The 30/30 Project: September 2021 pt. 1

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

The volunteer poets for September 2021 are Barbara Audet, Seneca Basoalto, Kristen Brida, Jane Hammons, Sharayah Hooper, Olivia Ivings, Alicia Rebecca Myers, Kimberly J Simms, Andrew Walker, and Karen Warinsky. 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 15 / Day 15

Ode on Covid and Prufrock / by Barbara Audet

Let’s not go there, me or you,
Morning sun defeats
murky dawn, hangover skies.
All the patients
are dying upon the tables,
so hunker down in the hallway.
The tables too full for ether.
Ventilators now.
Hold your breath.
Stay indoors.
I’d rather not go
roaming
on the sticky streets
of any sweaty town
past Covid’s curfew midnight.
One night encounters still exist but hotels seldom flop, bargaining bills that short-change pocketbooks, north to south.
Few grind up seashells nowadays, though some crush peanut hulls
on multihued Mexican tile.
Do streets with cement board castles really argue, shatter to fisticuffs in Elliot’s imagination?
Crowds are much too hurried,
sneaking visits over voices.
Raised above renderings of avian Greek choruses,
dark-suited, bow-tied krackels,
flitting by in temperatures
that melt chocolates
on the Texas dash.
I cannot tell one mom
from another in their flock,
let alone listen beyond the din
for women giggling
at discussions
of Sistine shenanigans.
Not Da Vinci.
Not Raphael.
No, that other guy.
Charlton Heston.
Nature’s artistries uncertain.
He is wrong about the time.
Faces cannot meet
eye to nose and back.
So you don’t dare ask.
Retreat.
The question’s mute.
You cannot feel free
to challenge the pandemonium.

CO-STAR TOLD ME TO TRANSMIT ALL THAT I KNOW / by Seneca Basoalto 

Stolen sancerre. if you were an object
I would know you from the wet September humidity
of the morning after, a cheek in search of another cheek
in search of revelation, a home / in search
of someone to compete with you
when you say

no one will ever love another as much as I will love you

what you whispered on Alki Beach could be true,
maybe I did disconnect from my star
& hurdle myself through uninterrupted galaxies
towards you / completely asleep for years
until you drank the milk & finally awoke

maybe we are assembled perfectly

& that means eroding within our own fever
THAT MEANS exploiting DNA & all of its
consequences, for you, a mountain inside
your paper coffee cup / the seeds of my youth
for you, to swallow whole, to understand the
wilde growth from deep inside your belly,
all that you have missed & now you crave, I know
that any love that is typical is nothing more than
a way to pass the time / for us, I give you permission
to unscrew the science from my iris so you can hold it
and say

no one has ever loved another as much as I have loved you

My Great-Grandmother’s Name Was Buena Vista / by Jane Hammons 

handmade finery
lace crocheted beads a necklace
body adornment

vegetable crop
recipes pinned to curtains
memory relished

yellow pricked paper
needles hooks thread canning jars
hymnal on porch swing

In Church / by Olivia Ivings 

        “I didn’t lose my salvation. I know exactly where it is,
        and I left it there on purpose”—@hobbsisme, Twitter

I braid pieces of my mom’s hair to meet
at her chin, so it looks like she has a beard.
When my dad notices, his brow furrows like
storm clouds, and he asks me to move
elsewhere so my mom can focus.

Sage chairs scrape cinder block walls
in the last row. I sit beside a sleepy deacon;
he’s uninterested in the sermon
about Jesus resurrecting the widow’s son,
how it means God doesn’t bless women
who live without manly protection.

The deacon would rather eat fried chicken,
skimp on tipping a young server, and watch
the Crimson Tide kick Auburn’s ass.

When the only thing staring at me is the cross
hanging above the baptismal font, I slip erotic poems
by E.E. Cummings from my bag. The pastor
reminds the congregation to vote our city to go dry
on Sundays while I wade into poems about occult shrugs
and naked tricks.

The congregation bows their heads, and the pastor
tells those who have no salvation to beg for it
and for the saved who drink or fornicate to plea at the altar.

Collection plates surf between rows.
When one washes up in my lap, I slip my salvation
into the dish and send it toward the dickheaded boy
from the youth group catty-corner from me.

I’m first to leave when the choir sings
“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” the instrumentals
flooding from a CD. Three people announce
they are joining the church; I wonder who receives my tithe.

Polychrome / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 
“This is one of the many things you learn about mourning when examining it at close range: It’s idiosyncratic, anarchic, polychrome.” — Jennifer Senior

The crimson feathers of a departing cardinal,
The black cap of a chickadee that lands on a feeder at a rehab facility (the man’s family
             can’t visit, his daughter stood outside and attached it to his window),
The polypropylene mask’s pale yellow, the electric golden of the unicorn horn on print meant for
             a child,
The clear tubing of a ventilator, the denim sky,
The bright lime of the nozzle held by the eighty-year-old woman who pumps gas for the very first
             time (her husband in the hospital),
The murky brown of phlegm, the white of halogen, the pine of the waterfowl decoys to be
             auctioned off at an estate sale,
The purple of fear, the currant of cloister,
The grey of denial like a bedside rail,
The light blue flame at the center of burning wood, the violet anger, the color behind shut eyes.

Party Time / by Kimberly J Simms

I’m on the Guest List
for the rockband’s vaccine-only concert,
for the neighbor’s low-interest housewarming.

I’m on the Guest List
for my nephew’s delayed wedding,
for the postponed bar mitzvah.

I’m on the Guest List
for the grocery store re-opening,
the doctor’s early retirement.

I’m on the Guest List
for the virtual Tupperware party,
for the overdue jewelry pop-up.

I’m on the Guest List
for Broadway’s masked finale
for the long lost networking social.

I’m on the Guest List.
It’s 2021. I’m just happy
to not be homebound.

Sculptor / by Andrew Walker 

Tomorrow I’ll shake the shame
     sitting heavy on my chest,

widen my mouth to smile
     out his contents. Today I like

the weight, the way he pushes
     my lungs together like a kiss,

feel the pressure on my ribs 
     as they cling desperate to my spine.

I sat with him yesterday, too,
     though he was new and he felt 

soft and inviting. Is it silly
     to say it felt like love? The way

he scooped the pleasure 
     from my throat, shaping it

the way one sculpts a stool
     or an urn. 

Go with It / by Karen Warinsky  

flow stayinthef
low stayintheflow
letitflowletitg
o relaxandgowitht
heflowglowwiththefl
ow; owshesaidwhenhe
punchedherinthearm,w
hathesaid,whatiswrongw
ithyou?don’tyouknow?do
n’tyouknowanything?h
owcouldwebetogetherso
long?youdon’tknowanythi
ngaboutmedoyou?
no,hehadt
oadmit,thiswasverytrue.

howdo
esonelearna
boutan
other?

Poem 14 / Day 14

The Birth of Tears / by Barbara Audet

At
what
key
point
fueled
by evolution‘s
flux agenda,
did we
learn
to cry?
What prompted
mineral-made
heavy
tears
to fall?
Not to clear
eyes alone
but hearts as well?
Was it Australopithecus?
Homo erectus?
An, as yet,
undiscovered
ancestral being?
Tears evolved.
We moved
from azure,
death-harboring
oceans,
to scale
sky defensive,
defying trees,
just to drop
leaded footed
upright mostly
supposedly
on solid ground.
This heading,
down to Earth,
this leap
to silicon gravel,
cooked, cooled lava,
razor sands,
bloodied our feet.
Fogged
mutual vision.
Skin emerged
freed for some
but woke too
to emerging prejudice
as toes, nails,
sprung
from weighted
fur trappings.
Skins changed
only at eye level,
hearts went hard
as tears drifted
from ducts
that up to then
were identical.
Was it death or hunger
brought the tears?
Was it fear, failure
set cheeks ablaze
with stinging,
sodium droplets,
forming mirror beads
on eons
of time-blurred eyes.
Tearing this way,
that way,
a where from
heaven’s way
to adapt
human plumbing,
offering another
evacuation valve,
more sophisticated
than simple
waste elimination.
Emotion removal
came at the dictation
of species-special maturity.
Tears deigned
to release
man, woman,
from newly gained
appreciation,
shock likely,
to see, comprehend
man’s burgeoning
struggle
in this world.
With ever-changing
confrontation
with wind,
with sun,
with thunder,
with rain,
With snowfall,
With gunpowder,
With atomic fusion,
With jeopardy,
jealous to the dollar,
With the gold,
With the embrace
of diamonds
over blood.
With hatred’s
unmasked gaze,
visible always
through fresh born-tears
that other beings’
untested, unteared
desert eyes
cannot disclose.
Damn
that
mankind
required
the infantile tear
to save us
from ourselves.

The Loudness pt. II / by Seneca Basoalto

Death only knows how to get louder
When it knows where it wants to go

You do not only come at night, I know
               but at dawn        the afternoon
recognizes you just as well as the design
of sleep filled speculations

the longer you are gone, the more explicit you
become / your feet find a way to seed
to my steps wherever I go / that is where you
go too / the  heaving, the hot

breathing louder in exile and extraction

breathing louder now that you are finished
and this is what makes you more alive

and you say to me what do you call a grave
but an exit              what do you call a grave
but a place you go to be free                 now

you can call on me without contrition / bare
betrothed baked and believing in the sight
of spirit, how it’s possible to nuzzle my knuckles
as if nothing has changed, if anyone

were to pull themselves from the other side to
find their voice / it would be you, and now
you are perfect because you have come back

to persist, without shame attached to the massif
of your loud, fattening heart

Someday you’ll love Kristen Brida / by Kristen Brida
After Ocean Vuong/Simone Weil

Kristen, to undo the self you must go through

the self. And how can you go through yourself

if you do not acknowledge

that little lump that looks

like a scrotal sack beneath your kneecap

those hamstrings and calves

you call taut as dried Double Bubble

your lyric brain that throws

balance and movement into question

Kristen, they are yours—

your cerebral palsy is yours.

It is good to name things.

Acknowledgment does not rename the whole of you

One day, Kristen, you will go for a run outside,

run so fast that you will feel as shaped

as an ozone layer and for a moment,

you will not merely perceive, you will slip

out of your mouth

you will slow down and retrieve yourself

you will be in awe of what your legs have done

and you will tend to your body.

What you call a desire for total abandonment

is actually the ability to oscillate from wholeness

to emptiness and back again.

Kristen, this is another way of becoming the world


then becoming yourself.

Markers / by Jane Hammons

My sister and I are walking along Shoal Creek in Austin.
She sees the Seiders Oaks historical marker and talks about trees.
She is a naturalist.

I glance at the text
The site of the 1839 home and 1842 massacre of Gordon White.
I have degrees in History.
Historical massacres have names.

           Sand Creek
            Washita
            Wounded Knee

I want to talk about massacres.

I learn
           about springs
            artesian pressure  
           limestone faults
           springs so plentiful that
            Edward Seiders
            ran a popular bathhouse somewhere along Shoal Creek where we are walking
Seiders Oaks
Seiders Springs
           a trickle but deserving still of yet another Texas State Historical Commission marker

            trees and water named after a man
            who married the daughter
            of the massacred
            Gordon White  

I learn
            from the Shoal Creek Conservancy website that he was killed by a band of Indians.
            a band of Indians
band with the word Indian means something specific: not
            some or many or a bunch

I learn
            from a newspaper interview with some young Seiders—8th generation Austinites—that Gordon White went             out on foot carrying a gun when he was told to stay on horseback. Three (presumably) Tonkawa attacked him.

He killed one. Gordon White is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
One Tonkawa killed him. Of the dead but not massacred Tonkawa nothing more is said.

One dead white man is not a massacre. The 21st century Seiders want the sign changed.

On Thanksgiving my sister and I meet at Pease Park through which Shoal Creek runs and go to
Custer’s Meadow.

We carry index cards and markers and tape.

One year after the end of the Civil War and four years before the Massacre at Wounded Knee
Custer and his troops camped on Tonkawa land that is also Comanche land and also Lipan
Apache Band of Texas land.

Over Custer we tape Tonkawa

Tonkawa Meadow

until
            wind blows away the cards
            sun bleaches the words
            rain smears the ink
            someone tears them off

the cards
mark
a trail of history

Ode to a Locked Door / by Sharayah Hooper

The words you spit at me were calculated,
like an arrow aimed to meet its mark.
I was a silent as I could be,
only letting my own voice slip when pulled, ragged and torn.
I memorized the art on the walls, the miscellaneous knives
stacked atop the table between us.
I did not hear the latch click,
see your fingers turn the lock on the doorknob.
If I had,
my heart would have raced faster
and the walls would have inched closer.
If I had,
perhaps I would have let my voice run out of me like wild horses.
But more likely,
I would have dug the crescent-shaped divots
even deeper into my skin.

Sentimental Poem for a Younger Self / by Olivia Ivings

Pretend to know what the hardly-present glass of wine knows.
Sip after sip, its body is a vessel to carry a heavy-eyed dreamer.

When adventure leaves, slump on the sofa. With a too-large spoon
in your mug, gargle tea, you tired, over-indulged dreamer.

Miss your bus, lose your credit card, let your legs ache.
When your sleepy mind stills, the heart thrums hardest in the dreamer.

Wipe the sleep from your eyes. Don’t walk too fast.
Pick up your feet on faded streets. Preserve them for the next dreamer.

Drink the wine. Rioja hands, rioja fingers. What place can hold you?
A tired bus’s tires spin against the street, pedestrian dreamer.

Manifest / by Alicia Rebecca Myers

You ask me if I’d rather vanish in the sky 
or be left behind on the ground. We’re watching
that terrible show about the passengers
whose plane goes missing, only to find themselves
reappear five years later as exactly the same
people. I don’t know —
I’m more patient when it comes to
long lines but also, easily distracted. One time,
I went out for red wine vinegar and came back
with an end table.  Looks like you two will last forever writes an acquaintance underneath a recent Facebook photo
of us laughing. Maybe the more
pressing question is what happens when
you become highly visible to someone,
and the plane is a ship, and the ship is docked,
and the world has disappeared like a bird
sucked into an engine? 

