets of purple my pockets of blue the flower pollen dancing
LOVE POEM #3 / Lu Chekowsky
since you’ve been gone you’ve sent me:
photos of meat in bread
meat in noodles
a bunny skeleton
neon rainbow highrise
mountain top selfie of two old friends
poutine détour fin
keith haring rain dance
basquiat at the guggenheim
leonard cohen afterworld
sunny side up dizzy art wall record
madonna at the danceteria, 1983
and now is the time.
since you’ve been gone i’ve sent you:
photos of two golden nipple pins
a sushi selfie of two old friends
zoom room of saturday night poets
neko at my feet
jury summons with a forwarding address label
yet another mirror selfie of two old friends
three alex katz paintings seen at the guggenheim:
1. a cut out of a nebbishy fellow in a green blazer
2. six identical portraits of his silver-haired wife in a little black dress
3. a profile featuring a prominent nos
and a question to you about where an umbrella might be.
A Celestial Night in the New Apartment / Ahja Fox
(after the November 8th Total Lunar Eclipse)
it’s a monday night when you decide
you can’t resist me
I’m the blue that sends
your body red, flaming
up up up
something lunar, eclipsing
of our family home
but we miss the miracle
for another one—
our girl climbing the bed at the seams
when we return outside, the sky
our eyes, wolfing against
I want to metamorphosize (like this)
shed the scarf,
fold it into tiny frame
for our ghosts to sleep on
could I inlay the depression within
this sweater, dust it
in life’s fragile ash and be
of desire, I am
my bones only
dear moon, why do you take
me down so good?
I keep breathing, feeling
life’s answers for me will manifest,
a percolating black-violent dream
would you keep this pit
a little while longer, my love?
I have so much emptiness to filter
out of our [living] room
Lost / Sarah Haas
I let you disappear into me, forgave you
your identity, let you dissolve into your
original tumult, you, standing again
at the center of six trees, afraid, because
each is as vaguely familiar as the next, but you,
you can’t remember any of their stupid names. Sarah,
stop bemoaning your precious
categorizations, you are me and we are
Lost in a barren of six trees, surrounded by
six hundred thousand more, none of which
you bothered to notice. In your endless confusion
you assumed I’d look familiar, the blank slate
you’re always rushing to fill in with wild imaginations
while you wait in one line after another until,
thinking you’ve found yourself at the front,
you act like you know what you want—
again with that chicken coop of yours, for example.
You must think desire is a kind of map but a map is a kind of lie
that you hurry past, pulling out your wallet to
pay before you even know the total because
the cost is always justified if in the acquisition of your values. But
if value is just a purchase or a debt, then value has nothing
to do with the cosmic arithmetic, the trust of
counting, one plus one plus one plus one until you get to six
anonymous trees that are only a circle because you are still
here enough to hold the center. You wandered too far into these wild woods,
dusk filling in as specks in your eyes, yes, the ones that are always there
but that you’re always looking past. See? You didn’t even notice that
for once you aren’t wondering what to do with your hands.
Hektor’s Helmet / Moira Hegarty
the glaring flash of sunlight
on his father’s helmet frightens the little boy;
light years away, another child waxes
before a cartoon and learns about fear.
someone put fire on the dog’s tail, she cries
her mother pushes her thumb into the cookie dough
and fills it with raspberry jam.
A tear hangs on her dark lashes, dew on a cobweb.
The woman takes the floury apron off and
dandles her baby over her head,
this is the savior of the world
she proclaims to the canisters and bowls
she places a warm cookie in her daughter’s mouth,
crumbs trace the bowed lips
and fall onto the kitchen floor to mingle
with dust devils and mushroom clouds
The Trolley / Barbara Krasner
All aboard! My grandfather
steps up onto the South Orange
Avenue trolley to get to his
Market Street store. The trolley
swings and scratches underfoot
and overhead, threading its way
along cobblestoned boulevard
past turreted corner properties
and apartment houses. Max holds
tight onto the kosher lunch his mother
packed. He marvels at the three or even
four-storied buildings of white, red,
and orange, their flounced green-and-white
striped awnings once he gets
to Market Street. Billboards
painted on building sides announce
Newark Business College, Bambergers,
Kaufman Hats, coffee, and seltzer to
aid with constipation.
At The end of a busy day, he’ll
take the trolley back home
where his mother waits
with a big pot of something
that’s been stewing all day.
He wonders if life will always
be like this. But it’s not.
All aboard! It’s Saturday night
and my grandfather leaves
his wife and kids behind
as he climbs aboard the
trolley from his new home
and store in North Arlington
to Newark to play cards
with his brother and sisters,
where they talk about
the Old Country, how glad
they’ve come to America, and
what news they’ve received from
those they left behind.
On Buying Baby Aspirin When Under 50 Years Old / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 15: Winner Take None / Anna Mitchael
I’m stomping through
this stupid corner
of this stupid world
More angry than I’ve ever been
Yelling at everyone I see
you, him, her, the barren hen
We only keep ‘cause she’s so cute.
I’m stomping through
this stupid corner
of this stupid world
as righteous as I’ve ever been
That pothole won’t take me down
nor your cries of “Ann Boleyn.”
Prayers: desired, but not required.
In the end every know-it-all wants to claim
We only kept her ‘cause she was cute.
I’m stomping through
this stupid corner
of this stupid world
more dangerous than I’ve ever been
Sword in my pocket, air in my shoes
Your efforts, though, ultimately will win.
Souls are the only real loot
Listen if you dare, is yours crying:
They won’t keep you ‘cause your cute.
Elegy for 19 Bluebonnets / Shane Morin
Today the buds of bluebonnets bloom crimson
The youthful shoots draw to the roots
The running streams of blood
Today prayers to your Jesus fail
His eternal slumber shared by children.
Blessed are those gone too soon
For theirs is the inheritance of lost dreams
Today, I awoke to a world unknown
To a nation bathed in young blood
They say the pen defeats the sword
Yet trauma tears the flesh,
The talking heads speak of death Again
And we are left to wonder
If these words permeate or stain
Like veins in concrete classrooms
Or if they lay 6 feet deep
Alongside Robb’s brightest stars:
Their luminosity squelched in thunderous bursts
So I lay these lines and 19 bluebonnets
At the altar of humanity and walk away from hallowed ground
Fear of the Holy Chalk / Mary Ventura
Day 14 / Poem 14
The Mirror’s Life / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #12 / Lu Chekowsky
woke up checked my money
a few more zeros today. boring.
nothing like power to the hundredth power.
nothing like two billion people to lean in on.
legs crossed dainty. check.
hair straight shiny. check.
face tough smiley. check.
ready for the day.
if this doesn’t work out, i’ll go live on the moon.
what glass ceiling?
no such thing.
i’m a boss, bitch, baby, lady.
in that order.
take that, boys.
i’ll show you bringing home bacon.
frying it up in pans.
i’ll make you forget i’m not a man.
i’m not a man.
i’m not a man.
i’m not a man.
i’m not a man.
can you see? i’m not a man.
i’m a well-oiled advertising machine.
dick-slinger like you.
i got your number.
i’ll take you down.
i’m a street walker on hacker way, USA.
i’m well-metaversed in what it takes to win, in being thin.
Swamp Monster Sacrifices Self to Town / Ahja Fox
after Justin Wiles Murder Case
The thread unraveling the whole red garment
is 3-ringed, neat, & baby blue.
The collection of photos
This thing bites down like all humans do.
Who knew that some hand would emerge, pointing right
towards Lake Bixhoma.
A head was found along the bank with its mouth
sutured tight against a rock.
Some murderer hung by his string:
Body caulk matching between the head
back to the house…
A body shop named “Choppers”
and a bunny’s disarticulated neck—
The boy/ the creature,
big-mouthed & salivating
said “get dead”
meaning; to become…
With guzzled memories
of grandma and fishing,
he drowned the real monster in fingerprint,
in birth name.
The Question / Sarah Haas
My greatest fear is that
there are no problems.
Who would I be then?
An onlooker who watches on
as a thousand birds are killed
What would become of me if
the rattlesnake is allowed to live
in the yard where I let the baby play?
If we are okay, then
is whatever happens enough
to keep me here, writing like it mattered?
Or, is it that hope is dependent on this
always something being wrong.
Shih-poo / Moira Hegarty
The breeder said your mother was a white toy poodle,
but I can’t tell looking at your
your no-nose profile, a tail that genuflects behind you,
a jaw the size of a bottle cap that could open a can of beans.
All three pounds of you take after the lion dog, your Shih-Tzu father.
Your day begins with a nip and a grrrrrrr at your toys and my fingers;
you look everywhere for your mama’s tits, even under my shirt.
You were yanked away too soon for a quick sale,
you strive to make a life for yourself;
in the grass a pine cone hangs from your mouth,
ants and trash on your tongue, you try to eat rocks,
rid the neighborhood of pear blossom petals,
to make up for your loss, but it’s harder than you thought.
You’re not exactly what I had in mind either. You’re not my Bobby.
With your head cocked, asleep in the crook of my arm,
I stroke your wiry coat and whisper,
It’s alright little lion dog, together we can love our pain away.
The Right to Choose / Barbara Krasner
Pull the lever, my grandmother
told herself as she boarded
the train from Brody
toward the sea. Just as she
had opened the door of
their thatched-roof stucco
home for the last time,
leaving the bewildered
faces of her parents
and six younger siblings. America
offered a variety of choices
beyond her cousin-filled shtetl.
Pull the lever, my grandmother’s
aunt in New York demanded.
Decide which man you want
to marry. The one from the Catskills
or this storekeeper from Newark.
Pull the lever, my grandmother
cranked as she selected Max
the storekeeper and married him
under the chuppah. She pressed
the keys on the wooden
register and kept careful records
in the ledgers as her butcher
father had taught her to do.
