THE 30/30 PROJECT: october 2020

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Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

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The volunteers for October 2020 are Jonah Bornstein, Joyce Brinkman, CM Downes, Jenny Downs, Clemonce Heard, R. Bradley Holden, Clyde Long, Ethan Mershon, Richard Newman, Valéria M. Souza, and Margot White. Read their full bios here.

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

Poem 30 / Day 30

Restoring the Melody

A conversation between poet-participants of the Tupelo Press 30/30 Project, October 2020 Jonah Bornstein, Valéria Bradley, Joyce Brinkman, Jenny Downs,  Clyde Long, Ethan Mershan, Richard Newman

Must we name a thing to know it?
Death Valley: one hundred and twenty-seven degrees.
The ancient bristlecone begin to speak.

We know by instinct: breath, flesh, brush.
Grasses sweeping eaves of ankles, wrists.

Dust rising from the basement floor,
This arboreal choreography of hands glancing hands.
Pull the blueprints down to the floor and trace, trace.

But we will never find in copies what was lost.
An image of an image of the mind. No building stands.

Nothing to testify to the uncertain grace,
The music overheard, our longing for more,
Or what we know by instinct in the dark.

We see by more than just our eyes.
We may repine the things they miss.

Like pink silk, skin on skin speaks with subtlety,
mysteriously moves the heart to bliss or sting
wondering where this palpable world will end.

And by palpable I mean the inevitable end
Of one moment leading to the inevitable beginning

Of another second or minute.  The way silk speaks
To skin, ever so gently, is not unlike the way
Skin longs daily for, even one, rose blanketed hour.

and lying beside the palpable beds of roses
gardens awoke with gentle skin and sang together

a chorus sweet and thorned,
such were their entangles
as autumn thieved the sun

the thief stole along the keys,
left the melody behind

in the mahogany canopy and the pigeon plum
and below in the silver buttonwood
animals feeding on its light and color,

and the remnants of denial, frozen
until the world unravels in song.

Offering / by Jonah Bornstein

With the world in doubt,  
when the pumpkins softened,  
the squirrels came out
and sunk their teeth into the flesh;
they had their way,  
leaving a wreath of pulp. 
I plant this seed for the final day.  

Halloween Harvest / by Joyce Brinkman

MEANINGLESS / by CM Downes

poem?

*

The Joy of Being Jooj / by Jenny Downs

for Keely

The end is naturally a beginning.
For instance, the end of motherhood
Was the beginning of another
Motherhood.  More distant but spit-shined
Clean. With rows of gold and pastel hearts.
It’s my daughter who dots the i’s and incentivizes
The A’s now.  Hangs the collages on the wall.
It’s my daughter who sprouted this sun-warmed
Daisy. There’s only one of her kind. Heart
Shaped grin on the lens of every camera. 
She’s a string of pennants like prayer flags
Under string lights. She’s gypsy guitar, fancy
Dance floor. A grand flamenco just begun.

Collage by Keely Green

Capsaicin / by Clemonce Heard

            Madison, Wisconsin

Even though it took you
all of Foreverary to dice four peppers,
it was wrong for them to say
try washing your hands then your face.
As your cheeks turned florid
& your horrid look exclaimed
it feels like my eyes are on fire.

But unlike the squad car
in The Square protestors set ablaze,
or the attack on a young woman
police say lacked sufficient evidence,
more like my homegirl pepper sprayed
point-blank, a bitter bang
of milk cascading down her face.

Halloween / by R. Bradley Holden

A holy day for all writers
when even their
ugliest prose
can masquerade
as verse

infinity sky / by Clyde Long

two or three usually –
red-tailed hawks circle
on dun hill thermals

wings trace infinity
predators aloft free
in scrubbed blue sky

they do not soar for me –
they cause a man to cry
they will never be mine

Tommy Shelby Ketchup / by Ethan Mershon

If I had to be an animal in that lobster tank scenario
from our storytellers,

I’d pick a possum. I’d live in the alley on Spaulding.

I’d be scared of skunks and tomato juice
I’d sleep or play guitar when people walk past
I’d look for apples under porches,
and scare away mice like a feral
cat. I’d flirt with the moon.

I’d try out for Talent Shows as the opposum who sings
covers of the Muppets. Then I’d sing “Can’t We Just Talk”
with really fun runs and vibrato, but also kinda folky. At
the end I’d surprise everyone by turning into a real 
person
in the finale
and that person is kind 
if worse for colder weather
and sings a song about waiting on the world.

Then I’d go home and hibernate,
waking up with a nocturnal schedule.

I’d hope for eye contact from kind eyes.
I’d pray for no roadkill.
I’d gawk at stop signs.
I’d question my reflexes.

(If a real Mayer
walked past and I held out a can
and that john muttered, “False Advertising”, I’d
shed a tear down my dusty cheek but keep
the can in front of my face, in case
somebody saw me crying and could spare a quarter. Later I’d cuddle my dog in the tent
someone let me “borrow” from wal-mart
I’d think over every time in the day when someone spoke to me, and make
facial expressions when I can remember which
ones seem passive and which ones seems like
false aggression. I’d stick-n-poke tattoo “Players gotta play” on my calf, under a sword
piercing a basketball, and think “I’m not in
shape to do much playing these days”).

I’d only remember my name when I’m reading old letters, but even then, can you still read
when you’ve been an opposum? I’d squeak
at the mirror and mean at least I’m not a rat!
I’m Kafka’s beatle playing fiddle!

I’d hope the subtitles would read
(Stirring Instrumental Music)
When my nightmares
show me more green and blue music
than any library or screen could convey.

Afterwards I’d be an opposum again
and hide a trophy under the apple-bowl
under the porch I grew up near,
besides my other treasures that couldn’t be
parted with.

I’d probably fight over scraps of mcdonalds
and other food cast aside by college kids
on drunk party nights. I’d add myself
to the clutter in the hope for a fry 
or even a scrape or hamburger or candy heart like.

I’d read letters on the cans or the cement
and guess at what the ingredients are.
If I had a peanut allergy I’d probably 
hope my mom could read the labels
until I learned how. Too bad my mom got
run over by one of those weird horses
with the strange voices moving with vibration.
Nocturnal life is short and sweet in the city.

I’d watch the new mustangs with Arnett
just sitting in a patch of green
in a cemetery under skylines
and call them sculptures going stars going.

I’d watch how I met your mother through
flourescentent framed windows
and turn back into a person
and mosey into changing my night stand.

Then I’d watch “All Dogs Go To Heaven”
and wonder if that’s not such a bad thing
to believe in. If I was a possum that is.

Presently, I’m just a person
re-reading old texts
from people I lost in different grades
and in different degrees of loss.

Allergies make smell unreliable.
You know how pastures sometimes smell
like manure? It makes sense but it still
stings the nose and eyes.

Sometimes the needles found in the haystack are still warm.

Some shoots maybe spring and magnolias
and dogwoods and cedars and oaks
and maples and wells and gardens
and growing again like my friend
the shepherd PJ. who walked the country.

I saw her.
abdandoned by some
but she never
abandoned
us.

Sometimes the needles found in the haystack are still warm.

I’d probably be an opposum again after falling
in love with being a person and learning how to say to them “If that’s what makes you 
happy, then fine”. Leaves in colder weather.

Finishing with that season and climate
for now. (at laste). It’s hard not to rewatch “O, Bright Star” or
the same show over and over when you’re
living inside a cyclone you started by
twisting in your sheets alone with flu-like
symptoms and an empty rap-sheet from the doctor who is on sick leave for another week.
I don’t fear the implications of that sheet
I already have whatever he’ll write down.

Sweet home ambiguity. I’m already home.
Let’s put it in reverse. Dams are for building.
Not hoarding. I had to ride that habit broken
again.

Read Song For Zula or Colder Weather
or Because the Night and M Train 
wherever your stream music, and don’t ask about gnarled hands
or what I’ll do now that I’m no one’s 
melancholic deep reaper.

To The Northern Lights in borealis rivers,
Young Fantastic Mr. Fox

Ethan’s Spotify playlist with songs referenced in poems and/or inspired them this month: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3396xiu3xJL9Bt7Bjp9iGB?si=Lt4nG9GERZ6iRrPb2V4NjA

Untitled / by Richard Newman

The long red spiral of unfulfilled lust
hovers in the air above my head,
a thought balloon that bursts
the moment my eyes open,
bathing me in a crimson sea spume
of regret. The day
stretches out ahead of me,
predictable and safe,
though I am reluctant to rise.
The weight predictability requires
sits heavy on my chest
and I fear I am not strong enough
to lift it to my shoulders.

Happy New Year / by Valéria M. Souza

My father pulled a gun
on me when I was thirteen going on
fourteen. It was New Year’s Eve, 1993
turning 1994. Green tin box,
lunchbox-looking, nowhere in sight.
Storage.

Basement.
Downstairs, checkerboard
red/black. The previous homeowner
had converted it into a real-life bar:
liquor shelves, mirror, swiveling
barstools.

Liquor (“goin’ to the packie to get a handle,
a thirty-rack…”). New England drinking
culture. Halls, churches,
A.A. / N.A. meetings
(“goin’ to a meeting,
gettin’ my 30-day chip…”)

Wine though. Dad was drinking
directly from the bottle. Fist clenched
around the Cabernet’s neck,
tightening like a ligature.
In the other fist, the gun. Dad
would hunt, shoot deer.

Blood, hot and quivering, released
in flushed spasms onto beds
of snow. Dad loved
to fish – hook ‘em, puncturing
gills – unhook and slit,
gut ‘em, sport.

Fins, meat. Dad was naked,
considering his options.
Gun, wine, girl.
Laid out. Deer, fish, split.
Spilling onto the kitchen floor. After
he was done

hunting,
he pointed the gun at me.
The wine bottle on its side,
mouth kissing the base
of the fridge.
The Cabernet,
vermillion epoxy spreading
from its lip. “Get out,”
Dad said, then shouted,
“Get out.” Barricaded
in the basement (bar) downstairs.
I barricaded the door.

Mom said later
she found Dad, the gun. Threatening
to kill himself.
She made him hand over the gun.
He retched blood all over the upstairs
bathroom. She washed it away.

Poem 29 / Day 29

Epistle / by Jonah Bornstein

The pages you sent will bring their strange
brightness to the gloom that has fallen over me.

When I conjure hope, fresh information tears
at it. I toss it in the shredder, listen to the grind,
fine enough to brew and drink. But I will not drink
from the cup of futility and bitterness. My fury
has wings. I can fly, I know. But I’ve nowhere to go.

I settle my wings and listen
to snow as it silently crosses land. Listen
for what else travels on the breeze.
What wrongs can be carried on the wind
swinging with light and shadow through the tree?
What can harm us when beauty blooms in our chests?

Flesh & Fire / by Joyce Brinkman


ON COSMOGONY, ESCHATOLOGY & THE INDELIBLE POETRY OF CAIRNS
(or WRITING ÆON UPON EONS) /
by CM Downes

This is a Poem about Him / by Jenny Downs 

When I think of armadillos, I think of armored
I think of a lack of armor. I think of the way

He polished his up every evening then
Banged a new dent into mine. I think of the way

I seem to have swapped my intuition for his ideas
Which all seemed to lead to the bottom

Of the same slender bottle. Usually raised to his lips.
Bottoms up. When I think of chair I think of

Shattered. As in rage that later left scars. Ghostly
Iridescent marks like bruises in shades of blue

And green and yellow. I am the only person alive
Who still feels them. When I think of peacocks

I think of vanity. Not because peacocks are vain
But because he was. This is a poem about him.

I wanted to tell the sisters about it. The cruelty
Their brother wore like work boots

Every day. Till it wore itself to the leather.
Till the welt showed through and the body

Was tender and torn. Or maybe I’d tell them for his sake
Not mine. For the sake of trusting my own mind.

When I think of pencils I think of precise.
Like ten thousand punctures a pencil might make

When writing a poem about him. 

Instructions on Eating a Turkey Neck / by Clemonce Heard

Like you’re trying
to give the shards of meat a hickey,
which is virtually impossible
as to bruise one needs skin,
needs to rupture the vein tunneling
the bone, a serpent
making it’s home in the trunk
of a tree snapped by wind,
snapped like a stick over-knee.

Your hands must
be messy even after several napkins,
musty as the arboretum
a date took me through
before we decided to be friends,
where we saw twosomes of turkeys
strolling the streets,
& later latched at the threshold of her
studio, tussled off
each other’s clothes only to resolve
at me walking out
into a frigid midwest night, waddling
a soup pot to my car, my lips
tender, festering with every spice.

Technology / by R. Bradley Holden

The child hungered. 
And the machine came 
late in the night, took 
the infant in its cold arms, 
and inserted the rubber nipple. 
The babe’s cries were stifled, 
but its mother, asleep 
in a distant room, turned
uneasily as she dreamed
of that metallic embrace.

On hitting 65 / by Clyde Long

Enshrined in a severance deal
or by promises or mere expectations
when you hit 65 it’s goodbye.
Companies clear away the old wood,
the costly, lovely, wise old wood.

In the world where we work
we live unburdened by dread
of that day when they bestow
a goodbye gold watch and a
good dog pat on the head.

Sometimes we don’t last long.
Other times we work alone,
doing years of what we love.
We keep track of days we own,
living on and on as we please.

The Flint Hills Green, Snowy and Eligiac / by Ethan Mershon 

(for Max the golden retriever, Julia Esther’s Samwise and my friend since 7th grade).

The pet sounds album, don’t talk, put your head on my shoulder
my friend.

Can you listen for his golden face in the sea
washing golden and green and burgundy
and the sky-pillows reflecting the same?

Remastered versions of “That’s not me”
(I love music and when they do “mastering”
to it and definitely know what eqs are) I ripped that joke off
from Phoebe Bridgers twitter.
I don’t know her, but I definitely have tried to tweet at her
before. “Lol, good one Phoebe!”

The sun is cuffing the edge of the earth
like a soil-baby rising from the compost pile
and scorch-marked fields quenched with cold
rain, holding together like cotton and needing no reaping
just melting into rivers like
water-harmony.

I know. But he was your dog for so long.

The sunset isn’t beautiful like the rain because you miss
your friend. That’s how cycles and cyclones work themselves
into flowers.

You can wait on the day for new friends
as long as you need. Let’s listen for bells
and basslines in “Hold on to your ego” by the Beach Boys,
from that sandy place (I prefer wheat to sand) so let’s grab
our boards
and surf across the shocking golden wheat.

You can hang ten and forget the dreams
for a minute. If that doesn’t work,
listen to “Me and My Dog” by Julien Baker.

Now, once the song is done
blow your nose. (Here’s a kleenex, my dude).
And go get that ice cream you liked
back in high school.

A Ghazal / by Richard Newman

Instead of inspiration, wait for rain.
Drought gives you no choice but to wait for rain.

Morning fog descends, a white-gray blanket
that changes nothing. You can’t debate the rain.

