The 30/30 Project: October 2021

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

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The volunteer poets for October 2021 are Amantine Brodeur, Mary Christine Delea, Faith Gomez Clark, Andrew Levine, Jiaoyang Li, Jillian Mukavetz, Shagufta Mulla, Calista Ogburn, Amie Sharp, Rana Tahir, and Brittney Walker-Zaleski. 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 19 / Day 19

Orchid / by Amantine Brodeur

Bodily collusion. Gravitas.
Atoms, like orchids clung
to moss’d woody sternums
of such loving, bleeds her
from this cage: Ageless.
She vanishes into the blend
of paper and a godless
want of surrender
to your fingerprint on her skin

Today, Ohio / by Mary Christine Delea 

If you’ve never been,

and chances are good you have not,

I can tell you honestly

that you are missing something.

Forget Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—

go to Band-O-Rama in Marietta.

Let those not in-the-know head for

fancy restaurants in Columbus—

the Refectory, Ghostwriter Public House,

Pasqualone’s, Jeff Steakhouse—

do the Ohio thing and choose between

Skyline and Gold Star. The most presidents,

bicycle trails, astronauts, Amish communities,

makers of Swiss cheese, and wool producers.

A hockey player now teaching science

in New Hampshire, a woman battling Covid

and wildfires for public health in California,

a now-West-Coast poet who cannot stay still.

And each of us—even the astronauts,

even the presidents—all return at some point

to hike to Brandywine Falls, ride the 35

rollercoasters winding and twisting and flying

throughout the state, or just sit quietly

in a library in some small rural town

and think about the silly gifts we are given,

even when we are at war with trouble

and trouble is winning that war.

The Way To King Solomon’s Cemetery / by Andrew Levine 

Traveling with my mom to King Solomon’s Cemetery, sharing sacred time.

Distance allowed conversation to slow, ancestors to apparate, stories siphoned from memory’s tank.

Family branches recounted, escapades of her cousin’s kid, the lion tamer.

I loved her vulnerable early school-days self, how shy she was, her stammer.

Shook my head sideways hearing how she managed to escape the fast guys in NYCs fur district.

Revelation of incest, confession of disappointment in marrying an agoraphobic man,
all said over years in a voice quietly aching, worthy of a synagogue’s prayer.

My son calls to interview me for his Death and Dying class as I’m driving home.

Do you think about dying Dad? What do you fear about it?

Yes, I think of it often.

I feel part of a web of connectedness, a pure energy.

I hope never to be a burden to you or your mom.

He says, its’s a hard conversation to have, and I say no, it’s good we’re talking about this.

He’s in his dorm room, I ‘m driving, we’re on our way to King Solomon’s Cemetery.

 

it does / by Jillian Mukavetz 

how fiddle music
ghosts                   oves me

I would consider cutting my hair but it’s so long
like octet is a heart

acupuncture at the moment
can’t concise lust

a sign note
measures the perfect date.

it matters the killing of wisdom
let’s go             day

it does

 

A Ritual for Remembrance / by Shagufta Mulla 

Dementia doesn’t care that you liked medjool
dates for dessert but, Mom, I bought them because
of you. I never used to get them but now
I stand at the sink almost daily,

and without looking too closely at the peaks
and valleys like brain’s gyri and sulci,
I wash them before eating like you did,
but I don’t sit down to enjoy them. For now

I look westward out the window
as summer’s last violet-green swallows fly by
before moving on to where it’s warmer,
maybe Arizona where these dates matured—

green graduating to amber—
maybe down the street from your memory
care unit, and maybe the violet-green
swallows watch you through the window

as your color and sweetness fly by.

 

 october 18 / by Calista Ogburn 
 

i hold our past and future in a bowl
since today,
our day,
is more than enough our love could hold.

 

 

 

Untitled / by Amie Sharp

A black hole collapses light
            like a cap crumpling in hail.

A black hole wishes for more light.
            Not to kill. To deliver from time.

A black hole rips the light off exploded suns
            like candy wrappers.

If we could see into the blaze of dense darkness,
            this might look like breathing.

 

 

Downtown Portland (Fuck Ted Wheeler) / by Rana Tahir 

The hustle in the street
Some mornings and some evenings
The most practiced of duties
Enacted in the city
The sweeping up the camps
And pushing love away
For those we do not wish to see
For our “economy”

Poem 18 / Day 18

Songs of Leaving / by Amantine Brodeur

Losing her own human question, she sat the edge
of the moon, beside dark water to dispatch
miserable memories.

– an uneasy chair in an unfaithful room out
on Dawson Street,waiting for the Darwin tree
to sprout  its rain of caterpillars

The shiver ran along decent houses; cuppings
of tea and bread takes a swipe at grace; piety
of ruthless laughter.

The back-hand of mouth to bleak windows.
Pernicious pounds of endless Grief, stalking;
suspended like dead legs slung from a wet coat.  

Sentimental carnage of early hours. An asylum 
of bedtimes: Just a boy, a Spanish-telling, Goy-esque. 
Silence; carved on  the slow ice  of losing the idea
of Someone.

The New Neighbors / by Mary Christine Delea 
     for Nancy Kelly

When they arrived, we greeted them, smiled at their toddlers,
pet their dogs. Seeing how few boxes they had, I made a joke
about minimalism. They did not laugh.

We haven’t seen the kids since.

The dogs bark all night, contained in a cage they put up
connected to our fence. The stench of dog shit overpowers
our honeysuckle, lavender, and gardenias.

We could not swim in our pool all summer.

One night, the man stopped by, asked about crime
in the neighborhood. We assured him there is none,
no reason to fear or be suspicious.

We saw his waistbanded gun when he stood to leave.

Luxury cars now line our mapled street. They appear
during the night, disappear into their garage,
and are gone a few days later.

We have never seen so many Ferraris and Bentleys.

As we dropped off a flyer about the annual Labor Day
block party, we were told the men who drive the cars away
are the wife’s cousins, owners of area dealerships.

We had never asked, never mentioned cars at all.

A month later, no dogs outside, still no kids, no new cars,
no light shines through their always-curtained windows.
We call the police for a welfare check.

We watch them knock. Nothing. They leave.

The leaves are starting to turn color. Autumn has brought
rain and quiet. Sometimes, a Maserati or Aston Martin
with no plates is driven by, slowing at the house next door

We pretend we cannot see. We sleep well.

 

The Finale / by Faith Gomez Clark 
 
It’s twighlight when the mother goes into
the child’s dark room, runs her hand along
the empty ebony crib, rearranges the diapers
on the changing table, then lets the rocking
chair catch her weight. She joins her arms together,
cradling the air, and sends the child’s name
flying into the darkness like a cannonball.
The husband has told her this ends tonight.
He says they are funambulists walking
on a tight rope, juggling their losses.
They have reached the finale.
In the morning, they will pack up 
this carnival of a room
and then take 
their final bow.
 
 
 
 
 
 
What has been lost? / by Andrew Levine
 
In honor of Dave ‘Smoke’ McCluskey
 
Bering Aleut disappeared in March of 2021
It’s last speaker,  born in the Kamchatka region of Russia, 
was Vera Timoshenko, who passed at the age of 93.
 
Vera’s last words run down corridors of memory,
accompanied by interrogatives in Tuscarora, Witchita, many other tongues.
Bits of lost languages bouncing around like particles seeking their kind.
 
What was Vera thinking 
having no one capable of understanding her question?
Is there a word for profound loneliness in Bering Aleut 
or was that scenario never imaginable?
 
The dance of disappearance
Leaves our planet more derelict every day.
We could do  worse than attempt to answer Vera’ question:
What has been lost?
 
 
 
 
 
 
Scutter /by Jiaoyang Li 
 
October, the curtain drapes in the shape of a human being 
humming the credible names I passed by:
 
the hurtful, the damagable, and lots of knots 
I suffered and I forgot 
 
Autumn returns in us in all prepositions I can’t pretend I like 
With persimmons in hands
I step into the declarative sentence of saffron
I know I would regret what I’ve said and unsaid
 
Thank you, Thank you 
I own too much for the days I stolen from the night
 
Darling, a word cannot boil a water is ripening in the throat
my heart without permission is burying an ear here and there

 

 

Consequence pondered me would the most miserable man
The tin boiler of the wrong expectation from nobody
 
I let it burns and drools in the silence 
 
 
 
 

mom / by Jillian Mukavetz 

stars watch endless drifts of pretty chords

fresh sandalwood.

in the early morning incense, the volcano lights up

like city buttons from everyone’s lanterns

pockets trying to capture the sunrise. but sometimes there is a disappointment

as they two hours

later reach the top & the sky is covered in clouds.

when she left she had kind eyes. her eyes were soft and grey

her skin fair and soft. like the water that skinned off all of their scales

washing sins in geometric fountains

releasing bad dreams and fears of deep-sea darkness.

she is everywhere prayers in joy & lightness. 

 

 

We Are Geese Now / by Shagufta Mulla 

They’re geese, Canada or Cackling
I’m unsure But see the long necks!
How many? she asks,
Two, four, five, six
and my inner eight year old
doesn’t hate math
when it’s on her terms

I want to fly with them!
So I think for a second
then give her a boost, Lean in!
and she does, wings sprouting
in seconds of overnight footage
There’s 7 now! she squeaks, circling
above and the now spills me
into the breeze,
pulls me forward and I lean—
lean in to make it 8

 

graduation / by Calista Ogburn 
 

mother hugs me at the front door frame

a tear makes its way down her cheek. she doesn’t 
wipe it, lets it fall onto my shoulder. 
i engulf her sadness, revisit the memories:

             placed sliced mangoes on my desk
             as i cried while writing a research paper

             handed me peanuts when i studied 
             for final exams

             rubbed tiger balm on back
             during nights i was too sick to stay up and study

             carried my body for so long, nourished my brain 
             with most of the world i have yet to see

 

mother hands me a bag of tangerines, waves goodbye

 

 

Pikes Peak / by Amie Sharp

Here we always feel it.
We navigate by it,
and sense, even when we turn
our backs to it,
the mammoth upjutting.
Granite peaked above the prairie,
the grasslands scrubbed quiet
by autumn wind.

Here we see the foothills ridged
in outline of afternoon light,
levels of shadow
and elevation filtered
by rain-shadow and sun.

Here the night mountain
hulks its twilight shoulders
above us, a dark colossus
draped by white cloud-wisps,
dimly lit by a few stars
and then the closer moon.

 

Film / by Rana Tahir 

Let me tell you what war is
It is spectacle and disaster

Pause play skip
Pause play skip
(Repetition in poems)

We are not the monsters we were raised to be
But oh we are we are

She asks me to take
A picture of her ass to know
The new topography of her surgery

There is the first day untouched by your presence, the first week, first month, first year

 

Fat and Sassy / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 

“You’re gonna get fat and sassy,” you used to say.

Grandma, life is sitting here on a China plate, and I’m going to keep eating.

I am writing this with greasy hair piled on top of my head.

My lips are stained bright red.

I’m wearing giant clip-on earrings, purple-green hearts that change color when I turn my head.

I’ve changed my clothes so many times and tossed them on the bed…

I’ve found something that suits me.

Grandma, life is a lovely dinner guest, and I am going to keep chatting.

Only one prayer at your funeral was said.

That was enough, a binding thread.

Do you know, since then, how many prayers I’ve said?

I’ve exhausted all words but, they can sleep when I’m dead…

I’ve found ears to hear me.

 

Poem 17 / Day 17

Paper / by Amantine Brodeur

space, framed in white silence

in search of its ink to speak, to

blindly wrap clothed magic into

the elbow of an afternoon:acolyte

speak low, for the merriment may

stoop its forgiveness across your

crafted back, like self-indulgence

of self denial. Ink draws an idea

into its throat of papyrus, flooded

smile stretching out into the

succulence; leftovers of the mind;

wandering into its own small nakedness

Issues with Google Translate / by Mary Christine Delea

I used to love you
Kuv siv los hlub koj
I mean, I think we were in love
Demək istəyirəm ki, aşiq idik
I know I was in love
Kei te mohio ahau i roto i te aroha
That doesn’t mean you were in love
Hindi nangangahulugang umiibig ka
Well, in love with me
Gutt, verléift mat mir
Would you even like me now?
Makemake ʻoe iaʻu i kēia manawa?
Would I care for you
Myndi ég hugsa um þig
or have I just invented a you
edo zu asmatu berri al dut?
that isn’t really you?
nach tú i ndáiríre?
Sometimes you are in my dreams
Bəzən xəyallarımda sənsən
Literally
Secara harfiah
Does that mean something?
그게 의미가 있나요?
Shouldn’t it mean something?
Zou het niet iets moeten betekenen?
And this is and was the trouble
మరియు ఇది మరియు ఇబ్బంది
We never seemed to be
Nunca parecemos selo
speaking the same language
एउटै भाषा बोल्ने
Even though we were both
menm si nou te tou de
speaking English
Iňlis dilinde gürlemek
maybe just not
is dòcha dìreach nach eil
love
urukundo

My Kids Watching Spongebob / by Faith Gomez Clark

They are dummies sitting side-by-side
on the sofa, eyes glazed over like the sea,
getting up only to relieve themselves.
Dazed by the yellow sponge
dancing across the across the screen,
they chortle like squids.
I wave my hands over my head,
sending out a distress call
and their laughter races
towards me
like a hungry shark.

A Blessing for Turning Towards What Is Unknown / by Andrew Levine

When it’s storytelling time
throw the doors wide open to
tales that do not mirror us.
We have passed by enough mirrors.

When our voices sing
extend the reach of our notes to converging waters;
hold our rhythms and melodies, our tears, hopes,
unending violence- all of what makes us human.
Place it in the crucible of music, the recording of who we are.

When we tend the earth,
Pray each morning to remember to look,
to see what is simply before us.
Plant to honor our grandmothers
And honor all grandmothers who have tended the garden.

Not less than.
Not more than.
Simply human, beautiful, nuanced, wrapped in complexity.
You are worth knowing, worth turning towards.

Give us the courage to turn towards what is unknown.
Give us a larger self-arriving than we imagined possible.
Settle us before our dust settles again.

my mom passed away this morning / by Jillian Mukavetz

we went to the beach with college neighbors and there were many goats and many sharks who enjoyed bouncing on the shore and doing ransoms like eating bushes before they scurried away. in this one mom died, there was a demon next door who crawled into the house. we ran away with your brother found a missing cat who was a miniature of the other. we climbed out of a black car, lost your wallet, had no money in a mall with two cats. trying to find a box big enough for two cats. no shoes two cats.

hold onto your flip flops they get stolen in strange circumstance.
herein as you love and honor yourself
relationship will blossom
the medallion
for the practice
you have to be a resident to park for free

Never Happened Metamorphoses / by Shagufta Mulla

never go out of style,

confinement over and over again,

submerged story beneath

the character can deepen myth,

opting out of developed increase,

the difficulty an aesthetic

in itself.

(Blackout poem from Pamelyn Casto’s chapter The Myth-ing Link in The Rose Metal Press Field
Guide to Writing Flash Fiction.)

gentle arrival / by Calista Ogburn

basking in the glory of the sun, 
my cat sits on the windowsill
in the dusty living room. 

her nose kisses the cold glass,
on watch for danger
protecting the home
her body
her shelter of a soul

purring her way into heaven 
to search for the warmth
her paws so desperately crave. 
her tail wraps around her body 
comforting her to remember this moment.

the sun pets her fur
and she purrs louder –
moves up the creaky stairs 
waking the quiet home
claws her way into my bed 
and presses her warmth to my arm 
radiating all of the sun’s kisses 
into my heart 

Fall / by Amie Sharp

Semi loaded with pocked railroad ties,
              the driver air drumming.