Pull the lever, Max told her
as they stepped out of the cab.
She walked along the sidewalk
of the Hackensack courthouse
in 1928 and became an American.
In November 1928, my grandmother
pulled the lever for the first time
to elect a new U.S. president.
Whether she voted for Al Smith
or Herbert Hoover, only she knew
the choice she made.
Very simple / Jonie McIntire
words like lobster bisque
Good Life 14: Course correcting / Anna Mitchael
The rope, when I finally recognized it, was:
Bacon lined up in the frying pan
I wouldn’t have to clean
Children watching the clouds
An owl in the yard, my tree
His exit from the room, our house
when I was ready for war
Disguised so well, I came close
to not seeing at all
How far would I have made it
on my way to Tarshish?
My determined march to the
The ill-planned voyage to swallow falls?
Their eyes are full of scorn, two steps
backward is what they hiss
while I wrap fibers
around my waist,
then begin to tie the knot.
How can you give up control?
No way to be angry
now that I’ve heard the call
so I smile and pull: It’s a cinch.
Daylilies / Shane Morin
After Stone Broken’s “Wait For You”
I lay and wait for you, love
The lush wake rushes
In the air, anticipation swirls
To the depths of the sea
I lay among the blades-green
Swaying in the breeze
Daylilies paint the mundane sky
Burnt orange and rustic tinges,
The blades fade to dulled wheat tips
Days merge with nights, blurring to days,
Golden stalks stretch beyond
Their blossoms blend into constellations
I wait for you, the workdays pass
The culinary redundancy passes
Time melts into a slipstream
Daylilies envelop my earthen bed
As I wait for you
To lay beside me
To curl around me
As a dawn fog
To be that essential
That daylilies fall away
A daunting journey / Mary Ventura
Past, Present and Future are standing in front of me
I gaze into Past’s eyes
enmeshed into Future’s calling
i run towards Future’s calling
as if a fish choked by water
but stopped in parallel with Present
as she walks with me
shoulder by shoulder
I touch her, then
I was touched
tears gurgling out of those dark sockets
since Past kept my eyes
Day 13 / Poem 13
Afterthought / Tiffiny Rose Allen
I see the sidelines and I see the galaxies and what they said to me
BLIND ITEM #11 / Lu Chekowsky
who could have written a better hook? you topless. three air cannons shooting eggs at your chest. we tested on interns to make sure no one would get hurt. sixty million people watched you mugging for the camera. the hair and makeup artist snickered at your acne scars but oiled you up on demand. you shimmered in the strobe, just meat and muscles, a whirl of projection / tweets / trends / a lunch for the lunch-less / a snack of a boy. we’ll eat you up you pretty little thing. see through this, he threatens and lifts up his top. blinding nipples of diamonds and dollars and dreams shoot out of his chest like cartoon lightning bolts. the world goes blind. you hungry bastards. happy now? we eat so much we eat we binge so much we eat we eat we get sick and we fucking love it. this the american dream. heartthrobs beat out of our broken chests. each person is just empty calories, a whipped cream macchiato cherry. a whiskey shot to the face. stomachs are always the product, only the good ones though. i’ve always known what gets them drooling. i know how to make soup from the bones. how to fry up fast food emotion. it is always a very happy meal.
Word Recognition, Comprehension, Fluency/ Ahja Fox
(for all the YA books that changed me)
I don’t remember the last book I read.
It must’ve not had a teen girl in it,
one with a single mother or father
who worked more than they could love.
It lacked the best friend they questioned,
the boy they questioned more…
There wasn’t a car accident or
missing classmate so
it must’ve not been gritty
A million little tragedies the teen girl has
gone through in all my selections:
Story of a girl.
Every. little. thing. in the world.
and by the time you read this, I’ll be dead.
The last book I read
didn’t take me out to dine.
I never got rid of my indoor fur.
I assume it was just too neat. Too sweet
to offer me something honest
Was it even worth reading
if I forgot…?
I don’t remember
her long locks of crises burning her
neck in the shower.
What it was to breathe when she
thought she couldn’t.
What it meant to know, in every book,
there was a survivor born.
Bred in me is some kind
of storm to discover.
I don’t recall seeing her, but I think
she still haunts like any ghost.
*Note: Stanza 6 is a cento composed of YA novel titles by Laurie Halse Anderson, Sara Zarr, Nina de Gramont, and Julie Ann Peters
How crude / Sarah Haas
But mostly there are days when it’s only abstraction.
Just faceless people extracted from real people
not allowed to exist. There are no images, no mothers
to create them, only colorless and tasteless things
robbed by claims of the known. The best that can be
done, like actually done, is to not allow them
to be hated too much, to resist the conspiracy
of undead words, to deny the pleasure of your debt.
David at En Gedi / Moira Hegarty
he presses into the wall rendered invisible
draped in shadows beyond the glow of the arched opening,
he can touch Saul’s legs, smell the odor of leather sandals, belts,
and sweat, the skin of his calves, and piss,
footsteps mold the earth beneath him, the dust rises and covers him in a fine cloth of soft powder. A shaft of light sieves the grime from the desert floor to funnel and swirl
until he can taste
its bite on his tongue
pomegranate pits unearthing the soothsayer, of wool, of linen, he cuts a square of frayed fabric from the royal weave as he places it in his hand, milled gold threads, flickering speckled bird, glint from a blade point, returned to its sheath in the cave that will not taste blood
The Long and Short of It / Barbara Krasner
Once I saw the movie Get Shorty
and while I don’t remember it much—
it’s already popped from my short-term memory—
I do remember I saw it with colleagues
from the ad agency when I was the client.
My time with them was short, though,
because our company split and we
didn’t need the agency anymore.
At 5’9”, no one’s ever called me Shorty
and if they did, I’d give it short shrift,
because I don’t cotton to disrespect.
I’m glad I’m not short, because I can easily
reach the high cabinets in the kitchen
and the shelves in supermarkets, but
don’t make me bend down to the floor
for lower shelves. It just makes me
short tempered and no one would relish
me being short with them.
I used to look good in shorts, even hot pants,
when we called them that, especially
when purple and matched with a maxi vest.
The tops got longer and the bottoms
got shorter and the principal once made
the girls kneel on the marble stairs
leading to the third floor to make sure
their skirts were long enough. That
exercise was short-lived and no longer
practiced when I entered high school.
The principal certainly had his shortcomings
and his morning PA announcements
became shorthand for shortened homeroom.
There was no shortage of announcements
and our shorts and short skirts appreciated it.
When A Loved One Is Grieving / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 13: Animal Instinct / Anna Mitchael
What insurance plan
will fix the bird’s leg
How will the rattler
on its den
What retirement plan
did the night owls line up
(Who? Yes, you)
Says what separates
us from the animals
And the studio audience
laughs like hyenas
who were just asked
if they would like
to purchase a protection
policy with that
It won’t catch as many
chuckles but here’s
a different theory
for what divides us:
fear of tomorrow
(Who? Yes you)
Rt. 108 to Nowhere / Shane Morin
Somewhere between the condemned 7/11
And the faded double yellows
Laid against haphazard asphalt
The Lamprey whispers, peers seductively
I gaze back, moonlight refracts
A Dali painting, fading persistence
Against the lightless cityscapes
Left with a faulty compass and
Nonpoints of origin, a stranger
In a land once intimate
The rediscovering a lingering bitterness
On a pallet accustomed to honey.
If nowhere is here
How can I find you?
Happiest Day / Mary Ventura
of my life is related to you, my little fox
from my soul you travel all the way to the river of life
drinking moons on the wave
from all the items I laid out for you to choose
A promised life path
A funny tradition for a year old to crawl to their attraction
you chose the electronic screwdriver
as if you knew how our promises would be yours
Day 12 / Poem 12
Within and Without / Tiffiny Rose Allen
A card thrown here
BLIND ITEM #10 / Lu Chekowsky
i’m going down to
the place below the equator
to a lush green space where dogs play frisbee
and there are silver swings
gonna give myself a moment a beat
gonna give myself a little treat
going down there
the faces of kind people
will be all around me
the kind of people who never stray
friendly humble people
who keep their bedrooms neat
who are sweet
i’m going down to
that place i love
little astroturf wonderland
i finally won’t have anxiety
and everyone i love will say hello to me
they’ll be glad i’m there
and i’ll be glad you’re there too
i’m going down
i’m going down
i’m going down
gonna finally be ok
gonna see if i can finally be ok
gonna finally see if i will be ok
there will be big breasts everywhere
there will be sex growing from trees
so come on down to this place
to where i’m going
where it’s hot and sunny all the time
come on down
come on down
to this place
gonna meet some good friends
gonna meet some good friends
Impact / Ahja Fox
The highways, greyed with flurries, melt
before you die
The snow kisses your lashes deliciously
just after its innocent blunder
is offered by cold embrace
And a shying away of darkness
comes with the blaring of white light
The guttural sound of an engine narrows
itself into the void of life—what is life but a single second
You sound of grieving, of grasping, all your tendrils and tendons
attempting to seize an unseen thing…
but the engine cuts off, the roaring settles into slumber
and “life” continues falling
a million miniscule drops into night
Eventually / Sarah Haas
Some day, there will be no words,
only hindsight, when it’s all I can do
to fail to describe the tip of
a finger sliced to the bone,
the nausea of looking at ink
as it spills from the wound,
the color of a carved pumpkin’s black
arrant rot, of flesh shriveling into
a rind to be tossed into some forgotten
corner of the yard where language must be, too,
forgetting itself in its jealousy of the real.