I’m sipping tea at 3:15 AM.
I dreamed I woke to reinstate the rain.

Rise from your roots and dance. To love the loveless,
you must do more than contemplate the rain.

I watched you come and then I watched you go.
In loss, you must interrogate the rain.

The ribbon this day was unraveled hard.
I grabbed the end and tried to plait the rain.

Forgive the wind its wanton loneliness,
its desperate need to implicate the rain.

Give your name to all who ask for payment.
Its syllables will validate the rain.

Mine is Richard. I offer it to you
without regret. Naked, I await the rain.

Lowdown: The Remix / by Valéria M. Souza 

Again I am

,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..

In my family, there is a propensity
for suicide.
It is nearly eleven p.m. and I just now
got home from work. Earlier I ugly cried
during O.T., alone in my office, while still
getting paperwork done in a manner
that makes people refer to me as
“a machine.” I am not a machine.

Last February my Aunt Kathy
committed suicide
by intentionally overdosing on Dilaudid.
My mother found her dead in the basement
of her house, three brief suicide notes.
I didn’t know it then – at the time she was
likely O.D.ing in her bed, in the basement,
with her electric heated blanket tucked

all around her – but based on what the coroner
estimated, I was simultaneously
having what felt like the worst
asthma attack of my life, and I could not breathe,
and for awhile I kept blurting out: “I know, I just know
tonight’s the night I die. I know for sure
I am going to die tonight.” And then I went to
the E.R.

where the physician with the Mormon surname
told me I had “a pneumonia” and gave me an albuterol
treatment and a z-pack and then discharged me,
while my Aunt Kathy was actually dying. I didn’t know.
I knew. If I had to choose one word that summarizes
how I feel about myself and my life,
it would be “failure.” As in: “I am a failure,” &
“My life has been a failure.”

I feel like I am failing upwards, all the time.
It’s so late, I won’t even edit this poem. I’ll just re-read it
once or twice and then send to Hannah. My Mom
told me that my grandmother (her mother)
tried to “gas herself” – meaning,
she stuck her head inside a gas oven, which I guess
is like sitting inside your car in a closed garage
with the engine running until

you die from the fumes. I can’t remember what
my Mom said about why her Mom (my grandmother)
removed her head from the oven before she died.
I got a Ph.D., and when I was in academia, the academics
told me I was garbage and not good enough for TT,
and also that I was total shit for being “white trash,”
and I can’t even type down how I funded my education,
because.

People think that because I am light-skinned, look white,
that my parents were gung-ho about education &
achievement, I guess, and that somehow it was all
paid for and handed to me, and that everyone
was supportive and life was perfect. Someone on my block
literally said to me: “You’re white. I mean, your life is perfect.”
If I were braver, I’d type down how I paid
for my education. I am not feeling brave tonight.

My Uncle Jack drank himself to death. It was a slow
systematic technique. I only ever met him once, at a Thanksgiving,
when I was prepubescent. His face was purple, bloated,
and I knew he was going to die. And he did and was
cremated, and my mother held up the ashes in a cardboard
box and said to me and my brother: “Look, kids,
it’s ‘Jack-in-the-box,’” which she also said Uncle Jack
would have found hysterically funny.

Outside of academia, people tell me that education
is worthless. That people who are “book smart” never
“have any common sense.” I feel worthless,
like I have no meaningful skills and nothing to contribute.
I think about the sacrifices I made, pieces of myself
I gave away, for the education called worthless.
Failures, failures everywhere.
Wonder how many working years I’ve got left.



Poem 28 / Day 28

Shortcut / by Jonah Bornstein

A four-foot ladder and a man. He stares
into an empty street beyond the garage door.

His grandson asks, what for? and toddles back
to the wet dirt beside the curb,
a spoon clubbed in his fist, ready for battle
with worms, ants, and veiny roots
until curiosity catches and he squats
over the mud watching.

The grandfather shakes the memory
free, blindly grapples in the attic
dark space for the nut
he’d twisted two stripped wires into,
thinking, that’s good enough, but
time has a way of untwining.
He has grown patience since, unlike his son
who months before declared, “I’m going mad,”
under the restrictions.

A shiver twists through him at the viral
thought of microbes floating
off his breath into his diabetic son.
His gloved fingers inch along joists,
fumble in air, seeking, that strand
that will guide him to the wires
that will return light to workspace.

The man cursed loudly in the night
when the governor proclaimed, “We’re not
going to shut down again.” He willed
the dead and dying to line the sidewalks
of the governor’s dreams.
“You must volunteer for death,”
his grandfather’s captain spat in World War One.
He stumbled from the barricade
and across the stubblefield, one hundred
meters to the muddy ditch where he dropped
and cursed too, the idiocy of commanders
and needless war. In the end
his grandfather took cutters
to the captain’s fingers. This is how it feels
to cut through barbed wire when you know
they lie in wait.

The man takes a breather, retracts his head
and arms from the hole of the attic door.
glances back to the shimmering street.
Sunlight glints off every turning leaf.

Winter Warnings / by Joyce Brinkman

SO YOU SAY YOU WANT A TRIGGER WARNING / by CM Downes

                  *

your life    an island
upon which ruin comes to
every temple

                   *

Pelicans and Hammers / by Jenny Downs 

One might be sitting near a waterfront cove-
Like a centaur hunting for mermaids.
One might be hefting the weight of a hammer.
One might be watching pelicans pass.
One might be slipping from her selkie skin.
Or into a robe from a bath.
While singing a haunting note.
There is always this uncertainty.
Two is a terrible excuse for loneliness-
But it doesn’t make it a lie.
Pelicans are good.
Flight is good.
To be sad is good.
As long as nobody is expecting that you’ll only be happy.
It is better to be imaginative than to be certain.
Of anything. Especially when considering the future.
Is it better to be centaur or mermaid?
Which one, would you say, is more sad?
It takes might to be sad
When someone demands you are happy.
It takes grit to live like a pelican.
Fish to fish to fish.
It’s just like a pelican to fly.
It’s just like a hammer to hit.
Neither can anticipate what centaurs
Will expect or what they’ll command.
Neither can read minds.
Neither can mermaids.
Though they try. I think they try.

Collage by Suzy Downs

Cold-Blooded Murder or Whose Gonna Heal the Doctors / by Clemonce Heard 

considering Julia (A.C.) Jackson

Had my husband not
told me to leave that night
I might’ve been shot
down in the street

just like him. I’m not one
to believe the sight of
a woman would’ve taken
any of the blood

out of those devils’ eyes,
but rather they would’ve
hissed that must be his wife!
Let’s kill ‘em both!

I cried when I heard
Andrew had surrendered.
Cried when I pictured
him kneeling in the dirt

roads. Then I pictured
him on his back,
a new patient waiting for
a white coat to walk

through the frame.
To enter his field of sight
& call him by his name
before silencing the lights. 

Writing Poetry: Day 28 / by Bradley Holden 

Again I let the bucket down 
into the well, anxious to see 
what comes up. Watch it 
descending into the deep 
darkness from which all art 
springs. Wait patiently—
the only virtue of writers—
as it drops down and down. 
But panic when from a 
great distance I hear the 
sound of wood on stone. 

Canine Études / by Clyde Long 

BOSCO

My first, from the Durham dog pound.
Witnessed my early private times –
girlfriends knew her.
She was a practice dog for
emotions I began to have.

MOLLIE

Blue merle collie of champions.
Blue and brown eyes, blue one blind,
a baby along with my son.
She passed in his Cub Scouts year.
I painted them together as babies.

CLEOPATRA

This retriever was our baby crocodile,
a flat-coated lover of all,
barker at airplane contrails,
splasher of puddles.
She hugged Tahoe’s cold water.

ZORRO

He was the litter’s runt,
not devoured by his mother.
The best trail buddy ever,
handsome as George Clooney.
A man’s man, and mine.

LUCY

Beset by fears and too smart.
Likely to bite, she did so –
the gate had warning signs.
Almond eyes almost human.
I was blessed by her trust.

Zen in the Art of Camp / by Ethan Mershon 

on Hooping and Mascots and Faith and Thanking the Water and Hashbrown Nuance

a poetic response to Herrigel and Pirsig and Donald Miller I’ve been afraid to write until I learned how to Diewise.
and with great gratitude for Pastor Judy and Mr. Mcfarren and Professor Clark and also the remaining faculty and students at North Park and Trinity.

by E . P. the former gym-rat and Wichita Warrior and Knight and AAU
Sundevil and wanna-be point guard even though my favorite game was modeled after Wade and Jordan.

1: If someone talks to you or you need
an extra person to play a full-court version or run a tip-drill
call them “dude” or “bro”. Both are gender neutral, because It lets them know you aren’t
hitting on them, and also that you’re kind of
cool, possibly.

2: If your mom packs you a paper sack lunch
when she drops you off at 9 am to hoop for the day
be sure to remember to lock it up until you want it.
Otherwise some Jay Gatsby figure might offer to trade you court time for your sandwich
and you’ve been in the weight room trying to see changes
and there’s a reason ballerinas love cigarettes
and when you’re 13 and are staying until 3 pm
and are homeschooled until high school
and want to go to the league, you need to touch the ball a few times.
But I guess that’s not very universal, but
it was “God’s plan for my life” at the time. I still don’t know what that means, but it was part of the court.

3: Never talk about politics or religion. If someone is being racist, tell them to stop but be kind. We don’t want fights, because then the game stops. If anyone calls you racist, it just means “please don’t be insensitive about things you don’t know about”. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and someone would say “you’re stupid” and you’d take it personally, but often they really just meant “grow up”.

4: Bring your girlfriend to the gym, especially if she’s a hooper. i.e. I used to talk to the this girl who I still think could play in the NBA. She was on A team and I was on A team but they kept the teams seperate, like altos and tenors who can’t practice together anymore. I still think we could’ve beat Sunrise if she’d been playing for us, but it was Kansas and middle school, so like, a bajillion years ago. I think she’s marrying some dude from Missouri. They seem really happy on facebook, so I’m happy for them, but anyway back to the rules,

5: Don’t bring up old crushes to girls. Even just celebrity crushes. Even though J. Cole got to- (to be fair, he was funny about it, and I laughed about it). Even though it isn’t weird for young girls to crush and obsess about celebrities (for some reason? I don’t know, that’s just the way I remember the gym. I did play at a christian school during the One Direction era so those are the posters I can remember.) You can maybe get away with an odd greek mythology reference, but only if you pretend it’s from Percy Jackson.

6: If someone says “that’s wet” it’s a prophecy
for a swish. The sound of the ball not touching the rim, it hits the ears
like rain. If you can catch fire, you start a flood. If you drop 30, that’s lightning.

7: If a team-mate or someone on the bench or your coach says “Make it rain, E-Money (or whatever your first initial is, and some word that matches your last name) it means (open fire baby!!!) and also (I trust you).

8: If you lose, bump fists
because if you win it’s nice to know
that you didn’t go too far
when you were talking your shit after that (smooth).
no-look pass

If they don’t bump fists it might be about
some off court shit though,
or they may not have seen you.

9: If someone is a new team-mate, start out by passing them the ball.
This says “I’m gonna give you the benefit of the doubt”. Also if you get any assists, that’s the badge of a good team-mate. But to be a great team-mate
don’t bring up Descartes, it will only confuse your new friends, and they might call you weird or stupid. Homeschooling is weird, but summer hooping is an equalizer. It was kind of like camp.

10: DON’T bring up God. It will only start debates you’ll win
but make you hurt your new friends. I’d been mixing up Psalms and Proverbs every morning for too long. Maybe it’s time to read Hosea again. Or Hamlet. Or John I wonder what they teach at the schools? Maybe I should find out, after a shower. Mom usually texts on pinger around this time, let me just grab my ipod and check if I have wifi.

11: High school and College will be kind of like camp too. The rules just have different
faces. If we can learn anywhere, maybe we can learn ettitquette everywhere? But it could just be that I’ve been on fire, and now I’m shooting bricks.

12: Brick means shot that had no chance of going in. You say “brick” to tell your team-mates
to crash to the boards because you think you made a mistake.

13: Be My Mistake by Matty Healy hasn’t come out yet, but when it does, you should cover it
with a girl you like with dyed hair and not ask questions.

14: Everyone was right about Harry Potter, but don’t follow JK Rowling on twitter. She tweets something insensitive, and honestly Rick Riordan did a better job of representing middle school dynamics. All the pianos are forte and all the fortes and manuals banging drums in the head.

15: If someone is shooting freethrows in the corner,
see how many they can make in a row.
If they go above 6/10, ask them to play. They can probably hang
and maybe you can even talk a little trash.

Otherwise you’re probably better off
practicing form in the corner. Left hand behind the back, Don-Eddy camp technique, balance.
Clear the mind. Flick the wrist. Don’t worry about winning. Just follow the motion through your formerly cracked wrist and elbow. Old trauma is
over.

16: Wear a shirt that has your teams name on it.
That way people will know you can
play, and might ask you to
run full-court.

17: Swear all you want
but never say bad names and especially never
call a friend a bad name. No matter what team
they play for.

18: Cracker isn’t a bad name, that shits a joke.
Like when kids play with Satan’s name
to see if he comes out of the mirror. They’re afraid of
possesion and trying to prove it wrong. If you were a missionary to the satanists
I wouldn’t start out by telling them about hell
                                                                                            some of your new friends are already there.

Luckily, you’re just in the gym to work on your game
and not to preach. Old “Bruchko” mentalities seems like playing
dirty in 20/20.

I Have A Choice To Make / by Richard Newman

Yesterday it rained.
Today, one more rejection
eats away at hope.
Wetting my face as I walk,
the sharp mist carves my future.

I HAVE CAPS LOCK ON AGAIN BECAUSE IN AM IN WORK ORDER / by Valéria M. Souza

When the Work Order Center calls me,
it’s like an angel descending from Heaven.
LOL, j/k, actually it’s like
I might be prepping to write
“Ode to a Main Drain Backup”
as my next poem. You never know,
you never know. I heard about someone
who ate an entire Italian sub
while wading through the shitwater
of a main drain backup. Hashtag skills,
hashtag lifegoals.

Imagine a place where the compactors never
break down, where elevators run and run
and run, humming, not needing new parts,
or electrical. That’s paradise.
Hey, tweet it at me. Put it in my DMs.
Tag me on the Gram. (“I think I sent you messages
on ‘the gram.’) Andre Zervas says bitches
love the Gram. Andre Zervas sings
about Roxanne, Roxanne,
all she wanna do is party all night.
Gmail me. No I don’t have FB.

If I were single, we could hook up on Blendr,
or Grindr, or whatever dating app the Tik-Tok kids
are using nowadays. Maybe you could follow me
on LinkedIn — LOL. I love the way
the green dumpsters look in the morning, dusty
cattle huddled together in a field of pavement.
Flies encircling them like lilacs.
This poem will get me written up. I can’t help myself.
I love the way you speak to me in Work Order codes.
LET’S ORDER A PIZZA. I AM READY.
LET’S STAY LATE AND WORK O.T. TONIGHT. YES LET’S.