Hatch green chile on a floured husk,
              delicious sting.

A spattering
              of rain on roofs.

A shadow rounds
              under the wind chimes.

A comet torques
             its ice-brine near the Earth.

Under moonlight and ice
              the river glows.

Art History / by Rana Tahir

two equal arches
capped oddly the window
is duplicated

two halves, two human figures
the hayfork, the devil,
begonias caution

impending lack
of distortion an errant curl
Do we really know what feeling is?

Poem 16 / Day 16

Gentle Heaven / by Amantine Brodeur
as covid leaves fall . . .

Is gentle heaven
where squirrels go to be buried, where snow loses
its white and songbirds hush to the windchill?

Is heaven where
we forget how to live gently between the lines or narrow
breathing into the small of things?

Is heaven gentle
to those who forget how to cry; have lost their wings
or de-feathered their hearts of flight?

Is gentle, heavenly
to the humour scribbled black, or has it come as reminder
that cards fall, just like fortunes slid from window sills into rain?

Are the dead
potted in heavenly virtue, safel away from our own protruding
death, lonely as the brittle as neglected brittle of dyed hair?

Is gentle heaven
that place where hurt might be brushed through words and
into histories still bruised of this covid bitter breeze ?

We Are at the Point In Our Relationship Where / by Mary Christine Delea 

victim-adjacent people are being killed,
just as they are about to impart important information
or they die in their sleep the night before
they are going to meet with a private investigator
and reveal what they overheard or
accidentally read or received in the mail,
because this relationship is, of course, like all
relationships, the equivalent of a murder mystery
novel. Page after page of red herrings.
The champagne sedan that being driven in a loop
around the park. The new neighbor named
Dood. The dog dying after eating rotten meat.
The police chief who is obviously keeping secrets.
I am trying to figure out forensic accounting.
You are still looking for fingerprints.
Same crime scene, different rates of decomposing.
This book has so many characters, I hope
a toxicologist isn’t introduced. But I take a peek
at your notes—you’ve apparently brought in
key secondaries, the pathologist, a psychologist,
and even a bomb specialist. Most don’t last longer
than a chapter. The suspects are numerous.
The number of dead bodies is catching up to
how many years we’ve been together.
We should be worried. We should call the police.
Yet when I look into your eyes these days,
all I want to do is offer you some of the brownies
that were delivered earlier in a plain envelope
with no return address.

At Least There’s A Bright Side / by Faith Gomez Clark 

October is a feral cat
Rubbing against my calf.
I’m sick for the third
Time this month
And mid-term essays 
Are reaching out to 
Me like the dead.
Still, I have not killed 
My only plant.

If We Had A Greenhouse / by Andrew Levine 
 
I’d grow greens
Into beauty to
Nourish you
Coax seeds into soil
Stand back
And wait for magic.
 
If we had a greenhouse 
Collected heat would
Course through us
Raising passions 
We fear long gone
Make sweat run down our necks
While we wait for love’s magic to call.
 
If we had a greenhouse
Pots of tulips racing
Ahead of winter’s white
Would grace our table
When we dined with friends 
Summoned after COVID‘S cautionary tales
No mere magic trick.
 
If we had a greenhouse 
The sun could always find us
Rays reach beyond glass beyond wooden shelves
Beyond gravel floors all the way into earth
Into fungal networks that
Tie two hundred trees together
As if by magic.
 
When Fall gives up the ghost 
Another season come and gone
We will still be without the greenhouse
But we will stand back and look
And the labor of our bodies will be
There on the hardening garden crust
And that is magic enough for any pair.
 
 
 
 
 

rather than later / by Jillian Mukavetz 

sonnet
addicted touch away my heart
smaller
sometimes neither
inheritance
it touched me
a humming bird
on the city in my balcony

 

Rabbit As a Prayer / by Shagufta Mulla 

These rabbits show me how to pray,
squirming lockets of cozy dawn,
pinnae laid back like sacred scrolls,
immersed in Earth’s encircling embrace
while She still emits Her song.

These rabbits show me how to pray,
head held high, ears erect like
furred tuning forks, secure
in their energetic transmission of Love’s
warm laugh without cerebral
limitations.

Sunset eyes perched in the present, resting
fight-or-flight between every hoot
and howl; they savor sun and sweetgrass
in every season. Stiff hinges still have candied
yawns, nose boops and side hops
for days, these rabbits—

They show me how to pray.

self-sacrifice / by Calista Ogburn 
 

i give so much love
i don’t have enough left for myself.

i sacrifice myself to the heavens:
         slice the flesh off my thighs and hips
         crack open my heart
         break off two ribs
         rip out my tongue
         place my body on a plate and display it on the altar
an offering to show my devotion.

what is left of me
lays on the dirty tiled bathroom floor
i stare at the flickering light above me,
my mind is untouched.
the only thing intact
and yet
it is the next sacrifice.

i go down on both knees,
         take it. take all of my love. you deserve it more than i do.

Erasure Poem / by Amie Sharp
Vladimir Nabokov’s Glory (translated by Dmitri Nabokov)

A mother-of-pearl and blue landscape.
             Abundant white steam.
Here and there leafless sallows
             stuck up out of the snow.
A woman in felt boots,
             a peasant.
             At night
a black mirrory window,
             a grating of the rudder chain,
a fire-tipped pen.

Mother Minotaur / by Rana Tahir 


Sloped back, hunched over
the small form inside you.

Bend to the river, bend to
the silver rocks glinting beneath

the surface water. You see
all there is to see— reflecting you.

I look like you.
I look like you.
I look like you.
I look like you.

This will be the path.
This is the labyrinth.

Here, our flesh departs
and I will be trapped.

Poem 15 / Day 15

New Jazz / by Amantine Brodeur

In dada dreams
Dadas anxiously peer into
Infant mouths
For speakeasy sounds
Touching a new morning
Of an alter ego.

Cautious words start anew;
Baked redwhite, like
Magicians revealing doves
Out under cuffs
Falling
And cupped in Chinese tins
Of exotic tea.

Bellies roll over
Into promenades with this…new jazz
– Watchful of an eavesdropping moon
Whiles rocking horses sway babas to sleep
With lullabies of
Yes-yes, yes-yes …

Suddenly,
Out of games
Pretending to pretend
Young tongues falteringly sing da…da ..

But it does not mean ….  Daddy!
So, in the DADA of adult dreams
We all cry in bitter sorrow.

Ode to Squash / by Mary Christine Delea

The New York Times announces to me in a morning email that I can make
Winter Squash three ways. I admit to being curious.

I admit to feeling dismayed to discover Pumpkin Pie should be called
Squash Pie because that’s what the filling is made from. Or maybe not.

Botanists refuse to differentiate between Pumpkin and Squash;
linguists insist Pumpkins are just a type of Squash. Or maybe not.

The Times, as far as I can tell, takes no side, except to advocate roasting.
Acorn, Ridged Delicata, Honeynuts are all game, while the Butternut, 

Hubbard, and Spaghetti, loved best by neophyte cooks, are neglected 
by the news that is fit to print this day. Add to this cacophony

Gourds, Cucubita, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Melons, Cucurbitaceae, 
plus the Flowers, the fact that that some are edible and some are not,

some are Vegetables and some are Fruit, and all roasted Squash seeds 
are delicious, but maybe not Melon or Cucumber seeds. Or maybe so.

The mating habits of these Plants are just something you will
have to look up yourself; the process is as odd as that of Honey Bees,

which are part of the whole Squash sex scene. Even the game of Squash 
is a maybe/maybe not, being so close to racquetball except for 

a few inches here and there. (I’ll wait while you go look up Squash sex. 
Or measure body parts. Or both.) The game’s name descended 

from the name of the ball used in an English racquet game.The food name 
is from the Narragansett Asquutasquash (and I will take a side as to which is 

the most interesting etymology, an English ball or a Native food. Easy.
The one with the Q and UU). Squash as in Crush is from Latin (Of course.) 

and is relevant because one can Crush a Squash opponent, or Crush cooking
a wonderful Squash meal made under the guidance of the NYT, or Crush

a roasted Squash seed between teeth, or even Crush one’s hope of ever 
knowing for sure what a Squash (I think it’s a vegetable) truly is.

After Abuela is Gone / by Faith Gomez Clark

You will remember the homemade tortillas,
Your index finger gently pushing the soft bellies of bubbles
That rose when they cooked on the comal, while the cactus
Of your voice pricked her ears as you sang Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.
You will remember the soft wrinkles on her hands
As she covered the smooth side of the husk with a blanket of masa.
You will remember her sitting at the kitchen table sipping
Her cafecito and staring out the window, her heavy sighs
Rising in the air like smoke.

This Singular Collection / by Andrew Levine

Myriad lives intersected by
embraces we’ve collected while

stumbling through desire, and
partings consumed by fire.

Our moments were words uttered by this singular collection
of souls held tightly in affection, though

in repose, in earliest light, we wonder
why these people to accompany this flight?

Mysteries persist unsolved and memories
flood our mind’s inbox, lie unresolved in folders insisting

once we were intertwined through
youth’s greenest opening, a vein to be mined

with this flock of souls who
kissed our lives, breathed on our coals,

fanned fire to red hot shade,
aged with us to hues more staid. As

our bodies cool, in dreams we see
underneath a blade ready to escape its sheath

for sweet adventure.
We are not done, but venture without

regard or care for time.
What beckons began in the sublime and

cast off, content to roam until
the flock assembles again and calls us home.

Not a night poem / by Jiaoyang Li

A joke falls onto the ground like a national hero
waiting for its medals:

Best Dramatic Text. Most Sentimental 
Genius Flicker. 
Airborne. In hundred years of Solitude.

Kneel us. Into the Republic of Ruins. That Toothed us. 
What have we been doing?

Restless for the vouchsafed.
Restless for the delicious obedience.
Married to the omniscient till we are unmarried. 

The agglomeration of flickers around and around 
is a trust fund for rebuilding the ruins of an ancient city

An eyelash hurts in my eyes in the form of indifference

the half drank banana milk releases itself from my slippery hands
Just like its ex-owner, drunk-jumping into

the Simmons of the trash can
The mattress of our future
Thin and boney and permeable

What our hands can’t get wet with
apart from money
All bruised quietly in the vase of throats

This year, all I am eager for is a clean relationship
That means something square
or something nothing–ism 

I hear my ears, the taciturn couple
Not knowing each other for twenty five years

Again are editing the pillows too cheesy
And triangulating a night into a morning 

like a harsh middle school teacher 
have their reading glasses hanging.

if so but a blink / by Jillian Mukavetz

relationships these transitions you are not great at
it would be better if you were speaking to someone about regret
thankful he held your back
sex with him is better

the last time you felt joy was when you kissed & caught the literal rainbow
hope is a message of skewed dew
drops
crimson tipped
salmon roses
thornless
stepping out of the frame
a first snow
horses & sweet

they are not your soul but if so a blink

Family Album / by Shagufta Mulla

Midlife crisis comes
because you were treated
like a blank book
though deep down they knew
you weren’t,
developing you
with photo album beliefs,
but didn’t they notice
how the cellophane covered
pages had to be picked apart
before revealing
unsmiling
ancestors sitting
statuesque on sticky
plain platforms, obedient
brown eyes never seeing
where they went wrong,
and at every turn
of the page the old cling
crackles
with a soft forgotten thirst.

for mother, i wish you warmth / by Calista Ogburn

marinated beef sits in overcooked stew
that mother insists tastes better 
if it cooks longer,
and, of course,
she turned out to be right.

like mother always does,
reminds me,
ten tangerines is better than one.
fruit does not wait to be eaten, 
it begs.

mother tells me to run towards her
in the store
as she feels my toes in the skechers,
ensuring the space makes room
for the growth i’ll have.

she does not cry in front of me,
even when her own mother is fading.
holds my hand and whispers,
this world is cruel 
but remember,
mother is always here.

First Frost / by Amie Sharp

Covers the muted trumpets
          of pinwheel blooms.

Fox paws
          press into ripening mud.

Flocks of geese
          arrow an empty sky.

Starved mountain
          flakes granite in the gossamer wind.

Ode to Morning with Kitten / by Rana Tahir

In the morning I lie at the foot
of your bed and wait for you to wake

If you do not wake at my preferred time
I will bite your hands and arms and feet

You will whine at me, and rise and go
to my bowl, and refill it with kibble

Then, I will carry my favorite toy to you
the feather stick with bell, the stuffed mouse

You know I want to play but sometimes
you walk past me and go to the bathroom

It’s ok though, I will play with the little ball
you left in the bathtub for me while you brush your teeth

I will rub against your legs while you sit on the toilet
I will meow at you to help you along your routine

I am cute, and therefore, can get away with anything
My name is SweetieBelle, you know me well

Poem 14 / Day 14

A Poem Using Show and Movie Title Words on the Netflix Home Page / by Mary Christine Delea

If we are guilty of playing a game,
so be it. Life is impossible,
chestnut-sized bruises no shadow
could cover. If you click on my skin,
you’ll see bone. What has made us
is shameless, a river of rocks
shooting crookedly at our fishing nets.
We wait for the starlings above us
to attack. We hate to borrow horror,
wish to take a holiday that blows
us away, but we cannot change
anything. Life is impossible,
conjuring closer fears that walk
across us as if we are already dead.
Count my grey, greedy mind in.
I have come to be a bad sport,
a fire serpent with a five tales,
a new girl trekking into your line
of sight. I want to be your lovely
convenience. I want you to save me.
In a community of sinners, I want
to crowd you with goodness
that has an edge, something to keep
you challenged, a little rushed,
a cliffhanger in your own life.
Life is impossible, yes, but let me
be your interpreter and we can vanish
like magicians to another destination,
a makeover where we can rent or borrow
the metal needed to nail this love shut.

How the Cat Came to Have Only Three Good Legs / by Faith Gomez Clark

It is not true that you were born this way:
Your front right leg lame as if stillborn.
This was done to you. It was October.
The sun turned a blind eye behind
A grey sky while you made your way
Through the tall grass swaying with the wind
Like a gospel choir, fear pounding the drum
Of your heart. The three boys—clad in the Devil’s
Uniform of dingy denim overalls and black
Chuck Taylor’s—chased after you.
Sweat sprang from their foreheads.
Their feet beat the ground.
Their arms moved back and forth as if dancing.
Their eyes held on tight to you.
The oldest reached you first,
His right hand, large and man-like,
With the awkward movements of a child,
Yanked your front right leg away from Earth,
spun you around like a white handkerchief
Over his head, and then
Let you go.

So Many Worlds / by Andrew Levine

My capacity to retain Latin taxonomy peaks with pond plants
So the formidable quantity of fungi found in a strip of forest
taxes my, well, everything.

The stuff that makes up this life…
each a mini universe of lexicon, idioms, rules,
exceptions to those rules, trends,
a lineage of those worth learning from.

Walking the unfamiliar leads to sentences overheard.
‘My friend is an arctic explorer…’, or, ‘this mushroom smells like maple syrup and can get into your sweat glands’.
Walking the unfamiliar world lifts a veil.

Four fungal genera within ten yards, pointed out,
clinging to roots, growing in crevices, circling decaying wood.
All, inevitably there.

A fine and humbling reminder.
I may be a sighted person, but I wander this earth quite blindly,
taking in only the familiar, hearing only the tiniest fraction of the Song.

