The 30/30 Project: September 2020

TP3030-logo-360Welcome to the 30/30 Project, an extraordinary challenge and fundraiser for Tupelo Press, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary press. Each month, volunteer poets run the equivalent of a “poetry marathon,” writing 30 poems in 30 days, while the rest of us “sponsor” and encourage them every step of the way.

The volunteers for September 2020 are Louise Akers, Kris Bigalk, Lucia Galloway, DJ Hill, Raki Kopernik, Michelle Lesifko-Bremer, Kindra McDonald, Doug Van Gundy, and Liza Wolff-Francis Read their full bios here.

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

Poem 30 / Day 30

Limitless / A utopian themed call and response group Renga by the 30/30 September poets 

What I’m really trying to say is:
Fuck transcendence! I will gladly risk
Our imminence, our riotous re-
                                        calibration.
It will change you from within,
cell by cell, until you’re free.

Soul beyond pleasure,
earthbound, kneeling at the edge,
dirt as offering.
Our hands, hearts, opened and outstretched
Gathered truth freely tossed to the limitless sky

More stars than we can see:
Orion’s tunic, club, and shield
thrown off, put down for good.
Anchored in fallible flesh,
we find buried communion.

edges are relative
the places we touch to find
the middle balance heart blood
We will watch Orion cross the sky at night,
We will listen to the wind muss the treetops.

Flesh of the moon, eat
sap of the trees, drink deeply
here, this is for you. 

Untitled / by Louise Akers

The “We” I am talking about is neither C nor M nor myself.

I believe it is Paul Preciado in the Zoom waiting room. I believe it’s an astrologer with a Patreon.
The “We” I am talking about is discrete, and somewhere between me
and my feminine; my privacy and Andrea Long Chu’s exportation of the labor of desire.
(I take the reading personally.)

To cover something is to make it more interesting than itself.
Hence, the ubiquity of discursive personal coverage. What kind of record is this?
(My recollection of a particular event is, again, not necessarily interesting.
If it wasn’t covered or concealed, it’s hard to believe in its “importance.”)

I am not a private person, but a secretive one, which forecloses the option of any truly functional “We”s.
I struggle to parse my personal mythology.

I stave off foreclosure with indecision.

I stave off inertia with indecision and antagonism.

I stave off attention with implacability.

I am beautiful to some.

“We” are A and myself, whom I miss badly,
who does not want to see me, but maybe wants, sometimes, to chat.

Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Colorado – September 2020 / by Kris Bigalk 

The aspens flutter from green to yellow,
and the maples look like a giant paintbrush
has tinted their tops and edges crimson.
The pines cling to the rocky bluffs,
seem suddenly greener, almost blue
as the sun runs down the rocks
like orange-gold water.

Golden eagles soar above the trail,
silent in their circling, riding currents
we can’t feel here on the ground.
Two Steller’s jays
argue in a low brushy tree;
An eagle cocks his head, dives towards the nest,
then stops halfway down,
rises back up to join the slow motion
roundabout.
maybe the blue cacklers
weren’t worth the effort.

We stop halfway up, winded,
perch on a flat rock,
watch the grass nod and bob
in the breeze. The city seems
so far away up here –
tiny cars on tiny streets
parking next to tiny buildings.
It’s easy to see, from a birds-
eye view, how tempting it is
to soar, never descend
back to the honking horns,
the chattering arguments,
just stay here and breathe
until night shadows climb
the mountains.

The Players / by Lucia Galloway 

Staccato, glissando; now and again
a short emphatic march along the scale—
fluty notes, I know them,

sounds like Lucas-morning-music
heard while I am half awake, a grandma
still off-duty. But Lucas is now

at day care. I look outside to see a car
pulled up casually at the curb, its rear end
blocking a fire hydrant. Two toddler kids

are at the wheel, the source of fluty
notes in conflict over who gets to drive.
They wrench the steering wheel from

each other’s grasp as pitches soar and dip.
Street side, leaning against the car,
a man drinks soda from a can. In the bac

seat, intermittent movement of hands
and arms paging through magazines.
The parents take respite from their duty.

I feel it in my gut, I don’t know why:
the real game’s between my generation and
these small persons at the wheel: my cohort

phasing out, waiting to relinquish
what little control we have to these barons
of new power. Their insistent notes of

“I want turn!” “I will do it!.”
My notes are sliding off the page into
an empty cup. Someone says, “Just

take them with you to the piano.”
When I sit down at the keyboard, I find
myself useless, no longer have the score.

Myrtle / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for Mom

In June, we made a pilgrimage down South,
like the rest of Western Pennsylvania:
piled into a minivan full of pillows,
importing Yankee tomatoes, chipped ham,

the good Italian bread. We arrived
after fourteen hours of reading half-awake,
lunch at one country buffet or another,
with a sack of pecans purchased roadside

as soon as we crossed into the lower Carolina.
I knew we were close when the stink
of still, brackish water permeated the AC.
After the frantic unloading of coolers,

the long elevator to the umpteenth floor, 
even the adults would take off their socks
and we’d head right back to the lobby
and spill out onto the wooden walk

that took us to our final destination.
The Atlantic bowled us all over.
I remember the watery reflections in their eyes:
my grandfather, remembering another ocean,

roiling with war, a million miles from home;
my mother, thinking of the Wildwood shores
of her childhood summers, my dad mourning
fishing on Lake Michigan with the grandfather

I never knew. Me, I remember feeling small,
overwhelmed by the endless waves, the seam
where they touched the sky and flowed on.
The tide was always coming back in.

We stood ankle-deep in the breakers, my family,
and as the seawater pulled away from the shore,
I felt us rushing away from each other,
only to return again as the tide pushed back in.

I like to imagine us back on that beach, grateful
for the end of a long trip, apart and together 
in the surf. Except now, I resurrect the people
we’ve lost and restore them to their former glory:

grandfathers I’ve met and haven’t met are there,
and everyone remembers everything, great aunts
and grandmothers are planning dinners, children
not yet born are splashing, and no one has lost

their hair. I imagine an epic family reunion,
all the cousins, my big, loud family quieted 
by the crashing waves. Maybe that beach 
was a prophecy of some heaven to come,
some new shore where we will all be together.

What I’ve Been Taught by the Women in my Family (an abecedarian) / by Kindra McDonald 

Always say it when you love a person, tomorrow’s not promised.

Blackberries should only be picked if you’ve tied handkerchiefs soaked in kerosene ‘round
your ankles, otherwise chiggers will chew you alive and the berries will sour.

Can’t turn shit into apple butter.

Don’t chew my cabbage twice.

Earaches can be treated by blowing pipe smoke in the eardrum.

Fill one hand with wishes and the other with spit, see which one gets full quicker?

God hates ugly, He’ll get you every time.

Holding a grudge only hurts the one that carries it.

If you can hang a pair of overalls between two clouds, it’s not going to rain.

Just getting out of bed some mornings takes courage.

Kindness matters most.

Loving someone, doesn’t always mean liking them.

Mustard plaster on your chest will clear the pneumonia right up.

Never bring an old broom into a new house.

Oil coal is magic, don’t need a tetanus shot, just put some coal oil on it.

Pretty is as pretty does.

Quicker you go, the faster you fail.

Rusty metal in your garden will make your plants grow bigger.

Steal a tea towel from your neighbors kitchen, bury it in your yard, your cakes will rise and
hers will fall.

Take a piece of string, grab one off your hem, put it in your mouth, roll it into a little ball with
your tongue, stick it in the middle of your forehead, you’ll stop hiccupping, every time. If you
don’t, you’ve done it wrong.

Underwear worn inside out will give you good luck, or make it snow. One of the two.

Vicks on your feet. Just Vicks on your feet when you sleep. You’ll feel better.

Wherever you go, there you are.

an aXe under the bed will cut the pain of childbirth in half.

Your warts will fall right off, if you wrap your finger in a cloth soaked with milkweed.

Zebra’s don’t change their stripes, honey.

Capitol Boulevard / by Doug Van Gundy 

Remember driving Capitol Boulevard in the late evening light, the sun half an hour from
disappearing behind the desert ranges out past the lake? We were in your father’s
Lincoln, going way too fast, listening to Patsy Cline on the cassette player.  You
misjudged the turn onto 3rd North and the car spun a full 540-degrees in the
intersection, so when we stopped, we were pointed back up hill and somehow alive.  Patsy
kept singing She’s Got You. You shifted into park, there in the middle of the road.

Remember how you reached up and shut off the tape and we sat in silence for a full ten
seconds before breaking into peals of dumbfounded laughter?  You turned the wheel hard
left and eased the car back into drive and piloted us, slow, into the city, stopping at every
red light and signaling every turn.

Remember how the buildings along State Street seemed like photographs of buildings, so
sharp and clean?  I said every driver in every oncoming car looked like they had stepped
out of a Brueghel painting and you turned your face toward me and shot me a withering
look.  Say, you said, aren’t you hungry?

Poem 29 / Day 29

Bravery / by Louise Akers 

What I am trying to say is: I am in the business
of bravery. When I was coldshouldering
my way through adolescence, smoldering,
blowing smoke away from origin,
I learned to feign forgiveness at the risk
of exposure.

That, of course, is hell; to be flattered
is to be a boy, badly.
To refuse to cut my hair is to refuse
to be penetrated by anyone, ever.

What I mean is what is deserved
was prophesied, what occurs is
rational, what “We” apprehend
is always an end. So,
I listen instead to the letters that are
tumbling
down the stairs. 

Red : A Sonnet / by Lucia Galloway 
        “She was a woman a woman of uncertain age.”
                                           –Marcel Proust

Girlfriend and I at sixty-plus could dwell
for eons in that steamy zone below
Desire in Dante’s mythic, spiral Hell.
What is the hottest, coolest red we know?

Though nature’s cherry lips and cheeks are lost,
we’re on a quest for lipstick that will wear
through breakfast, lunch, and dinner, will accost
potential lovers with discreet Come hither.

The rosy flesh of peaches at their pits
recalls our worn-out purses lined vermillion.
So now we open wallets to bestow our tips
on manicurists, who mete out crimson’s frisson.

We lust for cardinals’ tails, the quetzal’s feather.
Scarlet is all. A toast to love’s long tether! 

Lift Up / by DJ Hill 

5:00 rush hour, an anomaly in my new hometown
population and elevation roughly 6000, sleepy mountain
hideaway with Mt. Sopris, mother mountain holding
vigil, red and white foothills division, a legendary curse

Monday’s at 4:30 the cars, drivers, stories, lives of every
shape and size line up for food bagged, plastic stacked
cookies, donuts, cakes and bread, while three blocks away
vacant bistro tables with white tablecloths and flatware set

in the mountains, a nip in the air, bracing for an unforgiving
season, contentious election impending, sailboat on lift
stranded, extended table truck with trailer unloaded, five
loaves for the many, maybe with enough hands, pretending

men and women checking in, volunteers approach car windows-
1, 2, or 3 bags; a procession of life stories winding through
asphalt parking lot, I recognize a few, they look like me and
you-white skin, brown, hair up or down, old and new cars, raw 

and healing scars, a few more days to hang on, the small boy with
mask on, scuffed sneakers on tip toes, peeks expectantly at risen loaves,
not here for bagged groceries but to offer like mom and sister, those
leaning into windows, 1, 2 or three bags, as cars roll forward

clipboards, checklists, small boy trusting pit bull baring teeth
one more car, back bumper missing, a man on bike, another
on foot, no wheels to tread

This is America.
This is America.
This is America.

trying is for suckers / by Raki Kopernik

I’m trying so hard
to calm the fuck down
not give so many fucks
breathe out the garbage
breathe in the beauty

I’m trying so hard
to chill the fuck out
relax my ass
not freak out

I’m trying so so hard
to let go
tell myself it’s okay
I don’t have control
things will happen no matter how I feel

I’m trying really hard 
knowing
if I don’t try so hard
everything will be easier 

Atonement / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

I like the idea of this holiday
I married into: fast from dusk
to dusk and spend the day
away from any work—
not in repose, but actively
reflecting on the year
that’s passed, and praying
to steep yourself
in self-awareness and recall
every wrong choice—
selfish, unkind, pigheaded—
made in anger or some other sin.
In deprivation, find clarity
and strength to make amends.

Today, skipping lunch
in solidarity with my better half,
I doubt how just one night and day
could be enough to catalogue
the words I shouldn’t have said,
the times I turned away from grief,
or need, in favor of distraction,
some quick pick-me-up.
I’m told to say May you be sealed
for good in the Book of Life
today, so maybe I’ll try writing
myself into atonement,
keep trying to say what needs to be
said until I find enough right
words to deserve the feast. 

Waiting / by Kindra McDonald 

In the complete women’s care office
babies line the walls in gilded picture frames
the siblings in the field at golden hour
backlit by the sun, awash in something
that must be halo-light, and the portrait
of the triplets, all captured in various stages
of movement, I breathe and see their eyes blink
their mouths move, and all the infants
swaddled in pink and blue, one newborn
splayed in a giant scallop shell, raw and quivering
they call my name, take me to a room without
children on the wall, just gulls lifting into the sky
one by one. 

Another Poem About the Heart / by Doug Van Gundy 

What if the heart isn’t a metaphor
when we talk of it regarding love?
What if there is a tiny fifth chamber
hidden in the human heart, a place
where blood slows and pools, ages
like Bordeaux, ripening and reddening
until it’s needed — to heal a wounded
soul; to fuel a sudden, startling passion;
to provide the extra oxygen to encourage
empathy — then the body, knowing,
pours out this precious thimble, and
it courses through us, making us woozy,
making us euphoric, making us divine. 

The color of blood / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I split open the palm of my hand
when I fall on the edge of the garden,
sever the lines that a palm reader would say
are along a natural grain. Birds pause
by hearts growing like flowers as red
as the blood on my hand, as red
as the flower in my chest, or is it blue?

There is a woman I know
who lives with her family
down the street from me, way
down the street, and a few blocks over.
It would take me an hour
to walk there, I’m sure.
She told me at four o’clock today
that two nights ago, at the end
of a cloudy day, when it’s hard
to read the shadow clock,

she and her children ran to the back
of the trailer when the shooting began,
already watching gunshots explode a man
in front of their house, red
as the flowers in my garden, or maybe blue?

We only know the cost of poverty
after gunshots have stopped,
after the ambulance has come,
because it tastes of blood, an iron bitter,
and then a medicinal plant
for when the children
are expected to become soldiers,
found on the battlefield without their swords.
Birds pause by the bloodstains on the asphalt,
deep red, like the dried blood
where I fell by the garden, or is it blue?

   

Poem 28 / Day 28   

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

In thinking through a riot 
I’m arrested by the fact 
that my inherent 
or inherited 
logic is unprecedented here. It is 
unwelcome, and with that understanding,
I become sound only, 
a one of many 
sounds, a noise endymion 
among endymions, all of us 
gleaming 
and relentless soundwaves
in-loved and each uttered, 
issued by a single voice capable 
of  infinite discordant tones released 
as salvo against what cannot 
be maintained. 

Cell / by Kris Bigalk 

A perigee moon blinking wide,
an apogee sun feigning warmth towards
this planet, a ball of string
wound round a metal core.

Are our cells as aware
of the immensity of the body,
each a single thread of a rope,
held together with mitochondrial glue,
a living home for energy,
a powerplant, a recycler
of carbon, a consumer
of photosynthesis, absorber
of light?

Is it a coincidence
we use the same word for
prison as we do for the seed
that begins us – the solitary
confinement of a soul, a life
sentence, no parole?

On Encountering the Untamed Poem / by Lucia Galloway 

Maybe you desire to slice through
fur and flesh, eat ravenously,
devour it to its raw & bloody core.

Subdue that inner predator. Temper
your instinct to tease the beast, to game it,
to edit out its whimper,
elucidate its every chirp & growl.

Back off! Just let it be.
It’s wildness brings alertness,
keen & pungent
to the lethargy, the murderous boredom—
of our civilized, exhausted world.

Midnight Through A Hotel Window / by DJ Hill 
Inspired by Charles Simic

Downtown Minneapolis, mid-September, red tower
of Hyatt eerily glowing, menacing, neon Fast Sign
3/4 Christmas strands, spotlights, kitchen light
single bulb, man in a window unable to sleep
another drinking wine, rocking in his leather
recline, streetlights, reflection of pillars in
darkened windows, an occasional car on
the boulevard, arched ceiling with inset
shelving, homeless staking claim on
benches, under awnings, asleep but
not sleeping, backpack on, one eye
open, cops walking their beat, a
child, running wild, parents weary
begging him to sleep, moving on
next window dark, psychedelic colors
purple and green, woman with stroller, no
baby seen, patchwork of windows, void of
life, empty parking lots, lit, shadows of movement
woman back with shopping cart wobbly, figures in frames
another light on, square after square, lifting bottle to lips, three
boarded up windows, blur of images, silent screens, in his easy chair
unwinding, another drink, his neighbor back in kitchen, 100-watt blazing
lifts a tall glass, a toast to the air, glancing out his window, seeing my blank stare 

She will never wilt / by Raki Kopernik 

The first stanza of this poem was written by Ynez Foxe-Robertson, the brilliant eleven-year-old daughter of a friend. 

She sits on the dusty surface of the moon
Her radiant white petals still,
No wind to run through them
She will never wilt, for she doesn’t need water
She reaches deeper into the ground,
Her roots spread over the moon.
The rose that makes the moon light

Green into blood my distance
red with thorns sliced open
palms to the sky soles to the moon
Below to the atmosphere, pouring

We never wilt

Burn Out / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Birthday candles are lit
to be wished upon
and blown out,
but my wishes
all seem too small—
May the cat stop barfing
on the hang-dry blanket—
or too big—
May the world make sense
again—
too practical—
May the bathing sink
permanently stop leaking—
or too abstract—
May my country be again
at peace—
outdated—
May the fancy restaurant
have reservations on the patio
for 7 on Saturday—
or macabre—
May no one else die
from viruses or bullets—
or just plain wrong—
May we all fall asleep
until this whole mess
is over.
This year, I think I’ll light
the candles and just enjoy
the warm white glow
and leave the wishing
for some braver future self. 

Cicada Killers / by Kindra McDonald 

Last summer I spent every day as a park ranger
leading hikes and starting campfires
telling stories and offering up animal pelts
to be stroked, while cicadas whined in the woods.

Every afternoon at my Treasures in the Sand table
in the shade of the live oak trees by the boardwalk
I held the mysteries of whelk, the evolution of oysters
the hollow bones of birds. Between me and the ocean

were sand dunes full of wasps that circled the ground.
They whizzed from the sand to the trees, a steady relay
throwing a gauntlet for tourists to cross. I could not
entice the children over with the hulking whale vertebrae

its perfect empty space where the spinal cord stretched
on and on, sea turtle skulls and smooth plastrons
a sunlit catacomb I had here, in the salt air, for them
but they wanted the ocean. Their noses slick with sunscreen

yellow floaties suctioned to their arms and the wasps
were in the way. They won’t hurt you, I shouted over and over
it became all I’d say. Some children would freeze in their tracks
half out of flip-flops, others would duck and weave, serpentine

around the path, and the cicada killer wasps darted with them.
No one cared about my bones and shells and by July the cicadas
were so loud they rivaled the crashing waves, the wasps multiplied
and grew frenzied, so I learned all I could. Nature is cruel and I knew

it by heart, watched the drama unfold and sold it with gusto. The female
wasps hunt cicadas and use them as nests. Sand dunes full of burrows
become burial chambers, the wasp sting will paralyze cicadas
twice her size, she’ll hoist it and fly it reckless heavy to the tunnel

where she’ll lay her eggs onto its legs, stunned and silent, covered with dirt.
When the eggs hatch, they’ll feed on the cicada, grow and coil into its earth cocoon
emerging in the spring, summoned through the ground by the sound of warm nights
cicadas call them back again as killers. Parents grab their children by the wrist

rush them past the dunes and over the break to the wild ocean, to the cool sky.
I find the shells of cicadas clinging to the brick below my bedroom window
they’re in my dinner chair, at night I dream them on my pillows, comb them
from my hair. In the moonlight, the wasps are waiting to breed 

An Octave on West Virginia Fiddle Tunes / by Doug Van Gundy 

 

Get your fiddle wrestled into
A-modal, a key somewhere between
Blue and black, suiting a tune that
Calls up something glimmering and
Dark from your syncopated ventricles,
Eager to resonate in a fashion that
Feels like it will finally fix you,
Guaranteed, God help you, for good.

Of bevies and deer / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

This morning, the deer came as we woke,
stared at us as they grazed their buffet
of seeds and berries. Their large round ears

high on alert. The rising light
moved their elegant tails, strokes of white,
back into the cover of brush

or wherever deer disappear to.
Three young ones following their mother,
one, tried to nurse, brushed off and over,

moved along with the bevy.
A bevy may refer to quail, deer, young ladies
and only one of these groups may be insulted.

Though we are animals at our core,
it is the likening of people to animals,
that takes away personhood, so the mysteries

of the world don’t really matter anymore,
if they cannot make the decision
to ask questions, be curious, to perk up their ears,

alert, about dangers that may lurk.

Poem 27 / Day 27  

JOAN ET AL / by Louise Akers 

The hands! disaggregate 
the subject, threaten 
either wholeness; a transitive 
reality appears. 

Like word made 
flesh—
the hands compose; the composition leaves 
behind the drifted 
and disquieted. Composure, here, 
props up a church. 

Where is, then, real
attention? Bred within composure, or, 
in eagerness—as caught 
within a dipole, yet 
contributing in opposition 
to ubiquity, the amplitude 
of the emission 
requisite to superradiance. 

But I return to hands—demonstrators of
elision, toward true glow, 
whose muscle betters speech 
and disinterested force; the hands 
come toward the mouth, collapse 
flat-palmed upon 
another surface, ask, “pass over 
this,” again.  

But what gesture, what of catachresis? For
what down 
upon the lower ledge of 
disambiguation, I mean, genuflexion or 
the knotty hassock, does 
she, re-unified 
and radiant, innumerably return?

Pandemic Online Dating Advice / by Kris Bigalk 

Before your first Zoom date, pop a few CBD gummies
and hide the cigarettes,
the mug you’re using as an ashtray,
anything that outs you as visibly nervous, chain-smoking.

During your first Zoom date, mention you love wooly slippers,
wear a bikini, like cleaning the cat box, drink Earl Gray tea.
Go for sexy and comforting.

Ask them to introduce you to their pets.
Ask them what they really want…
they won’t know, and chances are you can’t
give it to them, anyway
so there is no risk involved.

At your next Zoom date, put on your mask –
the pretty one, with flowers –
and take your phone with you on a walk
through the nearest park, show them
flowers, trees, and the sparrows
eating breadcrumbs by the benches.

If they still seem interested, tell them this —

Locusts are alone for most of their lives. Then they change
color, begin to swarm, eat a lot as much food in 24 hours
as the city of New York would eat in a week.

A Cento for Women Who Write / by Lucia Galloway 

–lines from Aliki Barnstone, Lois P. Jones, Marsha de la O, and Michelle Brittan Rosado.

I like dandelions, though most say they’re weeds.
Maybe morning’s a happy deception.

Light falling through beveled leaves,
each leaf a transparency, each leaf a prism.
No other sky could hold such light.

The geese are gliding from the lake’s center.
I listen to what I can see.

Whatever it takes for sand to become glass,
you keep coming back: my maiden name
with a tattoo of a flower on the left shoulder.
I asked to be hungry.

An immense bridge disappearing into fog,
a dove calls turning its small motor over.

The trees hold themselves up in their world.
Light won’t hold, light pours through glass.

Here you come with your sweet mouth.
I want to write you a sanctuary.   

Butterfly Don’t Fly Away / by DJ Hill 

Happiness is like a butterfly
many times it flits on by
always flying just ahead
out of reach, overhead

Then one day it lands on you
and you don’t know quite what to do
Try to catch it, hold on tight
before you know, it’s out of sight

Perhaps you might sit back and say
if happiness lands again one day
I will gently hold it in my hand
enjoy the moment, life is grand 

I’d rather not / by Raki Kopernik

she said it’s from
collective trauma
all the discord
anxiety dreams
unknown unease
we are no longer
individual bubbles
but now a colony
of distress
a constant barrage
coming at in around about
engulfed
I believe it
even though
I’d rather not

Intoxication / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

There’s something thrilling about a Friday night:
lessons planned and papers graded,
cubicles tidied and computers shut down,
the dumbed down cliches of a week’s worth of 9-to-5s

abandoned for the festivity of a happy hour
beer, takeout for dinner, some frivolous appetizer.
Friday nights are rife for imagined futures:
hypothetical vacations, elaborate dinner parties,

as-yet-unmaterialized cross country moves.
Even waitresses and cooks feel it:
the anticipation of fresh dinner specials,
an A-list skirt and come-hither earrings.

There’s money to be made on Friday nights:
after the lackluster weekday lunch shifts,
the perfunctory soup specials and two beer tabs,
couples are ready to celebrate, desserts will sell,

soft shell crabs, cornmeal-breaded and doused
in a cream-based sauce, are begging to be 86ed.
Even now, when it’s hard to tell one day
from another, when waiting tables means risking

your life for twenty percent, when the grill cook
might also be frantically washing his own pans,
Friday nights are worth toasting to:
Another one in the books! To survival!

Broken / by Kindra McDonald 

Once you’ve held a hummingbird in your hand, it’s hard not to believe in God. You found her
broken, a hit to the window, her fine wings pristine, it must have been her brain, you supposed
something neurological that kept her falling to her side, listing off the perch you built for her in
your nightstand jewelry box. You brought melons, and citrus fruit, a confetti of flowers for her to
drink, she would want for nothing in your care, but fresh air and freedom.

You scooped her into my palm and I have never felt such a fierce beat in such a wisp of weight,
this hovering miracle who makes nests the size of thimbles, how impossibly alive you had nursed
her with droplets of sugar water shaken from your thumb, convinced only of survival.

After you left him the first time for breaking your jaw, you said he was misunderstood. After he
broke your jaw the third time, cracked every rib on your right side, you said this love was more
than the highs and lows.

When the hummingbird stiffened in your hand, one second thrumming, the next still, you were
sure there was more you could have done. 

Doomscolling / by Doug Van Gundy 

I sleep
because I can’t
keep reading.  I can’t keep
up the steady diet of rant,
and counter-rant that I’ve been living on.
There’s no nourishment in it, nothing to sustain
the human body, nor its soul. My appetite has gone
for dishes best served cold, for table-talk of vain
leaders bent on burning, like modern-day Neros.
I can’t bear the same news stories one more
time: villains painted as heroes,
We’ll be great as before!
I hide my dread
in bed.

                        for Dan Albergotti

Searching for new stars / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Last night, the children were on the trampoline
like popcorn in a heated pan, playing
that they were in a spaceship
with gravity gone, looking for a super nova
as some sort of sign that the mysteries
of this world are wonderful still.

Wild turkeys gobbled in a flock.
I did not see them, only heard their noise
like a gargling laugh. A buzzard flew overhead
as if all of us were already dead,
but I didn’t mention that to the children.

They jumped higher than I ever did,
flying to heights to bend time and space
back into some livable world, creating
sustenance from roadkill, a new realm,
tomorrows. This time, I pray, it will be them
who jump and fly and get it right.

Last night, I laughed aloud to them
about how high they could jump,
how far their spaceship flew, the number
of stars, nova after nova,
each one a discovery, a hope for something better.
The wind called, as if we were the only people left.
I called out, answering it, but it did not listen.

Poem 26 / Day 26 

A murmur / by Louise Akers 

A murmur is a private
and intransitive exaltation
of certain knowledge
that the self should be
at ease, that stillness
still bears marginal distinction
from quick, residual motion
toward the same.

 

Water Features in the Botanic Garden: A Visitor’s Guide / by Lucia Galloway 

Fountains are one feature that will keep you walking, oases of delight in their
niches off garden paths. In one shaded alcove, water wells up from inside a tall
rock, films it in wetness flawless and shining.

Elsewhere, you’ll catch the gurgle of water as it pours from spout into barrel,
the stream from a sprinkling can. It’s a replica of the water spout for cleansing inside
the gateway arch at a Shinto shrine.

A third fountain squats in the center of a pergola, bubbling from a pipe through a
narrow flume to a reflecting pool, where dry leaves are held by surface tension on
the water’s face. Motionless they appear. But if you watch you will see them
circulate in broad arcs from the water’s entry point: clockwise on the right,
counter- clockwise on the left.

Pools and ponds are favorite destinations in the garden. Let’s imagine you’ve just
visited the reflecting pool. Our mid-garden pond, tailored and manicured,
refurbished and reinvented, will be your next stop. The overgrowth of water lilies
has been reduced to a single proud cluster. Minnows flicker, lavish, beneath of
the surface of varnish-hued water, while miniscule gnats visit from above.

The favorite “old pond” is a wildlife sanctuary. It features a viewing platform,
paved and railed. It you miss the mallard pairs who may visit in season, or the
fish or two that swim in the water’s murk—well, there are always the turtles,
whole families on the dry-grassy banks, or asleep in piles, sunning themselves
over water on outcropping rocks

When you’ve finished your tour, take this guide with you. Or recycle it at one of the
convenient stations. Although you will not be here always to see them, these
features, these creatures persist in their cycles as long as water is here to support.
We thought you would like to know. 

what comes next is now / by Raki Kopernik 

I’m antsy to get to the next thing
knowing when I get there I’ll be ready
for what comes after where I wanted to be

the gnome in my brain says
pump the brakes dude
everything happens when you’re present
the world moves slower when you breathe longer
that’s the secret to control time 

Drifters / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

What I am trying to say is my brain is full of honeybees / by Kindra McDonald 

                                                      “The honeybee has officially been considered the most important living creature on                                                              earth and it will be so until it is no longer here.”

That they are buzzing and thrumming
that they are fanning the temperature
of this apiary in my head so I am always
92 degrees—most crime is seasonal.
It started when I gargled, brushed my teeth
and buzzed, I spoke in hums and soon
wings caught in my lungs, fluttering.
I am asking you, please to blow smoke
in my ear, to know the difference
between a wasp and its fuzzy cousin.

I am hurting. Sometimes my skin becomes
so touch tender and swollen even pollen dust
burns when it settles like light on my chin.
It will be a winter full of honey synapses
I will melt like sugar in your mouth
the more I think the louder the buzz.
My hands are the size of fig leaves.
Have you tried to grasp a flower, stroke
a cheek, when your hands are as big as fig
leaves? Clumsy. The medulla is so syrupy
thick my heart becomes clogged, my arteries
carry atrocities away, my veins ferry pain
that is 80% sugar, but still not sweet.

How it seems more possible than ever
to disappear. In every picture ever taken
of me my eyes are closed. Now you can catch me
lifting up, hovering, just about to take flight. What
I am trying to say is, listen.

Hymn to Quiet a Barking Dog / by Doug Van Gundy 

Sing it in the key of bones,
a little catch at the back
of your throat, a growl,
a sigh of contentment.

Invent a verse
about a parallelogram
of sunshine on a carpeted
floor, and one about squirrels.

Pitch it where
she can warble along,
blunting her sharp bark
into a round howl.

When you’ve finished,
you both can savor the silence,
then pad off to the kitchen
where treats are waiting

for all good dogs.

The Second Floor / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I might as well say, is a place,
though it is one with a biological bent
to care for each other and the books
that line its walls know
they hold change and revolution
in their spines.

Despite the fragility
of earth’s abundances
in the absence of kindness, we continue
to take resources from people
as if snatching a kabab off of a plate.

Conversation begins
and the sky must know the workday
is done because it brings thunder and wind
like the house guest you enjoy
for a short while, carrying on,
a real rabble-rouser,
pushy as all get out about their ideas
and every minute of it you love
because each one is a risk.

There is a contagious urge
to help each other as if that were
our way, and maybe it is.
Today is a day we make everything hard,
the world does not want us to fight against it,
but for it, amidst dust particles in light.
The path becomes apparent
through how we pronounce our vowels,
fighting over kababs,
fighting for them.

(Sabeen Mahmud, 1974-2015)

Poem 25 / Day 25

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

What I’m saying is fuck 
transcendence. I know a harp
when I see a harp. I know the imminence 
of risk, I mean the risk of intimate  
rejection is more like how susceptible are you 
to being hurt by this email. 
The easiest justification 
for laziness-as-cruelty is that 
its divorced from the riddle, that it’s the canned 
laughter from the heap
of what’s foreclosed.
Facial recognition 
has the monopoly 
on desire; the effect is that
of care’s anti-invective. 
So, what’s the cause that he leaves you 
the fuck alone?
The scant return on any sublunary 
investment, of course. 

Because / by Kris Bigalk 

Text isn’t enough.
take off your shoes and socks.
Open your mouth.
Give me a small piece of brain.

960,243 words in the Bible
can be read in 15 seconds
by a computer.

Milton didn’t use the word because.
Paradise can be lost
without wrestling with reason.

Elephants Can Remember:
the Muse would not quit her, as
Agatha Christie, losing herself, cut off
all of her hair, tufts of white cottony
fuzz dotting her skull, where
all the words were locked up.

Containers / by Lucia Galloway 

               –after “The Persian Case,” an installation by Dale Chihuly

Strangely hued and translucent, the shells on exhibit here.
Take this pile: in blues and yellows, accented with orange
and magenta, the shimmering greens and greys,
the outlines of fleshy pink.
This glass is alive like dreams, a profusion of teeming nests.
These shells could be the corollas of flowers peeling back
to release coils, spheres, cylinders, snakes.
Deceptive containers that do not contain.
Do you recall the time I decorated the room
with small Hopi baskets out of which moths flew,
and I made aspics in those bent-up,
fluted aluminum molds?

The Rising / by DJ Hill 

Five trees, turning leaves
gold, holding firm ‘til winds switch
wooden bodies bare

Rapids running quick
river rocks tumbled by force
Dame Nature’s fury

Acres charred by fire
soot smudged cliff face
indelible print

Floating clouds of brown
haze just above the skyline
air too thick to breathe

Masses fleeing fire
looking for sanctuary
strike warblers confused

Mother Nature stressed
endangered species hunted
for what, human sport?

Prairie grass brittle
Sunbeaten glare, counting days
Earth begging mercy 

relief / by Raki Kopernik

I dreamed
it was over

the relief
felt like a dream

we can’t rewind
into the past

but we are
front sides back

the back of memory
pushes growth

into presence
to do better now

The Rail Trail / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
after WCW

Railroad tracks dappled
with rust

mulched and buried
in gravel

grown over by bushes
of beachy grass

an army of clover

so much is taken
over

This is just a reminder / by Kindra McDonald 

that as the leaves fall, be
still, let them be homes for
bees who haven’t actually gone
anywhere but spend the winter in nests
their mothers made, essential for shelter
for bumble bee queens, butterflies and moths.
Leave the leaves for lady beetles to live perfectly
placed to attack aphids when your spring garden
grows. Leave the logs and wood piles, the knotty
bumps are abode to dozens of praying mantis
whose hunger you’ll want come summer
and just in case the legend is true
they are signs of an angel come
to visit you, or the compass to
point a lost child home, leave
them, simply tell guests
excuse my mess, I’m
creating habitats.

We Haven’t Come Very Far / by Doug Van Gundy 

The world is an illusion. We can’t see.
We can’t hear, taste or smell, either. We can
only touch, even then it’s only stimulus and response.
Everything else — the smell of a bubbling pizza
coming out of the oven at Pepe’s in New Haven,
the vibratory beauty of Van Gogh’s purple irises
that causes you to weep in front of strangers, the dark
and tender love songs of Nick Cave — lives exclusively
inside your head, along with anything else you can imagine.
Your imagination, for example. Your sense of outrage,
your sense of humor, your sense of entitlement.
The guttering candle of your hope. We are trapped:
mere electrical impulses coursing through a self-
sustaining system of neurons and chemical pumps.
And when the power goes out, we cease.
Since you’re stuck in there (Plato was a crank,
there is no way out of the cave, we are the cave)
consider this: every landscape you’ve ever loved,
every face you’ve ever stared into longingly,
or wished to slap in anger is just a painting
you’ve made inside the Lascaux of your skull.

The superheroes gather around the fire eating migas / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The first time I ate migas
wasn’t here, but in Texas.
Skin of tortillas, crisped up
like the best kind of sunburn
on my tongue where the road forks.
Sour like lime on the avocado,
nothing like ashes in the mine.

I don’t want to be buried in desert ground
in that tiny side-of-the-highway cemetery
just up the street from the Tortilla Factory,
with a white cross coming up
like an arm reaching out of brown dirt.

Here, small birds jump from
the middle of the road.
There are cities of boulders,
a copper mine coming for us.

A silver colt rides by
as if this were heaven
in the midst of rows of trees killed by fire.

The sky is too big anymore.
Before, I was drawn to it, needed
a bigger ceiling to find myself
and know my size.

The river is low now,
you can see mountains in the distance
far back beyond the hills
of dry ground and rock,
and I look for the drop-drip stream
by where the superheroes gather,
try to hear what they are plotting.

Poem 24 / Day 24

PUCELLE 2 / by Louise Akers 

Blonde like emmer, like tact polishing 
the thrust of a catholic 
report. A thought event—a war event—is won
by shadowed order; emmer growing golden
over brick, 
glass,
over our soft, squishy 
corner. 

Off Highway 169, Near Mankato / by Kris Bigalk 
 
Cornfields dried to gold,
crackled dry leaves curled
around woody stalks
ears perked, husks rough,
ready for the stripping
of their yellow teeth
smiling.
Dust rises across
the horizon. The combine
roars in its drift, grasping
stalks with its silver claws.
Behind it, stubble, shreds
of leaves blowing, the
occasional forgotten ear,
listening. 
 

Love Poem / by Lucia Galloway
                                                            after George Oppen,

Walking the trail together
Several years ago,
I’d been away at a weekend workshop,
You occupied with one of your singing gigs,
We started up the path in daylight,
The sun on the backs of our necks,
Our shadows stretching
ahead of us.

When we reached the northern terminus
And turned to go back,
Twilight had come on crepuscular
Deepening into dusk.
I remember a full moon rising
Large on the horizon. We headed back  
Into the forest
With its arching limbs.

We talked easily of our children,
You holding my hand,
Of my giving birth
And your daily toil.
We stepped from the patches of moonlight
Into patches of shadow,
Not needing then
To care which was which. 

Ode to A Hotel Makeup Mirror / by DJ Hill 

You, the magnification of time, I’ve avoided
your reflection on more than one occasion
except this morning, the first full day
of fall equinox, sun crossing the celestial plane
you on the cold, gray marble waiting
expectantly for a moment such as this-
your sleek satin nickel base, antiskid
bottom and multifunctional face,
adjustable brightness, choice of 1x-5x
uptightness, me, starting slow, recognizing
the woman in the round frame, looking
much the same, gaining confidence I braved
the swivel to zoom in and just as advertised,
I spied with my own weary eyes every pore,
wrinkle, and age spot, a lone long hair
from my chin, highlighted roots, touch of gray
setting in, the feet of crows surrounding
eyes and temple, two blue veins I didn’t know
existed. Thank you, shiny hotel makeup mirror,
for your double-sided brightness, reminding me
it could be worse. 

which side are you on / by Raki Kopernik

as the veil thins, greens turning red orange yellow, a rainbow of fruit flavors, ghosts arriving in
chunks and droves, days retracting shorter stretching dusks, I think about the heft of my body
anchored, weighing me down, sitting still to channel the light for these last years, deter me from
chasing the freedom of crossing, of pushing the veil to one side and climbing through with ghostly
love lost long ago and only yesterday.

when you’re without blood and body, can you still feel the sensation of subtle nerves breathed on,
the swell of hearts and moving hands, lips touching and beauty in the eyes of affection? 

The Key / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

We hung over the Gulf
at the rickety offseason bar,
over-lacquered wood balanced
on corrugated metal, keeping

the swells out. Besides
the infinite sheet metal
bolted beyond the horizon,
there was a village of pelicans,

gnarled and still as old men,
anchored to the abandoned posts
of some lost landmark—
a once-loved shack, maybe,

big enough for two
to be suspended alone,
or something useful
like a once-fished pier.

We toasted their indifference,
just standing there waiting
for whatever pelicans await
in their dotage, unfazed

by the green algae-stains,
the advancing barnacles,
the darkened wood’s
irreversible saturation,

and ate clams in their honor,
tossing the divested shells
back from whence they were
born. Of that little town,

where no one knew us,
all I can remember is
the luxurious melancholy
of that afternoon by the water,

nothing like the violence
of a phone call before sunrise,
the sudden permanence
of a house fire, a roaring flood. 

Ghazal for the Burning World / by Kindra McDonald 

Every summer California burns, this year the whole west coast is blazing, come rain, claim us.
Winds carry smoke east and my window patch of sky is hazy blame. Who will claim us?

I’d like to think that my first word was word, but it can’t be overheard, those gone rotted brains
who taught me, we’re all born, we’re not all raised. Add to the list of things we love that hurt us.

Here is a spell to overcome despair: one full moon, a peeled apple, two overlapping coffee stains
all the dog-eared corners of your favorite book, this fallen leaf, this breath, inhale, now train us.

I want a funeral procession so long the blinking lights of cars stretch from Granby Street to Main
these thoughts are little embers, little sparks, a light as lonely as a corner payphone, change us.

Today I disappeared. For how long, I do not know. I walked until I vanished, call me insane.
The cat brings in secrets on her fur, I’ve only bug bites as proof I’m here at all, this pain, just us.

Justice never comes and fury grows with each delay, excuses bubble like shook champagne
pinky promise me we are more than links in a broken chain, what will it take to sustain us?

Life is not less than property, if property is greater than life if all the sand were counted grains
and all the grains could fill the stomach of a sparrow, what is the hour when we can explain us?

If this house was saved by prayer, but every smoldering home around it is rubble, who gains
the ear of God, who holds the sparrow, God prunes us so that we may bear fruit, bless us.

Oh, the things I would burn to create the perfect smokey eye, the seething of our ruin, vain
in my mirror of truth. Why was I told if a boy is mean, he liked me? Our shadows remain us.

Let’s greet the day in peace, make breakfast for the moths, wish for the soaking of a kind rain let’s feast on this flower, sweep ash into silver campaigns for our future. Who now will claim us?

Sfumato / by Doug Van Gundy 

Hidden in the twilight, away
from the coloring book clarity
of Botticelli and Filipo Lippi,
is dark Caravaggio: braggart,
brawler, painter of what he knew
and loved: the shadowy citizens
of dimly-lit Rome. He mastered
sfumato: the blurring of edges
until they dissolve into smoke.
What can be seen glows golden:
a well-known courtesan posed as
the Virgin, his own face—bloated
from illness—recast as Bacchus,
but any sense of edge evaporates
into a warm background of burnt
umber and ivory black. His Saint
Sebastian, arrows piercing
his spot-lit torso, threatens
to disappear into the unrecognizable
foliage of whatever invisible tree
he is tied to, and the shadows
that surround him, while formless,
seem to possess both hunger and will. 

American Muse / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Is it enough, Oh Muse,
to have had every feeling possible
about America?
Where we are all famous
and that means nothing as of late.
Again, with the dead man
reaching out of the blue
and all of us crawling over
each other, like turtles, like ducks,
like cockroaches, like
the lowliest of creatures.
Still, with the what we hold onto,
our stark obituaries,
the slaughter and cake
that hook us, then hollow us out.
Forgive me, I wonder more often now,
if I reflect art or if it reflects me?
Or if we have nothing to do
with each other anymore?
The art of representation lost
in plastic litter caught in the brush.
Maybe how we became a part of America
is the history that drives us, holds us, rocks us,
our muses, masked, holding their ground.

Poem 23 / Day 23

PUCELLE / by Louise Akers 

The parentGod approached
on the knees of his heart, “doesn’t everyone
need their God?”

Con

sanguine, JOAN, monotonous
ly sandy-haired—our JOAN
like emmer, replied: 

“Is this just a book about parents?” 

Why not?
God may strike you 
thisaway. 

The Young Sick Bacchus, 1593, Caravaggio / by Kris Bigalk 

Apricots, so firm and perfect, scent the room
with sweetness and juicy promise,
black grapes will split their skins
the second they land on my tongue,
when I regain an appetite.
I dragged myself out of bed
for you, my love, I coiled
ivy around my head for you, but
I can barely keep my eyes open.
I fade in this darkness.
Come, eat these white grapes,
these black grapes, these apricots,
and I will taste them
by watching you.
The light you bring
into this room changes
my sallow mood to rosy.
Someday, I will paint you,
my darling, red lips parted,
a pomegranate opened,
ready for kissing.

Dad, a Portrait / by Lucia Galloway
for G.B.G., 1906-1982

Dad owned a red wheelbarrow—rugged,
with a flat bed and removable slab sides
to let him stack and balance bulky loads—
lumber for the grape arbor he’d build, a pallet
of bricks for a back-yard path.  I watched
his sinewy arms, their muscles flexing, his grip
on the heavy handles and he pushed.