Poem 27 / Day 27

“The Kingdom of God” / by Jonah Bornstein

A land is fragile, this we all should know
for history tells us so.

In the night I wake, too late to sleep,
I feel the morning go, the blanket tightly
tucked around my head unraveled,
baring once again a historic fall.

When daylight comes, I’ll gather what I must,
trash, recycling, compost, and judiciously take
a first step onto the slippery patio. But
my boots will slide on the ice beneath the snow.

Yesterday, before the vote I prayed would turn,
I considered the hundreds of snow-white
birds nesting serenely on the maple leaves.

At dusk, I waited, The birds would disband in unison,
a wild white flutter up into descending snow.
But the tree was still, the leaves snow-capped,
the streets quiet, the country at the will of Justice

Amy Coney Barrett.

Invitation to Grieve / by Joyce Brinkman

Grieve with me,
            not with sprays of roses, nor
                        words inscribed
                                    on  clever, carded stock.

Grieve with me,
            mourn for what I cherish.
                        For the empty space
                                     my tears desire to fill.

Let me feel,
            not your sympathy but anger
                        with death for embezzling
                                     what I hold most dear.

Let me feel,
            comfort in embracing, 
                        sense two healing arms
                                    encircling all my pain.

Do not vilipend
            my demonstrated sorrow,
                        share with me instead
                                    our common, human need.


ALL TOMORROW’S FIRES / by CM Downes

i have news for you    sliding on the autumn gyre
our thread-bare quarrels grow damp at their hems

Understand   having manifested destiny

no human unity   no salvific ingenuity
will stay or break our sentence’s binding 

¿why there   do you bury your food
cache those crutches away from your neighbors’ sight

better to sever your pointed finger
and gnaw the virtue from its marrow

than linger at the open pits
of consequence and excuse

better stumped palms   than fists gripping
drumming the chests of your children and pets

feeding from hot copper baskets   spoiled
with swallows of their crimson humidity


the downy powder of all tomorrow’s fires
dapple the scythe with those most sacred names

engraved upon your heart as it is upon the blade
that shaves and shucks a huck of sparks

whose flavor entreats you to break
free your jaw for some semblance of tranquility

                                    *

Poem for When There is No Clear Path / by Jenny Downs

Mountains ahead, mountains behind
Strange forests obscuring the view.
And, like the wide Mississippi
Or the long Missouri
A river inevitably cuts every road off.
Another bridge that must be crossed.

Seems like the circle has gone entirely dark
No soft light to balance what’s rigid and colorless.

Seems like all the wild tangles
Of poppies and pansies and cornflowers
Are resigned to the coming winter.
Seems like the only thing to do
Is the same as it has been-
Be gentle, I think.
Hold myself tightly and rock.
Study the night for it cerulean secrets.
Wake up to the raw light of dawn. 

Collage by Margaret Cornish

 

*  /  by Clemonce Heard 

Very seldom, I’ll follow a mosquito’s trajectory
as it weaves around me,
waiting for it to land. & not until I feel its needle’s
siphoning will I reach my hand swathed

in flesh & swat at its pinch.
Answer hurt with hurt in a simple sense
of the vindictive, who after discovering their beloved
in bed with another might
commit the same offense if the offender is lucky.

                                         *

Of course this has nothing to do
with the other night when a mosquito bit my lip
as I slept bandaged in my sheets & covers.
It flew away just as fast as I felt the itching
& swelling which was not fast at all; her saliva traded
for the blood necessary to finish procreating.

At that moment I didn’t think
male mosquitoes fed on nectar, thus don’t bite,
but of your red dress the night we danced
in the middle of some park
that to passersby might’ve looked like a wound
struggling against the current.
Our moves with inklings of flourish that lasted
up until the pests ran us off.
Or up until we ran off, habitual diners & dashers.

All of this after our dinner. Our stint on this earth
to latch wanting never to let go until
the other says let’s go. Even then not splitting
into our separate homes but becoming one.

I was wrong, the egrets ornamenting the trees
were merely overgrown magnolia buds.
& you were never alone & shall never be
for as long as you can help it.
There is you, there is me, there is the star I see,
as you’d say, to the north right of the moon
waiting as a server waits for her shift to end
that will soon, real soon.
& here I am again reaching to clench the exponent
as asterisk thinking I knew, I knew all along.
Then taking light years to feel what was always there. 

Truth / by R. Bradley Holden 

In Egypt the poor woman 
takes out her breast and sprays
milk on the passersby. 
She wants to prove 
the money she’s begged
really is for the absent baby. 
Imagine being that committed 
to truth. 

wind raked night / by Clyde Long 

Up on the treed ridge
above the highway
how are we unchosen?

We have heat and light,
poor neighbors are cast
into the Middle Ages.

Ancient oaks arch a
tunnel over the road.
Oleanders loom curbs.

Winds can sling-shot
embers red-hot at us.
We can escape quickly.

We venture into bed
set for evacuation orders.
Stars chant fire stories. 

A clean shot on the I-95 / by Ethan Mershon 

Don’t avert from the road. It’s part of life, but pray for the
people on the side of the road if it
helps you.

Stop in the parking lot for a breather.
It’s a long trip.

J and B liqour store across from gaudy wreck

gas stations and piers
are harbors for many ships, and dumping tea
is an old solution. Even if the tea wasn’t bound
for heartland ports and chain-restaurants.

Isn’t it funny to think about two clouds
as if they are the only two clouds? They can transform
into titans and fish and elephants
or favorite players on home-courts
and if watched long enough they can tell what wind blew them
but never why. Probably because they’re clouds.

When it’s a snow day, it’s cartoons then and now it’s back again from
long walks around the neighborhood because
an odd turkey occasionally snaps at parent’s dogs on a walk through frosted
asphalt, beside the trailer park where the shouts are like home-court but not quite
within. Wise-men say: “Your blood is thicker
because you’re from Up North!” It’s a joke
and an implication. Why didn’t Elvis sing more originals?

In Chicago people ask if Kansas is part of the
south. Offensive but sometimes needles in the haystack
need to be tossed in the dumpster.
burn the sewing needle before doing a stick-poke. The
South?

How to even respond these days?
Splits and Strikes and Turkeys
bowling was a winter activity,
and beer could flow in plastic buckets
and french-fry fingers and winning
wasn’t the point, but
the dude in the other lane was talking loudly
and scoreboards were discussed.

But in the trunk, popped open,
call that a tailgate,
the thunder and lightning work together
one’s a warning, one is unlikely to strike hearts
statistically.

watch the clouds
and call snow and rain and steam
cycles. not even a sparrow or compass could tell
the weather. 

Thinking About Antisemitism 2 / by Richard Newman 

(continued from the last line of the October 24th poem: “Like water, hatred takes its vessel’s shape.”)

So does love. Or at least the Christian love
John Chrysostum preached,
when just the thought of Jewish anything
shook to its foundation the fragile edge,
thin as finely blown glass,
shielding the spirit from the flesh;
the Church’s sovereignty,
distilled in the pure heat of Christ’s sacrifice,
from the denial the Jewish body embodied;

except it wasn’t Jewish bodies John feared,
just the inner transformation of his own
if he mistook for even partial truth
the honey-smeared cup of poison
the Jews’ exegesis was
to anyone who drank from it,

like the college missionary who,
in I don’t remember which argument
about my unrepentant self, called me carnal,
warning my friends and calling it love,
for them and, in spite of myself, for me,
that my friendship beautified the road to hell.

Kale After It Became the Province of WASPS / by Valéria M. Souza

And we ate well during the pandemic:
Vegetables and fruits piling in, stacked,
‘til the fridge bulged at the seams.
Overstuffed luggage —
a sojourn away, away, away to paradise.

I gathered for us kale (my people’s lettuce),
carrots, scallions, celery, citruses
(limes, lemons — there is only one word for both
in Portuguese, and it is limões…),
cloves of garlic and sacks of onions.

Kept us in cereals, Maifun rice sticks, wild
grains to gorge and pile onto plates,
grazing. The influx came, first via Instacart
and then — that vector blocked —
via Amazon Fresh/Prime.

I remember one delivery,
during the apex of the winter/spring
contagion: Arjun, a deliveryperson,
had been dispatched like Hermes (merx much?)
and arrived wingèd at our front door.

He unloaded the trunk of plastic bags,
set them all down on the porch, obese portents.
We gazed at each other through the screen,
Arjun and I, for what seemed an eternity. An
acknowledgment: our shared layover at the Styx. 

Vinegar Eyelash / by Margot White 
 
Such a purple heart 
evenly marked 
nicked and notched in daggered rays
of sunbeams through the frost,
 
they laid the wood like tunnels there,
slept across the pond, tied their tongues
with stilts of fire, still could not get across!
 
So what to do, the engine burned,
licked lampposts with its tail of stripes,
 
Eight firemen, hungry with disease
tramped out the barnyard church.

Poem 26 / Day 26

Autumn Snow / by Jonah Bornstein

Above my basement shelter, snow
continues to disguise the still soft ground.
This past spring, new branches sprung
from our tree’s upper limbs. Their leaves cast
cast the color of fire. More red now
than silver maple, which bears, then drops
                 burgundy into the street.

The snow has tempered the Troublesome Fire’s
rage. Evacuation orders rescinded. Grand Lake
is repossessed. Residents’ possessions saved.

The furnace clicks on.
Soon I will change pre-dawn’s heavy garments,

In the night, snow washed across the patio
like tidal waters over sand, and stopped three inches
before the back door. Yard tools, jut through
the white like rebar and concrete blocks cast
up from lake waters where few dare go.

Memories and history are cast there too.

Grape vines have pulled away from the arbor,
their fisted leaves crumpled like wet spiders
                biding time.

And what will I do in seven degrees?
What work done, errand accomplished? This small space
I live in, an accumulation of books and paper, my earth
I suppose, old ground. Outside, no matter
                 what happens the snow still falls.


Before the Dawn Has Pierced the Sky /
by Joyce Brinkman 

Sometimes when I think I hear you
in the hallway before the dawn
has pierced the sky, my mind goes
to Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter
Sundays”, and I feel guilty for my
indulgence in sleep. You left early
enough for breakfast on the road
while I stayed wrapped in the warmth
of the white, weighed blanket.

Choosing to work beyond your
well-earned retirement, you had
many miles to travel to still be
employed. I never questioned
why you did. Never questioned
anything you did. Feeling as wrapped
in your love as much as in that big
blanket, asleep or awake, my dreams
never imagined my world without you.
So, sometimes when I think I hear you
in the hallway before the dawn
has pierced the sky,
I cry.

FEBRUARY III / by CM Downes

                                                *

                                               fathoms 
                                               of               snow’s sfumato
                                               alder
                                               chiaroscuro   

                                                            *

Dried Grapevines and This or That, Then. / by Jenny Downs

Isn’t it lovely to be an animal-
Veins forming dimorphic root systems

All issuing from a single muscle behind
The bone.  If I had a tiny door into my chest-

Who would stoop low to come inside?
Who would sit in the scuffed ochre chair?

Would he wear a white shirt and a tie?
Would he say to me? Isn’t it wonderful

To have eyes?  I like to see dolphins and dahlias
 with them.  Would I chime in?

I’d like to see you with mine.  Would one of us say?
I’d like to know how it would feel

To twine ourselves, limbs like twigs wound into one
Singular sphere. To float buoyantly like that for days.  

Collage by Jenny Downs

Cracker Barrel / by Clemonce Heard 

Leah, the cashier tells me more stars
means more money. So I drive down
an old gravel road lumpy as gravy
until the celestial bodies are all I see.

Scramble through my moon roof
like a tank hatch, sit & listen to
the register’s muzzled cha-ching.
After one month of name-tagging

& an apron which donned me Rising
Star, I’d wear my name stitched
across sternum the way stars stitched
across the sky the time we camped

in a mesh tent, made love to make
the wilderness jealous. The rustling
we stilled ourselves for only a deer
my dear. You said it was like heaven,

but all I could think of was how
much gun powder I could fit inside
a barrel labeled XXX. Of the epithet
Cracker, & everyone in the store

eligible for taxidermy. How shovels,
shoes & wheel barrels all dangled
from the ceiling like constellations.
The freckles I didn’t have to connect. 

Odysseus at Home / by R. Bradley Holden 

The first night she understood. 
He was tired, after all, and not 
a young man anymore. But as 
the days untouched stretched 
into weeks, she had to console 
herself. Twenty years is a long time. 
She considered him at breakfast 
one morning. His once-loved body 
had changed. Hers too, she knew. 
She was still beautiful, of course. 
She needed no suitor to tell her 
that—only the polished bronze. 
But she shone now with the splendor 
of evening, not the remembered 
freshness of dawn. He spoke 
sometimes about battle. Always 
late at night and verging on drunk. 
Staring deep into the fire he most
often mentioned Achilles. Some 
things went unsaid, but she knew 
with a woman’s cunning there had 
been other loves. Late one night, 
blind drunk and rambling, he 
described Ogygia in their cold room. 
She listened from her half of the 
well-rooted bed, but in the morning 
dismissed it as a dream. He never 
spoke again of Calypso, but the 
quality of his silence was different. 
Late afternoons she worried. Who 
could compete with a goddess? 
Once, in the dawn’s glow, she traced 
the scar on his thigh with her finger, 
but he shivered and turned away. 
It was then that she felt, for the first time, 
the unbridgeable distance of years.

Toward October’s climax / by Clyde Long 

I linger late in drink these nights
writing with a hand moved by news,
lines stricken again and again as I am.

Devices hunt me with news and “news”
so bizarre I fear the dreams to come.
So glad the dogs only beg for jerky treats.

Diablo winds threaten chaos tomorrow,
wildfires stripping autumn branches bare.
Without electricity I can write after sunset –

night words by headlamp and candles
might shine . Freezer steaks may thaw.
The pick-up is loaded with our treasures.

We are posed for October’s denouement.
Dog crates are in, they think “Tahoe!”
Ballots been cast, maybe Tahoe it is. 

Dear Mr. Biden, I’m sorry for what the president said about me and your son / by Ethan Mershon 

Tale of Two Cities

Scene January 28, 2016

Donald and Mickey
Walt vs. The Generation of Authentics
Left Speaker and Right Speaker
Hands up ! vs. “Hands in the air”

Troy and Gabriella
Queer Troy Bolton vs. Donald Trump
Vanessa and Bleu (weren’t background)
Demolition vs. Introspection

Pirsig and Motorcycles
Quality vs. Pure
Zarathustra and Nietszche
Comedy and Tragedy

Watts and Tesla
Intoxicated vs. Dream-state
Romantic and Mechanical
Surveillance vs. Hegel

Spivak and Attention
Weil and Attention
Subaltern vs. Representation
Media and Kafka

Chapelle and Walt Grace
Music and rhythym
Rhythym And Poetry
First Aid Kits and Songs

Watchmen vs. Atticus
Foucault vs. Princes keeping views
Noble and Laurel
Ivory vs. Scrimshaw.