A Fed Gator is a Dead Gator / by Kimberly J Simms
In honor of Red Antler Processing

Was it our desire for mystery
that found us up to our elbows
in this foul pinata?
This pre-historic monster long
as an elephant is tall
clocked in at 750 lbs of fierce flesh.

Inspired by the Carolina gator
that was gutted to reveal shell casings,
bobcat claws, turtle shells,
and 5 lost dogs’ brass collar tags,
the hound eaten 24-years before.

So we split open unfathomed gut, 
steeped for a century. Simple to start 
with a stew of broken bones, fur, faded feathers. 
Then the Native-American point emerged,
an archaic atlatl dart, dropping our jaws.

How the gator had found this precious
shine in the river bed was a riddle!
Or had the beast ended a Native soul?
Next a dark tear-shaped hematite, a plummet,
revealed itself from the belly of the gator
leaving us with more puzzle than we began,
but with more desire to plum the depths
to find tracks the lost leave behind.

Bloom / by Andrew Walker

every morning I bloom
     my coffee, watch

the lungs of the grounds
     breathe the day into me.

it is a slow process
     watching the darkness

reach its way up to me
    it is necessary, for the coffee

for myself. A small moment
     I can focus life into.

I ignore a notification
     on my phone, reminding me

to meditate. I am late for work. I watch
     the clock while my computer boots and think of the emails

I’ll need to send today, the conversations with my boss I have scheduled
     three hours from now, I think of all of the mundane slop I’ll need to trudge through in order to get

through my day before the overwhelming need to succeed scrapes at my door like the coffee scraping at my heart until the clock tells me it’s time to chill out and I can plunge myself into hours of mundane television on the couch, eating a meal that I could not make satisfying because I was too impatient to cook the rice just counting down the hours until I can fall into a restless sleep before waking to an alarm that rips the sanity from my soul so I can stumble my ever awkward body out of the bed and into the kitchen where I can pour the course grounds into the mouth of my Chemex and

bloom my coffee

Heroes, Too / by Karen Warinsky 

People heard the blast,
ran fast,
grabbed children,
helped each other outside into the daylight,
hugged tight while smoke cleared,
rubbed soot from their eyes.

They searched the rubble,
put out fires,
heard soft cries get fainter
till hope vanished from
certain quarters,
certain corners.

Held the hands of survivors,
of victims,
their own hands,
wrapped arms around their torsos,
swayed back and forth
till hearts beat in a regular rhythm,
their souls settled like the dust.

Iraq.
              Afghanistan.

800,000 dead.

How long will it take to read those names?

Poem 13 / Day 13

Betrayal / by Barbara Audet

Her one true love
cracked her heart
into a Dali mosaic.
Never to be whole again.
Her one true love
denied the evidence
Of his cruel demolition.
Only to abandon caring.
Her one true love
Did not hear
Her singing
love sad
show tunes.
Did not recognize
His moving on
was stealthy
betrayal.
Clever.
Ever.
After.

What is Commitment / by Seneca Basoalto 

I am shape shifting
I am                        asleep

remember five minutes ago? when I was prey—
unmoved from burnt copper but carving out
both knees until they remind the earth of

volcanos

still scheming in repose
still useless with my words
as they are shoveled form intrusive thoughts
& reincarnated inside inflamed taste buds

I never ask what it means to be more, I know
it is to fasten — what is commitment but you
forgiving the noose
because it offers you peace

in place of life

Selfie Ekphrasis / by Kristen Brida
[gym mirror selfie, 6/6/2021]

an arm hangs,
a frame.
a clump of hair
uncouples
a bun.
eyes deny
an assignment
of color
damp light
sheathes
the occasion
of sweat.
a body
unmuscles itself.

Man in Greasy Overalls / by Jane Hammons

It’s the miniature oil rig that catches my eye, but then the sign it holds—Baker
Motel—evokes Bates Motel. Hitchcock. Psycho. Like Janet Leigh, I’m a woman
driving alone (in day not night; under an overcast sky, not in a rainstorm) down a
highway in rural Texas not exactly lost but not entirely sure of where I am either.

I took a travel photography class once. I am not a travel photographer. I am not
traveling. I’m driving the backroads between Houston and Austin.

Across the road from the Baker Motel sits a large man in a weather-beaten metal
lawn chair with a scalloped back. His chair is rusty, his overalls smeared with
grease. His hat a soft cloth safari, stained and limp.

I compose the photograph and say hello
            (seeking permission)
He does not return my greeting
            (permission denied)

If I were a travel photographer traveling I would just take the shot because I’ve
learned about permissions and lack of need for. In a street photography class I
learned where I can stand to take a picture of whatever I want.

I am not a street photographer. The place I’m standing is and isn’t a street. Maybe a
shoulder but really just a mix of dry yellow grass and gravel loosely covering dirt
that joins empty lot to country road.

I take the picture I stopped for.
Baker Motel.
The photograph I want—Man in Greasy Overalls—remains outside the frame.

Morning Coffee / by Olivia Ivings 

Every morning, the ritual is the same: 
hot water from the kettle and four tablespoons
of coffee grounds meet in my French press. 
While the timer counts, I open the paper 
and browse the obituaries. A woman stares
at me from the newsprint. She was survived
by three grandkids and a decorative plate collection. 
The entry notes how she loved solving puzzles 
and contributed to the local paper. How must it feel
to become spectral, printed on cheap paper?
How do we solve and sort and measure our grief?

Home Stay / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Journeying by canvas truck from Tena to Pimpilala, our driver recommends
we elevate our rain boots to prevent scorpions from crawling inside of them.
A Quichua family welcomes us into their wooden huts. For five days, I don’t
tell a soul why I’ve come, other than I’m a travel agent. I drink pilsners as big
as my forearm, remember to check the toilet seat for fire ants. Suspended in
the nebulous space between self and stranger, in the Amazon, I share a
cigarette with a retired Russian bus operator who claims Malarone makes him
hallucinate his route. Our group plays Yahtzee by candle light; we agree it’s a
game of luck. The teenage daughter of our host nurses her newborn in a
corner. A shaman fashions a thick poultice, says he derives both sunrise and
sunset from the cedar. Using his fingers, he paints our cheeks with red from
the achiote pod, a different symbol for each visitor; mine is Mother Earth. I
don’t wash my face for the remainder of the trip. On a dance floor in Quito,
the night before our departure, I yell over EDM to finally tell the two young
Brits I’ve been traveling with that I’ve had three miscarriages in six months.
The women stop moving. They hold me to a looping beat. Before jumping up
and down again, the one highest on coke touches my cheek, the spot where
the achiote is, and says, “You’re going to make an incredible mother.”    

The Zebra in my Yard / by Kimberly J Simms

The Zebra in my Yard
is a unique snowflake,
each patterned skin a variation
on black and white.

My five-year-old spotted
this peculiar visitor nibbling grass,
four more spread across the edges
of our suburban back yard,

escaped over two-weeks ago
from an exotic private habitat.
The local animal control 
far out of their league

with these skittish African equines
in small-town Maryland.
But in this home-bound year
their marvelous stripes breath
fresh-air into our masked existence.

Cut Offs / by Karen Warinsky 

Smiling, dewy teenage girls
served the pizza and drinks,
their tiny, white cut-off jeans
riding up into the crease of their thighs,
buttocks peeping through the cloth
as they bent over collecting glasses,
checking the tables for money.

That’s what they work for, isn’t it?

Eyes bright like new change,
like the quarters they scoop up
from satisfied customers,
they are innocent,
don’t understand exploitation,
don’t know their celebrity idols
have body guards and security systems
protecting them from the consequences
of showing their constantly half-clad bodies,
don’t know how to say “No” to the boss
who asks them to wear a skimpy outfit.

I wonder who will protect these girls as they ride their bikes home?
Who will help them stand up to this notion that their flesh is for sale?
Who will be their mother
when their mother doesn’t see she’s sending her daughter
the wrong message,
cut off as she is from the knowledge of a woman’s worth.

Poem 12 / Day 12

The Muse / by Seneca Basoalto 

If you’re lonely, press play, but first
we press RECORD
a pocket of pills in his blue jeans, without
counting I learn to swallow / to submissively
fade and face him and all the humid heat that
leaks from his mouth and finds a home on my
face / he reminds me that I am the muse and
the muse might as well be a corpse in combat
with the way the sky collapses when no one
is watching / he knows I would not know
what it’s like to be made of a body that no one
is watching / even if I sleep, he finds his way
there, an interruption / of place without time,
virility shoved into a verse that sounds like
something I once thought but never said

but he heard it

and now speaks for me, as if my shrill voice
is his own, with resolve and reflection encased
in an ossuary where he keeps the muse /
to touch in reverse or perverse both history
and consequences,
I see the fantasy of this playing on repeat
behind your eyes while cigarette smoke rises
from your temples / choose a song, any song,
and give it my name before your flattened
fingertips strum our world into the abstract

I wish you would forget where you buried me.

Selfie-ekphrasis / by Kristen Brida
[Woman in green lace dress takes a selfie in a coffee shop]

absorb my lace call the material a tattoo instead of a new layer. I pick my mint skin like mermaid scales and invite you to join me at the back of my throat—it is a mirror, shaped like a teardrop. I apologize for its confrontation but quickly retract. I open my mouth I tilt so I can fully catch you in the reflection of my body I want you as my regurgitation.

Hurt / by Jane Hammons 

Gored in the head
by a bull when he was three
my father is a one-eyed man a baby who was injured disabled but not dead

in the corral where he cried and bled
calling for a mother’s healing words tender touch but getting instead a scold a wound deep
gore to the head

when she told us the story she told us I said
stay away from the bulls but he didn’t listen he never listened you see
my father is a one-eyed man injured disabled lucky to be alive not dead

out of the house disobedient he fled under the fence where the bulls were fed
wandering playing babbling who knows what he thought he might be he was three
gored in the head

picture him crawling on the ground a little boy eye to eye with a creature horns on his head
perhaps the bull meant no harm just looked up and startled to see            hooked
the toddler who became my father a one-eyed man injured disabled but not dead

never listened my grandmother wrung her hands he was always pig-headed
bad boy with guilt and shame she
gored his head
my father is a one-eyed man angry uncertain shy hurt a bully still living not dead

Ode to Honesty / by Sharayah Hooper 

It took me too long
to realize the words
floating from your mouth
and slipping under my skin,
echoing through my mind,
weren’t true.
You knew how to light the match
until the flame burned
every dry piece
of reasonable doubt into ash
that tasted bitter on my tongue.
You had me tethered
to a line like a balloon
and then batted me
away when I got too close,
took up too much space.
You looked me in the eyes
and told me a lie with pity
brimming in yours,
asked me to stay for dinner.
You don’t know this,
but my friends drove me home.

Hiking Fort Ord / by Olivia Ivings  

This is what it’ll be like
when humans go extinct:

roofless buildings littering
the landscape, overgrown

with vegetation, hollow
like dead trees,

moss hanging like lace
curtains in a funeral home,

tracks pressed in the mud
only by deer, and spiders tacking

their webs between the trees
like tapestries in a smoke shop.

Recoleta Cemetery / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Stray cats paw at death,
tango up to
stone. I dream of quilts,
remembering your breath and
an avenue of prayer. 

Evening falls like breath.
My prayer is spent.
The cats paw at dream,
tango up to death. I’ve quilt
my missing into stone.

As the Crow Flies / by Kimberly J Simms

The raucous squawking, throaty cawing draws
my eyes above the hard-wood canopy along the lake.
I see a crow dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk,
with three more crows in hot pursuit.
The hawk’s talons turn to greet the crow,
far more agile than I conceived,
as they battle talon to toe.
What is this madness I wonder
as the murder of crows mobs the screeching falcon,
a cawing cacophony piercing the calm afternoon
till the raptor accelerates, disappears across the water.

Natural enemies hawk and crow
with red-tails known to feast on dark crow chicks. 
But a mob of crows can peck a hawk to death
if the lone predator was not so shrewd to use speed
to find far-flung prey, to make wing to distant trees
restoring peace to the crows’ guarded territory.

Questions for an Empty Flower Pot / by Andrew Walker 

do you believe
in god?

a god?

is it Rilke’s god?

is it everything?

was there a moment
when you knew
that what you held
would die?

did you know
it would be my hands?

their absence?

is there any forgiveness?

do you pray?

is it in confession?

perhaps salvation?

have you seen me pray?

can these words
truly be heard
if they are spoken
to no one?

do you feel bereft?

do you find my apologies
laughable?

were you jealous
when i tried
to show you
the light inside of me?

is a question
a flagellant?

can you smell
my repentance?

is it everything?

Like Bill Murray, the lark / by Karen Warinsky 
(After The Song of the Lark by Jules Breton)

Yes, it was the main thing I noticed
in the foyer of the Chicago Art Museum,
a school kid off the bus
ready for my Windy City field trip.

She stands, placid,
contemplative,
head up, body still,
listening,
and the title of Breton’s painting
tells us
it is a lark she hears.

This is the print I took home that day,
spending nearly all I had
to buy the marigold sky,
pink halo sun,
dawn’s sure promise,
the girl’s poise.

In his story
Murray was dejected,
walking right off the stage in the middle of the play,
his performance was so bad.
Thinking he’d never be an actor,
ready to court death, he walked blind
for miles till he found himself
at the art museum.

Entering, he saw the painting,
the morning and the girl listening to the lark,
and her hope
made him live another day.

Poem 11 / Day 11

Prophecy / by Barbara Audet

Can you live a lifetime
in the last second
of your life?
Best lives, she heard,
are lived
right to the edge.
With no boundary
between a world
and its afterglow.
The woman was
three times
the witness to this
second at hand.
She was desperate
to understand
the maneuver.
Her mother had a second
of music.
Her husband a second
with a chaplain.
Her brother a second
with the grown children
of his youth.
Looking in the mirror,
the woman thoughtfully straightened
her threadbare
purple dress,
basted over basting,
its black illusion sleeves repopulated
from a Goodwill $2 negligee.
Her wrinkles were
makeup enough.
In her bones,
the need
to contemplate
what a second
might bring,
was growing
abnormally fast.
She embraced
her prophecy
of missing time.
Welcoming
an unfolding
Instant.