He was handy with things and tools, my dad.
Promised to build me a dollhouse so I could
arrange the tiny furniture I’d got.  I pictured
two stories with an open back.  Instead he built
a house that stacked.  Off came the roof, and
then the second story.  No hallway, just bedrooms
opening into one another like spaces in a gallery.

It was years later when I realized he’d lacked
the knowhow to build the toy-store house I coveted.
I thought he’d made mine to replicate the house
we lived in—my bedroom reached by passing
through my parents’ room, Dad and Mom passing 
through my territory to reach the bath.

Mornings, Dad left the bathroom door ajar,
venting the steam while he stood at the mirror.
I glimpsed damp tendrils of his chest hair, noticed
the tension in his cheeks as he tunneled the razor’s
head across his lathered jaw.  His cigarette
burned to a nub on the edge of the toilet tank. 

This Day / by DJ Hill 

 

So much of life is spent
waiting
longing
for that goal in the distance-
bigger house, more money
more free time, less stressing
happier children, less suffering
missing all along the blooms
off to the side of the path-
the gentle song, free gifts of love
the being as I am.
That, after all, is what we really have-
who we are
to give and receive
the blessing offered
everyday.

the rusty squirrel / by Raki Kopernik

a different breed of squirrel
this one I’ve never seen
deep rust colored and
so small

we wonder if it’s a baby
but the way it yells loud
and clucky eek eek eek
we can tell this is a teen

also I don’t like
when animals are called it
but what can we do when
we don’t have gender

wait here’s what
use they them
use rusty squirrel  
use magical creature
not really a big fucking problem is it 

Wisconsin, 2013 / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Before the siege of acorns on the metal roof
of the little house with a jungled backyard,
before the third adventure for an Ikea bookshelf,

before the closet full of ephemera: receipts
from dinners abroad, scorecards, bar napkins,
before we regretted missing out on Parisian paella,

before the nightguard and the white noise machine,
before we found paella redemption in Miami,
before lily poisoning, before nursing homes,

before whiskey-fogged, dark country roads in Michigan,
before that basement theater in Shadyside,
before fried clams in Essex, tacos in Asheville,

before you made me paella on the Weber grill,
we left the brewery in Appleton in the rain—
it had rained all day, chilly drizzle nagging us

like Steve’s scraggly cat—and got stuck
in a small town’s high school football parade.
Already, our first road trip had been plagued

with dead ends. Sweatshirts and noisemakers
flocked to the stadium like jovial moths
to a buzzing fluorescent flame. You asked me why

I was crying. Outside my window, SUVs romped
in the rotting leaves; a drumbeat carried faintly
on the popcorn-stale breeze. A mother gathered

her ducklings, herding them towards the only place
they’d ever go on the first Saturday in October.
I envied them their home game, that muddy field. 

Equinox / by Kindra McDonald 

On the day both halves of this planet receive the sun’s rays equally
Persephone returns to her husband in the underworld.

Above light is stretching its long fingers into every darkness
in strict measure lighting corner cobwebs, sparking deserts golden

rivers dazzle blaze and mountains gleam gauzy in light. Each window
in this world, an equal day, an equal night, but some rank

more equal than others, hasn’t that always been the way? That little bit
of lingering light–a minute here, three minutes there, a trick a swindle, a deal 

with the devil lips bright with pomegranate. At dawn rise from a vigil
the wisps of a dying fire brought in on hair, the cool night and smoke on skin

 

eyes will be stars, crawl into bed, ankles bound with vines, a trail of petals turned
to ash, make darkness honey sweet, do all you can to please, just don’t lie and say it’s equal. 

Tell Me a Story / by Doug Van Gundy 
                                                                         after Robert Penn Warren

In this moment, in this age of madness
when quarter-truths and half-truths win the day,
tell me a story to numb the sadness.

A man told me just now he wished to blow
the Statue of Liberty from the bay.
In this moment, in this age of madness

he screamed at me: the Muslims have to go!
And every refugee and every gay!
Tell me a story to numb my sadness.

The shouting from the left is: No! No! No!
and on the right the fascist asses bray.
In this moment, in this age of madness

we scarcely recognize faces we know,
two nations side-by-side but worlds away:
tell me a story to numb the sadness

In the smug face of gleeful told you so!
mere platitudes cannot my fears allay.
In this moment, in this age of madness,
tell me a story to numb my sadness. 

I lean against a tree / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

middle of a park
color of malachite.
The tree says it is lucky to be
in the center of it all.
I agree, but say nothing,
only gratitude in my belly

There is a group of older people
doing Tai Chi two trees down.
I wonder if Tai Chi can be a verb.
The trunk I lean against
also holds a pose,
presses against me in a
grasp the bird’s tail pose

These days, I hold my breath more.
Two men cut the wet grass
with large ride-on mowers .
Many of us could probably agree
the smell of cut grass is like summer
rather than the beginning of fall.

The tree holds me up
or maybe I hold up the tree,
just today on a Tuesday
when we can hold very little
with sound. The tree is quiet,
but says its voice is drowned out
by the mocking drone echo
of machines and mowers. The tree
waits to speak until the noise
is gone, but singing all the while
in its branches and leaves.
It will not sing a September song,
not this year, it says.
Or is it me that says that?

I am alive in a world some claim
is broken, but I see it alive still,
breaking again and again every morning
like a yard of dying sunflower stalks
with trees nearby waiting to speak.

Poem 22 / Day 22

City / by Louise Akers 

I feel lucky that our window faces west: 
the city, feeling
I could anchor this self in this city. 

A city’s sole generation:
an after lived in and not possessed, as satellites
replace the stars watched from the window, 
pre-war, west. 

A city that is fractal and foreclosed as all cities,
lonesome. 

A city manifesting musical
cartography— 
of falling, 
loving, 
of the doubled rivers and sad days. 

A city where I live
and love M 
and love her more for the city that she loves 
and she possesses in her own, 
quiet way.  

A city quiet and with her and with the quality of light that dimmed offsets our glow. 

When M is lost, the city is lost too. 

Lakewood Cemetery / by Kris Bigalk 

I go there to talk to angels, both the living and the dead.
In the chapel, they are made of tiny mosaic tiles, glinting
gold leaf, and when I whisper to them, my voice is caught
by the rounded ceiling, whirled to every one of their ears,
and they answer: “until the day break and the shadows flee away.”

Outside, angels perch on tombstones, gather outside mausoleums,
frozen in gray granite, or melting white marble, some with eyes
cast down, others lifting their eyes and arms to heaven.
They tell me of the griefs that brought them to be
guardians of memories, turning to dust and bones. 

On Predation / by Lucia Galloway
for Brio

People are out walking dogs.
It’s safe now for Brio, my cat.
The coyotes, shy of morning light and
their leashed cousins’ masters, have gone
back into hiding.  Brio gets ready to take the field
as stalker of lizards, grasshoppers, and birds—
birds perched in bushes, dipping low in flight.

What is it about instinct, so imperious
that a dog leashed to his owner will stare fixedly
at Brio poised on our low back wall?
I decide to give a hello.  He’s pointing, explains
the master and tugs listlessly on the leash,
a stoic accomplice the animal’s doggedness.

 *   *  *

Not pointer but pouncer, not needing my complicity
nor heeding my dismay, Brio takes my betrayals
in stride: I rescue the soft-feathered fledglings
dropped from his jaws.  I root for the lizards
playing dead on the floor to rouse and scurry
under cabinets and rugs.

But sometimes I notice my cat studying me,
a pointed gaze. Why does she stifle what’s necessary,
stiffen against the undeniable?
this risky and bountiful wild? 

pressing the edges / by Raki Kopernik

early morning rise
road sounds far off
like the ocean pulsing foam waves
the real ocean third coast
lake Michigan door county
up to the tip of the peninsula

don’t forget
the Midwest is full of magic

the good kind of overwhelm
pressing the edges
water balloons filled too much
stretching expanding lungs
becoming silk thin

today we write
tomorrow we write
everyday we write inside a
converted chicken coop
wood smell musty creaky door
high winds lashing trees until

the novel ends
and then
we start again. 

Equinoctial / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

October rides in
moldering-sweet
shaking its untamed mane
giddy with the abundance
of harvest
crazed with entropy
from all the impending death
of the end of a cycle
snorting wildly
in the breeze
supercharged
with desire
for a change of scene
as if unable to bear
the glorious violence
of fruition
and the blank ambivalence
of the winter to come. 

Recovering / by Kindra McDonald   
                        (for K.P.)

She was once jumpy and anxious, moving her hands
Over knitting needles crocheting scarves and headbands
Braiding her own hair and unraveling it hourly like  
Rosary beads that she rubs between her fingers for penance
I watch her month by month count the days of relief and serenity
Echoing her steps, reciting those words until she is sharp again
Three little pills a day rid her of poison, right her rocking ship
Yielding to a future shining on her bright and calm as a winter moon. 

The Way We Do Things / by Doug Van Gundy 

Around here, we like to keep our dead real close,
we set them a place at the supper table, keep buttermilk
in paper cartons at the back of the fridge for them,
take the fiddle off of the peg on the wall and play
the tunes they know, listening to their unbearably
sweet humming and the patting of their absent feet.

We believe the lightning bugs are their weightless souls
hovering over the front lawn on summer nights.  Give them
a little music and watch the pale lights form figures:
Right hand across—how d’ya do? Left hand back—fine thank you.

We have all their recipes in a tin box on the counter,
consulting them like tarot cards when we’re at a loss —
apple stack-cake, cathead biscuits, venison jerky — it’ll be
a hard winter.  We make their favorites as a charm against forgetting,
saying their names: Ida, June, and Vernon; Moses and Wilda,
as we ladle and spoon; carve, slice and serve.

My father is learning all the names, getting ready
for the day he meet and re-meets them, quizzing himself
with homemade flashcards, cocking his head like a spaniel
when he feels one enter the room.  Uncle Richard, right?

We hold our family reunion in the graveyard, set baskets
of cold fried chicken and ham sandwiches on the slabs,
say a little grace and eat.  After cake, and black coffee poured
from my grandfather’s green thermos, I lay on the grass
among wilted carnations and pretend to sleep, turning my face
to the ground, whispering the news they need to know. 

A floating kite, flying / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The number of stories we tell in our lives,
a practice of memory catch and throw,
polished with the claim to
come as you are
a vision of radical acceptance
of our bent selves.

There is a bathroom sink sitting on a curb
outside a house up the road, ready to disappear.
There are kites in the sky above the park.
I hear there is a meaning behind
each one. Is there meaning
for a single kite flying alone
versus one in a sky of kites?
At least
there is a story behind each,
together it may be a collection
never spoken, never published, never read.

There is pleasure in watching
kites float rather than fly.

This is all perspective.
Crows on the lawn hold stories in their beaks.
A roadrunner on the wall watches them.
The levity of our own attempts to fly,
how we jump invisible walls.

Deep inside us, there should not be a fear
that if we speak, we must plan our flight,
nor should that fear be on the surface, floating.

In this, our story is that we live free.

Poem 21 / Day 21 

Two or more arts / by Louise Akers 

Turns out, a lack of trust is transposed by total gullibility, which seems to me to be a product of laziness. 

Vigilance requires attention to detail (lost). 

Blood loss often requires courage (foreclosed). 

Vigilance requires surveillance, a window at least to the public sphere (lost). 

Blood requires iron, membrane, pulse (Sustained). 

*

“We” is not a stable, grounded subject. “We” as agent is as impenetrable as an archive of satellite
surveillance, and as manifold. 

“We” could be a personal multitude; “We” are out of time to pluck out individuals. 

*

Turns out, I can’t predict when something unpleasant will happen to me, though I suspect its arrival almost
all the time. 

I am aware that the outcomes are bleak; I do not yet know the moment of their reality. 

“Casual will/ Is atrocious” (George Oppen) 

*

I mean something by subversion: To analyze loathing and to seem to meet it somewhere, only to drop it down into the lap of your consideration. Or, 

To realize the fiction of another’s body armor; to refuse any real truth in body armor. 

To subvert is to disalign the fascist from his fiction; the Vedic reanimates her sprout. 

I mean something also by escape. Aspiration toward an elsewhere, into longing, out of shame, once and for all. 

*

That I have lost is ecstatically true; that I am not lost is painful, but true. 

*

Loss is the many armored vehicles outside of the temple, the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of
garments and strollers trafficking in and out of the temple. 

Foreclosure is the city’s voided recycling program. I am considering a change of scene. 

An epic is the description of events preceding a given foreclosure. There is a tautological affect to
environmental cataclysm experienced in a city. 

Cities are a product of love of fate. 

Lost fate is unlovable for the manifold cities produced. 

An algorithm rewrites the certainty of destiny’s foreclosure. 

“We” are lost to the fire. 

*

There is not much to do today, and I do it. I have not taken any thing or person with me. 

There is music from outside filtering in, moving away again. 

I try to drink water and wash my hands. 

I try to anchor in the seat, in the avenue, the ground floor of the building. 

I am cautious answering the door. 

I am remembering my mother and leaving her alone. 

I am in love with a small frame, repeated on a quick reel that I play all afternoon. 

I misremember effort, kindness, bravery. I lie. 

*

Are you an “anxious” person? C asked me. 

Dread is not synonymous with anxiety, I said. 

I am not trying to be recalcitrant, I said. 

Just, maybe, precise. 

Its Web / by Lucia Galloway 

I almost missed it, fastened there, so sheer
and lightly shimmering in flicker of morning sunlight
on our patio.

Anchored at four points by finest skeins
to the support beam, fence rail, lime-tree leaf and branch,
even to a pointed leaf tip of a spiky plant that crowds  
against the flagstones.  I marveled to see stabilizing triangles
spun of finest silken thread that rendered the structure sound.

Sound sounds solid, heavy for so filigreed a thing:
an artifact of mostly air, its generosity was its genius,
the spoke-work of gossamer ladders its industry
and charm.

I tell you this because I know that you,
like me, want something of wonder, of encouragement.
We need it to keep us doing what we do. 

Up Schitt’s Creek / by DJ Hill 

Being it was Emmy night, we grabbed a
frozen pizza, bottle of Cabernet Franc
settled in with the Rose;’ Johnny, David,
Alexis, and our favorite Moira.

Lost in conversation, Moira’s spilling her
dark side, Alexis, still clueless, she could
only stand by, David and Patrick, facing
quite a dilemma, slivered moon passing day

right after sunset, there came a low moan
lasting just a few seconds, the source of the
power at earth’s core expended, towels in
washer, begging to dry, ceiling fan, stilled,

the spin interrupted. Our house, now quiet,
us with nothing to do, but wait out the silence
a dog at our heels, we padded to bed, flipping
light switches, fans, an oxygen machine,

all of them dead. A command to Alexa, usually
chatty, refusing the news, daily sport scores,
Tom Petty. Alexa the eavesdropper, sometimes
amusing, even she, now silenced, could not face

the music. New IPhone from Apple refusing to
function, the WIFI disabled, a poem past deadline, 
words carefully crafted, held hostage in Dropbox,
googling generators, conspiracies, and worst of all

end times. Hourglass spinning, the blank screen
of panic, what if, how long, contingency plan, frantic
steady tick of the clock, counting hours and
seconds, when suddenly it awakens, our agony

ended, as David, Alexis, Johnny and Moira
with Emmy’s in hands, the other mimosas.
Next time let’s hope it won’t come to this,
darkness and drama tonight in Schitt’s Creek.

RIP RBG / by Raki Kopernik 

rest in power
ripen in postmortem

riot irate patriot
real impressive presence

run indecent panther
revenges induce perseverance

relocate if pressed
rampaging is pure

roam inside paradise
rise interstellar priestess

Indulgent / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

A pair of well-worn sweats, a dog-eared book
you’ve memorized, a bowl of carbs and cheese—
buttery-sweet, salty and warm, a cat
on the sill, a glass of wine—some workhorse red,
utility wine, a mix of sad Sondheim—
“Take Me to the World,” “You Are Not Alone,” on loop,
or Sorkin’s “Two Cathedrals” rewound, re-watched,
a banana split on a Tuesday night, a robe,
reading “After Apple-Picking” out loud
until you too have had enough, a piece
of grocery store cake, a Coke: you do
or eat or watch or just consume what it takes
to feel ok with all that’s not ok,
survive tonight and find some way to rest. 

EKG / by Kindra McDonald 

For two long minutes
twice a day when I brush my teeth
with the electric toothbrush and its perfect
30 second interval pulses for each quadrant of my mouth
I think how it is the exact amount of time that you were dead
arrested on a hospital bed while a 4 foot nothing nurse straddled you
and pounded your heart back to life. Now your pacemaker keeps track of each beat
and somewhere in the sky a satellite watches it spike and dip, a wave we ride, a grave we cheat.

From Me to You or Vice-Versa / by Doug Van Gundy 

There is a language we can’t speak
but have understood all our lives.
We send each other missives

through aroma and sizzle, mouthfeel
and steam. A bowl of udon noodles,
green onions and a soft-cooked

egg says I’ve managed to work
from home without surrendering
the whole afternoon to sleep.

Potato-corn soup with crusty bread
and a bitter ale means you
are homesick for your childhood;

brown beans. cornbread and greens
means I’m homesick for mine.
Spaghetti in homemade sauce

cooked all day until it’s turning
the corner from red to brown
says: I need to be held. Pureed soup

of any kind asks: how long
can this possibly last?  Delivery
pizza means we’ve both given up,

at least for today.  A breakfast
of oatmeal cooked with blackened
bananas and crystalized ginger

means that we’ve agreed to carry on,
taking things day-by-day.
Every desert means I love you. 

Asking, Love, for a birth of something new / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I am at the dusk of remembrance,
carefully moving through a coming heat
writing a letter to each of my loves
for all that we carry. I ask:

Where am I in a warming planet?
Where are you, Love?

I hold a mirror above
a heated earth,
see my infinite self.
Is it too late to change
my reflection?

Love,
I seek our collaborative longing
to do something good,
where we knead mud and clay
beside each other with hope
in our palms, our curled fingers,
each slant of light we see as destiny.
We carve our children
to finish our work, Love,
and try to keep from drowning
in the fens of anguish.

This, Love, is a soul decision,
beyond language. It is of flood and tick,
temperature and storm.
It is how we raise our children up-
ever seeking solutions.
The echo soundings
aside the smell of spring,
the coming fall on our fingertips,
the coming winter in our toes.

I worry, Love, about the rise of water,
the swallowing of riverbanks,
a flood of oceans, rage of fire
the lost course of rainclouds.
After dusk is a moving forward
Come with me, Love.

 

Poem 20 / Day 20 

In gratitude / by Louise Akers 

I have been patient so long
I’ve forgotten how to pass,
left—the cold morning, 
nearly silent highway; the encomiastic 
letter to the ex, which you 
reply to out of 
generosity. I’ve forgotten 
the distinction between waiting 
for and neglecting praise. 

The busiest intersection, here,
              behold: 
four tiers of cold climate, and
the borough where we stayed 
there, 
in the third tier, 
in your very private 
              borough; I’d forgotten 
your great reverence 
for the way I articulated 
longing, the way I felt 
in your own tactless 
              borough, in the bars 
with you, I, passing every regular 
test, my sewing 
wrath, your 
sewing asphodel, and generous 
with callous, apriori 
explanations, I 
was ever praised and flexible,
or open-minded.

Primordial / by Kris Bigalk 

Limestone is compressed bones of ancient sea creatures.
See the skeleton of the squid, the trilobite, the snail,
embedded in the crushed shells of their ancestors?
Marble is compressed limestone.
See the shots of black and blue, like bruises, cracking
through the white?

I paint blue wings on the backs of my hands to help them fly.
I buy soap that smells like my grandmother’s kitchen.
I let the dishes soak overnight so I can think.
I pray so I can fall asleep.

My dreams leave a taste of the ocean
in my mouth, black shot through with bolts
of blue heat. When I surface, I am
hungry for oxygen, the fossilized
shells of memory slowly fading
into the morning light. 

Reading the Headlines / by Lucia Galloway 
–the Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2020

COURT IS SHAKEN AS GINSBERG DIES . . .

Firefighter dies while battling the Yucaipa blaze
Antelope Valley homes in danger
Wildfire death toll at 26
Covid-19 deaths of children mirror those of adults
Israel returns to lockdown as virus cases mount
Street life is returning as deaths climb
Smoke forecast to clear in L.A. area
McConnell vows to press ahead on filling vacancy
Want to honor Ginsberg? Vote on Nov. 3
Michigan ballot cutoff extended
RBG’s death shouldn’t eclipse her life
S.F. on pace to resume indoor dining
Will Congress act at last on wildfires?
‘Tsunami’ of hotel closures coming, experts say 

To A Friend on the Eve of Her Move / by DJ Hill 

You might be interested to know-
according to a therapist and friendship
researcher-that making friends at our
age is a particular challenge, not
the only challenge; the circle of potential
candidates slowly dwindling each year
add distance, COVID, economic hardship
and no one wanting to leave the safety
of home, alert to germs, masks, and
social distancing, the good news being,
according to the researcher, that
friendship has become more hands-off,
not having to go through the hassle of
meeting at a coffee shop, playgroup
or bus stop as we did when our children
were young, now grown, these sacred
spaces reserved for the next generation,
but lucky for us we can turn to Hey!
Bumble, VINA, Meetup, and Meow Chat
friendship apps, Over 60.com says this is how
we grow our legion of fellow sexagenarian’s
in three easy steps: Admitting our desire to
reinvigorate our social life, make friendship
a priority, and commit to ‘getting out there
to make the first move,’ somehow finding
a friend in 2020 resembles speed dating
and if we have questions or need support,
Over60.com is a keypad away
how ironic, friendship evolving to the
click of a button

Which is why, Alice, tomorrow as
you hit the open road, house sold,
belongings stowed, baby grand in
temperature-controlled- I want you
to know I will do none of these things
to replace your warm smile, the ease
of our coffee chats, your uncanny ability
to check in at the perfect time, someday
soon you will land, reunite with your baby
grand, in a new space, never forgetting
Red Mountain or Buck Prince, listening
under whispering pines, as you serenade
with a song you know by heart. 

in between / by Raki Kopernik

chamomile tea
followed or preceded by
whiskey in a big glass
with a big round ice cube
salty sticky potato soup
long lost hoodies
neglected wool socks
plasma red leaves blowing mini tornados
halloween halloween
and Halloween.

transitions
are the most enchanted. 

Cousins / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for M.P., S., & D.

are funny
family members
you end up next to
at the kids’ tables
in the backyards
on the badminton team
but too far away from
in age
to make it easy
to relate
to not resent
being grouped together
out of a tangential relation
and convenience.

You go along
swept together
in the family tide
bobbing against
each other
growing
apart
until one day
you find yourselves
at a grandparent’s funeral
an awkward family reunion
your own wedding
grateful
for your cousins
handing you more Kleenex
laughing at the other tables
donning a judge’s robe
when you needed them.

On the occasion of my husband’s 40th birthday / by Kindra McDonald 

I suddenly realize I’m cleaning like I’ve had no one in the house for six months
because I have had no one in the house for six months, so I move the party outside
taming the weeds, cursing the mower and cutting limbs until the canopy opens
because this year has been worry and wrong, cancel and compromise

because singing Happy Birthday is what we do when we wash hands
on this day I wish the hurricane off shore, days of rain pause
for you, my dear. The clouds sail next door, a sundog I swear, is right
over the house, listen even the doves coo their approval

and your divorced parents are civil and my mom makes small
talk and no one mentions politics. Your sisters tease you, call you Hiss
the nickname you don’t fit. There must be something sweet, one candle
at least, there must be the song and the gift made by hand, we can have it

the glass globe will settle around us like a cloche, the blown leaves are
confetti that swirl when we’re shaken, and in this enclosed moment
safe and sterile, we can forget about the people who aren’t here
for just an instant before the flame is blown out, we are normal. 

Arrangement / by Doug Van Gundy 

A quartz pebble from my driveway
and a piece of flint from the south
bank of the river Thames lie beside
each other on my desk.  They have
come to like one another, sometimes
having long conversations in the night.
Over time, each has also come to know
the other well enough to spend hours
or days in companionable silence, not
saying anything, not needing to.

Ants marching / Liza Wolff-Francis

There is an anthill underneath
our home. It spans the width
and length of our house
like a six-legged basement.

I retreat there when searching
for purpose.

The Victorians’ said the soul
weighs 21 grams, which isn’t even
a pound. They weighed people
just before death and just after,
looking, like magicians,
for a cycle of regeneration
and a sign of the next moon,
a plea to the whistling wind,
the disrobing of an artichoke,
a plucking of pomegranate seeds.

And what of the ants? Soulless,
they march through my home
unaware of their vanishing point
even as my mouth was full
of words to write. I wonder
if I swallowed them when too many
gathered in my throat or maybe
I spit them out somewhere, behind
a bush, a bookshelf, down the sink.

I speak of ants as if I am not
one of them, as if I am a separate species,
dive-bombing some forgotten reality,
a narrow path of remembering
I am here, scurrying to find myself
in a new world, a home, a basement
trying to find the words for it,
whether misplaced or not yet invented.

The ants march by me, they crawl
over me, up my arms, over my feet,
up my legs, my thighs.
They have no intention of noticing

Poem 19 / Day 19

untitled / by Louise Akers 

we’re tired today, 
and see in common
sometimes, things like
my small orange tent
aired out on the fire escape, the rain 
fly tied to the steel 
grating, loud air 
flinging last week’s rain 
out of the nylon
freestanding, the exquisite ties 
to iron stairs and staired iron 
all visible 
from the roofs, at least 
our street below
like flag or flags; my dog
dreams on the floor. 

Bequest / by Kris Bigalk 

Is there anything more romantic than a brand new picnic basket,
lined with blue gingham, plates and utensils fastened tight
to the inside of the lid with satin ribbons that hide the elastic straps,
cloth napkins folded into perfect rectangles, small plastic cups,
A long narrow hollow in the bottom, perfect for a bottle of wine,
a small cutting board with a cheese knife nestled into the side…
As a newlywed, I fawned over this gift, what it said about us –
how we would pack this basket with gouda, Emmenthal, cheddar,
some crackers, salami, a bottle of sauvignon blanc,
climb grassy hills until we came to the edge of a bluff
that overlooked the Mississippi, spread a blanket,
and enjoyed a summer afternoon, toasting our luck
in finding each other, like a scene during the credits
of a particularly lovely rom-com.

I found the basket yesterday, dusty on a shelf
in the back of the closet, the blue gingham still bright,
but the plates sagging a bit in their straps, cloth
napkins unwrapped (likely by one of the children).
We never took that picnic, or any picnic I can remember.
There was one time we went through the drive-through at Arby’s
and sat at a picnic table in the park, and flirted a little bit,
the way we did back in the beginning. It all seems so silly
now, so 1900’s, that picnic that never happened, so much
better to keep that soft focus summer dream to myself,
write it down, and leave this note inside. Now that
you’ve found it, you can have it for yourself –
an antique, a relic, a secondhand dream.

Half Time Show at Dream Scenario Stadium /  by Lucia Galloway 

The field is chalked, grass fiery
under floodlights. He knows his purpose.
He holds his baton scepter-like, facing his musicians
in rank and file, their instruments at the ready.
The baton glimmers, light to hand, and
he’s enthralled, collecting sparks.
Instead of purpose, then
he steps out, a tight spin, a twirl
for admiration as if to catch a mirror glimpse.
Then the sudden release as he hurls
the baton skyward—
this conductor whose scepter
has set his elegant threads in motion.
He is what’s on offer, a god
stepped out of a dressing room to model.

Take it, Conductor!
Twirl yourself around,
your tight spin
a pin on which you turn.
Nothing’s legible, nothing fully framed.
You could be the kid in his high-school class
twirling a yellow pencil through fingers
as he forgets to listen. Or a traffic cop,
whistle between his lips,
baton in white-gloved fingers, whirling
to halt or invite traffic’s oncoming flow.
In motion, you come ‘round
to a different place, where you find
in your hands a fiery baton, its tips ablaze.
Grasping it dead center,
you’re cool, you’re svelte.
Deft your touch, as you turn to face
the musicians, those forty or so
on the bright grassy turf, those stiff wooden
mannequins burdened with tubas, bass drums.

After Bleezer’s Ice Cream / by DJ Hill 
by Jack Prelutsky

I am DJ Hill, a poet
I write poems by the score
today’s our anniversary
and I’m here to write one more

Some say love is fleeting
Some say love’s divine
I know love from lovers’
from Eden throughout time

Ginger Rogers, partner Fred
Bergman, Bogart, Bacall instead
Prince Rainier and Princess Grace
Monaco their hiding place
Romeo and Juliet
even Adam hedged his bet
Antony’s Egyptian queen
George and Gracie stayed a team
Abigail, John, June and Johnny
Hepburn, Tracy, Nancy, Ronnie,
Mr. Darcy, Lizzy Bennett
Forrest Gump, he knew what love meant
Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters
Ryan, Hanks, Grant and Roberts,
Rachel, Jacob, Boaz, Ruth,
love can last when based on truth

I am DJ Hill, a poet,
I write poems by the score
today’s our anniversary
and I am here, to write one more.

To my beloved Bob on our 11th anniversary. September 19, 2020 

the comfort of nostalgia / by Raki Kopernik

when I’m done crying while listening to eighties metal ballads wishing to be a teenager in the
nineties again, a time before bombarding streams of hot garbage locker room gym socks fire barf
of government apocalypse even though it was happening then too, but it was different, I know I
know it was the same but also, different and I was different indifferent smoking joints on the dead
fish beaches of chicago sipping forties, those metal ballads all up in my grill pressing my body into
moments of dissociative bliss,

when I’m done crying about it, my insides mediocre clean, my face salt crusted half way sanitized
because tears do unsoil but not all the way, when I’m done I do feel better even though I always
keep one foot in the eighties and one arm in the nineties for comfort.

move forward don’t look back live for today be present
and also
the past is there to hold your tenderness
when the next unknown feels too wild to see.

Following / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for J.A.M. and Rachel

Reader, you know this breed of Facebook friend:
someone you know tangentially, have met
just once or twice, a classmate’s ex-girlfriend,
some conference attendee who you’d forget,
a former co-worker, someone you send
a Christmas card. You thought they’d be an asset
when you approved their innocent request;
you had no clue the screeds they’d post when stressed.

Now you’re amazed by the sheer variety
of passionate opinions they express.
They’re keen on gardening and piously
lament the blatantly squandered largesse
of yard mushrooms unharvested. They plead
for causes so obscure that their distress
is puzzling. You want to be amused;
instead, their kooky rants leave you confused.

And that’s what’s more: their arguments are flawed.
The thesis is inscrutable and hazy:
you’ve no idea what they’re for. You’re awed
at their abuse of rhetoric, their lazy
logic, and points irrelevant. You laud
their innovative posts: a wild-and-crazy,
fast-and-loose kind of mass communication:
a post immune from rationalization!

And yet, it’s not the subject of the rants,
nor their complete and utter lack of logic
that make you feel compelled to look askance
at their posts. No, it’s their blatant hyperbolic
humble-bragging, their tacit self-importance
that makes their batshit posting so hypnotic.
Without that misplaced pride, you’d have been bored
and muted their Facebook posts to be ignored.

Instead, by now you find yourself obsessed
with following your barely-friend: tirades
on niche political events addressed
to God-knows-who, and bucketfuls of shade
thrown on the poor and unsuspecting subjects
of the day. Trolling their feed, your day is made.
But, Reader, please, this warning is important:
do not expose yourself and leave a comment! 

Vote: An American Sentence for RBG / by Kindra McDonald 

When the books burned, women ate the ashes, all asking permission, rewritten; we had a choice
once. 

The Necessity of Anxiety / by Doug Van Gundy 

It has taken me so long to love you, O Anxiety.
I have pushed you away like a stray dog
because I was afraid of owning you

of letting myself be owned by you. I’m grateful
now how you quicken me, how you thicken
my tongue into silence when I must

speak, reminding me to choose my words carefully,
that words have consequence, power, teeth.
At least once a week I will see

a dark figure in the corner of my vision, a man
in a long coat, hands in pockets, and I will
jerk my head around to find myself

alone. Thank you for making me ready, for being
the ginger ale in my cerebellum: sweet-hot
fizz and pressure keeping me safe.

The sacrifice of trees / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The trees form a canopy tunnel
over the dirt of our planet,
keep even the most resistant soil
in place. Bent over like caretakers
lending breath, they huff poison
to save me, exhale oxygen
into my mouth. I hold their breath
in my lungs. The mouths of trees
blowing the sweetest air at me,
their pulsing branches and leaves,
an audible gesture of wind, an echo
of silence, perfect calibration
of clarity of their purpose
not just for me, but for the smallest
of creatures, for the ocean,
for the contour of mountain.
The trees working to save us
as if bound by promise and devotion,
their timeless breath next to
my disappearing language.
In this chaos, some of us now believe
we are at battle for our lives,
but the trees know they are at war.
I hold their breath in my lungs,
a forced in and out of the delight
and necessity that is air.
Sap takes its time to move down
steep thick trunks that feel the touch
of a single butterfly, of birds who nest,
smoke from the burn of fires.
Even as the sun is hidden in the haze,
the trees still rise with its hope,
understand deeply that resistance
to learning new things must be
done away with. Trees do not resist
a new leaf that comes in spring.
From its first green appearance,
the ache of change stretches
into its branches and spring
comes, as this life is not a solo game.
In an age where it seems
everything is falling apart,
I mourn a future I do not know,
hug the trees as if they need it,
when it is me who needs them.

Poem 18 / Day 18  

Inflammatory Kindness / by Louise Akers 

And at the end of the day: fire. 

Sure as eggs, the mortal fly does 
its best. Its prostheses of subjectivity—beloved flora, stamen at antennae—prepare it
for the light. Oh, were it enough for tiny wings
to be 
well lit!  

To My Son, When He Says He’s Unexceptional / by Kris Bigalk 

One million eggs, tinier than pinheads,
packed tight in my ovaries the day I was born.
My body grew around them, sorted them
according to some unknown algorithm,
culled them down to 300,000 by
my fourteenth birthday.

Every month since then, at least one
grew into a fat, round ball,
a mix of my parents, my ancestors,
rolled down a chute,
into a large room,
and waited against the wall,
like a girl at a homecoming dance.
Most times, she waited
until she died there,
washed away
by blood.

Once
a partner was waiting,
and they danced;
a true better half, and like
a flower, a fire, a flood,
you blossomed, you burned,
you raged into existence,
literally one
in a million,
one made
of millions.

An Innocent in the Green Room / by Lucia Galloway 

Just look, I say to myself from my perch in the green room
as the divas swoop in. Red, pink, purple, gold lame—
their concert dresses swish from hangers held high
or drape voluptuous over flawless arms.

One, then another and another, tense even in motion,
holding their nerves in check, they chatter like tropical birds
in jungle trees, flutter to dressing rooms and back to preen
over palettes of eye shadow, tubes of lipstick in Stage Red.

Look, I’m thinking, just how is it that this room is “green”?
I may see jungle foliage, even trees, because there’s nothing
of quiet maple shade or elm I knew from childhood.
This room seethes with egos as primed as summer passion,

as Verdi’s characters in Rigoletto, or the capers and
confusions of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte. I’m here expecting only
to sing the words, in French, to Saint-Saens’ sweet chorus
“Spring.” A sparrow with six or seven of these splendid birds.

Unexpected Visitor / by DJ Hill 

So, the oddest thing
happened this morning
the third day
since the beginning
of a fall monsoon

I was sipping hot tea
lost in thought
watching rain weep
from the sky

When a female mallard
sauntered up my circle
drive, her handsome friend
waited in the wings

She waddled determinedly
as though she had something
to speak with me about
maybe to borrow a cup
of birdseed or invite me
to book club although
it might be unlikely we shared
the same taste in literature

Perhaps it was to complain
about the noisiness of my hens
or to protest their gossip-spreading ways

As she swung her tail feathers purposefully
en route to my front stoop
I imagined she was sporting
a stylish canary yellow handbag
tucked under her wing
a matching pair of puddle stompers
keeping her webbed feet dry

I cracked open the front door
fully expecting her to say,
“Good day, Miss Hill
May I join you for tea?”

shana tova//happy new year / by Raki Kopernik

rosh hashana. rosh = head, hashana = the year. 5780.

new years in the fall when death begins, the turning down and in, makes more sense than new years
in the dead of winter in the dead of death,

but really new years is on your birthday, the completion of all the days, the way someone once
decided and we all agreed this is how we measure life growth,

accumulated numbers forming a forced linear circle that isn’t linear at all, but holds up to the
illusion of markers, each year speeding up depending how long you’ve been alive,

the way I was sure I’d never finish school and my nightmares hold me there forever still, endless
time loops coiling around themselves, but now amassed decades,

hours days weeks years so heavy I’ve pushed them into a storage closet, bulging, screaming to be
let out, which is unnecessary because time is unstable, to say the least of its therapy needs,
speeding cumulatively, the snowball that it is.

Inevitability / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

On a shale hillside, in a cul-de-sac
a pig-tailed girl kicks a rubber ball
until the citrus sun ruptures
into the horizon line.

In the gingered light
of dusk’s golden lens,
the carmine maples bleed
into the clean linens hung to dry.

In the pinpricked blue
of the newborn night,
fireflies smolder, burning
into the retinas of their witnesses.

Above the yard,
in a lanky evergreen,
an owl watches apprehensively,
neither leaving nor returning.

Vision / by Kindra McDonald 

Each time I sit around a campfire, I am hypnotized
into believing I could have survived on my own
once in a cave, creating warmth and light from some sticks
and my skills, some spells I pulled like strands of hair
out of memory—

Then I think of how I can’t see without my glasses
thick as limbs, unable to tell a bear from a deer
and surely unable
to see the edge of a cliff
from the sky it sits in.

In a Faded Photograph of a Distant Autumn / by Doug Van Gundy 

A boy holds on tightly as his father pilots a motorcycle
through shafts of yellow sunlight and falling leaves.

This morning the boy is aware of his own awareness
for the first time in his life and is terrified

and elated. He believes he can see everything. The constant
vibration of the engine and fractured rhythm of the wheels

across the washboard and potholes of the gravel road
rise up and through him. He notices the air go cold

then warm as they move in and out of sunshine,
smells old leaves and iron in the water as they cross

a narrow bridge. He smells his father’s smell clinging to him:
shampoo and deodorant and cigarette smoke held in his hair.

The boy can taste the inside of his own mouth, the woodsmoke
on the wind they are making with their wheels, the dust

that swirls around them when they slow for a tight turn
or switch back through their own exhaust. He loves the thump

of his heart inside his body moving outward like ripples
from a stone thrown into the cold creek. He loves

the snap of his windbreaker whipping around his ears,
the tingle of expectation as they lean into each curve

He has me on deliver /  by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I’m simping over him, Xochitl tells me.
14 year olds have vocabulary I haven’t learned yet
Xochitl, princess daughter of the Aztec emperor,
likes a guy who asks: who dat?
when she sends a hello message to him,
doesn’t even read her message, doesn’t care.
Our hearts are so fragile at 14, maybe they always are,
and we play them like footballs
thrown across the field,
everybody wanting the ball.
I give you my love, don’t crowd my heart.
I’m simping, I like you.
She says she used to call guys she liked
mean names, even hit one on the back
so hard she left a bruise. They told her
they thought she hated them.
The heart is a vulnerable organ,
not like a football. It is the size
of a closed fist, it beats
one hundred thousand times a day
and it learns how to love by the gentle sigh
over a smile, the wince when your IG message
is left unread, a violent slap
and a bad word, and all the steps on the field
between a kickoff and a touchdown,
between whether you’re simping over me too, or not.

Poem 17 / Day 17  

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

The fate and counter-fate of the root, the callosity that
develops around the root,
the left hand of the guileless
synthetic branch; all simultinaity,
all stable sex, ingratiates itself
to the tree, and its management of
the vulnerability of
winged bodies.

And the injuriousness you wake to,
your privacy,
the masculine, and the pharaonic
volume of wings that hammer
your private silences and crack
their walls,
expand,
joyfully, as
the mouths of tiniest gods,
the kindnesses they show,
at the molecular level of praise.

Syntax / by Lucia Galloway 

Where is identity
when syntax
dissolves to an ephemeral subject
and a predicate unknown

first gone, the action verbs
their vigor and placement
climb shout growl plunder
sing dance kiss
with their object complements stated
or implied, their prepositional phrases
claiming their rights

then the sentence drops
its fluffy tail and even
the linking verbs
is am dissolve
their markers

gone even the
utterances of the cave, the womb
the dawning of a consciousness
that we are

A George by Any Other Name / by DJ Hill 

Last evening, late, cursed by the effects of warrior Mars
going retrograde, a blood orange fire moon glaring through
my bedroom window, I found myself wide awake and

all that came to mind was Shakespeare’s quote about
names, I thought of George, not a certain George or
by George, but any George who I might count like sheep.
So began an hour of attempting to lull myself to sleep with

George Washington, George Bush, Sr. & Jr., King George V
Gershwin, Harrison, George Michael, George Strait, of course
Boy George, George Benson, George Thorogood, George Kennedy
There’s Carlin, Clooney, Foreman, Hamilton, Lucas, Takei

and just like that I was transported to Star Trek: Spock, Bones
Uhura, Captain Kirk, the Trouble with Tribbles, beam me up,
Scotty which doesn’t start with G or have anything to do
with George. I corralled the crew back into Starship Enterprise

and started again: George Burns, Mikan, Orwell, Patton, C. Scott
Jones, Soros, Brett, Peppard, Phyllis, and R. R. Martin, which
led to thoughts of Westeros, dragons, Khaleesi, Khal Drago
and the wannabe evil King who finally received his gold crown

and now, too tired, with no more George’s resting on the tip
of my tongue, I rolled over to count sheep, refusing
to give any of them a name.

right now / by Raki Kopernik

right now the feeling
in my chest eyes jaw
jaw tight
without tightening
shoulders rise
without engaging

right now
this open window below my knees
moves fall wind and airplane din
through toes
cuffs and foot arches

the apple tree framed
around wind and airplane din
ready apples at the top
too heavy too high to reach
I should’ve pruned higher

right now
I’m okay though
right now
I’m okay

Steeled / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for S.

Even the damn spiders make me homesick.
Comic book villains, meaty, building a complex
housing project between the gutters and the fence,
they’re striped in the famous black-and-yellow

of soot-grimy steel mills, of canaried suspensions
over rivers that are, more often than not, as gray
as all the metal-based high-rises of the little city
of industry ribboned by railroads and furrowed hills.

What’s worse: it’s September. Squint a little
and the oak leaves and piles of acorn shrapnel
start to resemble autumn, the dull humidity
brings a kind of chill, with a little imagination.

Friday night lights and Sunday afternoons:
the whole damn town is watching football.
When you grow up around unions, with boys
whose daddies casually tunneled through sheetrock,

a game of half-controlled violence doesn’t chafe
at your sensibilities, doesn’t seem much more
than the proverbial battle of wills you were raised with.
Broom in hand, trying to kill this spider woman

with my dignity intact, I’m trying to channel
some of that hometown moxie. Just do the job,
like the big men on the O-line rush the line:
hungry and unafraid, defending their fatherland.

Phantom / by Kindra McDonald 

My mom’s amputated finger often hurts
worse is when it itches or the ring
she used to wear on it
constricts her. She cut it once
on broken glass and some days
(touching the void as she tells me)
she’ll feel the raised skin of that scar
the hangnail she still tries to bite or tear
the cuticle ridge she wishes
to push down into a perfect crescent moon.

This is how I know I’ll feel what’s gone.

The Language of Hope / by Doug Van Gundy 

                              It’s easy to use the language of
                              hope in pretty superficial ways.
— Debra Dean Murphy

It is already too late. Forget the rolling back
of environmental protections, forget
the plateaus planted with fescue
hundreds of feet above the graves
of tiny streams that sang through thickets
of rhododendron stabbed with sunlight,
ignore the island of floating plastic
eddying around the northern Pacific,
the cancer-causing well-water downgrade
from the chemical plant. These aren’t causes,
they’re symptoms. We are of two natures:
one feeds on fear, the other on beauty.
It is the difference between “what can I do?”
and “what can I do.” If we are already past
the tipping point, that’s it. That’s the game.
But just because there’s no longer anything
left to do that will work, doesn’t mean
there isn’t any work left to be done.

First Fireflies / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

My son, born 7 pounds 8 ounces,
now ten years, is almost my size.
Mornings, he stumbles
down the hall from his bedroom,
curls his stretched out, lean body
into my lap, tells me about Lego cities
he wants to build, about videogame
worlds he drew as if we had been
talking about it all night long,
as if he awoke with this in his mouth.
A week or so ago, he saw fireflies,
lightning bugs, we used to call them
when I was a kid, for the first time
and ran for a camera. I won’t tell him
how a photo cannot capture
a spontaneous glow, bug feet
on your palm, the ability
to hold wings that are still.
How often can we hold
lightning in the night?
Watching him grow is like trying
to capture the light of a firefly on camera.
And as I cupped my palms around
an illuminated bug, he wanted to know,
Does it hurt?