Guns and Germs
Steel vs. Steal
Detroit vs. Chicago
Mind vs. Body
Tough and tough
Blonde and Blonde on Blonde
20/20 Green-wich and Atlantic Oceans
Sandwich and Greenwich
Wichita vs. Troye Silver Bolton Youth

Till we have faces,
Just Blondie is fine

PS Blue like Jazz vs/and Scary Love
a weeks library in my backpocket
aka my trunk, aka I’m reading at
the tailgate.

Chestnuts

Dear Ecstasy M,

I was listening to be 2014 Forests
when I wrote my country roads in Hello and
vapors, it’s a crutch, to say “Take

these forces of habit

Take

this sinking court,”
I’m texting in parallels,
because I think in rainbows. Radio
my band when you want me to send a track.

because you’re getting married in Appalachia,
I want to be the wedding singer.
which is where grandaddy and grandma
Publix Fried Chicken In The Cooler
were born. They held hands in NC woodsy
high schools, gutters rocky cliffs it was
mountain highs.

This pastor who tried to date my grandma
trolled me on facebook all summer.
I think it was to impress her?

I blocked him. He lacked syllables
and offered only sentences.
Grandma, Joe’s kind of a loser.

(Joe MAMA!)

And to my Ms
my emotional purple robbery
(sorry Babe Ruth,
I didn’t know it was your birthday too!)

and my friend who left me
when she grinded:]+worked out
in duos
in spirals
in concrete
and then left

for a mission
with Louis Lane
and I realized I was always sorta Bruce the shark
after all.

“Fish are friends
Especially Nemo”.

To the Inklings:
I’m just a ranger.
I look to the sky.
I see fire. inside the mountains.

Ash Wednesday and birthdays and anniversary caught me with burieds
sweating off my forehead, silent night is candles and everyone singing the same song.
I felt whole in the warmth of our chandelier.
I go see nativity lights every December
with JP in my mind, I ask her questions about
silent nights and choir congregations. 

Untitled / by Richard Newman

Talked out, eyes throbbing,
I step into the garden
beneath black-gray clouds
heavy with what has not yet
fallen, like tears down my cheeks.

Blue Hills / by Valéria M. Souza

Careful, I’m just a simple human with bones in me.
The mists weave through the air,
hovering like ghosts around a Ouija board.

A dash of pine needles.
Rocks, grasses, rocks, grasses, rocks, grasses.
My feet move through the rocks.

Unleashed dogs dash towards me with a sense of urgency,
like hospital orderlies.
Who dies next?

I see the long metal refrigerated trucks,
bleach white Thermo Kings,
loaded with body bags in New York.

There are grasses in the woods that are very special.
I want to understand them, the way they bend and tuft
in little clumps along the side of the trail.

The mists, the mists linger everywhere.

Daughter of Pan / by Margot White

These are callous standing bolts
Blanketing quiet sands

I travel a thousand miles, circling my heart

Deafened by the waterfalls that turn my feathers to scales

I was wrong to condemn this land.

There is a wild gold halo breathing at my temple

Roots and stems of a neon forest

When I flew so close, I was given new life

Now, glittering mist hums beneath my floating feet.

Pale blue pony, take me home

Poem 25 / Day 25

Note to a Neighbor Scraping Ice-Laden Windshield / by Jonah Bornstein
 
In the night, snowfall.
Translucent wet cotton glumps.
The maple? Overnight transformation.
 
Careful John, not to slip
on the hidden crisp autumn.
 

Missing Worlds / by Joyce Brinkman 

All those worlds I shared with you are gone.
The ones from evenings, noons and dawns.
They died mostly slowly as we spent our years,
filled with joy and laughter more than tears.
We didn’t see the new worlds that were born.

We spread our love across our homes and lawns,
spending days as if they were our pawns
to simply fritter as payment for our fears
that we would lose things we hold most dear
in all those worlds.

Those days flowed transparent like chiffon.
Swam away from us like muted swans.
Bounded over us like fleeting deer,
even though we tried to hold them near.
but you were the thing I rested on
in all those worlds.

EPISTOLARY / by CM Downes 

All the world is naked and quiet.

The mist of early morning
turning moistened gold and lifting
through boulevard shade trees,
delicately sketching
armistice between soft antiphons,
like warm incense
caressing the morning light,
             fawning, whispering
A new update is available
             our gentle strategies to the wind:
             old, weak with wisdom,
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in fresh sheets of rain—
silver lacing everything—
I sang out Welcome to My Starbucks Rewards
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to a curtsey of dogwoods’,
and you strode from their shadow
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on the lawn, your delicate fingers
tracing my arm.
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Kintsugi Poem / by Jenny Downs 

Get up, get up, girl, or all you’ll ever be
Is tragic scattered pieces of
A broken butterfly. What does it mean
To evolve? To come forth from within
The chrysalis? Does it mean to bow?
Kneel thankful for the opportunity?
To Forgive. Forget it. Forgiveness. It’s not
For me. Gratitude is guerilla, like
To feign a good disguise.  Safety is in the
Brightness of the eyes on the wings. 
Security is the shape of the samurai
That walks as a crab.  It is divine to
Know the current situation and the
Task ahead, yet still wear one’s scars like gold.    

Collage by Jenny Downs

Bulls-Eye Bill / by Clemonce Heard

Hearing gunshots everywhere
I go makes me think of the shark bullets
on Super Mario with their fanged
grins, chugging arms, white pallbearer gloves.
The red ones that have the power
to bust a u-ie after you hurdle them
then bust you-ie in the back of the head.
Shrink you from coon tail or fire flower
doctor to plain old Mario on shrooms
or plain old Mario on shrooms to shrunken
Mario that much closer to death.
Unless you’re into green like me or Luigi.
The taller brother who always gets a bad rap
sheet because you can see him
more easily. Pick him out of a crowd
or line up of enemies, his mustache a moth
caught trembling over his breath.
What gets me is no one asked if the princess
even wanted to be saved & saved.
If she had a coalition of cast iron wielding
sisters, golf driver-to-your-windshield sisters,
or parasol-for-your-aerosol-shielding
Amazons for those three-leaf uglies,
those para troopas, those bullets chugging
& rapping “I Gave You Power” & any other
mad villain vowing to kill us all.

Capitalism / by R. Bradley Holden

Of course, it’s corrupt.
           But the loudest protests
come from the envious
          who lack the things they want.
The last men, Nietzsche called them,
            foreseeing their gnawing resentment.
They who would break a system
          for its spoils. Distribute
the trinkets and technology
          while that pearl of great price,
our lives, is lost. We grow old.
          Yet perhaps a greater division
might help there, too. Take
          some of my years and pain.
One must eat, yes. But
          the shallowness of our solution
shows us what we are. Greed
          denounced by greed, as if
our problems were merely material.
          Or might the spirit find consolation
in a bank account?
          Homo economicus? Do we live
by bread alone? Yet what
          is the wisdom of our age?
A variation on a theme:
          How to have more and more. And
our politics? Arguments
          about the spoils. Yet who will possess
the golden light of dawn
          or the moon’s silver shadows?
True, we have grown fat
          on our daily bread. But what would
suffice at last for the body
          that we might attend
to the needs of the soul?

Borat movie review / by Clyde Long

Slumming and smiling online.
Spoiler alert to others who
stream Amazon Prime:

Gasps and eye rolls attend.
Imaginary holy books as props.
I have a fresh 5G signal,

the pixeled image is clear.
Can cringes entertain?
Maybe, stay to the end.

I look for a smile’s salve;
need the salve of a smile
who smiles back at me.

Also laughs. Good eye rolls.
Maybe the virus caught me.
Maybe humor infected me.

To Be Continued / by Richard Newman

The wooden rhino from Indonesia
we bought last week in Hudson
before Warren street emptied out
and we went looking for a place to eat

stands at the far left end
of the mantle over the fireplace,
its red-lipped mouth open—
you’d swear it was wearing lipstick—
facing the three red ceramic apples
with golden stems you mail-ordered
from the Brazilian vendor whose card we took
three Bryant Park Winter Villages ago.

Taller and wider than the pachyderm,
each piece of fruit represents a task
in a narrative I’ve not ye figured out.
Meanwhile, the rhino’s smaller sibling
shares the top of the liquor cabinet
with the bottle of Black Barrel Jameson
we drank from last night
while our son ate chocolate cake,
spinning himself in the red chair
you don’t like because it spins
and arguing that the rhino
looks more like a unicorn-pig,
the only possible name
for an animal with a face that pink
and a horn at the end of its nose.

We bought that red chair at ABC Carpet,
along with the green couch
you still love but want to reupholster
so future guests—our son’s
prospective in-laws
you once said hopefully—
won’t judge us by the sun-faded
fabric on the arm
that used to sit up against the radiator
by the window that gets the western light
as the sun sets.

I’m writing this now
at the dining room table you loved
when we purchased it from
I-don’t-remember-which-store
but that now reminds you, you say,
of a ski lodge, as if at any moment
vacationers would come in through the front door,
shaking snow from their jackets and hats,
stomping it from their boots,
laughing, calling out to friends
who hadn’t been on the slopes
to order drinks we would have to serve;
and I’m thinking how everything we own
contains, in addition to the story
of how it became part of our story,
every other story in which
it might have played a part.

We are like that too…

This Poem Made Her Laugh / by Valéria M. Souza

Wife’s Uber Rating of Me

Weak driver,
zero stars.

Dropped off at wrong location,
ride unfinished.


Wife’s UPS Rating of Me

Tracking number incorrect,
package still at warehouse.

Terrible customer service,
failed to deliver.


Wife’s AirBNB Rating of Me

Flat not as represented in photos:
kitchen lacked oven.

Couldn’t bake, and all I wanted was brownies.
DO NOT STAY HERE.


Wife’s Amazon.com Rating of Me

Seller slow to ship,
product not as described.

Asked for refund,
still awaiting response.

3 weeks’ wait:
very unsatisfied.

Wife’s Zagat Rating of Me

Shitty ambiance,
tacky decor.

Lobotomized waitstaff set silverware incorrectly.

Listless haricot vert,
Uninspired crème brûlée.

Under new management.

Poem 24 / Day 24

Passages 4 / by Jonah Bornstein

Inside the new house, clouds adjust
as a wash of shadows across
a Chinese novel. An overhead light blinds
like sun reflected through a wave one summer
when I thought I could see everything.

Friends sit in a herd of dreams.
We try to grasp what is passing,
ash free falling across pages,
the voice scratchy like an old nib,
the swelling of what is before us.

Last week, a granddaughter faltered
into a step. And then another. Today
she lifts her arms and tries
to twirl to the music inside.

Autumn Haiku / by Joyce Brinkman 

________ / by CM Downes

                                    *

our small family

within the forest’s cold sun

shining   silent   all

*

What Was I Doing When This Blew In? / by Jenny Downs

In that valley the train shrieks echo like souls on hooks.
-Sylvia Plath, Ariel the Restored Edition, “The Detective”

If you are the last gazelle to leap
The hill, the furrow, the mountain
Ahead of the hunter
You will reach the valley
Sooner and quicker.

A victory of sorts, I suppose.
There is no such thing as hope
In America.  There is win.
There is weapon.
There is nobody in the house.
There is only a crow in a tree.
There is no detective who cares.
Who stole the diamond?
There is no investigator to investigate.
Who injected this terrible poison?
Who wielded the terrible teeth?

The slowest gazelle fills the biggest hunger
And, anyway, deceit is a highway to success
In America. There is no asking
Who bound the hands?
Who removed the feet?
Who warmed the oven?
It’s win the race or be consumed.

Don’t fight it. Make notes.
The bitter taste of it
Will go down smoother, I promise.

Collage by Jenny Downs

Cumulative / by Clemonce Heard 

Natchitoches, La

I wish I could tell you
the species of tree we clung to,
as opposed to the classes
we skipped to chill at the capstone
of summer outside the student union.
Brothers ribbing, sisters
laughing near incapacitation.
Though few disappeared after one
or two semesters, the narrow
shade wasn’t enough to suppress
our melanin. The campus
with its influx of Black/African American ☑︎
not due to our state-
prestigious nursing program,
or the football team who took ballet
& still couldn’t win for losing,
but the acceptance rate & low cost
after financial aid. F + A = C-
simile. Equals D who almost failed
to graduate because of one grade
not transferred from his junior college,
& the ante/bell/um keen
on keeping him limping for minimum wage.
Mondays, outside the union, Wednesdays
& Fridays, the feel of the corner
stores back home where winos played spades,
DOMINO. That is until B made
fun of one too many
white women who eventually complained,
& had the whole crew banned
from hanging beneath a tree.

October / by R. Bradley Holden 

and the leaves are aflame,
but where is the Moses 
to turn aside and 
witness the miracle now? 

Remembering Ramon / by Clyde Long 

He was a brown wood spider
good size but humble and shy.

He resided in a rusty mail box —
we moved in when the kids were babies.

Angled in a dark corner he watched
our mail’s comings and goings.

His spider eyes saw it all, bills
and junk, news good and bad.

After a few seasons Ramon retired.
Over years pine trees leaned and fell.

We spray painted the mail box black
but the inside remained Ramon’s.

On dark nights I open its door,
remember our times of Ramon.

Thinking About Antisemitism After The First Hundred Pages Of
Anti-Judaism, by David Nirenberg / by Richard Newman 

1.

If you cannot see the world behind the word,
they said, not as metaphor, of course,
but as truth; if God has struck you blind—their god,
not yours—and made your heart a high stone wall,
fortified against the pure white light
living just beneath creation’s skin;
if that is you, they said, then you are darkness
the blind cannot escape; the work you were born for—
corruption and disease—is all you can know.
They said that. They’re still saying that, except
the rhetoric has changed. This is nothing new.
Like water, hatred takes its vessel’s shape.

(This is the first in a projected series)

CONTENT WARNING: Abuse, verbal/emotional abuse


Storybook / by Valéria M. Souza

Snowflake Cottage / by Margot White

Feather of fire, imprinted on my palm

If you could hear what I hear —

the soft clutch of coal sighing

Folded into the hiss.  The hollow wind left the waters of Neptune to visit this still cottage.

Resting its palm on its cheek, it gazes steadily where no man goes.  The cavern of iron reflects the 

emptiness of the storm, its own nature, from which it chose to flee.

The steadiness of the room challenges the wind’s nature, invites it to rest awhile.  The apples continue
to grow, then fall into the winter’s grass outside.

Self-Portrait while listening to Hello Hi with ED / by Ethan Mershon

Poem 23 / Day 23

The Air / by Jonah Bornstein

I explain ozone
to my little one. She breathes deep.
It can’t get me, she says. Likely not
I think. But I worry about the tiny wheeze,
like glass fracturing from cold.
I put my ear to her chest.
Listen.
But she jumps around like the invisible
frog in the glass jar her daddy caught.
Grandpa’s tired, I lie.
Let’s go inside.