BLUE HYDRANGEA / Moira Hegarty
except for the wicker chair my mother sat in, a plaid blanket over her knees
when she was sick,
my father’s and mother’s house
didn’t have garden furniture,
no concrete patio,
lawn chairs or picnic table,
only a small patch of grass,
that tickled bare feet between toes
parading over it in summer
with ants and spiders and bees;
a crab apple tree, arms bent under the weight of blossoms in Spring,
lowered its limbs to become a child’s playground
a trellised grapevine, leaves devoured
by Japanese beetles, gave us homemade jam anyway;
on the north side stood marigolds and zinnias, gold and red and seasonal
and a multitude of steadfast violets and dandelions,
but on the south side was a row of hydrangea, blue ones.
The shrub grew in a flourish of pom-poms
between our yard and our neighbor’s
with its brick driveway and metal chair set
one outsized blue hydrangea spanned both yards.
With polite smiles we shared it, watered it, and picked bouquets
but in secret it was ours, its blossoms, fireworks summer and fall,
a sight to behold on disputed territory.
Truth / Barbara Krasner
Truth died after a short period
of denial and abandonment.
Truth died and couldn’t protect
us from bullets and bayonets.
Truth died and no one’s tongue
knew its language anymore.
Truth died, along with siblings
and cousins and ancestors.
Even the small truths, those
children with small hands
And big ideas, gave way
to conceited, bloated speakers.
A history of truth vanished
into burned book ashes
And the bodies of the people
who knew the truth.
Truth died, because all those
who remembered the truth
were too afraid to name it.
Why I Started to Write Poetry / Jonie McIntire
It began with Faith,
a fat girl and plain,
but kind. Who snorted
when she laughed
and got quiet when
her dad came home.
I found all around me
lives like whispered songs,
that became the air.
Some songs never want
to be heard so they need
humming by someone
distant. What grew out
of an understanding of Faith
was forgiveness at the altar
of poetry, where all
transgressions can be
released, where all
pains can rise off of the body
and join a sheltering sky.
Good Life 12: Is Anybody Out There / Anna Mitchael
Your wobbly walk
Your love-sick eyes
Your need-driven nights
Your quiet cries
Your ugly pleas
Your solves, all fails
Your belief in
your own strength for
your own bootstraps
Your heart, your heart
Your wild heart
Your heartbeat not
your choosing, yet
Ars Poetica / Shane Morin
Poetry, I’ve hinted to the elitist Beats
(And Naturalists and Seacoast Poets) is
The agonizing groan of Ukrainian sons,
Enveloping their mothers, as they did, once.
Poetry is the scalpel carving
Precisely. Poetry is
a multiverse within a pen stroke,
godless and hallowed.
Poetry is morphology and
The living word. Blessed
Are the poets, for they are
Doomed to love fiercely.
Poetry is the Mic
and the Anxiety Disorder;
the Stage and the Trauma.
Poetry is the Technicolor voice
you brought me to this despoiled world / Mary Ventura
Day 11 / Poem 11
Hurricane / Tiffiny Rose Allen
LOVE POEM #2 / Lu Chekowsky
diamonds are cliche
so let’s call the light tonight zirconia.
priceless means it can’t be bought
on TV or anywhere.
i know our love times this moon equals
the sound of every last crisp leaf on earth crunching under our four feet.
holding onto stillness for dear life;
the fearless deer haunt grassy medians in headlight bright
but they do not want with us;
and we do not want what we haven’t got.
quickly — hang the word POEMS on the front door,
watch language lick our plaster walls.
won’t you stump me hard
in our new backyard?
in the shadow forest, there is nothing to do but waltz forward,
pink light fading earlier, thank god.
let me be clear.
who you are to me is:
a meditative frog.
a cat eye slow blink.
snugs for all time.
a mantra for the mantle.
Existence, Always an Act of Interconnecting / Ahja Fox
(for the 23rd Annual Festival of Wreaths organized by Aurora History Museum)
A poet’s wreath is not a wreath
without metaphor (the ribbon quirked
into an odd but perfect angle).
What an angel—artistry
can be when we give cheer
Break bread and toast
a loving welcome,
a goodbye fear.
All wreaths are made up of 80% earth.
The body, ouroboros, olive serpentine,
inviting us, a breath of sugar dust,
to feast on our own harvest.
I offer to you
my conch shell, blue seed,
and marbled ink
woven into entrance, into halo.
Two hands giving and taking,
circumnavigate a cold winter
In that same time, they evolve
galaxy into wheel/whirl/ring.
We are all capable of such
glimmerance, a remembrance
of the objects that once patched
A poet’s poem can be found
in an unmarked museum of oddities
and syllables—each of us
living there, a donated treasure towards
the grandness of community’s perplexing wreath.
Envenomation / Sarah Haas
The thief said
How can I help?
The thief asked
For a glass of milk,
that the baby was
The thief pinched,
left fang marks on
my breast. Thieves
what is already
My muscles seized,
The thief was born
into a life that
was no longer mine.
The thief said
okay, a coerced
enabled by pain I
took an anxiety pill.
The thief said,
I am happy.
Calligraphy Pen / Moira Hegarty
in the side drawer of a writing desk
darkness sits like lead
until the drawer scrapes open;
in the land of the midnight sun
a sliver of light increases
I alone am chosen, lifted, cradled
by hands that remove my cap;
my lungs fill, my blood flows,
starving for, and seeking the woody page;
our fingertips touch and ignite the spark of
a flat river bed begins,
yesterday the heat of bones
today a turtle’s shell
a green crest, an endless breadth.
the sea moans, under a blue brow,
a pinnacle cramped by an injunction of poles
on pointe I follow a silt coastline
inland, thirsty continents wander, tillable
landscapes, nesting seeds
roots plunged downward, listen. . .
the odor of sweet mud intoxicates
urging branches upward
two bellies of sunlight on long legs
come out of the sea of all places
two hemispheres overlap
collide, a burst of innate elements ablaze
emerge from the soul of the beasts
six minutes: the hands replace my cap
the drawer scrapes open and I’m placed deep into the cavern of the naked city
as reluctant as a Snowy Owl,
the drawer scrapes shut
and once again I await in darkness
for the midnight sun.
November 11 – Armistice Day / Barbara Krasner
The world map needs to be redrawn
as once mighty and haughty
Austrian, British, and Ottoman empires
topple from dusty shelves and bloated battlefields.
The poppy field at Flanders sparks a song.
Wilfred Owen writes that to say it’s
sweet and fitting to die for one’s country is a lie.
Death is death.
War is not kind. Loved ones weep. Bombs
do not care who they kill, only what.
Trenches are troughs for corpses.
Armistice quiets the argument. Wear
a poppy and be satisfied. But armistice
tosses blankets on hurt, humiliation,
and greed like a tarp over writhing bodies,
waiting to heal enough to strike again.
There will be war again
Six Years of Aprils / Jonie McIntire
The Good Life 11: Heavy lifting / Anna Mitchael
I would be happy if I could have
a doll and a fire truck and a sister.
I would be happy if i could have
a car and no curfew.
I would be happy if i could have
a degree and a job that sends me around the world.
I would be happy if i could have
a promotion that lets me work from home.
I would be happy if I could have
a partner who is decent in matters of bed and humor.
I would be happy if i could have
a baby and how soon do babies sleep through the night.
I would be happy if I could have
my baby in an ivy league university
I would be happy if I could have
early retirement and on-time returns on my investments
I would be happy if I could have
one last hoorah, anyone still standing is invited.
I would be happy if i could have
pine wood for my casket, make it the finest.
I would be happy if I could have
A forklift for the feeling that even with all I’ve gotten, I’ve missed something.
She is / Shane Morin
After Slipknots “Vermillion, Pt 2.
The essence of disquieted dreams
Flesh of my flesh
Mind of my mind
The one fantasy anchoring
Between paradise and purgatory
She is a melody
Only I know the notes to
The vibrancy of foliage blazes
Shimmering in the descending sun
The waking days take
The form of constancy
She, the architect
Of delta-wave dreamscapes,
Lays beyond my touch
I will her
I lay in fields
my sentence / Mary Ventura
Day 10 / Poem 10
Pocket Watch / Tiffiny Rose Allen
Waiting for the clock to turn
Blind Open #9 / Lu Chekowsky
cruel, funny woman
laughs from the crotch,
likes men to like her
fuck feelings frailty.
lady stuff in the muff
girl, can’t you take a joke?
i tell it like this.
i like to tell it.
i tell it
like it is.
first woman to fart fuck.
astronaut in pussy space.
sinking patriarchy’s loose lips.
belly roll control top tights.
roasting myself on smoky flame.
hate me. pay me. it’s all the same.
which came first, bile or bite?
born professionally impolite.
big bitch street fighter girlie lady baby.
i’ll hate you
‘til you love me.
and you will.
No Rainbows or Butterflies, Just Song at 5 Months Postpartum / Ahja Fox
You try to rock out to your pre-life anthem
but the bed’s creak has made you
You still your body, pursue
the ultimate sneak away
the baby fusses, spreads
little feet, thumps a bless-ed chorus
After playing the little star
who doesn’t know what they are,
umbra finds you again
Google, Define: Mom’s Guilt
‘it’s natural to wake your daughter for the sake
of being human,’ a voice automates,
You try to be
of a higher being
honest, in how you’ve fallen; sacrificed
or suffocated your girl-song
(into the crease of an unlinened bed)
You body still, an adjective
like a rig-out rather than a mouthpiece
and the synonyms rattle out,
A stray, yet familiar figure.
Buy this 5th inner babushka doll, intact!