Poem 16 / Day 16  

Astronomical Kindness / by Louse Akers 

A planet is a phenomenal object, sourcing out a halo,

clothed in 
misty plumes of water 
fresh plumes tasted 

by the bees,
the icy moons, and small companion 
aircrafts,

far, far, and alone. 

 

A pilot knows 
what must or does not need to be recorded. A pilot drifts; 

She is in the role of faith. 
Praxis as: 
Praxis in the quiet 
Praxis if the water, 
and the water’s everywhere 
all the time. 

Too Much Netflix / by Kris Bigalk 

In a galaxy far, far away
I order a martini shaken, not stirred.
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers
are starving to death.
As God is my witness,
I’ll never be hungry again.
Cinderella story.
Out of nowhere.
Always overdressing
for the wrong occasion.

Ever have that feeling where
you’re not sure if you’re awake
or dreaming?
What’s your damage?

I find your lack of faith
disturbing.

If only you could see
what I’ve seen
with your eyes.

The past always seems better
when you look back on it
than it did at the time.
We all go a little mad
sometimes. 

Aboard the Amtrak Southwest Chief / by Lucia Galloway 

Leaving the Albuquerque station,
its Spanish Colonial façade aglow
in morning sun, hawkers selling coffee,
Navajo silver, Hopi kachinas—
I re-board the train, eager
to feel its tons of steel move beneath me,
watch my window scroll half-naked boulders
held in root tentacles, tree-lined gorges
in stream-spangled light.
All day, scenes ephemeral like photos
in Polaroid: each picture blurring,
fading from my
backward-facing view.
What’s to remind me I’m going somewhere,
distract me from serial loss?
Porters burst through couplings,
swing down aisles singing out dinner seatings,
reservations for the dining car.
Dinner at 7:00? 
I picture wait-crew smoothing
tablecloths, placing forks and knives.
An interval, and I’m here
at a window table, facing forward. 
North of Santa Fe our track twins a power line
with crossbars of its sturdy wooden poles
featuring small glass domes that look like
cups inverted on 2-dimensional tables.
They insulate the wood from heated lines, I’m told,
keep it from burning.
Translucent green, amber, clear—these cups
shine in early evening light adorning slim tables
as far ahead as I can see.
How to celebrate this generosity?
Our cups rattle in their saucers.

Another Summer / by DJ Hill 

It happens every year about this time, my mother,
daughter, and I exchange texts, something like
Thinking of you, or Miss him even more
this year, and today, 25 years since your Dad died.

Whenever September rolls around, Dad is
already on our minds, Saturday evening the 16th,
shortly after the dinner hour, his pace-maker heart
stopped; Dad breathed his last as Mom held hers

Today is cloudless but cool, fall bearing down-
an inevitable speeding train, mid-September sun
still soothing yet our backyard fountain is running low,
the perennial garden losing its brilliance, neighbor

children off to school, another gray hair spotted
in the teeth of our combs, Mom soon turning 88,
spending summers on the lake she and Dad visited
before marriage, children, grandchildren,

cancer, this afternoon Mom watched as hired hands
float sections of dock to shore, stacking piece
upon piece, their rubberized waders keeping
limbs from blueness, weathered beach chairs

tucked in as are horseshoes, grilling tools,
inflatable innertubes, swimsuits from the line, dry
I can see Mom standing on her deck, perhaps
in her blue jogging suit, her hair just so,

overseeing this year’s extraction of summer
and I wonder if it is Dad she sees, his late season
tan, beads of perspiration as he lifts the heaviness
Our childhood dogs running back and forth across

the shore, barking wildly at the setting sun 

smoke / by Raki Kopernik

I’ve had a headache for two days
maybe from crying
dehydration and sleeplessness
my body a response reminder
absorbing the wind soaked sun
blasting convection oven heat into
neck muscles and temples through
unarmed skin pores
and smoke
on a cross country road trip
west coast midwest
the morning sun an orange veil
west coast
where I used to live
where I miss my people
where life is a distant horror show
how I hate science fiction 

Future Perfect / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

after Ada Limon’s “The Conditional”

We will have lived, or died, trying
to make moves: cross-country, safely,
or at great risk. We will have furnished
too many small apartments, walls hung
with specters of old men, foreign rivers, ashes
of old cats decorating mantels, fake
fireplaces taunting our once bold future
imaginings. We will have a child
inside us, her disappointed But why?
negating any revised explanation
we will have made for the rest of our lives
turning out the way they have, for the world
we’ve left her, unprepared to mourn
the unrealized possibility as we will
have become. We will have written
some neat little story for bedtime, sedating
us, whispering off the infinite
anxieties that ping us like rain
on a corrugated roof. We will read
to each other, and look a way
back, through palm leaves, evergreens,
a forest of discarded calendar pages
to when we were never sure
we would be
here, trusting that morning would come
tomorrow. 

Wild Grapes /  by Kindra McDonald 

Every September we drive to the country
to pick wild grapes, Muscadine for me
Scuppernong for you, not nog you said
it rhymes with song, the first time I asked
scupper-what? I was a transplant to the South
stranger to this late summer harvest
now become ritual, tumbling into autumn, I preach
the doctrine, the hymn of the vineyard.

We reach under vines between bees and orb weavers
for the road dusty scarred skins of summer’s last gasp
they shine violet and indigo, bronze and champagne
they glow and we eat them grimy and sticky, snapping
skins with our teeth, spitting seeds and leaning into green
you teach me what you know by instinct
what to pluck and what to leave.

The year your father died two days after we brought six pounds
of grapes home we rolled around the kitchen floor and sobbed
grapes rotted moldy on trays until I slid the whole mess, jellied
fruit fly altar, to the trash, we couldn’t look at grapes for months.
Some Septembers it’s all we think about.

On your 39th birthday we drove to the fields too late in the season
were met with closed signs and dying vines. On our way home
we chased the vapor trails of airplanes, skywriting contrails we tried  
to unravel as they dissipated into half letters and smoky words,
the Blue Angels rehearse for the air show, clumsy script we can’t quite
decipher, I convinced you I saw your name on the clouds,
Happy Birthday, the Blue Angels are coming, I think.

This year the skies are quiet, the fields are flooded, the vines full
grasshopper, beetle, aphid all grape gorged and bug drunk, we pick
around them, let them be green upon green, upon green we bring home
nine pounds and I make wild grape pie, muscadine cobbler, turn the counters
fuchsia, stain the stove merlot and for hours the house smells like wine—
not the good kind, the syrupy, highschool feelfine wine.

I will look for your name on the clouds, my heart in the air, how I wish
always to be a song in your mouth. 

Dark / by Doug Van Gundy 

The night smells of sweet wood
wafting across rooftops
from the dry kiln and cooking
smells from the windows
of squat houses: cabbage, onions,
beef browning in a black iron pan.
The narrow street is bathed
in the pink-orange light
of sodium vapor lamps
and we go about our quiet lives
behind manicured bushes
and illuminated panes of glass.
The oil black of the river
separates our secrets
from those across the water.
Between these two domesticities
flows a darkness even daylight
cannot penetrate, made darker
by the calling of Canada geese,
their voices sounding like something
stuck in the machinery of night.
On this bank and that one,
there’s scarcely a human sound,
but in-between, such squawking
and flapping, echoing back and forth
between the silent houses long
after the geese have gone. 

Dear Fire / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

If I write about all the fire I have known
I might make you jealous or make you
ashamed. Hell, maybe I’m reading you
wrong, maybe you would feel proud.
When I was eighteen, I watched
a warehouse in Atlanta burn
while people hosed down their houses
praying you wouldn’t come
close enough to steal them away.
Such a sight to see, your immensity,
while the candle beside me
flickers in the dark like a stutter in speech,
like you are saying something profound
about darkness and all you speak of is light.
When I feel your burn on my fingers
from melted wax or a red hot
marshmallow skewer burnished over
a campfire in Colorado, where the
camp host schooled us about fires
and unobserved rules and we were
full of remorse and doused you quick.
Trying to prevent the blaze of Colorado,
of California, of Oregon, the sky lit up
like a performance of sun, the sun
hiding in plain sight, a misshapen ball
rising and sinking, empty of its shine.
This must be like the death of all of us,
a warning in the sky. Fire,
I saw you two weeks ago,
burning in the mountains like an angry
lover after a fight with lightning,
unleashing your venom against
your children, the animals, the air.
I watch, wait, hope you remember
you don’t have to rage, you can also be
a small light in the dark.

Poem 15 / Day 15 

know your beautiful face is heavy on my mind. sending big love from the prairies of Alberta. 
xx / by Louise Akers 

some or every form of beauty is predicated on exclusion.

something crosses water seven-hundred times. something gathers breath to match us.
some practice kindness but have no internal reservoir. 

i could not listen to you weep but that an infinite unhappiness would fill me.

know your faces heavy 

all alberta
now. 

be just toward
a Field, a field, our Heaven of tall grasses, 

the Deciduous Woods the chambered cairn of the departed             the iron that bound

 

i love the sound of northern places. i love a dance like emigration,          
i love the chalk 
fissure and the Viking as an adversary.  

the burns and rivulets that lost their names with an expatriated populace, 

i love them, too. the steep rise, the officer forced 
to burn the eviction notice, the means to take in boats 

at high tide,
the sentinel at the windward extent—lost, as well: a trembling removal of error. 

 

i am a small flowering hell i am hellish in the burns 

and rivulets. 

Sending Big Love from the prairies 

and a
pre-tectonic mind to look, 

Alberta
slowly 
down.

Over / by Kris Bigalk 

I feel every little tremble
of your hands
stuffed into your pockets.
I don’t believe in loving
unless it hurts a little,
bites both when provoked
and when fed.

When we began,
you were the irritating thought
that turned precious, luminous,
held between the lips of a shell,
and I was leftover bones
that made conversation,
colliding with lipstick
and physics; that first night
we uncoiled a dimension
until we slept.

And now we know
that kind of miracle
was not enough. 

Litany for Today and Tomorrow / by Lucia Galloway 

In my cat on the fence, who knows something’s wrong

In the dogs on their leashes sensing nothing amiss

In balloon bouquets and drive-by birthdays

In the volleys of postcards back and forth between friends

In a mail service still working, in the carrier’s routine
with junk mail, large parcels

In the deluge of email from candidates’ campaigns
organizations’ lengthy statements of intentions, regret

In news headlines’ alarms, oracles of loss

In the rosemary and roses holding forth in the yard

In crows that pass over and crows that settle,
the hummingbird hovering at a blossom’s throat

In sidewalk dining with classical music

In smiles hid by masks, tubes of lipstick unused

In dazzling calendars by the dozens for 2021

there’s what?

Persistence and courage, the hope and the fear
that we won’t be the same as we once were. 

the place you are before you are / by Raki Kopernik

turn inside out or just inside
to the middle core where seeds start
before they become seeds
intra inter omni
the place you are before you are

see-through webbing so fine it moves
with exhales
so strong it bends in perpetuity
that you never were and always are

when outside burns too hot
or floods with overwhelm
relentless with fight
unhinged disabled unaccountable

remember, inside goes as far in as the
universe reaches out
they are
in fact
the same place

A World / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

After two months of glutting ourselves on mayonnaise-based dips and mediocre wine, the occasional hotel bar martini, I gave in to J. and agreed to a rehab’s worth of sobriety. On Day 21, groping for a coping mechanism not rooted in the smoky backroom thrills of bad behavior, we decided to visit Disney World. The most magical place on earth, J. said, wiggling spirit fingers in my face. Much to my cultivated chagrin, the warm day and capitalism’s enthusiastic embrace imbued the artificial castles with some kind of manufactured wonderful. We rode rollercoasters to an orgiastic future and giggled when a holographic friendly ghost alighted between us in a tricked-out funhouse mirror. After a lunch of the coveted canned-pineapple-swirled soft serve, we unironically spent $50 on goofy hats. At nightfall, we crushed into the crowd waiting to watch the fireworks extravaganza, sitting gratefully on the concrete among young lovers, strollers, a gaggle of teenagers sticky with ice cream pops. All of us shared the same muggy air. Eventually, park workers herded us all to press into each other, sweaty backs-to-fronts. The proximity was festive, a thousand shared breaths. For the grand finale, Tinkerbell zip-lined to the castle on neon wings and we thought we’d witnessed a miracle. What a world, we agreed. We rode home with the windows open, humming the theme song from the Carousel of Progress. Before bed, we soaked our feet in hot water and laughed about our mortality. How funny we thought it was, being so sore after a day of watching parades, the happy exhaustion of spending the whole day crushed against other people in one long, crowded line after the next. What a world, we agreed.  

Butterfly Rose / by Kindra McDonald 

Is it wing or petal
antennae or thorn-
what would one be
without the other?

Desperate bee, flock of gulls
and all around the pear falls
apart, the peaches unravel
bud becomes bug becomes
bloom.

I would kneel for you
I would joust for you
somewhere in the vanishing
point, we are one.

If I lift my wing you bear fruit.

 
“Flordali II – The butterfly rose,” by Salvador Dali, 1981. Rare lithograph on vellum Arches paper. 

When I was in Exile / by Doug Van Gundy 

I did my best to fit in, shortening my vowels and clipping my consonants, thinking before
speaking, abandoning colloquialisms by the roadside like $100 cars.

I traded work boots for low-topped shoes, tapped my feet to the wonderful twang-less music of
these people, listened politely to their threadbare history, hid my own beneath any number of affectations.

I tried to forget the comfort of gravy, biscuits, canned beans and fat July tomatoes. I learned to
love tamales, chilaques, rellenos.

Passing was my goal, trading the mask of masculinity I’d worn at home for a mask of bland
American white.  I never stopped seething underneath, grinding teeth to paste in my sleep.

After a time, the headaches stopped, and I remembered nothing of my homeland:  the hills that
loved me, the people who taught and scolded and judged me into the chameleon I became.

When I returned, my transformation was so utter; I walked around my hometown
unrecognized, asking for directions like any other interloper.

Aliens coming / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

There is an old blue boat on Washington Street
filled with flowers. I imagine sitting in it,
floating like a cloud through the desert
looking for extraterrestrial signs of life.
We sit in a circle with neighbors, open air,  
while rain clouds gather around us.
The children wail as if every day
were the same and every day is the same,
like clouds are all different, but still clouds.
Aliens and their untouchable ways,
like seed pods no longer of use to the plant.
Our inability to interact with them,
our everlasting hope they are out there.
There was a double rainbow
the day we were married. The clouds
circled around after us, one rainbow
followed us, the other disappeared.
Rain begins to fall now in soft drops
while we walk with no one else around
like freedom. My hair wet in the rain
as it comes down faster.
I relax into it, knowing
there is no longer hope of keeping dry,
even if aliens come to take me.

Poem 14 / Day 14

SAINT JOAN part 2 / by Louise Akers 

What I’m saying is what if
revelation is also exile,
exhibition, also a squirreling
away of evidence. Not all light
comes just for you
, you know?
Human can only stand in
for human so often. 

But JOAN, an oriole,
a spy, 
the Brad Pitt of Byzantium, can press 
that word we’re folded from
into the grooves of clothes so
masculine and dissolute, we relapse
time and time 

again—Oh boy, 
one cannot overdo 
the cleansing of one’s conscience.  

 

 

Insomnia, 2020 / by Kris Bigalk 

Three in the morning
breeze blows the shade against sill
like it did last night
My head aches, I throw off sheets
how can September be here?

Half past three, some rain
I had meant to mow the lawn
tomorrow, meant to
wash the car, go for a run,
meant to patch the leaky roof.

Four now, still awake
counting abandoned projects
tasks put off for weeks
I used to make plans, do things
Time, see what’s become of me. 

De Profundis / by Lucia Galloway 

I start with a prayer, hoping to breach
this darkness close as a dry well’s shaft,

close and arid, vacant as an empty mailbox,
emptier than all the gods I’ve swallowed.

I’ve swallowed blooming parachutes
falling through layers of atmosphere.

Do falling angels know the layers of air?
I never think of them attached to chutes.

On wings like tiny parachutes,
the seeds of maple trees are sent to earth.

Sent earthward, mailed in airy hope,
they land on lawns, take root in hardened soil.

Even as aimless air hosts earthbound seedpods,
could my prayer, conceived in a well shaft, catch

a current in the arid darkness, 
ride that airway, and break through? 

Scientists Baffled by Bizarre Behavior / by DJ Hill 
In remembrance of Rachel Carson

During fire haze at the trailhead of Twin Peaks
National Forest, disoriented birds flock

to pavement-we hedge our bets on chipmunks
scrappy creatures tempting fate, flattened daily

or escape, the smoke and climbing temps drawing
birds to hairpin turns, we brake in horror, their refusing

to move, react, retreat to the safety of pines or flight
susceptible Wilson’s Warblers, packed to head south

yet blinded by their plight, disoriented by the cold
an early freeze, the tease of migratory routine

But here we are, heading home, surviving
the treacherous mountain turns, the warblers, and us

we used to know but now do not, we clock
movement as they face our two-ton intrusion

One, two, three four five, we stop counting as we swerve
unable to avoid their fragile bodies, small thin bill

bright yellow body with olive back, gentlemanly
males sporting a French style black cap

While the orcas swimming from the Strait
of Gibraltar, ram boats and vessels

their environment altered, fifteen times
orca slammed into the stern disabling

boats, breaking rudders, whistling loud
something to learn, they swim up

the coast, like clockwork each September
chasing tuna into the Bay of Biscay, they

remember when oceans and sailors and vessels
gave leeway, now they thrash, yachts harass

their pods on a freeway of giving back ten-fold
the threat-we are humans, the ocean, the warblers

the orcas- emptying oceans, raging fires
the thirteenth chime, each earthly shudder

a reminder, we are running out of time.


Photo by Ann Louise Ramsey 

all the way out / by Raki Kopernik

this is how it is
they will tell you
they will say
you don’t get to choose
you get what you get
people are the way they are
they will tell you to accept
they will say
here’s how you are supposed to be
how you should be and how to be
only one way for you to be
they will tell you it’s your fault
they will say
shut up and smile and be grateful for what you have
things could be worse
things are worse

but

I am not
the mistakes of my family or my past or my growth
I am not
the voices in my head planted without consent
when I was too small to resist
I am not the story they told
I am not the image projected in a line up
I am not a paper cookie dress up doll

I am
the ocean
seaweeds tangling in foam
moving hard crashing full force
changing with moon phases
salty reflective carrying myself
carrying you
I am carrying you
I am the opposite of stagnant
I am the strike of match against flint
the blaze of heat against dry wood
the open organ pumping blood
a spiral that goes in and in and in
and also
all the way out

Habitual / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Before: a corner turned, then cracked cement
revealed the vacant lot adorned with cans
of High-Life dregs, flaccid donuts, the scent
of unclassified decay, lizards, a glance

of some broad bird’s escape from a Spanish-mossed,
pernicious shroud. Next up, the barber shop
and Baptist church: landmarks to save the lost,
signposts pre-destining the final stop.

Inside: the swath of kitchen light, a meal
that’s half-prepared, a pile of mail, raincoat
wrinkled on a chair, the commonplace appeal
of domesticity performed by rote.

After: it’s over-warm, the light’s too-bright.
Sheltered, you scan the dark for signs of flight.

Untitled / by Kindra McDonald 

I love how my husband’s Greek family signs off a call
      with many kisses, how in person they give them
            forehead, cheek, sometimes ear lobe pecks

            In Spanish, besitos are little kisses, every greeting
      comes with a side of smooches. There’s French, obviously
not just that one, to know the pleasure of a tongue hummed

but the soft press of barely lip to barely cheek
     air kisses we blow, catch dramatic and clutch
          to the heart with a cloud of sighs, like perfume

          that exhales like breath when in kissing distance
     now my eyes sigh, water my cheeks pink, behind
my mask, my lips dry out, lipstick crumbles to powder

My mom has always blotted her lipstick
     on anything around, all my life I’ve found
           her lip prints on scraps of paper; envelopes, the power bill

           countless grocery receipts, the checkbook ledger
     how she’d press the paper or tissue to her mouth
splotch the ridged impression of her lips, I swear I’d know anywhere

and even now in the glove box of my car
     I find my registration with the faint pink outline of her kiss
          I miss it. Resuscitate: 15 compressions and two breaths

          We sign off our messages with x’s, many kisses
     we have these x’s in text, a treasure map marked
a blown wish on a lone candle on a cut cake, we still celebrate 

Go to Sleep / by Doug Van Gundy 

they say, as if it were simple as that.
Best pack an overnight bag just in case:
toothbrush, toothpaste, change of clothes for morning,
chunky novel for the bedside table.
Like any destination, sleep won’t come
to you, so you’d better get a move on.
Ready yourself for the voyage. Drink your
glass of milk—tuck your teddy bear
beneath an arm. Invite the dog along:
she knows the way like her own bones; she goes
and comes back from there several times a day.
Let her lead you.  There’s so much on your mind
these days it’s no wonder you’ve forgotten. 

Career change /  by Liza Wolff-Francis

I realize now, I might have chosen
the wrong career, but I’m planning
on living to 91 and already over
the half-way mark. Half-way
would be 45 and a half.
I was born at the end of January,
so that puts me at the end
of July, two years ago,
though I’ve always said
if I get to 91 and am healthy,
maybe I’ll keep going to 96.
If that’s the case, 48
would be the halfway mark
and that’s coming up in 4 months,
so if I’m going to make a career change,
now’s the time. There is no rule,
but it feels like it has to be at least
before I’m halfway through my life.
I don’t at all regret the career I have had.

But…

If I had to do it all over again,
I might choose to be a ninja graffiti artist.
Add emphasis on the lack of a need
for gadgets, other than paint,
and on the incredible human ability
and strength. Scaling walls, summoning fire,
disappearing in the blink of an eye.
I would add to offensive billboards,
make them more tolerable. I would art up
everything, fast and invisible, a master artist.
My motto, patient perseverance for art.
Color, design, messages of celebration.
The average person doing the extraordinary
and getting away with it. I didn’t see that
in the class list of the college catalog,
couldn’t figure it out, until now,
with 4 months to the halfway point of 96.
But now, I’m not as agile, and not practiced
at using spray paint or creating visual art.
The choice, I realize, to be able to decide
what you will do, is a privilege,
as lives are often dictated
by money, opportunity, and imagination,
but when you have it, the choice itself
is the most amazing thing there is
and grieving all you were unable to do,
the hardest.

Poem 13 / Day 13

morning / by Louise Akers 

morning. i convey my heart
of perfect, simple asks
and answers with the late
and heavy morning; it’s the day and its huge daylight that prohibit us
from what recovers
out beyond the shore.

when morning is the last
minute: the local motion surfaces
that wrinkle;
a form of wanting that appears
                more inadmissible than death—
adapts and with the tide, comes
in.

Granger, Minnesote, circa 1974 / by Kris Bigalk 

The jukebox at The Longbranch played Patsy Cline,
Mel Tillis, and my favorite, Jerry Lee Lewis’
Great Balls of Fire as I plunked quarters
into the pinball machine. The left flipper
was slow so you had to punch it a few seconds
before you thought you might need it,
probably sticky with a beer or Orange Crush
that had spilled over the side at some point.
Dad sat at the bar with a bottle of Budweiser
and Cleone, the waitress, perched nearby,
smoking her cigarette and staring out the
window, smiling and making small talk
with the farmers in their stained overalls
and seed corn hats, bringing them a burger
or French fries when they asked. Dad
bought me an Orange Crush and gave
me two dollars in quarters, and after
the pinball machine had used them up,
I wandered outside and sat on the big
cement stoop. Cars and pickups were angle parked
on the wide street, mostly dirt with a little
bit of the asphalt left, mostly making lumps
and potholes. If I walked down the street
I would see Benny and his mom’s fenced in
yard, full of Pekinese dogs and puppies
yapping, and sometimes he’d bring one out
and we would pet it and talk a little bit.
I saw him every week at Sunday School.
He didn’t have a dad. I don’t remember why.
His older brother Keith (who we all called Kiki,
because Benny called him that) was sweet
to all us little kids, because the big kids
were awful to him. Sometimes, we would
walk to my great aunt Carrye’s house up
the road and she would give us sour ball candy
and some lemonade, let us play in her
shady garden, pick some violets. When Dad
was ready to go home, he’d drive his pickup
around and find me. On the way home
we would roll down the windows,
and the wind whipped my hair around.
He turned on the radio to listen
to the market report,
and I held a small bouquet of violets
I’d picked in Carrye’s yard, thinking when
I got home I would press them between
sheets of wax paper in a book, to save
for some rainy day like this one.

The Gift of a Crescent Moon / by Lucia Galloway  

Why do I feel lucky when night’s indigo offers
a crescent moon? Maybe it’s because I’m scoping out
Nature’s hooks and points:
             Think of thorns on rose stems and lime-tree branches
             the stingers that bees and wasps embed in flesh
             the pinecone’s petaled barbs guarding its seeds
             the horns of goats, the teeth of sharks.
But maybe these are different. This is moon.
Nature, who eschews straight lines, loves the curve so
that she outlines spheres, romancing her me with arcs,
circles, ovals—familiar illusions
to furnish my earth-bound comfort zones.
Sometimes night sky affords no moon
and usually I don’t miss it. A few days dark, moon
returns in the guise of a slice, a fat rind etched out
in silvery light. The inner and outer arcs of moon-rind
connect top and bottom at points clear and fine.
              Voila! here’s a crescent cradle
              where I may dream of lounging
              like the boy in Dreamwork’s logo
              relaxed in the seemly hollow, holding a hook and line.
What wouldn’t I give now to simply be fishing
from the sanctuary of Crescent Moon,
heedless of crises, momentous desires, the lure,
inevitable aura of Full Moon’s bright coin!

For Her 84th Birthday / by DJ Hill 

my mother-in-law requested
a poem where she wins
the 2020 FedEx Cup

and I replied, “Sure, I can make
that happen,” the poem I mean
as the FedEx Cup only allows

men, my mother-in-law watches
religiously, her favorite golfers
wedded to the game, not ego

which is why I could see her, Angie
striding onto the course- white jeans
her favorite baby pink collared shirt

matching shoes, arthritic hands grasping
Big Bertha, as the men stand clear
of her swing, determination, she strolls

confidently down the course, offering
sage wisdom, complimentary chocolate
chip cookies to her caddie, her grandson’s

age, pointing out the subtleties
the acronym of GOLF- gentlemen
only, ladies forbidden, the irony

of an 84-year-old mother of five
spending her weekends watching
predicting who will take home

the trophy, the earnings, the glory
in my mind 36-year-old Dustin Johnson
is replaced by my mother-in-law

A girl can dream.

light / by Raki Kopernik 

light
as in
not heavy
but
grounded
as in
seen
open free
as in
spacious
aerated
as in
atoms
floating
everywhere

the burden
is no
one’s
to
hold
alone 

Subtropical Pathetic Fallacy / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

A rainy day’s a good time for snuggling
on the couch, a romantic comedy, tea
and noodle soup. It’s sweatpants
and blanket weather, a good excuse
to play hooky, half-nap through a novel,
and put off trying to be good and healthy
until tomorrow. Yield to the gray skies,
the white-noise rhythm, the muted green
of dripping palm fronds. Save heroism
for a sunny day and give in to the ennui
that the world outside is telling you to feel.
But what’s a girl supposed to do
when one rainy day stretches into the next,
when there are dishes to be done, words
unwritten, phone calls to be made?
How to know for sure if it’s the gray outside
that’s making nothing possible
or some more insidious gray, sneaking in
and taking root until one day it’s impossible
to remember when the rain began or imagine its end. 

Lost / by Kindra McDonald 

Lately I have found myself
so deep in thought, I have lost
minutes of time unaccounted for
like tonight as I was slicing
tomatoes for dinner, cutting
sweet corn off in neat rows
and arranging basil on a plate
like little festive flags.
I thought about how vibrant
summer food is, how it takes
so little effort to make it look
like I have tried to nourish someone
instead of simply making do
with what I have.

Yesterday I lost the better part
of an hour massaging kale
for dinner, I had read it makes
it easier to digest, and life has seemed
so hard to swallow, it is a small chore
to make our salad more tender. Somewhere
in that lost time I forgot about my mom
masked and alone boarding a plane
where she promises she won’t be arm
to breast, cheek to shoulder
with the travelers around her
glowing feverishly close.  

There’s a Word for Almost Everything, Sometimes Two / by Doug Van Gundy 

The feeders are full of finches this morning —
                the reddish-pink ones so extravagantly misnamed:
                raspberry, sure, rose even, but not a spot of purple to be seen.
Not the latest and not the last in a long line of misnomers.  See the Holiness
                Church — all cinderblock and shingle — perched at the edge
                of the fallow field, an island of everyday adrift in the divine. 

Woven in / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The next-door cat is in the backyard again
acting like he lives here, until I come outside,
then he acts like I’m the intruder and runs away.
Day after day of this view, I rarely see him.
When I do, he is like a visiting treasure,
like the roadrunner who came through yesterday
looking for snails to pick up with its beak
and smash on the deck as a snack.
Some days, I am like the cat
who is comfortable all alone,
noticing the doves in the tree branches above,
until someone comes and I run off, afraid.
At other times, I am like the roadrunner,
looking for food, for something nourishing,
for the interesting and yet, I am different
in that I think too much, about everything,
like the injured ladybug crawling
on the gray woven plastic mat, limping
over the slippery parts, losing footing.
Is it the arrogance of humans
that we see ourselves in animals,
in the mountain, in the planet,
that we personify each of its shapes
as if we could communicate with all of it?
Or is it arrogant if we do not do this,
assuming it all to be beneath us
rather than part of the fabric we also are woven into.
I forget my breath for a moment. It has slowed,
though my hand writes faster.
If this weren’t my hand, it would be my tongue
licking the page, making words appear
as if by magic. My breath, my own.
The roadrunner does not worry, nor does the cat,
about all that comes tomorrow.

 

Poem 12 / Day 12

Love poem, summer 2020 / by Louise Akers 

There are mimics of silence, and there are the inhabitants, those
who acknowledge silence bleeding, and pause to
ease its passing, seal its veins.

You, above others, preserve the unequivocal effect, pure poetry
that lives with you in silence. You express, in its bright language,
openly what you yourself are, could be.

I am powerless and want to be before your temperament,
the power of it tilled
by slow freedom. I do my best to forget
I’m zeroed out. Sometimes,

it’s enough for a body to be well lit.
You won’t enjoy this as a love poem, and yet that’s precisely
what it is. You’re tired

of my reflexive armature for feeling, my sieve-like interrogations,
my drawbacks; your absolution. We have a particular way of
behaving toward one another.

You’ll hate this. I can only be corny in person; my edges
have temperatures, and sometimes uncertain targets. But, imagine
edges like our windows, and remember

the way you quickly learned to clean them, to pop
them halfway out of sills and, on a ladder, spray and wipe
them down as I hold them up
and out for you.

I love you, and your abolition
of my reverence for finitude, itinerance, my in-facility for
containment. The thought of our coparenting, our

balanced understanding of external need delights and
overcomes me; we, I think, and ours are everyone, and lucky,
lucky ducks.

Oh, what’s been the worst of it? The co-incidental bleeding?
My unripe ambition? The absent stovetop,
our tired legs?

Did we ever get the right verb? This is the conversation of lovers:
the noise and lapse, the living in our invisible
heart, the actions and descriptions of a god, the weeks of hell.

You to me embody to the point of unity the balance
of human efforts. I emphasize the point, make use of the small country in you
in which there is
no question I am still starving, but I am also very strong.

In hope, in rain, in invisible heart, in the tumbling cover over the soft
heart, this is where we think we live. Really, it is in the water, so swift it appears
to us still, and reluctantly we extend outward from this limpid heart and follow

our hands, which draw scrupulous forms of fidelity into the running
stream. You imagine life as a set of projects, each emerging from one another
with timely rigor. You have an anticipatory sense of private accomplishment.

You are sober, and the unequivocal project of your happiness is
perfectly attuned to your activity. I envy the solidarity you uphold
with your own mood. Which is not to say,

I don’t experience a thrill of shared anticipation, inchoate immersion
in our accompliced state. The put-off, the enormity of cosanguination,
the intimidation at your apodictic—I mean,

Je suis ta pute, I am afraid. In any case, they’re wrong, the gate to hell
does not resemble the gates of eternity or irretraction. I do not
envy their or anyone’s confusion. 

Love in Late Life / by Kris Bigalk 

You, the optimist, the always latecomer, smiling, will come presently,
unaware of your tardiness, the coffee cold, like you like it best
I used to think you were selfish, in no hurry to see me,
as the love I felt for you boiled, beat impatient in my chest.
You clasp my hand, kiss me soft, brush my hair aside
and your smiling brown eyes, like amber, maple gaze
sweet into mine, and all of my indignance, ridiculous pride,
turns to tenderness. I both hate and I study your ways,
how with ease you imagine we have endless days
and if the weather changes, you embrace the rain
as a gift to the garden, as necessary as sun’s rays.
Out of my sour grapes, you make champagne.
Let’s toast to a future that’s perfect, unending,
and hold hands, celebrate this bond we are tending.

In Praise of Clotheslines / by Lucia Galloway 

In the neighborhood where I live,
clotheslines are no-nos.
Real estate may plummet
when too many ratty towels, old jeans,
nightgowns, slips, and panties are seen hanging limp
or flapping in the side-yard breeze. Oh yeah . . .
In Amsterdam or Brooklyn, even in Paris
clotheslines run from upper-story windows
on poles projecting above narrow streets. Work-shirts
and aprons, dresses bright as banners, join underwear
of every shape and size. There they swing easy,
reeled out by pulleys and brought back in.

Here in suburbia, I arrange the patio chairs
at spacious intervals so that I can drape our bed sheets,
straight from the washer’s spin cycle, across chair backs
in sloppy-looking hammocks (kitty’s been known
to leap into these tempting hollows, overturning the chairs).
Mother had a better way. Basket on basket of wet sheets
she carried to the backyard ranks of clotheslines.
After smoothing each sheet
in the space of her outstretched arms, she fastened
its edges with wooden pins to the line.

The point is, there were clotheslines
and people who worked them. And they worked for people,
affording them fresh garb. We children played Angel
as we ran through the corridors of damp hanging sheets
then burst out into sunshine, flapping our wings.  

Doorman Confirms the Football Team in Kohler, WI is Nicknamed “The Toilet Bowls” / by DJ Hill

He said it with a straight face
but I knew their season was
destined to go down the drain

Homecoming royalty-
the Princess with porcelain skin
a King on his throne
could do nothing but sit idly by

as the quarterback dodged left
swirled right, pausing only long
enough to pass to the tight end
with his extra rolls

and the cheerleaders yelled
“Push ‘em back, push ‘em back
waaay back!”

while the marching band, parched
passed water around before
relieving themselves of their duties.

What’s happening / by Raki Kopernik  

Something is always happens even though
nothing is happening right now.

I mean, something is happening but it feels like nothing.
Is there anything worth saying not already said,
I mean, right now just right now.

Sure I’m sure there are things worth saying.
There is so much to say.
The too much cancels out the nothing,
I guess.

What am I even saying
talking about more talking.
Everything and nothing
personal interpretation
our bubbles wrapped thick and tight.

Anti-Aubade / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer  

Mornings are overrated:
the relentless chirping,
the fragile, sunny peace,
just waiting to be interrupted
by the garbage truck,
overzealous weedwhackers,
the hustle-bustle of neighbors,
all importantly on their way.

Forget meditating over a coffee,
the performed bliss of sun-salutations,
a dew-soaked constitutional
to admire groggy blossoms
supplicating themselves to the dawn.
It’s all play-acting, mutual denial
of the crushing weight of to-dos,
loads of laundry, clocking-in.

Savor the honest calm after midnight,
the house less quiet than settling,
releasing the daytime creaks.
Solitude after dark feels illicit,
a stolen space where difficult work
can be wrestled with: alchemy,
invention, any coming-to-terms.
Without witnesses, possibility reigns.

And after beating back the branches
of that long, moonless trail,
relax into the freedom of time
unaccounted for. Shutting off lights
never felt so good. Alone
in the dark, faith in almost anything
comes easily, as the silence without
nurtures and accepts the silence within. 

Untitled / by Kindra McDonald  

It’s Funny the Things You Miss / by Doug Van Gundy 

The lousy basement apartment you lived in for the three months between high school and
college.

Taking baths instead of showers.

Loving a band so much you’d work all day Thursday, drive four hours just to catch them as
they took the stage, pump your fist in the air for two sets, shout yourself hoarse, then
drive the four hours home to be at work in the morning.

Having to choose between buying books or buying food.

Food meaning blue box mac n’ cheese, corn flakes, ramen. 

Catching the eye of someone across a room at a party and falling into their arms on a pile
of stranger’s coats in the spare bedroom half an hour later.

Climbing out onto the roof to smoke a joint with a friend, a lover, your long-dead cousin. 

Bicycling to class. Walking to work. Bumming a ride to the liquor store.

Waking up to your clothes in a pile on the floor, smelling of smoke after a night at the bar,
or a club, or a concert.

Climbing out onto the roof to smoke a joint alone.

Being heartbroken.

Mixtapes.

Energy of Future / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The master of air
came to explain something invisible
for fear of sun’s wrath against earth.

Her plea, past the sound of syntax,
beyond the depth of where words reach.
A wakefulness of dirt and breath,
and afterwards a forgotten storm of fire.

                Listen from the heart, from soul deep,
                the answers are calm inside you
                so people breathe free.

All that is possible in the unfinished ocean,
in the icy wild winter soil,
the marble elk and burnished moose,
mule deer and beaver
who leave footprints
for dust blind people to discover
in this thick undulating lifetime
they continue to walk through.

The master of air carves words of hope,
the ice stays sculpted over land,
the morning rays of light welcome
tiny flowers in the foreground
of a landscape pure cold and vast.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Discretio spiritum / by Louise Akers 

It begins in air
vast air gold 
air air 
destitute of 
light a gold end 
like a sound and color 
ripped through 
air how i 
grew arro
gant and swaggering 
through gold and nearly empty
sockets invocations ad mea
perpetuum deducite 
tempora
carmen i.e. what the fuck
was that god doing
before
he rent my sky
asunder. 

Just Think / by Kris Bigalk 

Something there is that doesn’t love silence
That sends plates off the table, knocked by stray elbows
And spills milk, and cries over it
And makes dinner all over again, sizzling and banging.
The work is in finding the quiet moments, and in them
I have no peace, wondering when the next crash comes
Where I will be – napping on the couch, reading a book,
But my ears have learned to tune out the arguments,
To please my concentration, my connection of thoughts.
No one has seen the bottom of my lake of silent rage
But I know the rocks I throw into it eventually settle.
I fold my plans into paper boats, set them on the shore
And light one on fire, launch its crackling hull
And set the next one in right after it until they fade out.
We keep our memories that way – images of lost ideas.
To each of my children I have bequeathed the ashes
And some folded boats, and a book of matches.
We have a tradition in this family.
‘Stay where you are, or face the consequences.’
We wear the same paths between past, present, and future.
Oh, just one of us should take a different road,
One who would disappear, but whose light would remain.
There it is — my wild hope again, in all its noisiness, all its silence.
If that thing with feathers can light on my shoulder, just think, just think 

Every Prayer / by Lucia Galloway 

1.
How can I write a poem this day,
so many trees, homes, stores in California burning?
The Times runs photos of red-orange skies,
my car in the driveway’s mantled with ash
just yesterday someone’s dwelling place.

The foothill trails, once crowded, now closed,
unmasked hikers not the only danger.
What do I say to the neighbors forced to flee
the mountain retreat in their weekend camper
while I brood, lethargic, in suburbia? Stanger.

2.
From the foothill trail I’d once loved to walk, let me offer:

a litany from sprigs of ceanothus brushing ‘gainst my leg

a secret from the deer appearing on a mid-distant slope

a painting from the sycamore, its trunk splotched ochre,
cream, khaki, and tan

a poem from the eucalyptus with six slender trunks rising
from a single root—tree-bouquet of scents, choruses
of wind and wing.

3.
May something yet be refuge, comfort, beauty, peace.
May devastation be temporal for all things living.
May there be prayers enough for every creature:
each person, animal, insect, bird. Each sprig and shrub,
each trunk and branch. May it be so.

Lives Matter / by DJ Hill 

she said sheepishly
as we both had seen the same
raccoon, stiff along the roadside

his front and back legs crossed
as though he had just laid down
for a post-squirrel nap, plump

two-tone tail stretched out
like a bottle brush. “The guard-rail
must have trapped him,” she said

his black mask resembling one
a burglar might wear, or me at bedtime-
us laying on our sides, feigning sleep

While just down the road, turkey
vultures congregated- one, two, three, four
five, on a ledge, bald heads, red skin

black plumage and beak, skilled scavengers
soon to take flight, snowbirds
on the berm, grunting and hissing

I debated shooing them off
lest they catch a whiff of roadkill
still warm a stone’s throw away

repulsed by their vile habit
of regurgitating carrion. I went back
to the scene wanting to wrap

his lifeless body in a faux fur blanket
or rewind time to when he was foraging-
his tiny human-like hands clutching

a trout, anticipating the rainbow flesh
his long saunter home, the family
waiting for their evening meal.

today / by Raki Kopernik 

today is my dad’s birthday
always marked special on the calendar
September eleventh but never called
nine eleven or nine one one
like the emergency call
like the emergency plane crashes

today my dad is eighty-one
last year we threw him a fancy party
with bubbly wine and ravioli and friend toasts and
I told a story about how he helped me
adjust the carburetor on my 1980 Oldsmobile
over the cordless phone twenty years ago
and he smiled and laughed
the remembering in his eyes
same eyes they’ve always been

today I won’t see my dad
no party no ravioli no bubbles or stories but
I sent him a plant and a stupid balloon and
I will imagine his eyes twinkling with memory when
he opens the door and finds his gift

                                                                                              יום הולדת שמח אבאלה 

Expectations / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for C. & A.

Motherhood means expecting, waiting
nine months to meet a new half-self,
expecting the impossible feat of making

a whole human out of nothing
but a haphazard cluster of cells expecting
a feast of secondhand nutrients

and a calm vessel for safe passage
into being, expecting the rough days,
the third trimester pains, the birth

itself, a kind of expecting the unknown
terror of letting go and bringing forth,
at once, expecting the twilight lucidity

of sleepless infancy, expecting the fear
of unexplained hungry sobs to overwhelm
the joy of welcoming a new face

to the family table, expecting relief after,
kept alive for the first while, the child
grows sturdy enough to stand

on solid ground, expecting joy, blissfully
unaware of everything that’s wrong
with the world right now, never

expecting the blind hot rage of creation
hard-fought when an indifferent mosquito
lands on that freshly made body,

miraculously kept alive, and disrespects
that being more yourself than you, expecting
easy access to precious blood, bold and cavalier.  

In the Six Days Without Power After Hurricane Isabel, We Try to Save Our Marriage / by Kindra McDonald 

Category 1 winds 74-95 mph – very dangerous

We have left our rolling hills and basements for this new town of flooding and bridge lifts and Weather Channel Acts of God, as if a change of scenery could change us, but wherever you go, there you are. In the days of build-up and tension you stock supplies and horde water, there is lots of alcohol. I want to leave, you want to stay, and so we play at tug of war and you are always stronger. We lose power before the winds even start. The late summer heat settles in, the quiet pours over us like concrete.

Category 2 winds 96-110 – extremely dangerous

By noon the howling has taken on a musical quality, whistling and punctuating our yelling with its rising pitch and crescendo of ripping shingles. You climb onto our porch rail to repair the flapping siding, I grip you by your belt loops hold you steady, wishing we never moved here, never married, wish we never met, you spit as the wind whips the house, shutters fly like magic carpets, what is left to hold on to?

Category 3 winds 111-129 – devastating damage

Debris is flying and falling, we retreat to our corners then square off again as dusk settles in and we are gray shadows slipping past each other. We do what we do when we’ve lost our voices, toss our bodies toward each other wave after wave, drag sheets from room to room, re-enact a camping trip over candlelight and tin beans, tell soft stories that make us smile. The eye is over us, quiet and calm and even in this dark we see that white-knuckled love is not enough.

Category 4 winds 130-156 – catastrophic damage

Days without power, milk curdling sour, the rotting drip of thawing meat and humidity hangs heavy as a vow. We are wrung out from crying, sick and sleepless. Our lives swim through the flooded kitchen, a floating champagne flute, a sterling cake server. Windows shatter and 12 packs come and go in fever dreams of broken bottles and picture frames. The pines are ripped from the lawn and it’s obvious how shallow the roots are.

Category 5 winds are 157 mph or higher – recovery may take months to years

The neighbor says it will be weeks before the road is clear. It’s prison, and we beg each other for parole. We dry out, pack our hearts in separate boxes, mitigate the hemorrhage in the roof. Without street lights and screen glare we can see the stars so clearly, funny how we know they’re always there. When the generators around us roar to life, there is nothing left to say.

Please Forgive Me / by Doug Van Gundy  

It was my phone that rang in the middle of your reading,
interrupting what must have been a difficult poem about your mother
with the theme song to The Looney Tunes.  I’m desperately sorry.