Interspersed perpetuity / by Jiaoyang Li

As the ice-cave in my mind archiving another quiet footprint,
I’ve translated my balderdash into your sea-lion language.

In winter, I too, was fixated on figure skating
though I preferred to be a roller skate than a skater.

anchoress apostle
sargassum stalactite 

Sifting the brands of matches for all night
I have never noticed the skins I scratched

I have never grasped the grammar of human organs
Including eyes, the naked one.

when our eyes were sharpened by a novel gravity,
I doubt the integrity of speed

But every grogginess lurch would become a luscious plummet.
My pilot rode on the seafloor, Were you — an anarchist or an piscineist?

Silently, the morning light was decanting 
into the pelvis of this scrawny winter: 

What pranced upon us, would also count us into its teeth, its crevice.
Through the thin wood window panels stained by your palms,
I know, I have never prepared for a perpetual hibernation.

love by the river / by Jillian Mukavetz

we were lying near the bank of the river, but then it was her or I we were invisible or visible, as others bathed freely in the cool stream. he or you was in visible or I was, by the water visible & invisible or maybe both, then forgot in together love, came by the river.

at first Iove thought you similar to the other river I once remembered, but a kiss realized different also. love and I were rock climbing boulders covered in moss & little iridescent smooth pea pebbles & love fell breaking both feet. they were smashed to little smooshy red bits. you had to have them removed. you had no feet. you were alive, but you had no feet.  you were the river that helped me with my bags.

in loves dream it was I who was attacked by a bear. the first dream to be attacked by a bear. Iove had a large grey gash across the cheek and I several on my abdomen. river took care of us & we forgot about the interview.

Unfaced Fears Resurfacing / by Shagufta Mulla

My heartbeat, the scrape of plastic jump rope
on deserted concrete tries to play off
the haunting, my back room closets

more occupied than a wooden building
with dark corridors that snap and scratch
with midnight walks and whispers.

I think if I stop to look I’ll slip into a polished
room stuck behind my ribs where the dark
will finally drink down my tannin notes

with a slippery longed-for thirst, not even a red
drop left on its lips for me to run in slivered
moonlight, the last warm hint of my essence

exhaled with cold, leaned back breath,
scattering dust motes into shadows
that scurry for the door.

my poems were no longer about you / by Calista Ogburn

maybe, 
i seek love in boys who i know will love me back. it is so much easier to write about love from bodies i do not remember than how you didn’t love me anymore.

To see your steps splaying starfire / by Amie Sharp

without “little”
without “girl”

Your brain stoking its furnace
old wishes becoming a gauze you pleat
with beautiful roughening fingers

To grasp that more breath is
in fact the opposite of the grave

to shrink yourself into a windowpane
not an altar

Icarus says there’s a difference
between cautionary tale and mistake

Arms bright from feathers and wax
bubbling under the sun

Planes of light like broken glass

Under the turquoise shelf of water
a wreath of seaweed, something of oxygen,
and a woman breathing

Winter / by Rana Tahir

I remember the long cold walk
from one end of campus to the other
snow and ice crunching beneath my boots
that were more decorative than functional.

I had only seen real snow once before
in the mountains of Murray where we
built a snowman and then jumped
on it, crunching it beneath toddler feet.

I want to say I remember that snow
more than just a deep cold, but the memories
are sold to me on videotape.

This memory, the snow in Interlochen
is all my own. I do not need to run
it by anyone else, do not need to press
and push and be pursued to find
some misshapen version that is palatable
for someone else. No. I remember the snow,
the ice, the frosted breaths I made navigating
this new life I lived for myself.

Poem 13 / Day 13

Hex / by Mary Christine Delea 

It is a good day for a potion,
this 13th day in the month
of superstition and magic.
The blue and white charm.
Whistling at the sun.
The piece of cloth ripped
from a dead person’s shirt.

Gather the ingredients at night:
scum from rainwater
collected in a barrel, dirt
off a feather, wine that’s gone
skank, petals pulled from
any yellow flower,
plus a pinch of celery seed.

Boil it all together outside,
adding goat’s milk as necessary.
Let it cool as you smoke your pipe
or until you hear a baby cry.
Drink it slowly while naked
in front of a mirror to bring
a lost love back.
Drink it quickly while stabbing
a wood table with a knife
to get revenge on enemies.

Afterwards, soak in a tub.
Sing yourself to sleep
the following night.
Don’t eat cheese for a week
or look directly at the moon.
As long as you have never
killed a horse, insulted a poet,
or stolen from a witch, this spell
is guaranteed to work after
three new moons have passed.

Untitled / by Faith Gomez Clark 

And after we kissed, she stared into my eyes and said I smelled of overcooked portobello mushrooms, which is to say man residue. She said I should stop living my life as if I were at an all you can eat buffet. She said life is more like a five course meal where all the dishes pair perfectly together. 

I like to eat at home alone with the television on. Do you have a metaphor for that?

Another Kinder Darkness / by Andrew Levine

our fears fill the contours of cold metal containers
deep in the night when
fisher cats sink their teeth into flesh
drink from our pond, slink off before the sun rises again

you turn to me in darkness certain
of impending disaster certain
this is the last time your voice
will rise, and who cares anyway

my hands moist with fear can’t sway
or reassure you so I turn over
in the moment before I fall back asleep
some presence whispers to me about
demons that draw
everything in disaster’s colors and i know

the pond will fill again your song will fly
over solid ground and we will find each other
in another kinder darkness

One day, I would love the silence that trimmed my tongue / by Jiaoyang Li

Love being a tailor of unpicking  

saying,  the days we wanted

they are no longer a piece samite 

floating in the throat of tomorrow 

but a spiderweb unstrung 

into this lanky evening

In the corner of my eyes,

some small guys are busy 

stamping their little steps 

onto my bark, my spooky old skin

I allow this tiny construction

and its cute resolution

when the damp of silence 

is as natural as a birch tree

stands in the birch forest

I don’t often think about its root

I don’t often notice them.

they always say / by Jillian Mukavetz

you were the first
disquote
eves of ores tepid in tethered talons
our hypothesis in oranges. disquote
tethered talons. just before the temple, terrace. three sounds                 
(staggered
disquieting tomorrows courage the first
cursed chaos folded            (charred in charming
everyone was exceptionally kind, a team of travelers looking for papers, finding their way
is eternity the same as destiny? fond of I was he, as he was fond
of me
let me loose
on the other side of a meadow full of these thai purple, purple, flowers

color hues / by Calista Ogburn

this color catastrophe is a mess of an artwork. we hold each other hoping the earth won’t remind us of our chaos. we love like a child yearning for its mother. our bodies become so intertwined. mix all of our aspirations into an overflowing bowl. sob in each other’s hands. reaching for hope that this love will be enough.

this love carries our legs to bed. tucks us in with kisses on foreheads. bedtime stories for restless nights. this love is a mother. watches us grow up. grow apart. grow into loving other colors.

Red Planet Tanka / by Amie Sharp

From Earth, Jupiter
and Venus hinged their arcs in
the quiet night. Mars,

spun from the duet, streaked its
mountains with hydrated salt.

*Content Warning* lynchings, police brutality, hate crimes, racism.
Jelani Day / by Rana Tahir

Strange indeed for a mother
to grieve her son— strange
to bury the life already borne,
grown, and should be on the slow walk
to twilight behind her— not before. Not before.
Not before. Never before but for
this strange, so terribly strange
world that brings a mother to her son’s body.

Do you want us to identify
your son or not?

Not so terribly strange for a mother
to name her son: George, Emmett, Mack, James,
Frank, Michael, Yusef, James, Trayvon, Mike,
Philando, Eric, Ahmaud, George whose knuckles tried to breathe
for his mother. Nothing so strange in the fruit that hangs—
it is the tree. It is the tree that’s strange.

Note: This poem comes out of following the Chicago Sun Times’ reporting of the killing of Jelani Day. I was outraged by the slowness of this investigation, and the lack of urgency by the police. Additionally, hearing the quote in the story from the coroner’s office barking at Jelani Day’s mother just incensed me. I thought about how little seems to change, because the system is designed for this; and of course, as always, Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” came to mind. I wanted to express that these boys and men had nothing wrong with them (beyond the usual human faults we all have) but that the system we live in is the problem. Hopefully, that came across, if not, I want to apologize to anyone these words may have hurt.

Poem 12 / Day 12

Disease As a Horror Movie / by Mary Christine Delea

Going in, you’re fearful, although you don’t
yet know what is coming—there are so many monsters
to choose from. You know there is something
already inside you, squirming in your gut,
twisting molecules, creating tiny holes.
Maybe family secrets, passed down
through generations, are to blame. Or just this house
you call body—it could be haunted, infected
with alien beings. It is difficult to breath
and you wonder if others feel the same.
You look around. They look calm.
Running and hiding lead to disaster—
that much you know. You load up on weapons—
the internal salves, the external tools—
and try to stand your ground.
You don’t dare sleep deeply or let the disbelief
of others distract you. You know there is
something very wrong. You feel
each time your heart beats that this second
could be the Before—before the car breaks down
during the night in a rural area,
before the new house turns out to be built
on an old cemetery, before ghouls
are running around town—and that the After
is standing right behind you, but you won’t see
the horror until you look in the bathroom mirror, and then it’s too late.

My Daughter As Bunny / by Faith Gomez Clark

the wolves are coming
coming
coming fast
their fur is frazzled
grey
like the sky
about to cry
quick!
jump into this
hole
you’ll be safe
in the arms
of dark.


Listening In This Moment / by Andrew Levine

Tuned tubes of wind chimes sound randomly, leaving their overtones to clean it all up.

The wind sets the leaves of a shallow rooted birch tree shivering on this warm October day.

The rooster two houses down claims his territory yet again, while half a dozen other bird species defend their turf, call for reinforcements or plan this year’s great migration.

My wife’s shovel scrapes the ground, then pierces the heap higher up in crisp thrusts, rhythm come to life
as her body torques and lets the soil ride gravity into the wheelbarrow.

A car accelerates up the rise of the blacktop scenic road, a roaring whoosh that does everything but
scream ‘here i come’!

The eleven year old rooster-keeper shouts out something in a voice that belongs on a ball field in Summer.

A green walnut from a black walnut tree kamikazes into the roof of our blue, undaunted Subaru Forester.

Maggie’s tail whisks back and forth, disturbing molecules of air, then follows this subtle beauty with the
Big Bang of stick colliding with bluestone.

Now the railroad line, the one that took over two hours to get me to work, whistles its approach at our
empty platform.

Farther in the sonic distance insects rub legs and vibrate a host of other parts, pulses that let us know they
are content as ever to be on this earth.

A few seconds later the entire canvas is redrawn, with new and old parts mixing and remixing like a
contemporary symphonic work with endless movements,
or a DJ’s mixtape of sampled sounds designed to start a new song before the last one ends.

What a glorious gift it is to listen to this world moment by moment.

a picasso thing / by Jillian Mukavetz

white noise police
the best lilac light
life beside an impressed lance
lace the ones they let in.

even survivors saw the kill
simple soldier best friends.
two pins were not enough

barbaric like trees latch on to one another
pears & potatoes & tangerine
similar technology to watering plants      a watch of gone
eugenics.

Owl Spirit Animal / by Shagufta Mulla 

I haven’t heard an owl
in over a year. The last
one’s hoots brushed

away my sleep
like the light
touch of a lover’s
hand and I hope

I didn’t question

the hour,
dismiss the familiar
fourfold call like too
hot summer sheets.

night sky / by Calista Ogburn 
 

after the break up,

you remembered me and looked for this poem. searched for an answer as to why god didn’t want us together. took our souls and tried connecting it as a constellation. you hoped our children would look up at the stars and see us. together. but even your mama knew the stars don’t always align. i was the north star and you were the star that got lost on cloudy nights.

this poem serves as a reminder for the prayers we made on days we thought we couldn’t survive our catastrophe. we barely made it out alive. our prayers were too sinful to be considered. this poem is a sacrificial star in the night sky. this poem is a good bye from up above.


Mama Mo / by Amie Sharp 

She lived in a small Tennessee town,
a family friend already so old her daughter
was one of the town matriarchs.
I saw her for the last time
when I was eighteen:
her rocker creaking,
her skin hanging in grooved folds.
The wells of her eyes
brown and milky,
glistening in lamplight.
“You’re beautiful,”
she said, to me, not one to hear it often.
“You’re so beautiful.”
I felt good about this until my dad
pointed out she was 96 and had cataracts.
Sometimes I think about beauty
and whatever the entirety of her
must have been, a baby
dressed in white, babbling,
growing into a girl, a young woman
carrying a baby, an old woman rocking.  
A cook, a reader, a person
with a velvet voice
and a vision to see the flame of life  
within us as it is.

Readings & Messages / by Rana Tahir
(For Will, with thanks to John Sibley Williams)

Casting out these old grounds
I focus on the wishing minute
I turn over the coffee cup
to read the signs that rest within it

I focus on the wishing minute
and picture us on the stairs in Seymour
to read the signs that rest within it
connecting my thoughts to yours.

And picture us on the stairs in Seymour
when we talked of God and Gravity
connecting my thoughts to yours
as we ran our hands over the brick wall.

We talked of God and Gravity
and how it is we can see Venus
as we ran our hands over the brick wall
so late into the night not sleeping.

How is it we can see Venus
and still believe in things unseen?
So late into the night not sleeping
we talk of sharing both our dreams.

And still I believe in things unseen
I turn over the coffee cup
we talk of sharing both our dreams
casting out these old grounds.

Defiance / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski
(3 Haikus)

I painted my lips
red in defiance of those
who said red is too

much for a woman
who wants to be respected.
How dare I be bold?

How dare I speak of
wanting and being oh so
much more? I just do.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Daffodils / by Mary Christine Delea 
          for Mary and Phoebe

How am I supposed to learn flowers—
which ones grow in my yard, the ones we planted
years ago, the ones birthed from seeds dropped
by birds or squirrels, plus the ones I admire
in fields, at the nursery, decorating the yards of people
I don’t know, cannot ask for information—
when just searching online for information
about daffodil care—our yard is full of them,
planted before we bought this house—leads me
to jonquils and narcissus?

All the same, apparently.

One flower, three common names, used interchangeably,
as if we ordinary folks would know only one plant,
not three, blooms.

But Christine, you say, who are you to question
the linguistic choices of botanists?
Most people know you as Christine, of course,
but some—family, friends and acquaintances from
your childhood—call you Chris.
On paper, you are Mary Christine, which some folks
shorten to Mary—a name which was always
the most popular girl name—or at least number two—
until recently—now, it is not even in the top 100.
Luna and Phoebe, Khaleesi and Emma, Skylar and Poppy—
these have left Mary behind. At this point,
one is more likely to meet a young Amaryllis or Asphodel
before meeting a three-year-old Mary.

But I digress, somewhat narcissistically.

These ancient flowers have 50 types, more or less.
Yellow, pink, white, orange, they are one of our first
signs of spring, bursting through
our muddy, rain-soaked yard—so distinct from
the crocuses they follow and the yet-to-arrive
grape hyacinth. I refuse to learn
more about those two, lest I find out
they also travel incognito, fully nom de plume-d.

I have no more room in my brain
to memorize the names of flowers and all else
there is to know about them—diseases that threaten them,
what the seeds look like, what to plant near them,
which ones signify 87 different degrees
of romantic love—leave it to the Victorians to come up
with that mind-blowing mess of information
no one needs but is still interesting even though
I will never admit it.