Still you pussyfoot around the rasp
of the bed, send kisses into the dreams
serpentine and watermelon
You love her, tempering
your leaning off into bed/ swift side; swift side/
a sound only the selfish could mimic
Even God had to laugh about it—
allowing himself to commit
a little sin
so he could be a better person
for his children
If you do this dance tonight, you’ll be
a twinkle in tomorrow’s young, nebulous eye
Your jerked swaying is anything but
a nasty song
It’s a reclaimance, a down-trill of fugue
𝛔𝛖𝛍𝛗𝛐𝛒𝛂 / Sarah Haas
Maybe being original is the same as being inevitable. The pregnancy of one word with a multitude of meaning. After all, I begin with I, the name you you inhabit, too. I and I, a series of coincidences, of linear circumstances, a city of sticks referring to themselves, a disaster of exceptional people. A chain reaction, or an inherency, of the self. This being inside of another being outside of every other being. I, who am the accidental aftermath of our collective youth. A conglomeration of our collective of misbehavings. I moved away to here which I used to think of as nowhere so I could look back and toward and down upon. Now I see: causation, the way it contains responsibility. A memory in reverse. How awful it is to play God. To create a world over which I’m doomed to preside over so many other lives. But I am not I am not God. I am a woman who is also wife who is also supposed to be mother who is supposed to be wise as in morally capacious as in the opposite of ignorant as in too generous, like a dream that gives all of itself away and all at once, always with a hot pot of stew on the stove. Laying the last bowl before another unexceptional guest like me I say: I made this just for you. Without finishing the first serving, the guest assumes the name I call myself, says: I think I’ll have another. But for this the I which is no longer I will need to kill another cow. Any dream ongoing becomes a nightmare. There is no escape, only accidents or fate. Maybe there isn’t a difference.
MY NAME IS SPOTTED HYENA AND I HAVE A SON / Moira Hegarty
plumped spears of grass stun me
in my blind
close to the oasis,
my microcosm lit by stars,
broody for the chase.
I long to greet
the fat of the wildebeest,
to watch it fall on the hill;
my lips gush for the folds of its flesh.
A giggle rises in the lining of my swallow,
a pinwheel in the airless meadow,
and I am not childless; I have a son.
The clouds on my son’s coat pleasured me
when he dissolved with the moon to find his own allegiance,
his belly hung with his mother’s custard.
The crescent shape of his body
glossed on the floor of the den
wanders aimlessly with the
fragrance of his butter.
He survives in his new home
at the end of the line,
hungry, devouring left
of masticated bone.
His ears burned by catcalls,
he waits shamelessly for them to die;
he is clever as a crow my son,
my blood pulses in his veins.
I am not childless;
you antelopes, elands, foxes, fish
gazelles, zebras, anyone’s eggs,
snakes, hares, birds and insects,
lions, and other hyenas,
I have a son
Bosnian Village, 1995 / Barbara Krasner
We were playing that day
until we heard screaming
whistles from above. They hit
the hill. We older ones scattered
to cover the younger ones. We scattered
into our mothers’ arms. They screamed
at us. “Take the pears,” they cried,
pressing them into our throbbing
hands from the tree in front of our building.
“I’ve come to say goodbye,” our neighbor
said. “Take the pears,” the mothers insisted.
We filled his pockets as he left for war.
He never came back to his son or to eat more pears.
We were forced to move away. Two years
later, we returned to a bombed-out home.
The pear tree lay splayed and shattered.
Political Limerick / Jonie McIntire
AU / Shane Morin
Maybe an AU isn’t such a long walk
Maybe the vastness among the stars
Is closer than our skin, electrons knock
The walls we build, 93 million miles and
Etched in sojourners ink. Perhaps it’s that
The globe rotates in ways our love explains
Centrifugal spins distill shit from the soul
And missteps made become laughable,
We take another step towards death, take
A left at Mercury’s retrograde, our
Wings drip wax as our wills wane,
Dark matter draws us to the edge
Hydrogen collisions leave ashes of Eden
The freefall of gravity fuses us to stardust
Our eyes imbibe insignificance and the infinite
never earned / Mary Ventura
Day 9 / Poem 9
And so I wait for the dawn
BLIND ITEM #8 / Lu Chekowsky
i’m on my knees when you appear
born from fluorescent office light
eiffel tower of fashion all cape and bluster
bowing to the emergence of you
wall of velvet and leather
in my numb hands are sharpie scrawls
on the bottom of ten thousand worn manolos
kate / gisele / iman / naomi / christy / claudia
me, banished cinderella to the shoe closet
not in their shoes exactly
but close enough to smell cover girl model ghost feet
rosewater and oxygen and lettuce leaves
swimming in DNA of hammer toes bunions fetish masking
tape identities scuffed on bottoms
feathered around me
they are names just like yours
a famous single stamp of one equaling
the glamourous weight of you
we both know i should not be here
so when you reach your satin gloved hand down
like a poster of god in a cloud
i reach back up
a fat cinderella annointed
you look me in straight the eye
the only one here who knows that
fat isn’t contagious per se
i am a fashion plate of macaroni and cheese
from the steaming midtown lunch buffet
and you say, with sharpness and slithering for something bigger than both of us
(can anything be bigger than both of us?):
why do they have you on your hands and knees in here, darling?
don’t they know who you are?
Letter from My Wiser Self (An Erasure of an Email Sent from a Pediatric and Family Health Navigator) / Ahja Fox
told in three parts
I would like to speak/ with you
the Navigator/ working
a moment, a family/
free of charge
I am here safety of your home to:
any changes to your
Other ways in which help
will look for you,
The Substance of Shadow / Sarah Haas
Instead of writing I look
out the window, waiting
for a wasp to kill with a book.
Progress is not marked by lines
but by corpses, by how many
times I have to clean the glass.
The wasps aren’t dangerous
but solitary, like me. They build
nests of mud, feed on spiders.
But a mother is supposed to protect
the child against every possible
threat. But maybe if I hadn’t
the black widow that bit me
while I nursed wouldn’t have
survived in the shadows.
Hungry Beach / Moira Hegarty
I walk barefoot
over crimped sand dunes,
the sun, melted butter at dawn.
I don’t see them,
the dwellers beneath shifting sediment
monitoring my every move;
an arrangement of tossed, leisure chairs
a work of gestural sculpture sits in front of me,
until a gull perches on a metal arm and opens its mouth.
tracks of a mother loggerhead sea turtle, whose trail I’m here to note,
have parted a dark ribbon of seaweed by the
I follow her looped path away from the gulf’s hem and her return to it.
She led with her beaked nose, dug into the sand, pulled the weight of her heavy head, spawned dozens of eggs, each containing a baby sea turtle, and buried them
in a rounded tell, to remain there
for ninety days, until they hatch,
and moonlight seduces them back into the perilous sea
The Mining Life / Barbara Krasner
I ride the mine car along unstable tracks
to destination unknown. Headlights
reflect against stone walls and just when
I think I’ll crash, the track bends either
left or right. Deep inside this mountain
lies a rich mine deposit that I want to claim
as mine. My life depends on it. But
the mine shaft is lonely, hollow, void
of anything animated except the tracks
and the car. Sometimes the wheels
scratch metal and sparks fly like a mini
Fourth of July. I wish I could say this
is a diamond mine, or gold or silver, or copper.
Even salt might satisfy. But this mine
|is just the charcoal of life and the dust
fills the marrow of my bones and future.
Election day / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 9: No Guts No Glory / Anna Mitchael
to where you said
the career would bring
fulfillment and start
with a new agreement
where we only tell the truth
the whole truth
and nothing but the truth
as measured by how it sits
in the unique up and down
viscosity of our own guts.
I will take a long silence
over a long decade.
Your true feelings over
what feels good
in the moment.
“I don’t know” will not
get you to the top
of the ladder but that doesn’t
mean it’s a step
In the wrong direction.
of closing the laptop
for the last time
is a click to some,
for others it could be
the ferocious first
chord of glory.
Epistles / Shane Morin
After 5FDP’ “Remember Everything”
I’d be lying if I said
“I’m fine” if
By “fine” I meant
Memories of us scrape against
The walls of my cranium
Etching carbon copies
Of you, like
Funhouse mirrors, melted
Under your withering gaze
I love you like a moth to flame
Degenerate wings over
Scarred blades, the stiffness
Of your embrace
Leaves sawdust and charcoal
For temporal displacement,
If I wanted things
As if this life wasn’t an awkward hug
As if lived experience was anything
But what we loathe
As if dysfunction was genetic,
I remember nothing
背井離鄉 / Mary Ventura
Day 8 / Poem 8
The Blues / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #7 / Lu Chekowsky
it’s time to smear your stomach with glycerine.
my pockets are filled with pistachios. my stomach is a soft butter roll.
you are doing pushups. method acting.
plump up pecs. maximize thighs. red eyes.
but really. what am i? a piece of meat?
you say to me, face to the floor. teeth exposed saliva comic con snarl.
my problem to solve.
of course you’re not meat. you’re a star.
hearthrobbing in my chest. little silver moon lie.
the usual kind. get back to work.
you are the star, i say again.
he’s twenty three. playing a teen. scripted sweat.
yellowed white tshirt pits. spit shot in wet grass.
i want an xbox.
i want oreos.
i want chicken wings.
to make this ok i need a lot of things.
i list your demands into my phone.
i’ll see the blue light behind my eyes when i fall asleep tonight.
will hear this song on repeat.
ear worms for breakfast on a balcony over la cieniga.
fireworks behind my eyes. no surprise.
i am riding your demands. i make magic appear out of mist.
at a horse farm in the california desert i function.
remember this at bonus time.
dvd commentary. nondisclosure signed.
a pack of rescued wolves howls in a cage pacing.
we are trained for safety.
this is hollywood. we are trained.
no risk no reward. shoot schedule to keep.
mologue to myself.
hair taped to knuckles.
we are losing light.
we are losing light.
Q&A for My Period Panties / Ahja Fox
When is it too much
Maybe once the blood blooms
into an odd square
that slants into a room
Sadness looms my body, soft
while it molts the thick lining
Can I vein destiny into bouquet?