I was the one who laughed when you said the word masticate,
and I continued to giggle for the next seven or eight minutes.
It’s an involuntary response, though I have been seeing a specialist.

And it was my chapstick that fell from my pocket, somehow
rolling under all of the theatre chairs and between everyone’s
feet before stopping against the stage with an audible click.

If you can see your way to offer absolution for the sum total
of these minor transgressions, you’re a better person than I am. 
As for writing my own name over yours in black magic marker

on all the copies of your debut collection arranged attractively
in a perfect pyramid on the sales table in the lobby, that is a burden
I cannot expect you to take on.  I must bear it entirely on my own.

River’s path / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The people said the river fished them.
What was seen was that they fished the river.
Every morning, every evening, in the day too,
the river looked inside of them, turned them
inside out, with sounds of water moving
the ways it moves around people and logs,
small islands of sand and silt,
how it organizes itself to become river
and how the people hummed
to its shape downstream. The river
offered the fish it loved to the people,
as if gifting were the blessing it presented.

It was the river that first sang
how it was of the people. And people
held the water of river as their life blood.

Until concrete was poured, cursing the water
into directions water had not wanted to go.
The people knew water doesn’t forget
where it has been, they knew water feels
all the places it has been stained, the places
it has been tackled and restrained.
It holds memory of children splashing
in its ripples, of fish racing in its rapids,
bathing in its pools. It knows of the woman
Nilce, of river people, cupping her hands,
pulling the most sacred of substances
to her mouth, drinking from river
as offering to it and taking river’s offering.
River remembers what it means to run free.

 

*Nilce de Souza Magalhaes was one of the leaders of the Movement of People Affected by Dams, in Brazil, that sought to advocate for the rights of people affected by the construction of dams. Her community was forcefully displaced to a site with no electricity or running water, which compromised their subsistence as fishermen. She was murdered in 2016 for her activism.

 

Poem 10 / Day 10

so when does recidivism / by Louise Akers 

so when does recidivism
become a non-issue? tell me,
what revision
of my little world made
cunning makes me look
sort of penitent?

i have been lonely,
up til now.
i listen. i ignore
the slip is because
it isn’t there.

my excuse for falling
is commensurate
with the distance
from peak to lowest valley,
with a collapse
from top to bottom floor,

or second floor, and the raised pool
above street level
full of rainwater and cigarette
butts, now all over
the street.

september, i am at a loss
for language.
let it come
in heaps and tether it to
whatever loneliness survives
this fall.

COVID Tanka / by Kris Bigalk 

Blood red manicure
bitten down to rough hangnails.
No one sees me here
this home, prison, oasis,
where I live, entrapped, so safe.

My slinky black dress
is perfect for a grocery run
I wear strappy heels
spritz on some Chanel No. 5.
The security guard smiles.

My lipstick is a
pink secret under my mask
it stains the liner.
At home I kiss the mirror
and it seems to kiss me back.

Missing Breakfast / by Lucia Galloway 

Something’s not quite right all day.
You lose your balance, step in a fetid puddle,
fall from grace in almost every way.

The train is packed, you hair in disarray.
At work you find your colleagues in a huddle.
Something’s not quite right all day.

Missed a deadline: penalty to pay.
You owe back taxes, records in a muddle,
fallen from grace in almost every way.

Houseguests arriving, much to your dismay.
You know that you’ll be forced to scuttle
fine plans that don’t cohere each day.

The grown-up kids return and want to stay.
Your arguments, attempts at a rebuttal
fall from grace in almost every way.

Skipping breakfast—say it! Stupid Play
enabling fate and folly to befuddle
those things that don’t go right all day,
that fall from grace in almost every way. 

Imagine What You Desire / by DJ Hill 

After Jennifer Pastiloff, author of
          On Being Human

In the wake of a fresh new
morning, I open my eyes
to the day, forgetting that heart
pain which never subsides
but knowing your narrowed
eyes and fisted heart softened
The backpack of stones
emptied, I rise, spirit lightened
humped back and slumped
shoulders straighten, the world
despite its flaws and angst look
heavenward, swaying like flowers
in shifting breeze, these are the faces
I desire, bright and attentive
blossoms who no longer judge
turn their faces to my light, trusting
I will care, love, forgive, understand
show mercy, acceptance, forgetting
your arrows while laying mine down
This peace, our peace, will echo
through the meadows, foothills, climbing
to mountain peaks, tossing ashes
on a path we will no longer tread.

More about dreams / by Raki Kopernik 

because dreams take up all the space these days. dreams about a life I don’t want, a life without
you. dreams about still being in high school – those are nightmares. dreams about my dead cat who
didn’t die after all. dreams about tidal waves blanketing my house, the classic teeth falling out and
forgetting my shoes clothes glasses. dreams about my hair being bigger shorter longer straighter
and dreams about living in my childhood home, my mother young and funny and laughing so hard
that I miss her even harder when I wake up. dreaming in Hebrew, dreaming in Technicolor,
dreaming in crowds of people without masks. the dreams keep coming, always, even when I don’t
sleep well. vivid lucid sometimes flying sometimes orgasms sometimes musical, songs appearing
inside channeling creative fire all the time all the time all the time.

Aubade to Recurring Nightmares / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

They’re not good dreams, exactly,
haunted by the usual suspects:
ex-almost-boyfriends, grandparents’
ghosts, novels I haven’t read before

the exam, a full dining room
with the lights out, complicated
French pastries I have to pipe myself.
I know where they’re coming from:

not enough faces to see these days,
too many unrealized pipe dreams,
the fear of too many months marking time
and how small the house feels,

alone with the cat and the August rain,
the unbearable silence of safety,
mourning the loss of a working lunch,
the thrill of a make-your-own salad bar.

After three decades, I’ve learned the rules:
you’ll drive off a cliff
without dying, your husband
is perpetually out of reach but asleep

beside you, and if you wake up paralyzed,
keep breathing until you can move enough
to sit up in bed. The gray dawn haunts me more.
How will this morning manipulate me:

sunny, sports-braed and ready
for a constitutional in the beachy humidity?
Exhausted by the muted green
of sodden palms? Bereft in a swamp of fog?

Better to dance with the devil
who brought you, blaming the dark room
for your uneasiness. I’ll take surviving
familiar regret over grieving the present day. 

Predictions / by Kindra McDonald  

Our persimmon tree is loaded
with fruit still hard and green
I check on it most mornings
barefoot in the lawn
back to the window
where my love’s head is still
pressed to the pillow. I’ll wait
until first frost, at least
when they are soft and squish like jelly
any sooner the bitterness
will pucker our mouths fuzzynumb

I harvest first fruits at dawn
glossy orange hearts I’ll collect
in the held out hem of my nightgown
spread sunrise on the kitchen table
and like my mother and aunts
and their mothers and aunts
I will slice a piece from each
savor the first burst of autumn
and work my way to the center kernel

split wings of seeds I no longer bleed for
I use my teeth, cracked in half, tongue it out
until a dozen glisten on the red Formica
I will read the shapes inside, no shovel spoons
or mild forks, this time I see all knives
a winter so bitingly cold it will cut

I’ll wake my love with frosted breath
hiding knowledge of our future
I curl beneath him
we’ll chop the wood tomorrow. 

The Importance of Sadness / by Doug Van Gundy 

Today I want to sit here and be sad.
Not depressed, not morose: just sad.
Depression is a burden, a layer of ash
damp on the heart. Sadness can be savored,
rolled around the mouth like a lozenge,
fumbled absent-mindedly like an agate
in a pocket. Sadness is the frayed edge
of comfort, the way that rain is a comfort,
or a half-ruined sweater, or the memory
of making love with someone who doesn’t
love you anymore. Sadness is lukewarm
coffee discovered on the desk half-a-chapter
into a new novel, and drunk anyway
with disappointment and gratefulness.
Sadness is a nuanced thing, a chamber
orchestra of emotion landing on a chord
we call sad because we know no better
name. That’s what I want for myself today,
the tinged languor of sadness. Ignoring
distraction and simply sitting in sadness
like a warm, luxuriant bath. Simply sitting
as everything around me grows cold. 

Turquoise Trail RV park and campground / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Back up that way, the view is of the mountains.
Deep layers of green before sky.
To the left is the once abandoned ghost 5th wheel.
When we first arrived, we had to dump our waste at the dump station.
The trailer over there has a porch attached.
On the other side of the gravel road, there’s one with a garden.
Pick-up trucks lined up one after one in front of the RVs, almost all the spaces full.
A birdhouse is perched on top of our electrical hookup.
There are tents here too, somewhere, I can’t see.
An older man appears out of dust, his face covered with a mask.
He guides us backing in, turn the wheel against the wheels, he says.
The mountain air is still hot under the sun in August.
Two little girls jump off a picnic table, almost crush a small chihuahua.
We say we’re new to this.
You’ll get the hang of it, the man offers.
A younger man stands twenty feet back, ready to step in, watching as we settle into the space.
Two by two, people from smaller campers or without hookups head to the restroom shack.
While we set up, sweat drips down our foreheads.
A hawk at the top of one tree flies to the top of another.
I wonder who lives in the camper with a garden and yard with a birdbath.
Tomorrow we will leave.

Poem 9 / Day 9

A millennial apodictic / by Louise Akers 

I think about the frequency of contact, or my easy feeling
and its arrival
in the moment of your voice.
I remember, with embarrassment, the question
that I asked of you much more
than once, remembering the calm, your
calm and unequivocal
response. I could not imagine a finer tether
than our shared responsiveness, which is to say, our shared
attention; always to my attentiveness,
you respond with your own—your graceful,
styleless magnanimity.

I think this is, really,
a document of extraordinary patience.
Not patience with short memory
or cursory investment, but with careful and judicious preparation,
as for a long visit to an unfamiliar place
or the articulation of a word that must be met
with deafening applause,
like the grip
of something delicate but unbearable to lose—tight
fingertipped and seeming hardly
to presume upon the forces
tending always toward its dislocation.

What else? You’re far from me; I feel it.

I wonder how exactly you perceive
the manner in which
I love you, i.e., whether
you notice every variant
negotiation, made at intervals
so frequent as even to distress
myself into commitment. I love
with the enduring penalty
of choice after endless
choosing.

I admonish myself for my ceaseless arbitration.

This is to say,
I choose to come into our congress as
a Saint.
I choose our constancy above my predilection
to unmoor.
I choose you, and the honor of encouraging
your prodigious
and efficient practice of deep human love
and that of living, and the deep felt honor of their benefit.

There is a private fearfulness that sings out after
your dismissal
of my cursory attempts to persuade you
of my neat fault,
or what I perceive to be
the inevitable motion of your patience
on the wane.

(There is a shallow pride that bellows
in the short-lived quiet
in the hollow of your response:
I am alone, and I have been.)

But then,
the passive ease of foreclosure
sublimates; panic freezes solid.
I know I cannot maintain this extraordinary practice
in your absence. I cannot take up
another.

When I say practice, how does it sound?
How can I enervate this love poem
for you?

I imagine the expression
of a millenial apodictic, i.e.
“I love you”, as an utterance, apodictic.

I wonder if the metaphysical
function of self-evidence is choice,
made once, then over and
over again.

I imagine that attention is
the functional approach
to this certain source—
or source of certainty,
perhaps. I imagine
the appalling envy news
of private certainty could well
incite. Well,
maybe.

I write you, and interpolate
my private interests in expressing
you. (I hope
this is alright.)
I imagine you
get tired of my asking.
I imagine you’d prefer a brighter sequence or phrase.

I imagine the bright articulation of living
that accounts for your exquisite patience
with me,
in its clear expression, and, more broadly, as
a form of prescient and infinitely
valuable affection—which is to say,
attention—which is to say:
I love you and you look at me,
you look at me. 

Back in the 90’s / by Kris Bigalk 

Do you remember when we had to wonder?
                                    when we didn’t know?
                                               when we couldn’t find out?
When we would be sitting at dinner with friends
and someone would ask who that actress was who played
Bonnie in the old Bonnie and Clyde movie and everyone
had gotten too drunk to remember, or maybe it was because
we were all about three years old when that movie came out
and we hadn’t even heard of cell phones and the internet
so instead of googling it and finding the answer we would
make up our own answers or talk it out until someone
said I think her name started with an F and someone else
would say She reminded me of Jane Fonda and we would
all laugh because it definitely wasn’t Jane Fonda and then
someone would just yell it out, about an hour later, when
the conversation had gone somewhere else entirely,
FAYE DUNAWAY! And we would say of course, yes, Faye
Dunaway and then we would talk about what a heel
Warren Beatty was and wonder why we were even
talking about such an old movie. We would have
to ask friends for a ride home because there wasn’t
Uber or Lyft, and we would listen to crackled
cassette tapes we bought at convenience stores.
We wondered if there was a place with more people
like us, or if there even were more people like us.
We didn’t know. We couldn’t find out.
It seems like bliss, now, that
happy, complicit ignorance. 

Untitled Sonnet / by Lucia Galloway 

You sent a text—an enigmatic note.
Although I’d hoped to get a postal missive,
no one writes, these days, nor scrawls in cursive.
Still, I’m awfully glad you wrote.

IMHO, CUL, BTW are just the start:
we’re busy working out the new stenography.
Curtailing distance through technology
hones letter-writing to efficient art.

But how to touch your shoulder, give a hug,
know that we live in bodies, not just memes.
To watch your lips form words, syllables sounds
that cross the air between us. Not a bug
that brings the chill of fever, stifled screams.
O angels, turn this evil wind around!

Aspens Wave Us By / by DJ Hill 

Labor Day weekend 2020
haze drifts through Independence
Pass, a faint outline of mountain peaks-
sleeping giants soon to wake

Native grasses shifting to fall
wardrobe, summer blossoms void
of color, parched pines, thousands of timbers
toppled like toothpicks after an avalanche

A ribbon of what used to be river
Red-tailed hawks, hard pressed to find prey
121 degrees in LA today, wildfires stifling
the rebellious sky, Mother Earth, taking out her fury

The relentless stream of traffic
strangling arteries, F-150’s towing
Raptors, overstuffed trailers,
Jeeps, ATV’s, stacks of fat

bikes, grinding the Front Range
Hogbacks to rubble. Yellow-Bellied Marmots
double-dog-dare drivers to be aware
victims of a reign of error

Road closed. Detour. Yield, travelers-
We’ve lost our guard rail, a runaway
circumstance destined to shift or fail
A modern-day circus-train

with us still on board. We,
the caged beasts, foaming
at the mouth, bending the bars,
nature’s rules we can no longer ignore. 

was it all a dream / by Raki Kopernik  

was it all a dream?
the waves of youth and feeling soft
crying over a girl at a basement punk show
that beautiful gray cat who outlived all the girls
my mother’s hair still dark and long

how many more lives will we live
is there even a difference between real dreams
and the ones you can’t remember?

Substantiation / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Today, you could not bear
sorting the morass of emails
about publishing opportunities,
recipe ideas from laid-off chefs.

Today, you could not manage
devising lesson plans
to reassure your students
that poetry can be studied online.

Today, you could not fathom
reading the Tuesday Arts section
dutifully recording the titles
of great streaming performances.

Instead, you succeeded
at putting on real shoes
and cutting your jungle of a yard.
How satisfying, you thought,

admiring the neat lawn bags,
a tangible job well done.
Amid all the virtual uncertainty,
empirical evidence of your survival. 

Due / by Kindra McDonald 

When I used to work in an office
there was a springtime baby boom
Don’t drink the water, they joked
as all around me the pregnant women grew
each day and the cubicle walls
pressed in.

There was shower after shower

all the pink and blue so frosting sweet
and all the guesses and wives’ tales
carrying high and craving salt
each days updates like weather reports
and the constantly rotating due-date lotto

with applause and aplomb. I would shrink
in my desk, feel morning sick with worry

while all of them leaned in and spun a sewing
needle round and round or up and down
we are pink-cheeked and giddy for girls
down and around and side to side
we toast and clap for a boy.

Swelling month after month in secret.

At home I watch the squirrels steal
stuffing from my swing cushions
building nests in the tree. The thrush
is busy all morning swiping moss
and pine straw, my knotted hair
and strewn tissues make a home.

Butterflies rest fast on goldenrod
and aster, the ones with eyes
are God’s spies. The dragonflies

dance and dip, a devil’s darning needle
left to its own device will sew your mouth shut.

It’s my turn to make the weekly
cake and the egg I crack has two yolks

glossy eyes wobble and I wonder this time
how to divine this break, it is either twins
or death. One in every thousand hens
lay double eggs, one in every thousand
babies are born with teeth.

The women tell me my cakes are always sweetest. 

Christmas Parade / by Doug Van Gundy 

We stood shoulder to snowy shoulder with the wool-clad throng
along the parade route, listening to high-school bands play carols
we might recognize through chapped lips and frozen mouthpieces.

You surprised me by slipping a bare hand inside my mitten.
We laced fingers — shivering and silent among the revelers —
not singing, not cheering, not talking. Afterward, we stopped

for mulled wine before walking off in separate directions. I trundled
homeward, sustained by small tendernesses: your hand inside my glove,
the gift of the wine, the slightest smile you hid beneath your scarf

as you stepped out of the streetlight and into the snowy dark.

Still powerless / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

When the power goes out with the wind
this afternoon, I don’t imagine it will be
for long. Growing up in the south,

it seems like we lost power in every storm
and it was always special, like the world
shut down. No television or radio. No fridge.

No AC. No fan. No heat. We would get out
candles, hover around in the dim light, tell stories.
Mom would worry about food in the fridge.

Dad would go outside, even in rain and lightning
to see if the neighbors’ lights were on.
At 3:30 pm today, the house lost its spark.

After a half hour, in the dark, I stopped
trying to work, there was no internet anyways.
The pandemic world even quieter.

We made sandwiches for dinner
and ate by candlelight. There is a feeling
of suspense that I enjoy, a ritual of lighting

candles for utilitarian purpose, conversations
about small fire, big fire, how California is burning
again. They’re airlifting people from their homes,

smoke blows all the way over here to New Mexico.
We saw fire in the Sangre de Cristos the other day,
smoke billowing up from the aching mountain.

A candle is small fire, a relaxing flicker,
but growing, can suffocate a forest, a town,
the lives of so many. Wind shakes our house,

a siren whirs by. We are so reliant on power.
There is a stillness in the air that exists
without it, it humbles us,

as if all the world has stopped to breathe,
I sit in the dark, illuminated
by small flicks of flame.

Poem 8 / Day 8

 

SAINT JOAN pt. 1 / by Louise Akers 

As a Saint I was impressed by pseudoscience. I had vested interest in the decreation of the
enlightenment, its anomic convolutions.

As a Saint I modeled good explanations, beautiful ones that made sounds like an enlightened
understanding, but of grace; Unity for unity.

As a Saint, I was above life and all of its vicissitudes. I lived what a pagan might call death. I was
history and historian, attuned to sovereign elation.

As a Saint, I wished to indicate my visions had been earned.

As a Saint, I was loyal. I wished to make war. I was a prince, and, humble, made no more war. As
a Saint, so much was at stake, and the consequence of waging war was to wage war against us.

As a Saint, no matter how many men you raised against us.

As a Saint, I loved insects as I loved myself, loved cannibals, loved others.

As a Saint, of course, I loved all dogs.

As a Saint, I had not wanted to besiege the town, I had not intended any canonballs to remove
any fucking faces.

As a Saint.

As a Saint, I was the nominative, the accusative, the vocative.

I determined genitives of spirits; I exacted datives, stunk with ablatives.

As a Saint, I was in the business of “servare.” I caught and came catching. As a saint, I incurred a
cost beyond the perimeter of verbs: “to be,” “to garner,” “to save.”

As a Saint, I took the instinct of a lover out of orbit, reminded her of what is nominally plural,
what is transitively just a joke.

Barbequed Ribs, Labor Day 2020 / by Kris Bigalk  

The smell of burnt sugar and cayenne
moves smoky through the house.
The wind rattles the windows,
rain clatters the roof.
It’s not as if we had plans.
The beaches are closed anyway.
No one would come over,
even if we invited them,
and if they did, we would
make muffled small talk
through cotton masks.
The ribs carmelize
like they have every year.
You will brave the rain
to finish them on the grill.
They will melt in our mouths,
a few minutes of pleasure
while we discuss inanities
of our day off, make plans
for the distant future
like we always used to do,
decide not to watch the news,
and instead, make a fire
in the fireplace, an invitation
to welcome autumn, one of
the only certain visitors
we expect.

Capriccio and Fugue / by Lucia Galloway  

To my piano. For the child I was, and for my grandson.

Why do I think of tucking my ten-year-old self
inside the chamber of your strings?
Not putting her away, but giving her
a place to be
where she and I could meet.
I swear I’ll walk the keyboard touching
all the ivories and blacks,
run the scales—majors with their cousin minors—
octaves and octaves
before I’ll stop to breathe. Before I’ll lean,
peering into the spaces between the keys,
as if by paying homage
I could discover harmonies in hiding.

Piano, sometimes you are truly grand,
a flying elephant, one ear flapping.
I want to be ten again, tucked up in your curled trunk,
staving off pure terror—ten, like grandson Lucas,
born to take this ride.

More often you’re a portal.  Yes, a gate,
you hulking, legged Piano.   Agile, you swing
between the moment and the tenant memories,
hinging the energy that keeps me, changed,
within the life I’m living. That other life
I was a kid playing for silver stars stuck on the pages
of etudes and minuets. Those long lessons.
Now I play in quickened time
where I’ve only those stars that stick to fingers
as, recklessly, I block out chords and
run arpeggios into cadences . . . for Lucas, now eleven.
Tempo, gesture, motive: you broker time, my Piano,
measure my playfulness. I hand it off. 

Untitled / by DJ Hill 

Here’s the plan / by Raki Kopernik  

I’d rather put whiskey in my coffee
swimming in sweatpants, a ratty Pixies t-shirt
soft silk soothing my skin
listening to the Footloose soundtrack in a loop
jigsaw puzzling cats in a bookstore
interjected with dance party breaks
just you and me,
and maybe the cat

For sure I’ve become an introvert, reversed
nevermind the binary
that no one is all one thing
my insides turned deeper in
with the seeping of annoyance at
any pressure touching the two hundred foot radius bubble
I have drawn around my world

change happens without effort
without consciousness or intention
without a plan
or not the plan you planned 

Homecoming / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Driving inland in our haphazardly packed car,
coolers dripping icy dregs, trunk full
of musty laundry, a still life of bottle caps
and candy wrappers in the passenger side
door, sunglasses spotty with salt air,
a lone French fry petrifying in the space between
the seats, the windshield marked with graves
of fifty dragonflies, a small dune forming
in the backseat next to the rusted beach chairs,
I look over at you, sweaty and sunscreened,
bleary-eyed from yesterday’s sunny afternoon
tiki drinks, unwashed hair sculpted majestically,
and pray silently thank you for the life we’ve made
and the chance to run away and escape it. 

A work in progress / by Kindra McDonald 

After five months of quarantine
your hair has gone so long and wavy
it has changed your face and you
malign the feel of it on the back of your neck
how it curls on your pillow when you sleep
pressed against your ears, creeping towards
your cheek, and you have taken to wearing
my elastic hair bands to keep the ringlets
from your eyes and off your forehead when we ride
our bikes it waves to me, and I catch the sparkle
of the silver polka dots on my headband smile.

Most weeks we see no one but each other, the cats
fight then sleep and so do we, feeding each other
with what we can grow or graze or fish and the longer
your hair grows the more wild we are in our quiet
cocoon. The full moon slants in through our blinds
bathes your head in halo light and I whisper a wish
to each hair, a prayer to each wave and I swear
each morning it grows longer and I am so much stronger
I don’t ever need to sleep.

When you are finally allowed to sit in your barber’s chair
have him use the number three razor to shear your neck
and sides, he calls you “Curly,” watch it fall
in rings around the chair. You come home smelling
of powder and limes, crisp as fall, school’s first day new
I realize I hardly know you at all.

This Morning / by Doug Van Gundy 

The sun came up like a toddler
first learning to stand. We were
overjoyed. We were sausage and peppers.

We jumped up and down, pumping
our fists in the air as if watching the moon
landing from a control room in Houston.

We embraced like lost lovers
cheered like children,
pranced like pensioners.

Our hearts were pounding, our lungs
filling and emptying as if
our lives depended upon it. 

Relationship with rain / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

My son says grown-ups don’t like rain,
but that kids love it. In the desert,

it is sacrilege for one to not like rain,
because dry earth always welcomes water.

When we play outside, the adults
always want to go inside if it rains,

he says, but the kids want to stay and play.
Why do you want to go inside?

I think of adult reasons, it’s wet,
it cold, clothes get uncomfortable,

maybe to get out of the way of a storm.
For a moment, I wonder whether

we outgrow rain or maybe outgrow
the wonder of it. But I love

to feel rain on my skin, especially
when it sneaks up with just a few

drops as a sung hello before it brings
its full orchestra. When I was twenty

at an outdoor concert, the rain first
came softly, then louder and I knew

I had to join with it or perish.
As it began to puddle, our feet

began to slide in mud, we slid
into each other, mud on our legs,

hands and arms, on our faces
like ancient markings. Some of my best

memories are with rain. Our wedding day:
a rainy blessing. Or a few years ago,

at that beach bar, the rain came so hard
it seemed the sky tried to lift the ocean

and bring it to the ground.
Everyone seated outside crowed under

shelter of the bar, water so loud on the tin roof,
water pooling, blowing in from the side,

a pelting symphony. For a while, we stayed
sheltered, then ran for the car under

our one small umbrella. We waded
through the restaurant patio, a slanted

kind of music. By the time we reached the car,
we had become the rain, our movement

its musical notes. It was a part of us,
sopped, soaked, swimming. How good it felt

to be washed, baptized by music, by earth,
by sky, all the water we could not hold

and we laughed as it cleared by the time
we parked at our hotel, leaving us wet

for no reason at all, other than the joy
of feeling rain on our skin.

Poem 7 / Day 7 

Bad fruit logic / by Louise Akers 

Imagine a logic so numinous
it manifests in fruit,
in raw petroleum, genitalia.

What I’m suggesting is:
don’t discount evidence
about a body
in service of decisiveness, which
is to say what to desire/
which privation to forgive. 

Two in the morning / by Kris Bigalk 

I like to walk down the staircase
at two in the morning, the familiar
creaks a little louder in the quiet,
the faint streetlight outside painting
the darkened walls with the hues
of the stained glass windows.
I imagine the young woman
in thick long skirts and petticoats
who rustled up and down these
stairs a hundred and fifty years ago,
twenty-two, ravishing,
dead of a fever before she
was married a year.
I imagine her standing at
the bottom of the stairs,
her hand on the curling rail,
wearing a lacy wedding gown,
regarding herself in the full-length
mirror by the door. If the light
is right, I see the edges
of her face, like a blurry
sepia photograph, smell
the lilacs she holds
in her arms, like a child. 

On Labor Day Weekend 2020 / by Lucia Galloway  

one way is to cover up
protect the skin against
the AC’s current
of dry frigid air   its desperate
attempt to cool the house
keep pace with September sun
heating the out-of-doors to

113 and no access
to the pool   its turquoise
behind the high fence
locked gate festooned
with yellow tape

this corona virus
more-savage cousin
of the common cold   makes
us all as vulnerable
as a kindergarteners
their first immersion in
the wider world

and like a kid whose plastic pool
is cracked or empty   I want to run
in sprinklers

I pull on workout shorts
a tank top   flip-flops
to cross blistering patio flagstone
arrive on the greenbelt lawn
where

I open wide my arms
bare my face
to run   to dance
in the sparkling arcing
spray

When Does Summer End? / by DJ Hill  

Hard to say in the dark
days of COVID-19
Summer, the season that leaves
us wanting more

When my children were young
they spent the waning hours
as if it were their last,
fledglings ready to take flight

Labor Day weekend we packed in
bike rides, mini golf, barbecues
in the shade of the sugar maple,
soon to turn, but holding its breath

Bare feet running through freshly cut
grass, watermelon, the last taste of freedom
Days when loving your child
seemed enough

Tonight, parents pack lunches, insist
on a reasonable bedtime, call too many
times for kids to leave their dusk play
for bath and bed, one more time

Tomorrow, the reminder of the sun
will wake them, us, to a new paradigm
Board buses, venture into classrooms
brave whatever comes next

We watch as they enter another
realm, move just outside our grasp
We didn’t know then-
these were the best of times. 

Wind / by Raki Kopernik 

Wind takes all the power today.
I’m leaning in hard, folding forward, held,
lashing my massive hair around eye cracks, tears.

I’ll be the highest branch moving the hardest.
Wind air pushing the garbage inside, out
through my body like cheesecloth or ripped curtains or spider webs.

Here’s what she said, what I say to me now.
Decide what you want and talk yourself into it.

For the Workers, on the eve of Labor Day, 2020 / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
after Walt Whitman 

Cheers to the teachers up late, red pens at the ready,
dregs of reheated coffee gulped against the clock.

For the lawnmower pushers, the leaf-blowers, amateurs
or professionals, raise a sweaty glass of lemonade.

Pour a shift drink for the waitress, that first sip
of cold beer zinging all the way down her aching legs.

Remember the cooks, too, drinking clandestine wine
out of deli containers as they ruin their hands with bleach.

For the cashiers, the stockers, the deli slicers and bakers,
whoever drew the short straw and is hauling out the trash,

For that poor bastard playing Jenga with a full dumpster,
raid the vending machines for a round of Pepsis on the house.

Cheers to the dads shoveling driveways in the freezing blue
dawn, leaving salted trails like some fairy tale witch.

Thank the baristas, awake for an ungodly opening shift,
readying the single-origins and artisanal syrups for the hordes.

Salute the bus drivers, whistle hello to the crossing guards,
nod solemnly to the janitors, detouring around their clean floors.

Wish these artists and caretakers safe passage to wherever
they put their feet up at the end of a day’s work. 

Some Advice / by Kindra McDonald  

Dear J,

How have you been sleeping?
My doctor recommended
chamomile or kava before bed.

Each night, I roll, a drunken ship
a blown feather, my ups and downs
of dread. I’m told I’m not alone

in this and I’d like to think of someone
else sitting in the blue dark sipping tea
holding the warmth of a bloomed flower.

The Fallibility of the Lyric (after Czeslaw Milosz) / by Doug Van Gundy 

1.

The naked house shivers, having forgotten its last coat
of paint and takes five short steps to the front lawn.
On the steps sits a woman in pajama bottoms

and a black tank-top smoking one generic cigarette after
another, her knees drawn tight to her chest against
the unseasonable chill. The sun is lingering

low over the mountains, unable to summon the strength
to get all the way up yet. In the extended remix
of the dawn, she waves a little wave, says hey

to a passing jogger who, earbuds blossoming inside his
head, doesn’t notice her and doesn’t wave back.

2.

This is a poem and a lie. The house wasn’t naked, although
its paint was peeling and it was generally run down.
Also, I don’t know how many steps there were.

The woman was wearing pajama bottoms, but they were
black, not the tank top. The tank top was white,
which just sounded better when I wrote it.

The sun came up as normal and the cigarettes were Marlboros.
I was the jogger and obviously noticed this woman
as she appears in the poem. Also, I didn’t jog.

I waved right back and was touched by her friendliness.
On the way home I stopped to take a few photos
of wild clematis threading a backyard fence. 

Cow sounds of quiet / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Some places are so quiet, you are forced
to consider all the noise you make in this world
and the space your sound takes up.
Along Colorado County Road 12 South,

there are fewer vehicles than cattle.
Cows stand, leery of my presence,
as I approach their fence, their low,
the reminder of voice amidst

a growing rush of breeze through
aspen leaves. Past the power lines,
the sun goes down behind the mountains,
the garden pink coloring in of blue,

the blackening in of day. We climb
to the top of our camper, voyeurs
to the sky disrobing, leaving the glory
of all its stars, one shoots across the night

as if movement were its scream.
If all of my words, sounds, and lullabies
landed on the earth instead of floating
through sound waves,

how much space would they take?
Would all the words be the same size?
Perhaps we talk so much because we believe
the amount of words equals the size of us.

If people are moved by my sounds,
my laughter, my sorrow-filled moans,
do those resonances take up more space?
Do we measure sound

or the emotion evoked by words?
Here, cows call out into the night,
a speak I relish, though
it is unfamiliar to me in my silence.

Poem 6 / Day 6

As sequel / by Louise Akers  

For some while longing,
no single horizon remains distinct.
Science toppled
/pummeled into patience
becomes torture.

The self retreats to the position of hell,
which I don’t find very brave, despite its warmth.

As for dying, I know you.
We will live,
patiently as taxonomical strangers,
losing all reality as sequel
to your silence. 

Costume (2): the mask / by Lucia Galloway 

Half my face masked, I danced in the rain:
more than one way to romance a puddle.
But the gloss of my eyes revealed the pain:
half my face masked, I must dance in the rain.
The glaze on wet flagstones reminds me I’m sane:
lines to write, my cat to cuddle.
Half my face masked to dance in the rain?
More than one way to romance a puddle.

What Chief Plenty Coups Might Have Said / by DJ Hill 

Muted winds sweep across
prairie plains, rustling
coppery bones of ancestral
spirits dwelling in air

Pristine waters christen
chaste souls, yet untouched
by war or age or time
a holy crucible

Delicate blossoms inhabit
native fields with an earthen
palette of maize, cerulean, blood red
gifts of grandmother earth

But storm clouds gather
darkened spirits, harbingers
of arrows and spears, cast
from one born free of fear

Tribal remains cannot be silenced
nor the will of their god erased
the raven will return to redeem
that which the white man tried to take

Dedicated to my grandmother Beatrice Sliter Kreis, a missionary to the
Crow Indians from 1910-1912, and to her daughter-my mother Margaret-
who continues to share the stories of Chief Plenty Coups. 

Nothing is far away / by Raki Kopernik 

I dreamed winter came overnight the day after shorts and bugs howling in roasting sun.
An icy wind that freeze-dries bones
pushed into my sinuses
drying and cracking the skin of my face lips lids.

We put on parkas and heavy scarves and talked about how unbelievable it was that winter had come so quickly.
A tint of gray and the junior high school I grew up across the street from
glossing my vision
blurring my access to calm.

I wasn’t ready and I’m still not ready and I’ll never be ready but
I can’t think it away
which is just a bummer.

Bathing / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Once a year, us Catholics are reminded
You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
But after Adam—not to mention Eve—
we really weren’t sculpted, breathed to life.

Instead, we swam inside our mothers’ wombs,
swaddled by currents, adrift in the murky waters
of the makings of life. We floated and grew,
oblivious, until the dam broke us free.

Now, water holds a certain kind of silence.
Sixty percent of us comes home in a pool,
the ocean, a trendy hotel’s clawfoot tub.
Floating, alone with the breath in our ears,

we come to whatever quiet we’ve been avoiding
out there in the hot air of our day-to-day:
some grandfatherly ghost, bobbing, bucket-hatted,
blesses our mutinous hopes for overcoming

whatever bad habits are keeping us unable
to satisfy our thirst. A homecoming can be a welcome
reckoning, if we stay still and breathe steadily 
long enough to keep ourselves afloat. 

Pandemic Perfection / by Kindra McDonald  

We stand in the garden where my love grew
up knee deep in dirt and native plants

the air full of fritillaries having their own parade
waving bannered wings and conducting a choir

of bees, my mother-in-law raises pollinators
and earthworms, every green and fruiting thing

for them to feed on and dance twirling pollen
from pistil to stamen and all around us common

milkweed, Asclepias, from the Greek god of medicine
seeds split and parachute in wind and we kneel to examine

the underside of each leaf, finding monarch eggs so small
they could pass through the eye of a needle

we thread our lives together and every summer we repeat
this ritual and finally something feels normal, this cycle

is still egg to caterpillar to chrysalis
to wings drying in the sun

we grasp these newly hatched
monarchs like lifting grains of sand

look for the two blacks spots of the male
which you hold, I check mine, pray they’ll mate

little lights beating orange on our wrists
you have three weeks, you have this launch

and loft, you have this time only now of flutter
breath, this night on a jumpy video I hold in my hand

I watch my nephew heart beating, down
on one knee, ask the question

she turns towards him all sun and nectar
still joy, this yes, this delight in future
in tomorrow, in tomorrow

A Saturday in 1974 / by Doug Van Gundy  

Early on a mid-September morning,
after the first truly cool night of fall
I climb into my grandfather’s red truck
to lend a hand with the weekend errands.

My job is to play the music he likes
and ride along to keep him company.
Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn flow
from 8-track tapes and AM radio.

The vents blow out a summer’s-worth of dust
when grandpap turns the heat on in the cab.
That smell joins with the scent of aftershave,
3-in-1 oil and his breakfast cigar.

The first stop is the Scottdale hardware store
for palaver and sixteen-penny nails.
The one we bring home in brown paper bags,
the other lives repeated on our lips.

Next, we swing by the house of an old friend,
George Kyle, for cups of coffee and to get
back a set of wrenches borrowed sometime
neither one of them can quite remember.

It couldn’t matter less. they’re the excuse
for our visit today, not the reason,
We leave an hour later with a pie
that Ethel’s made, but without the wrenches.

One last stop at Walt’s corner grocery
to buy the chipped ham that will be our lunch.
This is his routine every single week.
I love it when I get to ride along. 

Candida Auris / by Liza Wolff-Francis  

Imagine the earth
as a forested world
mammals hidden in caves,
behind trees, while dinosaurs
roam, until the asteroid hit
and there was no sun. Layer
upon layer of impact, bodies
decomposing, mushroom bloom.
Fungi that blended into earth’s
cooler temperatures,
but now approaches.

People eat three times a day
to keep warm, stay at 98.6 degrees.
We have advanced immunity.
Part of being a mammal
is being able to fend off fungi.
Our heat protects us,
keeps fungi out of our systems,
but we are making it easier
for fungus to come for us
because our body temperature
is declining, because the earth
temperature is increasing.

Degree by degree, the fungi adapts
to heat, to find the right temp
to survive, survival of the fittest
the baby sprouts that thrive,
survive in the body of a human.

My son turns a screwdriver
to hear a noise over and over again,
waits for me to respond, talks
as if there was no time left,
as if every word were important, desperate,
as if he has learned science,
as if the numbers of hot days are rising,
degree by degree, the fungi adapting.
My son knows these things deep inside,
can hear the spores waiting to blossom
in an ever-warmer world.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Untitled II / by Louise Akers 

There
are animals in here we’ve forgotten
the
names of.
There
are pews,
and
pews by the aisles filled
with
prayerful and longing
animals
whose names
escape
us.
What
night was it we
named
them, gave them
futures,
called toward
them
hope? I feel
exhausted
by the effort
to
remember each and everygiven
name.
I want to close my eyes,
puddle down,
lower the pulpit from under
my
exhausted body.
I
ask one
to
repeat herself, her name.
She
answers, “jaguar.”
She
answers, “bat.”

I feel myself falling / by Kris Bigalk 

out of flower,
petals dripping off,
scenting the table
below, centers
black veined.

I feel my
stem, my neck
bending under
the weight of
my heavy head.
I droop, crest-
fallen leaves drying
into coiled,
crunchy
dead
things.

That’s what
happens when you’re cut
off from the roots,
when your only
light is
the sun knocking
on the cloudy window
so loudly that
you spend yourself
to crane
your neck
and twist around
towards her,
knowing it’s
your last
goodbye. 

Costume (1): the tee shirt / by Lucia Galloway 

Each morning you select from the closet rack
the costume you’re destined to wear.
Somehow it’s fun to kinda keep track
each morn of what you select from the rack:
your favorite jeans, then a tee from the stack
folded neatly by crisis, its slogan quite clear.
Each day of each year you’ll choose from the rack
of the costumes you’re destined to wear.

Garden Slug Rejects Drowning in NA Beer / by DJ Hill 

Or at least that’s what I told myself, seeing the nibbled
edges in an otherwise glossy, neon leaf, beer bait untouched
One stayed out too late, the sun already breaking horizon
his opaque body clinging to the pockmarked tendrils

I had suspected the culprit was an earwig, a conundrum
of cryptic species, aka Pincer Bugs, do they really pinch?
But the two bodies bore no resemblance, as the leaves browned
then dropped, a tell-tale sign the clematis was doomed

An Australian once ate a diseased slug on a dare,
there the slimy slug slinked across the patio; blokes chugged
Little Creatures while Sam gulped the wretched mollusk
down, lapsing into a coma for 420 days before death

“I love you,” the last words spoken to his mother
While just last month a virus walked into a bar, lifted a glass
to 16 friends, exhaled plumes of garlic, curry, and alcohol, the spittle
of a super emitter, slinking away unscathed to another party

Unharmed, that same slug ignores the Becks, the absence of hops
Hungrily grinds his way up the trellis. “No more 3/2 beer,” I murmur
“Time to serve up the Brewdog, 41% ABV, guaranteed to leave slugs
staggering”. Still safer than a beer in a bar in the summer of 2020.

Untitled / by Raki Kopernik 

Nostalgia comforts fear
cradles broken hearts hugs younger days remembers

time before the dictator (this time around)
gave permission to hate how

sad and hollow his body must feel
how badly he needs a violent cry

when violence is the only way he knows
how to be loved

too bad that’s not love
too bad his anger doesn’t crack his chest

Abcedarian on Migration / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Any small town has the same inferiority complex: just
because you live here, doesn’t mean you belong.
Coupled with the bad reputation—probably
deserved—of the undergraduate hoards, and
even infiltrating the Baltimore service scene, or
figuring out latte-art-single-origin lingo hasn’t
got you prepared for the bartenders’ disinterested
Hellos in North Central Florida’s most well-known swamp.
I’m a sucker for hometown arrogance,
just enough inherited pride to bitch about your origins,
know the right place to order the good chicken, and
love the hell out of the view from a certain stretch of U.S. 441.
Mismatched artisan murals, fringe socialists, and
new cocktail bars with tiki drinks round
out the landscape of this identity-crisised
petite metropole. After the first October, I
quit pining for flaming maples,
reflecting on the sheer quantity of green,
Spanish moss dripping from every oak,
totally engulfing me in oxygenated lushness,
ubiquitous, primitive, and bold.
Vegetative majesty doesn’t totally excuse the unbearable
weather, cultural desert of minimal theatrical releases,
xenophobia (see above), the two-hour drive for an Ikea desk. Still,
you’re better off making peace with it, the particular
Zen, deep breaths of marshy prairie air, and calling it home.

The Farmer’s Almanac Predicts a Cold Winter / by Kindra McDonald 

So do my apples with their tough skins and the sweet
corn with its thick husk, all the collected nuts
from summer squirrels, a Carolina Wren who returns
each year to nest in the corners of my porch

right now, September is second summer, Hell’s back
deck and shaking hands is over, so is the elbow bump
a 90 degree angle that catches our sneeze and cradles
our cough. I narrowly dodge a bear hug from a friend

I hadn’t seen in months, so warm was his smile and arms
outstretched I almost forgot to duck and weave away
I so missed his barrel chest, his grandfather scruff
and aftershave. I no longer fall asleep to the Norfolk-Southern

trains or wake to airport noise. It’s easier now to hear birds
and cicadas shaking loose from their shells. I wonder if I could
build a bunk bed in the shed, make it a Tiny Home all shabby chic
and lose an hour following a trail of ants to the remnants of a cherry

sucker still packaged and dissolved from the heat. I once kept a giant
ring pop on my nightstand, licked it sticky every morning. Goodnight Moon
I’ll love you forever, Rainbow Fish. I am paralyzed by the thought of calling
my mom only to realize she has died. I walk to the edge of a cliff, to the rail

of a bridge and hear myself whispering me over. This city’s mermaids
sparkle, splash, don flowers, and parade on every postcard and mural
in the park I find a ripped tent, a cat, an open book of hymns. In a closet
full of dresses I never wear, I rustle the ruffles and tulle to hear them swish

and straps spaghetti thin slide from hangers, I abandon them for uniforms
and paper masks. I spend too much time hoping Alex Trebek is not dying
and I’m angry that the heat index is 106 and the leaves are not falling
and above me the arc of geese are returning home and I believe

there will be snow this winter.

When I was a Funambulist / by Doug Van Gundy  

I walked everywhere
as if walking on a 3-centimeter cable
a hundred meters
above the ground.

I wore deerskin moccasins
hand-sewn so as to touch every surface
of my soles at all times
when properly laced.

Each night before bed
I would soak and scrub my feet
to prevent calluses;
I had to feel the wire.

The word for my profession
doesn’t come from it being fun, it comes
from the Latin funis – rope
and abulare – to walk.

I was serious and dedicated
to my art, but don’t be misled
by the etymology:
it was wonderful fun.

Sometimes, in the middle
of a successful routine, I’d stand mid-span for minutes
imagining the ground below me
littered with those who’d failed.

My treehouse / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The tree that holds this hideaway
has spindly fingers that round up

creativity in a time of fallow.
I play with the qwerty effect,

only typing words with my right hand,
to see if anything might be true

about the positivity of letters
like l, m, n, o, p. I type out

words that seem plain, like:
milk, jump, mingling, lull.

How positive is each word?
There are also words like

ugly, piggy, kill, lump, bullying
that splayed out are not elegant.