Memory / by Joyce Brinkman 

How will I keep my life sustained
if within my days I no longer write,
because memory cannot be retained?

If from writing poetry I’ve abstained
through restless sleep and murky nights
how will I keep my life sustained?

If by some chance I am detained
sent away, kept locked up tight
because memory cannot be retained,

then what of life has been obtained.
Or if I am by fate to lose my sight
how will I keep my life sustained

when precious sight can’t be maintained
and without seeing I’m denied delight
because memory cannot be retained?

When I don’t know what words contain,
can’t capture joy in white moonlight
how will I keep my life sustained
if memory cannot be retained? 

February II / by CM Downes 

                                                                  *

                                                                 flower
                                                    fidelity  
                                                    keeps   oneself   stained
                                                                  with
                                                                the world  

                                                                   * 

Evolution Poem / by Jenny Downs 

An old, red, wheelbarrow
With brown patches like bruises
Stands still
Near feet that dance
Like a kingfisher cries
A drumbeat sound
Like a crocodile strike
The rally cry rings
Like synchronized time
No body stands still
But the dappled skin
Of an old, red, wheelbarrow.

Collage by Jenny Downs

For Prabhulal Prasannan / by Clemonce Heard

                        suddenly         

a light rain began

            overtaking my high-held head                          & I

                                                                        wanted

            a mole to sprout

                                                with each kiss

beneath my lips            between my brows       even

                        my neck as I bowed

                                                            to tie                my

my mother’s shoelaces

                                                /

                        yes

                                    I know

                                                            then my face

            would not be

                                    found

                        as I know

                                    my wish

            is founded on                          applying

                                    a different

                                                            foundation

                        one where

            what you call                blemish

                                    is the point.

                                                /

                                    when I walk the streets

                        of downtown               idlers & idiots

                                                (as my friends call them)

                                    gawk & point

                                                the children not yet taught

                        out of their rudenesses            

                                                            the adults

                                                not yet grown

                                                                        out

                        of their ignorance           

                                                             if ignorance

                                    is such a thing

                                    out of which to grow                                                   if

                                                                                                            ignorance

                                                            is          a  one big mole

                                                                                    cancerous

                                                                        as                     the cantankerous

                                                            one                                                                 

                                                                                                                        that

                                                                                                tumefies                       like a balloon

                                                then everyone              at some                       

                                                                                                point

                                                                                                                                    would be

                                                                                                                                    beautiful                                                                                                                                 

                                    or those privileged                                                                  

enough                                               

                                                                                                            to witness such

                                    an event would say look            &         how beautiful                 

the sky

                                                            aswarm                        not with different

                                                                                                                        shades

            of melanin                     but difference                         & the witnesses’                                                                                   pointers                       pointing             mouths drawbridged                                                                                                                                                                as

                                                                                                                                                if

                                                                                                                        attempting to drink                                                                                                            the rain    one

                                                                                                                                                by one

                                                                                                                        would rise to make                                                                                                                                                            even    

                                                                                                                                    the sun

                                                                                                                                                easy

                                                                                                                        on the eyes

Advertising / by R. Bradley Holden

They are bidding on the moon, 
prime real estate. Each wants
to be the first to transfix 
a corporate banner among the stars. 
Then might the evening glow 
perpetually with electric light.

I was Joe Biden / by Clyde Long

Lawyer for a bingo hall
big as a casino,
I left my meeting at dusk.
They hire armed security guards
all day and always at night.
I was parked close by.
A neighborhood guy wandered over,
came up to me and asked,
“you Joe Biden, right?”
Security guard and I smile,
guess I’m a generic old white guy.
I say “thanks but c’mon, I’m
a lot younger than Joe”.
He says, “I bet you just say that –
you Joe Biden.”
Wish I was, I tell him.
Being Joe feels good right now.
The parking lot guy knew.

hbd sweet marie / by Ethan Mershon


dear marie
i wrote two letters and sent
the one where I called myself a “sun-baby”
(you understand my dream talkin’)

you were better than my anchors
you were sweet breakfast food
and pink starbust wrappers.

you still are,
I wonder what you think when you see me
in the faces on magazines. I wonder how
long I’ll be loving 
with a limp,

I’m still keeping your letter in my wallet
I pull it out to remember how you saw
(see?)
me. Sladdis, my only purple that tasted sweet enough for
daylight hand-holding, baby, If you’re ever going
to San Francisco, let me know
I’ll still pick you flowers and put them in your hair,
and meet you at the airport.

This is we’ll always have diner food after party
nights, me and you watching netflix
in my kitchen, a week before
march turned summer silver. Before I realized
weak knees. Your name in my palm:
it’s always butterflies.

We can’t go back to the night we met.
Time-machines ruin sunsets,            it’s light
pollution. (I wish you were here
and I didn’t have to lay still with my eyes closed
to fall/.  autumn/.   october/. 
safe).

Me Too! / by Richard Newman

A flock of pigeons,
black against the white-gray light
of this slow morning,
flies past my window, seeking
a safe place to land. Me too!

Still Life with Falafel Wrap & an Untaped Vacant / by Valéria M. Souza

Now I’m all lunched up
so, let’s play hide-n-seek in
the vacant — you game?

Poem 22 / Day 22

One Brother’s Heart / by Jonah Bornstein

One brother’s heart is so big
he frightens himself.
Most mornings he rises,
breath rapid, his body
in the shallows
of sheets and blankets;
he flips the top sheet back, longing
for peace more than anything
or the relief of a hand tracing his back.
I want to tell him that life
is a series of interludes
between rising and falling back.

I want to tell him that when he is loud
as the storms and fires that crisscross
the country, I understand it is
love that drives him into that cavity
of sound that folds over him,
leaving him breathless, longing to sing.

Elegy to Gardens Gone / by Joyce Brinkman 

It’s not so much
green peas and beans
or white corn and orange carrots,
but more about the hands
that plowed and spread the seed.

It’s not so much
good food that fed,
tomato soup or yellow onions,
but more about the hearts
that sang while planting.

I can purchase store-bought greens,
radishes and garlic,
but I can’t see
the callous hands that cracked
or backs that bent in pain.

Gardens give good things to eat
peppers, purple basil, sweet melons.
From fresh-tilled soil, sun and rain
a garden sprouts provisions, yet
even more they yield love. 

FEBRUARY / by CM Downes 

            *

no possessions
but               ornithology

                         single gull on the season’s
lush cold    

a flute’s elegy

             *

Worry Like a Hurricane / by Jenny Downs

I shift and stretch from
Nightmare to
Spilled tea. Face into
A pillow overstuffed with
Batting. Worry like a hurricane
Has an eye. I hear
A man outside on the sidewalk
Mouthing loud curses at the moon.

Hoopla / by Clemonce Heard 

All of the celibate men of the Celestial Prayer Group
had come to their senses & to the consensus
that they held an unwavering affinity for hoops.

Not the red rings like busted condoms, but the hoops
their lips were willing to jump through in one concentric
movement following their meditation group

where they levitated like a school of grouper.
Their swollen mouths in awe of their feigned sensei
who over his bifocals eyed the Boricua in gold hoops

genuflecting the third pew he knew drove a hooptie
& was married to the Lion of Judah & her Sanskrit
studies. The men wanted to embrace her with a group

hug without their desires all mired in groping
at risk of reveal. They longed for beer, not the Sunkist
that turned their tongues orange as the hula hoops

with which they’d seen lads Saturn their hips.
Though they also saw their aim as an inaccurate census
of all suppressed men in less-than spotless prayer groups.
Their circle of hell an infinite loop of hoopla.

On Edvard Munch’s The Scream / by R. Bradley Holden 
For Sam

Nailed to the museum wall
does he look out upon us now
in horror, conscious as we
moderns have become?

No, the terror is ours
and the misunderstanding.

Beneath that blood sky,
in a scene that swirls
with motion, the man’s face,
axis of every turning world,
is the only point of stillness,
and what he sees, beyond us
and our comprehension,
sets his eyes to glow
and fills his countenance
with wonder. 

My Sunday drive / by Clyde Long 

My life may not be acute —
so what, must I entertain you?
Clouds cast shade, I smile.
Maybe that assures you if
you don’t fear calm rage.

Lightning strikes in my brain
repeat each hour every day.
Masks and eyes hide them.

Guns are out of the question.
My brother’s dozens were sold.
Sunny days I can fake calm.
Highway lanes channel velocity,
long entrance ramps excite me. 

a conversation with Lee R. (my bible teacher and guide on a misguided (matching NEON I LOVE NEW LIFE tee shirts) missions trip to NYC, sophomore year of high school) / by Ethan Mershon 

**the scene is set in my
bathroom mirror, a few months
after Lee was fired from my high school**

“Hey, Lee?”                 “Yeah, what’s up?”      “What do we
think about…               pro-                  life?”
“I think Jesus would    have    been    pro
life”      “Why?” “Well,   old-soul,          green sprouts are real
when they are dreamed in the garden”
“The fuck does that mean?”
“Life begins at
conception”     “How
do you know that?”     “my pastor got his undergrad in
biology,           and he wrote a book about how evolution is for the money and run by big-science
I showed you, remember?, he made a low-budget film exposing the scientific priesthood for lying
to America” “oh!
like when they lied to the public about circumcision
and smoking? who’s that
sociologist?” “I really only know
theologians”
“Well, those dudes aren’t doing science, so
we can’t really hold their words          in court            seperation of   (there once
was a bar, that used to be a church, and the newspapers were upset,
BLASPHEMY) bar karaoke isn’t more real
than Jesus talk, and it isn’t
less, mas O mentos, that’s what my friend would say in the lunch-line”.
“Focus pal, but sure, but C.S.-           “ Lewis himself would have told you
that you can’t take his books as scientific (he was a good philosopher,
and knew faith wasn’t argumentation, he’d read Descartes,
I am that I am, I doubt therefore I am, Thou art so I art)
so Mere Christianity isn’t philosophy, or science, because it’s subjective,
it’s narrative,
nonfiction isn’t fact, it’s perspective, it’s learning
empathy. Preaching with stories is empathy
inducing… is that shepherding or
hunting?” “Mershon?”
“Yeah?”           “Is this really a conversation? It feels like you forgot
listening again. Listening is
wisdom, wisdom is pearls
on your gold-chain-link
necklace you inherited
from that thrift store.”

I finish brushing my teeth, and stop thinking about it for awhile,
it was a few months later that Lee passed away, summer before the second
to last dance, we were rehearsing Secret Garden I Think
I’ve really been hoping heaven is real
even though I have no need for it in my
lucids. Only in the daydreams, when I remember
my empties.

(Rest in Peace Lee, thanks for showing a bunch of 16 year old boys what it looks like to try your hardest to be a good person, even in a very patriarchy-heavy setting. We saw you, and I remember the way you tried.)

Sort of a Sonnet / by Richard Newman 

Honed to a fine and yet capacious point,
this rejoinder would have stricken silent
those who taunted me with abject failure
should I dare to offer to the future
anything I made myself. My vision
they pronounced too narrow; my execution,
slovenly. Pinned like that beneath the burden
of their belief in my irrelevance,
barely able to whisper the accession
they demanded, I wallowed in incoherence.

Then, the words I wish I’d had at the ready
found me, pushed and pulled me here, to this page,
where I’ve written them. I know you want to read them,
but they are not yet for anyone but me.

ICD-10G35 Cont’d. / by Valéria M. Souza

1B Cont’d. – Multiple Sclerosis.

They scheduled my annual MRI on Halloween this year.
Fine. I guess I’ll go get my MRI done,
ride in the machine. FYI, it’s like being shoved
into a hot coffin for 2-3 hours
while a roving band of gnomes
bangs on it from every angle using household cutlery.
So that the neurologist can study
my myelin, prognosticate and transmit
my spinal cord.
This is the worst carnival ride ever.
Hush. My bone marrow’s voltaic.

No, actually — it’s not fine.
Not that Halloween is sacred or anything but
I’d rather work O.T. @ 182 on Halloween.
Where the only candy I’ll be handing out
is THE P.C.
P.C. does not mean “politically correct”
(I know you went there prematurely….)
But here’s the thing:
if you want to know what the P.C. is,
I’ll have to P.C. you to tell you.
And I know you don’t want the P.C.

Trust me. Because nobody does.
I mean nobody wants the P.C., not nobody
trusts me. Look, I worked until after 21:00 EDT tonight.
So anyway, I’m not going to Worcester.
The COVID rate is over 5% as of today in Massachusetts.
My neurologist is going to fire me as a patient.
I don’t want to ride in the machine.
MondayWednesdayFridays prep the syringe — puncture flesh,
a safety pin sliding into an orange, sans scent.
Flavor of alcohol prep pads.
Here we are,

Masters of manipulating blood
cell counts without knowing exactly how.
Wizards and magicians of immunology.
I break fevers usually on
TuesdayThursdaySaturdays, bust headaches —
what the Lifelines nurses call “flu-like symptoms.”
This biologic equals mainlining the flu
3x per week, but I don’t mind.
At least I can still walk,
can still boxjump onto pallets in the Maintenance lot,
can still pull an 8-hour O.T. shift on Halloween.

Poem 21 / Day 21

An Empty Sky, the Clouds, and a Girl / by Jonah Bornstein

When the swifts abandoned the parking lot,
people waved from apartments, the birds
spiraled high and fell in dead weight,
swung around the bedraggled juniper,
then rose again on invisibility,
shredding the sky like arrows.

Pieces fell, quivered onto balconies,
dangled over railings, strewn
with bright socks and skirts.

A girl picked up the sky
and saw her reflection in emptiness.
Clouds gathered on the horizon,
churned into great mountains
and flocked toward her,
spreading across the expanse.

Garden Witches / by Joyce Brinkman

What a strange visage
the garden has after
a freeze. It’s reminds
you of the ugly witches
in the fairy tales who
after appearing as young,
beautiful maidens crinkle
up into old hags. As if,
before your very eyes
years were passing
stealing away beauty,
shrinking the stature,
sucking life from the
frame. Since it can’t
comprehend its own
beauty the garden doesn’t
fear it. One day green,
one day gone.

FOR SIMONE WEIL / by CM Downes 
             “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say:
             I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
             —Rule of Benedict, 53:1, (Matt 25:35)

             “All but two of the 12 people named by the archabbey are dead. Many allegations stem
             from pastoral assignments taken by the Benedictines in other dioceses.”
             —Tribune Review (PA), 8/16/18

                                                  Latrobe farm snows stippled
                                                  with Benedictine crows
                                                  their shoulders powdered with

                                                  motives honed by darkness
                                                  interpreted as light
                                                  of some majestic win

                                                  to which they all aspire
                                                  even as their lives flit
                                                  rippling into grist

A Silhouette in the Shape of Houdini / A Child Made of Shale / by Jenny Downs

What can I do?  With a negative space
In the shape of a man once beloved?
Like a butterfly king, he made a solemn promise-
A man so manly as he, does not attack
Just once. 
I knew the cracked glass of him. He delighted
In my swigs of his poison. He wore his
Fritillary crown boldly.  Bathed himself
In the scent of milkweed and honey
               To cover the stink
Of the rot of his escape.  Wish I couldn’t
See into his hippocampus. From above
It looks like I’ve joined a tribe of larvae.
Bodies busy constructing chrysalides
To hide from the butterfly king.
He taught me one thing:  A woman is
A cause already.  She does not attack.
She rises. 