Apache Arms / by Seneca Basoalto

Stolen El Paso
                I know your horizon
every gulf, a desert in flames

men made of the slow ridge
where the ego in me has come to die
where the bed is the only place to lie

not in my room
but the pickup truck that our neighbors
heard backfire as it rushed away in the
middle of the

I know the placement of everything
in this house.                    you hauled
away nothing of significance

but left behind my mother unsettled
& stirring in the barren nights

a moon half cracked
beyond the sapphire

a dolphin we know didn’t swim its way
from inside the mahogany box of dated
jewelry & fawn felt.                        I swim

in the community pool &
defeat my perm
as if thieves had
never happened

but surrendered me to a
the pass
where the apache found
my freckles hidden with
the sun

Ghazal / by Kristen Brida

We drive through the Main Line to see the village of Christmas lights—our eyes flit
house to house, only to hold our gaze on that softly glowing molar, the moon.

Sappho’s longing, ozones dissolving, all lives lost on earth
the history of the witness, rooted in the moon

How it oscillates: half-light, blood light, no light, love light—
to be a thing that has as many shadows as the moon.

We may have landed on it, white-suited specks in a snowfall, still its allure
remains—we can only arrive at or depart from it, that intransitive moon.

And where does the sun lack its lyric? It too has been a witness.
But only from afar. The simultaneous proximity and orbit, that distance between earth
and moon.

Of the world’s infinite impossibilities, one I will chew
my cheeks over: I will never be able to give you the moon.

Moving / by Jane Hammons

Packing up and your grandmother’s silver nut dish that you never polish and wonder why you keep rattles against something and you slip it into the little sweater your now dead sister knit for one of your children who never wore it but was sometimes bundled into a matching blanket.

Muffled in baby clothes you think that will keep it quiet and put the swaddled nut dish down on the chair you found on a street in Austin to reply to a text from a friend then you think I need to write something but take a photo instead because that’s the story.

Manifest / by Sharayah Hooper

I am familiar with the small crescent moons
that show up in your skin when you dig a fingernail deep in,
deep enough to leave a mark.
There is a sharpness to these digs
that does nothing but divide my brain a little further,
force it to devote less surface area
to whatever had been consuming it a moment before.
But my nails remember and find the divots once again.
My skin remembers,
bending and folding to the weight of my fingers,
the edge of my nails.
Perhaps next time, I will keep my hands open.

The dead and everything we can never touch again / by Olivia Ivings 

Puddles shine
like moonlit portals,
and bats stagger
from the schoolhouse.

From the stone wall
lining your yard,
it feels like I can see
every damn star.

Our bus pulls up,
filled with other
half-dead passengers,
ready to go to Prague.

You hold my hand,
trace the tattoo
on my forearm,
and I cry.

This thing is dead,
but you don’t notice
the apparition
hovering behind

as we board;
it stokes angst
living between
foot and ground,

backs and coffins,
our arms
which rest,
barely touching.

KAAMOS / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

The first saunas were pits dug in the ground that people lived in. Here, too, I feel the weight of darkness like the crown of a snow-loaded spruce facing windward. What would I take into my pit? My husband and son. A secure supply of water. Cans, can opener, one lone bath bead to worry between my fingers. Maybe I’d want to revisit the world. If so, a rope with tension, or long succulent grasses I could twist until they sang out.

Unwritten 9/11 Poem / by Kimberly J Simms

This is the BBC Breaking News,
reports are reaching us that a plane
has crashed into the World Trade Center
in New York just a few moments ago.

I am snacking on some leftover chips
from lunch, plowing through a 100-slide
marketing presentation at my desk
in the open-plan office in central London.

My parents are somewhere over the Atlantic
having boarded an 8:00 am flight
back to South Carolina via New York.
We turn now to our colleagues at CBS 
news live broadcasting from America.

I’ve stopped working. Tears are slipping
down my young cheeks. I’m listening intently
to the radio but I have no thoughts, just terror.
Fighter pilots are in pursuit of another hijacked
plane somewhere over Pennsylvania.

Someone brings me a cup of milky tea.
My boss squeezes my shoulder, “Come,
we’ve set up the telly for you.”
I’m the only American in the office.

Just as I perch on the edge of the folding chair,
the second plane hits the other tower.
My cell phone doesn’t work. I’m trying to call 
SC from the office line, but international calling
is jammed. The live feed switches suddenly,
the commentator fumbles, “another plane,
it appears we are in another city, Washington, DC
their telling me.” Now the whole office is in the basement.

Four planes in American? Is this a coordinated attack?
Could hijackers be on planes over London as we speak?
Should we evacuate? Send everyone home?
I still can’t reach anyone in the states. Nor will I,
for the next three days. International flights rerouted.
My parents, I later learn, are in Nova Scotia.

I take a taxi home to Newington Green, primarily
home to Turkish-muslims. I stop in the shop
for fresh pita and yogurt. “Is your family okay?”
says the shop owner. “Do you have family in New York?”
I am the only American who frequents this block.
“This is terrible thing,” he offers, throwing a chocolate
in the paper sack. “No international calling,” I say. 
“Yes, can’t get through,” he agrees, “Beastly.”

Hands / by Andrew Walker

           On the phone, you ask
           if it is normal
           to be this worried
           and I tell you
yes
           of course, I feel the same
           hand at my stomach
           but how can I know
           what normal is?
           Some days this hand
           feels soft, warm
(yours?)
           others it is
           calloused and harsh
(mine)
           when you ask
           if it is worth it
           to push past
           this holding,
           I tell you
hopefully
           though I never
           quite understood
           the needs of Sysiphus,
           belief in the bloodying
           of bodies again
           and again
           when you say
           nothing at all
           I feel the phone
           grow heavy in my grip
           and I tell you
I am sorry

The French Club goes to Chicago / by Karen Warinsky

This is for Jim
a 20-something waiter
at the fancy French restaurant
Miss Larkin took us to in “the city,”
a busload of boisterous school girls
feeling every bit of 16,
bold after viewing Claire’s Knee.

His funky round glasses
framed an alert look;
he knew the power of women,
observed us warily as we flirted and sassed
beyond Miss Larkin’s reach,
the other girls captured by her presence
at their end of the table.

Poor Jim!
He offered us tangerines
after the meal
which we took like treasure.
Later, some girls threw them out the bus windows
captive to an inexpressible wildness.

And this is for the business man I saw
as he walked along Wacker Drive at 5 p.m.,
his work day done,
the bus taking us back to our country town,
our waiting parents.
He looked up, adjusting his neck scarf,
our eyes met and I swear we had a moment,
each wondering about the other’s life,
he, having no idea about Jim, or Miss Larkin,
and me, holding my orange
like a tiny globe.

Poem 10 / Day 10

911 Taxonomy / by Barbara Audet

Because time
can eat away
at apples,
You know rotten.
Bloom mnemonic
for learning
beyond impact.
Knowledge
of that bright blue sky.
You stood breath it,
aimed your camera
at a flag.
Remember.
Understand
air weaponry.
Why applied.
To hurt.
How can
you
teach
this day
in September?
It defies analysis.
Two decades
to evaluate
suddenly catastrophic.
Create moments
to mourn
each morn.
Bloom needs
a higher rung.

Suffralaise / by Seneca Basoalto 

I slip and suddenly SATIRE I have skipped over suggestions
towards suffralaise,
the art of not caring which way the bed sheets belong
my face to your neck < your neck to my chin unhinge like a peregrine to consume I want to be nothing > …..

this macabre version you
the substantial falling of feet in this room
the crooked eye shifting my weight in its tomb
the ankles that buckle, the last of the bread
the wine that is blanc but that I thought was red

& yes

there might be something left of me here

if I could become the silhouette of a trees shadow on my wall,
I would, without hesitation, knowing that although it is
stagnant, unaware, not really real, it still withers against the ivory
above my desk, underneath my husband’s favorite cologne &
I see it swathe in wind without control, it just DOES
it IS
it lives
& that is all & all I have ever wanted
to be
a thing other than me,
I see the beauty in that

in being obsolete

Punisher Cento / by Kristen Brida 
after Phoebe Bridgers

I go to the store
for nothing
I chew my cheeks
and stare at the moon
I know, I know, I know
I’m holding me
like water in my hands
I went looking
for a creation myth
my feet can’t touch
the bottom of me

How to Advocate for Darkness / by Jane Hammons 

Change your metaphors
fiat lux but also
light blinds
and
terapie tmou
darkness heals

Ask
must everything be illuminated

Look
for what the glare obscures

Seek
darkness

Big Bend
Chaco Canyon
Galloway Forest
Flagstaff
Kerry International
Aoraki Mackenzie
Namibrand Reserve

Insist until you desire
dark
prefer it

Turn off
dig the void
grope

Confessions / by Olivia Ivings 

I shut out two summers, envisioned myself face-down
in a swamp, shoulders draped in algae, hair tangled in everglades.

I thought I had crooked fingers because of a dream where my mother
held my hand tight enough to crumpled my bones like paper.

I felt like a pariah and heard my adoptive family talk shit
about women who have babies out of wedlock.

When “Something Like Olivia” played, my uncle said
no one would want to know someone who shared a name with me.

I felt ugly with unstraightened hair; did Medusa have snakes
or unruly waves? A grandparent told me I was prettier than ever,

noting that I started wearing makeup. I laid in bed for two days
after my mom bought me a bra, cried, ashamed the first time I shaved.

Half-Watching The Weather Channel on Your First Day Back in Person / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

show up  again      we don’t yet know what’s          dissolvable         
                                                the potential          still to come           of break down        
      in the face and body                in the
                            getting the kids on the bus          this time of year              
             we have to watch everything     
                            this was taken earlier          this will take until
       big swells          lower the number              let the dust                                                          
                      show you just  how unstable           our situation
                            Houston           we are in                    a carved landscape

I’m Not a Look-Alike / by Kimberly J Simms

I found my look-alike today
at the grocery store.
Her cart another life from mine.
We kaleidoscoped head on
on aisle four, our necks rotating
browns eyes gawking
strangers wearing each others’ faces.
Kroger a far stretch from a mirror
universe. Her bags of salad,
her child’s braces, made me weigh
was I the evil twin?

What my mother remembers / by Andrew Walker 

her clematis, purple and worldly, climbing the trellis of her home like a spider

her children’s immense fear of spiders

hours upon hours of Blue’s Clues and the screams of children that bounced through her halls

her children’s heads, mopped and golden, bright

the closing night of The Music Man and how, on the drive home with her mother, it rained like flowers on a stage

her mother’s soft voice and light laugh, so unobtrusive it would not dare echo within the walls

the dishes in her mother’s sink half-cleaned, groceries rotting in the car under the Arizona sun

her mother’s missing keys, shoes, smile, lost (hidden?) without a clue

the flowers that grew from her mother’s face, draining the color from her hair, the moments from her mind

the moment her children left their grandmother’s eyes, how she thanked god it was not her

the day she had to rip up her dried and dead garden to plant new seeds

how beautiful the flowers became, how they made her children smile

Laugh / by Karen Warinsky 

Grandpa swore nearly every other word,
a lifetime of gruff
built up by years of horse training and railroading,
of keeping kids in line with a belt
and a stern voice.

“Howdy Pardner,” or “Hey Hot Shot,”
was all I ever got from him,
a friendly acknowledgment,
but it was Grandma who knew me,
who chuckled with me over the details of my young life.

“This is a God-damned nice church,” he said,
sitting with my mother waiting to hear me sing in the children’s choir.
Mom exhaled a mortified rebuke;
“Dad, keep your voice down!”
“Damn nice,” he added.

Like I said, he swore a lot.

So one night after supper
as the adults sat on the porch in the thick summer air
sipping tea and swatting flies,
we stayed inside,
Grandma and me,
behind the screen door,
counting how many times he said, “God-damn.”
By number 13 we were crying,
howled when he leaned toward the door,
asked,
“What the Sam-hell’s going on in there?”
Age ten, unable to breathe, holding my sides, rolling on the floor
as you shook in your chair
your smoker’s cough taking your air,
that’s my favorite memory of you.

Poem 9 / Day 9

Remembrance / by Barbara Audet

So common for us
to ask of each other,
what we were doing
one day or another.
By decades, by days
we lock down the strategies.
To remember in detail,
each note of our tragedies.
No spiral of silence when destiny demands, calls.
Auger brains boring cells to save how we understand all.
Like watching a movie
when it plays, not recorded,
Emotions are swayed,
our mutual pain’s ordered.
Black and white, Technicolor, we line up the images,
Captioned out, every name, every curve of the visages.
Guilt of survivors assuaged
by group grieving,
To forget how they left us
would be humanity leaving.
Why ancient man buried loved ones with flowers, with treasures.
We must build stone monuments, rose-bowered, measured.
Sentimentality, corn pure,
elevates
man beyond bloodshed,
Those born cold to its influence,
Are much better off dead.
Anniversary mindsets link generations spanned outwards,
Bell song and trumpets, stop
rippled on stalwarts.
As the calendar commands us,
We return to the site … sights.
Hold hands, shed tears
For those harmed, taken … four flights.
Where buildings once towered,
Twin cloud bursting spires,
That day, that eleven
September,
Heroics transpired.
Even as plummeting steel
bars descended,
We are struck most by
those uniforms ascended,
To save lives in peril.
No thought of their own,
The starkest of contrasts,
To dark purposes known.
Cowardice defined
is simply conceit,
Impulse unchecked,
self-centered,
replete,
with sinews dogmatic,
Let go honor sweet.
Honor instead
strong motives to save,
To protect, to encourage,
To merit … brave

Resurrection of Sophia / by Seneca Basoalto

We took turns exchanging earthquakes in the bathroom 
               kiss me, New Mexico — the tattoo of el diablo 
               spanning her back, battering a strangers door
               because every house looks the same
brewing Yerba de La Negrita in the middle of the night
and wondering how many revolutions around the sun
it takes before God says you’re allowed to feel whole again

sospechosa Sophia, a placental abruption,
one stanza memorized from the bible only spoken in Spanish
and congregated like a love poem
passing from one impermanent fingerprint to the next

it’s written all over her freckles, a constellation fish and
bargain cerveza with gummy bear tajin that she transfers
to my mouth from the sticky side of her sterile press on nails

no one
knew she could play the cello, or liked to break into her father’s
house to steal his shoes — out of spite, she never finished anything
            other than an orgasm

she blames her father for that, too

a crescent moon waist with doubts and disability
abandoned and palpitating, 102 degrees of afterglow

she still smells like her grandmothers kitchen

After the burial, / by Kristen Brida

a Wawa hoagie for the train ride home. The red-white wrapper sticks out
of my evening bag like a baguette from the market. A Wawa hoagie in case a hunger somehow stirs. I unwrap and take one bite, then rest the sandwich on my lap. A crumb snowfalls on my crisp dress, but no matter. Outside the field of vision constantly shifts. How the deciduous trees stipple the horizon in rapid fire. How the green spatters across the finger-smudged Septa windows. How the green passes its boundaries from broad leaf to air, what shapeshifters. Agnes Obel’s September song scores each leaf’s ephemeral blurs. The sun’s setting eddies bleed into the mottled green. Their blurring reminds me of the Vampire squid’s red tentacles meeting their blue-green webbings. Those creatures that devour marine snow, those little specks of ocean decay.