Hope without an e is hop.
Love without an e doesn’t exist.

I never realized how important an e is.
Treehouse and tree are left-hand words.

Are then, these words from the left side
of the keyboard negative?

Up here, hawks bring me word magnets
in the curve of their beaks, to throw

at a metal wall, try to make sense
of all we could say. My right hand

dances across the keys, tries
to find the playful spinning kinetic

of wind in leaves, the slight sway
of trunk and branch, the buzz

of bees on hot summer days,
the answers that come

from being at a height,
how we might believe

a tree cares nothing about us
when we care deeply about it

without ever saying so.
Without an e, does it even exist?

The hope
of us listening to each other
is slipping, pulled down by gravity.

Poem 4 / Day 4

In light of doubt / by Louise Akers 

“Not all light
comes just for you,”
she said. Sortilege
compounds the practical
evidence, e.g., blast
traces or the voluminous
archive bearing, in translation,
her expert testimony.

“Facts become
evidence when offered
in support of a claim.”
The positivist would degrade
a site to find
first fault, if,
in fact, its explanation
only satisfies believers (je m’en
rapporte a Dieu.)

In light of doubt concerning
the ablative of angels,
the non-believer cannot be satisfied.
In lieu of material
recreation, he must settle
for a reconciliation.

Poem for You / by Kris Bigalk 

Last night I dreamed that you and I lived on the same gravel road,
our farms a few miles apart. I could see your small white house
and big red barn when I stood at the end of my driveway.
It was late summer, and the goldenrod had just burst out
like yellow paintbrushes waving in the grassy ditch.
After supper, I found an old red plaid wool blanket,
tucked it under my arm, and walked to your house,
listening to the gravel crunching under my feet,
the mechanical twang of cicadas, the squawks
of red-winged blackbirds that fluttered around me
when I came too close to their nests in the ditch.
You were waiting for me on your porch, with
two bottles of beer. We walked further, to the
top of the highest hill, and sat on the red plaid blanket,
drank the beer, and watched the sun set on the
ocean of golden fields, the wind stroking up waves
as if it were the fingers of God, and every so often,
the cool wind broke over our heads, tousling our hair.
I don’t remember us saying anything. It felt right
to be silent with you, to know that words couldn’t hold
this kind of beauty, how even just the act of speaking
would defile the moment, how we knew, as we inhabited it,
that this was a poem we could never transcribe.

When Time was the Map of Ourselves: A Book of Hours / by Lucia Galloway 

I am a woman of leaf-stir, footfall, swish and rustle
whose evenings, for a while, still lengthen
into a summer twilight like the feast time
after Edvard Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.
I’m wedded to marching chords with melodies
that dance above, not to tease but stay the course
within dusk’s darkening rooms, reflecting panes.

Mornings I read poems by Neruda, Larkin, Ocean Vuong—
his thundering apples, the horse and piano in a field.
An asphalt trail twins a concrete creek bed where I
stop to glimpse a pinto outlined against the dark
of its stable door, linger outside the bird sanctuary
where jays, quail, a dove or two argue over scattered seed.

Noontimes I surprise mallards in a pond.
A drake and his mate wrinkle the surface
as they navigate among water lilies’ leaf-pads.
What is it about the quiet waters
where turtles drowse on out-cropped stone?
Nothing better, unless it’s a mountain stream,
its din carried on cool air, it waters swiping,
varnishing giant rocks.

Evenings I share my husband with a Bechstein grand—
husband playing Grieg while I cook supper,
my knife paring carrot, slicing radish.
Midsummer light caresses onion, garlic
as arpeggios brush translucent skins.
Notes spill onto chopping boards and collude
with the simmer of sauce to dress pasta that whooshes
from kettle to colander in a flood, a fog of steam.

*Quotations from Ocean Vuong are lines from his poems “A Little Closer to the Edge” and “Queen Under the Hill,”
Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

van-i-tas / by DJ Hill 

                                                                      noun. a still-life painting of a 17th-century Dutch genre
                                                                     containing symbols of death or change as a reminder of
                                                                     their inevitability

Yellowed peels mask blackened nub
Bruised orbs ferment and stain
Beauty mellowed by flaccid spots
We, proffered a short shelf life

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Green can spoil the whole bunch
How soon appears the rot
But we all come to this, don’t we

Domestication thwarts fruit, so don’t
Upset the proverbial cart, no bearing tree
Immune, expect worms, if you crave
Spring, shake the tree, when ripe gives way

Is it true apples are always eaten
By nasty pigs in a poke, spoke of platitudes
Spurned by blossoms, decaying fruit
Clings to branch, unable to escape the fall

mark the edges / by Raki Kopernik 

we’re not outlined in thick black
like comic strips
our lines are thin erasable number two pencil
our edges vulnerable to the outside of a hand smudge

I’ve started carrying around a black sharpie
keeping my lines tight
a panoply
impenetrable
severe
all the edges clear
all the boundaries filled in

extremes create change
the balance of antagonism unyielding always
but beauty will arrive to even things out
and heavy lines
can be seen from a distance

Us / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for Sasha
after Les Murray’s The Cows on Killing-Day

She came alone to the Cage-Place,
smelling Rain-Sad.
I sat Good-Still when She petted me
in the Go-Home room,
knowing She needed me
to come home with her.

I learned how to pet She
in the Scared-Dark.
Our windows let Outside in
and I slept next to She
to keep us warm. I stayed
Good-Still until Day-Bright.

After we moved to Stairs-House,
She adopted Mr. He, too;
I wondered which Cage-Place
he escaped to find us.
She smelled Safe-Sweet after
a while. I kept them both warm.

One day, we went in Moving-Box
to a new Big-House. I slept
next to Hot-Winds and when I woke,
She and Mr. He were gone.
I kept looking, but I only found
Wise-She and Big-Man,

and Ancient-Lady, who smelled
Rain-Sad, so I started sleeping
on her lap. Big-House had Outside,
where I could catch Day-Bright
in my fur. I wished I could tell
She how Safe-Sweet we all smelled.

When I die I want to be buried in a mushroom suit / by Kindra McDonald 

The days of rain stop suddenly
and mushrooms appear overnight
in the toppled trees, in the waterlogged
woods, marshy and ripe with rot

my eyes become sharp and trained
spotting lion’s mane and lobster
leaning in to inspect the gills tender
lamella releasing spores like smoke

in the September woods after summer’s
last sigh, mushrooms bloom on all that dies
and having spent the summer learning
how to tell a grape vine, from a trumpet,
Virginia Creeper from coral honeysuckle

streaks of greenbrier thorn still raw on my cheek
I want to know these mushrooms like family
like my child I could pick in a crowd anywhere
from the back of her head, the curve of his ear
so I get down on my knees, press my palms

to the mud, scan the ground for morels and black trumpets
breathing in this smell, the duff and pine, the decay
and the life, until it has all soaked through me, my damp
skin, my body so still a wood beetle crawls up my arm

I find the ridges of turkey tail, the crimson of cinnabar
chantarelle and the closer I look, the more green I see
everything teeming. Between life and death the mushrooms
are crossing guards, as if they had yellow vests, a whistle
and orange waving flags; hello stump, mud snake,
opossum, right this way. I lay my head down

now, I lay me down, not to ash, dust and teeth
grave wax and nylon threads, but on September
soil, hen of the woods, oyster, honey— home.

Fable / by Doug Van Gundy 

Not long after her mother died, she began hearing music
in the walls from time to time. Neither she nor her mother
were particularly musical, nor particularly fond of music.
They loved gardening, Mexican food and binge-watching
detective shows late into the night. They were comfortably
widowed for more than fifteen years, living together
in her childhood home. Now, she was alone for the first time
in her life. And hearing distant music in the quietest moments.
It came in fits and starts, unfinished quilt-squares of melody
muffled by the wainscoting. Finally, one Thursday
in the hours before dawn, she took a clawhammer
from the toolbox and pried the beadboard from the wall.
The music grew a little louder, then stopped. She tapped
the plaster, tentatively at first, then hard enough to break
through. Upright in the dead space between the wall studs
was an alligator-skin fiddle case. With her two hands,
she pulled away enough wallboard to bring it out onto the floor.
Opening the case gently, she found it lined in red velvet,
and containing, not a violin, but dozens of unopened letters,
tied up in blue grosgrain ribbon, and addressed to her mother
from a name she’d never heard. 

How to Harvest, Prepare and Eat a Tuna Fruit / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The unknown is always
one fruit away. Tuna fruit,
prickly pear, cactus growth,
the red ones, sweetest,
covered in splinter hair glochids.
Things we don’t understand
we may perceive to be dangerous.

Glochids will prick bare fingers:
the protective intelligence of fruit.
Cactus parent may find the most
unlikely place to connect to earth.
We are all connected through
blood lines, through flowers,
under the same desert sun.

Harvest a tuna with grace and love
and gloves, thick ones. No one
mentions the things cactus parents
have seen over the years, quiet things.
Grip the fruit with tongs over
an open flame, burn the glochids off,
leave blackened spots.

Slice a quarter inch
off the top, then lengthwise,
pull back the skin with your fingers.
All that has come before us
is inside of us. Pull the skin off,
down to the pear-shaped
core. It is impossible to hold on

to the way things were.
The seeds are too hard to chew,
but can be swallowed, spit out
or strained. The reach of a plant
beyond its splinters, a fruit beyond
its skin. We must live long enough
to taste what comes from harvest.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

I.
Let me appear angel
‘til I become—‘til it requires effort
and movement between scales thus to assemble
here, a comprehensive body
of evidence that I exist. And you,
whom I think of—who also exist—endeavor to confine
all murder to its shape, and the rage you wake to every morning
to dreams about your parents.

II.
And to transform
is to feel pain. And to relent,
I think, is to allow the parentGod to own
success in you, and/or the other maniacs
in your name. And to succeed is
to distinguish absence
from circumlocution. And to relapse
is to see your absence as purgation rather
than annihilation.

This Poem / by Kris Bigalk 

This poem didn’t wake up this morning
and scan Twitter for the outrage of the day.
This poem didn’t like any posts on Facebook.
Well, it’s not that it didn’t like them, but
it didn’t click on “like”, “love”, “angry”, “care”, or “sad”
because this poem remembers when
those emotions used to take place in person,
when it was impossible to have thousands
of friends and keep everyone straight,
when ears weren’t plugged with headphones.
This poem remembers a time when,
if you saw someone talking to themselves
as they walked down the street, you wondered
if they were right in the head, especially
if they were throwing their hands around
and laughing hysterically.

This poem remembers when we really listened
to each other for hours instead of seconds,
when we occupied space together
even when it was uncomfortable.
Especially then.

This poem remembers what it was like
to look into someone’s eyes for ten whole minutes
and fall in love all over again. It remembers
spending hours in bed without any notifications
of the idiocy of the world.

This poem is listening to the world scream
because we are all starving for the attention,
the love, the vanity, the importance
we lavish on blue-lit screens, wondering
why we feel so alone.

This poem wants to sit in that loneliness with you.
Then, this poem wants you to leave it on the table,
go outside,
breathe the air, as if taking
your first breath again,
searing and hot and light. Go,
this poem says, go –
re-enter your life.

Better Door than Window / by Lucia Galloway 

Perfect for a postcard image:
the stark oblongs of O’Keefe’s painting
filling the card’s 6×4 dimensions.
I’ve seen this painting, its stately rectangles
reminiscent of an entryway: threshold,
frosted windowpane, scrolled cornice
arched above.
Door of many possibilities,
proclaims my friend who sent it. But I look for
the picture’s title—partly obscured by the smudge
of my postal code—Lake George Window 1929.
The possibilities must have been stark, seen
through O’Keefe’s window in 1929:
men and women out of work, waiting
in bread lines for something to feed themselves,
their children.
You make a better door than window,
we were fond of quipping, as kids, to someone
obstructing our view, our exit, our way.
Which one of us, now, would not prefer to find
a door through which to exit, hoping to enter
a space more neighborly, its people breathing,
listening, singing, feasting.
Instead, our pane’s opaque and viewless. Deprived,
we’re unsettled, almost frantic to see through.
How to bear this absence of a future?

Tiny Boxes / by DJ Hill 

Salt pepper done / by Raki Kopernik 

The days chaos overrides anywhere but the porch – step off and you are in the lava it’s too hot it’s too
deep it swallows you whole gulp gulp – the days you leave but shouldn’t have, don’t panic don’t
panic don’t panic just get home quick back into the bubble of sweet cat face ripe cherry’s hot on the
vine dark greens moving slo-mo in the breeze, nostalgic music from childhood TLC Black Sabbath
REM, quiet trees shhh-ing your anxiety, your wife making coffee and toasted bagels with cream
cheese, thin mandolined cucumber and tomatoes, too salty capers, salt pepper done.

The days you realize if it all went down and you were the only one left on earth, you your wife your
cat your house, life wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe better even.

Between Us / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for J.A.M. 

Between us there’s ten summers worth of days
spent looking for trouble, chasing neighbor boys
while the B-side of Abbey Road played on

repeat and juicing lemons in your hair,
playing at being grown and make-believing
ourselves free from the stifling tedium

of endless suburban July. We grew together
and into ourselves, distinct, and circled back
to some less careless kind of love, dinners

and wine, husbands and hors d’oeuvres, more mutual
dislikes than likes, a glut of inside jokes
that sidle up to truth but don’t quite land.

I love you when you laugh so hard you cry
and crave our well-worn shorthand when I’m forced
to work at knowing someone new and long

to return to when we weren’t afraid of hills
or cartwheeling with boys, when everything
was possible, unsaid, and understood.

Les Freres Extraordinaires / by Kindra McDonald 

I believe all mothers
grow eyes in the back
of their head, somewhere
between the third trimester
and birth, the sclera form
then pupils and iris
and upon the severing
of an umbilical cord
the dome of the cornea
focusing light and love
sharp and clear
so that wherever
her children are
she can see them
when she bows
her head to pray
blinks or dreams
of extraordinary
calamities she can
prevent.

Lucky / by Doug Van Gundy 

My people crawled up from underground, birthed
into the failing sun of West Virginia and Western
Pennsylvania six days a week, eyes blinking, even in dim
winter, adjusting to a light brighter than the one still burning
on their own forehead. Every house in every little town
walking distance from work, every white frame house facing out
onto an undulating brick street, each household focused
on the mine or the mill: coal and glass, coal and steel, coal
in the furnace, in the cookstove, ground into the knees and elbows
of sweat-stained work clothes, everything underlaid
by that prehistoric heat. They’d come from coal-country Scotland,
trading the pit for the deep mine, a monoculture for a melting-pot,
one back-breaking job for another that was usually the same.
Sometimes somebody died. Sometimes a broken back or snapped femur
was called lucky. Saturday nights they went dancing at the Moose
or Elks. Sundays they were starched Presbyterians, skin scrubbed
bathtub pink. Monday morning, they were back in the earth
before daybreak, the lucky among them resurrected
in time for supper.

Activist voice / by Liza Wolff-Francis 
              Inspired by Environmental Activist Lauren Maunus 

Just a slight-stutter-white-girl
in the wind, brought up by Florida’s demons,
her neighbors calling them by name
Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.
But nobody gave thought to middle-naming them
no formality to sit them down,
put them in their place.

Up against the slanted rain, holed-up
in her lost electricity, this girl sees the fear-eyed,
stripped houses, how the flooded people spit
at the aftermath, with salt drenched lips.
While across the tracks, they lost food,
roofs, their grandmothers. Roofs
sounds like rooves flown blown all over the place.

The sweat still comes, the snakes
trying to get their ground, the trees
who made it through, their spines drenched and bent.
Upturned drowned cars bobbing down
the new-made river and dead when they land.
This girl knows these storms like gymnasiums
packed with families whose babies

cry right next to each other,
a staccato of angst, mouthfuls of debris.
Still, there is an unspoken gesture
of helplessness about the earth.
All the weather maps come together,
try to exorcise the next demon,
Naming it again, as if naming it

might make it kinder, might help it forget
we birthed it and all its brothers and sisters to come.
The body of the mother, worn.
This girl grown, opens her mouth like a storm
before more storms take us, all at once,
parched and drowned. As if the palm trees,
the rivers, the air, would miss us at all.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Daughtergod / by Louise Akers 

I thought success,
rumbling and vestigial might displace
that famous
inner restlessness of yours. How false.
How incomplete!, and this time bleeding—
stinking—hotly from the ground
up.

I was thinking of that girl, Daughtergod,
the inexpugnable,
perpetually in a kind of
recapitulation
of puberty—Greet the one
in unreal despair.

I am much more
patient than my appearance
suggests,
my wolfish side—
my private life
is going downhill, fast
with Latin
phrases, parents dreaming
inflected language, full
and forgetful genetives. You derived
a memory
from my bleeding which it never
really contained.

Havens / by Kris Bigalk

I pressed cloves into an orange
until it was a prickled brown bomb.
I threaded a ribbon through it
with a darning needle. After
this violence, I tied the ribbon
around the closet rod. My hands
smelled like Christmas. I closed
the door behind me and entered
the plush dark. The rabbit fur coat
stroked my cheek as I pressed past it
to sit on the floor, next to shoe boxes.

There was a tree, a blue spruce,
behind all the other trees
at the edge of the corn field.
Its needles were so, so blue,
so fragrant. They made a blue
and brown blanket under the lowest
branches. When I curled around
the trunk, the wind tousled
the tops of the nearby maples,
and every so often, a few needles
would fall like feathers onto my face.

I had a flat roof
and a window that opened
just enough so I could crawl out
and sit there, on the sepia shingles.
I could see the entire town, I could
stay above it all. On August nights,
in the heat, I sat there naked,
watching the stars fall.

Tears / by Lucia Galloway  

My tears water succulents on my window sills.

My tears salt my bathwater.

My tears hide in the spaces between piano keys.

They take up residence in my left arm.

They wait under fingernails, disdain plastic gloves.

My tears sign up for Wine of the Month.

My tears reserve opera tickets for La Boehme.

They binge watch Little Women on Hulu.

They order embroidered, heirloom hankies from Ebay.

My tears register to vote.

My tears pour themselves out for the children in cages.

My tears want to march under banners that shout BLM.

Say their names! my tears cry.

My tears warn me to hydrate, Drink lots of water so we don’t run dry.  

The Next Stage / by DJ Hill  

It starts early, suckers
Cars idling in drive-thru
Tubes vaporizing
Currency before your eyes

Hello Kitty—
Open your pretty purse
Let me see your stash
Coins collating into cash

Hey little girl, come on
Over, watch your money
Grow, it doesn’t on trees
His voice saccharine sweet

Soon your curved bumpers
Park in the lot, the suits
Ask if you want it
Free checking, no strings

Attached, you’re not
Except to freedom and fast
Cars, boys on hot summer
Nights, don’t sweat it

Teenagers don’t wait
They want it now, cash
Cards to feed into slots
How easy to give in

But get yourself
Protection, much needed
Attention, credit is
King.

smooshed / by Raki Kopernik 

drink too many Campari cocktails and
dance to def leppard cassettes in the kitchen
hysteria when you’re near

then panic cry when the high falls into
folds of the pillow case
when you wake up and it wasn’t a dream

profess your love too much
way too much
love denser
the only preserve
it’s easier to be nice

then drink too much coffee and
push against it hard
wrap your house in blazing armor
scream so your chest burns like a fire swallower
cry again release that shit out

do joy fuck eat love
do all the joy
again again
love burlier
sandwich everything together
all of it all at once
smooshed

Sustenance / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer

Where would you go, J. said, leaning precariously close to the nearly drowned peace lily at the top of the porch stairs. What would you eat? I thought about oysters on a cracker house porch, frozen pearls of mignonette sparkling in brine. Artisanal pizza, maybe, the kind he hates and I always order, doused in arugula and funky cheese, eaten at a red-bricked neighborhood bar where we impersonate regulars. 3 am Korean food on Maryland Ave, or noodles from the place with the good Szechuan in Squirrel Hill. I considered saying, any beachfront sports bar, mediocre beer infused with salt air and steamed peel-and-eat we purposefully burn our fingers on. I’d sit with you in the corner of some hotel bar, ducking under the paper snowflakes to share your $18 cheeseburger, toasting another holiday survived. We could fight for bites of the piping hot pepperoni roll in the front seat of our little car, hunkered down against the sleet freezing on the wipers. These days, we get mail-order sausages, make traditional Passover brisket, eat ice cream sundaes every day for a week. The hot fudge almost tastes right. Remember the roadside tuna in Corolla? I ask, and you nod, eyes closed against the grimy, late-summer light. This is how we survive these hungry months, nibbling scant provisions from places we used to go.

All of the animals I have seen this summer come to visit / by Kindra McDonald 

All of the animals I have seen this summer come to visit

In the dunes, the coyote ambles in shadow, looks up, sniffs and lopes over the sand. The same
day my grandmother died I saw a fox, patient and still at the end of the cul-de-sac watching.
The bobcat was blur and ear tufts and stub tail, it leapt in my path and vanished.

When the rabbits arrived I said come in, come in, slow your beating hearts, your twitching nose
and nervous paws, do not startle at the sound of sobbing. Let me make you a plate, all berries and
garnish.

I will drink lemongrass tea, you will slurp broth of carrots and celery. I will serve you all of the
things I can grow, if you stay. The snakes turn the soil, make it fertile and dark. The tops of the
beet fronds, don’t ever discard, I’ll sauté for the turtles who’ll dine by the moon.

The egret will roost in the rafters, the herons will hover and dive, deliver bullfrogs and bluegill
each night. Come in, coyote. Why would I run from you? Especially now, when I’ve been all
alone. See my face is bare, the breath you feel, I swear, is clean, and these tears just keep my
teapot full. I am happy, I whisper in your fur. Even if my lips tremble it’s just my muscle
memory forgetting how to smile. I will practice.

Bobcat and Barred Owl unravel all the yarn from my scarves, take my sweaters, stay up all night
chasing mice. Have you eaten, Gray Fox? (This is how I greet all visitors now). Come, let me
make you a plate of wild garlic and soft boiled eggs deconstructed, yolk and albumen divided on
a plate of bone china with a hand-painted forest scape.

It is a small thing to share a meal. How much more will I know you, when I watch you eat
with pleasure what I’ve made with my hands. Will you stay? If it means I must carve
my own heart into morsels, lay it in a path like breadcrumbs from your den, I would do it,

again and again.

Late Summer, West Virginia / Doug Van Gundy 

In the dark of the moon, summer sounds
and winter sounds collide outside my window:
below, bullfrogs bellow in the muddy river, above
katydids stridulate in the twisted limbs of oaks,
higher still, skeins of geese honk southward.
Somewhere, a screech owl laughs and cries at once.

In morning that follows, I can see the day
lilies are spent, their green blades gone brown,
collapsed under their withering weight.
Cardinals bully the finches that bully
the sparrows that bully the house wrens
at the backyard feeder. Someone has left
a sack of tomatoes inside the screen door.

PE at home in the new school year / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The head of a dead deer
hangs over the fireplace, its antlers
like hands reaching out. My son
builds Legos atop the deep orange
designs on the rug. He will do anything
but schoolwork. At the wooden table,
on an iPad, my mother, his grandmother,
a cheerleader, entreating him to join her,
plays his homework dance video.
The couch pillow colors are more animated
than he is about this song, this rhythm.
I am so tired of having the same argument
about every class. This one is not even
about math or science or reading,
it’s about dancing, being joyous.
My mother, in her seventies, laughs
as she follows the moves
of the cartoon dancer. My son ignores her,
plays with his toys. The ceilings
are tall above him, ones he cannot reach.
I know he misses the gym, his teachers,
chasing his friends around the school
for mileage club. Before the moon rises,
he will cry and shake and we will beg him
to do his work and no one
will feel good about any of this.
He used to be the shimmer
of bird wings over an open field.
There is a window with a view
of a changing sky. I breathe into it.
The song keeps playing, the cartoon figure
dances, the deer watches,
its antlers grasping.

Poem 1 / Day 1

A perfect set / by Louise Akers 

What I’m saying is
look at August as an opposite
infinity. There will be
an endless drain of time to hover
over zero, to warm
or reckon in either direction,
e.g. which pool
stinks worse, which afterward
resumes.

I am impatient to observe
the total
aboveboard, to study birds
through boards,
flocked over the water
I spend my life confronting.

My patience has already collapsed
under the wet
heat of the year. Slunk back
under the wood/un-
signifying forum, I won’t wait
too much longer this time—opposing risks
of static ecumenism.

Then, there will be heat in that
forum; there will be water
dripping down from every aspen board
in the ceiling. I’ll level out,
and resurrect: one.

Now, I hear the spitting fumerole below
and the welcome thrust
in our number
and the thought of those birds
arriving south with us
later on.

I remember now there was a bell
inside the forum, heard in the channels
through which our lawless extensions surged
with wetly proliferating encyclicals: Caritas
in Veritate; Deus Caritas Est.

The first dealt with love
as an infinite
set; a perfect set described God
as a rule.

Absolutes in the Time of Coronavirus / by Kris Bigalk

Breathing: Cento, lines from my late-summer diaries and poems / by Lucia Galloway 

Where sandaled traders dug in dusty toes,
fall set sere pods.

A dry river runs slowly,
those dry arroyos, their tumbled stones.

I picked up, longing then, a knife
to slice through layers

of atmosphere—of cloud, of dust.
Of sand, clay, lodgement of root and stone.

Long evening’s cathedral light atones–
light that believes in architecture, breathing

rife with song and chant,
secrets. Unuttered prayer.

Poem 21 / Day 21 

Two or more arts / by Louise Akers 

Turns out, a lack of trust is transposed by total gullibility, which seems to me to be a product of laziness. 

Vigilance requires attention to detail (lost). 

Blood loss often requires courage (foreclosed). 

Vigilance requires surveillance, a window at least to the public sphere (lost). 

Blood requires iron, membrane, pulse (Sustained). 

*

“We” is not a stable, grounded subject. “We” as agent is as impenetrable as an archive of satellite
surveillance, and as manifold. 

“We” could be a personal multitude; “We” are out of time to pluck out individuals. 

*

Turns out, I can’t predict when something unpleasant will happen to me, though I suspect its arrival almost
all the time. 

I am aware that the outcomes are bleak; I do not yet know the moment of their reality. 

“Casual will/ Is atrocious” (George Oppen) 

*

I mean something by subversion: To analyze loathing and to seem to meet it somewhere, only to drop it down into the lap of your consideration. Or, 

To realize the fiction of another’s body armor; to refuse any real truth in body armor. 

To subvert is to disalign the fascist from his fiction; the Vedic reanimates her sprout. 

I mean something also by escape. Aspiration toward an elsewhere, into longing, out of shame, once and for all. 

*

That I have lost is ecstatically true; that I am not lost is painful, but true. 

*

Loss is the many armored vehicles outside of the temple, the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of
garments and strollers trafficking in and out of the temple. 

Foreclosure is the city’s voided recycling program. I am considering a change of scene. 

An epic is the description of events preceding a given foreclosure. There is a tautological affect to
environmental cataclysm experienced in a city. 

Cities are a product of love of fate. 

Lost fate is unlovable for the manifold cities produced. 

An algorithm rewrites the certainty of destiny’s foreclosure. 

“We” are lost to the fire. 

*

There is not much to do today, and I do it. I have not taken any thing or person with me. 

There is music from outside filtering in, moving away again. 

I try to drink water and wash my hands. 

I try to anchor in the seat, in the avenue, the ground floor of the building. 

I am cautious answering the door. 

I am remembering my mother and leaving her alone. 

I am in love with a small frame, repeated on a quick reel that I play all afternoon. 

I misremember effort, kindness, bravery. I lie. 

*

Are you an “anxious” person? C asked me. 

Dread is not synonymous with anxiety, I said. 

I am not trying to be recalcitrant, I said. 

Just, maybe, precise. 

Its Web / by Lucia Galloway 

I almost missed it, fastened there, so sheer
and lightly shimmering in flicker of morning sunlight
on our patio.

Anchored at four points by finest skeins
to the support beam, fence rail, lime-tree leaf and branch,
even to a pointed leaf tip of a spiky plant that crowds  
against the flagstones.  I marveled to see stabilizing triangles
spun of finest silken thread that rendered the structure sound.

Sound sounds solid, heavy for so filigreed a thing:
an artifact of mostly air, its generosity was its genius,
the spoke-work of gossamer ladders its industry
and charm.

I tell you this because I know that you,
like me, want something of wonder, of encouragement.
We need it to keep us doing what we do. 

Up Schitt’s Creek / by DJ Hill 

Being it was Emmy night, we grabbed a
frozen pizza, bottle of Cabernet Franc
settled in with the Rose;’ Johnny, David,
Alexis, and our favorite Moira.

Lost in conversation, Moira’s spilling her
dark side, Alexis, still clueless, she could
only stand by, David and Patrick, facing
quite a dilemma, slivered moon passing day

right after sunset, there came a low moan
lasting just a few seconds, the source of the
power at earth’s core expended, towels in
washer, begging to dry, ceiling fan, stilled,

the spin interrupted. Our house, now quiet,
us with nothing to do, but wait out the silence
a dog at our heels, we padded to bed, flipping
light switches, fans, an oxygen machine,

all of them dead. A command to Alexa, usually
chatty, refusing the news, daily sport scores,
Tom Petty. Alexa the eavesdropper, sometimes
amusing, even she, now silenced, could not face

the music. New IPhone from Apple refusing to
function, the WIFI disabled, a poem past deadline, 
words carefully crafted, held hostage in Dropbox,
googling generators, conspiracies, and worst of all

end times. Hourglass spinning, the blank screen
of panic, what if, how long, contingency plan, frantic
steady tick of the clock, counting hours and
seconds, when suddenly it awakens, our agony

ended, as David, Alexis, Johnny and Moira
with Emmy’s in hands, the other mimosas.
Next time let’s hope it won’t come to this,
darkness and drama tonight in Schitt’s Creek.

RIP RBG / by Raki Kopernik 

rest in power
ripen in postmortem

riot irate patriot
real impressive presence

run indecent panther
revenges induce perseverance

relocate if pressed
rampaging is pure

roam inside paradise
rise interstellar priestess

Indulgent / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

A pair of well-worn sweats, a dog-eared book
you’ve memorized, a bowl of carbs and cheese—
buttery-sweet, salty and warm, a cat
on the sill, a glass of wine—some workhorse red,
utility wine, a mix of sad Sondheim—
“Take Me to the World,” “You Are Not Alone,” on loop,
or Sorkin’s “Two Cathedrals” rewound, re-watched,
a banana split on a Tuesday night, a robe,
reading “After Apple-Picking” out loud
until you too have had enough, a piece
of grocery store cake, a Coke: you do
or eat or watch or just consume what it takes
to feel ok with all that’s not ok,
survive tonight and find some way to rest. 

EKG / by Kindra McDonald 

For two long minutes
twice a day when I brush my teeth
with the electric toothbrush and its perfect
30 second interval pulses for each quadrant of my mouth
I think how it is the exact amount of time that you were dead
arrested on a hospital bed while a 4 foot nothing nurse straddled you
and pounded your heart back to life. Now your pacemaker keeps track of each beat
and somewhere in the sky a satellite watches it spike and dip, a wave we ride, a grave we cheat.

From Me to You or Vice-Versa / by Doug Van Gundy 

There is a language we can’t speak
but have understood all our lives.
We send each other missives

through aroma and sizzle, mouthfeel
and steam. A bowl of udon noodles,
green onions and a soft-cooked

egg says I’ve managed to work
from home without surrendering
the whole afternoon to sleep.

Potato-corn soup with crusty bread
and a bitter ale means you
are homesick for your childhood;

brown beans. cornbread and greens
means I’m homesick for mine.
Spaghetti in homemade sauce

cooked all day until it’s turning
the corner from red to brown
says: I need to be held. Pureed soup

of any kind asks: how long
can this possibly last?  Delivery
pizza means we’ve both given up,

at least for today.  A breakfast
of oatmeal cooked with blackened
bananas and crystalized ginger

means that we’ve agreed to carry on,
taking things day-by-day.
Every desert means I love you. 

Asking, Love, for a birth of something new / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I am at the dusk of remembrance,
carefully moving through a coming heat
writing a letter to each of my loves
for all that we carry. I ask:

Where am I in a warming planet?
Where are you, Love?

I hold a mirror above
a heated earth,
see my infinite self.
Is it too late to change
my reflection?

Love,
I seek our collaborative longing
to do something good,
where we knead mud and clay
beside each other with hope
in our palms, our curled fingers,
each slant of light we see as destiny.
We carve our children
to finish our work, Love,
and try to keep from drowning
in the fens of anguish.

This, Love, is a soul decision,
beyond language. It is of flood and tick,
temperature and storm.
It is how we raise our children up-
ever seeking solutions.
The echo soundings
aside the smell of spring,
the coming fall on our fingertips,
the coming winter in our toes.

I worry, Love, about the rise of water,
the swallowing of riverbanks,
a flood of oceans, rage of fire
the lost course of rainclouds.
After dusk is a moving forward
Come with me, Love.

 

Poem 20 / Day 20 

In gratitude / by Louise Akers 

I have been patient so long
I’ve forgotten how to pass,
left—the cold morning, 
nearly silent highway; the encomiastic 
letter to the ex, which you 
reply to out of 
generosity. I’ve forgotten 
the distinction between waiting 
for and neglecting praise. 

The busiest intersection, here,
              behold: 
four tiers of cold climate, and
the borough where we stayed 
there, 
in the third tier, 
in your very private 
              borough; I’d forgotten 
your great reverence 
for the way I articulated 
longing, the way I felt 
in your own tactless 
              borough, in the bars 
with you, I, passing every regular 
test, my sewing 
wrath, your 
sewing asphodel, and generous 
with callous, apriori 
explanations, I 
was ever praised and flexible,
or open-minded.

Primordial / by Kris Bigalk 

Limestone is compressed bones of ancient sea creatures.
See the skeleton of the squid, the trilobite, the snail,
embedded in the crushed shells of their ancestors?
Marble is compressed limestone.
See the shots of black and blue, like bruises, cracking
through the white?

I paint blue wings on the backs of my hands to help them fly.
I buy soap that smells like my grandmother’s kitchen.
I let the dishes soak overnight so I can think.
I pray so I can fall asleep.

My dreams leave a taste of the ocean
in my mouth, black shot through with bolts
of blue heat. When I surface, I am
hungry for oxygen, the fossilized
shells of memory slowly fading
into the morning light. 

Reading the Headlines / by Lucia Galloway 
–the Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2020

COURT IS SHAKEN AS GINSBERG DIES . . .

Firefighter dies while battling the Yucaipa blaze
Antelope Valley homes in danger
Wildfire death toll at 26
Covid-19 deaths of children mirror those of adults
Israel returns to lockdown as virus cases mount
Street life is returning as deaths climb
Smoke forecast to clear in L.A. area
McConnell vows to press ahead on filling vacancy
Want to honor Ginsberg? Vote on Nov. 3
Michigan ballot cutoff extended
RBG’s death shouldn’t eclipse her life
S.F. on pace to resume indoor dining
Will Congress act at last on wildfires?
‘Tsunami’ of hotel closures coming, experts say 

To A Friend on the Eve of Her Move / by DJ Hill 

You might be interested to know-
according to a therapist and friendship
researcher-that making friends at our
age is a particular challenge, not
the only challenge; the circle of potential
candidates slowly dwindling each year
add distance, COVID, economic hardship
and no one wanting to leave the safety
of home, alert to germs, masks, and
social distancing, the good news being,
according to the researcher, that
friendship has become more hands-off,
not having to go through the hassle of
meeting at a coffee shop, playgroup
or bus stop as we did when our children
were young, now grown, these sacred
spaces reserved for the next generation,
but lucky for us we can turn to Hey!
Bumble, VINA, Meetup, and Meow Chat
friendship apps, Over 60.com says this is how
we grow our legion of fellow sexagenarian’s
in three easy steps: Admitting our desire to
reinvigorate our social life, make friendship
a priority, and commit to ‘getting out there
to make the first move,’ somehow finding
a friend in 2020 resembles speed dating
and if we have questions or need support,
Over60.com is a keypad away
how ironic, friendship evolving to the
click of a button

Which is why, Alice, tomorrow as
you hit the open road, house sold,
belongings stowed, baby grand in
temperature-controlled- I want you
to know I will do none of these things
to replace your warm smile, the ease
of our coffee chats, your uncanny ability
to check in at the perfect time, someday
soon you will land, reunite with your baby
grand, in a new space, never forgetting
Red Mountain or Buck Prince, listening
under whispering pines, as you serenade
with a song you know by heart. 

in between / by Raki Kopernik

chamomile tea
followed or preceded by
whiskey in a big glass
with a big round ice cube
salty sticky potato soup
long lost hoodies
neglected wool socks
plasma red leaves blowing mini tornados
halloween halloween
and Halloween.

transitions
are the most enchanted. 

Cousins / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for M.P., S., & D.

are funny
family members
you end up next to
at the kids’ tables
in the backyards
on the badminton team
but too far away from
in age
to make it easy
to relate
to not resent
being grouped together
out of a tangential relation
and convenience.

You go along
swept together
in the family tide
bobbing against
each other
growing
apart
until one day
you find yourselves
at a grandparent’s funeral
an awkward family reunion
your own wedding
grateful
for your cousins
handing you more Kleenex
laughing at the other tables
donning a judge’s robe
when you needed them.

On the occasion of my husband’s 40th birthday / by Kindra McDonald 

I suddenly realize I’m cleaning like I’ve had no one in the house for six months
because I have had no one in the house for six months, so I move the party outside
taming the weeds, cursing the mower and cutting limbs until the canopy opens
because this year has been worry and wrong, cancel and compromise

because singing Happy Birthday is what we do when we wash hands
on this day I wish the hurricane off shore, days of rain pause
for you, my dear. The clouds sail next door, a sundog I swear, is right
over the house, listen even the doves coo their approval

and your divorced parents are civil and my mom makes small
talk and no one mentions politics. Your sisters tease you, call you Hiss
the nickname you don’t fit. There must be something sweet, one candle
at least, there must be the song and the gift made by hand, we can have it

the glass globe will settle around us like a cloche, the blown leaves are
confetti that swirl when we’re shaken, and in this enclosed moment
safe and sterile, we can forget about the people who aren’t here
for just an instant before the flame is blown out, we are normal. 

Arrangement / by Doug Van Gundy 

A quartz pebble from my driveway
and a piece of flint from the south
bank of the river Thames lie beside
each other on my desk.  They have
come to like one another, sometimes
having long conversations in the night.
Over time, each has also come to know
the other well enough to spend hours
or days in companionable silence, not
saying anything, not needing to.

Ants marching / Liza Wolff-Francis

There is an anthill underneath
our home. It spans the width
and length of our house
like a six-legged basement.

I retreat there when searching
for purpose.

The Victorians’ said the soul
weighs 21 grams, which isn’t even
a pound. They weighed people
just before death and just after,
looking, like magicians,
for a cycle of regeneration
and a sign of the next moon,
a plea to the whistling wind,
the disrobing of an artichoke,
a plucking of pomegranate seeds.

And what of the ants? Soulless,
they march through my home
unaware of their vanishing point
even as my mouth was full
of words to write. I wonder
if I swallowed them when too many
gathered in my throat or maybe
I spit them out somewhere, behind
a bush, a bookshelf, down the sink.

I speak of ants as if I am not
one of them, as if I am a separate species,
dive-bombing some forgotten reality,
a narrow path of remembering
I am here, scurrying to find myself
in a new world, a home, a basement
trying to find the words for it,
whether misplaced or not yet invented.

The ants march by me, they crawl
over me, up my arms, over my feet,
up my legs, my thighs.
They have no intention of noticing

Poem 19 / Day 19

untitled / by Louise Akers 

we’re tired today, 
and see in common
sometimes, things like
my small orange tent
aired out on the fire escape, the rain 
fly tied to the steel 
grating, loud air 
flinging last week’s rain 
out of the nylon
freestanding, the exquisite ties 
to iron stairs and staired iron 
all visible 
from the roofs, at least 
our street below
like flag or flags; my dog
dreams on the floor. 

Bequest / by Kris Bigalk 

Is there anything more romantic than a brand new picnic basket,
lined with blue gingham, plates and utensils fastened tight
to the inside of the lid with satin ribbons that hide the elastic straps,
cloth napkins folded into perfect rectangles, small plastic cups,
A long narrow hollow in the bottom, perfect for a bottle of wine,
a small cutting board with a cheese knife nestled into the side…
As a newlywed, I fawned over this gift, what it said about us –
how we would pack this basket with gouda, Emmenthal, cheddar,
some crackers, salami, a bottle of sauvignon blanc,
climb grassy hills until we came to the edge of a bluff
that overlooked the Mississippi, spread a blanket,
and enjoyed a summer afternoon, toasting our luck
in finding each other, like a scene during the credits
of a particularly lovely rom-com.

I found the basket yesterday, dusty on a shelf
in the back of the closet, the blue gingham still bright,
but the plates sagging a bit in their straps, cloth
napkins unwrapped (likely by one of the children).
We never took that picnic, or any picnic I can remember.
There was one time we went through the drive-through at Arby’s
and sat at a picnic table in the park, and flirted a little bit,
the way we did back in the beginning. It all seems so silly
now, so 1900’s, that picnic that never happened, so much
better to keep that soft focus summer dream to myself,
write it down, and leave this note inside. Now that
you’ve found it, you can have it for yourself –
an antique, a relic, a secondhand dream.

Half Time Show at Dream Scenario Stadium /  by Lucia Galloway 

The field is chalked, grass fiery
under floodlights. He knows his purpose.
He holds his baton scepter-like, facing his musicians
in rank and file, their instruments at the ready.
The baton glimmers, light to hand, and
he’s enthralled, collecting sparks.
Instead of purpose, then
he steps out, a tight spin, a twirl
for admiration as if to catch a mirror glimpse.
Then the sudden release as he hurls
the baton skyward—
this conductor whose scepter
has set his elegant threads in motion.
He is what’s on offer, a god
stepped out of a dressing room to model.

Take it, Conductor!
Twirl yourself around,
your tight spin
a pin on which you turn.
Nothing’s legible, nothing fully framed.
You could be the kid in his high-school class
twirling a yellow pencil through fingers
as he forgets to listen. Or a traffic cop,
whistle between his lips,
baton in white-gloved fingers, whirling
to halt or invite traffic’s oncoming flow.
In motion, you come ‘round
to a different place, where you find
in your hands a fiery baton, its tips ablaze.
Grasping it dead center,
you’re cool, you’re svelte.
Deft your touch, as you turn to face
the musicians, those forty or so
on the bright grassy turf, those stiff wooden
mannequins burdened with tubas, bass drums.

After Bleezer’s Ice Cream / by DJ Hill 
by Jack Prelutsky

I am DJ Hill, a poet
I write poems by the score
today’s our anniversary
and I’m here to write one more

Some say love is fleeting
Some say love’s divine
I know love from lovers’
from Eden throughout time

Ginger Rogers, partner Fred
Bergman, Bogart, Bacall instead
Prince Rainier and Princess Grace
Monaco their hiding place
Romeo and Juliet
even Adam hedged his bet
Antony’s Egyptian queen
George and Gracie stayed a team
Abigail, John, June and Johnny
Hepburn, Tracy, Nancy, Ronnie,
Mr. Darcy, Lizzy Bennett
Forrest Gump, he knew what love meant
Hazel Grace, Augustus Waters
Ryan, Hanks, Grant and Roberts,
Rachel, Jacob, Boaz, Ruth,
love can last when based on truth

I am DJ Hill, a poet,
I write poems by the score
today’s our anniversary
and I am here, to write one more.

To my beloved Bob on our 11th anniversary. September 19, 2020 

the comfort of nostalgia / by Raki Kopernik

when I’m done crying while listening to eighties metal ballads wishing to be a teenager in the
nineties again, a time before bombarding streams of hot garbage locker room gym socks fire barf
of government apocalypse even though it was happening then too, but it was different, I know I
know it was the same but also, different and I was different indifferent smoking joints on the dead
fish beaches of chicago sipping forties, those metal ballads all up in my grill pressing my body into
moments of dissociative bliss,

when I’m done crying about it, my insides mediocre clean, my face salt crusted half way sanitized
because tears do unsoil but not all the way, when I’m done I do feel better even though I always
keep one foot in the eighties and one arm in the nineties for comfort.

move forward don’t look back live for today be present
and also
the past is there to hold your tenderness
when the next unknown feels too wild to see.

Following / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for J.A.M. and Rachel

Reader, you know this breed of Facebook friend:
someone you know tangentially, have met
just once or twice, a classmate’s ex-girlfriend,
some conference attendee who you’d forget,
a former co-worker, someone you send
a Christmas card. You thought they’d be an asset
when you approved their innocent request;
you had no clue the screeds they’d post when stressed.

Now you’re amazed by the sheer variety
of passionate opinions they express.
They’re keen on gardening and piously
lament the blatantly squandered largesse
of yard mushrooms unharvested. They plead
for causes so obscure that their distress
is puzzling. You want to be amused;
instead, their kooky rants leave you confused.