Won’t we know its too much
blood once the flowering filigree
designs a pulse that boom, booms
through—suddenly alive, suddenly
Only in memory, nevermore
in the current moment
I think of how my mother said:
It’s not about how much, but
how dark I bleed
Some ghost just stay
wanting to tell their story
Every story is a lie / Sarah Haas
Even this one, about a blade, a cutting
of spring green grass. Which is me,
I explain, my attraction to this and every meadow,
Swarming in the breeze, an ocean
In the desert. It is not a choice to live
with or without an ocean view, my hands
in the lime earth searching for fossils, ancient
columns of anemones, my pockets heavy with
entire civilizations persevered in rock. They say
the grass shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t have survived
these centuries of ongoing drought, these too acidic
soils drier than dust, not the story we are telling
but water’s way, its animating every narrative,
these always ongoing propagandas of the self.
So don’t believe me when I tell you I am good,
even when I point to my petrified depravity as proof.
Don’t get Burned / Moira Hegarty
somersault into the future, Jack
a spiraling tumble,
through the magnetosphere
a fireball over the sun
on a candlestick
but don’t get burned,
listen to the leaf’s advise
the stars’ hymn to an ant
if you can’t clear the flame
go back to four dripping walls
before you crash into the sun
and get burned
we could jump together
leap hand in hand from the roof
over galaxies, like cows,
over the flames
of newborn stars
flares, out of control prominences,
licking the split
into the abyss of a black hole.
Stricken / Barbara Krasner
It strikes me now that an increasing number
of people are stricken with new strains
of COVID-19. I still wear my mask
in the classroom, doctors’ offices, and
supermarket. But I don’t observe
many people still sporting their KN-95s
in black or white or medical blue.
It strikes me that we’re coming up
on three years of the New World Order,
where people sitting in little boxes
is not to be mistaken for Hollywood Squares.
No tic-tac-toe strategy wins against COVID.
The booster struck me hard with an
auto-immune disorder that’s incurable.
It struck me with rabid force, that red,
sulphur ignition of itchy flames
that attacked my skin from within.
If only I could strike a match
and make it go away. Instead,
I take steroids and open my veins to infusions.
Blue Lupine / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 8: Lost in Translation / Anna Mitchael
Take the job of translator
from my mouth without delay.
In just the last hour
I’ve heard that
faulty gatekeeper say:
I’d kill for your kitchen’s pattern play
With those boots on you’re going to slay
Girl, you get more gorgeous by the day
It makes no sense.
Must be some kind of verbal disease
when the whole time
my soul was
kindly asking, please:
A walk in a park with slowly-changing leaves
To see squirrels volleying invisible foes and seeds
One stanza of that familiar birdsong, “It’s good to be free.”
Tomes / Shane Morin
after Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry”
Surrogacy became the norm
Like streams of fire
Cascading across the night sky
Codependency the familiar tongue
Of a language forced
The collateral anxiety
Breathing toxic oxygen
I held the O2 tank thinking
I was asphyxiation
There’s a leather-bound volume
Tucked away, forbidden
The timing of truths
Is a funny thing
The punch line delayed,
The faces blurry
So, I write things in cuneiform
I etch reality between wedges
A life behind life
A truth shadowing truth
Forbidden knowledge is cryptic, I’m sorry
The Tome is locked, the key
Embedded in flesh. Someday
The scalpel will be given.
Coral and Chickens / Mary Ventura
Day 7 / Poem 7
Kind of Funny / Tiffany Rose Allen
It’s kind of funny kind of not
LOVE POEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
i guess the dog is leaving you said.
i didn’t see the dog until you pointed to the dog.
i saw water. white flags. foamy sea.
incredible what the drones can take in you said.
i think of what a drone would see of you and me. and for now, she.
under the robots a technology covenant. a sky spy. buzzing modern chuppah.
can the top of my head portray love to the naked eye?
this art couldn’t have been made before now you said.
from above, seeing something about a family maybe. three phases of man.
all skin and hair and color and waves. on the edge of a rock.
naked feet on floor now. squeaky soles. you under an arch. fingertips reaching.
electric jolts into a piece perhaps about surrender.
now it looks like a screensaver you said.
i wished you were wrong, but you weren’t wrong.
Numerous Definition 3 / Ahja Fox
Trauma is coming home from surgery convinced I smell like sex, is binge-watching conspiracy tv shows like I expect to see myself in one; it’s the shoulda coulda woulda put my phone [recording] under the bed, it’s the pick then lather of skin that casts me forward into shuttered home bombed again tomorrow, tomorrow.
On realizing my baby will no longer smell like a baby / Sarah Haas
I am comforted by the success of
Febreeze, invented to bind to odors,
a tactic of elimination. But consumers
proved incapable of noticing absence.
To market researchers they said they hoped
to smell the breeze but which they couldn’t
describe, naming other scents instead:
powder, and grass, and salt, and soap,
all of which were combined and added
but none of which were allowed to linger.
Arroyo / Moira Hegarty
Call it a dry creek bed, gulch, wash, wadi, in the southwest we say arroyo. A word as ancient as ancient grains, it describes a lengthy drainage system lying rather un-exotically like a colossal pastry shell but whose double r’s are pronounced as if blowing a kiss.
In the evening, I walk to the overlooking bridge. Below, the arroyo straddles the desert floor slung like a hammock and equally as lazy. Tiny spooned groundswells wrinkle the surface between sloping walls of dazed sandhills burgeoning with clusters of chamisa. In autumn, the heads of the shrubs, as tenacious as a nest of scorpions, burst into golden swells becoming a forest of giant flaming brushwood. Woven together in a tight weave of knotted fibers they sprawl beneath me as luxurious as a plush Persian rug. For a moment I am lifted up and believe I can walk onto it across that hollow place where otherworldly teachers have been appointed to instruct me on the secrets of secret dwellings, the mysteries of life that draw vegetation to the bareness of the arroyo.
I listen in on the peculiar high-pitched song and call of a shy spotted towhee screaming at itself, rustling leaves under the long arms of the pines, in search of insects. Above a family of crows flaps their wings like silky black sunbonnets in the wind, and hawks pinned to the sky, shadow the rocking cradle of loose sand wedged alongside of and beneath apartment complexes and the highway, searching for a stray rabbit.
In spring a trace of incense from pear blossoms and the earthy aroma of the thawing soil hint at a bouquet redolent of childhood. I breathe deeply, lining my lungs with the subtle perfume of the arroyo, as fresh as newly washed linens hanging on a clothesline, exceptional for a habitation cleansed by air and sunlight rather than rain.
In late fall, the sweet-scented smell of snow floats down from the rounded crests of the cloud spotted Sangre de Cristo Mountains and seasons the air over the arroyo. I remember the first time I smelt snow. I had nothing to compare it to, except that something triggered a memory of the kind of day that clamped my nostrils, and I knew it was snow, that the scent of snow could be bottled like any other natural scent.
In July thunderheads billow up in the east over the Sangre de Cristo, an armada of angry gods ¾Titans, Giants, three-headed dogs, wielding thunderbolts. Monsoons fall in blinding curtains of rain, eclipsing the sun, overflowing the arroyo. I watch the white-water rush flow out of control, taking with it everything in its path trees, shrubs, squirrels and mice, cars, and human life. In disbelief, the flash flood withdraws on the heels of a frightened hummingbird as quickly as it came. The day after a newspaper headline tells of a body found miles away from where the person was last seen. The sandy sleeve of the arroyo has a new system of embroidery sunbaked into a hard, dry lip, until the next short-tempered monsoon descends to dictate the order.
When I look over the bridge and daily contemplate the evolution of the arroyo through the changing seasons, I’m unsure of the future but can imagine the past. At the beginning of the provenance of water on the earth, the ground was baptized in a cloudburst. For the first time a torrent was captured by a land formation and transported off to distant seaways, quickly flowing, in an illusion, a mirage of power, a looming phantom in a variable drop of rain.
Precious Ore / Barbara Krasner
I take my mother’s hands in mine,
hands wrinkled with age and Ajax.
She knows me though she doesn’t speak.
Her fingers, red and swollen, bloat
with water like her lungs and legs.
She must cross soon, she knows it.
But she holds on and her filmy
eyes lock onto mine. Don’t let
go of me, they demand. We’re
scared to go. I ask, do you see Mama?
She drops my hand and raises her arm
to a specter I can’t see. It’s okay
to go, I say. I will take care of everything.
I mutter, “Peace,” until her breathing
slows and she closes her eyes for the last time.
Pear Custard Pie / Jonie McIntire
In this custard pie, fresh pears drip from your grandmother’s chin. The custard is a secret your great-uncle sneaks from a midnight refrigerator while shushing an aging basset hound.The prep time takes generations, but only forty minutes to cook. Your neighbor will have opinions about salt but use the Kosher, even if you aren’t Jewish, because it dissolves slowly and patiently. This isn’t the time to worry about flour. Use the regular, bleached even. Who cares. What’s important are the eggs, the milk, the pears. Use the ceramic bowl for the batter, the one saved for the noodles when chicken and noodles is made. Crack the eggs carefully. Some shell will get in. You can surround the eggs, never let them out of your sight, think you handled them just perfectly and still, shards find their way in. Be patient. Pick them out where you find them. Use your hands to mix the batter, feel the butter that you let sit out long past in-laws thought safe. Feel the way egg and vanilla, flour and milk all become the same liquid but they keep their own sweetnesses, their own bitters. Use a fork to whip in some sugar. Keep at it. Quick and sweet like surprised kisses, like unexpected joy. Be especially careful with the pears, with anything that grows and so easily bruises. Remember how you and your cousins fought for favor and only found much later that nobody, after all, was really keeping score. Keep your knife sharp so as not to pull too much at the flesh. Arrange the pear slices in a 9 inch round pan, fanned out. Let some be thicker or more frail, give each some space but let them overlap. There is even more sweetness where they touch. You might think you know how each will cook, what their texture will be, but they take on the flavors around them. Remember how often your mother moved when she was young, state to state, but still with your father, who only lived in the one house, how they formed that delicious complexity, so strangely alike after all. Pour the batter like your great-grandmother’s quilt over the nestled pears. Oven, already warm at 350, will let them set, the custard and its fruit, until golden as winter grace, kissed by summer vacation sun. Let it set for a second, on the potholder you made with the plastic loom that your aunt kept, even after all these years. Make a pot of coffee, get out the deck of cards or perhaps the Chinese checkers, and savor.