Again for Mark (1950-1974) / by Jane Hammons

If you had stayed in town
            instead of driving back out to the ranch
If I had said yes
            instead of I can’t I’m going out with your sister
           (we could have met at her house; spent the night together; we’d done this before; why didn’t we then)
If you had called earlier
            or later
If I had returned your call
            (it was late when I got home; I was drunk; I had to drive back to Albuquerque in the
            morning)
If I had not driven back to school in the morning
            but out to your ranch instead

If the murderers had not broken out of the Eddy County Jail
               that day
If they had been captured before they drove through the gates of your grandfather’s ranch late
                that night
If the boys riding dirt bikes in Dog Canyon had said something sooner
If you had not opened the door
               because we were sleeping together on the narrow bed in the back room of your sister’s
              house like we had done before

               instead of me alone in my twin bed at my mother’s house my newborn sister asleep in
               her crib her fine baby hair blowing in the swamp cooler’s damp breeze the little blanket
               tangled at her feet her breath her pulse her heartbeat tiny and steady calling me to
               sleep

If you were alive now instead of dead
            who would we be who would we be

Ode to Communication / by Sharayah Hooper

Sometimes it is hard to tell if someone is smiling with their eyes
when their eyes are all you can see.
Sometimes their eyes brim with confusion, spill over with pleading, tense in a glare.
And you can’t tell if you brought those feelings to the table
or the person you are looking at is trying to speak with only their eyes.
You never know how much you will miss something until it’s gone.
I never knew how much I would miss seeing noses and lips until they were shrouded.
It amazes me how pulling off a mask could reveal a mystery, a person you know and yet have never met. But then, a smile is not always a smile.

Pilgrimage / by Olivia Ivings

I never thought I’d find myself 
lounging for a photo on the steps 
of Steinbeck’s house like a stripper 
who just finished a routine.

Salinas is not a Promised Land,
but I’ve never believed 
in the American Dream 
more, looking at the shrubbery.

Did Steinbeck ever truly imagine
the smell of poverty and dirt 
saturating Oklahoma’s landscape? 
In Tulsa, dust rests atop skyscrapers; 

in Salinas, crops grow, grandparents wake early
to speed walk, the days coated in golden sunshine.

Party in the U.S.A / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

In-person school starts tomorrow. You say you’re ready: you’ve lined up your new pair of red velcro Adidas by the door to the mud room. Instead of books, you ask if we can watch the video for “Party in the USA.” During the opening guitar riff, Miley arrives in ripped shorts at a drive-in, her swagger neighborly. Your hands shoot up from underneath the covers. “I love this song!” Another close-up of cowboy boots, followed by footage of Miley leaning against corrugated tin intercut with scenes of an even bigger crowd. “I don’t understand what’s happening!” you shout, now out of bed and moving your hips. It all feels very meta, this idea that music comforts the singer who comforts us. By the time the monster American flag unfurls, you’ve asked me what she has to be nervous about. For a brief moment, I consider telling you how in my twenties, I dressed up one Halloween as Miley Cirrus: performer on top, clouds on the bottom. How tomorrow, when you wave goodbye to me from the front steps of a building I’m not allowed to enter, I’ll wave back encouragingly, stumble home on wisps.

Is this a country of heroes? / by Kimberly J Simms

Choking is preferred as it rarely leaves a mark,
so men are emboldened to almost kill 
till they do, like Grace Miller and Sophie Moss.
With brazen hands around my slender neck,
I don’t know whether this will be my last breath,
pinned, immobile, his bulging eyes, red face
raging above, squeezing flesh near to death,
as he bulldozes along the edge of homicide.

What is the switch flipped I think?
It seemed like we were laughing at the bar.
He tucked my hair behind my ear, called me cute.
Our last two meets gave no clue about this brute.
And now, I’m terrified, afraid to move.

Strange how men can hide their darkness
behind an ironed shirt and clean-cut face
with strong drinks, they’re kindly plying.
Now I’m masking bruises, weeks of pain.
Prolonged pressure. Philoma crying.

End / by Andrew Walker 

When the streetlights flicker on
I do not think of the children
who play underneath them,
their shoes scuffed with uncaring
blacktop, lungs filled
with the air that will one day
betray them. I do, however,
watch the parents glancing
over their phones for safety and wonder
if my painting of their selfishness
can be considered valid, even now
when the sky is only smoke
and the ocean wraps itself
around my ankles. Is the warmth
in their affection unfounded?
When my love calls me
we do not speak of children,
of the children, but of hurricanes
and heat and hatred. When she
disappears from the other end,
I tell myself that the world is wicked,
but the passion of humans is much crueler.

In the Morning / by Karen Warinsky

I’d go back for a week
if I could
and walk the railroad tracks
looking for clear quartz treasure,
ride my bike downtown
feet off the pedals,
legs like wings
all the way down the gentle slope of Main Street,
sit at the counter at the soda bar
drink a syrupy Green River,
dissect the school day with my friends.

I’d run barefoot through the soft lawns
spray the hose straight up into the air
let the water fall down on me in the Illinois heat,
fat, glassy drops of refreshment hitting hard,
get yelled at by my mother
for tracking water in the house.

We’d roam the cornfield,
find that old well head
ancient boards nailed over it
by some protective farmer,
someone who knew we’d sit there one day,
two chums out from under watchful eyes
wondering the past into view;
who lived there?
what happened to their house?
where did they go?

We’d do cartwheels in the damp evening grass,
throw our batons in the air,
try to dance,
catch lightning bugs for the night
and let them go in the morning.

Poem 8 / Day 8

Ghosts / by Barbara Audet

TB sanitarium
ghosts
riddle San Antonio.
Spirits rampant,
not alone.
Fiesta avenues
cradling
dies de los muertos
memory
know
no solitary haunts.
Mothers cooking
in aged houses
hear laughter,
footsteps
of youngsters
long dead
tugging
at modern
apron strings.
Around tables,
actors
relax
on benches
to telephone game
recite
for-Halloween stories
newly fashioned
in real time.
Imagine
you are
stranded
at a lake house,
a hospital,
a graveyard.
These soon
to be ghouls
for a paycheck
recall
non-fiction
encounters
paranormal.
You add
low-tone,
self-aware
grim
narratives.
He was working,
vet clinic
past midnight
in Annapolis.
Three dogs
ran by,
breeze
from wagging tails
flipping pages
of his book.
He shut his volume,
in spell held wonder.
Went to fix his error.
Each cage locked.
Each animal secure.
He saw them.
He felt them.
What were they?
Who were they?
A neighbor,
teenaged,
channeling
Wednesday Addams,
cautioned.
Her old house,
your new home,
retained
those
refusing
to depart.
She whispered.
My grandparents
died
there.
One stood watch,
waited for the other.
You best keep watch.
Out in the back,
caring for children,
a casual glance
at bedroom windows.
Her hair is white,
up done.
Her dress,
high
collared
black.
Her face stern.
She follows
your children
with her eyes,
locks
with yours.
That ancient sense,
of climbing doom,
a spine of terror,
rings clamoring true.
Down fast, lids.
Eyelashes rip
at cheek tips,
She is gone?
You saw her.
You felt her.
And you are
never
quite
the same.

They Say Your Comfort Zone Will Kill You / by Seneca Basoalto 

but they never said to hold your breath when you see comfort
in the corner of your eye, strutting by, chewing on its lip
in a B line for your hangnail, which comfort will rip out
with its teeth, split from the finger as an excuse to assemble
your blood like lakes over its taste buds — comfort ruptures

three assaults in moonlight, nothing says comfort quite like its
proclivity to summon mayhem with a glance and a glass of
warm milk                                                              with morphine to help you
loosen your timid mind, comfort rushes to you with intrusion
dressed like intuition that feels like your fathers smoky breath
after a night of rain, somewhere that traps you — comfort disrobes

it is in your bed, prowling for attention
it is in your hair, scratching an itch
it is between your teeth, rotting without remorse
it is that mountain in the distance you cannot climb so instead
you daydream about the feeling of falling, of not needing
fight or flight — the bowl of oatmeal and ambrosia honey
that you must eat or else

it is the mouth of a washing machine stealing your oxygen,
the particular drumming of a heart waiting for its moment to
disturb you so you can remember that comfort is solace and not
just spit and sweat, comfort is not just the shadow it makes
when its weight restricts your heavy breath, it is
the apology the spells out Sunday, curling into a ball across
cold cotton and not moving for hours — comfort is a man who
lets his arm fall asleep beneath you and hopes you know he will
do more, be better, try again because “I’m not always like this”,
comfort is learning to sleep with a knife under the pillow
just in case comfort gets a little too comfortable, again

triple tanka for the Schuylkill / by Kristen Brida 

river receded
fallen lampposts cast aside
powdery flood waste
glitters my running trail. Still
I am grateful for this path.

And yet, as I run
a film of sewage mixes
with my sweat, a rank
biome. Flood as if to say
only when I cling to you

do you turn around
to smell the fetid breath, and
want to peel your skin.
so long as you run around
and not through, I cling to you.

Jornada del Muerto / by Jane Hammons 

Oppenheimer returned to his hut and waited for the weather to change. 4:00 a.m.
Rain stopped falling. Winds calmed. Humidity stabilized at 80%.  Clouds broke.
Scattered. The time was right. The desert bathed in the pale light of the moon, tinged
pink by gentle rays of a rising sun blinded by a brilliant yellow flash. A furious ball of
red and orange whipped itself into a fiery column, several hundred feet thick. A
violet ring hovered, spitting bits of blue and purple back into the atmosphere. A
halo.

For a moment he contemplated success.

The halo vanishes, leaving only a sinister gray cloud splashed with pieces of the
yellow morning sun. Oppenheimer famously quotes the Bhagavad Gita, “I am
become death, the shatterer of worlds.”  Thunder cracks through the mountains and
dunes like applause.  Mesquite, agave and cholla quiet rustling leaves.  Snakes and
lizards avert their cool reptilian gaze. Roadrunners and cactus wrens freeze, poised
for escape.  Rabbits, coyotes and rats sniff enemy scent. 

Vapor mist rises where the steel tower cradled the bomb. A crater yawns.
Crystalline worms emerge through fused green sand: first creatures of the new
earth.

Ode to Control / by Sharayah Hooper 

The heat from a persistent sun dries the earth below.
Grasses yellow and crack. Leaves pale and fall and crunch.
Skin stiffens with an itch that renders it raw
and makes you want to crawl free. But as much as we want to,
as much as we squirm and fidget, we cannot crawl out of our own skin.
It clings with a persistence that reminds us we only have
so much control, so much power.
Even our bodies make decisions we have no say in,
and we must deal with the fall out. We must see the world
with the light of the sun and hope we can find our way.

Saturday / by Olivia Ivings 

The sky is inundated by clouds, but the Sun
takes its place at 7:06 a.m. Up before most,
the Sun is overworked, and people avoid it
until they must face it.

My dog stares at lizards scaling the window,
and I have no coffee to brew. I have dry toast
and a dehumidifier. Despite the climate, I escape
God’s salivating mouth.

I sit on the porch, watch the storm. I want to feel
the way the trees do. I want one of my lightbulbs
to burn out, my roof to have a thousand holes,
the dehumidifier to break.

I want to feel God’s hot, sewer breath on my face
and wonder if today is the day he’s going to crush me.

Lag Time / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

The Tuesday before school starts, you ask to play Operation with the bones from
an owl pellet. You suggest, after filming another Mario Maker walkthrough
together, that we dump all of your crystal-growing powder into one container. I try
to sneak away to revise. You call from the den, “Come quick! I can almost lick my
bangs!” On our playdate at the park, I’m an absurdist detective, mumbling into my
speaker some impromptu lines about a shorebird and Derek Jeter. You accuse me
of not fully watching you ride the carousel. I agree to hop on, not because I want
to,  but because I can write about it later.

That’s great! It starts with an earthquake! / by Kimberly J Simms
2020 Pandemic Purchases on Amazon

Breathe Essential Oil Roller, Yoga Mat,
Acoustic Guitar Strings,
Presto Toilet Paper Bulk,
Honey Cough Syrup, Coldcalm, 
Copper coated BB’s, Cotton candy, 
Laptop charger, Uno cards, 
Double hammock, fishing lure,
Burpee Self Watering Seed Starter Tray,
Batiste Dry Shampoo, Cat Food,
Bug Bite Suction Tool, Trashbags,
Heirloom Vegetable Seed Survival Garden,
Hepa Air Filter, Diffuser,
Harrogate Tea Variety Pack,
Haircutting scissors, facial wax strips,
Rooster Leash and Harness,
Leather cleaner, Feather duster,
Floating alligator cooler,
Vionic Slippers, Scott towels,
Loaf pan, weighted blanket.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Gate, Teeth / by Andrew Walker 

All I feel are teeth
carving soft moments 
into the pit of my skin—
consider its glow, right before
the blood comes. I am a gate,
holding back infinitely
what has created me, breeched
by its own guardsman.
I have always been sympathetic 
to acts of betrayal—
I understand the need to destroy 
in self-preservation. It is a selfish act,
but when trapped in a room
with no one but another,
even breathing can be considered cruel. 