And that’s what’s more: their arguments are flawed.
The thesis is inscrutable and hazy:
you’ve no idea what they’re for. You’re awed
at their abuse of rhetoric, their lazy
logic, and points irrelevant. You laud
their innovative posts: a wild-and-crazy,
fast-and-loose kind of mass communication:
a post immune from rationalization!

And yet, it’s not the subject of the rants,
nor their complete and utter lack of logic
that make you feel compelled to look askance
at their posts. No, it’s their blatant hyperbolic
humble-bragging, their tacit self-importance
that makes their batshit posting so hypnotic.
Without that misplaced pride, you’d have been bored
and muted their Facebook posts to be ignored.

Instead, by now you find yourself obsessed
with following your barely-friend: tirades
on niche political events addressed
to God-knows-who, and bucketfuls of shade
thrown on the poor and unsuspecting subjects
of the day. Trolling their feed, your day is made.
But, Reader, please, this warning is important:
do not expose yourself and leave a comment! 

Vote: An American Sentence for RBG / by Kindra McDonald 

When the books burned, women ate the ashes, all asking permission, rewritten; we had a choice
once. 

The Necessity of Anxiety / by Doug Van Gundy 

It has taken me so long to love you, O Anxiety.
I have pushed you away like a stray dog
because I was afraid of owning you

of letting myself be owned by you. I’m grateful
now how you quicken me, how you thicken
my tongue into silence when I must

speak, reminding me to choose my words carefully,
that words have consequence, power, teeth.
At least once a week I will see

a dark figure in the corner of my vision, a man
in a long coat, hands in pockets, and I will
jerk my head around to find myself

alone. Thank you for making me ready, for being
the ginger ale in my cerebellum: sweet-hot
fizz and pressure keeping me safe.

The sacrifice of trees / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The trees form a canopy tunnel
over the dirt of our planet,
keep even the most resistant soil
in place. Bent over like caretakers
lending breath, they huff poison
to save me, exhale oxygen
into my mouth. I hold their breath
in my lungs. The mouths of trees
blowing the sweetest air at me,
their pulsing branches and leaves,
an audible gesture of wind, an echo
of silence, perfect calibration
of clarity of their purpose
not just for me, but for the smallest
of creatures, for the ocean,
for the contour of mountain.
The trees working to save us
as if bound by promise and devotion,
their timeless breath next to
my disappearing language.
In this chaos, some of us now believe
we are at battle for our lives,
but the trees know they are at war.
I hold their breath in my lungs,
a forced in and out of the delight
and necessity that is air.
Sap takes its time to move down
steep thick trunks that feel the touch
of a single butterfly, of birds who nest,
smoke from the burn of fires.
Even as the sun is hidden in the haze,
the trees still rise with its hope,
understand deeply that resistance
to learning new things must be
done away with. Trees do not resist
a new leaf that comes in spring.
From its first green appearance,
the ache of change stretches
into its branches and spring
comes, as this life is not a solo game.
In an age where it seems
everything is falling apart,
I mourn a future I do not know,
hug the trees as if they need it,
when it is me who needs them.

Poem 18 / Day 18  

Inflammatory Kindness / by Louise Akers 

And at the end of the day: fire. 

Sure as eggs, the mortal fly does 
its best. Its prostheses of subjectivity—beloved flora, stamen at antennae—prepare it
for the light. Oh, were it enough for tiny wings
to be 
well lit!  

To My Son, When He Says He’s Unexceptional / by Kris Bigalk 

One million eggs, tinier than pinheads,
packed tight in my ovaries the day I was born.
My body grew around them, sorted them
according to some unknown algorithm,
culled them down to 300,000 by
my fourteenth birthday.

Every month since then, at least one
grew into a fat, round ball,
a mix of my parents, my ancestors,
rolled down a chute,
into a large room,
and waited against the wall,
like a girl at a homecoming dance.
Most times, she waited
until she died there,
washed away
by blood.

Once
a partner was waiting,
and they danced;
a true better half, and like
a flower, a fire, a flood,
you blossomed, you burned,
you raged into existence,
literally one
in a million,
one made
of millions.

An Innocent in the Green Room / by Lucia Galloway 

Just look, I say to myself from my perch in the green room
as the divas swoop in. Red, pink, purple, gold lame—
their concert dresses swish from hangers held high
or drape voluptuous over flawless arms.

One, then another and another, tense even in motion,
holding their nerves in check, they chatter like tropical birds
in jungle trees, flutter to dressing rooms and back to preen
over palettes of eye shadow, tubes of lipstick in Stage Red.

Look, I’m thinking, just how is it that this room is “green”?
I may see jungle foliage, even trees, because there’s nothing
of quiet maple shade or elm I knew from childhood.
This room seethes with egos as primed as summer passion,

as Verdi’s characters in Rigoletto, or the capers and
confusions of Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte. I’m here expecting only
to sing the words, in French, to Saint-Saens’ sweet chorus
“Spring.” A sparrow with six or seven of these splendid birds.

Unexpected Visitor / by DJ Hill 

So, the oddest thing
happened this morning
the third day
since the beginning
of a fall monsoon

I was sipping hot tea
lost in thought
watching rain weep
from the sky

When a female mallard
sauntered up my circle
drive, her handsome friend
waited in the wings

She waddled determinedly
as though she had something
to speak with me about
maybe to borrow a cup
of birdseed or invite me
to book club although
it might be unlikely we shared
the same taste in literature

Perhaps it was to complain
about the noisiness of my hens
or to protest their gossip-spreading ways

As she swung her tail feathers purposefully
en route to my front stoop
I imagined she was sporting
a stylish canary yellow handbag
tucked under her wing
a matching pair of puddle stompers
keeping her webbed feet dry

I cracked open the front door
fully expecting her to say,
“Good day, Miss Hill
May I join you for tea?”

shana tova//happy new year / by Raki Kopernik

rosh hashana. rosh = head, hashana = the year. 5780.

new years in the fall when death begins, the turning down and in, makes more sense than new years
in the dead of winter in the dead of death,

but really new years is on your birthday, the completion of all the days, the way someone once
decided and we all agreed this is how we measure life growth,

accumulated numbers forming a forced linear circle that isn’t linear at all, but holds up to the
illusion of markers, each year speeding up depending how long you’ve been alive,

the way I was sure I’d never finish school and my nightmares hold me there forever still, endless
time loops coiling around themselves, but now amassed decades,

hours days weeks years so heavy I’ve pushed them into a storage closet, bulging, screaming to be
let out, which is unnecessary because time is unstable, to say the least of its therapy needs,
speeding cumulatively, the snowball that it is.

Inevitability / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

On a shale hillside, in a cul-de-sac
a pig-tailed girl kicks a rubber ball
until the citrus sun ruptures
into the horizon line.

In the gingered light
of dusk’s golden lens,
the carmine maples bleed
into the clean linens hung to dry.

In the pinpricked blue
of the newborn night,
fireflies smolder, burning
into the retinas of their witnesses.

Above the yard,
in a lanky evergreen,
an owl watches apprehensively,
neither leaving nor returning.

Vision / by Kindra McDonald 

Each time I sit around a campfire, I am hypnotized
into believing I could have survived on my own
once in a cave, creating warmth and light from some sticks
and my skills, some spells I pulled like strands of hair
out of memory—

Then I think of how I can’t see without my glasses
thick as limbs, unable to tell a bear from a deer
and surely unable
to see the edge of a cliff
from the sky it sits in.

In a Faded Photograph of a Distant Autumn / by Doug Van Gundy 

A boy holds on tightly as his father pilots a motorcycle
through shafts of yellow sunlight and falling leaves.

This morning the boy is aware of his own awareness
for the first time in his life and is terrified

and elated. He believes he can see everything. The constant
vibration of the engine and fractured rhythm of the wheels

across the washboard and potholes of the gravel road
rise up and through him. He notices the air go cold

then warm as they move in and out of sunshine,
smells old leaves and iron in the water as they cross

a narrow bridge. He smells his father’s smell clinging to him:
shampoo and deodorant and cigarette smoke held in his hair.

The boy can taste the inside of his own mouth, the woodsmoke
on the wind they are making with their wheels, the dust

that swirls around them when they slow for a tight turn
or switch back through their own exhaust. He loves the thump

of his heart inside his body moving outward like ripples
from a stone thrown into the cold creek. He loves

the snap of his windbreaker whipping around his ears,
the tingle of expectation as they lean into each curve

He has me on deliver /  by Liza Wolff-Francis 

I’m simping over him, Xochitl tells me.
14 year olds have vocabulary I haven’t learned yet
Xochitl, princess daughter of the Aztec emperor,
likes a guy who asks: who dat?
when she sends a hello message to him,
doesn’t even read her message, doesn’t care.
Our hearts are so fragile at 14, maybe they always are,
and we play them like footballs
thrown across the field,
everybody wanting the ball.
I give you my love, don’t crowd my heart.
I’m simping, I like you.
She says she used to call guys she liked
mean names, even hit one on the back
so hard she left a bruise. They told her
they thought she hated them.
The heart is a vulnerable organ,
not like a football. It is the size
of a closed fist, it beats
one hundred thousand times a day
and it learns how to love by the gentle sigh
over a smile, the wince when your IG message
is left unread, a violent slap
and a bad word, and all the steps on the field
between a kickoff and a touchdown,
between whether you’re simping over me too, or not.

Poem 17 / Day 17  

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

The fate and counter-fate of the root, the callosity that
develops around the root,
the left hand of the guileless
synthetic branch; all simultinaity,
all stable sex, ingratiates itself
to the tree, and its management of
the vulnerability of
winged bodies.

And the injuriousness you wake to,
your privacy,
the masculine, and the pharaonic
volume of wings that hammer
your private silences and crack
their walls,
expand,
joyfully, as
the mouths of tiniest gods,
the kindnesses they show,
at the molecular level of praise.

Syntax / by Lucia Galloway 

Where is identity
when syntax
dissolves to an ephemeral subject
and a predicate unknown

first gone, the action verbs
their vigor and placement
climb shout growl plunder
sing dance kiss
with their object complements stated
or implied, their prepositional phrases
claiming their rights

then the sentence drops
its fluffy tail and even
the linking verbs
is am dissolve
their markers

gone even the
utterances of the cave, the womb
the dawning of a consciousness
that we are

A George by Any Other Name / by DJ Hill 

Last evening, late, cursed by the effects of warrior Mars
going retrograde, a blood orange fire moon glaring through
my bedroom window, I found myself wide awake and

all that came to mind was Shakespeare’s quote about
names, I thought of George, not a certain George or
by George, but any George who I might count like sheep.
So began an hour of attempting to lull myself to sleep with

George Washington, George Bush, Sr. & Jr., King George V
Gershwin, Harrison, George Michael, George Strait, of course
Boy George, George Benson, George Thorogood, George Kennedy
There’s Carlin, Clooney, Foreman, Hamilton, Lucas, Takei

and just like that I was transported to Star Trek: Spock, Bones
Uhura, Captain Kirk, the Trouble with Tribbles, beam me up,
Scotty which doesn’t start with G or have anything to do
with George. I corralled the crew back into Starship Enterprise

and started again: George Burns, Mikan, Orwell, Patton, C. Scott
Jones, Soros, Brett, Peppard, Phyllis, and R. R. Martin, which
led to thoughts of Westeros, dragons, Khaleesi, Khal Drago
and the wannabe evil King who finally received his gold crown

and now, too tired, with no more George’s resting on the tip
of my tongue, I rolled over to count sheep, refusing
to give any of them a name.

right now / by Raki Kopernik

right now the feeling
in my chest eyes jaw
jaw tight
without tightening
shoulders rise
without engaging

right now
this open window below my knees
moves fall wind and airplane din
through toes
cuffs and foot arches

the apple tree framed
around wind and airplane din
ready apples at the top
too heavy too high to reach
I should’ve pruned higher

right now
I’m okay though
right now
I’m okay

Steeled / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
for S.

Even the damn spiders make me homesick.
Comic book villains, meaty, building a complex
housing project between the gutters and the fence,
they’re striped in the famous black-and-yellow

of soot-grimy steel mills, of canaried suspensions
over rivers that are, more often than not, as gray
as all the metal-based high-rises of the little city
of industry ribboned by railroads and furrowed hills.

What’s worse: it’s September. Squint a little
and the oak leaves and piles of acorn shrapnel
start to resemble autumn, the dull humidity
brings a kind of chill, with a little imagination.

Friday night lights and Sunday afternoons:
the whole damn town is watching football.
When you grow up around unions, with boys
whose daddies casually tunneled through sheetrock,

a game of half-controlled violence doesn’t chafe
at your sensibilities, doesn’t seem much more
than the proverbial battle of wills you were raised with.
Broom in hand, trying to kill this spider woman

with my dignity intact, I’m trying to channel
some of that hometown moxie. Just do the job,
like the big men on the O-line rush the line:
hungry and unafraid, defending their fatherland.

Phantom / by Kindra McDonald 

My mom’s amputated finger often hurts
worse is when it itches or the ring
she used to wear on it
constricts her. She cut it once
on broken glass and some days
(touching the void as she tells me)
she’ll feel the raised skin of that scar
the hangnail she still tries to bite or tear
the cuticle ridge she wishes
to push down into a perfect crescent moon.

This is how I know I’ll feel what’s gone.

The Language of Hope / by Doug Van Gundy 

                              It’s easy to use the language of
                              hope in pretty superficial ways.
— Debra Dean Murphy

It is already too late. Forget the rolling back
of environmental protections, forget
the plateaus planted with fescue
hundreds of feet above the graves
of tiny streams that sang through thickets
of rhododendron stabbed with sunlight,
ignore the island of floating plastic
eddying around the northern Pacific,
the cancer-causing well-water downgrade
from the chemical plant. These aren’t causes,
they’re symptoms. We are of two natures:
one feeds on fear, the other on beauty.
It is the difference between “what can I do?”
and “what can I do.” If we are already past
the tipping point, that’s it. That’s the game.
But just because there’s no longer anything
left to do that will work, doesn’t mean
there isn’t any work left to be done.

First Fireflies / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

My son, born 7 pounds 8 ounces,
now ten years, is almost my size.
Mornings, he stumbles
down the hall from his bedroom,
curls his stretched out, lean body
into my lap, tells me about Lego cities
he wants to build, about videogame
worlds he drew as if we had been
talking about it all night long,
as if he awoke with this in his mouth.
A week or so ago, he saw fireflies,
lightning bugs, we used to call them
when I was a kid, for the first time
and ran for a camera. I won’t tell him
how a photo cannot capture
a spontaneous glow, bug feet
on your palm, the ability
to hold wings that are still.
How often can we hold
lightning in the night?
Watching him grow is like trying
to capture the light of a firefly on camera.
And as I cupped my palms around
an illuminated bug, he wanted to know,
Does it hurt?

Poem 16 / Day 16  

Astronomical Kindness / by Louse Akers 

A planet is a phenomenal object, sourcing out a halo,

clothed in 
misty plumes of water 
fresh plumes tasted 

by the bees,
the icy moons, and small companion 
aircrafts,

far, far, and alone. 

 

A pilot knows 
what must or does not need to be recorded. A pilot drifts; 

She is in the role of faith. 
Praxis as: 
Praxis in the quiet 
Praxis if the water, 
and the water’s everywhere 
all the time. 

Too Much Netflix / by Kris Bigalk 

In a galaxy far, far away
I order a martini shaken, not stirred.
Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers
are starving to death.
As God is my witness,
I’ll never be hungry again.
Cinderella story.
Out of nowhere.
Always overdressing
for the wrong occasion.

Ever have that feeling where
you’re not sure if you’re awake
or dreaming?
What’s your damage?

I find your lack of faith
disturbing.

If only you could see
what I’ve seen
with your eyes.

The past always seems better
when you look back on it
than it did at the time.
We all go a little mad
sometimes. 

Aboard the Amtrak Southwest Chief / by Lucia Galloway 

Leaving the Albuquerque station,
its Spanish Colonial façade aglow
in morning sun, hawkers selling coffee,
Navajo silver, Hopi kachinas—
I re-board the train, eager
to feel its tons of steel move beneath me,
watch my window scroll half-naked boulders
held in root tentacles, tree-lined gorges
in stream-spangled light.
All day, scenes ephemeral like photos
in Polaroid: each picture blurring,
fading from my
backward-facing view.
What’s to remind me I’m going somewhere,
distract me from serial loss?
Porters burst through couplings,
swing down aisles singing out dinner seatings,
reservations for the dining car.
Dinner at 7:00? 
I picture wait-crew smoothing
tablecloths, placing forks and knives.
An interval, and I’m here
at a window table, facing forward. 
North of Santa Fe our track twins a power line
with crossbars of its sturdy wooden poles
featuring small glass domes that look like
cups inverted on 2-dimensional tables.
They insulate the wood from heated lines, I’m told,
keep it from burning.
Translucent green, amber, clear—these cups
shine in early evening light adorning slim tables
as far ahead as I can see.
How to celebrate this generosity?
Our cups rattle in their saucers.

Another Summer / by DJ Hill 

It happens every year about this time, my mother,
daughter, and I exchange texts, something like
Thinking of you, or Miss him even more
this year, and today, 25 years since your Dad died.

Whenever September rolls around, Dad is
already on our minds, Saturday evening the 16th,
shortly after the dinner hour, his pace-maker heart
stopped; Dad breathed his last as Mom held hers

Today is cloudless but cool, fall bearing down-
an inevitable speeding train, mid-September sun
still soothing yet our backyard fountain is running low,
the perennial garden losing its brilliance, neighbor

children off to school, another gray hair spotted
in the teeth of our combs, Mom soon turning 88,
spending summers on the lake she and Dad visited
before marriage, children, grandchildren,

cancer, this afternoon Mom watched as hired hands
float sections of dock to shore, stacking piece
upon piece, their rubberized waders keeping
limbs from blueness, weathered beach chairs

tucked in as are horseshoes, grilling tools,
inflatable innertubes, swimsuits from the line, dry
I can see Mom standing on her deck, perhaps
in her blue jogging suit, her hair just so,

overseeing this year’s extraction of summer
and I wonder if it is Dad she sees, his late season
tan, beads of perspiration as he lifts the heaviness
Our childhood dogs running back and forth across

the shore, barking wildly at the setting sun 

smoke / by Raki Kopernik

I’ve had a headache for two days
maybe from crying
dehydration and sleeplessness
my body a response reminder
absorbing the wind soaked sun
blasting convection oven heat into
neck muscles and temples through
unarmed skin pores
and smoke
on a cross country road trip
west coast midwest
the morning sun an orange veil
west coast
where I used to live
where I miss my people
where life is a distant horror show
how I hate science fiction 

Future Perfect / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

after Ada Limon’s “The Conditional”

We will have lived, or died, trying
to make moves: cross-country, safely,
or at great risk. We will have furnished
too many small apartments, walls hung
with specters of old men, foreign rivers, ashes
of old cats decorating mantels, fake
fireplaces taunting our once bold future
imaginings. We will have a child
inside us, her disappointed But why?
negating any revised explanation
we will have made for the rest of our lives
turning out the way they have, for the world
we’ve left her, unprepared to mourn
the unrealized possibility as we will
have become. We will have written
some neat little story for bedtime, sedating
us, whispering off the infinite
anxieties that ping us like rain
on a corrugated roof. We will read
to each other, and look a way
back, through palm leaves, evergreens,
a forest of discarded calendar pages
to when we were never sure
we would be
here, trusting that morning would come
tomorrow. 

Wild Grapes /  by Kindra McDonald 

Every September we drive to the country
to pick wild grapes, Muscadine for me
Scuppernong for you, not nog you said
it rhymes with song, the first time I asked
scupper-what? I was a transplant to the South
stranger to this late summer harvest
now become ritual, tumbling into autumn, I preach
the doctrine, the hymn of the vineyard.

We reach under vines between bees and orb weavers
for the road dusty scarred skins of summer’s last gasp
they shine violet and indigo, bronze and champagne
they glow and we eat them grimy and sticky, snapping
skins with our teeth, spitting seeds and leaning into green
you teach me what you know by instinct
what to pluck and what to leave.

The year your father died two days after we brought six pounds
of grapes home we rolled around the kitchen floor and sobbed
grapes rotted moldy on trays until I slid the whole mess, jellied
fruit fly altar, to the trash, we couldn’t look at grapes for months.
Some Septembers it’s all we think about.

On your 39th birthday we drove to the fields too late in the season
were met with closed signs and dying vines. On our way home
we chased the vapor trails of airplanes, skywriting contrails we tried  
to unravel as they dissipated into half letters and smoky words,
the Blue Angels rehearse for the air show, clumsy script we can’t quite
decipher, I convinced you I saw your name on the clouds,
Happy Birthday, the Blue Angels are coming, I think.

This year the skies are quiet, the fields are flooded, the vines full
grasshopper, beetle, aphid all grape gorged and bug drunk, we pick
around them, let them be green upon green, upon green we bring home
nine pounds and I make wild grape pie, muscadine cobbler, turn the counters
fuchsia, stain the stove merlot and for hours the house smells like wine—
not the good kind, the syrupy, highschool feelfine wine.

I will look for your name on the clouds, my heart in the air, how I wish
always to be a song in your mouth. 

Dark / by Doug Van Gundy 

The night smells of sweet wood
wafting across rooftops
from the dry kiln and cooking
smells from the windows
of squat houses: cabbage, onions,
beef browning in a black iron pan.
The narrow street is bathed
in the pink-orange light
of sodium vapor lamps
and we go about our quiet lives
behind manicured bushes
and illuminated panes of glass.
The oil black of the river
separates our secrets
from those across the water.
Between these two domesticities
flows a darkness even daylight
cannot penetrate, made darker
by the calling of Canada geese,
their voices sounding like something
stuck in the machinery of night.
On this bank and that one,
there’s scarcely a human sound,
but in-between, such squawking
and flapping, echoing back and forth
between the silent houses long
after the geese have gone. 

Dear Fire / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

If I write about all the fire I have known
I might make you jealous or make you
ashamed. Hell, maybe I’m reading you
wrong, maybe you would feel proud.
When I was eighteen, I watched
a warehouse in Atlanta burn
while people hosed down their houses
praying you wouldn’t come
close enough to steal them away.
Such a sight to see, your immensity,
while the candle beside me
flickers in the dark like a stutter in speech,
like you are saying something profound
about darkness and all you speak of is light.
When I feel your burn on my fingers
from melted wax or a red hot
marshmallow skewer burnished over
a campfire in Colorado, where the
camp host schooled us about fires
and unobserved rules and we were
full of remorse and doused you quick.
Trying to prevent the blaze of Colorado,
of California, of Oregon, the sky lit up
like a performance of sun, the sun
hiding in plain sight, a misshapen ball
rising and sinking, empty of its shine.
This must be like the death of all of us,
a warning in the sky. Fire,
I saw you two weeks ago,
burning in the mountains like an angry
lover after a fight with lightning,
unleashing your venom against
your children, the animals, the air.
I watch, wait, hope you remember
you don’t have to rage, you can also be
a small light in the dark.

Poem 15 / Day 15 

know your beautiful face is heavy on my mind. sending big love from the prairies of Alberta. 
xx / by Louise Akers 

some or every form of beauty is predicated on exclusion.

something crosses water seven-hundred times. something gathers breath to match us.
some practice kindness but have no internal reservoir. 

i could not listen to you weep but that an infinite unhappiness would fill me.

know your faces heavy 

all alberta
now. 


be just toward
a Field, a field, our Heaven of tall grasses, 

the Deciduous Woods the chambered cairn of the departed             the iron that bound

i love the sound of northern places. i love a dance like emigration,          
i love the chalk 
fissure and the Viking as an adversary.  

the burns and rivulets that lost their names with an expatriated populace, 

i love them, too. the steep rise, the officer forced 
to burn the eviction notice, the means to take in boats 

at high tide,
the sentinel at the windward extent—lost, as well: a trembling removal of error. 

 

i am a small flowering hell i am hellish in the burns 

and rivulets. 

Sending Big Love from the prairies 

and a
pre-tectonic mind to look, 

Alberta
slowly 
down.

Over / by Kris Bigalk 

I feel every little tremble
of your hands
stuffed into your pockets.
I don’t believe in loving
unless it hurts a little,
bites both when provoked
and when fed.

When we began,
you were the irritating thought
that turned precious, luminous,
held between the lips of a shell,
and I was leftover bones
that made conversation,
colliding with lipstick
and physics; that first night
we uncoiled a dimension
until we slept.

And now we know
that kind of miracle
was not enough. 

Litany for Today and Tomorrow / by Lucia Galloway 

In my cat on the fence, who knows something’s wrong

In the dogs on their leashes sensing nothing amiss

In balloon bouquets and drive-by birthdays

In the volleys of postcards back and forth between friends

In a mail service still working, in the carrier’s routine
with junk mail, large parcels

In the deluge of email from candidates’ campaigns
organizations’ lengthy statements of intentions, regret

In news headlines’ alarms, oracles of loss

In the rosemary and roses holding forth in the yard

In crows that pass over and crows that settle,
the hummingbird hovering at a blossom’s throat

In sidewalk dining with classical music

In smiles hid by masks, tubes of lipstick unused

In dazzling calendars by the dozens for 2021

there’s what?

Persistence and courage, the hope and the fear
that we won’t be the same as we once were. 

the place you are before you are / by Raki Kopernik

turn inside out or just inside
to the middle core where seeds start
before they become seeds
intra inter omni
the place you are before you are

see-through webbing so fine it moves
with exhales
so strong it bends in perpetuity
that you never were and always are

when outside burns too hot
or floods with overwhelm
relentless with fight
unhinged disabled unaccountable

remember, inside goes as far in as the
universe reaches out
they are
in fact
the same place

A World / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

After two months of glutting ourselves on mayonnaise-based dips and mediocre wine, the occasional hotel bar martini, I gave in to J. and agreed to a rehab’s worth of sobriety. On Day 21, groping for a coping mechanism not rooted in the smoky backroom thrills of bad behavior, we decided to visit Disney World. The most magical place on earth, J. said, wiggling spirit fingers in my face. Much to my cultivated chagrin, the warm day and capitalism’s enthusiastic embrace imbued the artificial castles with some kind of manufactured wonderful. We rode rollercoasters to an orgiastic future and giggled when a holographic friendly ghost alighted between us in a tricked-out funhouse mirror. After a lunch of the coveted canned-pineapple-swirled soft serve, we unironically spent $50 on goofy hats. At nightfall, we crushed into the crowd waiting to watch the fireworks extravaganza, sitting gratefully on the concrete among young lovers, strollers, a gaggle of teenagers sticky with ice cream pops. All of us shared the same muggy air. Eventually, park workers herded us all to press into each other, sweaty backs-to-fronts. The proximity was festive, a thousand shared breaths. For the grand finale, Tinkerbell zip-lined to the castle on neon wings and we thought we’d witnessed a miracle. What a world, we agreed. We rode home with the windows open, humming the theme song from the Carousel of Progress. Before bed, we soaked our feet in hot water and laughed about our mortality. How funny we thought it was, being so sore after a day of watching parades, the happy exhaustion of spending the whole day crushed against other people in one long, crowded line after the next. What a world, we agreed.  

Butterfly Rose / by Kindra McDonald 

Is it wing or petal
antennae or thorn-
what would one be
without the other?

Desperate bee, flock of gulls
and all around the pear falls
apart, the peaches unravel
bud becomes bug becomes
bloom.

I would kneel for you
I would joust for you
somewhere in the vanishing
point, we are one.

If I lift my wing you bear fruit.

 
“Flordali II – The butterfly rose,” by Salvador Dali, 1981. Rare lithograph on vellum Arches paper. 

When I was in Exile / by Doug Van Gundy 

I did my best to fit in, shortening my vowels and clipping my consonants, thinking before
speaking, abandoning colloquialisms by the roadside like $100 cars.

I traded work boots for low-topped shoes, tapped my feet to the wonderful twang-less music of
these people, listened politely to their threadbare history, hid my own beneath any number of affectations.

I tried to forget the comfort of gravy, biscuits, canned beans and fat July tomatoes. I learned to
love tamales, chilaques, rellenos.

Passing was my goal, trading the mask of masculinity I’d worn at home for a mask of bland
American white.  I never stopped seething underneath, grinding teeth to paste in my sleep.

After a time, the headaches stopped, and I remembered nothing of my homeland:  the hills that
loved me, the people who taught and scolded and judged me into the chameleon I became.

When I returned, my transformation was so utter; I walked around my hometown
unrecognized, asking for directions like any other interloper.

Aliens coming / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

There is an old blue boat on Washington Street
filled with flowers. I imagine sitting in it,
floating like a cloud through the desert
looking for extraterrestrial signs of life.
We sit in a circle with neighbors, open air,  
while rain clouds gather around us.
The children wail as if every day
were the same and every day is the same,
like clouds are all different, but still clouds.
Aliens and their untouchable ways,
like seed pods no longer of use to the plant.
Our inability to interact with them,
our everlasting hope they are out there.
There was a double rainbow
the day we were married. The clouds
circled around after us, one rainbow
followed us, the other disappeared.
Rain begins to fall now in soft drops
while we walk with no one else around
like freedom. My hair wet in the rain
as it comes down faster.
I relax into it, knowing
there is no longer hope of keeping dry,
even if aliens come to take me.

Poem 14 / Day 14

SAINT JOAN part 2 / by Louise Akers 

What I’m saying is what if
revelation is also exile,
exhibition, also a squirreling
away of evidence. Not all light
comes just for you
, you know?
Human can only stand in
for human so often. 

But JOAN, an oriole,
a spy, 
the Brad Pitt of Byzantium, can press 
that word we’re folded from
into the grooves of clothes so
masculine and dissolute, we relapse
time and time 

again—Oh boy, 
one cannot overdo 
the cleansing of one’s conscience.  

 

 

Insomnia, 2020 / by Kris Bigalk 

Three in the morning
breeze blows the shade against sill
like it did last night
My head aches, I throw off sheets
how can September be here?

Half past three, some rain
I had meant to mow the lawn
tomorrow, meant to
wash the car, go for a run,
meant to patch the leaky roof.

Four now, still awake
counting abandoned projects
tasks put off for weeks
I used to make plans, do things
Time, see what’s become of me. 

De Profundis / by Lucia Galloway 

I start with a prayer, hoping to breach
this darkness close as a dry well’s shaft,

close and arid, vacant as an empty mailbox,
emptier than all the gods I’ve swallowed.

I’ve swallowed blooming parachutes
falling through layers of atmosphere.

Do falling angels know the layers of air?
I never think of them attached to chutes.

On wings like tiny parachutes,
the seeds of maple trees are sent to earth.

Sent earthward, mailed in airy hope,
they land on lawns, take root in hardened soil.

Even as aimless air hosts earthbound seedpods,
could my prayer, conceived in a well shaft, catch

a current in the arid darkness, 
ride that airway, and break through? 

Scientists Baffled by Bizarre Behavior / by DJ Hill 
In remembrance of Rachel Carson

During fire haze at the trailhead of Twin Peaks
National Forest, disoriented birds flock

to pavement-we hedge our bets on chipmunks
scrappy creatures tempting fate, flattened daily

or escape, the smoke and climbing temps drawing
birds to hairpin turns, we brake in horror, their refusing

to move, react, retreat to the safety of pines or flight
susceptible Wilson’s Warblers, packed to head south

yet blinded by their plight, disoriented by the cold
an early freeze, the tease of migratory routine

But here we are, heading home, surviving
the treacherous mountain turns, the warblers, and us

we used to know but now do not, we clock
movement as they face our two-ton intrusion

One, two, three four five, we stop counting as we swerve
unable to avoid their fragile bodies, small thin bill

bright yellow body with olive back, gentlemanly
males sporting a French style black cap

While the orcas swimming from the Strait
of Gibraltar, ram boats and vessels

their environment altered, fifteen times
orca slammed into the stern disabling

boats, breaking rudders, whistling loud
something to learn, they swim up

the coast, like clockwork each September
chasing tuna into the Bay of Biscay, they

remember when oceans and sailors and vessels
gave leeway, now they thrash, yachts harass

their pods on a freeway of giving back ten-fold
the threat-we are humans, the ocean, the warblers

the orcas- emptying oceans, raging fires
the thirteenth chime, each earthly shudder

a reminder, we are running out of time.


Photo by Ann Louise Ramsey 

all the way out / by Raki Kopernik

this is how it is
they will tell you
they will say
you don’t get to choose
you get what you get
people are the way they are
they will tell you to accept
they will say
here’s how you are supposed to be
how you should be and how to be
only one way for you to be
they will tell you it’s your fault
they will say
shut up and smile and be grateful for what you have
things could be worse
things are worse

but

I am not
the mistakes of my family or my past or my growth
I am not
the voices in my head planted without consent
when I was too small to resist
I am not the story they told
I am not the image projected in a line up
I am not a paper cookie dress up doll

I am
the ocean
seaweeds tangling in foam
moving hard crashing full force
changing with moon phases
salty reflective carrying myself
carrying you
I am carrying you
I am the opposite of stagnant
I am the strike of match against flint
the blaze of heat against dry wood
the open organ pumping blood
a spiral that goes in and in and in
and also
all the way out

Habitual / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Before: a corner turned, then cracked cement
revealed the vacant lot adorned with cans
of High-Life dregs, flaccid donuts, the scent
of unclassified decay, lizards, a glance

of some broad bird’s escape from a Spanish-mossed,
pernicious shroud. Next up, the barber shop
and Baptist church: landmarks to save the lost,
signposts pre-destining the final stop.

Inside: the swath of kitchen light, a meal
that’s half-prepared, a pile of mail, raincoat
wrinkled on a chair, the commonplace appeal
of domesticity performed by rote.

After: it’s over-warm, the light’s too-bright.
Sheltered, you scan the dark for signs of flight.

Untitled / by Kindra McDonald 

I love how my husband’s Greek family signs off a call
      with many kisses, how in person they give them
            forehead, cheek, sometimes ear lobe pecks

            In Spanish, besitos are little kisses, every greeting
      comes with a side of smooches. There’s French, obviously
not just that one, to know the pleasure of a tongue hummed

but the soft press of barely lip to barely cheek
     air kisses we blow, catch dramatic and clutch
          to the heart with a cloud of sighs, like perfume

          that exhales like breath when in kissing distance
     now my eyes sigh, water my cheeks pink, behind
my mask, my lips dry out, lipstick crumbles to powder

My mom has always blotted her lipstick
     on anything around, all my life I’ve found
           her lip prints on scraps of paper; envelopes, the power bill

           countless grocery receipts, the checkbook ledger
     how she’d press the paper or tissue to her mouth
splotch the ridged impression of her lips, I swear I’d know anywhere

and even now in the glove box of my car
     I find my registration with the faint pink outline of her kiss
          I miss it. Resuscitate: 15 compressions and two breaths

          We sign off our messages with x’s, many kisses
     we have these x’s in text, a treasure map marked
a blown wish on a lone candle on a cut cake, we still celebrate 

Go to Sleep / by Doug Van Gundy 

they say, as if it were simple as that.
Best pack an overnight bag just in case:
toothbrush, toothpaste, change of clothes for morning,
chunky novel for the bedside table.
Like any destination, sleep won’t come
to you, so you’d better get a move on.
Ready yourself for the voyage. Drink your
glass of milk—tuck your teddy bear
beneath an arm. Invite the dog along:
she knows the way like her own bones; she goes
and comes back from there several times a day.
Let her lead you.  There’s so much on your mind
these days it’s no wonder you’ve forgotten. 

Career change /  by Liza Wolff-Francis

I realize now, I might have chosen
the wrong career, but I’m planning
on living to 91 and already over
the half-way mark. Half-way
would be 45 and a half.
I was born at the end of January,
so that puts me at the end
of July, two years ago,
though I’ve always said
if I get to 91 and am healthy,
maybe I’ll keep going to 96.
If that’s the case, 48
would be the halfway mark
and that’s coming up in 4 months,
so if I’m going to make a career change,
now’s the time. There is no rule,
but it feels like it has to be at least
before I’m halfway through my life.
I don’t at all regret the career I have had.

But…

If I had to do it all over again,
I might choose to be a ninja graffiti artist.
Add emphasis on the lack of a need
for gadgets, other than paint,
and on the incredible human ability
and strength. Scaling walls, summoning fire,
disappearing in the blink of an eye.
I would add to offensive billboards,
make them more tolerable. I would art up
everything, fast and invisible, a master artist.
My motto, patient perseverance for art.
Color, design, messages of celebration.
The average person doing the extraordinary
and getting away with it. I didn’t see that
in the class list of the college catalog,
couldn’t figure it out, until now,
with 4 months to the halfway point of 96.
But now, I’m not as agile, and not practiced
at using spray paint or creating visual art.
The choice, I realize, to be able to decide
what you will do, is a privilege,
as lives are often dictated
by money, opportunity, and imagination,
but when you have it, the choice itself
is the most amazing thing there is
and grieving all you were unable to do,
the hardest.

Poem 13 / Day 13

morning / by Louise Akers 

morning. i convey my heart
of perfect, simple asks
and answers with the late
and heavy morning; it’s the day and its huge daylight that prohibit us
from what recovers
out beyond the shore.

when morning is the last
minute: the local motion surfaces
that wrinkle;
a form of wanting that appears
                more inadmissible than death—
adapts and with the tide, comes
in.

Granger, Minnesote, circa 1974 / by Kris Bigalk 

The jukebox at The Longbranch played Patsy Cline,
Mel Tillis, and my favorite, Jerry Lee Lewis’
Great Balls of Fire as I plunked quarters
into the pinball machine. The left flipper
was slow so you had to punch it a few seconds
before you thought you might need it,
probably sticky with a beer or Orange Crush
that had spilled over the side at some point.
Dad sat at the bar with a bottle of Budweiser
and Cleone, the waitress, perched nearby,
smoking her cigarette and staring out the
window, smiling and making small talk
with the farmers in their stained overalls
and seed corn hats, bringing them a burger
or French fries when they asked. Dad
bought me an Orange Crush and gave
me two dollars in quarters, and after
the pinball machine had used them up,
I wandered outside and sat on the big
cement stoop. Cars and pickups were angle parked
on the wide street, mostly dirt with a little
bit of the asphalt left, mostly making lumps
and potholes. If I walked down the street
I would see Benny and his mom’s fenced in
yard, full of Pekinese dogs and puppies
yapping, and sometimes he’d bring one out
and we would pet it and talk a little bit.
I saw him every week at Sunday School.
He didn’t have a dad. I don’t remember why.
His older brother Keith (who we all called Kiki,
because Benny called him that) was sweet
to all us little kids, because the big kids
were awful to him. Sometimes, we would
walk to my great aunt Carrye’s house up
the road and she would give us sour ball candy
and some lemonade, let us play in her
shady garden, pick some violets. When Dad
was ready to go home, he’d drive his pickup
around and find me. On the way home
we would roll down the windows,
and the wind whipped my hair around.
He turned on the radio to listen
to the market report,
and I held a small bouquet of violets
I’d picked in Carrye’s yard, thinking when
I got home I would press them between
sheets of wax paper in a book, to save
for some rainy day like this one.

The Gift of a Crescent Moon / by Lucia Galloway  

Why do I feel lucky when night’s indigo offers
a crescent moon? Maybe it’s because I’m scoping out
Nature’s hooks and points:
             Think of thorns on rose stems and lime-tree branches
             the stingers that bees and wasps embed in flesh
             the pinecone’s petaled barbs guarding its seeds
             the horns of goats, the teeth of sharks.
But maybe these are different. This is moon.
Nature, who eschews straight lines, loves the curve so
that she outlines spheres, romancing her me with arcs,
circles, ovals—familiar illusions
to furnish my earth-bound comfort zones.
Sometimes night sky affords no moon
and usually I don’t miss it. A few days dark, moon
returns in the guise of a slice, a fat rind etched out
in silvery light. The inner and outer arcs of moon-rind
connect top and bottom at points clear and fine.
              Voila! here’s a crescent cradle
              where I may dream of lounging
              like the boy in Dreamwork’s logo
              relaxed in the seemly hollow, holding a hook and line.
What wouldn’t I give now to simply be fishing
from the sanctuary of Crescent Moon,
heedless of crises, momentous desires, the lure,
inevitable aura of Full Moon’s bright coin!

For Her 84th Birthday / by DJ Hill 

my mother-in-law requested
a poem where she wins
the 2020 FedEx Cup

and I replied, “Sure, I can make
that happen,” the poem I mean
as the FedEx Cup only allows

men, my mother-in-law watches
religiously, her favorite golfers
wedded to the game, not ego

which is why I could see her, Angie
striding onto the course- white jeans
her favorite baby pink collared shirt

matching shoes, arthritic hands grasping
Big Bertha, as the men stand clear
of her swing, determination, she strolls

confidently down the course, offering
sage wisdom, complimentary chocolate
chip cookies to her caddie, her grandson’s

age, pointing out the subtleties
the acronym of GOLF- gentlemen
only, ladies forbidden, the irony

of an 84-year-old mother of five
spending her weekends watching
predicting who will take home

the trophy, the earnings, the glory
in my mind 36-year-old Dustin Johnson
is replaced by my mother-in-law

A girl can dream.

light / by Raki Kopernik 

light
as in
not heavy
but
grounded
as in
seen
open free
as in
spacious
aerated
as in
atoms
floating
everywhere

the burden
is no
one’s
to
hold
alone 

Subtropical Pathetic Fallacy / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

A rainy day’s a good time for snuggling
on the couch, a romantic comedy, tea
and noodle soup. It’s sweatpants
and blanket weather, a good excuse
to play hooky, half-nap through a novel,
and put off trying to be good and healthy
until tomorrow. Yield to the gray skies,
the white-noise rhythm, the muted green
of dripping palm fronds. Save heroism
for a sunny day and give in to the ennui
that the world outside is telling you to feel.
But what’s a girl supposed to do
when one rainy day stretches into the next,
when there are dishes to be done, words
unwritten, phone calls to be made?
How to know for sure if it’s the gray outside
that’s making nothing possible
or some more insidious gray, sneaking in
and taking root until one day it’s impossible
to remember when the rain began or imagine its end. 

Lost / by Kindra McDonald 

Lately I have found myself
so deep in thought, I have lost
minutes of time unaccounted for
like tonight as I was slicing
tomatoes for dinner, cutting
sweet corn off in neat rows
and arranging basil on a plate
like little festive flags.
I thought about how vibrant
summer food is, how it takes
so little effort to make it look
like I have tried to nourish someone
instead of simply making do
with what I have.

Yesterday I lost the better part
of an hour massaging kale
for dinner, I had read it makes
it easier to digest, and life has seemed
so hard to swallow, it is a small chore
to make our salad more tender. Somewhere
in that lost time I forgot about my mom
masked and alone boarding a plane
where she promises she won’t be arm
to breast, cheek to shoulder
with the travelers around her
glowing feverishly close.  

There’s a Word for Almost Everything, Sometimes Two / by Doug Van Gundy 

The feeders are full of finches this morning —
                the reddish-pink ones so extravagantly misnamed:
                raspberry, sure, rose even, but not a spot of purple to be seen.
Not the latest and not the last in a long line of misnomers.  See the Holiness
                Church — all cinderblock and shingle — perched at the edge
                of the fallow field, an island of everyday adrift in the divine. 

Woven in / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The next-door cat is in the backyard again
acting like he lives here, until I come outside,
then he acts like I’m the intruder and runs away.
Day after day of this view, I rarely see him.
When I do, he is like a visiting treasure,
like the roadrunner who came through yesterday
looking for snails to pick up with its beak
and smash on the deck as a snack.
Some days, I am like the cat
who is comfortable all alone,
noticing the doves in the tree branches above,
until someone comes and I run off, afraid.
At other times, I am like the roadrunner,
looking for food, for something nourishing,
for the interesting and yet, I am different
in that I think too much, about everything,
like the injured ladybug crawling
on the gray woven plastic mat, limping
over the slippery parts, losing footing.
Is it the arrogance of humans
that we see ourselves in animals,
in the mountain, in the planet,
that we personify each of its shapes
as if we could communicate with all of it?
Or is it arrogant if we do not do this,
assuming it all to be beneath us
rather than part of the fabric we also are woven into.
I forget my breath for a moment. It has slowed,
though my hand writes faster.
If this weren’t my hand, it would be my tongue
licking the page, making words appear
as if by magic. My breath, my own.
The roadrunner does not worry, nor does the cat,
about all that comes tomorrow.

 

Poem 12 / Day 12

Love poem, summer 2020 / by Louise Akers 

There are mimics of silence, and there are the inhabitants, those
who acknowledge silence bleeding, and pause to
ease its passing, seal its veins.

You, above others, preserve the unequivocal effect, pure poetry
that lives with you in silence. You express, in its bright language,
openly what you yourself are, could be.

I am powerless and want to be before your temperament,
the power of it tilled
by slow freedom. I do my best to forget
I’m zeroed out. Sometimes,

it’s enough for a body to be well lit.
You won’t enjoy this as a love poem, and yet that’s precisely
what it is. You’re tired

of my reflexive armature for feeling, my sieve-like interrogations,
my drawbacks; your absolution. We have a particular way of
behaving toward one another.