Good Life 7: Light Years / Anna Mitchael
It was a light year
not because the days
held less heaviness
or because they sped
by like a flash
but because this was
the year the lights came on.
After a lifetime of looking
finally you could see.
Parsecs / Shane Morin
3.26 lifetimes arrive like
A court-ordered parenting plan.
I float between weekends
Leaving this blue pixel for darker shores.
The pock-marked dark side feels safe
There’s no hate nor love nor night or
Brighter skies nor whispering nor rain.
Just refreshing desolation, like
Sweet suffocation within the vacuum.
The solace a needle reading absolute 0
I live, a suspended molecule lost,
A vagrant between interstellar destinations.
Devour / Mary Ventura
Day 6 / Poem 6
Day Drive / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #6 / Lu Chekowsky
are you a person or
an ethernet cable?
laser or machine?
do you dream?
what do two billion people mean?
do you have the data to prove love exists?
is there a god?
when was the last time you held a quarter?
do you have time to masturbate?
what was the last thing you ate?
why are your t-shirts two sizes too small?
are you humpty and dumpty before the great fall?
when was the last time you cried?
have you reanimated anything that died?
what good are you?
can you move slow?
put things back together?
have you even tried?
what is enough already?
are we fine?
can time well spent only be lost time?
in case this doesn’t come through —
this is a love letter to you.
your eyes are black marble.
you’re this century’s glue.
do you have the tech to tell if i’m lying?
does it even matter what is true?
Intone: A Grown Woman Production / Ahja Fox
after Doja Cat’s Songs
Everything’s in lust here:
Percolating in loom a rainforest dew-wet
for the renegades. I renegade my sad bitch persona,
slip my form into a dress, unassumed
of danger and energy so bloodied.
I just can’t help but be legs of this couch, face of the non-existent clock—
when mouths are agape
In Northern Light, I wound my tummy into game, fowl, fish
so the goddess will take me; make me subdivision
equip with playing hands and abstract sex
It’s a theory that my enemy will always have more meat hooks, more wood chips, and fewer things to chew.
My army must be an army inside their own body, a nesting doll of bite and clairvoyant crow.
We just can’t help but be sexual, contextual; hieroglyph and typhoon.
I’m a being who hasn’t been for years now, won’t apologize for sucking down the air and swallowing the moon.
How I learned that discovery is always & necessarily mutual / Sarah Haas
I don’t remember learning how to knit
only knitting one stitch after the next,
following patterns dictating their version
of time, a time from which form emerged
less perfect than planned until I found
myself following only the yarn finding
the body’s shape as it appeared in
every given moment of time’s version of
itself, passing stitch by stitch: a discovery.
The shape of: an arm in a sleeve no longer empty,
Of a linear thread born of a wheel, of a fleece sheared
From a body, of a narrative no longer a story
but only what is.
Spring / Moira Hegarty
A Kimo – Israeli Haiku
a low-slung sun nudges to equinox
Aries at right ascension
snow drops emboss and bloom
Inheritance / Barbara Krasner
I can recall Sylvesterabend is the German word for New Year’s Eve,
but I don’t remember what I came into the kitchen for.
I can recite the names of all my great- and second-great-grandparents,
but I don’t know why I opened a new tab of my browser.
I rise in the middle of the night, well, I’m up anyway,
to look up the artist I can see in my mind’s eye but her name, Patti?
My mind snakes through
the never-ending to-do list until I see
indigo in my mind’s eye and then I know
I’ll fall asleep. It’s the mind falling asleep
while I’m awake that worries me about
my mother’s family’s history of Alzheimer’s.
I jolt sometimes while driving when the
road looks unfamiliar. I see myself
sitting with my aunt at her nursing home
on her 90th birthday, unsure how
to answer her question about why
she hasn’t seen my mother, her sister.
I can’t tell her my mother’s dead.
It’s not wise to upset Alzheimer’s patients.
She asks, “Is she holding her own?”
“Well, she’s not holding anyone else’s.”
She seemed satisfied with that.
Wind Advisory / Jonie McIntire
Good life 6: A New Day / Anna Mitchael
I could have thrown a truck
Or a man.
I could have wrung a thousand bells
Or a neck.
I marched into my dreams
Incapacitated, though I did not know.
Slowly the nocturnal gnomes
went to work.
Manipulating levers and dials.
Unrolling a catwalk of confusion
Erasing all signs of certainty
I could have sworn my second grade teacher
I could never have imagined a plane would swim
When the mechanical rooster crowed
I opened my eyes
finding once again
the night had turned me
‘Hey, there,’ you said. And like that,
I loved you again.
Like a Simile / Shane Morin
Like a rusted Chevelle left to burn in a back alleyway
Like a birthed sparrow fallen from the nest,
Never to soar with his brethren
Like a lacerated larynx, the mythic sphinx lounges in Giz, unloading, my
Vocal cords sing morse code, the only means of speech
Like the Army beret, faded green, the O-10 braves faceless foes,
Cowers as icy eyes glower back from refracted glass
Like suppressed memories, cortical logicians make sorry sentries to
Geographies misplaced, ID and Ego sent to detention for rock throwing
Like lifetimes sentenced to supervised visitations, the hickory gavel
Glances off ideal childhoods, awkward conversations replace
The American dreams we once breathed
Like Bukowski, beat-nicking from town to town, from
Woman to woman, a drunken stumble towards death
Like Death herself, scythe slashing at the essence she longs to possess,
Slips through disjointed fingers, acid rains from sockets
Where her life once shone
Like a grey wolf, I scavenge for scraps from other’s lives, alone
I survive to stalk the abandoned hours, a vagabond
Devouring the Earth.
Moon / Mary Ventura
Day 5 / Poem 5
Resilience / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #5 / Lu Chekowsky
original sex taped
beat bop bratty
pack collect all five
as famous as a man with a two
syllable name should be
human ken doll for all
bendable smolder smirk
too hot sodapop
bad boy’s gone good
the word is, as they say: approachable
saxophone slow slide
floppy puppy dog eyes
snuggle stuffed daydream
perfect boy heart
prophetic genetics feeds
the machine wet
Scene: an epiphany about the ex-husband / Lu Chekowsky
Miss who you were becoming
in my presence.
But you shaved your head
before I could ever glean
but preciousness of you—
You, in Iceman glasses.
You, a quirky-keratin of locks
at the howl of sun.
I antique you. Keep you
in the fetishes
of my memory.
Figures I may have aged you
You never failed to collapse
into old habits,
inexpensive costumes on.
Used to think raw parody was funny.
Now, I’m older, mumming
Marriage Poem / Sarah Haas
Mustangs are not wild
but feral; how to minimize
their disagreeable features?
It is silly to keep on
kicking against barbed wire.
And if we cannot make wild
horses, if not perfectly
happy, then at least
as happy as they can be
under the present conditions.
KISS / Moira Hegarty
in a downpour,
you wrap your jacket around my shoulders
cover my head with your book;
our sandals squish and drown in the swirling, eddies of mud puddles swilling over the curb;
we laugh, run, touch and go, over glossy, pavement,
fall together under a café’s awning
you twist me, wring me like a dishtowel.
you try to kiss me, kiss and make up
in your old hat way with my hand in your glove
let’s kiss, kiss and make up
kiss and whisper new lies.
My Red Maple Manifesto / Barbara Krasner
You, red maple! Stop
shitting your leaves
all over my lawn.
I know you’re pissed
that the tree service
cut off some of your limbs.
But that’s no reason
to take out your vengeance
on me. Own up to it.
Your branches were scraping
my roof, threatening
my windows and gutters.
Why can’t you be more
like my old oak? Growing
at a respectable distance,
providing ample shade
when needed and adding
distinction to the house?
But no, you youngsters
have no respect for tradition
or boundaries. You just do
what you like without
thinking about consequences.
Now you’re missing body parts.
I know it’s fall and your leaves
must unload somewhere. Please
release them to the west
to the no man’s land between
me and my neighbor where
they’ll pile up for the kids
and we can enjoy your droppings.
So Many Years Of Apple Dolls / Jonie McIntire
For an interesting
you , a
rough facial features with
Good life 5: Burn victim / Anna Mitchael
I say it is sunny
even while fog rolls in
I say we are in love
even as you turn away
I say tomorrow will be better
even though I was burned on that today
I say dinner wasn’t so bad
with disappointment still on my tongue
I say this is the good life
even though I was burned on that today
I say tomorrow will be better
Even as you turn away
I say we are in love
even while the fog rolls in
I insist it is sunny.
Variations of Melting / Shane Morin
From Periphery’s “Lune”
The moments melt-
Each a snowflake
Frigid winter eves ease into midnight
Obsidian assaults our eyes, devoid
Of light, horizons collide
Before sunrise, I hold tight
Like warm burgundy to bowled glass
Ice crystallizes our brief eternity
Tick-tocks come to full stop, flip flops
Our comprehension of four dimensions
In the beginning
There was us
Dancing in and out
In and out, in and out of time
I vowed immortality, to stave
The decay of telomeres
X O cognac sits
The stopper unhinges
Years mature, dew drops
Distill until we become
Twice the lifetimes lived
I feel it love coming on
Carving through brittle veins
Cleansing the decay
The moon drowns in the Atlantic
Waves and sand granules blend
An indiscernible beige
As do we
fall into each other
Entangled as ancient roots
Branched hands interlace
The sun swallows the sea
GOD / Mary Ventura
Day 4 / Poem 4
Resonant Occasion / Tiffany Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #4 / Lu Chekowsky
cheekbones cut glass
erection marble specimen
pose to breathe
what model are you?
for the boys and girls
crumbs are for lunch
mind your shoe size, thighs.
pencil behind ear
bookish insofar as carrying a book
spectacles for x-ray
vision in black and white.
billboard teeth godzilla
feet times square
heartbeat lucky boy life
jackpot on elton’s yacht.
when you asked me: who is the most famous person in your phone?
i told you the truth: you.