The amaryllis/asphodel/jonquil/narcissus/DAFFODIL
are two full seasons away. Here in October,
porches are decked out in mums—which even I know
is short for chrysanthemum, a word I will
need to look up to spell correctly until the day I die—
although why I would want to discuss flowers
as I die is a mystery I hope never gets solved—
which is actually fitting as they symbolize Death.

So I will wait out mum season which turns into
holly berry and mistletoe berry season—both of which
are toxic and cause death—and then January
which is the month of nothingness
that then becomes the month of Oh-my-God!
Won’t-winter-ever-end?—until sometime after
Valentine’s Day—a trickster holiday
full of unseasonable roses—the tiny bright crocuses
teasing the end is close until—at last—
daffodils, o daffodils!—we are assured another
beautiful season, with the sun and blue skies,
with the rain and snow disappearing—finally,
soon, at some point—and just a few more months until
I marvel at my yard—so many colors,
so many names I will never learn.

When My Therapist Called It Off / by Faith Gomez Clark 
 
She said it only had a little to do with me. But it was about 65% because of her. She said my mind was a garden she didn’t quite know how to tend to. She’d help to plant some seeds, but all that’d grow were weeds that could pass as flowers if one just closed their eyes and sniffed them. But we are not dogs, she said. We cannot sniff our way through the shit in life. We have to step over the shit. We need our eyes to do that. And as far as she could see, I would never be the side where the “grass is greener.” Instead, I’d only ever be the side where the grass is overgrown and the color of putrid urine. The side that even the gardener’s forgotten about.
 
 
 
 
 

Strange and Improbable Requests / by Andrew Levine 

She told the story before beginning his elegy for viola and piano,

How she admired his violin playing.
How she summoned the courage to ask to study with him.
How he made the unusual request to have her step in and play viola at his son’s Carnegie debut.
How this instrument she had not played before felt instantly right in her hands.
How the experience came when she was close to walking away from music
Because she couldn’t find her voice inside the violin.

This is for my teacher who could not be here, she told us.
And what we heard was gratitude stored up for thirty years.
It was in her tone, her body,
The way her left hand moved with economy along the fretboard
And her right hand propelled the bow across four dark sounding strings
So that the notes might reach us and we would know
The depth of sorrow, how brief our lives really are- those kinds of things.

When the last sounds in the sanctuary stopped reverberating
Her husband told us that the composer was secretly present
And we rose to our feet as he walked to the front and hugged her,
Not because the music itself lifted us; we stood because
A space between years had been filled and because
lives are changed by strange and improbable requests.

red was sweet / by Jillian Mukavetz 

they called me red was sweet.
slips me something while he wraps
a frayed silk
light blue checked around my wrists
           ( across my shoulder 
blades
why does the flower have no color
                       ( two months
there is some sweet madness to this
dancing, other delicate pictures of guitars
in my dream I went 
to a museum
( a strange place to go in a dream
or any,              
if you have fresh sheets.

Toucan Thermoregulation / by Shagufta Mulla 

Toco Toucans’ orange and black beaks

are thermal windows                   like elephant ears

           and dolphin fins        vascular          

           radiative exaptation

for heat exchange in South American

rainforest        and Cerrado savannah

                       vasoconstricting in coastal cold,

vasodilating                        in lowland humid heat.

we are people in the background of people’s stories / by Calista Ogburn 
 

for a brief moment,
anxiety sat down and drank a cup of tea.
watched people hustle through
the cafe
and 
found a home within
tea leaves.
waited for friend 
to spill about their first date
as baristas gathered around
drinking cappuccinos,
ready to remember every line,
pause, word, breath
of the story.

Custodian / by Amie Sharp

His bum knee curls under him.
His mop ribbons linoleum,
shines blurring college students’ masked faces.
Beauty matters to him.
He does it all again every day,
makes porcelain gleam,
but not everything can be cleansed–
dust bunnies swirling in the corners
when the thick doors open,
gusts of October wind bracing them shut again.
Papers and bottles wedged in the trash can lids
and blowing out.
Sure, he only does it for the money
like anyone who only does a job for money.
He grouses and heaves and rumbles the trash cans.
He’s in pain.
He pushes his mop, shadows
and fluorescent reflections
sliding across the ugly tile squares like angels.

HI RATS! / by Rana Tahir 

Trickles of sound from inside the walls keep me up.

At night I watch the ceiling fan twirl to a stop and wonder at its strength.

Here is where I am: at home in bed and tired.

In any case some night will bring a new moon and I will clean my altar,

Record new goals and fail them, manifesting only one:

Sleep.

She Spoke of Mercy / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 

“I was just shocked,” she said.

The animals knew.

“The alpacas would hold

their heads to the earth,” she said.

She didn’t use the words ground or dirt.

Earth seemed to offer more meaning and dignity.

“They would hold their heads

to the earth for hours, in the same spot,

and that is how we knew it was time to

put them down.”

She said the words simply.

The animals knew.

She spoke about the three alpacas

she had been feeding.

One was sick and lying down.

And the other two knew.

They laid their bodies on their

companion and smothered him.

“Like a mercy killing,” she said.

“At least he got buried and now is peaceful.”

Poem 10 / Day 10

Lone Wolf / by Mary Christine Delea 

Miss Amelia Evelyn Armstrong spray paints everything
white and marches to church with her head upright,
the better to stare down onlookers. In her hands,
educational tracts from the 1800s, when people knew

how to teach and children behaved. She always prays
for rain, except at Christmastime, because the Lord
demands snow for his son. Halloween is for heathens.
Easter has become polluted with plastic. There are no

other legitimate holidays. Since 1989 she has eaten
Quaker Oats oatmeal every morning, drinks hot tea—
Earl Grey—then walks in her family’s woods.
She refuses to sell because she knows whoever

the buyer is, they will cut everything down and build.
As if the world needs more buildings. As if this town
needs more people. Blue spruce, wild geese, tool sheds—
she knows her neighborhood. Which bicycles belong.

What time the miners fill the luncheonette on their break.
How the bakery fills downtown with apple, vanilla,
and cinnamon scents on Wednesdays. The odors it creates
on other days do not interest her at all—chocolate seems

tempting and that is its trouble. Who looks shifty and walks
too quickly to be doing anything holy. She knows few people
are brave enough to approach her, much less reproach her,
and that is fine. Those who knew her young, back before

the new church opened decades ago, moved away when
they had the chance. She understands deep in her heart
that God wants some of His flock to be alone, the better
to recognize evil, the better to judge the lambs who’ve

strayed from the flock even a little and need one of her
withering looks and her soft but unmistakeable growl
to shame them back into a righteous God-filled life,
the pure white light she tries to mimic with paint.

Dream After Watching A Unicorn Movie On Netflix With My Toddler / by Faith Gomez Clark


The unicorn’s name was Harvey, at least that’s what his name tag said. For all intents and purposes Harvey was an ordinary unicorn. Except that he wasn’t. His mane was blonde and cropped awkwardly short. Harvey had hands where his front hooves should have been. And his was coat was menstrual red. He was serving coffee at this coffee shop. No one around me seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary. So, I ordered a drink. I asked him for a cappuccino with almond milk. He gave me a cappuccino cup filled with condoms. I let it slide. It was Tuesday. I ordered a sandwich. His graceful hands set the black plate in front of me and then he trotted off without a word. I raised the sandwich to my salivating mouth, when I noticed, there, in between the two slices of multigrain toast, packets upon packets of birth control pills, full. I had enough. I walked over to the tip jar and reclaimed my money then made my ways towards the exit, tripping on a box of pregnancy tests on the way out.

Charlie’s Hands / by Andrew Levine

She was a 1970 green Plymouth Fury with 56,000 miles of experience.
To drive cross country I had to learn how to care for her, and talked my way
into a job at the Sunoco station.

Day one I learned where you hide a left over gas cap, that the steering column
Isn’t the right place to pour a quart of motor oil.

There were other days and I learned
how to fix a flat tire, replace an ignition coil, gap and change a set of spark plugs.

                                              high into the metallic undercarriage of a Chevy.

I spent mornings lying on a wooden creeper, extending an arm

I spent afternoons cleaning

grease-soaked parts and grease-streaked hands before
biting into real hunger.

I spent evenings soaking muscles tattooed with the heft of the day’s tools.

Three mechanics worked the station’s bay lifts.
Diminutive and wiry, Charlie knew things
that couldn’t be explained to the others.

His hands could find their way through a sports car’s slot canyon engine corridors.
He could hear and sense wear. A few degrees difference on a timing chain.

He would pull out an obscure tool waiting
                                                        in its Snap-on case
                                                                                for this exact repair moment.

Seven weeks in, Charlie started teaching me brakes, but it was time to head West.
The Plymouth would behave herself, mostly.

Gas costing less than a dollar never returned, and neither did I.

50 years later and my hands have never betrayed me.
Through hands we know things with
an intelligence that rivals any academic learning.

Thank you Charlie, for not firing me that first day.

I wish it was chilly and I had a bath / by Jillian Mukavetz

jesus studys buddhism relinquishing
strawberry blond
                shadow contracts
in             a beijing full moon

scene I:

this was right after you found a pistol that was covered in bluish fingerprints. you wrapped it in newspaper & put it into your purple brocade purse.

( the guy stages a death using your old ornamental carpets in a pool. they both go in the pool you think later maybe a hologram. but when he reaches the side of the pool he says the body is wrapped in your carpet in your car. )

scene II:

back up in the mountains. this time arguing about humanity & legal weed rights. a potluck with friends was involved. I had corn and rice. I gave you some of my rice with my left hand behind my back.

scene III:

he tried to encourage me saying I had gotten up in the morning & had gotten up the mountain. I could only think about falling. I called to my dad but he could not hear me. the woman called to my dad understanding I was stuck. he came back but said there was no choice but to go down. no ropes, I could not even take a picture. going down never a higher peak I kept imagining falling. he said he didn’t want to leave at that instant so we left him. he is my brother now. taking back the curves to the open plan with the feathers again. the woman again only. sad ones we decided to take the climb. as I looked closer, I found two cut jewels that reminded me of the stones my mother used to buy off of late-night infomercials. he seemed trying to hide something like drugs or something to that degree so I took a look but he assured me they were just nail shavings from some animal with claws. clippings.

I found my him sitting on the sill in the bathroom and he dumped out hastily to his right into the sink a clear vile with bits that made small ping sounds into the sink.

scene IV:

the summit had a conference going on which I knew the topic to but seemed unimportant only getting down the mountain & collecting the feathers. there was a car at the top & we went carving through the mountains. I had this incredible growing fear as we took the turns alongside the drop offs. but the only ones I could see were straggly with fluffy down like perhaps from younger birds & blacks with bits of grey. the mountain was fine the way up. when we were to the top there was a woman with several boughfuls of beautiful long brown golden eagle feathers.

scene V:

I took it to my brother & he looked surprised as it comfortably coiled into the size of a can and he fit in a small sack. he said that’s the best snake. even though it tried to kill the elephant. the next day I asked my dad to hike this mountain so we could collect eagle feathers. so many snakes my brother kept. one tried to kill one of three elephants. a weak albino restrictor. I managed to untangle it as the elephant dropped recovering. it minorly bit me as I restrained its gauged fangs and gave him back to my brother.

Robin On the Road / by Shagufta Mulla 

Rusty breast, belly up in the sun
with nothing to lose, blush of God
laid low, not even a white satin pillow
for your head. Roadside, I wonder…
did the glass strike you this time?

Earlier I came across a song of healing,
and though I do not understand Navajo
the leader’s resonant devotion spread
out a soft shelter for me to lift up
my little-girl-eyes in admiration,
or lay them down in peace.
His percussive paternal offering
sent secret songs into my solitary
corridors, rattled free decades
of frozen birds in formal shrouds.

The last car zips by your blacktop
casket but I slow and look for unfurling
glory. In the midday residential stillness
I lower my driver side window,
lower my eyes to share your sunbeams
softly spread out by the willows’
hands, and perhaps I’ll perceive
a steady rhythm, just stunned—
or—
are you a sovereign rust-feathered father,
here to release more of my song?

couch / by Calista Ogburn 
 

i’m little skull shards lodged in couch,
shattered brains on wall.

like
mother yelling at father
like
car rides do not feel like home anymore
like
anxiety eats my tongue whole
like
trauma buys memories from dark alleyways

i’m little skull shards lodged in couch,
begging for mother to come find me.

Scenes: 1 / by Amie Sharp 

January 2020. We travel
to Mexico for a winter getaway,
trying to wrap our minds
around my December
doctor’s appointment
confirming tests I’d taken at home:
the double lines, the plus sign,
the word YES.

It’s Rosca de Reyes.
Epiphany.
I take the tiny baby
from the King Cake
and turn it over and over
in my hands.

Three days later
the World Health Organization
announces a mysterious new virus,
one that wears a spiky crown.

I’m in a mood about America / by Rana Tahir 
(after a line by Jericho Brown, with thanks to Carolyne Wright)
 
Today I am holding my head
under water with America’s
hand on my neck— I do not know
how to come up for air. In Kuwait,
as a girl, my parents had me
stay hidden in another room when
a strange man came to the house—
a plumber or electrician— to remain
unseen from potential danger. When
in Oregon, a maintenance worker came
to our apartment, I left my husband
and hid in the bedroom without thinking,
almost taking down the Qur’anic calligraphy
from the walls. Today I am holding my head under
water with America’s hand on my neck. America
will push my head down and then pull it up,
unkill me slowly in familiar ways. I try to stay
here and imagine the dark rooms in Poland
where America has locked up so many
into nonexistence.
Dark American rooms litter the world
holding scores of people with names
and faces like mine. America always
has my neck in its grip— I begin
to choke every day I step outside my home
into the open. But even at home, America knows
where I live, knows my name is after God, knows
the number stamped onto a card I carry registering
my alienness as though consent was knowingly given
for them to stop my breath.

Poem 9 / Day 9

The Inevitable Shame of Trees / by Mary Christine Delea

Trees do not die from old age. If they are not cut down, diseased, burned, or attacked by other trees—Russian Olive trees, I am looking at you—they will live forever, or so we believe. Being mortal, we can only surmise, using that thing we call faith mixed with that other thing we call science. There are at least 60,000 species living peacefully, unaware of the human groups whose missions are to save each tree, from the vulnerable Dragon Blood tree of Yemen to the endangered Chilean Monkey Puzzle tree.

Sturdy trunks and strong circulation make for hardy trees, the type that won’t embarrass themselves by becoming victimized by spotted lanternflies, drought, strong winds, or pine needle rust. That vigor created tree evolution—from fern to forests.

But the weak ones, the trees that get stressed so easily—pollution, overcrowding, a lack of necessary resources—can snap or wither. These trees, living in environments they cannot control, stress themselves to death. Unable to function, they begin to moan—an eerie sound humans often believe to be ghosts coming around for a haunt. Other trees, the strong ones, embarrassed, ignore them. Animals, having their own troubles staying alive, run away. The helpful groups of people are busy planning, planting, pruning, and pushing back bulldozers. So when a weak tree dies, only the elm bark beetles and its ilk care at all.

Current Mood / by Faith Gomez Clark


The compulsive
Beating of being
Sits heavy
On my shoulders
So I’ll pull
These wrinkled linen
Sheets over
The world
Of my head
And I’ll try
Again
Tomorrow

Educated Guesses / by Andrew Levine

The sweep of the storm
Outran them.

50 years married, professors,
inhabiters of the universe of 1s and 0s, making educated guesses daily,

landing on the wrong side of Ida, of a bulging Blind Brook.
Found underneath a wrecked bridge.