You’ll hate this. I can only be corny in person; my edges
have temperatures, and sometimes uncertain targets. But, imagine
edges like our windows, and remember

the way you quickly learned to clean them, to pop
them halfway out of sills and, on a ladder, spray and wipe
them down as I hold them up
and out for you.

I love you, and your abolition
of my reverence for finitude, itinerance, my in-facility for
containment. The thought of our coparenting, our

balanced understanding of external need delights and
overcomes me; we, I think, and ours are everyone, and lucky,
lucky ducks.

Oh, what’s been the worst of it? The co-incidental bleeding?
My unripe ambition? The absent stovetop,
our tired legs?

Did we ever get the right verb? This is the conversation of lovers:
the noise and lapse, the living in our invisible
heart, the actions and descriptions of a god, the weeks of hell.

You to me embody to the point of unity the balance
of human efforts. I emphasize the point, make use of the small country in you
in which there is
no question I am still starving, but I am also very strong.

In hope, in rain, in invisible heart, in the tumbling cover over the soft
heart, this is where we think we live. Really, it is in the water, so swift it appears
to us still, and reluctantly we extend outward from this limpid heart and follow

our hands, which draw scrupulous forms of fidelity into the running
stream. You imagine life as a set of projects, each emerging from one another
with timely rigor. You have an anticipatory sense of private accomplishment.

You are sober, and the unequivocal project of your happiness is
perfectly attuned to your activity. I envy the solidarity you uphold
with your own mood. Which is not to say,

I don’t experience a thrill of shared anticipation, inchoate immersion
in our accompliced state. The put-off, the enormity of cosanguination,
the intimidation at your apodictic—I mean,

Je suis ta pute, I am afraid. In any case, they’re wrong, the gate to hell
does not resemble the gates of eternity or irretraction. I do not
envy their or anyone’s confusion. 

Love in Late Life / by Kris Bigalk 

You, the optimist, the always latecomer, smiling, will come presently,
unaware of your tardiness, the coffee cold, like you like it best
I used to think you were selfish, in no hurry to see me,
as the love I felt for you boiled, beat impatient in my chest.
You clasp my hand, kiss me soft, brush my hair aside
and your smiling brown eyes, like amber, maple gaze
sweet into mine, and all of my indignance, ridiculous pride,
turns to tenderness. I both hate and I study your ways,
how with ease you imagine we have endless days
and if the weather changes, you embrace the rain
as a gift to the garden, as necessary as sun’s rays.
Out of my sour grapes, you make champagne.
Let’s toast to a future that’s perfect, unending,
and hold hands, celebrate this bond we are tending.

In Praise of Clotheslines / by Lucia Galloway 

In the neighborhood where I live,
clotheslines are no-nos.
Real estate may plummet
when too many ratty towels, old jeans,
nightgowns, slips, and panties are seen hanging limp
or flapping in the side-yard breeze. Oh yeah . . .
In Amsterdam or Brooklyn, even in Paris
clotheslines run from upper-story windows
on poles projecting above narrow streets. Work-shirts
and aprons, dresses bright as banners, join underwear
of every shape and size. There they swing easy,
reeled out by pulleys and brought back in.

Here in suburbia, I arrange the patio chairs
at spacious intervals so that I can drape our bed sheets,
straight from the washer’s spin cycle, across chair backs
in sloppy-looking hammocks (kitty’s been known
to leap into these tempting hollows, overturning the chairs).
Mother had a better way. Basket on basket of wet sheets
she carried to the backyard ranks of clotheslines.
After smoothing each sheet
in the space of her outstretched arms, she fastened
its edges with wooden pins to the line.

The point is, there were clotheslines
and people who worked them. And they worked for people,
affording them fresh garb. We children played Angel
as we ran through the corridors of damp hanging sheets
then burst out into sunshine, flapping our wings.  

Doorman Confirms the Football Team in Kohler, WI is Nicknamed “The Toilet Bowls” / by DJ Hill

He said it with a straight face
but I knew their season was
destined to go down the drain

Homecoming royalty-
the Princess with porcelain skin
a King on his throne
could do nothing but sit idly by

as the quarterback dodged left
swirled right, pausing only long
enough to pass to the tight end
with his extra rolls

and the cheerleaders yelled
“Push ‘em back, push ‘em back
waaay back!”

while the marching band, parched
passed water around before
relieving themselves of their duties.

What’s happening / by Raki Kopernik  

Something is always happens even though
nothing is happening right now.

I mean, something is happening but it feels like nothing.
Is there anything worth saying not already said,
I mean, right now just right now.

Sure I’m sure there are things worth saying.
There is so much to say.
The too much cancels out the nothing,
I guess.

What am I even saying
talking about more talking.
Everything and nothing
personal interpretation
our bubbles wrapped thick and tight.

Anti-Aubade / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer  

Mornings are overrated:
the relentless chirping,
the fragile, sunny peace,
just waiting to be interrupted
by the garbage truck,
overzealous weedwhackers,
the hustle-bustle of neighbors,
all importantly on their way.

Forget meditating over a coffee,
the performed bliss of sun-salutations,
a dew-soaked constitutional
to admire groggy blossoms
supplicating themselves to the dawn.
It’s all play-acting, mutual denial
of the crushing weight of to-dos,
loads of laundry, clocking-in.

Savor the honest calm after midnight,
the house less quiet than settling,
releasing the daytime creaks.
Solitude after dark feels illicit,
a stolen space where difficult work
can be wrestled with: alchemy,
invention, any coming-to-terms.
Without witnesses, possibility reigns.

And after beating back the branches
of that long, moonless trail,
relax into the freedom of time
unaccounted for. Shutting off lights
never felt so good. Alone
in the dark, faith in almost anything
comes easily, as the silence without
nurtures and accepts the silence within. 

Untitled / by Kindra McDonald  

It’s Funny the Things You Miss / by Doug Van Gundy 

The lousy basement apartment you lived in for the three months between high school and
college.

Taking baths instead of showers.

Loving a band so much you’d work all day Thursday, drive four hours just to catch them as
they took the stage, pump your fist in the air for two sets, shout yourself hoarse, then
drive the four hours home to be at work in the morning.

Having to choose between buying books or buying food.

Food meaning blue box mac n’ cheese, corn flakes, ramen. 

Catching the eye of someone across a room at a party and falling into their arms on a pile
of stranger’s coats in the spare bedroom half an hour later.

Climbing out onto the roof to smoke a joint with a friend, a lover, your long-dead cousin. 

Bicycling to class. Walking to work. Bumming a ride to the liquor store.

Waking up to your clothes in a pile on the floor, smelling of smoke after a night at the bar,
or a club, or a concert.

Climbing out onto the roof to smoke a joint alone.

Being heartbroken.

Mixtapes.

Energy of Future / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The master of air
came to explain something invisible
for fear of sun’s wrath against earth.

Her plea, past the sound of syntax,
beyond the depth of where words reach.
A wakefulness of dirt and breath,
and afterwards a forgotten storm of fire.

                Listen from the heart, from soul deep,
                the answers are calm inside you
                so people breathe free.

All that is possible in the unfinished ocean,
in the icy wild winter soil,
the marble elk and burnished moose,
mule deer and beaver
who leave footprints
for dust blind people to discover
in this thick undulating lifetime
they continue to walk through.

The master of air carves words of hope,
the ice stays sculpted over land,
the morning rays of light welcome
tiny flowers in the foreground
of a landscape pure cold and vast.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Discretio spiritum / by Louise Akers 

It begins in air
vast air gold 
air air 
destitute of 
light a gold end 
like a sound and color 
ripped through 
air how i 
grew arro
gant and swaggering 
through gold and nearly empty
sockets invocations ad mea
perpetuum deducite 
tempora
carmen i.e. what the fuck
was that god doing
before
he rent my sky
asunder. 

Just Think / by Kris Bigalk 

Something there is that doesn’t love silence
That sends plates off the table, knocked by stray elbows
And spills milk, and cries over it
And makes dinner all over again, sizzling and banging.
The work is in finding the quiet moments, and in them
I have no peace, wondering when the next crash comes
Where I will be – napping on the couch, reading a book,
But my ears have learned to tune out the arguments,
To please my concentration, my connection of thoughts.
No one has seen the bottom of my lake of silent rage
But I know the rocks I throw into it eventually settle.
I fold my plans into paper boats, set them on the shore
And light one on fire, launch its crackling hull
And set the next one in right after it until they fade out.
We keep our memories that way – images of lost ideas.
To each of my children I have bequeathed the ashes
And some folded boats, and a book of matches.
We have a tradition in this family.
‘Stay where you are, or face the consequences.’
We wear the same paths between past, present, and future.
Oh, just one of us should take a different road,
One who would disappear, but whose light would remain.
There it is — my wild hope again, in all its noisiness, all its silence.
If that thing with feathers can light on my shoulder, just think, just think 

Every Prayer / by Lucia Galloway 

1.
How can I write a poem this day,
so many trees, homes, stores in California burning?
The Times runs photos of red-orange skies,
my car in the driveway’s mantled with ash
just yesterday someone’s dwelling place.

The foothill trails, once crowded, now closed,
unmasked hikers not the only danger.
What do I say to the neighbors forced to flee
the mountain retreat in their weekend camper
while I brood, lethargic, in suburbia? Stanger.

2.
From the foothill trail I’d once loved to walk, let me offer:

a litany from sprigs of ceanothus brushing ‘gainst my leg

a secret from the deer appearing on a mid-distant slope

a painting from the sycamore, its trunk splotched ochre,
cream, khaki, and tan

a poem from the eucalyptus with six slender trunks rising
from a single root—tree-bouquet of scents, choruses
of wind and wing.

3.
May something yet be refuge, comfort, beauty, peace.
May devastation be temporal for all things living.
May there be prayers enough for every creature:
each person, animal, insect, bird. Each sprig and shrub,
each trunk and branch. May it be so.

Lives Matter / by DJ Hill 

she said sheepishly
as we both had seen the same
raccoon, stiff along the roadside

his front and back legs crossed
as though he had just laid down
for a post-squirrel nap, plump

two-tone tail stretched out
like a bottle brush. “The guard-rail
must have trapped him,” she said

his black mask resembling one
a burglar might wear, or me at bedtime-
us laying on our sides, feigning sleep

While just down the road, turkey
vultures congregated- one, two, three, four
five, on a ledge, bald heads, red skin

black plumage and beak, skilled scavengers
soon to take flight, snowbirds
on the berm, grunting and hissing

I debated shooing them off
lest they catch a whiff of roadkill
still warm a stone’s throw away

repulsed by their vile habit
of regurgitating carrion. I went back
to the scene wanting to wrap

his lifeless body in a faux fur blanket
or rewind time to when he was foraging-
his tiny human-like hands clutching

a trout, anticipating the rainbow flesh
his long saunter home, the family
waiting for their evening meal.

today / by Raki Kopernik 

today is my dad’s birthday
always marked special on the calendar
September eleventh but never called
nine eleven or nine one one
like the emergency call
like the emergency plane crashes

today my dad is eighty-one
last year we threw him a fancy party
with bubbly wine and ravioli and friend toasts and
I told a story about how he helped me
adjust the carburetor on my 1980 Oldsmobile
over the cordless phone twenty years ago
and he smiled and laughed
the remembering in his eyes
same eyes they’ve always been

today I won’t see my dad
no party no ravioli no bubbles or stories but
I sent him a plant and a stupid balloon and
I will imagine his eyes twinkling with memory when
he opens the door and finds his gift

                                                                                              יום הולדת שמח אבאלה 

Expectations / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for C. & A.

Motherhood means expecting, waiting
nine months to meet a new half-self,
expecting the impossible feat of making

a whole human out of nothing
but a haphazard cluster of cells expecting
a feast of secondhand nutrients

and a calm vessel for safe passage
into being, expecting the rough days,
the third trimester pains, the birth

itself, a kind of expecting the unknown
terror of letting go and bringing forth,
at once, expecting the twilight lucidity

of sleepless infancy, expecting the fear
of unexplained hungry sobs to overwhelm
the joy of welcoming a new face

to the family table, expecting relief after,
kept alive for the first while, the child
grows sturdy enough to stand

on solid ground, expecting joy, blissfully
unaware of everything that’s wrong
with the world right now, never

expecting the blind hot rage of creation
hard-fought when an indifferent mosquito
lands on that freshly made body,

miraculously kept alive, and disrespects
that being more yourself than you, expecting
easy access to precious blood, bold and cavalier.  

In the Six Days Without Power After Hurricane Isabel, We Try to Save Our Marriage / by Kindra McDonald 

Category 1 winds 74-95 mph – very dangerous

We have left our rolling hills and basements for this new town of flooding and bridge lifts and Weather Channel Acts of God, as if a change of scenery could change us, but wherever you go, there you are. In the days of build-up and tension you stock supplies and horde water, there is lots of alcohol. I want to leave, you want to stay, and so we play at tug of war and you are always stronger. We lose power before the winds even start. The late summer heat settles in, the quiet pours over us like concrete.

Category 2 winds 96-110 – extremely dangerous

By noon the howling has taken on a musical quality, whistling and punctuating our yelling with its rising pitch and crescendo of ripping shingles. You climb onto our porch rail to repair the flapping siding, I grip you by your belt loops hold you steady, wishing we never moved here, never married, wish we never met, you spit as the wind whips the house, shutters fly like magic carpets, what is left to hold on to?

Category 3 winds 111-129 – devastating damage

Debris is flying and falling, we retreat to our corners then square off again as dusk settles in and we are gray shadows slipping past each other. We do what we do when we’ve lost our voices, toss our bodies toward each other wave after wave, drag sheets from room to room, re-enact a camping trip over candlelight and tin beans, tell soft stories that make us smile. The eye is over us, quiet and calm and even in this dark we see that white-knuckled love is not enough.

Category 4 winds 130-156 – catastrophic damage

Days without power, milk curdling sour, the rotting drip of thawing meat and humidity hangs heavy as a vow. We are wrung out from crying, sick and sleepless. Our lives swim through the flooded kitchen, a floating champagne flute, a sterling cake server. Windows shatter and 12 packs come and go in fever dreams of broken bottles and picture frames. The pines are ripped from the lawn and it’s obvious how shallow the roots are.

Category 5 winds are 157 mph or higher – recovery may take months to years

The neighbor says it will be weeks before the road is clear. It’s prison, and we beg each other for parole. We dry out, pack our hearts in separate boxes, mitigate the hemorrhage in the roof. Without street lights and screen glare we can see the stars so clearly, funny how we know they’re always there. When the generators around us roar to life, there is nothing left to say.

Please Forgive Me / by Doug Van Gundy  

It was my phone that rang in the middle of your reading,
interrupting what must have been a difficult poem about your mother
with the theme song to The Looney Tunes.  I’m desperately sorry.

I was the one who laughed when you said the word masticate,
and I continued to giggle for the next seven or eight minutes.
It’s an involuntary response, though I have been seeing a specialist.

And it was my chapstick that fell from my pocket, somehow
rolling under all of the theatre chairs and between everyone’s
feet before stopping against the stage with an audible click.

If you can see your way to offer absolution for the sum total
of these minor transgressions, you’re a better person than I am. 
As for writing my own name over yours in black magic marker

on all the copies of your debut collection arranged attractively
in a perfect pyramid on the sales table in the lobby, that is a burden
I cannot expect you to take on.  I must bear it entirely on my own.

River’s path / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The people said the river fished them.
What was seen was that they fished the river.
Every morning, every evening, in the day too,
the river looked inside of them, turned them
inside out, with sounds of water moving
the ways it moves around people and logs,
small islands of sand and silt,
how it organizes itself to become river
and how the people hummed
to its shape downstream. The river
offered the fish it loved to the people,
as if gifting were the blessing it presented.

It was the river that first sang
how it was of the people. And people
held the water of river as their life blood.

Until concrete was poured, cursing the water
into directions water had not wanted to go.
The people knew water doesn’t forget
where it has been, they knew water feels
all the places it has been stained, the places
it has been tackled and restrained.
It holds memory of children splashing
in its ripples, of fish racing in its rapids,
bathing in its pools. It knows of the woman
Nilce, of river people, cupping her hands,
pulling the most sacred of substances
to her mouth, drinking from river
as offering to it and taking river’s offering.
River remembers what it means to run free.

 

*Nilce de Souza Magalhaes was one of the leaders of the Movement of People Affected by Dams, in Brazil, that sought to advocate for the rights of people affected by the construction of dams. Her community was forcefully displaced to a site with no electricity or running water, which compromised their subsistence as fishermen. She was murdered in 2016 for her activism.

 

Poem 10 / Day 10

so when does recidivism / by Louise Akers 

so when does recidivism
become a non-issue? tell me,
what revision
of my little world made
cunning makes me look
sort of penitent?

i have been lonely,
up til now.
i listen. i ignore
the slip is because
it isn’t there.

my excuse for falling
is commensurate
with the distance
from peak to lowest valley,
with a collapse
from top to bottom floor,

or second floor, and the raised pool
above street level
full of rainwater and cigarette
butts, now all over
the street.

september, i am at a loss
for language.
let it come
in heaps and tether it to
whatever loneliness survives
this fall.

COVID Tanka / by Kris Bigalk 

Blood red manicure
bitten down to rough hangnails.
No one sees me here
this home, prison, oasis,
where I live, entrapped, so safe.

My slinky black dress
is perfect for a grocery run
I wear strappy heels
spritz on some Chanel No. 5.
The security guard smiles.

My lipstick is a
pink secret under my mask
it stains the liner.
At home I kiss the mirror
and it seems to kiss me back.

Missing Breakfast / by Lucia Galloway 

Something’s not quite right all day.
You lose your balance, step in a fetid puddle,
fall from grace in almost every way.

The train is packed, you hair in disarray.
At work you find your colleagues in a huddle.
Something’s not quite right all day.

Missed a deadline: penalty to pay.
You owe back taxes, records in a muddle,
fallen from grace in almost every way.

Houseguests arriving, much to your dismay.
You know that you’ll be forced to scuttle
fine plans that don’t cohere each day.

The grown-up kids return and want to stay.
Your arguments, attempts at a rebuttal
fall from grace in almost every way.

Skipping breakfast—say it! Stupid Play
enabling fate and folly to befuddle
those things that don’t go right all day,
that fall from grace in almost every way. 

Imagine What You Desire / by DJ Hill 

After Jennifer Pastiloff, author of
          On Being Human

In the wake of a fresh new
morning, I open my eyes
to the day, forgetting that heart
pain which never subsides
but knowing your narrowed
eyes and fisted heart softened
The backpack of stones
emptied, I rise, spirit lightened
humped back and slumped
shoulders straighten, the world
despite its flaws and angst look
heavenward, swaying like flowers
in shifting breeze, these are the faces
I desire, bright and attentive
blossoms who no longer judge
turn their faces to my light, trusting
I will care, love, forgive, understand
show mercy, acceptance, forgetting
your arrows while laying mine down
This peace, our peace, will echo
through the meadows, foothills, climbing
to mountain peaks, tossing ashes
on a path we will no longer tread.

More about dreams / by Raki Kopernik 

because dreams take up all the space these days. dreams about a life I don’t want, a life without
you. dreams about still being in high school – those are nightmares. dreams about my dead cat who
didn’t die after all. dreams about tidal waves blanketing my house, the classic teeth falling out and
forgetting my shoes clothes glasses. dreams about my hair being bigger shorter longer straighter
and dreams about living in my childhood home, my mother young and funny and laughing so hard
that I miss her even harder when I wake up. dreaming in Hebrew, dreaming in Technicolor,
dreaming in crowds of people without masks. the dreams keep coming, always, even when I don’t
sleep well. vivid lucid sometimes flying sometimes orgasms sometimes musical, songs appearing
inside channeling creative fire all the time all the time all the time.

Aubade to Recurring Nightmares / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

They’re not good dreams, exactly,
haunted by the usual suspects:
ex-almost-boyfriends, grandparents’
ghosts, novels I haven’t read before

the exam, a full dining room
with the lights out, complicated
French pastries I have to pipe myself.
I know where they’re coming from:

not enough faces to see these days,
too many unrealized pipe dreams,
the fear of too many months marking time
and how small the house feels,

alone with the cat and the August rain,
the unbearable silence of safety,
mourning the loss of a working lunch,
the thrill of a make-your-own salad bar.

After three decades, I’ve learned the rules:
you’ll drive off a cliff
without dying, your husband
is perpetually out of reach but asleep

beside you, and if you wake up paralyzed,
keep breathing until you can move enough
to sit up in bed. The gray dawn haunts me more.
How will this morning manipulate me:

sunny, sports-braed and ready
for a constitutional in the beachy humidity?
Exhausted by the muted green
of sodden palms? Bereft in a swamp of fog?

Better to dance with the devil
who brought you, blaming the dark room
for your uneasiness. I’ll take surviving
familiar regret over grieving the present day. 

Predictions / by Kindra McDonald  

Our persimmon tree is loaded
with fruit still hard and green
I check on it most mornings
barefoot in the lawn
back to the window
where my love’s head is still
pressed to the pillow. I’ll wait
until first frost, at least
when they are soft and squish like jelly
any sooner the bitterness
will pucker our mouths fuzzynumb

I harvest first fruits at dawn
glossy orange hearts I’ll collect
in the held out hem of my nightgown
spread sunrise on the kitchen table
and like my mother and aunts
and their mothers and aunts
I will slice a piece from each
savor the first burst of autumn
and work my way to the center kernel

split wings of seeds I no longer bleed for
I use my teeth, cracked in half, tongue it out
until a dozen glisten on the red Formica
I will read the shapes inside, no shovel spoons
or mild forks, this time I see all knives
a winter so bitingly cold it will cut

I’ll wake my love with frosted breath
hiding knowledge of our future
I curl beneath him
we’ll chop the wood tomorrow. 

The Importance of Sadness / by Doug Van Gundy 

Today I want to sit here and be sad.
Not depressed, not morose: just sad.
Depression is a burden, a layer of ash
damp on the heart. Sadness can be savored,
rolled around the mouth like a lozenge,
fumbled absent-mindedly like an agate
in a pocket. Sadness is the frayed edge
of comfort, the way that rain is a comfort,
or a half-ruined sweater, or the memory
of making love with someone who doesn’t
love you anymore. Sadness is lukewarm
coffee discovered on the desk half-a-chapter
into a new novel, and drunk anyway
with disappointment and gratefulness.
Sadness is a nuanced thing, a chamber
orchestra of emotion landing on a chord
we call sad because we know no better
name. That’s what I want for myself today,
the tinged languor of sadness. Ignoring
distraction and simply sitting in sadness
like a warm, luxuriant bath. Simply sitting
as everything around me grows cold. 

Turquoise Trail RV park and campground / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Back up that way, the view is of the mountains.
Deep layers of green before sky.
To the left is the once abandoned ghost 5th wheel.
When we first arrived, we had to dump our waste at the dump station.
The trailer over there has a porch attached.
On the other side of the gravel road, there’s one with a garden.
Pick-up trucks lined up one after one in front of the RVs, almost all the spaces full.
A birdhouse is perched on top of our electrical hookup.
There are tents here too, somewhere, I can’t see.
An older man appears out of dust, his face covered with a mask.
He guides us backing in, turn the wheel against the wheels, he says.
The mountain air is still hot under the sun in August.
Two little girls jump off a picnic table, almost crush a small chihuahua.
We say we’re new to this.
You’ll get the hang of it, the man offers.
A younger man stands twenty feet back, ready to step in, watching as we settle into the space.
Two by two, people from smaller campers or without hookups head to the restroom shack.
While we set up, sweat drips down our foreheads.
A hawk at the top of one tree flies to the top of another.
I wonder who lives in the camper with a garden and yard with a birdbath.
Tomorrow we will leave.

Poem 9 / Day 9

A millennial apodictic / by Louise Akers 

I think about the frequency of contact, or my easy feeling
and its arrival
in the moment of your voice.
I remember, with embarrassment, the question
that I asked of you much more
than once, remembering the calm, your
calm and unequivocal
response. I could not imagine a finer tether
than our shared responsiveness, which is to say, our shared
attention; always to my attentiveness,
you respond with your own—your graceful,
styleless magnanimity.

I think this is, really,
a document of extraordinary patience.
Not patience with short memory
or cursory investment, but with careful and judicious preparation,
as for a long visit to an unfamiliar place
or the articulation of a word that must be met
with deafening applause,
like the grip
of something delicate but unbearable to lose—tight
fingertipped and seeming hardly
to presume upon the forces
tending always toward its dislocation.

What else? You’re far from me; I feel it.

I wonder how exactly you perceive
the manner in which
I love you, i.e., whether
you notice every variant
negotiation, made at intervals
so frequent as even to distress
myself into commitment. I love
with the enduring penalty
of choice after endless
choosing.

I admonish myself for my ceaseless arbitration.

This is to say,
I choose to come into our congress as
a Saint.
I choose our constancy above my predilection
to unmoor.
I choose you, and the honor of encouraging
your prodigious
and efficient practice of deep human love
and that of living, and the deep felt honor of their benefit.

There is a private fearfulness that sings out after
your dismissal
of my cursory attempts to persuade you
of my neat fault,
or what I perceive to be
the inevitable motion of your patience
on the wane.

(There is a shallow pride that bellows
in the short-lived quiet
in the hollow of your response:
I am alone, and I have been.)

But then,
the passive ease of foreclosure
sublimates; panic freezes solid.
I know I cannot maintain this extraordinary practice
in your absence. I cannot take up
another.

When I say practice, how does it sound?
How can I enervate this love poem
for you?

I imagine the expression
of a millenial apodictic, i.e.
“I love you”, as an utterance, apodictic.

I wonder if the metaphysical
function of self-evidence is choice,
made once, then over and
over again.

I imagine that attention is
the functional approach
to this certain source—
or source of certainty,
perhaps. I imagine
the appalling envy news
of private certainty could well
incite. Well,
maybe.

I write you, and interpolate
my private interests in expressing
you. (I hope
this is alright.)
I imagine you
get tired of my asking.
I imagine you’d prefer a brighter sequence or phrase.

I imagine the bright articulation of living
that accounts for your exquisite patience
with me,
in its clear expression, and, more broadly, as
a form of prescient and infinitely
valuable affection—which is to say,
attention—which is to say:
I love you and you look at me,
you look at me. 

Back in the 90’s / by Kris Bigalk 

Do you remember when we had to wonder?
                                    when we didn’t know?
                                               when we couldn’t find out?
When we would be sitting at dinner with friends
and someone would ask who that actress was who played
Bonnie in the old Bonnie and Clyde movie and everyone
had gotten too drunk to remember, or maybe it was because
we were all about three years old when that movie came out
and we hadn’t even heard of cell phones and the internet
so instead of googling it and finding the answer we would
make up our own answers or talk it out until someone
said I think her name started with an F and someone else
would say She reminded me of Jane Fonda and we would
all laugh because it definitely wasn’t Jane Fonda and then
someone would just yell it out, about an hour later, when
the conversation had gone somewhere else entirely,
FAYE DUNAWAY! And we would say of course, yes, Faye
Dunaway and then we would talk about what a heel
Warren Beatty was and wonder why we were even
talking about such an old movie. We would have
to ask friends for a ride home because there wasn’t
Uber or Lyft, and we would listen to crackled
cassette tapes we bought at convenience stores.
We wondered if there was a place with more people
like us, or if there even were more people like us.
We didn’t know. We couldn’t find out.
It seems like bliss, now, that
happy, complicit ignorance. 

Untitled Sonnet / by Lucia Galloway 

You sent a text—an enigmatic note.
Although I’d hoped to get a postal missive,
no one writes, these days, nor scrawls in cursive.
Still, I’m awfully glad you wrote.

IMHO, CUL, BTW are just the start:
we’re busy working out the new stenography.
Curtailing distance through technology
hones letter-writing to efficient art.

But how to touch your shoulder, give a hug,
know that we live in bodies, not just memes.
To watch your lips form words, syllables sounds
that cross the air between us. Not a bug
that brings the chill of fever, stifled screams.
O angels, turn this evil wind around!

Aspens Wave Us By / by DJ Hill 

Labor Day weekend 2020
haze drifts through Independence
Pass, a faint outline of mountain peaks-
sleeping giants soon to wake

Native grasses shifting to fall
wardrobe, summer blossoms void
of color, parched pines, thousands of timbers
toppled like toothpicks after an avalanche

A ribbon of what used to be river
Red-tailed hawks, hard pressed to find prey
121 degrees in LA today, wildfires stifling
the rebellious sky, Mother Earth, taking out her fury

The relentless stream of traffic
strangling arteries, F-150’s towing
Raptors, overstuffed trailers,
Jeeps, ATV’s, stacks of fat

bikes, grinding the Front Range
Hogbacks to rubble. Yellow-Bellied Marmots
double-dog-dare drivers to be aware
victims of a reign of error

Road closed. Detour. Yield, travelers-
We’ve lost our guard rail, a runaway
circumstance destined to shift or fail
A modern-day circus-train

with us still on board. We,
the caged beasts, foaming
at the mouth, bending the bars,
nature’s rules we can no longer ignore. 

was it all a dream / by Raki Kopernik  

was it all a dream?
the waves of youth and feeling soft
crying over a girl at a basement punk show
that beautiful gray cat who outlived all the girls
my mother’s hair still dark and long

how many more lives will we live
is there even a difference between real dreams
and the ones you can’t remember?

Substantiation / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Today, you could not bear
sorting the morass of emails
about publishing opportunities,
recipe ideas from laid-off chefs.

Today, you could not manage
devising lesson plans
to reassure your students
that poetry can be studied online.

Today, you could not fathom
reading the Tuesday Arts section
dutifully recording the titles
of great streaming performances.

Instead, you succeeded
at putting on real shoes
and cutting your jungle of a yard.
How satisfying, you thought,

admiring the neat lawn bags,
a tangible job well done.
Amid all the virtual uncertainty,
empirical evidence of your survival. 

Due / by Kindra McDonald 

When I used to work in an office
there was a springtime baby boom
Don’t drink the water, they joked
as all around me the pregnant women grew
each day and the cubicle walls
pressed in.

There was shower after shower

all the pink and blue so frosting sweet
and all the guesses and wives’ tales
carrying high and craving salt
each days updates like weather reports
and the constantly rotating due-date lotto

with applause and aplomb. I would shrink
in my desk, feel morning sick with worry

while all of them leaned in and spun a sewing
needle round and round or up and down
we are pink-cheeked and giddy for girls
down and around and side to side
we toast and clap for a boy.

Swelling month after month in secret.

At home I watch the squirrels steal
stuffing from my swing cushions
building nests in the tree. The thrush
is busy all morning swiping moss
and pine straw, my knotted hair
and strewn tissues make a home.

Butterflies rest fast on goldenrod
and aster, the ones with eyes
are God’s spies. The dragonflies

dance and dip, a devil’s darning needle
left to its own device will sew your mouth shut.

It’s my turn to make the weekly
cake and the egg I crack has two yolks

glossy eyes wobble and I wonder this time
how to divine this break, it is either twins
or death. One in every thousand hens
lay double eggs, one in every thousand
babies are born with teeth.

The women tell me my cakes are always sweetest. 

Christmas Parade / by Doug Van Gundy 

We stood shoulder to snowy shoulder with the wool-clad throng
along the parade route, listening to high-school bands play carols
we might recognize through chapped lips and frozen mouthpieces.

You surprised me by slipping a bare hand inside my mitten.
We laced fingers — shivering and silent among the revelers —
not singing, not cheering, not talking. Afterward, we stopped

for mulled wine before walking off in separate directions. I trundled
homeward, sustained by small tendernesses: your hand inside my glove,
the gift of the wine, the slightest smile you hid beneath your scarf

as you stepped out of the streetlight and into the snowy dark.

Still powerless / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

When the power goes out with the wind
this afternoon, I don’t imagine it will be
for long. Growing up in the south,

it seems like we lost power in every storm
and it was always special, like the world
shut down. No television or radio. No fridge.

No AC. No fan. No heat. We would get out
candles, hover around in the dim light, tell stories.
Mom would worry about food in the fridge.

Dad would go outside, even in rain and lightning
to see if the neighbors’ lights were on.
At 3:30 pm today, the house lost its spark.

After a half hour, in the dark, I stopped
trying to work, there was no internet anyways.
The pandemic world even quieter.

We made sandwiches for dinner
and ate by candlelight. There is a feeling
of suspense that I enjoy, a ritual of lighting

candles for utilitarian purpose, conversations
about small fire, big fire, how California is burning
again. They’re airlifting people from their homes,

smoke blows all the way over here to New Mexico.
We saw fire in the Sangre de Cristos the other day,
smoke billowing up from the aching mountain.

A candle is small fire, a relaxing flicker,
but growing, can suffocate a forest, a town,
the lives of so many. Wind shakes our house,

a siren whirs by. We are so reliant on power.
There is a stillness in the air that exists
without it, it humbles us,

as if all the world has stopped to breathe,
I sit in the dark, illuminated
by small flicks of flame.

Poem 8 / Day 8

 

SAINT JOAN pt. 1 / by Louise Akers 

As a Saint I was impressed by pseudoscience. I had vested interest in the decreation of the
enlightenment, its anomic convolutions.

As a Saint I modeled good explanations, beautiful ones that made sounds like an enlightened
understanding, but of grace; Unity for unity.

As a Saint, I was above life and all of its vicissitudes. I lived what a pagan might call death. I was
history and historian, attuned to sovereign elation.

As a Saint, I wished to indicate my visions had been earned.

As a Saint, I was loyal. I wished to make war. I was a prince, and, humble, made no more war. As
a Saint, so much was at stake, and the consequence of waging war was to wage war against us.

As a Saint, no matter how many men you raised against us.

As a Saint, I loved insects as I loved myself, loved cannibals, loved others.

As a Saint, of course, I loved all dogs.

As a Saint, I had not wanted to besiege the town, I had not intended any canonballs to remove
any fucking faces.

As a Saint.

As a Saint, I was the nominative, the accusative, the vocative.

I determined genitives of spirits; I exacted datives, stunk with ablatives.

As a Saint, I was in the business of “servare.” I caught and came catching. As a saint, I incurred a
cost beyond the perimeter of verbs: “to be,” “to garner,” “to save.”

As a Saint, I took the instinct of a lover out of orbit, reminded her of what is nominally plural,
what is transitively just a joke.

Barbequed Ribs, Labor Day 2020 / by Kris Bigalk  

The smell of burnt sugar and cayenne
moves smoky through the house.
The wind rattles the windows,
rain clatters the roof.
It’s not as if we had plans.
The beaches are closed anyway.
No one would come over,
even if we invited them,
and if they did, we would
make muffled small talk
through cotton masks.
The ribs carmelize
like they have every year.
You will brave the rain
to finish them on the grill.
They will melt in our mouths,
a few minutes of pleasure
while we discuss inanities
of our day off, make plans
for the distant future
like we always used to do,
decide not to watch the news,
and instead, make a fire
in the fireplace, an invitation
to welcome autumn, one of
the only certain visitors
we expect.

Capriccio and Fugue / by Lucia Galloway  

To my piano. For the child I was, and for my grandson.

Why do I think of tucking my ten-year-old self
inside the chamber of your strings?
Not putting her away, but giving her
a place to be
where she and I could meet.
I swear I’ll walk the keyboard touching
all the ivories and blacks,
run the scales—majors with their cousin minors—
octaves and octaves
before I’ll stop to breathe. Before I’ll lean,
peering into the spaces between the keys,
as if by paying homage
I could discover harmonies in hiding.

Piano, sometimes you are truly grand,
a flying elephant, one ear flapping.
I want to be ten again, tucked up in your curled trunk,
staving off pure terror—ten, like grandson Lucas,
born to take this ride.

More often you’re a portal.  Yes, a gate,
you hulking, legged Piano.   Agile, you swing
between the moment and the tenant memories,
hinging the energy that keeps me, changed,
within the life I’m living. That other life
I was a kid playing for silver stars stuck on the pages
of etudes and minuets. Those long lessons.
Now I play in quickened time
where I’ve only those stars that stick to fingers
as, recklessly, I block out chords and
run arpeggios into cadences . . . for Lucas, now eleven.
Tempo, gesture, motive: you broker time, my Piano,
measure my playfulness. I hand it off. 

Untitled / by DJ Hill 

Here’s the plan / by Raki Kopernik  

I’d rather put whiskey in my coffee
swimming in sweatpants, a ratty Pixies t-shirt
soft silk soothing my skin
listening to the Footloose soundtrack in a loop
jigsaw puzzling cats in a bookstore
interjected with dance party breaks
just you and me,
and maybe the cat

For sure I’ve become an introvert, reversed
nevermind the binary
that no one is all one thing
my insides turned deeper in
with the seeping of annoyance at
any pressure touching the two hundred foot radius bubble
I have drawn around my world

change happens without effort
without consciousness or intention
without a plan
or not the plan you planned 

Homecoming / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Driving inland in our haphazardly packed car,
coolers dripping icy dregs, trunk full
of musty laundry, a still life of bottle caps
and candy wrappers in the passenger side
door, sunglasses spotty with salt air,
a lone French fry petrifying in the space between
the seats, the windshield marked with graves
of fifty dragonflies, a small dune forming
in the backseat next to the rusted beach chairs,
I look over at you, sweaty and sunscreened,
bleary-eyed from yesterday’s sunny afternoon
tiki drinks, unwashed hair sculpted majestically,
and pray silently thank you for the life we’ve made
and the chance to run away and escape it. 

A work in progress / by Kindra McDonald 

After five months of quarantine
your hair has gone so long and wavy
it has changed your face and you
malign the feel of it on the back of your neck
how it curls on your pillow when you sleep
pressed against your ears, creeping towards
your cheek, and you have taken to wearing
my elastic hair bands to keep the ringlets
from your eyes and off your forehead when we ride
our bikes it waves to me, and I catch the sparkle
of the silver polka dots on my headband smile.

Most weeks we see no one but each other, the cats
fight then sleep and so do we, feeding each other
with what we can grow or graze or fish and the longer
your hair grows the more wild we are in our quiet
cocoon. The full moon slants in through our blinds
bathes your head in halo light and I whisper a wish
to each hair, a prayer to each wave and I swear
each morning it grows longer and I am so much stronger
I don’t ever need to sleep.

When you are finally allowed to sit in your barber’s chair
have him use the number three razor to shear your neck
and sides, he calls you “Curly,” watch it fall
in rings around the chair. You come home smelling
of powder and limes, crisp as fall, school’s first day new
I realize I hardly know you at all.

This Morning / by Doug Van Gundy 

The sun came up like a toddler
first learning to stand. We were
overjoyed. We were sausage and peppers.

We jumped up and down, pumping
our fists in the air as if watching the moon
landing from a control room in Houston.

We embraced like lost lovers
cheered like children,
pranced like pensioners.

Our hearts were pounding, our lungs
filling and emptying as if
our lives depended upon it. 

Relationship with rain / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

My son says grown-ups don’t like rain,
but that kids love it. In the desert,

it is sacrilege for one to not like rain,
because dry earth always welcomes water.

When we play outside, the adults
always want to go inside if it rains,

he says, but the kids want to stay and play.
Why do you want to go inside?

I think of adult reasons, it’s wet,
it cold, clothes get uncomfortable,

maybe to get out of the way of a storm.
For a moment, I wonder whether

we outgrow rain or maybe outgrow
the wonder of it. But I love

to feel rain on my skin, especially
when it sneaks up with just a few

drops as a sung hello before it brings
its full orchestra. When I was twenty

at an outdoor concert, the rain first
came softly, then louder and I knew

I had to join with it or perish.
As it began to puddle, our feet

began to slide in mud, we slid
into each other, mud on our legs,

hands and arms, on our faces
like ancient markings. Some of my best

memories are with rain. Our wedding day:
a rainy blessing. Or a few years ago,

at that beach bar, the rain came so hard
it seemed the sky tried to lift the ocean

and bring it to the ground.
Everyone seated outside crowed under

shelter of the bar, water so loud on the tin roof,
water pooling, blowing in from the side,

a pelting symphony. For a while, we stayed
sheltered, then ran for the car under

our one small umbrella. We waded
through the restaurant patio, a slanted

kind of music. By the time we reached the car,
we had become the rain, our movement

its musical notes. It was a part of us,
sopped, soaked, swimming. How good it felt

to be washed, baptized by music, by earth,
by sky, all the water we could not hold

and we laughed as it cleared by the time
we parked at our hotel, leaving us wet

for no reason at all, other than the joy
of feeling rain on our skin.

Poem 7 / Day 7 

Bad fruit logic / by Louise Akers 

Imagine a logic so numinous
it manifests in fruit,
in raw petroleum, genitalia.

What I’m suggesting is:
don’t discount evidence
about a body
in service of decisiveness, which
is to say what to desire/
which privation to forgive. 

Two in the morning / by Kris Bigalk 

I like to walk down the staircase
at two in the morning, the familiar
creaks a little louder in the quiet,
the faint streetlight outside painting
the darkened walls with the hues
of the stained glass windows.
I imagine the young woman
in thick long skirts and petticoats
who rustled up and down these
stairs a hundred and fifty years ago,
twenty-two, ravishing,
dead of a fever before she
was married a year.
I imagine her standing at
the bottom of the stairs,
her hand on the curling rail,
wearing a lacy wedding gown,
regarding herself in the full-length
mirror by the door. If the light
is right, I see the edges
of her face, like a blurry
sepia photograph, smell
the lilacs she holds
in her arms, like a child. 

On Labor Day Weekend 2020 / by Lucia Galloway  

one way is to cover up
protect the skin against
the AC’s current
of dry frigid air   its desperate
attempt to cool the house
keep pace with September sun
heating the out-of-doors to

113 and no access
to the pool   its turquoise
behind the high fence
locked gate festooned
with yellow tape

this corona virus
more-savage cousin
of the common cold   makes
us all as vulnerable
as a kindergarteners
their first immersion in
the wider world

and like a kid whose plastic pool
is cracked or empty   I want to run
in sprinklers

I pull on workout shorts
a tank top   flip-flops
to cross blistering patio flagstone
arrive on the greenbelt lawn
where

I open wide my arms
bare my face
to run   to dance
in the sparkling arcing
spray

When Does Summer End? / by DJ Hill  

Hard to say in the dark
days of COVID-19
Summer, the season that leaves
us wanting more

When my children were young
they spent the waning hours
as if it were their last,
fledglings ready to take flight

Labor Day weekend we packed in
bike rides, mini golf, barbecues
in the shade of the sugar maple,
soon to turn, but holding its breath

Bare feet running through freshly cut
grass, watermelon, the last taste of freedom
Days when loving your child
seemed enough

Tonight, parents pack lunches, insist
on a reasonable bedtime, call too many
times for kids to leave their dusk play
for bath and bed, one more time

Tomorrow, the reminder of the sun
will wake them, us, to a new paradigm
Board buses, venture into classrooms
brave whatever comes next

We watch as they enter another
realm, move just outside our grasp
We didn’t know then-
these were the best of times. 

Wind / by Raki Kopernik 

Wind takes all the power today.
I’m leaning in hard, folding forward, held,
lashing my massive hair around eye cracks, tears.

I’ll be the highest branch moving the hardest.
Wind air pushing the garbage inside, out
through my body like cheesecloth or ripped curtains or spider webs.

Here’s what she said, what I say to me now.
Decide what you want and talk yourself into it.

For the Workers, on the eve of Labor Day, 2020 / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 
after Walt Whitman 

Cheers to the teachers up late, red pens at the ready,
dregs of reheated coffee gulped against the clock.

For the lawnmower pushers, the leaf-blowers, amateurs
or professionals, raise a sweaty glass of lemonade.

Pour a shift drink for the waitress, that first sip
of cold beer zinging all the way down her aching legs.

Remember the cooks, too, drinking clandestine wine
out of deli containers as they ruin their hands with bleach.

For the cashiers, the stockers, the deli slicers and bakers,
whoever drew the short straw and is hauling out the trash,

For that poor bastard playing Jenga with a full dumpster,
raid the vending machines for a round of Pepsis on the house.

Cheers to the dads shoveling driveways in the freezing blue
dawn, leaving salted trails like some fairy tale witch.

Thank the baristas, awake for an ungodly opening shift,
readying the single-origins and artisanal syrups for the hordes.

Salute the bus drivers, whistle hello to the crossing guards,
nod solemnly to the janitors, detouring around their clean floors.

Wish these artists and caretakers safe passage to wherever
they put their feet up at the end of a day’s work. 

Some Advice / by Kindra McDonald  

Dear J,

How have you been sleeping?
My doctor recommended
chamomile or kava before bed.

Each night, I roll, a drunken ship
a blown feather, my ups and downs
of dread. I’m told I’m not alone

in this and I’d like to think of someone
else sitting in the blue dark sipping tea
holding the warmth of a bloomed flower.

The Fallibility of the Lyric (after Czeslaw Milosz) / by Doug Van Gundy 

1.