Midwinter Solstice: An Ekphrasis / Ahja Fox
a crunch, a squish
for the flurry
Horse Poem / Sarah Haas
Marriage is the art
one’s wife beyond
the stage of plain
usefulness, of making her
more amenable, easier
to control, pleasanter
to ride, more graceful
in her bearing and better
To look upon.
I breathe in / Moira Hegarty
through a cracked window pane,
the breath that moments ago
you breathed out
I breathe in
the fruited primroses
where you walk,
piney cypress forests
over rounded heads
of honeyed blackberries,
a pleasant trace of mud
by the one lane bridge.
If I were outside on the doorstep
on the other side of the jagged window pane,
where star trails
guide me to you,
in winged polynoses.
The roots of swamp maples
lift me up
until your breath
and I’m lost.
in the ram shackled
I inhale perennial incense
behind the shattered
a song sparrow
a broad-tailed hummingbird
for an answer that never comes
Fall Foliage / Barbara Kranser
The red oak on the side lawn facing
the street drops its leaves like a lady
releasing a handkerchief and expecting
a gentleman to pick it up.
Hues of topaz, champagne, and pumpkin
litter grass, walkway, driveway.
Trees shedding their dead skin
for winter feels wrong.
You’d think they’d need
to bulk up for protection against
wind, frost, and cold.
I tried to preserve some leaves
over the last two years, placing
them between glass plates
as wall art. But these autumn remnants
browned and crumbled. How to preserve
their twilight luminescence? Shellac?
One year I took photos of fall foliage
along the Raritan & Delaware Canal,
created a scrapbook page. But the static
images couldn’t capture the spongy
nature’s mattress or its later crunchy pallet.
Growing up, I collected leaves
on my zigzag path to school—
chestnut, oak, and elm. The class
project called for identifying leaves
by shape. We ironed leaves
between swaths of wax paper.
How to preserve the dead skin
once vibrant and green?
How to preserve the past?
New Listing / Jonie McIntire
Good Life 4: Whale of a Time / Anna Mitchael
The whale was swimming today
No spray on the horizon
I was sure of his presence, though
Just beyond what can be seen
Standing over the laundry
I said his name out loud.
Then, “Take me into your belly.”
The skirts and pants showed no alarm,
The children’s t-shirts remained in their
permanent state of stained.
I, however, felt chills up my spine
To lie in the belly
Not knowing if I might live or die
Waiting to see if my particular sins
Would be forgivable enough
to be spit out for a second chance.
I imagined the feel of inside-stomach-skin
Squishing and pulsing on the back of my neck
How the smell might make every breath
Feel like a penance.
Wound / Shane Morin
postnames / Mary Ventura
Day 3 / Poem 3
Future Paradoxes / Tiffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #3 / Lu Chekowsky
i am famous for
what’s behind me.
for too bright diamonds.
for too white walls.
tubula rasas at Nobu.
for my children.
i am famous for
for glass hair. rubber onesies.
self. ease. for the men who get to love me.
i tell you what i swallowed
and you swallow it.
i tell you what i wore
and you wear it.
pretty only please. no ugly crying.
the face that flinches first loses. this is what
i am actually famous for.
my sorrows taste like coconut my sillies smell like smoke / Ahja Fox
mount vesuvius became altar
when I was seventeen
a boy left me for hawaii
a boy left
with me his pumice-iced streets
here lies a beast with three implodent hearts
here, I am surgicalizing myself into honolulu
water is immeasurable but
is it enough
Immeasurable, my purgatory
has ordered a million tequila tais
misadventure sometimes bleeds
but my islands are teeming
with colorful dead fish
if/then / Sarah Haas
If the self is a spectrum ranging from end to end then it begins as naturally as tension to the muscle, as laughter to a baby.
As naively, the self progresses, draws distinction, the baby’s first words a question: What’s this? What’s that?
The beginning of comparison’s experiment almost arbitrary, the baby’s muscles contract, pick up that which caught his attention, a book that he reads upside down, for example.
But he wants the other thing too, the cardboard tube, for example.
The problem of difference: his hands are not big enough to hold two things at once.
One must judge, then he must choose; he throws the book at my feet.
His preference is based, I think, on pleasure, the tube he fondles, places on his lips, chews, tastes; the tube is good, so he gives it to me, watches me play a tube like a trumpet.
His hand reaches out with envy: he chirps for the tube, then yells for it, then screams to have his turn.
So I hand it to him but it’s too late, he’s hardened, his fist clenches, the tube crumples.
The baby cries harder, harder than he does for his mother, his desire for desire more potent than his desire for comfort or food or love.
I desire only to comfort him, I try to comfort him, I give him my breast but he kicks me instead, scratches at my skin but cuts his own instead.
This bloody child, injured by his own spoiled want, jealous of a world full of things that are not his because nothing is nor can be possessed but ourselves.
Who am I to raise a child?
I, who was doomed from the start.
To everyone who asked I said I was overwhelmed with love.
But while his eyes were still shut I looked out the third story hospital window, looked down upon so many rows of subdivided houses separated by fences and triple locked gates.
I hated them for coveting what they already had, blamed them for making me hold the child even tighter, as if he belonged to me.
I told myself it was out of love that I wanted to destroy it all, to beat the city to its bloody death, that to resent what was was a righteous return to the blank slate, as natural as tension is to the muscles, as natural as a spectrum that is actually a circle inside of a circle, an areola, a breast to which the child returns again and again.
Transformations / Moira Hegarty
trembling starlight spills
radiation like salt from a shaker
tiny seeds drop from branches
roll under my feet
embed in the soles of my shoes
tumble over the curb
into the sewer grate to journey underground
with the untouchables,
catch in an orbed web
of a confident and poised jumping spider,
on a loom of grass;
A microbe crawls the circumference of the web in twelve hours
and completes its life journey
a cloud, an unchartered, disputed continent, disintegrates.
and I know there is something and nothing left to discover
Be a Dear, Watch for Wildlife / Barbara Krasner
Fog’s fingers stretch out
over Pennington Road
on Halloween morning.
The silver Honda sedan
in front of me can’t
have seen the bulk of the buck.
Flailed legs careen between
me and the Honda. There is
nothing that can be done
to save the deer. The Honda
driver doesn’t move, just as stunned
as the deer he hit. I imagine
him wondering whether
he should get out of the car,
check on the deer. Instead,
he bangs his head on the
steering wheel in the
burgeoning daylight. We
both proceed along the road
and turn into the university
entrance. He goes left,
I go right. He is not
going to have a good day.
Maybe he didn’t see the sign:
Be a dear, watch for wildlife.
Every Love Poem Includes At Least One Dead Body / Jonie McIntire
Andy Gibb, long before I knew about
love beyond flowing waters. But even
then I knew there was a difference between
true love and posters taped to bedroom walls.
Maybe because I moved often,
I didn’t think love was a thing
that waited. So when my loves,
each so different, lost themselves
in the emptiness of what they thought
had been built together, what
was there to say? We mourn these
dreams together when we hold
each other tight. We let starry eyes
see bright hope while making sure
solid ground is not entirely rough
and rocky terrain. Beyond all,
we remain a moving thing,
carrying our dead. We the living
feed ourselves on sunshine, on
fresh breath, on our joyous rebirth.
Good Life 3: Cyclic ‘n’ stuff / Anna Mitchael
My delusion is grand
My grandeur is imagined
My imagination is inclusive
My inclusion is permanent
My permanence is self defined
My self definition is my life
My living is free
My freedom is artificial
My artifice is delusive.
Untitled List / Shanee Morin
pigeon man / Mary Ventura
Day 2 / Poem 2
Aspects of Home / TIffiny Rose Allen
BLIND ITEM #2 /Lu Chekowsky
Phantom Cries (the genesis of sirens) / Ahja Fox
I risk wetting the floors into depletion
because I swear
I hear you crying…again,
your far screech-song tumbling into something rainbowly wondrous
When I make my leap from serenity’s shower,
you are often
Though, fear vittles the day
I am wrong
and you are much too near
The women, in tiny-screen luster, blaze then aglow—
When do I become a poison to you, girl?
When do you gash
me out, divinely, like a valkyrian hero?
You trampoline skinny legs against cheap bed springs,
giggle then art the playmat in one-eyed monsters (you clairvoyant
You’re gonna teach me what it’s like to be toothless,
what it means to expose a neck, one song only
to an unforgiving sea
* Note: “Phantom cries” is an unexplained phenomenon where a mother hears a baby crying even if they aren’t. It’s theorized to happen due to heightened neurological and physical changes after a mother gives birth.*
The Meadow / Sarah Haas
I am in a room within a room and inside of the room
I am a forest, thinning itself
from the inside out, as a mother is supposed to be
capacious, mitigated until the canopy relents snow
to the ground. It’s the kind of forest she walks into
and thinks of the life she could build here,
a cabin of her own, with room for
herself. If only she could stay, if only it were
hers. In a way, it is, as everything she desires
already is: these pinon pines, these ponderosas,
this ongoing barren; this forest that is me.
It’s not her fault: She’s spent her life
window shopping, assuming every view is
for sale. Of her every desire she says:
nothing is mine, unless you are.
So forgive me while I grieve
the meadow I’ve carved inside of me,
Reimagined into a suburb of houses, built to look
Real, a window above every kitchen sink,
just like she’s always wanted.
Imagine it, she says, the two of us,
standing here inside of the forest that is ours.