‘She used to walk everywhere. I’d see her all the time’, said a neighbor.

Don’t we know her ghost will surely
stroll the neighborhood when the storms come again?

What does it cost us to know that the next wrong guess
might leave one of us left holding a rope no longer taut?

I tumbled down a flight of stairs and when I landed our lives were different.

No education can help us to hold certainty without waiting for it too,
without dreading every dilapidated bridge.

balance / by Jillian Mukavetz

shy thing
when you
how it is
time of the
day notes grammar of pretend
it could sell you
against definition
sweet ones
somethings
quite dark

From Fear to Full Bloom / by Shagufta Mulla

Fear     feathers folded     fractured,
found on the ground     not mine     or     maybe?

Foggy vision from age five, depleted
downy fuzz     sizzling flesh    or frozen.

I find myself fledged afraid, failing to fly.    
Am I fit enough?  Fixated     Fooled by facades

for far too long, flightless forms who flip-flopped forward
to death.  Can bluffed smiles last forever on fake food,

now fetid and acidic?  Maybe until eighty five.  No     I forage
for fragrant substance     Honeyed flow finds Me     flushes

out false tunes and fraudulent-self fades.  Fills me feral
and pink     Pollinated    full bloom finds Me

fond of soft orange flames and fast forward     fervent fullness 
is faithful     flourishes Me into Unfettered and Free

home / by Calista Ogburn

for all of life, i wondered when i would feel at home. moving every
three years, i was a lost child, wandering the mall crying for its
mother. i believed home was a place. country. building. someone’s
arms. lover’s heart. i roamed under street lamps, guided by faint light
and broken glass. forgot to recognize my legs walked me out of
abusive doors, hands fought unwanted thoughts, heart pumped hope
into veins, stomach fed me poetry. this body endured pain and
begged for joy. i was home all along.

At Sylvia’s Grave / by Amie Sharp  

Heptonstall

Rain on the church ruins.

St. Thomas a Becket
slick grey worldwash.

Fallen stone column crashed
in a lightning storm
lifting its limbs like a hat rack.

Lotus fire flame
in the gravefield on the hill.

An Honest Chance / by Rana Tahir

to break apart
the pieces of fruit
let them sit on my tongue
acid burning the edges
into jagged shapes
I eat and burn my throat
I eat and add another day
sitting in the mouth of a cave
on my knees, scraping
my toes against rock
watching the dead
roast to sustenance
I have bashed and skinned
myself, placed her over
the roaring fire on a spit
and watch her burn to ash.

Your Path Is Lined with Flowers / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski

There is no map, sister.

We only have our paths.

And your path is lined with flowers
planted by your grandmothers.

Walk a little bit ahead, my dear,
and you’ll plant more.

You will always plant more.

Listen to the flowers, sister.

They will sing to you
vibrantly and more lovingly
than those that Alice met.

You are not lost.

You will never be lost.

Breathe in their scents, sister.

They will fill you with sweetness
when you feel empty.

But you do not lack.

Darling, you will never lack.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Nuances of a Theme by Stevens of a Theme by Williams / by Mary Christine Delea

Such a luxury of stars would embarrass me.—Sylvia Plath, “Stars Over the Dordogne”

I prefer birds. Their tiny courage.
How their songs make us silent, afraid
of scaring them suddenly mute.

The stars, so distant. So dead.
The grief of widows and soon-to-be widows
staring in awe at the dark sky.
Just to see a twinkle, recall a song
from childhood, before all this mourning.

I’d rather sing alone than shine alone
in the morning as the sun is called to work
by birdsong. A quiet tune that brings
the joy of remembering
without the anguish.

Self-Portrait As Bipolar Mother / by Faith Gomez Clark

Unlock the body:

            a nightingale sings    somewhere
Inside the vortex of throat
            high   low
Ever heather changing
            changing heather ever
The various tablets
            to divorce the married

S e l v e s
the singular self
A rainbow
in the dark
S c o f f i n g
at the world

On This Night We Ask More Than Four Questions / by Andrew Levine

Is it enough to do better?

Enough to do no harm?                      Is it possible to do no harm?

Should we instead master the act of asking forgiveness?

                        Granting forgiveness?

Is it the wound that teaches us to be fully human?

            Must we wound those we love?        Those we care for?

Our children?

Are we here to live these questions?

If not this collection, which ones are ours to ask?

The Night / by Jiaoyang Li

I don’t want to speculate whose cold hands are again perched on the branches of your overnight hemlock
I don’t want to hear whose mouth has given birth again to the instant pearls with shells.
I don’t want to read about the origin of man and the threshold of boundaries
I don’t want to learn where geraniums can be coincidentally hidden 
I don’t want to test the tension of the tail plume
I don’t want to ask how much the thin vines we give each other are worth for.
I don’t care whether the secrets we pour out would be recorded by history books or sewers
I only wonder if you can throw away your watches and arm wrestle right now.
Whoever wins and loses is all up to you
Can we eat the air-fried purple cabbage and play airplane chess with me?
Someone cursed ‘Ce satané as de pique’
No one remember who it was on which night

a boom box in the rain, / by Jillian Mukavetz

nods wood burnt, 
harmony skin bended thin into a stare; a minute
an outsider all-racked-up
I can hear them laughing
my ticket is purchased
its course, moved noise.
open baskets curved        (running the lines of genius
a plaid orchestra
the song makers of rolled notes
or rest.
she ordered three large duffle bags. big enough to fit several bodies into
falling black fulcrums, double paned in shadow
the color of plasm
backpacking trips together through landscapes of red mesa
they fall towards the one of the other
rosebud hips
kits, blended, bit, brilliant,
she was waiting for him
some words are irrelevant,
some are unspoken, afresh a bell a fresh.

Resurrected / by Shagufta Mulla

I am the Spring fawn,
      maybe six months old,
      belly burdened with blood,
      rigor mortis, right side
      down in the dark
      on my residential road,

Who softens in the night
under spirited owls and Wonder’s
starry salve,

Who, relieved of darting fear by dawn
leaps up towards rising lines
of light, flanked by cedar and pine,

Who finds Herself luminously
full, for the first time.

november / by Calista Ogburn

you were here on days i hated myself.
but when you left me on this day, last year,
i am learning what it means 
to be loved by empty arms.
how do i love without a body to hold?

Reading / by Amie Sharp 

My one-year old wants
to read the board book about the fish again.
Fourth time for the two of us,

several readings for her and Daddy today too.  
When we find out once again
the fish is scared of darkness,

she studies my face.
How do I find the right
expression to convey temporary fright?

One day she’ll read about the “wine-dark sea.”
The choice Odysseus’s men faced
between being devoured by a monster’s mouth

and being whirled into a cold, swirling maw.
She’s disturbed, but she’s also figuring out
the suspense is delicious.

Now she’s in my lap.
We get closer to the page where the fish
must swim down into the dark he fears.

Now we have to hug.
We reach the darkest page
and she flips it so fast it pops against my knuckles.

On the next page, a lantern-fish brings light
under the impossible fathoms.
Friendship and teamwork dispel darkness,

which I suppose is most true when your friends
are literally incandescent.
It’s a happy ending.

*Content Warning: Child Abuse, Suicide, Death*

plucking the silence dead /
by Rana Tahir

I press the button,
push and push again
turn the volume up
until the bass clogs
my ears like water

Maybe if I shrank
into the ocean
down to a speck of dirt
in the dark deep
I would be enough but not too much

I dream of drowning often
in pools or rivers or the open sea
but have only lost my breath
on Sunday nights or in plastic bags
watching myself live without living

Maybe if I kept tight
this straightjacket hold
of unsaid expectations
we would glide by
unnoticed and unharmed

I can spend hours staring
at the ceiling, listening
to the same song
over and over again
picturing what can’t be forgotten

Maybe if I hit him back
caught him off guard
and ran into him
from behind when he cornered you
slamming his head
against the wall
red on green
as he took off your glasses
before he struck…

My days are endless
thoughts of maybes
of videotape of us
of cassette tapes of songs
of rolls of tape around my neck

Immersed in Depth, I Prepare for the Future / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski

Completely immersed,
I look down and see darkness.

Completely immersed,
I look up and see light.

I cannot know if broken shells wait
for me at the bottom of the water
until they slit my feet.

I shall step lightly in preparation.

I cannot know if the sun waits to warm
me until I meet it on land.

I shall shed some layers in preparation.

I cannot know unless I stay.
I cannot know unless I move.

I shall do both in preparation.

Depth fascinates me.

I often dwell there.
Its familiarity is pleasant.

I often feel cold.
Its uncertainty makes me shiver.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Rage / by Amantine Brodeur

Read me
along this faultline
sketching dust
After my likeness;
once deep
strangling vines
Gnarled
to my voicing throat,
hooked: A barbed fly
Encountering you
in bleary light;
roughly
speaking. . .

Bee Hummingbird / by Mary Christine Delea

Even among hummingbirds, the bee 
captures our attention. We savor things
small, cute, hold-able. A little 
over two inches long, people often 
mistake this bird for a discolored bee. 
Like the youngest child 
of a large family, it is strong,
powerful for its size. We admire that, too,
the unexpected toughness
in a being so dainty.
We want to understand
the hum-buzzing of wings, 
tinny-twitter song, territorial behavior,
how the tiniest bird on earth
can exist in just one small country
and thrive. But then we remember our own 
practices: the way we decorate our bodies 
with bright ornamentation, 
our silly sounds, our shallow
belief in borders, how we tend to stay 
in one place. But mostly we savor
the surprising strength we are sometimes 
able to summon when trouble
becomes larger than our 
tiny selves, making us all
remarkably bee-like.

Survival / by Faith Gomez Clark

Overhead, a blood
Orange sky
As the fiery face
Of the sun sets.
My calico,
Slender and ungraceful—
The camera of her face
Set on the wobbly tripod
Of her body— makes her way
Over to what’s left
Of my rose bush.
She paws at something
Under the brush
Just beyond my vision’s
Strained reach.
I inch closer, but
My spouse’s black lab moves
With the measured speed
Of a lion, cuts me off,
Then intercepts
The mysterious morsel,
The tiny bones crunching
Between her teeth,
The calico hissing,
As she tries to claw her
With her no-longer-there paw.

Putting it together / by Andrew Levine      

Why

        this

lack                  of

                                    spatial

                                                            intelligence

Study instructions    …………    then Adirondack parts
then instructions…………..                               

run to grab another tool………

the garden begins laughing

thorny julia child, sporting 3 new yellow blooms, guffaws

5 new penstemons
still in their 5 inch pots
consider reporting a kidnapping

Black obsidian comes from fire,
Smirks in that smoldering, heuchera way

Flustered,   I       fit     the       arm         again

90 minutes later I slide in for 15 seconds

                                                                        a longer respite

                                                worthy of

                        not

then rise

I drag cardboard to the compost,

  turn around to derisive looks from rock garden diminutives

thank god there are no leftover screws

Hairs on the ground measures satellites in their own way / by Jiaoyang Li

UV Light my little colt foal 
Thumping and drive light rays
Running three miles on my body

But telling the minutiae of life to you
is more difficult than pinching up
the light spot on my nose

Hair is too long and it smokes my eyes
This fall at home, I decide to study soy wax
and use it to pinch a new mold for myself

Experiments notes are as follows.

AB Epoxy, hard to manage the ratio
Tears take too long to dry
Resin smells as regret, useless and grand

Next time I would know
What can be ordered on Amazon
What can not.

Ah, but I still hate
I hate the piggy bank that made me repeatedly glue my own bodies

I can’t and I don’t know how 
to become those human beings who made repetition afraid of themselves.

How to spend my life obsessed with one object
and finding an alien in only one material

To forge a skin that breathes with the condensable stuff of repetition and a couple of reversals
Forge a skin that breathes
Extracting a metaphorical sculpture

I clasp my fists my shells of respects
Sure, after working in this basement for so long

I also become the one with disrespectful eyes
always searching in the crowds
for the Ultra-light clay
that’s ” Easy for molding, Non-toxic and safe”

Last year, you sent me a sterile check and an alibi.

From the records, 
I know, that was also part of the government benefits
and one-third use of my health insurance.

grace / by Jillian Mukavetz

to those in this mention whose city could conduct trios of pockets

she quivers         the tapes who give gapes to queens

soft pine giving up everything. in those

who grit the sugar

green chips of possibility will care

you cannot power nothing. justice

has it all on them.

their skin like a fist, like the word defeatist.

the thrill of prudence

balletically kept firm

shall press:         I am off the clock

like the faults of aphrodite

we tried to find a way and everything was done.

Molecules of Meaning / by Shagufta Mulla 

I reheat my morning coffee for the second time
and the ceramic menagerie of Vicki Sawyer animals

slowly spins, looking out from the microwave as creamy
molecules explode (from what I’ve heard,)

but I can’t see that so hopefully it’ll be okay. I open the door
and the time is 7:47, maybe like the British Airways

airplane that brought my mother to America
with two small kids in tow. Like the blizzard layover,

I doubt it’s what she wanted but she was only a molecule
in her life, unable to hold onto her own heat.

When you’re young you know you’re many molecules
under a smiling sun but with every slam of the door

they push the blue buttons on the gloss of your convenient
flesh and program what they want.

Geese fly overhead, meaning it’s a month before green
goes into gold; they are many parts to one group

on their way to somewhere warmer, their honks random bursts
of meaning I can’t make sense of no matter how much I hear

and try. There will be many opportunities the next month
for me to learn their language or come up with a story instead,

picking up stray particles of snow and heat, applying them to my life
as I please. My coffee has cooled so I’ll reheat it one more time

to savor the last bits of palatability.

inferno / by Calista Ogburn 
 

skin latches 
              itself onto fire 
becomes a walking 
              body in forest
burns love 
              next to anger
remembers that this 
              moment are the 
              trees 
                             begging 
for 
water

That Night / by Amie Sharp

We marveled at the Italian hills.
We’d never seen
the ground’s slow geologic motion
so clearly before.

Gentler than the abrupt
crags of the American West.

Later the clouds rolled in under the stars
and you, struck by the impossible beauty of the night,
said humanity is a stain on this world.

That is not what I was expecting.

I was offended on behalf of the humans
who had lit up the distant hilltops, doing their best.

I knew you said it because
your heart had been pulled to shreds.

So much cosmic separation.

Even later, the last star
disappeared, and lightning impaled the sky.

 
 
 
*Content Warning: Transphobia/Dead Naming, Child Abuse* 

Substitute / by Rana Tahir 
 
Again, you walk the halls in an unfamiliar space
trying to locate a child who has run out of the room
crying.
 
Again, you dead name a kid
in front of the whole class taking attendance
using the front office’s attendance sheet.
 
So many needs, and not enough time.
You will not be here tomorrow.
 
You are tired of substituting
your brief presence for meeting
real needs. They are not your children
 
but oh they remind you
every day
how long life is
 
and how deep
these early hurts cut.
 
 
 
 
 
 

We Walked on Stolen Land / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 

We sat and broke bread
(gluten-free crackers and cheese spread)
at a blue picnic table on top of a hill
overlooking a park.

We, sisters connected by Mystery, laughed
and delighted in the fact
that we were alone except
for the trees and the stream
and the laughter of children
playing outside at a nearby school.

The sky was blue and we were free
to walk among the trees and
gather their fallen leaves
gold, mustard, orange, red,
more brilliant than roses.

My sister knelt beside the stream
and let the water wash over her hands.