Collage by Jenny Downs

Burnt / by Clemonce Heard 

My father chars the chicken
every time we barbecue, burns
it beyond belief. My father
makes jerk, somehow, an adverb,
says that’s the way chicken
is supposed to crease. We’re jerks
to the neighbors for never
inviting them to the burning.
We’re jerks because we barbecue
everyday but Tuesday, though
sometimes we do two-a-days.
My father thinks jerking rhymes
with perfect. Just jerking ya.
We chew the skin & swallow ash.
My father said he didn’t want
to be cremated, but refuses
to get insurance: life, health, car.
When my grandma passed
her old grill down to my father
he hauled it off to his apartment.
Don’t even get me started
on his car. Hint: it doesn’t start,
& smolders like the exhaust
of a train; birds & their carbon.
My father wants all the praise
& all the wings. He. Can’t. Wait
to be an angel so he can eat
off his own back. I try to tell him
he has to pluck the feathers first,
but like god, or the dog we got
from the pound, he doesn’t listen.
When he lifts his mouth from
the dirt there’s always a necklace
of saliva hanging like reigns.
But my father likes to be lead
as much as he enjoys chicken skin
that’s not scorched. My father
only has eyes for darkness,
only a taste for the exquisite burn
of coal. Match Light preferably.
& while it’s still fevered he wants
to put everything on the grates.
Until the sun no longer glows
behind the lumps of the horizon,
the remains, white as bone. 

Den of Thieves / by R. Bradley Holden 

He came upon them wild-eyed
in the temple and surprised 
the poets playing games. Their verse, 
he saw, took the form 
of crossword puzzles, diagrammed 
sentences, and computer code.
They fought over fellowships 
and foundation grants, jockeying
for prizes and positions 
at good schools. In the sultry heat
they hawked their poems to passersby
and laughed at their incomprehension.
But beyond the echoes of their mirth, 
he was already forming the whip 
to drive them out. 

Untitled / by Clyde Long

She perches like one of those
seaching eyed birds.

Female, her colors are grayed.

Sonoma Square is her airie,
benches and those little ponds.

So quiet it’s lonely. 

Sunflower / by Ethan Mershon 

A Formal Experiment Gone Awry / by Richard Newman 

What pushed me from my dream
refused to let me sleep,
an argument I reap
alone within myself.

Confused regarding blame,
unsure of what to tame,
I made this page its bed.

Amused, it settled in
to watch me wrestle sin.
No, that just fits the rhyme.

Accused, I sought to wipe
from every line the ripe
and tear inducing stench

of bruised, surrendered hope,
that tired, fetid hope
of failure unredeemed.

J45.901 + ICD-10G35 / by Valéria M. Souza

1A – Asthma.

Mucus extends though my lungs
like a pack of Vienna Fingers.
Glut and glob, gelatin,
goop tendriling the membranes
of my bronchi. I remember the slime
that coats the inside of the
upstairs bathroom drain,
orange sherbet but greasier,
until it stops up, requiring the delicate touch
of a butter knife and Dawn dish soap
to get the flow of water moving again.

Last week, despite my objections,
the primary care physician was called:
“Oh, she has some mucus and a cough.”
I refused to speak to the doctor and
when placed on speakerphone, screamed:
“TELL HER I’M NOT GOING TO THE FAULKNER!!!11”
(Which my wife, a licensed clinical social worker,
informed me is automatically understood
as a reference to being sectioned, but
— in my defense —
I didn’t know that at the time….)

The PCP (bless her heart, her nickname is
“the WhiteGirl”) tried to ask me
diagnostic questions,
about my breathing. And I, belligerent,
bellicose: “TELL HER I AM DOING THE LAUNDRY,”
as I splashed ½ a gallon of vinegar into the Kenmore,
and: “I WANT TO GO TO WORK TOMORROW,”
as I set the dial to “2nd rinse.”
So the PCP and my wife,
two clinicians,
discussed my medical.

Back on speakerphone, I stated:
“I AM A VELOCIRAPTOR,” and
“I DON’T EVEN WANT
TO BE ON THIS PHONE CALL.
I WANT TO WRITE
A POEM.”
The WhiteGirl — I mean primary
care physician — told me
to go write a poem and maybe also use
my Albuterol inhaler so I only
wrote the poem.

1B – Multiple Sclerosis.

They scheduled my annual MRI on Halloween this year.
Fine. I guess I’ll go get my MRI done,
ride in the machine. FYI, it’s like being shoved
into a hot coffin for 2-3 hours
while a roving band of gnomes
bangs on it from every angle using household cutlery.
So that the neurologist can study
my myelin, prognosticate and transmit
my spinal cord.
This is the worst carnival ride ever.
Hush. My bone marrow’s voltaic. 

Lover’s Tide / by Margot White 

Selfish knot I toy with,
Making plaything out of hair
From the cat’s throat,

Sloping ocean I thought you guilty, sought you
Never knowing how I could
Find you in three,

One, war-torn and bare,
One the dialect of me,
The other strange and absent and fond

Well, I cheer at their roguish tufts and
Shipwrecked good looks, over dreaming
Worryingly dreamy,
About the boy next door,

Will I swim to him, across good-natured sea,
Perhaps throw myself in
And cross the decks,
I might get lost, smelling
The moss
Oh lonesome, poor lonesome sea.

Poem 20 / Day 20

What I Haven’t Said / by Jonah Bornstein

1.
My friend, I am here. Again, I am here.
My sister has lost her father.
On the horizon pyramids rise. Before me
tigers wait, dingos snarl. In the mountains
that I long for even when within them, the
bighorn shifts its weight on an invisible path.
The balanced rock above it, wears time
with a kind of love. It looks ahead into a valley
that has no name.

Yet here I am. I am here. I will not leave.
My sister… Can’t you see? I am a desert.
My father sat in a window surrounded by vines
he would prune when they traversed the glass.
He sat with a woman who did not see.
She wore an era around her eyes.

2.
I’ve heard tales of your wife. I am told
of the clamp she wears around her head. That she
goes three days singing of pain. I hear that the birds
in your willow have ceased their songs. They
attend to the air, beholding the aria of your wife.

I watch you some evenings when you come
in from the pond, cleaning algae and moss
from your wading boots. You ponder all night
frogs in the reeds and fish eating
mosquitoes in the heat of summer, that brief
breach of the surface that is a life.

We look into the sky to discover the avenues
we’ve crossed. We have wondered aloud
how we came to be. You’ve accepted every loss.

3.
My sister sits in a window watching light
swallowed by the hollows of great buildings.
Striped cats and small dogs lie beside her
calm while she draws. Long ago our father died.
A woman held the secrets of his going.
She wore an era around her eyes.

4.
I sit in my desert of paper and books.
The sheer cliffs, home to water and wind,
surround me. They are the instruments
of my sister’s death, of mine. They are the songs
someone else will sing.

Late Labor / by Joyce Brinkman 

The garden continues an operose
operation even late into fall,
as a halt to hoe scratching
and hose positioning join
the hauling of spades, sprinklers,
and scrub rakes into storage.
Red tomato cages resist
the pull from dry ground aided
by the drier grip of the still
strong vines clinging to their
rails. Seed bearing plants if not
pulled may reseed next year
in invasive fashion furthering
the struggle for fertile soil.
Flimsy, black metal fencing
meant to discourages the late
night diners also refuse to exit
easily from their sentry duty
though they’ve had little success
at stopping intruders. Deep green
netting needs stakes removed
and rolling on cylinders for easy
rollout in spring. Before the first
snow settles on frozen earth
mulching of the over winterers
and incorporating plant debris
into soil makes for a richer
spring. Water pipes require
shut off and draining to prevent
spring repair from thawing leaks.
Only when the white blanket
of winter shows the prancing
tracks of whitetail deer does
labor give way to an afternoon
repose with garden grown
mint tea. 

IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC FOR INSTANCE / by CM Downes 

once nothing remains
of steel but its shape

softened then seeded
by rivers          oceans’
brine-liquor and stone

perhaps then we’ll
find sufficient
our position

a flower washed
by melting snow

            —after Rachmaninoff’s The Isle of the Dead    

            *

Swimming Into Blue / by Jenny Downs 

Nothing is forever. Everything is temporary.
This is not to put battery acid in the eye, but to ask-
Is it best to jump first?
With your knees tucked tight and your chin upturned?
Is it best not to dive in at all?

Seems like there’s more than one type of person.
Some plummet toward the pearl with one eye locked
On the certainty of oxygen above.
Some are like turtles in a cove
Who live slowly, knowing all they can know.
Some are like fluorescent orange kelp.

Some endure the fury of unseen currents-
They stay adrift, in the flow, like krill.

That’s just analyzing below the surface.
Like trying to map the nervous system
Without connecting anything to the heart.

Ah, the heart. My beautiful, lovely, confused
Heart. If you could see its woven web of branches-
Shoots of blue with vines of pink and purple.
You’d remember it for the way it tries
To believe that nothing is temporary.
Even in the silence between beats. 

Collage by Sandra Downs

Getting Older / by R. Bradley Holden

From my classroom window 
I look out on the same scene. 
Youth in its prime. The boys 
with the effortless strength 
their bodies will soon forget. 
The girls still coming into 
their beauty. Their shy fumblings 
at love and the unclouded 
awareness they have 
of its importance. Each year 
the names change, but the vision 
remains unchanging—until 
suddenly, I catch my reflection 
in the glass.

Fantasies of Raw Land / by Clyde Long

How about getting a piece of raw land –
somewhere that’s not here
but not too very far from here?

Maybe level, maybe a view,
maybe on a lake or river or
with sounds of the ocean?

How about down a dirt road –
with electricity and water, or
we live off the grid and go solar?

Might be perfect for a family
compound, like the Kennedys.
Our budget, alas, is frugal.

Not near a meth lab, though,
or a cannabis plantation or
moonshine stills in the hills.

Maybe let go this daydream –
Sunday dinner awaits in a
house that’s our forever home.

“Sunshine Physchiatrics”
(For the one in six men who’ve had to find ways to process hurt
they didn’t want or ask for. And for those who listen and believe). / by Ethan Mershon 

Set in Winter, 2017, Chicago school, private-christian
“Wettest dry campus in the USA”

(When the earth won’t make itself feel
alive under your feet, test yourself, see a professional,
don’t self-diagnose
like drunk teenagers telling drunk
teenagers why they’ve been
sobbing (Vodka lemonades and uncovering
trauma).

“Are you still shooting js in your dreams?”
“Which ones?
Jumpers?”
“The bad Js”
“There’s only one J that turns silver buicks
into mahogany, angry apple orchards
with hornets brewing hives in the fruit.
there’s a few good js I remember sinking
this jumper against Independent, and another three from deep. We lost by 11
the shots stopped meaning anything after the scoreboard started flashing cursive red 6s”.
“The bad J then?
Slim?”

(A pause, as both sip their beers,
bought underage at the liqour store
possibly run by the mob,
on the backporch of one of those apartments
lined with empty liqour bottles and nicknamed
“The Reef” or “The Ranch” or “The Shop”
so it’d be easier to say “Party at
)”

“Where is Bad J now?”
“He’s been in his grave,
I dropped the casket off
myself”.
“Do you still seek
him out in closets in old
dollhouses? In your
dreams with a swiss
army knife?”
“Hell
fucking
no,
that
shit’s
toxic

“Are you on ten yet” “I live on ten”
“But wait
are you on Tinder yet?”
“Is that what on ten means?” (lol, nope)
“Are you trying to start
dating again?”
“Does it look like I could?”
“You stopped dealing bruises
in Jim Croce poolhalls,
in your dreams and nightmares, you’re a meek dream, a sheep in wolves clothing, but
can you pastor yourself?”
“That’s a             loaded
question,             where’d you get
your tempered gold?” (Goddam it’s nice out).
… … … “I said, where’d you get
your-“

“Dude, we’re just drinking on your back porch,
where do you think
you are?”

(He looks at the wood porch littered with empties
The sky is that light-pollution orange,
The ground is snow and boot-tracks and vomit).

“Oh.
Just using my
imagination,
I guess.”
(Dissassociation, probably).

“Were you thinking about “Punisher” again?”
(of course he means the song).”

“No.
Motion Sickness”.

“Fuck the New Bob Dylan”.

“Ryan let us down”.

“But Buckley’s the
one who’s gone.” (Swirling Nashville).

“Damn.
promise
you’ll never be
a let-
down?”

(A pause, the song switches to that gravel-throat voice we learned by watching ‘Big Mouth’. “I’m going through
changes”). “I’m going through changes”.

“Promise?”

“Bet”.

“Facts. Me
too.”

He Let Our Friendship Die / by Richard Newman

My Fitbit vibrates,
informing me I’ve walked
another mile. Kraftwerk
sets the pace, transporting me
back to drum corp in Floral Park,
marching next to Joey
in parades all over Long Island,
his father loping alongside
the drum section, near hand
holding down his comb-over,
raising the other one,
signaling time to play. That bastard
hid his hatreds well;

and Tony, whom I loved
before I knew what love was;

and Patti, who lived upstairs,
sitting on my lap
that first senior show rehearsal,
warning me I was too young for her;

and Kathleen, who showed up last night
in a dream I don’t remember,
except that she had kids
I don’t think she actually has;

my past these days
comes back to me
in small portraits
I don’t yet know
what to do with.
I don’t know why
I blame Joey’s dad
for his suicide,
or why I cared
if Patti thought
I “had ideas”
I didn’t have,
or what Kathleen
meant in my dream,
but I do know
Tony left me,
first for a woman,
and then for good.

Lowdown / by Valéria M. Souza

Today I feel:

,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..
,.;//;.,;’/.,;/’’;.,;’/,,,.;/……..

which is something I refer to
as “lowdown.”

I didn’t write a poem today TBH.
Actually, I didn’t even try
because I was too fucking depressed.

Fucking hell, I knew
I should have been an electrician.

The Bog / by Margot White

You broken knob on the wall,
You beat the hour tirelessly,

I admit your phantom groans
are too jealous of the rain
to ever really move a thing.

I hardly believed, until the black dog leapt
boxed soundly my ear, tore its silk and ran,
that I lived.

The bog, the blistering bodily bog,
compromising fictional belts marauded,
inlaid with gems.
The bog, black bog, bleeding bog,
you wept so much your
muck became a door.

Poem 19 / Day 19

Relocation 2 / by Jonah Bornstein

I. The Past

Two days to July Fourth in late afternoon, the cows
not yet brought in, the perpetual stoop of their hulking bodies
pulling dry grass into awkward mouths. One lifts
its weighty head and brays her complaint to the waning day.