Beauty Lesson / by Karen Warinsky 

Busy devout moms went around town on Saturdays,
curlers poking out beneath their head scarves,
tight on their heads with bobby pins and silver clips.
This Saturday sacrament could be seen
in every shop and store as the women got ready
for evening mass, or for Sunday worship,
and their sacrifice impressed me,
their willingness to be seen in curlers,
a serious devotion
as mom’s like mine preferred to stay home
till their hair dried,
or ventured to a local beauty parlor,
coming out intact.

Young girls used devices that clipped in place
over rectangles of pink foam,
hair coiled like a fishing reel
to get a wide and droopy flip
lasting only a while in the humidity.

Others snapped rubbery spools around sections of hair
making rows like small, pink quarters on their heads,
taking hours to dry.
Sometimes you had to sleep with it overnight
to get the desired result.
I would arrange mine so nothing was behind my neck,
trying to find a comfortable position.
Ladies with bobs simply stuck their ear curls
to their cheeks with Dippity Do and tape
but the tape hurt when you pulled it off.

It was clear these rituals were important.

My mother favored the downtown beauty shop
and came home once a week
in a cloud of Aqua Net or White Rain.
For a while she favored a “French bun,”
a teased three-scoop cone of hair sitting
eight inches off the top of her head.
Think Bardot. Think Audrey Hepburn.
Think, she worked in a factory.

Caroline Chase, a willowy, silent teenage girl
would float goddess-like along Main Street on Saturdays,
in cut-offs, t shirt and a look of distracted disdain.

I would see her downtown,
me straddling my blue one-speed bike,
standing in front of the Ben Franklin
feeding candy into my ten-year-old face,
watching this local star walk slow on the sidewalk
her hair wound around hollow Coke cans.
So exotic.
Think Cosmopolitan.
Think, she married early.

The checkout lady at the Big Blue
had lost her eyebrows
but replaced them with a most original
carrot-colored marker.
Every time I bought a comic book
or a dill pickle,
I studied her brows,
wondering how this nice woman managed
to convince herself
that these burnt-orange arches were helping.

Then I learned my first beauty lesson
the summer the pool opened
and we had to wear swimming caps,
hiding our hair,
showing only our little fleshy faces,
our cute, shiny braids tucked up under
puckered rubber caps
making us look like those Onion head dolls
so popular back then,
the insides of the caps smelling like motor oil.
That’s when I realized the worth of my hair,
and began to understand
what all the furor was about.

Poem 7 / Day 7

Fireworks / by Barbara Audet

O
N
E
e x p l o d e d children running across wet grass slid in from pre-show makeshift invented games races to gaze skyward
T
W
O
T
H
R
E
E
B
O
O
M
ing woke those on their phones eating cooling salted pretzels drinking weakened sodas worried about traffic heading home on the interstate
OOOH
F
O
U
R
m a t c h e d t h e c a d e n c e of the Queen song which song forgotten in brazen bursts following too rapidly now for documentation painting viewing sideshow clouds with royal reds golds eye stung whites seldom expensive blue but oh when those come shouting forth
F
I
N
A
L
E
never done until rocket kicks rocket forces necks to stretch to their human limits an exploding pallet across stars that cannot now compete wait to show billion of sparks pure endurance shot out of an older cannon in a bang of utter genius with no soundtrack whatsoever.

I know where you came from / by Seneca Basoalto 

Your whole body is pretend,
badakit nongoa zinen, an artifice from beyond the veil
that found a way to gather itself from one of my dreams,
a tight–lipped memory of how you wheeze /
it becomes a draft at the head of my bed where your small nose
plays in knots of my hair / close enough to my ear
to hint that you would never ask me to kill myself
but if I did then you would find a way to make it nice

and quiet

Maybe this is why you wait,
bereft at a bedside to make this one room cold enough to sleep /
casting shadows that sleuth and surrogate in creaking floors
as you push your pretend body through stale aura and atrophy,
limitless in your ability to shift or shape into what you know
I want to see / you can find me

but can you touch me without static and snow? Is all this ivory
casting a spell for my sleep, or can you learn to use the pillow too?

Ekphrasis: The Broken Pitcher (1891), Bouguereau / by Jane Hammons 

No need for admission or even accusation
the broken thing is there for everyone to see
at the well where you sit

The vase will no longer hold water
somewhere a shard
dangerous
for bare feet

Your feet are bare

Whole it was beautiful
a vase in colors turquoise gold rich rust sandstone
the glaze holds the light

Broken it is beautiful
colors retain themselves
the hole somewhere the fragment
become things other than what they were

You are beautiful

your bare feet, one big toe upturned in confession
hands clasped rest on one knee pull your shoulders down
toward guilt
your eyes resist
shame
direct your gaze
one flushed cheek supported by a shoulder admits perhaps carelessness

You are whole
unashamed
maybe remorseful
not broken

Don’t break

a pitcher is nothing
a girl
everything

Ode to Searching / by Sharayah Hooper 

Where do I turn when every route seems familiar?
Where am I when I can’t find myself,
when every movement
doesn’t feel like my own?
Who am I
when I need to introduce myself
to me?

Labor Day / by Olivia Ivings

Tonight in Gainesville, I can’t see a single star.
The moon seems to be on holiday, tired
of shift work. She hasn’t taken a day off
in 4.53 billion years. I can’t take my eyes off
the nebulous gray-black shrouding the sky.
Cicadas scream at each other across the lawn
like children. An orb weaver has set up shop
across my bedroom window. Teenagers walk
the sidewalk, hands clasped, and I sit,
legs stacked, eyes toward the milky sky,
waiting for rain. I want to see Pisces flop into a puddle.

I can’t write poems about a sky I can’t see.
I can’t write poems about the things I can see.

Hope / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

Our cat Girlfriend came back after going
missing for three and a half years.
I found her sprawled beside a caged tomato plant —
the circular wire and her matted body together
forming some forgotten hieroglyphic:
grail or luck or voucher. In the dark recesses
of a cabinet, I located a can of salmon
originally intended to help our family
survive pandemic spring. I emptied its contents
into Pyrex, but she refused the oily mound.
I crouched down. I wanted a better look
at her forehead hematoma the size of a camera
on an underwater drone sending photos back
of trenches to the surface. Her eyes bore through me —
it was clear she’d returned for the known quantity
of the yard or the last say or both. “Stay,” I coaxed,
as if I retained any power. I walked to Greenstar
in a daze to purchase cat food, thinking how strange it is
to suddenly be doing again a thing you’d assumed
kaput. When the cashier ringing me up asked
how my day had been, I told him the story,
speaking it aloud for the first time, leaving out
the lump, and he started to cry. We both did.

Waitress / by Kimberly J Simms

Tammy Morgan 19-years-old
summer blonde slinging pizza
deep in the weeds, the place packed 
with actuaries and lawyers.

She draws out the Monster
brownie, drizzled chocolate,
mounded whip cream high
and stepped onto the floor
as the busboy swung the mop.

“Watch yourself. Wet floor.”
She flies slow-motion
non-slip Sketchers mid-air
the plated brownie in her hand.
The tinkling silverware and din of voices fall

silent, a collective gasp.
But this is a country of heroes.
Tammy slides, as if hitting second base,
arm extended, diners’ mouths agape.

She rises
raising the Monster Brownie
in all its whipped cream glory 
high above her head.
The restaurant unfurls
in wild applause.

To Burn / by Andrew Walker 

Again, I consider the fire—
breathe smoke brought in by the wind,
write poems in which I burn
my own home to the ground,
warming my body in the second-hand heat—
collecting kindling for my own.

I do not know if I can own
the warmth I have built, my fire,
resting heavy in its heat,
feeling it grow with the wind.
I so often find myself strapped to the ground,
readying postcards and tattoos to burn.

In the aftermath, I observe the burn,
another scar to call my own.
A scorched earth, ruined ground
is there anything left that a fire
cannot consume? Ashes spread in the wind,
in the end, we’re all just heat.

That’s how it all ends, right? In the heat
death of the universe? All planets burn,
why would we be any different? I prefer the wind,
let it drive air into my lungs, my own
way of living. If left long enough, even fire
will find a way to pull itself into the ground.

I spend far too much time thinking about the ground,
if it will ever hold the same heat
a blanket can, a fire
can. Maybe it’s more comforting that a burn,
finding ways to own
what will eventually become wind.

It’s a lovelier thought, to be taken by the wind,
to feel a gentle breeze before our time in the ground,
to find ease in the warmth of one’s own
world. But I know there is no slowing this heat,
no asking the atmosphere not to burn—
there will always be fire.

I’ll let the voice I own follow the wind
breathing life to fire, razing sacred ground,
in the terrible heat, I’ll find my own way to burn.

Civil Disobedience / by Karen Warinsky 

I named my first bicycle the “Blue Beast” until I learned to ride.
Used, with thick 3- inch tires
its heavy metal substance pressed full against my leg
as I readied to ride or when I stopped
challenging me to take control.
This second- hand bike,
procured somewhere by my father,
produced freedom
as I circled the neighborhood for hours.

Riding, I observed other families,
learned their foibles,
sometimes their secrets,
met my friends,
sometimes squabbled,
sometimes got a treat from a beleaguered mom,
and enjoyed myself
but
where the end of Watson Drive went perpendicular to 72,
there was a Siren calling.
Odysseus himself could not have resisted.

“Don’t cross the hard road,” Mom would say,
her southern reference to the two-lane.
“Do not leave Ada-lore Heights!
You don’t have my permission to go downtown.”

She had made it clear.

But one day, as I stood at that crossroads
realizing she could not see me,
would never know if I left or not
those Greek temptresses whispered in my ear
and I took off.

Coasting down the gentle slope of Main Street,
feet off the pedals,
hair flying wild behind me,
I initiated my first act of
Civil Disobedience.

Poem 6 / Day 6

Laboring Diapason / by Barbara Audet

Forging
long,
winded
pipes,
in his youth,
he trembled air
with gargantuan sounds
that reverberated off
sacred ceilings.
His teacher, his father,
stern and practiced,
sent similar
ancestral crescendoes
high aloft
cathedral domes
in Montreal.
They never saw
eye to eye
until Aeolian music
aligned notes.
Briefly.
Registers mattered more
in their line of work.
Pitch mattered.
Flutes and pianos hidden
in tall metal columns.
Mattered.
Dwarfing
father son
entanglement,
abetted
by replacement,
fulsome
fattening
music
trapped
by stops,
unrelenting
pressure
of fingers, feet.
They each
unleashed
drowning
strident
symphonies.
Listened to birth renewed,
the cries of
Bach’s progeny.
He never wanted
his father’s trunk of tools,
to carve cabinets,
design electrical connections
that moved the console
daringly far from the pipes.
Hard times made it necessary.
Restoring an instrument
at old St. Agnes,
his small
willing
daughter
assisted,
held down middle C
as he set the sound.
Schooled the pipes.
She heard silence
drowned out
by phantom orchestras.
Her father, the magician.
She learned
like other magics,
pipe organs dissemble.
What you grandly see
is not where fugues depart.
Organs must look
the part to play
so many parts.
When his time
with the pipes
was through,
he moved
to other labors.
Still intricate but
never quite
reaching
the heights
of the nascent music.
Though labor’s
never lost
as long as someone
hears the echo
of his instrumental
handiwork
in choir lofts.

Of The Worst Kind / by Seneca Basoalto 

I was left at the lake when I discovered
my mother was never meant to be a mother
—the blonde histrionic & an 80’s perm
crop top electric blue who would choose
to leave her daughter at the lake as punishment
for fun, driving away
while bobbette curls clung to shivering skin

and the Aries sun once again claims the inability
to differentiate between water and tears
or the ignorance of shrill screaming taking the place
of come back as bluebirds flapped away into the
summer of a child’s nursery rhyme vocabulary

I am the child of repeat offenses

I am the daughter of a locked Camaro
in the lot behind a tattoo parlor in Cobleskill, NY.,
an afternoon of winter
watching an old man pound on the window as
I waited alone in the cold backseat with nothing to do
except read a stolen book

and even the idea of that book may be a lie my memory
has told itself so that I could learn to sleep
without being woken by the sound of footsteps in the snow

I studied a book about bad dreams and it said maybe
I was composed out of venom. like rotten apples,
like daddy long legs, venom. my screams, the child in me,
my birth, a curse of the worst kind

life.

Alchemy Kitchen / by Kristen Brida 
after Leonora Carrington

In the ice cream parlor, I slouched
my shoulders, my voice, my mouth.

I watched my ice cream melt
and flood the sundae tulip glass.

My days one blue haze,
eroding any boundary

between the cadences of time—
between dirt and heaven.

At that point, it had been six months.
I savored this grief—would keep

myself in a loop of recall and response.

I savored it because memory
is the closest alchemy to resurrection

until I realized that to recall is not
the same as to summon, that instead of

breaking that void between life and not,
I bored it, augmented it.

In the ice cream parlor, my friend
tipped her chair against the red tile wall

as she listened to my low voice
as she watched me hover

over my ice cream soup
she thanked me for inviting her here.

Now, I wonder what quiet
what white spark conjured

this movement, how did I—
a silhouette scumbled—make

this reach to unloop
to hope

GREEN ANOLE MORNING / by Jane Hammons 

a green anole skims the deck near my feet
I’m outside waiting for sunrise
the morning hot already and humid
in my pandemic insomnia muddle
I am resentful

the green anole pauses
his dewlap pulses orchid
pink
sensing maybe a female
he communicates need
or to another male a warning
this territory his

the sun rises higher as expected
pale yellow fast blue heat

the dewlap signals urgency
blood red
crimson

the green anole moves from slat to rain gutter down spout
tail swish head pivot fat toepads cling then
into the caliche cactus wood chip garden below
pursuing lust or
violence

out of sight

green anole gone
sun up
I take the morning colors in
leave behind the morning news
urgency printed black and white

Respite / by Sharayah Hooper 
 
It is difficult 
To pause a rapid racing 
Horse from charging on. 
 