Did you know we walked on stolen land?

In the park, a monument stands
dedicated to the indigenous people
who greeted the ones
who came to their land
to teach the “truth.”

We laid our bouquets at the base…

Is it enough to remember?
Is it enough to do better?
Is it enough to whisper?

“I’m sorry they did this to you.
I’m sorry they did this to you.”

Poem 6 / Day 6

A History of Legs / by Amantine Brodeur

The history of legs grew tongue in cheek; swam fathomless lengths
amid pillows of elegance, the dark clasped by swans in necking
virtues of air.

The history of feelings grew legs; walked a thousand nights; silk
occasions turning deaths to flesh and beauty a deeper shade
of You.

The history of dreamers drowned the sadness in trivia and grit;
desire landscaping men in the shiver of love, arching history
into orchards.

The history of feet, brushing beneath sheets, entertwined fragrances,
of eyes, caught of a glance that leave impressions in the small house
of me, you, or them.

The history of laughter, drawn across a half- sky by emissaries of lead
and poverty. In such privacies, during years of snow: Each of us,
caught legless.

Cat Burglar / by Mary Christine Delea 

No need for violence or staying in the shadows.
I sidle up to empty houses
like I am expected, a wayward cousin
from out of state who walked from the bus station
pulling my suitcase on the pristine
suburban sidewalk, walking slowly as to enjoy
the landscaped lawns, gnomes keeping watch in gardens,
and the smell of fertilizer and katsura.

The luggage will be full when I leave.
Cash, small electronics, jewelry, silverware,
prescription drugs, guns—even those expensive shoes
you saved up for—fit my bag
and sell quickly with no questions.

I have no interest in you, will not
pause in my work to look at family photos.
Your pets are no bother—locked temporarily
into the bathroom, we are safe from one another.

As long as you are at work as usual,
out for your weekly lunch with friends,
or sitting in a monthly meeting for the library
board of directors, we will never
need to meet. If we do, things will not
go well. But why dwell on the negative,
on things that should never happen?

When I leave, I ignore the neighborhood
so interesting to me an hour before. My pace is quicker,
my focus on the future destination of what
used to be your possessions. As I get into
my nondescript car parked in the pot-holed lot
of the slightly run-down strip center
where you never shop, I have already forgotten
everything about you, all of the information
that had been important just that morning.
It is as if you never existed at all.

Manic / by Faith Gomez Clark 

                                                                                              MANIC

S  
I
P
H
O
N

R E  A  L  I  T  Y

P
E
R
P
E
T
U
A
L

                                                                                                                     G L I T T E R                                             

Alchemy Behind A Closed Door / by Andrew Levine
For Zenon Fishbein

Piano teachers get a bad rap,
Wrapping knuckles or
Sitting too close, or worse.

I went my solo way,
The piano all secret pleasure,
Far from ballfields and my public face.

But the path turned, hallways and doorways appeared.
Teacher one was virtuosic.
Teacher two a 19th century hero.

Teacher three was my alchemist.
Tools, once secreted, were placed in my hands.
The oracle predicted I would have something to say one day.

Matched with music I knew before I knew the music,
Franck’s prayer unfolded, expanding like a sonic universe.
I belonged to the world of the tones.

What power my alchemist wielded!
Every day a player enters, closes the door, and if all goes well?
Transformed, anointed with arcane secrets and the strictest standards.

The cliché may never leave us.
Urging students to curve their fingers and practice more
Reaps glazed gazes out the window, longing looks at the clock.

Magic, both liminal and mysterious does occasionally happen.
It did for me, across a Claremont Avenue threshold.
My burden now to pass on before I’m gone.

Oddesy in New Jersey / by Jiaoyang Li

Another friend crosses the river to check 
whether I am my own epityphlon.

Mimicking how insects lay eggs
and New York mistakes itself as a spasmodic leg
I throw grass seeds to the lips of my preferred night.

I am my own executioner, communist
if a joint hurts I am sure to make all the joints hurt together
I cut myself into countless broken bones
Everyday wrap them into a lego gift box
and send me back to the subway

I am my own head
My head is cooler than autumn watermelon
on the glowing floor in the dark
My head seldom misses the glowy moments of pestling on its body.
My head is my own tent.

Myself is a mirage between ruins and ruins
And I am the canoe ferrying around the mirage
I am the passenger who escaped the ticket
meanwhile, the ticket collector who dragging face long behind the sunlight

I am my own hip
again and again, using my freezing calves
to reprogram the blueprints of the past five years
I dedicate to exit the trapezoidal room
Exit the casino of frog racing
Exit the pelvis that our masters named for us
Exit the peninsulas of metronome
Exit the anonymous lime and declarative logic
Exit the greyness of pigeon feathers and the garbage can of miscellany

I am my own doorknob
turning my own handle I would exit into the opposite side of Manhattan
Exit without wilderness-phobia with my little suitcase 

bears towing  / by Jillian Mukavetz

the note is more calm

with secret paintings

I could sleep

back to the comfy bed & the pretty light

maybe there will be a sunset tomorrow

difficult places to swim, in surf with secret paintings

I set it to four the frequency of five too,

my body cooled the note

more calm.

the lake never had a sunset the sunset never had the trees the mirrors, were the same. 

Reflections / by Shagufta Mulla 

I’m three years into the river
and I don’t know if I’m trying
to drown on purpose. Maybe

I’m just under the surface
because I can sense ripples
of sun and sound, a curled

warmth
within my ribs like a rabbit
within her burrow,

or maybe
I’m not looking up but down
into my mind, where hope

is great blue heron-blue,
gliding like grace and purpose
reflecting in my eyes, my mind

sliding past the past while I hold
my breath at beauty
reflecting my sun-filled skin.

 sunroom / by Calista Ogburn 
 

sunroom becomes a storage full of depressive episodes:
forgiving boyfriend without much thought,
              overwhelmingly apologizing to the white man
              in the grocery store after he bumped into me,
              laying on bedroom floor for only ten seconds
              as the guilt set in for not being productive,
              saying yes to events i do not want to attend
              due to societal pressure,
              over-smiling in zoom meetings
              from nine to five,
sunroom supposedly nourishes body.
forces me to stay and be happy,
living in the sun even though 
the moonlight seems more peaceful.

October Blue / by Amie Sharp 

So cloudless
            it almost hurts.

Five pines on the ridge
            stiffen their crisp green needles.

The wind finds its autumn edge;
            green grass blades browning. 

What’s to come, the skittering bees
            and straggling geese know.

Today I read the moon
            is drifting further away from us each year,

turning its face to the luminous dark.

Origin Story / by Rana Tahir 
(From Poets & Writers prompt on 10/05)
 
I come from fire
I come from the drunken light of a full moon
I come from stolen fruit touched by your hand
I come from night trains and brothels
I come from the thorn in your foot
I come from the three rupees never returned to me
I come from carriages carrying me further away
I come from the whip’s crack on my hand
I come from the candle that blows out
 
 
 
 
 
 

Facing Reality / by Brittney Zaleski-Walker 

(4 Haikus)

“It’s never going
to be enough,” she said. “And
that’s fine. I have now.

I will always long
for more. And that is fine. I
have made peace with this

reality. Please,
sit with me. Let us enjoy
everything, nothing.

Together, let’s take
refuge in the mystery.
We can rest, just be.”

Poem 5 / Day 5

Sliver / by Amantine Brodeur

She stands
in
the rain,
a sliver
of rice paper
between
the sheets
blistering
the wet grass
and
her bare
feet.
She stands
untitled,
un-namable
between
a blistering
and the blare
of
being grassed;
no
foothold.
She stands
bared,
a sliver of
grass
in the ruins
of –
sleet.

Utensils / by Mary Christine Delea

Our English fork, from furca, the mighty pitchfork,
rests with our spoon—spon—chip of wood,
and knife, which has too many issues to deal with here.

But this fork, adding prongs throughout its history,
serving food as well as sacrifices to ancient gods,
also works to designate union for waterways

and plants. Washington Irving was the first to write
fork in the road and that alone makes him worthy
of a Johnny Depp movie, a Hudson Valley historic site,

and even a Robert Frost poem, which never uses
the Irving term, but rather two roads diverged, 
an opening to a poem scores of students have memorized

since, it seems, Rip Van Winkle woke up. Impossible? 
Of course. As unlikely as combining a fork and a spoon
into one ungodly piece of plastic that sums up

the 20th century in ways no century would ever wish 
to be remembered. The horror of the spork, an instrument 
allowing people to eat whipped potatoes without losing 

any gravy between the tines, a word which is also used 
for the pointed end of those terrifying dental tools: 
the probe, the scaler, and the curved sickle scaler which 

sounds like something a serial killer in a trashy slasher 
novel might use. Excuse me while I shudder. A history
full of violence and one guy trying to decide

which way to go. Interesting, but not terribly sexy.
But spoons? Besides their graceful dip, concave head,
shallow bowl offering sustenance, this little splinter

spun into so many shapes brings us the best things
to eat—soups, cereals, desserts of many kinds.
Spoons measure the ingredients that make meals,

allow us to cover one food with others. Even the spork
is useless for spooning gravy over potatoes. All 29
types of spoons get used more regularly than

the 14 types of forks, not that anyone should pit
one against the other. Both have their place at the table.
But the sensuous spoon manages to evoke romance

in ways no other tableware can. In bed, bodies bending 
to form one entity for sleep—spooning— have little 
in common with the silverware it is named for,

even less so the old-fashioned phrase meaning cuddling
kissing, and canoodling, all words with histories 
as formidable as knife, which we are still not getting into.

Of course, the non-sleeping spooning can lead to—how they
referred to sex /angry adjective-ing on the TV show 
The Good Place, which dealt with existential conundrums 

and philosophical problems but had very little to say about 
etymology—forking, which can cause folks to engage in
the sleeping-spooning. It’s very tidy, the way the pieces

fit together on a napkin and how they can be smushed
into a little rom-com anecdote: we spooned, we forked,
we spooned. So go eat something. Then . . . well, who knows?

Diving Lesson / by Faith Gomez Clark

My son stands, feet together, toes dangling over the edge
Of the faded blue diving board. His hands rise
Elegantly over his head forming a sort of halo.
The abdominal muscles contracting,
The gluteus maximus contracting, ready.
The wren comes, out of nowhere, or
More specifically, out of the forest flames of hell,
Plants its crackled claws in
The nest of my son’s not-yet-wet hair.
At first, my son flaps his hands at the winged demon,
Then remembering perhaps, that he is a young
Man of grace, grand battements into the air;
His fear-fueled energy striking him off
balance and I can feel my heart like a groundhog
After a long hibernation, make its way up my throat.

You said, “go with him, I’ll be alright”, / by Andrew Levine

Lips quivering and blue,
lying on the table, body trembling,
where seconds earlier our son looked
up and smiled, as only he could do.

I race after the blue-gowned nurses,
each step taken with intent,
certain that love will set the cosmos right,
eliminate all crying, all possible curses. 

Then the women’s hands turn rough 
in a practiced duet, scrub his body
while he wails, takes umbrage, 
demands a return to his warm ocean.

As my vow of protection turns to ash
I know there will be other promises that burn;
I will keep swearing oaths, and being fooled into
foolishness with all that certainty will allow.

Failure wears a heavy yoke in our world 
and we are blind to its illumination;
we fail, we fall, we follow reason and fail again,
bookmark the fear like a corner page that’s curled.

But there hangs the contrary moon, 
cajoling, admonishing me:
‘look up! ignore the urge to hide,
to curl up so the bear will go away.

Step humbly across the threshold,
stare into humiliation’s dare,
love the boy over and over
and let the tale unfold’. 

edible / by Jillian Mukavetz

a raspberry cardinal drops a note to meet us as you, pale in carnation, offer a sapphire and some rose stained jelly to my toast. fill now the search for air. the wind is of a caramel memory brittle in song. ash grows out of this powder. persimmon tart drenched in the wind. it is a hungry flower upon your you mine your my pale pink. hue rooted in the stem. you say a silver say and must an iris. is to find a way to stopping the quick tongue your trees the aspen of fair grows inside of me. it fills now a sear for air. air turned and drained in opal current your reason candy tough like wound sleep. persimmons drench in mist the taste of you. drips down my cool throat. here I am loving and insane. naked in service, every color laced together, every color your breath.

Meditation / by Shagufta Mulla

I enter the woods for a walking meditation

when the scratch and crunch of brown leaves 

stops me at a tree stump.  Two Townsend’s 

chipmunks scurry between broken branches 

and too-far-apart fir trees, 

then pause on their haunches to happily 

hold food to their face, to stuff their cheeks 

with I don’t know what, and I wonder 

if while they eat they contemplate 

whatever rodents do, or maybe the bliss 

of not considering what comes and goes, 

like stormy nights that topple their tall trees 

with irreverent strength, allows them to sit 

perfectly in meditative presence without 

endlessly wondering about what is 

and what isn’t.

mother reminds me why i can’t walk outside / by Calista Ogburn

the virus seeps into skin. presents itself as an ally. rubs their hands together like mischief whispering behind back. sneaks underneath bed and scares the other monsters. shows its face in the sunlight. makes sure everyone can see what it really looks like. finds solace in used shoes, marinates in the glory of rooting ourselves to the ground.

mother reminds me why i can’t walk outside,
everyday
for the rest of my life

Who Is It This Time? / by Amie Sharp
Rape of the Sabine Women 2005, directed by Eve Sussman

The women wear mod dresses,
the men dark suits and thin ties.

There are those who need
to leave their land for a new beginning

and those who are so needed
they are never asked what they want.  

Summer, and the land the women
came from is as beautiful as it is lost.

They scrabble with their captors in the dust.
The film gets the colors right, in that it steals them away.  

On Your Birthday I Remember / by Rana Tahir
-For Will

The house was still empty,
the u-haul truck full of boxes,
a bookshelf, a dining table,
and a chest—all the furniture
we owned back then. You dug
around for a blanket, laid it out
onto the grassy field and we lay
on it pretending not to mind the damp
soaking its way up towards us as we waited
to see the meteor shower start. I could not have
wished for a more perfect you than what I have now.
In my dreams I lose you and cry to the moon to give
you back. In the daylight I wake to your arm wrapped
tightly around me, containing all my hurts and keeping
them locked away safely. We build a life counting stars.

The Goldfinch / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski

October brings

blackened stems and burnt leaves.

Ornamental grass turns golden

and pine branches drip with cones.

A goldfinch feasts on

spent purple echinacea blooms.

Her efforts never cease as

she braces and moves

with the dampness and the swaying

of her leafy perch.

Why does the little bird undertake such things?

Does she fear the impending winter?

Or do the seeds just taste that lovely?

Poem 4 / Day 4

The Night Season / by Amantine Brodeur

She never knew a song could drown, lose oxygen at depth
and never come up for air. This membrane of breath
brimming to retrieve itself reading Rilke-esque watermaps,
treading postpartum marshland:Unwritten.

A wingspan of raw diction, a language of once-sacred grief
tracing her equator of havoc, eyes closed, rooting out lyrics
from objects of affection, disinfecting memory.

An Ampersand of unfolding legs, love enacting sacrifice in the
softness of — Ex. That inextricable meeting place where loss lives
with no memory of its own, in the meticulous forgetfulness of damage
in its precarious incompletion.

Dementia Would Like a Word / by Mary Christine Delea 

I do not care what plans you had—
lunch with a friend, a walk on the beach,
grocery shopping, reading.

First you need to again define oxygen.
Tell your mother again what a vacuum is.
Clean the bathroom again,
including finding all the bar soap,
suddenly missing.