The naked house shivers, having forgotten its last coat
of paint and takes five short steps to the front lawn.
On the steps sits a woman in pajama bottoms

and a black tank-top smoking one generic cigarette after
another, her knees drawn tight to her chest against
the unseasonable chill. The sun is lingering

low over the mountains, unable to summon the strength
to get all the way up yet. In the extended remix
of the dawn, she waves a little wave, says hey

to a passing jogger who, earbuds blossoming inside his
head, doesn’t notice her and doesn’t wave back.

2.

This is a poem and a lie. The house wasn’t naked, although
its paint was peeling and it was generally run down.
Also, I don’t know how many steps there were.

The woman was wearing pajama bottoms, but they were
black, not the tank top. The tank top was white,
which just sounded better when I wrote it.

The sun came up as normal and the cigarettes were Marlboros.
I was the jogger and obviously noticed this woman
as she appears in the poem. Also, I didn’t jog.

I waved right back and was touched by her friendliness.
On the way home I stopped to take a few photos
of wild clematis threading a backyard fence. 

Cow sounds of quiet / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Some places are so quiet, you are forced
to consider all the noise you make in this world
and the space your sound takes up.
Along Colorado County Road 12 South,

there are fewer vehicles than cattle.
Cows stand, leery of my presence,
as I approach their fence, their low,
the reminder of voice amidst

a growing rush of breeze through
aspen leaves. Past the power lines,
the sun goes down behind the mountains,
the garden pink coloring in of blue,

the blackening in of day. We climb
to the top of our camper, voyeurs
to the sky disrobing, leaving the glory
of all its stars, one shoots across the night

as if movement were its scream.
If all of my words, sounds, and lullabies
landed on the earth instead of floating
through sound waves,

how much space would they take?
Would all the words be the same size?
Perhaps we talk so much because we believe
the amount of words equals the size of us.

If people are moved by my sounds,
my laughter, my sorrow-filled moans,
do those resonances take up more space?
Do we measure sound

or the emotion evoked by words?
Here, cows call out into the night,
a speak I relish, though
it is unfamiliar to me in my silence.

Poem 6 / Day 6

As sequel / by Louise Akers  

For some while longing,
no single horizon remains distinct.
Science toppled
/pummeled into patience
becomes torture.

The self retreats to the position of hell,
which I don’t find very brave, despite its warmth.

As for dying, I know you.
We will live,
patiently as taxonomical strangers,
losing all reality as sequel
to your silence. 

Costume (2): the mask / by Lucia Galloway 

Half my face masked, I danced in the rain:
more than one way to romance a puddle.
But the gloss of my eyes revealed the pain:
half my face masked, I must dance in the rain.
The glaze on wet flagstones reminds me I’m sane:
lines to write, my cat to cuddle.
Half my face masked to dance in the rain?
More than one way to romance a puddle.

What Chief Plenty Coups Might Have Said / by DJ Hill 

Muted winds sweep across
prairie plains, rustling
coppery bones of ancestral
spirits dwelling in air

Pristine waters christen
chaste souls, yet untouched
by war or age or time
a holy crucible

Delicate blossoms inhabit
native fields with an earthen
palette of maize, cerulean, blood red
gifts of grandmother earth

But storm clouds gather
darkened spirits, harbingers
of arrows and spears, cast
from one born free of fear

Tribal remains cannot be silenced
nor the will of their god erased
the raven will return to redeem
that which the white man tried to take

Dedicated to my grandmother Beatrice Sliter Kreis, a missionary to the
Crow Indians from 1910-1912, and to her daughter-my mother Margaret-
who continues to share the stories of Chief Plenty Coups. 

Nothing is far away / by Raki Kopernik 

I dreamed winter came overnight the day after shorts and bugs howling in roasting sun.
An icy wind that freeze-dries bones
pushed into my sinuses
drying and cracking the skin of my face lips lids.

We put on parkas and heavy scarves and talked about how unbelievable it was that winter had come so quickly.
A tint of gray and the junior high school I grew up across the street from
glossing my vision
blurring my access to calm.

I wasn’t ready and I’m still not ready and I’ll never be ready but
I can’t think it away
which is just a bummer.

Bathing / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Once a year, us Catholics are reminded
You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
But after Adam—not to mention Eve—
we really weren’t sculpted, breathed to life.

Instead, we swam inside our mothers’ wombs,
swaddled by currents, adrift in the murky waters
of the makings of life. We floated and grew,
oblivious, until the dam broke us free.

Now, water holds a certain kind of silence.
Sixty percent of us comes home in a pool,
the ocean, a trendy hotel’s clawfoot tub.
Floating, alone with the breath in our ears,

we come to whatever quiet we’ve been avoiding
out there in the hot air of our day-to-day:
some grandfatherly ghost, bobbing, bucket-hatted,
blesses our mutinous hopes for overcoming

whatever bad habits are keeping us unable
to satisfy our thirst. A homecoming can be a welcome
reckoning, if we stay still and breathe steadily 
long enough to keep ourselves afloat. 

Pandemic Perfection / by Kindra McDonald  

We stand in the garden where my love grew
up knee deep in dirt and native plants

the air full of fritillaries having their own parade
waving bannered wings and conducting a choir

of bees, my mother-in-law raises pollinators
and earthworms, every green and fruiting thing

for them to feed on and dance twirling pollen
from pistil to stamen and all around us common

milkweed, Asclepias, from the Greek god of medicine
seeds split and parachute in wind and we kneel to examine

the underside of each leaf, finding monarch eggs so small
they could pass through the eye of a needle

we thread our lives together and every summer we repeat
this ritual and finally something feels normal, this cycle

is still egg to caterpillar to chrysalis
to wings drying in the sun

we grasp these newly hatched
monarchs like lifting grains of sand

look for the two blacks spots of the male
which you hold, I check mine, pray they’ll mate

little lights beating orange on our wrists
you have three weeks, you have this launch

and loft, you have this time only now of flutter
breath, this night on a jumpy video I hold in my hand

I watch my nephew heart beating, down
on one knee, ask the question

she turns towards him all sun and nectar
still joy, this yes, this delight in future
in tomorrow, in tomorrow

A Saturday in 1974 / by Doug Van Gundy  

Early on a mid-September morning,
after the first truly cool night of fall
I climb into my grandfather’s red truck
to lend a hand with the weekend errands.

My job is to play the music he likes
and ride along to keep him company.
Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn flow
from 8-track tapes and AM radio.

The vents blow out a summer’s-worth of dust
when grandpap turns the heat on in the cab.
That smell joins with the scent of aftershave,
3-in-1 oil and his breakfast cigar.

The first stop is the Scottdale hardware store
for palaver and sixteen-penny nails.
The one we bring home in brown paper bags,
the other lives repeated on our lips.

Next, we swing by the house of an old friend,
George Kyle, for cups of coffee and to get
back a set of wrenches borrowed sometime
neither one of them can quite remember.

It couldn’t matter less. they’re the excuse
for our visit today, not the reason,
We leave an hour later with a pie
that Ethel’s made, but without the wrenches.

One last stop at Walt’s corner grocery
to buy the chipped ham that will be our lunch.
This is his routine every single week.
I love it when I get to ride along. 

Candida Auris / by Liza Wolff-Francis  

Imagine the earth
as a forested world
mammals hidden in caves,
behind trees, while dinosaurs
roam, until the asteroid hit
and there was no sun. Layer
upon layer of impact, bodies
decomposing, mushroom bloom.
Fungi that blended into earth’s
cooler temperatures,
but now approaches.

People eat three times a day
to keep warm, stay at 98.6 degrees.
We have advanced immunity.
Part of being a mammal
is being able to fend off fungi.
Our heat protects us,
keeps fungi out of our systems,
but we are making it easier
for fungus to come for us
because our body temperature
is declining, because the earth
temperature is increasing.

Degree by degree, the fungi adapts
to heat, to find the right temp
to survive, survival of the fittest
the baby sprouts that thrive,
survive in the body of a human.

My son turns a screwdriver
to hear a noise over and over again,
waits for me to respond, talks
as if there was no time left,
as if every word were important, desperate,
as if he has learned science,
as if the numbers of hot days are rising,
degree by degree, the fungi adapting.
My son knows these things deep inside,
can hear the spores waiting to blossom
in an ever-warmer world.

Poem 5 / Day 5

Untitled II / by Louise Akers 

There
are animals in here we’ve forgotten
the
names of.
There
are pews,
and
pews by the aisles filled
with
prayerful and longing
animals
whose names
escape
us.
What
night was it we
named
them, gave them
futures,
called toward
them
hope? I feel
exhausted
by the effort
to
remember each and everygiven
name.
I want to close my eyes,
puddle down,
lower the pulpit from under
my
exhausted body.
I
ask one
to
repeat herself, her name.
She
answers, “jaguar.”
She
answers, “bat.”

I feel myself falling / by Kris Bigalk 

out of flower,
petals dripping off,
scenting the table
below, centers
black veined.

I feel my
stem, my neck
bending under
the weight of
my heavy head.
I droop, crest-
fallen leaves drying
into coiled,
crunchy
dead
things.

That’s what
happens when you’re cut
off from the roots,
when your only
light is
the sun knocking
on the cloudy window
so loudly that
you spend yourself
to crane
your neck
and twist around
towards her,
knowing it’s
your last
goodbye. 

Costume (1): the tee shirt / by Lucia Galloway 

Each morning you select from the closet rack
the costume you’re destined to wear.
Somehow it’s fun to kinda keep track
each morn of what you select from the rack:
your favorite jeans, then a tee from the stack
folded neatly by crisis, its slogan quite clear.
Each day of each year you’ll choose from the rack
of the costumes you’re destined to wear.

Garden Slug Rejects Drowning in NA Beer / by DJ Hill 

Or at least that’s what I told myself, seeing the nibbled
edges in an otherwise glossy, neon leaf, beer bait untouched
One stayed out too late, the sun already breaking horizon
his opaque body clinging to the pockmarked tendrils

I had suspected the culprit was an earwig, a conundrum
of cryptic species, aka Pincer Bugs, do they really pinch?
But the two bodies bore no resemblance, as the leaves browned
then dropped, a tell-tale sign the clematis was doomed

An Australian once ate a diseased slug on a dare,
there the slimy slug slinked across the patio; blokes chugged
Little Creatures while Sam gulped the wretched mollusk
down, lapsing into a coma for 420 days before death

“I love you,” the last words spoken to his mother
While just last month a virus walked into a bar, lifted a glass
to 16 friends, exhaled plumes of garlic, curry, and alcohol, the spittle
of a super emitter, slinking away unscathed to another party

Unharmed, that same slug ignores the Becks, the absence of hops
Hungrily grinds his way up the trellis. “No more 3/2 beer,” I murmur
“Time to serve up the Brewdog, 41% ABV, guaranteed to leave slugs
staggering”. Still safer than a beer in a bar in the summer of 2020.

Untitled / by Raki Kopernik 

Nostalgia comforts fear
cradles broken hearts hugs younger days remembers

time before the dictator (this time around)
gave permission to hate how

sad and hollow his body must feel
how badly he needs a violent cry

when violence is the only way he knows
how to be loved

too bad that’s not love
too bad his anger doesn’t crack his chest

Abcedarian on Migration / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

Any small town has the same inferiority complex: just
because you live here, doesn’t mean you belong.
Coupled with the bad reputation—probably
deserved—of the undergraduate hoards, and
even infiltrating the Baltimore service scene, or
figuring out latte-art-single-origin lingo hasn’t
got you prepared for the bartenders’ disinterested
Hellos in North Central Florida’s most well-known swamp.
I’m a sucker for hometown arrogance,
just enough inherited pride to bitch about your origins,
know the right place to order the good chicken, and
love the hell out of the view from a certain stretch of U.S. 441.
Mismatched artisan murals, fringe socialists, and
new cocktail bars with tiki drinks round
out the landscape of this identity-crisised
petite metropole. After the first October, I
quit pining for flaming maples,
reflecting on the sheer quantity of green,
Spanish moss dripping from every oak,
totally engulfing me in oxygenated lushness,
ubiquitous, primitive, and bold.
Vegetative majesty doesn’t totally excuse the unbearable
weather, cultural desert of minimal theatrical releases,
xenophobia (see above), the two-hour drive for an Ikea desk. Still,
you’re better off making peace with it, the particular
Zen, deep breaths of marshy prairie air, and calling it home.

The Farmer’s Almanac Predicts a Cold Winter / by Kindra McDonald 

So do my apples with their tough skins and the sweet
corn with its thick husk, all the collected nuts
from summer squirrels, a Carolina Wren who returns
each year to nest in the corners of my porch

right now, September is second summer, Hell’s back
deck and shaking hands is over, so is the elbow bump
a 90 degree angle that catches our sneeze and cradles
our cough. I narrowly dodge a bear hug from a friend

I hadn’t seen in months, so warm was his smile and arms
outstretched I almost forgot to duck and weave away
I so missed his barrel chest, his grandfather scruff
and aftershave. I no longer fall asleep to the Norfolk-Southern

trains or wake to airport noise. It’s easier now to hear birds
and cicadas shaking loose from their shells. I wonder if I could
build a bunk bed in the shed, make it a Tiny Home all shabby chic
and lose an hour following a trail of ants to the remnants of a cherry

sucker still packaged and dissolved from the heat. I once kept a giant
ring pop on my nightstand, licked it sticky every morning. Goodnight Moon
I’ll love you forever, Rainbow Fish. I am paralyzed by the thought of calling
my mom only to realize she has died. I walk to the edge of a cliff, to the rail

of a bridge and hear myself whispering me over. This city’s mermaids
sparkle, splash, don flowers, and parade on every postcard and mural
in the park I find a ripped tent, a cat, an open book of hymns. In a closet
full of dresses I never wear, I rustle the ruffles and tulle to hear them swish

and straps spaghetti thin slide from hangers, I abandon them for uniforms
and paper masks. I spend too much time hoping Alex Trebek is not dying
and I’m angry that the heat index is 106 and the leaves are not falling
and above me the arc of geese are returning home and I believe

there will be snow this winter.

When I was a Funambulist / by Doug Van Gundy  

I walked everywhere
as if walking on a 3-centimeter cable
a hundred meters
above the ground.

I wore deerskin moccasins
hand-sewn so as to touch every surface
of my soles at all times
when properly laced.

Each night before bed
I would soak and scrub my feet
to prevent calluses;
I had to feel the wire.

The word for my profession
doesn’t come from it being fun, it comes
from the Latin funis – rope
and abulare – to walk.

I was serious and dedicated
to my art, but don’t be misled
by the etymology:
it was wonderful fun.

Sometimes, in the middle
of a successful routine, I’d stand mid-span for minutes
imagining the ground below me
littered with those who’d failed.

My treehouse / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The tree that holds this hideaway
has spindly fingers that round up

creativity in a time of fallow.
I play with the qwerty effect,

only typing words with my right hand,
to see if anything might be true

about the positivity of letters
like l, m, n, o, p. I type out

words that seem plain, like:
milk, jump, mingling, lull.

How positive is each word?
There are also words like

ugly, piggy, kill, lump, bullying
that splayed out are not elegant.

Hope without an e is hop.
Love without an e doesn’t exist.

I never realized how important an e is.
Treehouse and tree are left-hand words.

Are then, these words from the left side
of the keyboard negative?

Up here, hawks bring me word magnets
in the curve of their beaks, to throw

at a metal wall, try to make sense
of all we could say. My right hand

dances across the keys, tries
to find the playful spinning kinetic

of wind in leaves, the slight sway
of trunk and branch, the buzz

of bees on hot summer days,
the answers that come

from being at a height,
how we might believe

a tree cares nothing about us
when we care deeply about it

without ever saying so.
Without an e, does it even exist?

The hope
of us listening to each other
is slipping, pulled down by gravity.

Poem 4 / Day 4

In light of doubt / by Louise Akers 

“Not all light
comes just for you,”
she said. Sortilege
compounds the practical
evidence, e.g., blast
traces or the voluminous
archive bearing, in translation,
her expert testimony.

“Facts become
evidence when offered
in support of a claim.”
The positivist would degrade
a site to find
first fault, if,
in fact, its explanation
only satisfies believers (je m’en
rapporte a Dieu.)

In light of doubt concerning
the ablative of angels,
the non-believer cannot be satisfied.
In lieu of material
recreation, he must settle
for a reconciliation.

Poem for You / by Kris Bigalk 

Last night I dreamed that you and I lived on the same gravel road,
our farms a few miles apart. I could see your small white house
and big red barn when I stood at the end of my driveway.
It was late summer, and the goldenrod had just burst out
like yellow paintbrushes waving in the grassy ditch.
After supper, I found an old red plaid wool blanket,
tucked it under my arm, and walked to your house,
listening to the gravel crunching under my feet,
the mechanical twang of cicadas, the squawks
of red-winged blackbirds that fluttered around me
when I came too close to their nests in the ditch.
You were waiting for me on your porch, with
two bottles of beer. We walked further, to the
top of the highest hill, and sat on the red plaid blanket,
drank the beer, and watched the sun set on the
ocean of golden fields, the wind stroking up waves
as if it were the fingers of God, and every so often,
the cool wind broke over our heads, tousling our hair.
I don’t remember us saying anything. It felt right
to be silent with you, to know that words couldn’t hold
this kind of beauty, how even just the act of speaking
would defile the moment, how we knew, as we inhabited it,
that this was a poem we could never transcribe.

When Time was the Map of Ourselves: A Book of Hours / by Lucia Galloway 

I am a woman of leaf-stir, footfall, swish and rustle
whose evenings, for a while, still lengthen
into a summer twilight like the feast time
after Edvard Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.
I’m wedded to marching chords with melodies
that dance above, not to tease but stay the course
within dusk’s darkening rooms, reflecting panes.

Mornings I read poems by Neruda, Larkin, Ocean Vuong—
his thundering apples, the horse and piano in a field.
An asphalt trail twins a concrete creek bed where I
stop to glimpse a pinto outlined against the dark
of its stable door, linger outside the bird sanctuary
where jays, quail, a dove or two argue over scattered seed.

Noontimes I surprise mallards in a pond.
A drake and his mate wrinkle the surface
as they navigate among water lilies’ leaf-pads.
What is it about the quiet waters
where turtles drowse on out-cropped stone?
Nothing better, unless it’s a mountain stream,
its din carried on cool air, it waters swiping,
varnishing giant rocks.

Evenings I share my husband with a Bechstein grand—
husband playing Grieg while I cook supper,
my knife paring carrot, slicing radish.
Midsummer light caresses onion, garlic
as arpeggios brush translucent skins.
Notes spill onto chopping boards and collude
with the simmer of sauce to dress pasta that whooshes
from kettle to colander in a flood, a fog of steam.

*Quotations from Ocean Vuong are lines from his poems “A Little Closer to the Edge” and “Queen Under the Hill,”
Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

van-i-tas / by DJ Hill 

                                                                      noun. a still-life painting of a 17th-century Dutch genre
                                                                     containing symbols of death or change as a reminder of
                                                                     their inevitability

Yellowed peels mask blackened nub
Bruised orbs ferment and stain
Beauty mellowed by flaccid spots
We, proffered a short shelf life

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Green can spoil the whole bunch
How soon appears the rot
But we all come to this, don’t we

Domestication thwarts fruit, so don’t
Upset the proverbial cart, no bearing tree
Immune, expect worms, if you crave
Spring, shake the tree, when ripe gives way

Is it true apples are always eaten
By nasty pigs in a poke, spoke of platitudes
Spurned by blossoms, decaying fruit
Clings to branch, unable to escape the fall

mark the edges / by Raki Kopernik 

we’re not outlined in thick black
like comic strips
our lines are thin erasable number two pencil
our edges vulnerable to the outside of a hand smudge

I’ve started carrying around a black sharpie
keeping my lines tight
a panoply
impenetrable
severe
all the edges clear
all the boundaries filled in

extremes create change
the balance of antagonism unyielding always
but beauty will arrive to even things out
and heavy lines
can be seen from a distance

Us / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for Sasha
after Les Murray’s The Cows on Killing-Day

She came alone to the Cage-Place,
smelling Rain-Sad.
I sat Good-Still when She petted me
in the Go-Home room,
knowing She needed me
to come home with her.

I learned how to pet She
in the Scared-Dark.
Our windows let Outside in
and I slept next to She
to keep us warm. I stayed
Good-Still until Day-Bright.

After we moved to Stairs-House,
She adopted Mr. He, too;
I wondered which Cage-Place
he escaped to find us.
She smelled Safe-Sweet after
a while. I kept them both warm.

One day, we went in Moving-Box
to a new Big-House. I slept
next to Hot-Winds and when I woke,
She and Mr. He were gone.
I kept looking, but I only found
Wise-She and Big-Man,

and Ancient-Lady, who smelled
Rain-Sad, so I started sleeping
on her lap. Big-House had Outside,
where I could catch Day-Bright
in my fur. I wished I could tell
She how Safe-Sweet we all smelled.

When I die I want to be buried in a mushroom suit / by Kindra McDonald 

The days of rain stop suddenly
and mushrooms appear overnight
in the toppled trees, in the waterlogged
woods, marshy and ripe with rot

my eyes become sharp and trained
spotting lion’s mane and lobster
leaning in to inspect the gills tender
lamella releasing spores like smoke

in the September woods after summer’s
last sigh, mushrooms bloom on all that dies
and having spent the summer learning
how to tell a grape vine, from a trumpet,
Virginia Creeper from coral honeysuckle

streaks of greenbrier thorn still raw on my cheek
I want to know these mushrooms like family
like my child I could pick in a crowd anywhere
from the back of her head, the curve of his ear
so I get down on my knees, press my palms

to the mud, scan the ground for morels and black trumpets
breathing in this smell, the duff and pine, the decay
and the life, until it has all soaked through me, my damp
skin, my body so still a wood beetle crawls up my arm

I find the ridges of turkey tail, the crimson of cinnabar
chantarelle and the closer I look, the more green I see
everything teeming. Between life and death the mushrooms
are crossing guards, as if they had yellow vests, a whistle
and orange waving flags; hello stump, mud snake,
opossum, right this way. I lay my head down

now, I lay me down, not to ash, dust and teeth
grave wax and nylon threads, but on September
soil, hen of the woods, oyster, honey— home.

Fable / by Doug Van Gundy 

Not long after her mother died, she began hearing music
in the walls from time to time. Neither she nor her mother
were particularly musical, nor particularly fond of music.
They loved gardening, Mexican food and binge-watching
detective shows late into the night. They were comfortably
widowed for more than fifteen years, living together
in her childhood home. Now, she was alone for the first time
in her life. And hearing distant music in the quietest moments.
It came in fits and starts, unfinished quilt-squares of melody
muffled by the wainscoting. Finally, one Thursday
in the hours before dawn, she took a clawhammer
from the toolbox and pried the beadboard from the wall.
The music grew a little louder, then stopped. She tapped
the plaster, tentatively at first, then hard enough to break
through. Upright in the dead space between the wall studs
was an alligator-skin fiddle case. With her two hands,
she pulled away enough wallboard to bring it out onto the floor.
Opening the case gently, she found it lined in red velvet,
and containing, not a violin, but dozens of unopened letters,
tied up in blue grosgrain ribbon, and addressed to her mother
from a name she’d never heard. 

How to Harvest, Prepare and Eat a Tuna Fruit / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The unknown is always
one fruit away. Tuna fruit,
prickly pear, cactus growth,
the red ones, sweetest,
covered in splinter hair glochids.
Things we don’t understand
we may perceive to be dangerous.

Glochids will prick bare fingers:
the protective intelligence of fruit.
Cactus parent may find the most
unlikely place to connect to earth.
We are all connected through
blood lines, through flowers,
under the same desert sun.

Harvest a tuna with grace and love
and gloves, thick ones. No one
mentions the things cactus parents
have seen over the years, quiet things.
Grip the fruit with tongs over
an open flame, burn the glochids off,
leave blackened spots.

Slice a quarter inch
off the top, then lengthwise,
pull back the skin with your fingers.
All that has come before us
is inside of us. Pull the skin off,
down to the pear-shaped
core. It is impossible to hold on

to the way things were.
The seeds are too hard to chew,
but can be swallowed, spit out
or strained. The reach of a plant
beyond its splinters, a fruit beyond
its skin. We must live long enough
to taste what comes from harvest.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Untitled / by Louise Akers 

I.
Let me appear angel
‘til I become—‘til it requires effort
and movement between scales thus to assemble
here, a comprehensive body
of evidence that I exist. And you,
whom I think of—who also exist—endeavor to confine
all murder to its shape, and the rage you wake to every morning
to dreams about your parents.

II.
And to transform
is to feel pain. And to relent,
I think, is to allow the parentGod to own
success in you, and/or the other maniacs
in your name. And to succeed is
to distinguish absence
from circumlocution. And to relapse
is to see your absence as purgation rather
than annihilation.

This Poem / by Kris Bigalk 

This poem didn’t wake up this morning
and scan Twitter for the outrage of the day.
This poem didn’t like any posts on Facebook.
Well, it’s not that it didn’t like them, but
it didn’t click on “like”, “love”, “angry”, “care”, or “sad”
because this poem remembers when
those emotions used to take place in person,
when it was impossible to have thousands
of friends and keep everyone straight,
when ears weren’t plugged with headphones.
This poem remembers a time when,
if you saw someone talking to themselves
as they walked down the street, you wondered
if they were right in the head, especially
if they were throwing their hands around
and laughing hysterically.

This poem remembers when we really listened
to each other for hours instead of seconds,
when we occupied space together
even when it was uncomfortable.
Especially then.

This poem remembers what it was like
to look into someone’s eyes for ten whole minutes
and fall in love all over again. It remembers
spending hours in bed without any notifications
of the idiocy of the world.

This poem is listening to the world scream
because we are all starving for the attention,
the love, the vanity, the importance
we lavish on blue-lit screens, wondering
why we feel so alone.

This poem wants to sit in that loneliness with you.
Then, this poem wants you to leave it on the table,
go outside,
breathe the air, as if taking
your first breath again,
searing and hot and light. Go,
this poem says, go –
re-enter your life.

Better Door than Window / by Lucia Galloway 

Perfect for a postcard image:
the stark oblongs of O’Keefe’s painting
filling the card’s 6×4 dimensions.
I’ve seen this painting, its stately rectangles
reminiscent of an entryway: threshold,
frosted windowpane, scrolled cornice
arched above.
Door of many possibilities,
proclaims my friend who sent it. But I look for
the picture’s title—partly obscured by the smudge
of my postal code—Lake George Window 1929.
The possibilities must have been stark, seen
through O’Keefe’s window in 1929:
men and women out of work, waiting
in bread lines for something to feed themselves,
their children.
You make a better door than window,
we were fond of quipping, as kids, to someone
obstructing our view, our exit, our way.
Which one of us, now, would not prefer to find
a door through which to exit, hoping to enter
a space more neighborly, its people breathing,
listening, singing, feasting.
Instead, our pane’s opaque and viewless. Deprived,
we’re unsettled, almost frantic to see through.
How to bear this absence of a future?

Tiny Boxes / by DJ Hill 

Salt pepper done / by Raki Kopernik 

The days chaos overrides anywhere but the porch – step off and you are in the lava it’s too hot it’s too
deep it swallows you whole gulp gulp – the days you leave but shouldn’t have, don’t panic don’t
panic don’t panic just get home quick back into the bubble of sweet cat face ripe cherry’s hot on the
vine dark greens moving slo-mo in the breeze, nostalgic music from childhood TLC Black Sabbath
REM, quiet trees shhh-ing your anxiety, your wife making coffee and toasted bagels with cream
cheese, thin mandolined cucumber and tomatoes, too salty capers, salt pepper done.

The days you realize if it all went down and you were the only one left on earth, you your wife your
cat your house, life wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe better even.

Between Us / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer 

for J.A.M. 

Between us there’s ten summers worth of days
spent looking for trouble, chasing neighbor boys
while the B-side of Abbey Road played on

repeat and juicing lemons in your hair,
playing at being grown and make-believing
ourselves free from the stifling tedium

of endless suburban July. We grew together
and into ourselves, distinct, and circled back
to some less careless kind of love, dinners

and wine, husbands and hors d’oeuvres, more mutual
dislikes than likes, a glut of inside jokes
that sidle up to truth but don’t quite land.

I love you when you laugh so hard you cry
and crave our well-worn shorthand when I’m forced
to work at knowing someone new and long

to return to when we weren’t afraid of hills
or cartwheeling with boys, when everything
was possible, unsaid, and understood.

Les Freres Extraordinaires / by Kindra McDonald 

I believe all mothers
grow eyes in the back
of their head, somewhere
between the third trimester
and birth, the sclera form
then pupils and iris
and upon the severing
of an umbilical cord
the dome of the cornea
focusing light and love
sharp and clear
so that wherever
her children are
she can see them
when she bows
her head to pray
blinks or dreams
of extraordinary
calamities she can
prevent.

Lucky / by Doug Van Gundy 

My people crawled up from underground, birthed
into the failing sun of West Virginia and Western
Pennsylvania six days a week, eyes blinking, even in dim
winter, adjusting to a light brighter than the one still burning
on their own forehead. Every house in every little town
walking distance from work, every white frame house facing out
onto an undulating brick street, each household focused
on the mine or the mill: coal and glass, coal and steel, coal
in the furnace, in the cookstove, ground into the knees and elbows
of sweat-stained work clothes, everything underlaid
by that prehistoric heat. They’d come from coal-country Scotland,
trading the pit for the deep mine, a monoculture for a melting-pot,
one back-breaking job for another that was usually the same.
Sometimes somebody died. Sometimes a broken back or snapped femur
was called lucky. Saturday nights they went dancing at the Moose
or Elks. Sundays they were starched Presbyterians, skin scrubbed
bathtub pink. Monday morning, they were back in the earth
before daybreak, the lucky among them resurrected
in time for supper.

Activist voice / by Liza Wolff-Francis 
              Inspired by Environmental Activist Lauren Maunus 

Just a slight-stutter-white-girl
in the wind, brought up by Florida’s demons,
her neighbors calling them by name
Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne.
But nobody gave thought to middle-naming them
no formality to sit them down,
put them in their place.

Up against the slanted rain, holed-up
in her lost electricity, this girl sees the fear-eyed,
stripped houses, how the flooded people spit
at the aftermath, with salt drenched lips.
While across the tracks, they lost food,
roofs, their grandmothers. Roofs
sounds like rooves flown blown all over the place.

The sweat still comes, the snakes
trying to get their ground, the trees
who made it through, their spines drenched and bent.
Upturned drowned cars bobbing down
the new-made river and dead when they land.
This girl knows these storms like gymnasiums
packed with families whose babies

cry right next to each other,
a staccato of angst, mouthfuls of debris.
Still, there is an unspoken gesture
of helplessness about the earth.
All the weather maps come together,
try to exorcise the next demon,
Naming it again, as if naming it

might make it kinder, might help it forget
we birthed it and all its brothers and sisters to come.
The body of the mother, worn.
This girl grown, opens her mouth like a storm
before more storms take us, all at once,
parched and drowned. As if the palm trees,
the rivers, the air, would miss us at all.

Poem 2 / Day 2

Daughtergod / by Louise Akers 

I thought success,
rumbling and vestigial might displace
that famous
inner restlessness of yours. How false.
How incomplete!, and this time bleeding—
stinking—hotly from the ground
up.

I was thinking of that girl, Daughtergod,
the inexpugnable,
perpetually in a kind of
recapitulation
of puberty—Greet the one
in unreal despair.

I am much more
patient than my appearance
suggests,
my wolfish side—
my private life
is going downhill, fast
with Latin
phrases, parents dreaming
inflected language, full
and forgetful genetives. You derived
a memory
from my bleeding which it never
really contained.

Havens / by Kris Bigalk

I pressed cloves into an orange
until it was a prickled brown bomb.
I threaded a ribbon through it
with a darning needle. After
this violence, I tied the ribbon
around the closet rod. My hands
smelled like Christmas. I closed
the door behind me and entered
the plush dark. The rabbit fur coat
stroked my cheek as I pressed past it
to sit on the floor, next to shoe boxes.

There was a tree, a blue spruce,
behind all the other trees
at the edge of the corn field.
Its needles were so, so blue,
so fragrant. They made a blue
and brown blanket under the lowest
branches. When I curled around
the trunk, the wind tousled
the tops of the nearby maples,
and every so often, a few needles
would fall like feathers onto my face.

I had a flat roof
and a window that opened
just enough so I could crawl out
and sit there, on the sepia shingles.
I could see the entire town, I could
stay above it all. On August nights,
in the heat, I sat there naked,
watching the stars fall.

Tears / by Lucia Galloway  

My tears water succulents on my window sills.

My tears salt my bathwater.

My tears hide in the spaces between piano keys.

They take up residence in my left arm.

They wait under fingernails, disdain plastic gloves.

My tears sign up for Wine of the Month.

My tears reserve opera tickets for La Boehme.

They binge watch Little Women on Hulu.

They order embroidered, heirloom hankies from Ebay.

My tears register to vote.

My tears pour themselves out for the children in cages.

My tears want to march under banners that shout BLM.

Say their names! my tears cry.

My tears warn me to hydrate, Drink lots of water so we don’t run dry.  

The Next Stage / by DJ Hill  

It starts early, suckers
Cars idling in drive-thru
Tubes vaporizing
Currency before your eyes

Hello Kitty—
Open your pretty purse
Let me see your stash
Coins collating into cash

Hey little girl, come on
Over, watch your money
Grow, it doesn’t on trees
His voice saccharine sweet

Soon your curved bumpers
Park in the lot, the suits
Ask if you want it
Free checking, no strings

Attached, you’re not
Except to freedom and fast
Cars, boys on hot summer
Nights, don’t sweat it

Teenagers don’t wait
They want it now, cash
Cards to feed into slots
How easy to give in

But get yourself
Protection, much needed
Attention, credit is
King.

smooshed / by Raki Kopernik 

drink too many Campari cocktails and
dance to def leppard cassettes in the kitchen
hysteria when you’re near

then panic cry when the high falls into
folds of the pillow case
when you wake up and it wasn’t a dream

profess your love too much
way too much
love denser
the only preserve
it’s easier to be nice

then drink too much coffee and
push against it hard
wrap your house in blazing armor
scream so your chest burns like a fire swallower
cry again release that shit out

do joy fuck eat love
do all the joy
again again
love burlier
sandwich everything together
all of it all at once
smooshed

Sustenance / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer

Where would you go, J. said, leaning precariously close to the nearly drowned peace lily at the top of the porch stairs. What would you eat? I thought about oysters on a cracker house porch, frozen pearls of mignonette sparkling in brine. Artisanal pizza, maybe, the kind he hates and I always order, doused in arugula and funky cheese, eaten at a red-bricked neighborhood bar where we impersonate regulars. 3 am Korean food on Maryland Ave, or noodles from the place with the good Szechuan in Squirrel Hill. I considered saying, any beachfront sports bar, mediocre beer infused with salt air and steamed peel-and-eat we purposefully burn our fingers on. I’d sit with you in the corner of some hotel bar, ducking under the paper snowflakes to share your $18 cheeseburger, toasting another holiday survived. We could fight for bites of the piping hot pepperoni roll in the front seat of our little car, hunkered down against the sleet freezing on the wipers. These days, we get mail-order sausages, make traditional Passover brisket, eat ice cream sundaes every day for a week. The hot fudge almost tastes right. Remember the roadside tuna in Corolla? I ask, and you nod, eyes closed against the grimy, late-summer light. This is how we survive these hungry months, nibbling scant provisions from places we used to go.

All of the animals I have seen this summer come to visit / by Kindra McDonald 

All of the animals I have seen this summer come to visit

In the dunes, the coyote ambles in shadow, looks up, sniffs and lopes over the sand. The same
day my grandmother died I saw a fox, patient and still at the end of the cul-de-sac watching.
The bobcat was blur and ear tufts and stub tail, it leapt in my path and vanished.

When the rabbits arrived I said come in, come in, slow your beating hearts, your twitching nose
and nervous paws, do not startle at the sound of sobbing. Let me make you a plate, all berries and
garnish.

I will drink lemongrass tea, you will slurp broth of carrots and celery. I will serve you all of the
things I can grow, if you stay. The snakes turn the soil, make it fertile and dark. The tops of the
beet fronds, don’t ever discard, I’ll sauté for the turtles who’ll dine by the moon.

The egret will roost in the rafters, the herons will hover and dive, deliver bullfrogs and bluegill
each night. Come in, coyote. Why would I run from you? Especially now, when I’ve been all
alone. See my face is bare, the breath you feel, I swear, is clean, and these tears just keep my
teapot full. I am happy, I whisper in your fur. Even if my lips tremble it’s just my muscle
memory forgetting how to smile. I will practice.

Bobcat and Barred Owl unravel all the yarn from my scarves, take my sweaters, stay up all night
chasing mice. Have you eaten, Gray Fox? (This is how I greet all visitors now). Come, let me
make you a plate of wild garlic and soft boiled eggs deconstructed, yolk and albumen divided on
a plate of bone china with a hand-painted forest scape.

It is a small thing to share a meal. How much more will I know you, when I watch you eat
with pleasure what I’ve made with my hands. Will you stay? If it means I must carve
my own heart into morsels, lay it in a path like breadcrumbs from your den, I would do it,

again and again.

Late Summer, West Virginia / Doug Van Gundy 

In the dark of the moon, summer sounds
and winter sounds collide outside my window:
below, bullfrogs bellow in the muddy river, above
katydids stridulate in the twisted limbs of oaks,
higher still, skeins of geese honk southward.
Somewhere, a screech owl laughs and cries at once.

In morning that follows, I can see the day
lilies are spent, their green blades gone brown,
collapsed under their withering weight.
Cardinals bully the finches that bully
the sparrows that bully the house wrens
at the backyard feeder. Someone has left
a sack of tomatoes inside the screen door.

PE at home in the new school year / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

The head of a dead deer
hangs over the fireplace, its antlers
like hands reaching out. My son
builds Legos atop the deep orange
designs on the rug. He will do anything
but schoolwork. At the wooden table,
on an iPad, my mother, his grandmother,
a cheerleader, entreating him to join her,
plays his homework dance video.
The couch pillow colors are more animated
than he is about this song, this rhythm.
I am so tired of having the same argument
about every class. This one is not even
about math or science or reading,
it’s about dancing, being joyous.
My mother, in her seventies, laughs
as she follows the moves
of the cartoon dancer. My son ignores her,
plays with his toys. The ceilings
are tall above him, ones he cannot reach.
I know he misses the gym, his teachers,
chasing his friends around the school
for mileage club. Before the moon rises,
he will cry and shake and we will beg him
to do his work and no one
will feel good about any of this.
He used to be the shimmer
of bird wings over an open field.
There is a window with a view
of a changing sky. I breathe into it.
The song keeps playing, the cartoon figure
dances, the deer watches,
its antlers grasping.

Poem 1 / Day 1

A perfect set / by Louise Akers 

What I’m saying is
look at August as an opposite
infinity. There will be
an endless drain of time to hover
over zero, to warm
or reckon in either direction,
e.g. which pool
stinks worse, which afterward
resumes.

I am impatient to observe
the total
aboveboard, to study birds
through boards,
flocked over the water
I spend my life confronting.

My patience has already collapsed
under the wet
heat of the year. Slunk back
under the wood/un-
signifying forum, I won’t wait
too much longer this time—opposing risks
of static ecumenism.

Then, there will be heat in that
forum; there will be water
dripping down from every aspen board
in the ceiling. I’ll level out,
and resurrect: one.

Now, I hear the spitting fumerole below
and the welcome thrust
in our number
and the thought of those birds
arriving south with us
later on.

I remember now there was a bell
inside the forum, heard in the channels
through which our lawless extensions surged
with wetly proliferating encyclicals: Caritas
in Veritate; Deus Caritas Est.

The first dealt with love
as an infinite
set; a perfect set described God
as a rule.

Absolutes in the Time of Coronavirus / by Kris Bigalk

Breathing: Cento, lines from my late-summer diaries and poems / by Lucia Galloway 

Where sandaled traders dug in dusty toes,
fall set sere pods.

A dry river runs slowly,
those dry arroyos, their tumbled stones.

I picked up, longing then, a knife
to slice through layers

of atmosphere—of cloud, of dust.
Of sand, clay, lodgement of root and stone.

Long evening’s cathedral light atones–
light that believes in architecture, breathing

rife with song and chant,
secrets. Unuttered prayer.

She Said “It’s Called Gaslighting” / by DJ Hill

Not familiar with the term
I did a quick internet search
Google leads to Amazon
And the book Gaslighting:

Recognizing Manipulative &
Emotionally Abusive People

As if in the age of COVID-19
Massive unemployment, social
Unrest, we can break
Free, I clicked Buy Now, as Now

My curiosity was up, in the next
7 hours and 45 minutes, Gaslighting
Could arrive via USPS, Wednesday
September 2nd at 3, and I too could

Recognize Manipulative &
Emotionally Abusive People

I had the option to gift wrap
Or add to a wedding registry
Spinning through my Rolodex
To find the lucky bride & groom

Gaslighting is available, new & used
Begging the question, did they master
Or identify the master manipulator
After Chapter 1 or back cover reviews

If you need further confirmation, Amazon
Recommends you bundle, Gaslighting
With Recovery Notebook & The Gaslight
Effect: How to Spot and Survive.

Beware! He’s witty, confident, controlling
Distractor of truth, liar, triangulator
E.g.-Politician who never admits
He could make a mistake

Reviews from Syndrella, Maggie Mae
and Janine Cope give him away
Give us a way if we accept
How susceptible we really are.

Starting again / by Raki Kopernik

Take a deep breath I mean it.
Do it now and do it again now.

We won’t last forever
and also
neither will they them anyone.
Even ruin isn’t permanent.

Remember Chernobyl when iodine settled and people dissolved
trees grew through buildings
animals thrived free
not rewilded but de-humaned
the world taking itself back.
Imprisoned wild space starting again.
The beauty of horror.

The world will take itself back.
The world takes itself back even though
we make the biggest messes.

The Miracle / by Michelle Lesifko-Bremer

Against black-box walls,
between ancient tapestried curtains,
amid the dusty beams of wash lights,
we waited on the edge
of possibility.
Bring a brick, we said,
I got your back,
but in the moment before an entrance,
we were totally alone
with our anticipation.
It’s a funny trick,
thinking without thinking,
stepping into an invisible house
somebody else half-built
and painting the rooms
without knocking over the furniture.
We jonesed for the nights
when we all stumbled miraculously
into the same story. Drunk
on fulfilled coincidence, we chased
ourselves until the lights went down.
Holding hands, half-blind
from staring into the back row,
we took a collective bow.
Those nights, we were heroes,
sweaty and crazed
with creation, unguarded,
and terribly alive.

Theft / by Kindra McDonald 

It was the summer of jelly shoes
bright neon pink and yellow

some even sparkled the way
I imagined that sand would

after rain. How I begged
my mom for them, wanted

that sticky plastic smack
the clap on the hot sidewalk

somehow my legs would get tan
as almonds, maybe even find my hair

streaked sunlit blonde in those shoes
not toes scrunched in hand-me-down

Velcro sneakers, legs that repelled the sun
my walk was heavy with envy.

Once I slipped my feet, whip quick,
into my next door neighbor’s jellies

abandoned after rain in the yard,
felt the squish of puddles, the joyful

squelch between my toes as I walked
through the garden bed, dirt making

patterns on my feet like lace.
Those jellies were candy

I couldn’t have and stole.

Hey, Radio / Doug Van Gundy 

What happened? I used to wake up
and you’d be singing beside me
hopeful happy little ditties of love.

I knew what to wear each morning
because you told me what to expect:
heat or cold; rain, hail, snow or sunshine.

And when a rocket exploded or
a hurricane hit, you were there
offering sober news in a steady, even tone.

I believed you. I believed in you.
Now I don’t know what to believe.
In your late middle age, you seem angry

all the time. You’re quick to lay blame,
cozy up to bullies and businessmen,
rage in rhetoric and reject real reporting.

I notice you’re still playing
the same songs you played years ago
hoping I won’t notice you’ve changed.

You’re frightened and alone, and trying
to feel less alone by making me feel more
frightened. Merely a mouthpiece,

you don’t even live in the radio anymore,
you’ve shrunk to the point that you hide
in my phone, listening more than you speak:

Alexa? Demoralize me.
Siri? Break my heart. OK, Google:
play Fox News.

Today we woke, a well of crumbs and dust / by Liza Wolff-Francis 

Back in the desert, beat from travel,
come yesterday from small pebbles,
dew morning grass on bare feet,
fresh laid eggs, loud bugs,
an ominous sky, and the longest
earthworm I’ve ever seen.
Days when I am there in it,
the humid heat bears down on me,
and I miss the south.

There is a lot hidden behind the snakes
and thick bramble of green. Kudzu
can overtake an entire forest
without the trees noticing,
until they can no longer
reach for the sun.

Every day I was gone I saw a hawk,
though I never heard one sing
or even screech. Now, one flies up
over cactus and boulders.
In such different landscapes,
some creatures are the same.

Here, there are mountains
who answer echoes on one side
all jagged rock, the other filled
with the fame of trees.

Beneath a fading sunset,
the long arms of desert come up
out of earth to stretch the sky.