 
 
 
 

Looking Out the Window of a 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback / by Olivia Ivings 

The late-winter sunrise coats the city
in a purple hue. Clouds distill out warmth;
everything is cool, and the bats stagger
back to their homes under overpasses.

Walking down the sidewalk, a young teacher
watches steam rise from her chicory mug;
she trips, scuffing loafers, scattering books
on the concrete, disbelief dripping like sweat.

Students scramble from the buses, backpacks
larger than the kids are, heavier too.
They bounce into class, chant expectations
adults have for adolescent futures.

Break Through / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

A brick shatters the window of an abortion clinic.
Insurgents capture major cities in a matter of days.
Protein spikes bind to a cell and the virus enters.
A woman discovers her fear is really rage.

Roosters / by Kimberly J Simms

Every young rooster outstays his welcome./
Their nature of bile and beauty
betraying/ 
their morning revelries. Some are mean from birth./

Pecking, flapping fellow fluffy pullets./
Some are sneaky adolescent boys/ who get too big for their britches/ 
then launch a kick to a farmers shin./

Most don’t make it past three days./
when waddles redden. Others battle/
each other to the death./

Once we had a Cuckoo Maran loyal/
to his core. Tough, stodgy. Fought off three dog/
attacks, two raccoons, a red-tailed hawk,/ 
plus a near miss with a black bear./
He would gently nibble scraps from our palms./

At the ripe-old-age of nine, he jumped /
from his roost and broke his leg./ Isn’t that what they say about accidents/
close to home. The pitbull plucked him naked /
but for one lone feather. The spaniel left /
not a single puncture wound on his chest.

But their bones become too brittle/
for their own roosting instincts./
His understudy crowed at 2:00 am/
so he became a Sunday coq-au-vin./
Another was carried off by a bobcat./
His nest brother, born with a gimpy foot,/
Became the whipping boy for the new alpha./
A lean and scrappy silver-laced wyandotte/
who ruthlessly dominated the coup.

Roosters were all born to die./
Some just manage to do it late

On Leaving, or Waves / by Andrew Walker  

Let the wind lift, carry me
all bone or ash
through bodies I have not known—
fresher than air, thick
with salt.
I am waves—well maybe more
of a ripple, really—
crushed in a hesitant blow.
Was there a life lived in limbs
I had not known? I rarely
believe I know myself as well
as well as the ocean would claim.
Stuck, maybe, frozen,
like moments in a photograph,
picturesque in a crashing
I become wholly separated
from the shore.

Austin / by Karen Warinsky 

No real inclination to go to Austin
though I hear it’s quite a scene,
music pouring from the doors of bars,
cold beer and friendly folk.
But I would wait again on the sidewalk by the dime store
for Susie and Shell
 so we could blow our allowance on some Chiclets and Pixie Stix.

Haven’t ever hankered to see Berlin,
ride its modern subway, go to mod millennial night clubs,
but it would be special to sit again at the end of Grandma’s yard,
feet plashing in the ditch after a summer storm,
eyes on the old widow woman across the street
sitting alone on her porch in her prairie bonnet.

Didn’t feel I missed much when the train blew past Albany,
but what would I give to walk up your porch steps,
hear you holler for me to come in,
look into the smile that was your hazel blue eyes?

Poem 5 / Day 5

The Dream / by Barbara Audet

Her episodic dream
with classic cast
of thousands
one lone Friday
after three jobs
ran hours long.
Broken up.
Children
came
home.
Doors opened
lights up.
Dog walked.
A serial dream.
Threads reconnecting
each instant
eyes shut.
A dream
on installments.
One sister
in law gifting
pink sunglasses
with gold sprinkles.
Everyone wants those.
Everyone
looks
good
in them.
Magic shades, perhaps.
One trip
with son daughter
Car breakdown.
You tell them.
Add fluid.
Differential.
Transmission.
Simple.
Scene after scene after scene
person after person-after person.
Unrecognized.
Are they really building
a new car?
Seconds, minutes
or is it hours toll by.
An 1800 bill.
No way to pay.
She waits for repairs
in panic mode.
She waits for life
to repair
in panic mode.
Clerk arrives
with photo sheets
of each
awkward
encounter
with the car.
Asking a dazed
always fainting
on the ground
managed by
migraine woman
what happened here.
How can she know
what happened?
It is life after all.
This is a dream.
Every moment
a recap of stress
in short snippets.
Day to day
dreaming
back
the struggle.
The hope hopelessness.
She sheds tears
even in her sleep.
Dealer says help her.
A woman waits
in a Mercedes convertible
to drive them home.
She resists.
Her son daughter
understanding.
A brother comes.
Hands her his card
for payment
but it is paper.
Will it work?
The dream skips by
sanity saved.
Shift in time
to a talk
with a woman.
An artist.
Competition
not really
but others
could see
that differently.
They share
something
Not pink sunglasses
No
A shared link
a tragedy
one knows
the other doesn’t
a powerfully
weird
horrible
yet true
yet personal
fact.
The fact
must die
with them
both.
It was
about death
after all.
Let her wake, lord.
Life
should
only pass
this way
but once.
Dream it away.

They Too Become Hands / by Seneca Basoalto

What you don’t know is that I have watched myself fall through the trees, fleeing from hands that have spun webs around my throat & named it nocturne. I think about hands. I dream about hands. My teeth become fists & failures that gnaw through unspoken words. I sleep, only to wake up to hands. I breathe hands. I become obsessed with hands beyond the memory of a busted knuckle shoved into my mouth. My mouth / freckled too, also hands, they hear his death threats through the static & suddenly recall they taste like Marlboro & Beaujolais. His death threats reshape from words he uses in each of his songs, so they too become hands that maneuver slow motion through the .07 seconds it takes me to notice his posture. The curl of crooked fingers making a crown. He moves through me, I am a pasture / this is the same thing as prey. What am I? If he is me that means I am mine / if he is me, I am only allowed to speak to myself. If he is me, as he claims to be, then I live in fear of my own hands. Like father, like daughter. Like rivers, like blood. Like lovers, like hunters. If I do not break my fingers to answer the phone, then I might as well slip into the tub & not wake up.

What you don’t know is that I do not have to be near him to know that if I breathe, he will hear it. If I breathe the wrong way, I will never breathe again.

On distance / by Kristen Brida

past felt
a blank living self

fuck matter

remember
a strange bed

I keep
sleeping past self


**

you were weight
less
animal

beautifully
a stranger

hang mirrors
show what

reflects—the tallest
middle

**

I am thinking
in an absence

you feel you lapping
a fatal peace—

**

our history—

a boundary
that dimension

ODE TO WANGECHI MUTU’S SENTINAL IV / by Jane Hammons 

One Sentinel arm branches upward reaching
aligns with Rodin’s droop of arms six
two for each Shade
muscle sinew ligament heavy in bronze anguish

Mutu plants one woman arm in the ground
balance
up and down
feet hoof and stump five legs support body and trunk

Behind Mutu’s Sentinel Rodin’s Three Shades stare
into The Gates of Hell we cannot see but know is there
Art History Dante and all that

Sentinel IV framed by strands of wooden beads Mutu calls Prayer
Beneath a rotunda a dome formal and reasoned The Three Shades despair

Sentinel Prayer and Shades on display
together at the Legion of Honor museum in the Adolph B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Gallery

The founder’s gallery
Spreckels
Founder: Spreckels sugar
sugar magnate
sugar
maker of enslaved
sugar
builder of museums

I Am Speaking, Are You Listening? the title of Wangechi Mutu’s show asks.
I saw and heard.

Now calculate the cost of the sugar that brought us here.

Ode to Breathing / by Sharayah Hooper 

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the atmosphere
in the bathroom, how cold or warm it was, or what it smells like.
Though I do know the air hung thick as if it never moved
and you had to break through it with every step, every breath.
My rubber soled shoes echoed off the tile floor and the sound
of the latch on the stall door made my presence to solid,
though I was alone. A tightness in my throat threatened to erupt
but when I opened my mouth, only air came out.
I heaved sob after silent sob until the air thinned
and I could breath again, knees bent to my chest, staring at the ground.

Disappointing Children / by Olivia Ivings 

Thulium is the middle child
of the naturally occurring elements:
overshadowed by its bolder siblings.

Tarnished, gray composition, separated
into a more desirable state
through recrystallization, is easier to reform.

It falls lackluster, only tied for the fourth
rarest element, but third in inheriting
its parent’s unrealized dreams.

While non-toxic, it has no biological role
as zinc or magnesium. Only St. Matilda
and avant-garde visionaries would gamble

with something too soft for anything
except creating lasers made for focusing
on something more brilliant.

Reactive / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 
For Zelda Nut

In line at the food truck, I watched a boy cover
his basset hound’s feet in gravel. The dog was old. His eyes
were bloodshot. His stumpy legs being buried
under piles of rocks seemed not to bother him.
I thought of you and had to turn away — you
curled up in front of our electric heater, tail
wagging, how I would stroke the scarred
white stripe plunging down your forehead.
Your enlarged teats meant you had given
birth to at least one litter. You gnashed the leash
in the presence of any wind. Whenever you heard
the shriek of a playground swing, you’d shred my jacket.
After, soaking in a salt bath, I would study the timeline
of bruises on my torso. Everything tonic
compacted into dense earth. You broke skin
on our son’s finger, then a week later, crossed
the kitchen unprovoked to latch onto his bicep.
The legs of the bassett were like fat pylons disappearing
at high tide. The dog’s calm posture only made
me madder. I wish language could rewire
frayed nerves. I wish the past wouldn’t harden
inside us. Each time you attacked me, I got low
to the ground and tried to calm you with my body,
remembering what my midwife told me
twelve hours into labor: “It won’t hurt as much if you reconfigure
pain as pressure.” After surrendering you to the shelter,
I turned over all the painted stones in our garden.

White Dress Tanka / by Kimberly J Simms

No carbs. P-90
Disordered pandemic meals.
Rescheduled wedding.

Covid bride distress. Beauty,
it is the gowns’ job to fit.

I’m so tired of all these summer songs / by Andrew Walker 

Phoebe Bridgers sings Bo Burnham
at a show that I watch through my phone
and my heart breaks for Laura Stevenson—
I guess we all favor a more
performative sadness now.

I need the snow again, to blanket
the heat and the bones I’ve piled
by my bedside, that is to say:
I need the weather to tell me it’s okay
to listen to Phoebe Bridgers again.

And I will. I will sit
in the hollow of her voice,
feeling full, being full until
the snow melts and heartbreak
is shunned in the heat of the Sun.

Where Greatness Lay / by Karen Warinsky 

History appeared in every moment,
all those pictures in my head
transformed into solid surfaces of stone, marble and glass,
while the stories of others
who’d already seen it
faded and paled
to my present, perfect participation.

Finally in Europe at 52,
a chaperone,
and I wanted my students
to feel the echo,
let it take them into the past, sense the players,
wanted them to realize
what we come from,
why we left,
what we lost and the gains made.

Out on the streets a carousel of art made me dizzy,
all of Florence a pillow on my face
and I couldn’t breathe,
tried to focus,
and then there I was in a corner of Santa Croce
standing next to Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante,
the centuries pressing against me
and somehow, I took a picture in the dim church light,
burned the grainy image into my personal darkroom
before walking away.

Poem 4 / Day 4

A Solitary Walk / by Barbara Audet

The stars diminished easily, overcome by wisps of morning sun. The so quickly fading stars spoke in her ear of summer’s end.
Summer filed away, sad once more, with all the summers before it.
Opening the door turned cinematic as her Dorothy exited into color not sienna.Leaves made that possible smiling in metamorphosis.
The worn navy pea coat knew her lines. Covered her form conveniently.
The scissor wind angered its seams.
Down the path, beyond the lovesick butterflies mating in broad daylight,
she passed unknown, benign.
Storm leftovers pestered her ankles, booted a bit but welcome open to elements.
Over small gravel hills, cross broken evergreen logs, she thought out loud. Wild thoughts.
Sung out with surprised birds who wondered at her sharing tunes.
The air alone companionship.

Death is… / by Seneca Basoalto

death is a thing of sun bleach and arrows —
death
all hair knots and Mexican mud
licking the crumbling mortar from a brick wall
where ivy and poppies played in tone-deaf diction

death is a buzzing buzzing buzzing
midnight snack of static, an ear to the grass
of your childhood home, fingerprints hiding a match flame

a bouquet of blackberry tiptoes sinking into linen —
death
where you never see the end of the river, not even
from the crown of the hill
where three types of hemlock have grown into 
swain hands that swing into each other
pinky to pinky, still strangers to the earth, death

is a laugh you know you will eventually forget,
Indian summer dust
dry in your throat — the familiarity of chlorine

seasons, each one passing exactly the same as the last —
all ash and aureate, smudging the ink on an old newspaper
and reminding yourself
that no one else will ever steal something better

than a life that had just found love

Ode / by Kristen Brida 

Out the corner of my eye, I thought
            dirt-spackled banana peel
chicken thigh eaten clean but the bone

a yellow rubber thing among dying flowers
            on a sidewalk open w/ boils
cigarette butts peeled
            like formaldehyde streamers

if I didn’t catch its reek which can only be
            described as a stew of July
curbside garbage & amputations

it would have stayed a thing
            melt into asphalt like plastic
& not like a body

I saw coin purse mouth
            teeth pennies
falling out a pocket

squirrel tail stripped
            of tv static fur
tail a yellow string bean

ribs missing like a death myth.
            All there is is pelvis
open like a butterfly stretch

face obscure—
            not sure if flowers
dyed with juiced decay

covers skull or if skull
            was the first to sashay out
or was taken

I’m not one for taking photos
            but I took it because
how could I not

because I am so amazed at myself
            amazed how I can see a body
& think it not.