It’s taken years for me to get her
to this place of dysfunctional brain cells,
lapsed language, and panic attacks.

A doctor too worried about Medicare payments
to raise concerns and you being across
the country helped me escalate
to now. Almost every day a surprise
for you, visiting long-term.

Her anger at you is really me,
but you know that. It still makes you
flush red, then cry quietly.

You tell yourself that she did for you
years before what you do now:
help her navigate this world
that is loud and confusing,
always filled with nonsense.

You are tired and want a nap.
That’s fine with me. I am already
at work in you, but you know that, too.

First Home / by Faith Gomez Clark 
 
Her daughter lay at the flower of her breast, 
A suckling hummingbird 
Taking in the warm, yellowy nectar.
The mother dozes off—
 
The ants move in, entering the mother’s
Vaginal tunnel, making their way 
Through her, like little hearts
On fire. They’ve brought their young
And dead crickets on their backs.
All night they march inside her like
A steady rain, configuring tunnels, building chambers
To house their food and collections of rocks.
They stop to rest, engage in quiet conversation
When one of the crickets, believed to be dead,
Flees its uncomely chamber, tearing through
The unbelieving crowd as it makes its way towards—
 
The child gums the mother’s nipple,
Dragging her from sleep.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Falling Out of Boats / by Andrew Levine 

Yesterday I tipped out of my kayak while getting into it,
And while half submerged in the Saugatuck River,
Bemoaning my lack of balance,
I thought of Sara Hall.

Years ago at a business conference
She whispered to me ‘I’ve a story similar to yours’
After hearing my self-introduction/late-to-the-piano part.

I thought of Sara getting up at 4:30 in the morning
to do what she wanted to do more than anything:
step into a single shell skull and row forever.
How she spent much of those pre-dawn mornings climbing
Out of the the icy liquid that served as her training ground.

I thought of the moment she first saw the single shell
Being propelled along the waters edge
And knew instantly that was what she was meant to be doing.

What is it within us that knows our future?
And what is it in us that once known
Refuses to rest until we are pressing towards that future?

‘Drawn to the Rhythm’ was the title of Sara’s book.
A rhythm that beats primordially in our cells,
containing the nucleus of our destiny.

A little girl lying under a grand piano listening to
Her mother play Bach,
Searching for years for her instrument,
then, instantly recognizing in the skull that the wait is over.
A knowing as sure as that of the oaks
that agree to drop their acorns together and then let loose.

what that means / by Jillian Mukavetz 

we sit in the back of the taxi after the nightclub
the monk who hurt his knee can no longer practice
.                               I saw a bright yellow finch

a big wooden tongued chest       a gift
is the proof of us

how I cry in the subway & she doesn’t know what that means
lotus lanterns & white pines

all that day we banged
dew light, mint bangles, in our soles our feet, air turned and drained
a black dog swaying in the trees

sticks & sax
this blues a glass classic is a mind the soft dream growing out of this flower 

*CONTENT WARNING:  Domestic Violence*
 
Family Eruption / by Shagufta Mulla 

Basement smoke careened into volcanic vent 

while I silently listened in the living room, 

my breath held tight inside my throat 

like the tiniest teddy bear but burning,

until she came up the stairs alone.  

I backed up and breathed as her deflated 

form drifted across the room and I whispered 

Did he hit you?

our faces both red for different reasons 

but not.  

We briefly sank into shared silence 

like luxury, before she quickly left

without answering, and I don’t remember 

what I did next, standing there alone 

between lava below and evaporating air above 

but the cavernous stillness 

reignited my face 

like neon sound and sting.

autumn becomes mother / by Calista Ogburn 

autumn knocks on the front door. wipes bottom of its shoes on welcome mat.
hums a tune that only your grandmother knows. holds a semi-sweet pumpkin
pie. lets you grieve in its arms, sob onto burnt orange cardigan. crisp air dries
each tear drop.

comforting you in this moment,
to breathe for the first time

this season.

October Litany / by Amie Sharp 

History will always find you, and wrap you
In its thousand arms.
                                   —Joy Harjo   

Gray flannel hangs from the branch of a tree.

In another century, the cannon pulls back to face a straight line
of soldiers, to teach them to curve like a snake.

Every form of the body is beautiful. Some contortions of the body
are also beautiful. Others are tragedies.

When raindrops fall on blood-drops, the marriage is a clear, beautiful red.

A poppy withered and burst in early frost.

The soil soaks it in.

The lake’s edge reveals new stones in a drought.
Spotted dead nettle stems root where they touch the soil.

A grown body was once a child’s body, and bears its memory
of being carried.

Cathy / by Rana Tahir 
An erasure poem from Wuthering Heights 
 
Oh, you see
relent a moment
keep me out of the grave
 
Never shall love
take him my soul
after all
 
Enclosed here
wearying to escape into glorious
tears yearning through the walls
 
An aching you are
more fortunate than I
you are sorry for me
 
Incomparably Beyond
 
 
 
 
 
 

There Is Always Green / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 
(7 Haikus)

The rain does not smell
the same here. I think I shall
miss the rain the most.

There, the rain sometimes
burns my eyes as I walk. It
plays with the wind, and

soaks my skin, and mats
my hair. Little drops cling to
my scalp, and drip down

my forehead, and burn…
The rain does not smell the same
there, unless I walk

down paths lined with green.
Then, the rain does not burn and
I welcome the drops

gently knotting strands
and cooling my face…It seems…
…there is always green.

And if…green exists
always in a place. Shall I
have something to miss?

Poem 3 / Day 3

Untitled / by Amantine Brodeur

Her love is
lie re-imagined
flowering
amid wild bees
and whisps of
young girls
dreaming
skyward.
Cloudless yearning
sung to quick
glances, so shy.

Her love is
a biro-smudge
reminiscence;
a line set in an old
notebook among
scribblings
and pressed flowers.
Crumbling and unstitched
by used pages
and faded scent;
impossibly implied.

Anxiety / by Mary Christine Delea

All of the therapists are booked      
or they retired        during lockdown
which is not good            my dreams of skulls
my desire to grow a garden
filled with nothing     but         poisonous plants
are all starting to worry me

It is      they say
the times we live in               
although it took Auden      six parts
to describe his anxious age  
almost         a hundred years ago
and he was writing      just after     a world war
I am much less   existential

Apprehensive    Troubled     Uneasy    Distressed
Yes
                     existential           not so much

This disorder         like a portrait
of the mind     by a loud talkative artist      staring
into my eyes
instead of a quietly humming brain scan

There is no mercy in that portrayal

I’d like some silence          some sleep
an elevator all to myself
that will lift me
                     tired          fearful          grieving
to another floor in this body building

And there
in the gold light streams
of a warmish October night         full moon
calming stars        innocuous planets
I would sigh all the tightness away
leaving only            the weight of gravity
a comfortable bed       and forgiveness

Untitled / by Faith Gomez Clark

reality is indistinguishable from experience

                                    i cannot tell you where I heard that

vertigo is a wool blanket that doesn’t keep me warm

                                    i revise my poems constantly

december 2020 was the last petal on a dead flower

                                    no one ever taught me how to revise my life

despair is a tootsie pop without a center

                                    my relationships are like any plant I’ve known personally: dead.

slow down; notice the nugatory in life

Collars / by Andrew Levine

They were classified as ‘shirt ironer’ and ‘dressmaker’
when they made their way from Russia to Ellis’ great hall.

She, the daughter of Volina’s violinist,
who would lose most of her hearing to the pandemic of 1918.
With her hands she made artful clothes for her son and two daughters.

He would put down the iron for other tools,
eventually owning and operating a gas station,
leaving Williamsburg for the farmland of East Flatbush
where he watched his semi-detached brick house rise
while his two daughters raced along the insides of the connected dwellings.

I squint back at that same row of houses on 40 X 100 plots,
see my parents and neighbors work as press operators, auto glass mechanics,
candy store owners, and folks who leave at 5am for the terminal markets
so that fruits and vegetables make their way to the new supermarkets’s shelves.

On my parents wedding license my father’s occupation is listed as ‘salesman’, my mother’s, ‘bookkeeper’.
And then my sister and I make an appearance.
So quickly does a gulf between white and blue collars emerge.
My parents exhort us to ‘get an education’, ‘be a professional’
Do they know those choices will change us forever, make us different-
in the music we listen to, movies we watch, food we buy and  levers we pull in November?

Most of my life I have been ill at ease around my blue collar brothers and sisters, ashamed of my learning ways, my love of books.
And then one day I realize that I am also in the world through my hands.
It is in my bloodline, my body.
The piano’s keyboard is the wrench I wield,
my conductor’s hands as precise as a needle cradled by the fingers of a tailor.

There are few occasions now where I wear a shirt and tie.
Workboots have replaced dress shoes and I look for the best hand salve I can find.
On most days I am feeding the soil, pushing the wheelbarrow, playing the piano,
letting those two Russians who crossed an ocean to get to America
watch over my family and whisper tiny bits of old-country advice
that have nothing to do with collars.

Letter from New York–The Evolution of Humans, Rodents
and Kinship / by Jiaoyang Li 

                                                                                             Me: Will you talk at home? I mean, to yourself.
                                                                                             Anne: Now I do, just like people in mahanttan.

Rats prance like great men
waving to the hearts of the scaffoldings:

“Hey cute little mother fucker
Good morning”

Buildings erect as excuses
–Fixed and inflamed
Only noise and noise.
the traffic is never going to be okay.

These years, love has changed pronouns
and our names have also changed pronouns

Groping years in the jammed holland tunnels
New Jersey asks the Manhattan
lying next to him,
‘Who are we, and what is our relationship? ‘.

Days are put into centos by unnamed authors
& rare minerals in our eyes are sold
at the Union Square farmer’s market.

As the trash piled up along the road say, and unsay,
23/24 day of New York is having borborygmus:

Dear, we like you, but
can’t digest you

The Empire State Building
& the Friendship building
are two chopsticks unmatched, apositic

once again lay down the sun
and pass over the yolk

to the central police in the central park
whose green lung actively breathing for others
without allowing others to breathe

Relax, my islander
let go of your accent, your fatigue,
in the pants of failed countries case studies

Cheers, for the modern love we all hold in hand:
(Love it dump it love it
hate there be there still whatever)
Raise it above the brows of the ceiling
and pour it away

into the glowing basements in East Village
where centuries-old liquor
fermented with human bodies and Demerol

you only want to watch carefully, of this nature and science,
cited in The Evolution of Humans, Rodents
and Kinship.pdf

but not being taken into the red room
& be the newest collection of the metropolitan

But the collectors’ eyes are still gluey
Not every pumpkin from Asia
can jump like calabash brothers.

Night, the only friend I had, sifting Benadryl
ceaselessly from the late air with its long, slender fingers

then my countless pronouns
would be able to ride the pillbox orange

to strangle the time trapped in the fountain
in Washington Square, where I was
the stylus, counterclockwise.

The lunatics I was afraid of, afraid of being
perhaps wanting very little.

To occupy some truth, some stories,
in the temple of sewer, for example.

For this, they are willing
to replace the subway with their disrepair bodies
& to hide the permanent dysfunction with permanent running

Fifty nerves swam all night
but still wake up early

prop up a golden promise
on the tower of Brooklyn Bridge

& the vast shadows
has already sent a magnificent laurel
for the well-fed doves in the financial district.

Till every branch of the nerves
is turning into flashing lights of changes:
Everything changes as it says.

Only letters from flushing
are deliciously unanswered.

The unanswered has driven us with its chariot
traversing Chelsea, traversing West Village

Even on the demure Fifth Avenue
New York, New York

its squandering dirtiness
has tenaciously buried my sorrows.

turn out all of the lights / by Jillian Mukavetz 

we were in the foothills,
bloomed eyes of decent, lucky florae
snowy in brilliant bloody mauves
changing leaves & warm houses.

we cut & stretch between the notes
freedom & discipline pop
you fondle an amethyst, common butter paired with the color of hemlocks, the stare of indigo
my violin is safe.

time, more dangerous is the opal folds of a late summer front
what you have been told is not as important as the ear be to the eye
twisted buttons in an orgasm whose seventeen eves glisten.

may all our curves never be forgotten
their music running
lines of bliss
the proper instrument for your dilemma

falling in love is a one-time beast, bloomed eyes of lucky flowers
basked still, into the taste of it.
if grace were glass, painted pecks under shore water I
have an idea of how to turn tight staircases against the stars.

Returning To The Whole Of Myself / by Shagufta Mulla 

I love you was a seashell, pretty painted 
porcelain with nothing on the inside 

but when I held it to my ear I heard 
the Ocean’s breath, 

sending me onto a spiraly road, 
back and around to an enclosure 

where a little girl turned into a crab 
who crawled away, and there I found 

my Breath blowing kisses into the Blue, 
my truth at One with unwoundable 

Wonder, so I stepped into the whole of Myself 
to breathe—

to flow—
to love from every wave.

What is love? / by Calista Ogburn 
 

i used to believe love meant loving everything. 
            from broken bones to scars,
            scuffed shoes
            melted wax on side of nightstand
            half-eaten promises
            empty palms
            holes in walls
            leftover coffee,
loving someone so fragmented
meant loving all the wrong pieces.

“They Came to Kill the Mothers” / by Amie Sharp 
            May 12, 2020

A cold morning. Half-hearted May sun
warming my back at the kitchen table
after a night spent tossing while the moon waned.
My reduced daily allotment of caffeine is precious,
the only way to jolt the slugs in my brain.
I’ve never understood much about sewing.
In the ninth grade I crocheted gifts for my family—
lopsided placemats and potholders,
the yarn an unfortunate shade of mauve.
I want to be both more and less than I am.
In two days a surgeon will place a mesh
inside my husband’s heart.
This is to keep his blood flowing in the right direction.
Somehow my body is taking strawberries
and cereal and tiny sips of coffee
and stitching ventricles and neurons.
Last month I came across a hideous faded potholder
in one of my parents’ kitchen drawers.
That means my mother has packed
and moved it to a new house four times.
In a time zone eleven hours ahead,
gunmen have stormed a Kabul hospital
and murdered women giving birth.
They’ve put a bullet in a newborn baby’s leg.
My baby lurches and rolls in my belly.
This is the morning we gave her a name.

Traverse City / by Rana Tahir 
 
Sitting on that bench, your head
against my arm, I almost turned back
home. Again I remember
your small hands and my
anxiety at their smallness.
Remember the way the blanket billowed
over you, the wet tissues kept
hitting? All the things we carry or don’t;
I dreamt I carried you inside me.
How will there ever be forgiveness
with all that was forced between us?
 
 
 
 
 

Letting Go / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 

I don’t know what happened to all our wedding dishes…

the heavy, ceramic, light blue ones with raised bumps forming a border along the edges.

Some of the bowls were broken years ago.

Two of the mugs now sit on my sister-in-law’s shelf.

She has the same set only in different colors.

The rest are sitting somewhere waiting to be donated or sold.

Mice had made nests with the stuffing from the first chair we’d ever bought.

Or perhaps the stuffing came from the sofa?

Either way, I hope they slept comfortably.

I didn’t scream when I found one of their little dead bodies on the pavement.

My mother just scooped it up and threw it away.

My husband found several more.

I assume they were also tossed away in a bin somewhere.

How does one mourn displaced dishes?

How does one properly sendoff dead mice?