I prepare to leave, memorize our parched
acre, studio, barn, cottonwoods, their roots
I know seeking moisture at the dry creek’s bank.

This is a lost world, I say
to what feels like a deaf land.

Behind me, the Cascade’s smooth flanks
fleshy and sexy, arrayed with purple vetch.
Beyond them, Pilot Rock, its base a garden
of larkspur, paintbrush, and the rarest fritillary.

This perimeter, a path I’ve often walked.

I yank taut the cargo straps.

II. A New Reality

Two years. Gone. We have entered a breach
in time where weeks are months and the recent past
has darkened behind a wall that can’t be reached.
Who can forge this river of illness and fear?

Still hope populates these strange residential streets.
I hear the cling of pots and pans, a woman’s
wary laugh and then hysterics from a nearby yard,
Once a gaze of raccoons galloped ungainly down the block.

Neighbors socialize fifteen feet apart, babies strain
toward each other from their parent’s arms.

A toddler studies me from his front lawn. I call
his name. He has learned to walk. “You will
know me one day,” I sing across the distance.
He wrinkles his brow at such insistence.

Lawns are watered and mowed. Lamb’s ear
and lavender pruned for the future. But the eyes
of October reflect distress.

What is better, a neighbor asks,
to sit apart and search each other’s smiles,
or edge close, masked, live like everyone’s diseased?

30 Degrees / by Joyce Brinkman

Tomatoes have truckled
to the frost, leaving
gray skeletons inside
red, metal cages as if
starvation had stalked
the rows for weeks
when only half a day
away their green took
warmth from sunlight
as if the summer could
find no ending. Only
the pumpkins seem
content to cozy together
in the whitened field
as if waiting to be called
to perform when all
others have left the stage.

CRADLE AND SLAKE / by CM Downes
But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks
to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his
roots struggle earthward, downward, into the dark, the deep
—into evil.  —Nietzsche

Cathedral cedars weave the quiet
minutes before dawn, from a mare’s eye,
her silken haunch and hue,
from barley bales, sacks, ladders,
oiled saws and chains.          

An axe echoes chiaroscuro from the hollow.   
Rounds split, clap when stacked in cordwood
corridors, which log the days in stove-lengths.

A barred owl haunts a shade-bough.
An empty belly has no use of poetry,                        
nor do stiff hands held out to the fire,                       
finding only light.                                   

Whom does the word serve
when it spills its form into figured wood                  
but cannot cradle and slake a seed?                 

The owl turned and gazed    
until there remained                                
no hint of separation
of above and below.

What a Grandmother Teaches / by Jenny Downs

I told my granddaughter
Hold tight the tiger in your belly. 
I also told her Wear an orange striped bowler hat.
Wear buttons like chakras holding the
Flaps of your shirts closed.

It’s all about what you notice
I told my granddaughter.
Is the predator comfortable or hungry?
The only way to know is to know it
In the gut.

Her voice like a buttercup asked me
Isn’t the tiger in my belly-gut?

I told my granddaughter
Look out at the wide world with
A peaceful smile
But sharp golden eyes
To keep that tiger fed. 

Collage by Meg Cornish

Domino / by Clemonce Heard 

         Cafe Du Monde

Instead of the beloved rubbing in
the powdered sugar with thumb & spit
the way mother taught them, they put lips
then tongue to chin, & before you knew it
everyone packed under the pinstriped
awning was smooching & licking the sweet
foundation off their loved ones, brothers
giving their sisters kisses even with
the belief that girls have cooties, husbands
lapping their husbands like the dogs they brought
together once they moved in, the pigeons
bobbing, cooing the dust from each other’s
feathers, & what’s better drivers stuck
in traffic due to horse & carriage dove
out of their moving cars & shot towards
the togo line that snaked down riverside,
swelling, fish kisses, sweaty French kisses,
even near misses like bad-timed high fives,
only grazing as their saliva welled
under their dark tongues like flooded engines
as they couldn’t wait to start grazing,
tasting what simple, what saccharin,
what was once the plantations fried bread &
au lait, canebrake where the saliva
of stalk avails, where the fluids mixed
like the owners who’d sneak away to know
women lighter than a brown paper bag,
passé blanc, powder sugar on golden
beignet, these women with their own fortunes
& children taught to turn their fairer cheeks
& look the other way when approached by
common negroes, to not associate
with their kinds, or be kind enough to take
their noses out of the sky, as the sky
is where their noses belong, from the clouds
their children think is cotton candy to
the ground poor elders kissed & kissed until
they were that dirt, the earth’s dessert that comes
later for some, pre-supper for others.

News / by R. Bradley Holden 

When news of the virus came
I was in my garden, tilling 
the rich black soil
to which, I knew already,
I would one day 
return.

Early Votes / by Clyde Long 

We voted early, arriving at
an armored white vault set
next to a blue USPS mail box.
We parked right up front, the
first of our weekend errands.
Masked we climbed out of the
truck to consummate our
private act in broad daylight.

We slipped signed and sealed
ballots through the official slot.
Signs cautioned us with notices
and threats about voter fraud –
we went with photos and smiles.

The receipts were round stickers
attesting “I Voted!” and “Yo Voté!”
It’s on my shirt over my heart. 

under autumn’s leaves
ballots ripen, drop, matter
prayers feel this way 

Grace Blvd. / by Ethan Mershon 
 
1: Buckley Again
Is my time coming? I’m not afraid (these rasberry Buckley nights, under clicking metronome moons), we are gonna wait
in the fire (Fire Inn, hell’s number one 
resort), I got a travel brochure 
at the Quik Trip where that girl with blue eyes
keeps trying to give me her snapchat.
 
2: Driving my friend to the vet with her dog
 
I want one of those dogs that only bonds
with one person. I want to drive down rosebud
boulevards, in my buick with my dog,
and watch TV through christmas light studded
windows.
 

Fragment From A Walk 5 / by Richard Newman 

“Let her carry her pussy
and serve it to him…”

The words rose clear,
the expression whole,
above the cacophony
the greeter led us through
to get to our table—
a woman’s voice,
accented like yours,
pulled tight
with anger and sorrow.

You smiled sideways
up at me, confirming
I heard it too,
and when we were seated,
and the bus boy brought
cutlery folded
into white cloth napkins
on a silver tray, after
he poured our waters
and waded back
into the noise
of the rest of the room,
you put your palm
flat on the table,
leaned forward,
and, as if a full night’s sleep
and a day’s work
didn’t separate
the dinner we were about to have
from the previous night’s
argument, tried again
to make me admit
I agreed with you. “Yes!
just like that,
on a polished platter,
so he can eat in style.
You know what kind of woman she is!
Defend her if you want,
but don’t pretend you don’t know.”

When I said nothing,
you grinned and took a sip of water.
”Admit it! You thank the god
you say you don’t believe in
every day
that I’m not like her.” 

DO YOU HAVE W.O. OPEN?
I HAVE W.O. OPEN 100% OF THE TIME. IT’S NEVER NOT OPEN.
SORRY FOR ALL CAPS, WAS IN W.O. /
by Valéria M. Souza

Regards to all work orders,
regards. Greetings, hail,
hear hear!
Hail to all work orders,
and to work orders all.
Cheers, salutations, greetings
to 100% of work orders:
the open ones,
and the closed ones, too.
The emergency ones,
the vacancy ones.
The B&Gs especially, because
B&G is a whole damn mood.
But, yes, regards
even to the humble
routine and scheduled
work orders.
Regards,
regards.
I salute you
all. 

Wishing Garden / by Margot White 

How can one claim there is no order in this world,
When a dandelion stripped
Reveals a green silken spiral, perfect
In form, as perfect as the seashell
As functional as the wind,

Grace escapes our clutches, but the speckled fire
Of autumn on pavement allows
Passion to point the way.

Poem 18 / Day 18

A Poem A Day / by Jonah Bornstein

Earlier a colleague asked, what inspires you? My head
already in a vice, the sulphureous roil in my gut
like the monstrous cloud churning toward sunset.
I can tell you, we were afraid.

But I donned my teacher’s hat.
Would this be a release or bridle of my goal:
a significant poem every other day
was what I’d set. But be content with twelve a year, I said.

My legs still putty from a long day’s strain, the crossword set aside,
synapses misfiring at an alarming rate.
The news might serve, I said. Of course no
inspiration there. “The Sunday Times” someone suggested.
The new “Home” section for Covid-19 relief
or the small bronze sculptures on my desk,
a warrior in defiant stance, a family
ringing a dying father. Perhaps
the twenty-two notebooks of poetry drafts.

I could turn to textbooks I’d amassed
or to Rilke, Milosz, the Dantean frieze
riveted to my imagination; better Li Po or Tu Fu,
my subtle companions of the road. Friendships,
the ballasts that have kept me sane, distant as foreign shores.
Perhaps the steep climb to fresh air
            a virus declares.

I open a notebook. Lost poems! Surely my best!
No, mere prose that stoppers inspiration.

But the silver maples on the street!
Its transformation a troubling treat.
Dull autumn leaves turning bright red, not rust. Fearful
of what this might augur, I lay my biology aside.

I’ve written on the fires back home. The new homeless there,
the mass losses, but not the bumper to bumper traffic as residents
made their flight amidst broiling flames on either side.
I’d need more facts, research, interviews and more.

And with the vice grip loosening so that I might be of help,
images I’d built for the past two days skittered off the desk
to where I couldn’t see.

Wisdom was a fiction
of my poetic mind. I’ll surrender
unhelpful, enter a retreat.

I sensed the big poem I’d planned
slip away, but somewhere nearby it begins
to scheme, planning an armature
against defeat.

Change / by Joyce Brinkman

Frost has draped a white vale
over the buckwheat. Where before
their white blooms have waved
among the pollinating visitors, now
they stretch across the ground
like an ivory sheet. At one end,
close to the great white pines,
frost remains undetected showing
a clear area the size of a large
pachyderm. No elephant, rhino
or hippopotamus  has escaped
a zoo in the night, instead
the garden’s doe and her two,
young, female off-spring have
bedded down, then rose, leaving
with this hint of the new white
world that soon will totally
eclipse the green of their birth.

A VOICE SENT FOUR TIMES / by CM Downes
Only the enlightened can recall their former lives; for the rest of us,
the memories of past existences are but glints of light,
twinges of longing, passing shadows, disturbingly familiar,
that are gone before they can be grasped…     —Peter Matthiessen

At last: master merged with craft,
leaning into the mountain’s heart
until there was no flesh but earth,
until only his immaculate skull remained,
ensconced by a wreath of delicate flame.

To cradle a wild, breathing mind in your hands
is to glimpse the cosmos’ fissured sacristy;
but as I grip and lift this conspicuous helmet,
this henge of fractured stone,
kuan-kuan sings from its hollows,  
his fragile cauldron cloaking an ancient tome—
the ink of which binds me
to ghost-ligature of lineage.

Like wind at the leaded panes of an empty cabin,
Souta. Black Elk prayer-petitions the stars:
Once more behold me on earth
and lean to hear my feeble voice…

A string of shells is shaken
in a trickle of smoke,
the vibration of violet light
and the scent of beeswax and
warm cedar.

…You have said to me,
when I was still young and could hope,
that in difficulty I should send a voice four times,
once for each quarter of the earth,
and you would hear me.

The last word—withering on the tongue,
tumbles onto creek currents—sweet
as the sadness of Silver Birch.

Rebound / by Jenny Downs

I never understood how wide to spread my wings
Or, how lovely was my long and slender neck.
So, instead I grew a gardenful of cheery bright tomatoes.

What began with a diamond ended without illumination.
Not a single gilded beam of clarity.
No matter the slimy way it would slink reptilian from his lips-
It never did convince me.  Seeing stars is not the same as being resilient.

Now, every day something new seems waiting to collide in me.
Every day the lines and circles of me buoyantly ascend.

Every day, I look in the mirror to ask of me-
Where is the beautiful, lovely, white rose?
When will I open my brilliant dahlia wings?

Then do ‘em backwards / by Clemonce Heard 

the white cyclist said,
who could very well have been a cop
on a bike. His helmet strapped
under his turkey neck a turtle lazing his scalp,
his reflective top, his tights.
& me mid-lunge, removing
an ear pod to hear what
my mother would’ve called “just foolishness.”
The man who probably
was no older than my mother,
although my mother
also said white people age differently,
The white dude straddling his top tube
like a horse head on a stick
just to tell me what he thought was comic.
His acknowledgment
that my endeavor was already difficult,
yet in still, I should, or, he would
figure out a way to make it harder. & maybe
I don’t need all of these words
as I know you, friends, are smarter,
& I know you, friends,
are more aware of history & how we,
Black people, are already behind.
So why did I stay stupefied,
naive to the possibility
that someone could stop what they’re doing
to stoop to a level they thought
harmless or thought
would glide over my understanding?
A painted egg he neglected to boil.
Why was I speechless as if beneath
this belief of my people as aggressive
as we have every right to be?
& what was the correct response
to the oblivious white man
who would’ve been obliterated had I been
“the wrong one,” aside from
the face my father inherited from his mother
that says “I don’t take no shit,”
though the park we were in designated
as “Dog Free” still took it?
Aside from balling my fists,
& peering into whatever colored eyes
gazed behind his shades;
his lighter shade that made him
feel akin to a coach, which may very well be
the evolution of a master, someone shouting
for you to push past your limits.
Him telling me to double it
after telling him how far I’d bent,
as if I was picking cotton, before
he saw that I held no grin, & said
“I’m sorry, I was just trying to be friendly.”
Before he mounted his saddle
with a quickness & pedaled off & pedaled on. 

 The Ghosts / by R. Bradley Holden 

In the late hours the scientists 
congratulated themselves 
in reverential tones 
as they beheld, new magi 
before the promised child,
the birth of our genetic 
successor. Those in attendance 
gathered together 
in their white coats, 
like the ghosts of humanity. 

Ask my neck / by Clyde Long 

On Monday a foam roller will arrive,
36 inches, medium density, sky blue.
As you can guess, it’s for therapy –
physical, not psychological. The pain
radiates from hip to back to neck;
my mind chews on other concerns.

It’s satisfying to shop for equipment,
even a blue al dente noodle. My tools
include tennis balls (not dog-chewed),
pillow cases, rolled up towels, straps.
The therapist even sent me an app
to be an online exercise companion.

Here’s how I find myself here:
Between a laptop and smartphone
(on which I write this poem),
my view is downward, like I lean.
Cures like marveling skyward and
looking ahead in a crosswalk
are temporary screen reprieves.

This morning Doctor J measured me,
bent and stretched me, ordered me
into new positions she had to explain.
She knew what she was doing.
Her apps will keep after me until
next week’s two therapy sessions.
I will feel better, just ask my neck.