I shared it on Instagram—
            do you see the food
do you see the not death too?

HURRICANE LAURA’S COURSE / by Jane Hammons 

Backwards flow the waters of the mighty Mississippi. Unchart the chart of known
courses. Rewrite maps. History. Story. Correct course of usual tellings.

Ippississim: teach your children that spelling to spell spells.

Reclaim mark twain. Let it mean again and only two fathoms, twelve feet.

The raft is Jim’s.

Along the shores teach: Choctaw Chickasaw Quapaw Osage Caddo Natchez Tunica
Sioux Sauk and Fox Ojibwe Pottawatomie Illini Menominee Ho-chunk.

Ditch de Soto: he discovered nothing.

Over your flow under the Danziger Bridge turn bullets. Return Hurricane Katrina
gunfire truth.

Flow the waters over Minneapolis St. Paul. Overflow. Ten miles from the shores to
Cup Foods. Revive George Floyd. Wash away the Chauvin gang.

New Mississippi River baptisms called for. Called forth. Forthcoming.

Along shores long awaiting reversal trickster water invites.

Ode to Discovery / by Sharayah Hooper 

I didn’t know I could feel tall as I
only stand five feet three inches
until my shoulders swung sturdily back
and my chin leveled with the horizon
I am no longer looking up at the world
and shrinking under its dead weight
I didn’t know the world housed colors
that my eyes could hardly recognize
until I wiped away the thick clouds
and worked my way into the light
I never knew I could lift the weight
of my own heavy heart and carry it
until I rolled away the stones that clung
and like a landslide I could breathe

Camping, O’Leno State Park / by Olivia Ivings 

For Anya

Too dense to remember a lantern,
I called my dad and learned
to stack twigs and douse them
in hand sanitizer to catch a flame.

A death mask of smoke roved over
our faces. It veiled our eyes, swelled
in our noses; everything burned.

One pan heated the leftover
Indian food from two nights ago.
Aloo Gobi crusted the bottom,
made the naan tacky.

The Rioja’s plug crumbled.
We took swigs swirling with cork
straight from the bottle.

The light of a pregnant moon stained
the clouds. Lying on our backs,
we looked for wintertime constellations,
reminiscing about the pain of the year,

how it expanded our vocabulary for grief and violence.

Shadow Docket / by Alicia Rebecca Myers  

Last night, you crawled into our bed because a camper told a scary tale around the fire. “Let me tell it to YOU,” you said, maybe as a way to shed your own fear. “It’s called Five Fingers.” You raised your hand like a gavel. The story goes like this: A little girl goes to sleep each night, and each morning, wakes to discover that another member of her family has been disposed of. Also, she loses her fingers one by one, until only a stump is left. “Got it?” you asked. “What camp is this again?” I said. On the fifth morning, she finds her mother dead in a pool of blood. “Very red,” you added. “And do you know who did it? The teddy bear!” You didn’t give me time to answer. For a while we lay in silence, watching the colors of aurora borealis violently collide across the ceiling (you’d brought your night light in). My thoughts gathered into a single pointed star. “Mom?” you finally asked. “Yeah?” I said. “Have you ever heard of something so violent?” “I haven’t,” I lied. When will I get the courage to tell you otherwise?

Spilled on the State Highway / by Kimberly J Simms

A wrong turn. A misdirected GPS.
the big rig caught on the rail tracks;
trailer plate unwittingly hitched, stuck
as the CSX train barrels from a distance. 

But this is a country of heroes.
Unable to reverse, the driver jumps
out, torch-in-hand, sprinting
towards the oncoming train
signaling with the beam, flailing
his arms. But it was too late.
The train blew its horn
as it slugged into the Semi.

Flats of eggs, yogurt cups flipped
across the road. Gallons of milk
spilled into dirty gravel. Passerbys
picked through debris, free groceries.
Three locomotives. 103 Train Cars.
A wrong turn. A misdirected GPS.

Rest in the Field of Giants / by Andrew Walker 

Through the fields I watch giants
carve rivers with their dragging feet
and lift clouds above their sweaty heads.

               I often wonder if the weight of the world
               is worth the strength it takes to carry.

Between grunts and sighs, the Earth
was a gift I foolishly thought was my own,
snatched from the hands of the craftsmen.

               They must be tired, I assume.
               After all, I can barely stay awake.

I write a poem for them, as if
that is enough forgiveness, as if
I have not taken their love as my own.

               I am just a thought, a product.
               How can it be real if it’s all I know?

When they sleep, they raise mountains,
block the sun, purple the sky—
I have never known rest so great.

Stacks of Grain / by Karen Warinsky 

There they were
100 years after that first exhibit;
a room of haystacks.
Monet worked two years on his cathedral of seasons,
sunrises and sunsets in coral, cold lavender,
champagne and gold
instructing us
to observe God’s elusive light.

Walking in silence the congregation
wound through this church of easels and canvas
listening reverently to the voice in their earphones explain,
“These are really grain stacks,
not haystacks,
painted in initial bursts of eight minutes
in the plein air.”
Just enough to capture the burnishing pink,
spring green,
melon and faint blue
hanging in the ether before it changed again,
his assistant running wheel barrows of canvas
back and forth
while he tinged beginnings of sky and land
with his brush.

Moving through the pictures,
our moods altered
like the grain painted in the heat,
in frost,
in snow,
skies of peach and rose,
turning to bronze and burgundy.
My breath caught
realizing the message that had swallowed him whole,
the message that said,
this too is important,
this too is for the world.

Poem 3 / Day 3

Women / by Barbara Audet

Our hearts beat.
Beat and beat.
The sole echoing of a pounding universal cosmic voice.
Origin.
We made that voice eternal by that beat, its regular, self-chosen reveal of species.
Our voice is seldom heard in truth.
Shouted down by routine, bureaucracy, bureaucrats who thrive by irregular beats.
The chaotic but organized cacophony of less valid voices seeking to own our better nature.
We must regulate our own beat.
We must set its rhythm, control its output, tuning fork its frequency.
This solidifies the woman precious, necessary.
World, nations, states, ignoble defy her.
Attack her.
Forsake her.
Break into her for power’s sake or fear of that never attainable superior place in the order of destiny.
Denies her brain.
Her will.
Her soul.
In that soul is strength.
Prime Fusion feminine.
Billions of years, God’s direct, infused knowledge.
Her choice.
Set man asunder if the voice is at risk.
Women.
Accept you are that law of the universe long sought by Nobel notation.
In plain sight,
Since dawn of woe man.

Jayce of the YellowBird / by Seneca Basoalto

His family of YellowBird & fist shaped walls /
the same quote from each boy of Berthold

I will not be like the last.
I will not be the last of my kind.

to change, you must abstract heart from the nest
while forgetting blood as a rule / like the carousel of
clinking cans rushing from red knuckles & falling dead
to the ground

this is not you. your breath is betony from where you have
lost count of how many times you sleep, spread across
the crook of a fabled trail tree

you do so
without alcohol & its craving for resuscitation

from the furrows on your forehead, seven in a web
down towards your chin / I connect each distinct freckle
to letters left to you by your great grandmother, & in her
voice it reads

you are already one step ahead, and so is the earth as it is
the botany of your patient hand

Elegy / by Kristen Brida

I used to see sky & I
was unsure where

its curtains opened
Now that I know, I thought

I could learn
how to hold sky

I just find myself
arms stained with dew

my skin slightly less
like itself

[PLEASE REPLY] / by Jane Hammons

[PLEASE REPLY]

Dear Christiana,
with answers to the questions raised by your 1829 letter to Jeremiah Evarts, treasurer of the
American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (1812-1820).

You are only eight when you write this letter: how are you to know what I, your great-great-
great-granddaughter will want to know almost two centuries later? You are a child, Cherokee, a
scholar, new to the Brainerd Mission School and so apologetic about your abc about how young
you are and so eager to demonstrate your understanding of the Mission’s mission.

You write I wish to be a good girl while I live in this world and when I die to go and be where
God is
[where is god?]
and tell him I have lately heard that I had a little cousin burned to death he was but a child.
[who is this cousin what is his name this is information your family might need where is
he buried where did he live who was his mother and who was his father and who were
their parents you don’t know this yet but your children will someday need to recite this
information before the Dawes Commission even though they have been told that they
won’t]
I found your letter, dear Christiana
[Indian name if any not known per your daughter Josephine Cohista’s testimony to the
Dawes Commission]
in an out-of-print book Cherokee Messenger by Althea Bass (University of Oklahoma, 1936)
where we are sometimes called Cherokee and sometimes savage.  

In your letter you write
            When we are angry
           [we get angry]
we have to stand in the middle of the floor before all the scholars and say the 29 verse of the 14
chap. in Prov. When we tell lies
            [we lie]
we say the 22 verse of the 12 chap. of Prov. And Rev. 21 chap. and part of the 8 verse. When
our parents bring us sweet potatoes and bean bread if any of the children take it from us
without leave they have to repeat the 8 commandment
            [thou shalt not steal]
            [we steal]
and Cor. 6 chap. and 10 verse
            [we know chapter and verse]
When we break the Sabbath
           [we are not holy]
we say the 2 commandment.
            [thou shalt have no other gods before me]

What I want to know, Christiana
is how you
a little girl of 8
            broke the Sabbath
            are there other gods
where are they
            what made you angry
            what lies did you tell
why
            whose bean bread did you steal

please reply

            [                                                                                  ]

Ode to Patience / by Sharayah Hooper

A mother’s gentle arms and a father’s safe grip
Tears tucked away for a different day
home
home
The shield of a sister’s words
eyes blazing
Long winding drives in the
passenger’s seat with a dog in the back

curled into herself
The tight circle of friends around a card table
red faces gasping for breath
that isn’t a laugh
The silence that comes before I shut my eyes

Yeehaw Moment / by Olivia Ivings

Praise the unfurling of drawls
after the third beer,

the inner Dolly Parton, rhinestone-studded 
and dripping gravy,

scavengers surveying potholed roads, 
collecting armadillo shards.

Praise Mam-maws skinning catfish, Orville Peck
crooning through Spotify as she flays the skin,

and the girl who told me to lay off the mayo
when I was a tomato-faced second grader.

Praise the neighbor whose kids watch Footloose
while she cleans and McCullers, who hated Columbus. 

Praise the trailer park where my mother conceived me,
the kids singing I’ve traded my iced tea for scotch,

stolen cigarettes bouncing in their mouths, 
and cattle dogs who eat pecans until they are sick.

Meet & Greet / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

I’m late to my son’s second grade orientation
because I can’t stop reading about dirty energy.
Another mother asks me what Fun-
Tak is. “Is that like sticky putty?” I don’t know the answer
so instead I tell her about the video I saw on Twitter
of the man floating in a flooded alley
on an inflatable raft smoking
a hookah. It’s end times like these I really do miss
living in New York City. Apparently, we need to supply
our own dry erasers. Do those sink in water?
If not, the kids could make functional little boats
rigging sails from cut-up t-shirts. I mean,
I don’t care to supervise that, but it seems like one day
it may translate to an important life skill. I never knew
we were situated on a flood plain until my friend casually
brought it up over dinner. We were sitting
under a plastic bubble drinking Bison Grass Vodka
after having done contactless ordering.
Bison are ecologically extinct as a wild species
but not as a burger. Anyway, we live
on an extension of a watershed, so future flooding
is inevitable. My son’s teacher is nervous about rising
case counts but optimistic about language arts.
At the bottom of the handout it says to ensure every child
has what they need we also need to bring the following:
paper towels, tissues, baby wipes.

Cape Cod Resident Fishing from Nauset Beach / by Kimberly J Simms

Shirtless in the surf, friends swishing sacks, swigging 
beers, cornhole, terns hovering in the summer sky.
Surfboards akimbo on the dunes,
this is a country of heroes
dogged under yokes of paltriness.
“Dude, hold my beer!”
He snatched the bowed rod
reeling in some sweet mystery,
a grey silhouette too big to be a seal, 
til its terrible stirrings revealed
a Great White’s caudal fin flipping
not 50 feet from the shore:
“Fish took bait, shark took fish.”

Dahlia St., On Forever / by Andrew Walker  

The road stretches, ceaseless,
popping like elbows in the morning—

we see the end but pretend
not to. Cars pass as you talk

and I disappear down the infinite
street, ignoring stop signs and cyclists

weaving their way between me
and you. Your voice travels with me

as I go, rocks in a pocket—
you cannot weigh down a ghost.

I travel miles, never stopping
to breathe or pop into a Love’s

for an Arizona and some Takis. Your voice
has become a playlist painting

the parkway, a 3,000 year-long
audiobook read by the wind

and the waves. When I reach the ocean,
I stop, sipping the salt from the air

no longer ours. It feels nice to rest but
in my forgetting I look back

to share a story or a smile
and I see you stuck

at the street’s start, wrapping love
around the body that’s chosen to stay.

9-9-6 / by Karen Warinsky 

Nine, nine, six.

It could be an area code,
the combination to your gym locker,
or another season of that show about Brooklyn,
but its not.

Nine, nine, six is leaving an unmade bed,
imagining your mother saying “slovenly”
as you run out the door.
Its digging out a smushed sandwich
and a half-eaten bag of chips
from the dark cave of your tote bag,
place of danger and sharp objects.

Its your children’s eyes
wet with disappointment as you say, “I can’t go.”
It’s running the constant Triathlon of
shopping, cleaning, bills,
trying to beat your old record.

Its walking through fog.

Its walking through sunshine,
moonlight,
seeing only the grey sidewalk,
feeling your briefcase slap your leg
while you run for the bus,
breeze, trees and birds
blurring before you,
as a childhood memory comes to mind;
doing cartwheels in the grass.

9-9-6, just your corporate work week,
nine a.m. to nine p.m., six days a week.

Poem 2 / Day 2

The Challenge / by Barbara Audet 

Boys, forts inseparable.
Nails embrace boards
sparking
constructive
conversations
in wet summer heat
of worn Chicago.

Climbing a brother-made ladder
into his rafter heights,
a lofty castle, restricted.
Beckons irreversibly.
No younger set.
Let us in. Let me in.