You will wash dishes; I will dry them;
together we will take in the view.
So I do, imagine it, her looking out to see
the chicken coop she’s always wanted.
And I, I will see the horizon,
eluding me once again.
Longing / Moira Hegarty
I search a field of blue violets
your eyes watching over me
like they used to
The earth rises and lowers
beneath the flowering dogwood,
and drinks its scent from a clay cup
filling the fractured soil with puddles
of morning dew and pine wood
and the stale tears of death
broken cradles drop from the sycamores,
and crush the white buttercups
in the field where they fall.
I comb the golden grasses like your hair once
and tighten each strand around my fingers
until they bleed.
On my knees by the water’s edge
I search the lips of the stream
endlessly for your mouth
My Bat Mitzvah Year / Barbara Krasner
The year I turned thirteen
I sported a new Junior 13
body instead of a Chubby.
My September 1 birthday
earned me a Bat Mitzvah
in white crepe with silver
threaded bodice from
B. Altman’s and panty
hose with silver Mary Janes.
Listening to my Haftorah
over the summer on a recorded
tape, I practiced and practiced
while at fat camp.
My twin would say it,
I would say it,
and then we’d say it together.
The year I turned thirteen
I entered eighth grade
at Lincoln School
with all new clothes
that normal girls wore.
My grades earned me one
of the honor seats in the back row
before, between, or after
Gary and Mike
depending on our averages
that term. In history.
In geography. In math.
The year I turned thirteen
I had a crush on Mike.
I’d known him since
first grade. He lived
three blocks away.
The year I turned thirteen
I didn’t yet know
I would date him
for five years after
college and that he would
propose and I’d say no.
The year I turned thirteen
I took out my seventh grade
photo and crossed out
my face so hard
the photo ripped.
Losing twenty-five pounds
in the mountains
of upstate New York
didn’t mean pounds
would be replaced
How to Activate Your New Relationship / Jonie McIntire
Erasure poem using Verizon activation letter.
Let’s form cities
1 our contacts,
2 our new instructions.
to learn more.
Get out of you
and take a new
Good life 2: Aspen in the spring / Anna Mitchael
If the aspen tree
is the largest organism
stretching to the end of the chain
what does that make its namesake
that can’t be contained by a continent
each mention leaving people breathless
with desire, at best,
at worst… well, in such polite company,
we should not mention it,
lest you think we be heathens
and never invite us to your mountain home
we hear it’s so beautiful there in the spring.
Subdermal / Shane Morin
(Crawling In My Skin)
Beryl / Mary Ventura
schools of fish
banks of swans
the lake side wouldn’t miss me if I plunge
sun covers all
pathos and bathos
looking into the beryl on my finger
the sparkling, the shine, the piercing light that
I was searching for decades
only to find out it rests on my finger the whole time
Day 1 / Poem 1
October Ends / Tiffany Rose
BLIND ITEM #1 / Lu Chekowsky
hot syrup smell air. sweet waterfall of hair.
dark behind the eyes not a surprise.
mirror mirror in your hand
who’s the fairest of the land?
it’s the wicked witch, bitch.
professionally pretty not
for the weak. barbie out of the box
plastic pants squeak. you’re a monster
i’ve heard but i’m not afraid
of what it is that is good.
ooooooo, what you can do in those red-bottomed
shoes commanding the room the invisible gloom let me tell you
where your arm goes let me tell you
where your legs go let me tell you
nothing. unlike you, my job
is to be professionally invisible.
in front of me is your face in this bright light
i see but i can’t see. don’t worry about me i’m on bended knee i know
my place at your pretty feet, my pretty. plastic pants squeak
when you breathe you’re a doll who needs grease i will not
say what i saw blemish on sculpted famous rich cheeks
scar on shiny chin forehead farm of organic eruptions pustule solidarity
we will remove it later we will erase it later what is there is not there trust me i didn’t see you
my queen when that pink plastic mirror was in hand it was only your two faces here the only people here were the both of you.
6th Saturday Morning in the New Apartment/ Ahja Fox
Your dad knows all the right equivalents
for french toast.
He knows how to fix
the soupy batter when I pour too much
He doesn’t shame me when I recover
a few spatula flips too late. Just kisses me
when I say
the sloppy drunk girl.
I’m Pon-Bay Freeze and I “poetry”
think—this is the metaphor of my generation:
the guilty chill of lustrous thrill never mine
I can be a happy wife, life
of hope and reclaimant attitude—but I am waiting
for the righteous person to point their finger in my face.
Your father tells me he doesn’t confirm
his swift dash away into the bedroom
it is better to not give the sad news
(of anticipated sleep).
So he conjures forgiveness—the red-pink organ—
before going into open-eyed rest, the silhouette of you
playing with your lovie in the near corners of his mind.
It’s chewing the cud with his quaint apparition
of stress, an ever-sad fellow,
that I know october’s thoughts will visit
me a december pouring.
Stress. The stress.
O, your dad knows
I’m best when guarding silly secrets—
and he keeps his
Probably so I have
Saturdays are the only days he’s honoring
‘letting the beast be
himself for a week of good behavior’.
I get to observe
(no, preserve) him
in a masterful syrup-stack
of runny egg yolk and brown sugar;
a little too much milk
and a frying pan of glee,
you wondering about the rigged world around us.
What’s happening is / Sarah Haas
a poem that has begun without knowing it was beginning, language that was not yet emerging from a page which is either a place or the opposite of a place, either something or nothing, either way pregnant with its opposite as a pronoun, like how he contains she and they contains me and I contains you. We are God, we who are between nothingness and being, standing next to our director’s chairs, our faces covered in mirrors, our expressions reflections of the endless vast of the room which is ourselves. Empty. But for a wooden ladder aiming either up or down, the entirety of our singular worlds a crossroads which is not a set of choices but an infinitude of waiting to give birth, but in this world, which is the real world, I am induced, the waiting room compressed into a hallway delivering me into a room which is actually a room covered with water and blood, my water, my blood, my baby in my red wet arms, my husband saying look what you have done, but I cannot reply because I cannot speak because in the pre-primordial act language realized its own meaninglessness, was destroyed by itself, was reunited with the eternal collapsing of matter which is the eternal beginning which is the substance of shadow, the sameness of our silhouettes casting sometimes smaller, sometimes larger than its subject really is but providing proof of one’s realness nonetheless, at least until the light shifts, or until the sun sets, or until it’s high noon and I’m standing here alone and totally exposed, unreal but happening.
DRAGONFLY OF DISREGARD / Moira Hegarty
Dragonfly, blue dasher, diamond eyed
in last night’s dream, hovering the shell of the pond
with your spindle, remains of an insect on your lips
Queen Mab, wings aflush with the setting sun.
I sought you when I had no one;
when the world fenced its easement against my orphan hood
I drew your face on my heart
with a burnt twig and sprayed it with paste.
The curtain on the bedroom window blows softly; truth is outside.
Images of you, drone on a polychrome clay pot,
the scissors of your double wings fossilized in amber,
your myths on my pillow in your absence.
It took three hundred million years for you
to rebuild uprooted forests, to return breath to Halicarnassus
to feed the jaws of thirsty riverbeds with nymphs,
but should we call you dragonfly or devil’s darning needle or naiad or something else?
The Fastest Painter in the World / Barbara Krasner
You said you bought a Morris Katz
during your Poconos honeymoon
fifty years ago. Your painting shows
a thatched-roof home with a pond
and ducks. You liked all the yellow.
I had a Morris Katz once,
bought in the Catskills about
fifty years ago. I whined to my father
to buy it, because I had just inherited
a pink bedroom from my middle sister
with pink shag carpeting and pink ballet
wallpaper. This Katz painting had a pink
background and brooding navy trees. It
looked like it took Katz five minutes to paint it.
A Holocaust survivor from Galicia, he learned
to paint fast. Broad brushstrokes with globs
of paint that now remind me of the Soviet Union:
looks good from a distance, but don’t get
too close. If I had looked more closely,
I would not have wanted this painting
with “Morris Katz” in attention-seeking
sized letters. We never hung it.
Yours has been hanging
in your living room for decades.
Critics called Katz “The King of Shlock
Painting.” He thrived at resort hotels
by making and selling his “instant art.”
He was just a kid during the Holocaust.
He couldn’t have learned his craft
until after the war. Maybe he started
at the DP camp. Maybe he thought
it was wise not to dwell on things,
just create a nice picture and be done.
How Changing Seasons Make Time Disappear / Jonie McIntire
Good life 1: Healers / Anna Mitchael
You told me you deserved a car
that made you feel like a doctor.
I kept quiet because
there was no prize for
the hummingbird who circled
my grandmother’s red feeder.
Rain clouds that floated in when
I’d thought they were gone for good.
The leaves falling at my feet as
I made my way along the path.
All of it, medicine that healed me.
Paralyzer / Shane Morin
As if the road had ever been symmetric
The unionized linemen levy a 5-1 ratio
Squirrels scatter their stash among maples
I’ve been here, amidst symmetry
S m o o t h e
Like the absinthe glazing
My tastebuds, rigor
The anise numbs
The sleek streets shimmer
People streak by
A fast-forward of society
Suits ‘n skirts swishing
In an infinite playback
Your opinion, venom:
My paralyzer, my
Mouth of the Volcano / Mary Ventura
I was lying outside a mouth of that volcano
locals call it “the beginning”
referring it as “her”
O I didn’t take a tent
pour me a rain made of fire
initially was to jump into that mouth
meet myself inside
melt myself inside
a decent solution after being diagnosed with
fear & pain
lava sloughed me like a snake
as if i survived the eruption
mind eruption sloughed me like a snake
sloughing into whose planned future
I didn’t jump
I’m in my 90s
telling stories to my grandkids — why
do kids ask for postmemory
as a kid i never needed to
it was poured onto me.