CONTENT WARNING: Rape, sexual assault 

Musty//Dorian Grayscale (Legally Blonde But sorta ginger-looking)
(Poems are ghost stories and memes sometimes) / by Ethan Mershon 

I remember the girl who taught me the phrase
“micro-aggression”. a chapel team
leader, abuse survivor, I was newly un-virgined
still shaking off church hurt guilt
still sipping communion wine (2017 I think)
(his mouth is red around the edges
from dunking whole loaves in
grape juice after service
while his father smalltalks
the musicians he brings in
with his saxophone). That was San Diego
soft air, dry, it fills your lungs
with oceans. (before
viral fears). (That was 2008,
before Gainesville Green
alligators and tebowing)

I remember this girl, and I remembered
“microaggressions are like bee stings
or mosquito bites, they’re dangerous because
they build”. walls. It’s a lesson I relearn
often. It’s a lesson I’m (so sorry when I fuck up, I will probably fuck up again, Abed in the garden, take away the cameras, the
story)
afraid of, because of who taught
first.

I didn’t go to India, feel crowded streets,
I was lying in Upper Penninsula sheets
with PJP, a few months after she was fired
for doing a ceremony for
two men.

I was learning the meaning of “Title 9”
and flashing back to the girl
asking me to pray with her the next morning
and telling me everything was
fine.

She would know. She’s an advocate. She was sober, I was wasted, concrete steps in my back, I remember, she said something about my taste, I was there and gone
and back again when my head collapsed
on the cement, but she kept
grinding/working.
and the smalltalk and killer-cowboy-smokes and guilt, I couldn’t think
straight, let alone see
until the daze of new light in the morning,
and her blood (period) on my jeans.

I didn’t go to India, the churchy girl who felt safe, and M.,
a conversation on sunny streets
probably over tea, and probably appropriating
somebody, but the girl I’ve been telling you about:
M said overreacted, and
snake. (Invalidation, gas-lighting, covering ass, I promised to never
do anything
like
that). “To who?”
“109”. “109?”
Random numbers (this could be
about anyone).

This is a year before Leah
passed. Leah comforted me
and believed. In an empty apartment
that I filled with my trophies
of failed relationships and Leah:
•You got raped bro,
It’s okay. I’ll stay here with
you
and we can smoke and drink* She hugged me
a small form, holding all of the light she could,
and giving it to me
when she needed my lighter
to spark her stories
about these new partners she was seeing: “Starling,
I’m SO gay”. I just laughed
I was still having trouble with
pronouns. I’m still guessing
mine (diagnosed on a bad
bad, fighting with the bad
bad man. Little starling,
ridiculous and clothed in dragonslayer, sings,
“here I can be
anything”).

That’s the story I told
at the candlelight vigil
we held in the green space
of the university that called
her
David. The same machine
that fires
good shepherds .

Thank you for the water, I’ve been north
of the park, checking my phone to see
chucking my phone away from my forehead
in the clutching, no-stars, endless night,
but one star is there, always,
saying:
“I’m SO gay” and
giggling.

Sitting At My Desk The Morning After A Torrential Rain / by Richard Newman 

1.

Twelve panes dry; puddles
on the black tar roof below
my window, gone; sun
throwing shadows east to west
across the early AM

stirrings of this town—
I’m waiting here for something
I can’t yet name: hope,
truth, beauty, love—nothing fits
the clean space I’ve cleared for it.

2.

Fire trucks return
quiet after who knows what
the men inside faced.
I wish them this cool morning
a pampered week without flames. 

Ground Cover / by Valéria M. Souza

The Super summoned
all the turkeys
to my office windows
— the ones overlooking the flagpole —
(the windows I mean, not
the turkeys)
using a 50-lb. bag
of birdseed.

She told me how she seeded
the grasses,
strategically,
to coax the birds
to my side.
A friend is someone
who delivers you turkeys
after you mention how much you love turkeys.

A herd of fowl fussing
below the windowsills, every morning,
demanding food,
is a gift.
I feed the turkeys processed bread.
I don’t have any bird seed.
Hopefully this is acceptable and
won’t harm them. It’s unclear.

And while we’re on the subject
of trauma, I think
earlier in this poem I neglected
to tell you:
until the Super brought the turkeys,
I had staunchly refused for months
to open my office windows
and/or blinds.

Reason being: I don’t want people
coming up behind or beside me, and
I don’t want to be observed.
Reasons being: things that have happened
to me throughout my life.
Once I had a herd of turkeys installed,
though, I started opening up,
sometimes.

Hypervigilance notwithstanding,
I Googled about turkeys
and learned that turkeys
are basically dinosaurs and that
their bones are filled with air.
I learned that they roost in trees
at night, but,
(not for lack of trying),
The Super and I have yet
to find the chosen roosting tree
on this particular property. We look.
We look for the turkeys
in the trees.
Whenever I stay at the office late
for O.T.
I try to locate them.

I went online and listened
to audio clips of turkeys,
so I can comprehend the meanings
of the animals fussing adjacent
to my windows.
I learned that the sound my flock
makes the most is called a “purr.”
A sound of contentment made while feeding.

Also, did I mention that one of the Regionals
(Bob, it was Bob) once showed me
a map documenting the locations of turkeys
on a different property,
in a different Region.
This happened, like, three years ago,
but I remember him saying something about
“charting their behavior and movements.”

Our turkeys, it seems,
are well-nourished, pleased.
I remove my window screens
to comingle more effectively
with them. Project Rapunzel,
yeah sure,
(we don’t call them “projects” anymore,
we call them “developments”).

When the lead site Manager suggests
calling Animal Control, I forbid it.
I tell him the turkeys make me happy
and also the turkeys are part
of the landscaping,
and this would be a drastic change
to the landscape of the property and
I do not approve. He relents.

Poem 17 / Day 17

Reading / by Jonah Bornstein

You’ve been reading and reading again
the way you’re supposed to read again and again
until the air drops beside you
weathering along your arms
that now lie at your sides doing nothing
while you wait for something
to rise up from your feet
some growth perhaps of green
that begins to envelop your body
until you dissolve into something beautiful
something you’ve longed for all your life.

Umber / by Joyce Brinkman

Why take umbrage to dirt?
Sweeping it from our homes
with high-minded determination.

Is it not from the earth?
Like Adam, formed from the spit
of God?

It’s earthiness grounded the work
of Renaissance painters; carrying
umber’s undertones of depth.
casting shadows, like an umbrella
on a sun-soaked day.

When did we become so detached
from that of which we are made?


FOUR SHOUTS: !Katsu! / by CM Downes

Haiku-ish for Hopelessness / by Jenny Downs

If we could know
Which stones had teeth and predator eyes-
Too near for any peace.

Would we have rest?
Good dreams? Safety and security?
Would we be afraid?

Ars Graffito / by Clemonce Heard

You are now “world” renowned,
a noun announced

on a thing for persons
in places to catch. The very
idea of you turns paint to rust,
causes tank cars to combust.

Cypher of indecipherable flows.
I rubberneck no matter how

fast the trains traverse. It’s a game
to see what I can make
out, & another game
to see if you can make

off without being discovered.
Vandal. Delinquent. Saboteur.

Someone is pulling an empty cart
across the city like a mule
through the vestibules
& rundown apartments,

alleyways & the very first
Baptist church. Cities invest

to rid your bridge text,
your scriptures, your lyrics
your raptures, your index

fingers suppressing the caps,
your middle fingers erect
as columns. You are sheep
bleating “f the shepherd’s

& sheriff’s” straight & narrow
tracks. You’re more infamous
than Jesus & Confucius.
They’ll nail you to a phone pole.

Reaching for Rocks / by R. Bradley Holden

In Athens the wild dogs scatter
when you bend to tie your laces.
They have been conditioned
over time to man’s habit of violence.
Dogs retreat or pigeons take flight,
for the animal world knows
what we are. Yet do we?
Everywhere people reaching
for rocks, but who’s running now?

Our distanced lunch
(enough to drive men to drink) / by Clyde Long

Thankful that the parking was free
Lunch places had fled to curbside
Shards remain of what used to be

At last a lunch again, him and me
The blue awning kept us in shade
Thankful that the parking was free

Hot for October to be in a hurry
Walkers avoided the sunny side
Shards remain of what used to be

We started our lunch with iced tea
The QR menu was hard to read
Thankful that the parking was free

Lamented the state of our country
Switched to beers in our dread
Shards remain of what used to be

About three beers later it was three
Return to work or head home to bed
Thankful that the parking was free
Shards remain of what used to be

Love Song Finale (Legally Strawberry Blonde) / by Ethan Mershon


Fragment From A Morning Walk 5 / by Richard Newman

Strange, I couldn’t find a rhythm this morning.
Work filled my walk instead: the grievance
logic I found a hole in, health and safety
blog post I have to write, the other
sundry duties I have a list of somewhere,
phone calls, emails, memos–the poetry of all that
escaped me, focused as I was on stitching
into a form that would sing
what the streets of my neighborhood,
made strange by a gentle predawn mist,
offered my imagination.
Now, of course, I’ve brought them into this poem,
spent an hour crossing out
everything I want to say
that skirts the edge of confidentiality.
I’m left with this:
Nothing about my doing this job is special.

Autoimmune Haiku / by Valéria M. Souza

A maze of childhood
maladies, eczema &
asthma & the flu.

Tarantula Oath / by Margot White

No one took me there— it was me,
Myself alone against the latch
Wool coat scratching its angle at
My ankle, the cat whipped
Like a ghost in the corridor
Where we froze, against going
And knowing more of what
Could be. I go,

Silent lacquered wall wolf. Do you
Part breath near the sea?
Do you share mist with the meadow, matador
Can I exchange your bitterest glance with
One who came before you.

Then I want your rain on my bare neck
Like strips of wheat berating
The strand of horizon, so temperamental
In its growing.

Then, if it is your strength I wear in amulet, sheltered
Sodium zodiac crone, sheath
Of wisping strip, well
Force that gripped tyrant to his watery knees.

You thought you could pale the ink
Burst forth from your limbs
Where riots sling a crazy
Lung, a haunted board, a
Lifeless tool,

You only looked at the accident, You
Only only cared for the blackest
Door,
What else, what else could you spare,
Her shelf of apathy and
Clinging cradle where
Cobwebs fell, lifeless
To the floor

Then would I change that destiny,
Cruel wriggling nail, iron feet dangling
Near Hudson River, vacuum
Hurled, to catch the brick wall,
No one nears that place anymore.

Poem 16 / Day 16

The Sadness of Poems / by Jonah Bornstein

         When the concert
of crickets wanes and bees
mine old flowers, their loosely laden
legs allowing a swifter travel than they’d known,
enlivened grasses now still, and grape leaves
pocked with beetle work curl into loose orange fists,
ants’ earth mounds and craters flattened by a rushed neglect,
             then clouds assemble over plains
and sunrise and sunset border the days,
light and dark, beginnings and endings
rising and setting like distant fires
and memories of those lost and those still
to come when freeway thunder
weakens once again and the silent
world is breathing fearfully, faithfully
a markéd time
            when the human drive quarry
what beauty resides in every leafless branch
becomes a poem….

What Can a Woman Do? / by Joyce Brinkman

Admire the feats of men
Be his best friend
Claim he’s got no fatter
Discover dark matter
Empathize with pains
Find toy tracks and trains
Gather up soup bowls
Hunt for black holes
Invest in stocks and bonds
Judge felons and ex-cons
Keep meticulous notes
Look for hats and coats
Make all the beds
Notice what he’s said
Open parasols in rain
Parachute out of planes
Question those who rule
Return your books to school
Secure a future dream
Transports soccer teams
Utilize her skills
Vote for important bills
Wash the family dog
X-ray threatened frogs
Yodel while she sings
Zillions of things

FIVE SIGNS OF DECAY: they do not feel happy wherever they may be / by CM Downes

Sonnet for Hopelessness / by Jenny Downs

If I could climb a ruby staircase to you.
If I could climb a scarlet ladder-
I’d search each liquescent cloud to find you.
If I could ride the effervescent wings
Of hawks. If I could carry a knife
In my smile to free you. If I could bloom
Blanketlike to heat you- I’d flip the switch
To light the electric blossom in you.
If I could see through silt that muddies you.
If I could sweep the fog that clots in you
Or drain your blood of its dark famine-
I would ignite you hot as blue-flame fire,
I would stand beside your game to cheer your
Name.  To jettison your stinging disillusion. 

(This poem thanks Ada Limón for multiple inspirations)

Collage by Jenny Downs


Snake-headed / by Clemonce Heard

Georgia officials are asking fishermen who catch any snakehead fish
to kill the species, which is invasive and can survive on land. —CNN

warhead that preys on the younger
fish. Kill it immediately, then freeze it
they say. They’re able to breathe air,
thus, survive on land. They’re invasive
& inventive. Invented. They grow
up to three feet Jong. A long anal fin
thins down the base of the nuclear
nuisance. Wear boots. If you find one
call the DNR, & take close-up shots
of its large mouth & gel-slicked tail.

Missionaries / by R. Bradley Holden

We went as teachers bearing truth 
to a people whose pious simplicity 
should have been instruction to us.

Her Paparazzo / by Clyde Long

Stolid me lets go. Our
eyes meet, hers almond.
Dawn to lost late night
eyes back and forth,
glances whispering.

I’m her paparazzo.
Oak branches are backlit
shadows. Kona is caught  
by anonymous me.

Purple arm bruises
tattoo time with her.
Two years together are
young for us, a forever
never to end.

At rest on the bench
we gaze hillside deer.
Turkey vultures circle.
A front paw marks me.

Love Songs Part Two / by Ethan Mershon

Three Twisters / by Richard Newman

1. 

The moment a marked mouth opens,
the martyred movement melts to nothing
the long lens the hollow focus swallowed.

2. 

The shamed command demands a framed name.
Spite the reprimand, the easily commanded blame,

and maim the tamed and framing innocence.

3.

Between babies, a babbled word grows worlds.
Between a babied babble and a world garbled,
words grow babies better than burned teeth. 


No Sweet Nothings for RICOH / by Valéria M. Souza

The fiftieth time the color copier/scanner/printer/fax machine
broke down, malfunctioned, went offline, etc.
Dahlia was over it.

I suggested maybe sweet-talking
RICOH was the way to go, after all,
besides call the tech and wait, what else could we do?

I coughed. Dahlia coughed.
I said: “Mucus is the devil,” to which Dahlia
replied, missing no beats,

“Listen — mucus ain’t gonna go nowhere.”
Back to RICOH: sweet-talk him though?
Dahlia kissed her teeth,

loaded another stack of W.B. Mason white
into Drawer #1 and decided, summarily,
“I don’t have time to be caressing RICOH today.”

The Written Right / by Margot White

Asleep around
Incessantly
Fangs of paisley
Riding up my hill
I joked, I could lose you

In the lake like that

Bit of daisy in your teeth
Tooth tied trigger where we hit
Bored leaned my head against the blue
blood-blood-bludd wall
I wanted to pray to something:

Fir tree and hollow
The sheets blue, Aw ful blue, too.

To read poems from the first 15 days, click here