Twain would get in.
Or his Tom or Huckleberry.

Becky must be clever, then.
Distract the older generation
with temptations.

Mom’s cake
cooling in the split level kitchen
should suffice.

Footsteps trigger
a stealth assault.
Up each stair,
eyes look back,
all clear,
closer to the fabric door.
Signs announce you’re not welcome.
Stay back intruders.
No girls allowed.
Fat chance.

Can a fort be radioactive?
The icon image stapled to the wood
says it is.
One can only wonder.
Be brave.
Once inside,
the sparseness shocks.
No clandestine items.
No boyhood treasure troves.
What was she expecting?
Perhaps her old transistor radio,
gone missing?
Nailed to the wall, she sees it.
Ammunition for another sibling day.

Drop of chlorine / by Seneca Basoalto 

Tell me about a time you were small

I was a drop of chlorine, the birth
of what would be my mother’s worst mistake

September still felt like summer & I lived
in an empty bedroom of forgotten birthdays
fire ants
wild fire
roaches that snuck into the shower while
you were blonde and lathering shampoo,
they find you
from a mile away & think your kneecap
is their home
away from
home
was in a different state I came to learn
I would never return to

another mouth full of lies my mother would
tell me to placate all the eager bits of my heart

this name is blame
& childhood games that came with exclusion,
the sleepover that found fingers in warm water

being ten & groped by black karate kicks
I mirror the radio
& avoid reflections
sinking my spindle frame into the kiddy pool
underneath the waterfall, keeping
both eyes open & bearing the sting of
chlorine, drop by drop

 

mid-day with Keats
(half-cento with selected letters from Keats) / by Kristen Brida 

I have a mental swimming in my head
rain blurred circles stacked in loops

my spirit fevered
as I hunch by the blue light of my cubicle

without eternal poetry—
I become one with my work emails

the loss of it the beginning
of corporate decreation!

 

GLEAN / by Jane Hammons 
for Agnes Varda, La glaneuse (2000)

Walk the grounds of the condominium complex unit 1000 unit 2000 unit 3000 zeroes added
avoid simple 1 and 2 and 3 and complex yes because connected but in few ways do buildings
vary
unit unit unit
Someone has measured the distance around the main drive through the complex the units the
condos and posted it on the bulletin board by the unit by unit by unit mailboxes
10 times around 3 miles

Early days pandemic monotony afraid to exit thru the exit for fear of contact fear of contracting
coronavirus masks and droplets
not yet in the news just
fear fear fear
Wuhan Bergamo New York City

eyes front around and around
begin to see
up and down

I glean not for edible things like Varda’s gleaners not because I’m hungry not because I hate
waste though I do it isn’t the reason I glean

collect document imagine
cicada carapace (jewelry)
cactus paddles (nopales)
loquats (jam)
loquat seeds (loquat trees)

see bend examine
look reach inspect
recognize flaw
value imperfection
appreciate defect
beauty

stoop scoop
pick pluck

glean

 

Ode to New Beginnings / by Sharayah Hooper 

Air enters my lungs
Sharp and bright

My fingers don’t shake
As I turn keys

Walking through
Doorways
No longer makes me
Want to run

All that is left
Is to move my pen

Across blue lines
Again and again

Until my heartbeat
Settles
My voice echos

And perhaps
someone listens

 

Winter Solstice / by Olivia Ivings  

In its first-quarter phase, waxing gibbous,
the moon’s face reveals a sliver of light.
My religion is sleeping fourteen hours a day. 

A woman from my parent’s church notes that Jupiter
and Saturn are meeting for the first time in 800 years.
She calls it a Christmas Star, says we need the reminder.

Last week, a friend told me about a lunar eclipse
in Sagittarius; I don’t know what that means,
but I was supposed to receive something from it.

My bus driver prays that I’ll take a sacrament
that isn’t sunflower seeds. I don’t do anything sacred,
but I watched seven black-bellied ducks retreat into a bush.

 Somewhere close, bodies rot in the ground. How do they rest?
What do they worship when diets are done
and that spiritual dad hasn’t come back from getting milk?

 

Mistaken / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 

What at first I took to be a face mask on the strandline
turned out to be a skate case. It would be great if getting it wrong
was always just another kind of safety. I used to want to open up
a quilting store called If You See Something, Sew Something.
People could be taught to design squares
around acts of beauty, not terror.
More often than not you blink and the distant herons
become golfers. After pneumonia took away
my ability to hear subtle differences
in sound, my husband learned to say
before rather than past so I’d have a better shot
at understanding him. I have trouble moving on.
Last weekend, my car got stuck in the mud at a fundraiser
to save endangered sturgeon, and while the tow truck pulled me out,
I kept thinking, “No fish should have to live to 150.”
A skate case is also known as a mermaid’s purse.
As a kid, I imagined tucked inside them
miniature lipsticks or rhinestones. A shell bra repair kit.
The officers who put Elijah McClain in a carotid hold
and the paramedics who injected him
were indicted today. I no longer believe
we can simply stitch the world together.

 

Naturescope / by Kimberly J Simms

Do not be concerned by the hawk, her keening screams. 
From aerial heights, she can see the tiniest dormouse, 
the whitetail on the mountain, the trout in the lake. 

Guard against a  lack of perspective. 
Take time to notice the rabbit, the rat, 
the creatures of the tall grasses. 

Turn your eyes from distraction. 
Do not be like the crow hopping 
after a shred of shiny tinfoil. Rather 

attend the boar in the shadows, 
his ugly head snuffling 
for the finest of truffles.

 

lmao / by Andrew Walker 

again i am drawn to Twitter 
to exchange the dopamine 
i spent all day gathering 
like acorns into my fupa
for a chance to scroll 
endlessly through the 
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
MAD
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
lmao
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
sad
@jack knows what he’s done,
the man could not suffer 
in silence, so he made the whole world
lonely with him. a red heart blips
bright against the night-shift black
and i remember a TikTok that told me
that the colloquial heart was meant 
to look like a butt, so i lmao and retweet
the Wall Street Journal OpEd 
about buying your way out of death
and a gif of a decaying fox
and a Spongebob meme about depression
needing just a few mutuals 
to push the butts on their screen
so i can feel the micro-glee
from the a glowing red circle 
growing from the little blue bird
on my phone like a pimple 
or a tumor.

 

 

 

Clean up Crew / by Karen Warinsky 

Once the battle is won
we will review,
reimagine, renew,
let the fire burn and burn
till it is out,
spread the ash on the depleted ground.

We will remove old robes,
lay aside old skeins,
pour fresh wine into cool containers
and toast the new day.

Consciousness affecting matter
we will make a different world,
delete the old rules
the old religions
and dream into being
things we can agree on,
signs we can all recognize,
rhythms moving us like gentle waves,
a slow dance with a good partner
we will move together
a reunited tribe,
none caring about the past,
the colors,
the countries.

Questions answered,
the long debate at rest,
the hard problem solved
we will clean this planet up
from its toxic spill of narcissism,
capitalism,
voyeurism,
waste and waste and waste and waste
and sing in the pastel dawn.

Poem 1 / Day 1

Natural Disaster / by Barbara Audet 

Moonlight cost me.
Almost everything.
Until I got wise to its fraud.
Awoke in the night dreams
made me delinquent.
Gilded, so beguiling
as photon-generated numbness
caused joyful, foolish weeping,
capitulation to its effects,
just while I gazed
at suspect beams.
Why such a mean moon?
Why a lapse in defenses
against a natural authority?
Cancer drives my lunar dilemmas.
Makes me open to its power to compel affection.
Moonlight asks its price
across the cycle
until darkness falls.
In the dark, my affliction for love rebounds,
recycles,
ready for the moonscape
to bloom again
in my direction.

Naked to Graze / by Seneca Basoalto 

Three weeks of twisted ankles following
a flight of birds in the wilde wind /
we say this land is desnuda para pastar
                                        as if we are not
ourselves all flesh & infertile
an intrusion to the erythrina
that swing to block the paso
                                        blood pumping
with a suspended hand hailing high
into the petals / wondering how many
mercies can be compared to the bare spirit
of Cumbre de Achala, a revelation
that you know you cannot climb alone

not even inside of a dream

are you listening closely to the reserve
that falls between the valley weave?
if it has asked something of you,
something my heart has been too
distrait to hear / share it with me /

I want to know how to fight through
the dust to chase a river to its end

Stargazing in Shenandoah / by Kristen Brida 

the sky—
a cross between
a first hunger
& just a sky

these stippled lights
dizzy me—from above
constellations

so close they almost
burn out the horizon,
scorch this very ground

I become a ruckenfigur
to the westward stars
as if to ask now what

this dizzy glissando
between living
& otherwise

my back bends
to submit
to this landscape

as if the sky—
a swimmable pupil

 

DROUGHT POTTERY / by Jane Hammons 

Dolores Lewis works the ball of clay cups it in one palm places the other on top her hands the
vessel she pronounces the clay too sticky too wet not dry enough not something she could say in
July 2021 about much else in New Mexico she shaped stories instead.

             We can’t get rainwater because of the drought but someone called just a while ago
             and reported rain on the mesa. The cisterns are full.

             She said
             I’m going to get some when I get back. Tap water not so great.

With her niece Claudia Mitchell also a potter she came from Acoma Pueblo to the Bernalillo
Indian Arts Festival. She rests the ball of too wet clay on the table before her.

             She said
             We hike for everything
                         white slip yellow sandstone shale orange creekbed clay
             The men carry the clay because it is heavy wet could take a month to dry.
             She said
             My father was the only one who knew where to get the rocks for mineral paint.

Once when he was old and before he died she asked her father where the place was.
             He said
             Far

Cow dung fire is best the traditional fire but during the drought tribal permission is needed for
dung firing.

             She said
             they think we don’t know how to control it.
             She said
             We do.

She tests the clay once more it does not oblige she moves it aside.

             She said
             I make my own tools.

shards: 4-6-8 from unsatisfactory or broken pots mixed into clay of a new pot to bind this
method inherited from learned from her mother Lucy Lewis one of the Four Matriarchs of the
Acoma Pottery Revival who taught her children to dig for ancient shards in ancient clay and bind

shapers: gourds pieces of board a ping pong paddle metal lids a cedar stick a gift given to her
mother Lucy Lewis by San Idelfonso potter Maria Martinez and passed on to Dolores Lewis
whose unmade pot sits too wet for coiling but holds still the lesson.

 

Solar Eclipse / by Olivia Ivings 

            “Yeti, crime is not all
            we’re up to down there.
            Yeti, not every sentence there
            means death.”—Szymborska

Someone was brave
enough to shield
God’s flaming eye
from human horror.

Sweetgum leaves pointed
in all directions,
eyes of biblical cherubim,
crescent-shaped shadows
of what people can’t face.

The Moirai stretch thread
as far as it will go,
then a little more. They pluck it:
bouts of forgetfulness ripple,
reverberations from an out-of-tune guitar.

It was an ethereal dread
when the sun’s honeyed eye
glared into me again;
the only shadow was mine.

 

One Cake for Blowing On, Another One for Eating / by Alicia Rebecca Myers 
For Miles 

The lake looks like someone painted it
green to match your shirt.
I’m frustrated by everything: my outsized fingers
trying to extract sunflower seeds from a single-serving
plastic container, the way no plate stays
down in this wind. The close proximity of kids
is my constant mental calculus. Trying to get me
to relinquish pandemic fears my new therapist suggested
that if I were to lose you, I’d surprise myself
with resilience. She said: You’d keep going! In my head
I fired her, but gently, the way I might
redirect a first grader who’s missing the pinata
and whacking air. Everything is counterfactual
and individually wrapped. Kids in swim suits
can’t get in.  It’s just that I have never needed anybody
more than you. I light the wax seven
and sing as loudly as I can, hoping to expel
as little breath as possible.

 

Photograph of a Young Woman, National Portrait Gallery 1873 / by Kimberly J Simms

Child, you seem neither princess nor lady,
neither governess nor maid,
Your fine black bonnet is blooming bourgeoisie
over velvet pagoda sleeves from your bootstrapping
father in this New York America.

Plaid bow enormous beneath your clamshell chin
presents you, white flowers and dark curls.

Your thin fingers grasp the spine
of a favorite book, partially hidden
in wide swathes of lace at your wrists.
Your cage crinoline, well outside the lens
of this wedding portrait. Your father, his thick
accent, gesturing to brighten, to straighten.

Where will this portrait travel? West by train?
Does a future husband wait in St. Louis?
Or is your future more pioneer? Will you steam
across six states to the Mississippi River.
Do you long to see the secret wild parts of new America.
The secret, wild parts of yourself?

 

Hard Flesh / by Andrew Walker 

Everyday there is a box of peaches
that sits on my kitchen table and
everyday I grab one and squeeze
gently, hopping the fuzzy flesh
gives way under my faulty fingers.

I want it to be cooler today, as
I swim through the heat in my
ACless apartment, but the sweat
I so often confuse for tears washes
this hope from my face. It’s a difficult thing

to come by, hope, or even a cloudful sky,
when all the air around me keeps me
locked indoors, my overworked and
underunionized fan is the only voice
that laughs when I joke. When I sit

to write a poem or eat a peach, the sweat
washes the words away, the fruit does not give
to my tender pressure. So for now I ignore
the pink heart, too stubborn to flood my mouth
with faith for the future or even its own sweet nectar.

 

Side B / by Karen Warinsky 

         Side A

Pure, sweet, excited
the birds do herald the morning
with true song,
notes not found on keyboards
guitar strings,
violas.

They call us to WAKE!
SEE!
LIVE!

It is the DAY!

Birdsong is joy;
sometimes the only way
to understand that word,
listening to
their solos,
sweet chirrups,
chaunts of the dawn,
bringing us into lush, aching beauty.

         Side B

Though I want to live
in that Maxfield Parrish world,
where nymphs glide on swings high into the air,
where nimble girls speak in low tones
around a reflecting pool,
the sun and its shadows
vivifying every surrounding thing,
I am not there at 5 a.m.
when the birds start in
with their chirpy madness,
so I get up,
shut the windows,
go back to sleep.