Poem 2 / Day 2

Is / by Amantine Brodeur

Is. the summer steal

Was. the natural hasbeen

Were. to sleep in rice paper

Are. the immortal beloved

Be. the sigh beneath a pillow

Am. the erotica of aspirations

Me. the Am to Be of Are in Were that Was

I. the Was that Were of Are to Be now my Am.

An Introduction to Poetry: A Semi-Cento / by Mary Christine Delea 
         with a last line from Rita Dove’s “Dusting”

Solitude, melancholy, dejection
are, of course, to be expected.
Socks, maggots, hips, and hymens
the brinded cow, the western wind—
there is much to be praised.
But it is not all short men at birthday parties—
there are sacks of ears, dead porridges,
nightmare fighters, and ghosted air.

No, no. Come back!

Have a plum, chilled.
Dream about a heaven just for animals.
Whisper the name of that first boy you kissed
while cleaning your house, a name sweeter
than Michael. Know that all of those rooms,
those words filling those books,
are conversation starters.
Like a greeting.

Hello, my name is Ringing Bells.
Pleased to meet you, Non-Sun Eyes.
Thrilled to be here, Generous Freedom.

There will be broken hearts. Savage families
whose hurts stay and stab with each small moment.
Rape. Murder. Famine. War. Death.
It might seem too much.

But keep reading, keep going—
eventually, you will long for Kyoto,
be safe in the darkness after your car breaks down
east of Pine Ridge, avoid the country
of janitors. You’ll see light in our kingdom,
which is how we like it (just go ask Alice),
sing along with The Big Bopper,
learn what the dead fear
and what they fear more and realize—
it’s okay.

Everything will be okay.

The words will comfort you,
even as you cry at times,
even when the clocks stop,
even when you have no new ways
of looking at a blackbird,
or speaking of rivers,
or practicing ikebana.
Sooner or later,
if you don’t first burst into flame
(I don’t think you will)
or have the back of your head blown off
(this is actually a good thing
in poetry), you will understand
why astronomy comes in second
when compared to poetry,
and you will realize the beauty
in ending a poem with a simple word:

Maurice.

Acrostic Poem for My Seraphim-Like Trans Co-Worker Folding Graphic Tees At Urban Outfitters /
by Faith Gomez Clark 
 
Even in your past life you were sacred
Zealous in your ethereal beauty
Resisting confines of any kind
Ardently aware of the Universe’s heavy breathing
 
 
 
 
 
 
For My Son, Garrett / by Andrew Levine 

(The look in your eyes and the way you hold your body let me know it is time to offer this blessing)

Bless my son’s journey.

Take heed of these twenty two years that have shaped his sails,
And watch over the unfurling yet to come.

Witness his humor, his hopefulness,
there from the start, essential to his core,
Honor his kindnesses, so bravely bestowed.

Give him a flame to follow
And faith to walk towards that flame.

Give him the gift of friendship, of intimacies,
And the knowing to forgive trespasses and strengthen bonds.

Give him a calling that he can hear,
a song that he thrills to sing,
An echoing ancestral drumbeat that reaches his ears.

When he steps out of the room, overwhelmed,
invite him to bring his gifts back in.

Set the timbre of his voice so that it sounds
with the rich and honeyed overtones of love.

Shelter and restore him when he sits down on the rock unable to move,
And let him not be afraid to move the rocks when the pond needs digging.

Let him know that he is loved by the elders
Whose dust will always cling to his steps.

If he fathers, remind him to bless,
And in his own way, in his own time.

 
 
 
 

Ways of measuringing the light /by Jiaoyang Li 

1.

hello world~

A young computer wakes up & mistakes itself as
A knight sending off a thousand of ships
A ship goes to everwhere is a cruise surfing, to nowhere-
A bruise, dipping people as ginkgo leaves into
A night in autumn: a document unnamed

2.

From the record,
safely you’ve overlived another day-
running death, fortune and ants around.

Even for exit, you are required for a password
the god upon is a sophisticated kid
with a dusty lung.

3.

Your face, blank and operate
as an open source link
Invite clicks sounding like demand.

Me: cache of your recently opened elements

4.

The codes dangles in the vagueness
unblemished as your answers planted for nobody–
who people stop asking ‘when’ and ‘where’
& you receive packages of hyssop seeds
from the doorsteps of solstices.

5.

Conversations from windows of the windows
are the steriods for the day

We have been used it longer than the doctor prescribed us to. 
Oh rusting machines running in choronically ill scandals

Shoulders-dipping news bury the daylight as new snow.

6.

News are always new damages.
Damage is a master of erasing its border.
Borders are being named and renamed-
while the light coming out from your eyes.

No, it’s your eyes dripping out from the night.

7.

In ancient China, people poke walls to steal the light.

Tonight, you muffle the light by closing the door in your eyes,

& name this– a giving back.

death tree owl / by Jillian Mukavetz 
 

anger in grief is something I am learning to hate. even more than hate. when grief is impossible and easy for some. when the pain is so dark like sticky sap deep it just keeps pulling. maybe the color of amber like mummification. like what mummification must smell like. my mother does not have an odor. unless smell could somehow be connected to your eyes. whats left. I can only sit on a hammock supported by two dead pine beetle trees. between your brother in a suicidal trailer well less suicidal now and your mother on a grey reclining death chair. stuck in that chair for a year. ordering and lying and moaning. her face of white chalky bones. legs ballooned seeping drip from edema. face. smiling. moaning. crying. calling you trouble. telling you that you are wasting her money. but if you tell her you need to go home you are magnificent. I don’t feel that here. its my hell. I don’t believe that it is the illness. my brother asks why I am demonizing them as he talks about my father pummeling him and then his future plans with the house when everyone is dead. I’m gonna floor it, demolish it. destroy it, the whole thing. Those masks. Those weren’t our masks, those were from the kids she helped – I always hated those masks. I tell him to keep the books and the instruments. and her sketch books. and the jewery from santa fe. the sketches she is obsessed with making them into a book. her best friend had one made. always a competition. the ambulance was called yesterday because she choked. on a soggy waffle. couldn’t swallow. she said afterwards. drama. I just cried in my stomach and said a soft thank you to the emt’s in the destruction of this created hoard house. just to sleep in my old room I had to throw away eight bags of trash. not even touching the closets. three-year-old granulated cat throw up and mouse shit everywhere. not a single room clean. my nails are constantly dirty. like camping dirty. my father shakes his head with his hunched shoulders from carrying my mother for months. she refuses hospice. he looks at me with such disappointment and knows nothing of me. just that I am here and that is nothing as it always has been. saying, this family, muttering then saying oh I was just talking to myself. this family. this not family. she emailing you a job description for a medical assistant. he who has never loved me I don’t think. we are one in eternal pure being. if you achieve the most good in the world with who you are then I must find a plane ticket. tinder erased my body.  

The Power of a Cat / by Shagufta Mulla 

Coal black cotton cloud
like summer snug against my 
face, loosens life’s teeth 
and thunder from my flesh, purrs—
liquid pools of energy—

roll out in ripples, 
punctures domesticated 
lies, returns me wild—
his offering as one once
feral, a gift from a god.

Two bodies / by Calista Ogburn 
 

her body rolls over
on stiff mattress,
begging for arms to hold and warm
an empty soul.

his hands have not learned what love is –
does not realize the longing for touch
does not feel the dreaded hope
does not understand the beauty of fine lines

limbs stretch to far ends,
find their way back to each other,
whispering,
i love you

Guido’s Machine / by Amie Sharp 

Our gentle Italian host shows us a diorama
             he’s made of the myth.
A red-roofed house stands in
             for the burgeoning Roman empire.

Underpinning the scene he’s placed Styrofoam circles.

Straw-colored bits of stick.
             A bird flying overhead.

A golden-haired woman.
             A dark-haired man—a soldier in a children’s play.
She only has one shoe.

It’s a contraption.
             He cranks the handle and we watch
the turning.
             The clutching.

*Content Warning: Child abuse*  

Father Complex / by Rana Tahir 
(playing with Jericho Brown’s duplex poems)

I remember what it did to me.
In the dark I pretended to dream.

            I am still afraid of the dark
            but can’t sleep with the lights on.

One night we four slept in the same bed
but I was awake when he took the photograph.

            Dark dreams wake me now
            choking and punching the air.

We choked on our laughter repeating
the dog’s name was ugly mugly

            Not everything was so hideous
            Once we were beautiful on a picnic table in the living room

Once we took turns trying to fly in the living room
and debated who would last the longest

            His anger lasted the longest,
            generational, to us four

Four children sat in a line,
one by one it was their time

            the punchline kicks the air out of me
            my hands in fists around my sides

his hand was never a fist on my face
but I remember the sting.

Sketching African Violets / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski 

I want to sit at Grandma’s wooden table

and sketch African violets.

I want to sit with the silence as

I layer shades of green

and vibrantwell—violet.

I don’t want to think.

I don’t want to think.

Some days ago,

one violet flower sat in a nest

of lopsided green,

lopsidedly growing toward the direction

of the sun.

I don’t want to think,

so, repetition is what will be.

No variety in the words that come to me.

I don’t want to think

about why two violet flowers now sit

nestled in a neater nest.

Why do a few days matter?

Did she like it when I first moved her pot to make a sketch?

Perhaps, she liked the change.

Now her leaves are more evenly spaced

and distributed.

She seems more balanced.

She makes me think.

She makes me think.

Why can’t I just let her be?

One large violet flower

cradles the new.

I want to capture them as they move,

as they bloom,

basking in the sun

and resting under the moon.

Poem 1 / Day 1

All the Worry In the World / by Mary Christine Delea

will not keep your parents alive
or absorb floodwaters that move

closer to your small house, the place
that is filled with fear, and people

unable to be pleased. Worry cannot
envelope the past, crushing it all but

leaving the few happy days intact,
or create confident bubbles of text

in your stress dreams. Worry remains
deep in your brain, where you mean

one thing but say another, and no
amount of everything you knew

as hopeful is going to stay in your
troubled psyche, that awful inner world.

Luna Keeps El Cucuy Away / by Faith Gomez Clark

Abuela calls the moon by its Spanish name Luna,
And tonight, it’s full, round and white as a wool sweater.

Abuela tells the child, Luna keeps El Cucuy away.
The adult wishes it were that easy

To keep the things feared most,
Like cockroaches, or senior citizen homes, or

transphobia away from
The conscious mind.

The adult

remembers those October evenings
In ’07, her and her girlfriend would walk together

Knuckles barely grazing, the setting sun
Spitting orange and red at their backs.

Once at the cemetery, they’d head back
To where the two great sycamores stood,

Their limbs intertwined like the legs of lovers.
Then night would come on them like a secret

And there, in the safe shelter of the sycamores
With only the moon’s watchful eye on them, they’d embrace.

Old Men Crying / by Andrew Levine

Old men cry at the least provocation.
Their hearts so tender,
so hungry for meaning.

Water spills as they recount stories from their youth,
A prank played down by the railroad tracks
Or the death of a father, poisoned by mustard gas in the Great War.

Tears seldom move beyond a trickle,
Even this close to the surface,
Wiped away by a dinner napkin, a quick blow of the nose.

I remember the sound of 70 men wailing
Huddled together, sobs coming from deep, deep wells,
A mixture of gasping breath and staccato notes falling from high to low,

A cacophony of communal grief,
Incomprehensible to the young ones gathered
in the restorative green glade of a long ago tale.

That unending prophetic fountain crested in a heavy, grey promise.
Under its weight I vowed I wouldn’t collect overflowing regrets,
Would’nt neglect my wounds, allow what was broken to set badly.

Now in elder-hood I see how hard it is to keep the heart open,
To let salt water flow when it seeks release;
Even to notice regret pooling along the heart’s hidden corners.

My thoughts return often to those men in the darkened room
Who listened to the tale of Conneda,
Body badly burned, spirit exhausted,

He persisted, drawn forward by the golden ball, even into injurious flames.
I try to trace my steps back to that long ago promise
To cleanse my wounds, to wail in the company of old men.

inverse her life / by Jillian Mukavetz

its not often that one can say they were entangled with two
very living things
sound of an automatic
( box frame bed ) in an old thai serviced apartment
ribbon the first time autocorrect changes             live to love
he held my umbrella

Dissolving Darkness / by Shagufta Mulla

I swerve on slick blacktop 
and brake but it’s too late
and my right front bumper
strikes you— 
sends my heart skidding 
into trauma’s calloused crease

Handsome buck, struck on the hip 
you stumble
in headlight’s misty motes,
slip over the ledge that drops
into a ditch
and my own darkness darkens
as I follow you down 
outside the light

Long before I felled you
my own soft self was struck,
fracturing me out of brightest
Light, 
still scrambling to mend
my legs on the road 
I am alive and dead

but you are somewhere in between
and I writhe as one struck
until I release resistance to what isn’t, 
me ahead of you—or behind—
by a mile either way,
leaving you to move soft with moths
in moonless night, the March rain
resting like unstruck babes
in the light curve of your lashes

but I’ll try to go back further,
release resistance to being struck
in unarmored flesh,
release what could have been

Maybe you’ll ascend into ether
after the darkness dissolves you still
or walk off like a foggy dream
where hope has no hell—
no holes—
but I’ll still remember you when I wake,
after the Light resolves me still

Lover / by Calista Ogburn


lover writes a letter,
spits to seal envelope,
folds dirty money into cranes
as frail wings attempt to go home

lover looks like rotten memories
with condoms half out of trash can,
pills on cluttered desk,
limbs limp over edge of mattress

lover punches my poems
when they aren’t long enough
or weaves his words in the spaces
to make room for his bruised body

lover loves in all the wrong ways
yet,
he is
lover.

First Ultrasound / by Amie Sharp 

By the next one, a plague
will have changed the world.
Until now I’ve always gone alone,
and the scans have uncovered stones, not seeds:

Pain-shaped rocks in my gallbladder.
This time, the cold gel glides
over my belly while an open-faced
technician cries, “little bean, little bean.”

I see a blurred alien swirl. I think protoplasm.
5.8 centimeters—it means
you’re even younger than we thought.
The technician needs a better angle,

so she aims the wand inside
and there you are, a body,
bopping around in my abdomen
as if you’re hearing a drumbeat.

Your flat little face is almost smirking.
The flashes on the screen
are blasts from the beginnings of your heart.
We hold hands, stunned,

following a script we thought
we’d torn up a long time ago.
It’s my husband’s, your father’s, 48th birthday.
He says, “It looks like we have a dancer.”

The word mother still might as well
be in another language, but afterward,
in the hallway, he kisses me
and the word suddenly in my mind is us.

Night School / by Rana Tahir 
For Gabriele & Ron

I recite it again   sound it out by syllable
making “uh” instead of the long “a”
of rows of maize like in your home
of Illinois with its silent “s” I can see
but must not voice

In this future we are building
to us and our posterity
I will name all the branches
of our chestnut trees

I speak in unison with others, practicing vowels
I will make to keep the vows I made
following the L with the elongated e
of suprEEme, of frEE,
of consEEved in libertEE

When in the course of human events,
like the moving of furniture or
planting of seeds,
I declare my dependence
on your presence

I sit at this table every night
and build our future sound by sound,
learning the placement of my tongue
for your words and your world

I touch the last sound
the g of ground becoming
the j of July my right hand
placed on the bullseye
ending this phonics chant

O, say can you see
on this dark, lovely night
what so closely I hold
to stay with you, mein liebling.

 
I am here. / by Brittney Walker-Zaleski  
 

I am home.

And I am light
for there is nothing left to carry.
I am home.
And I am still
for I have confided in silence.
I am home. 
And I am here,
and, so is joy.